Migration in and out of Swaledale

By the 1870s, Swaledale had a surprisingly mobile population. After centuries of stability, people were on the move. For the most part the movement was away from the dale but a surprising number moved out, then back, then off again, as employment opportunities and family commitments changed. But it wasn't always easy, and it wasn't always willingly.

Where did everyone come from?

Hannah WINTER abt 1890

I was born in Bradford and my parents and their friends all grew up Bradford. So as a child I wondered why my father had been born in New Brighton, which was (vaguely) way across there somewhere. Then a cousin told me how our grandmother had been advised to live by the sea for her health, and grandfather's connections took them across the country. I haven't yet been able to work out which family connections, but before 1910 the family of two parents, a step-daughter and one son bought a boarding house in 66 Tollemache Street, New Brighton and my father was a very late consequence of the bracing air. Most of that residential road has now been rebuilt, but No 66 is one of the few that remains, near the corner with the Tower Promenade and the Pier (my uncle remembers with delight the 'theatricals' who boarded with them). Here is my grandmother in a very posh blouse. Her inheritance of a terrace of back-to-backs in Bradford (from whom? still a mystery) brought them back in time for my parents to meet at Prospect Hall, a Methodist chapel in Bowling.

Any life is full of such random events and they must have affected Swaledale people too. I wanted to find out how many were not dale-born.

In placing peoples' birthplaces relative to Swaledale, I divided them simply into Dale, nearby, or far. Since Yorkshire is such a large county, some parts of it (such as Bradford or Scarborough) I have counted as 'far'. 'Nearby' includes neighbouring counties as well as Yorkshire places close to the dale itself - especially since boundary changes have moved places in and out of North Yorkshire. The young housemaid who claimed to be born "on the sea" is included in 'far'.

Not surprisingly, the vast majority (almost 90%) of residents of 19thC Swaledale were born there.

Where were people born?1841185118611871188118911901
in the dale6535604155574768418227922092
nearby (no data for 1841)0637558463381311260
far away ('not Yks' for 1841)231156111146165122174
nearby as %0%9%9%9%8%10%10%
far away as %3%2%2%3%3%4%7%

More surprisingly, there are a few exotic birthplaces: Canada, India and the West Indies provided wives for quite ordinary-sounding men, and a handful of grandchildren for one Reeth publican. Wives also came from distant counties like Dorset, Devon, Cheshire. I have found a mining connection with Cornwall, and I suspect that vicars and landowners looked after their own and placed orphaned girls or widows into service with a distant friend or colleague. That might account for some of these oddities.

Proportion of Swaledale people born elsewhere Very few incomers were ordinary unskilled workers, at least in the early years. The majority were professionals of some kind - clergymen, schoolteachers, doctors, landowners and their imported servants, an excise officer, and later on gamekeepers from Norfolk, shepherds from Scotland, policemen, and journeymen craftsmen who must have liked the area enough to settle.

Three lead-working brothers (or cousins) who came from the Isle of Man before 1851 left descendents there in 1901. Families forced out by the famine in Ireland tended not to stay long. And of course a number of local men moved into the dale to work in the leadmines, married the village girls, and stayed.

The graph shows that a pretty steady 10-12% of all residents were born elsewhere, until the late 1800s when the dale's original population had plummeted.


How static was the population? Many family history publications talk about movement from country to town as industrialisation increased. I was interested to find out the sort of people who moved in and out of Swaledale.

Mobility within the dale happened too. In 2007 I had very little knowledge about how many people were likely to be renting their house rather than owning it, or were tenant farmers rather than landowners. This information was not recorded in the census but addresses are, and maybe a change of address signified renting rather than owning. By 2008 I had enough information to write about it in a separate essay called Home Ownership.

In then out again

I decided to find out how many of the incomers stayed from one census to the next, and made a list of everyone who had been born outside Swaledale during the whole period 1841-1901. I came up with a list of 688 people.

An astonishing 63% moved in, then moved away again before the next census

An astonishing 63% left again after appearing in just one census. Of that 63%:

Well, maybe some of them died. The three Isle of Man entrepreneurs I mention elsewhere only appeared in the 1851 census but left widows and other family behind. And an unknown (to me) number of young babies and children died.

Of the 42 whole families who left

Of the 19 couples who left

Of the 158 single people of working age who left

and the rest had skills which they could use anywhere - governess, dressmaker, grocer, shoemaker, joiner, gamekeeper, and so on.

Out of the 108 new people in the dale in 1901, 55 were wives and children. The rest were:

So, it is clear that the sort of people who left were the sort of people who came into the dale in the first place - clergymen and schoolteachers and professionals of one kind or another. When the majority of the non-mining population - farmers, shopkeepers, stonemasons and builders - left, it was for good. Some of the mining families moved out then back again after a few years, presumably as old mines closed and other mines expanded before closing again.

Overall, only a very few incomer families stayed. Although many clergymen came and went (see Who Did What for more), a few stayed on for twenty or thirty years: the LUSCOMBEs, the SMITHs then the TAYLORs in Grinton; the BOYDs at Low Row; the TINKLERs at Arkengarthdale Parsonage. Amelia MASON came as a young wife to Marrick Vicarage from the East Indies, just before 1851, and was still there in 1891 with her Scottish clergyman husband.

Schoolteacher John SUTCLIFFE and his family came to Fremington School House from Bradford before 1851, and he was still teaching there forty years later. William WESTWICK came from Hull to Satronside and farmed Gill Head House for over forty years. Thomas CROAD came to Ellerton Abbey from Dorset as a gardener in 1851 and ended up as land agent there twenty years later.

Ministers certainly moved about. One poor young 1851 Methodist minister from Kent had a 5-year-old born in the Shetland Isles, a 3-year-old born in Essex and a 2-year-old born in Bedfordshire. The family had moved on by 1861 so I tracked them down. Their subsequent children were born as follows: 1851 Reeth, 1853 Pickering (Yks), 1856 Rutland, 1858 and 1860 Cornwall. With some concern I looked in 1871 and could not find the parents at all. Perhaps they took their mission, and their children, overseas, because I could not find them again.

However, I know that some young wives went back to mum to have their first baby, so don't take it all too literally. And finally the census enumerator decides - if he wants to say everyone was born in Melbecks parish he will do so, and the detail of 'Gunnerside' or 'Low Row' might only occur in another census.

Out and back again

There are clues to families moving out and back again during the 19th century. Finding out that Shildon in County Durham was one of the biggest coalfields explained why some middle children had been born there, although their parents subsequently moved back into Swaledale. I am sure other external links were also because of mining.

So the birthplaces of a string of children also give a good clue to the mobility of their parents. Maybe it also gives a clue to their father's type of work - farmers stay put; miners follow the work? One widowed father, born in Thwaite, had three daughters with ten years between oldest and youngest. The daughters were all born in Lancashire in Marsden (now Nelson) a coal-mining town. In 1851 he was back in Tan Hill, working as a coal miner at the top of the dale. When he moved out he left his father and brother behind and probably a married sister. Maybe he returned to live near his sister, or another female relative who could help him with his motherless daughters.

Permanently out

Finding out where people went is more difficult on this macro scale. One way would be to search the census databases for people born in the dale and now living outside it. Maybe I will try this but it will take more than a rainy afternoon to collect useful data and map it back to the various Swaledale lists. And of course the English census does not help if the family emigrated, which many did.

Christine Amsden's website gives some information about 1840s emigrants from Swaledale and Wensleydale to the USA (passage cost 5). Passages to Australia and South Africa were free. I noticed James Brindel, a cutler from Sheffield who moved to Reeth before 1851, was still there in 1861 but nowhere in 1871. In 1881 there's a James Brendel, in Reeth, a cutler born in the USA. I bet it was the same man, returned in triumph or disaster. Emigration must have been given a boost by the US Homestead Act of 1862, which promised that any family willing to travel West could claim and farm 160 acres. Maybe James Brendel was one who responded.

In a very well-written history of Claxby Village in Lincolnshire, the author claims that agricultural trades unions were active in persuading members to emigrate, and gives a newspaper report of 70 farmworker emigrants being addressed by a union member at the railway station, en route for Liverpool in 1875. Also of local newspaper advertisements in 1874 for free passage to New Zealand:

Free passage to New Zealand

"To married and Single Agricultural Labourers, Navvies,
Ploughmen, Shepherds, Mechanics, etc
Also to
as Cooks, Housemaids, Nurses, General Servants,
Dairy Maids, etc"

with the local Amalgamated Labour League representative as the first contact for more information. I am quite sure that similar advertisements must have appeared in other local newspapers.

I have not (yet) tracked all the Swaledale-born to see if and when they moved away. My reasoning is that famine or poverty may force a whole family to move on - or inheritance, or tragedy. Ambition will move others to leave but, other things being equal, most people will stay put. The results of my research will be here in due course.

But the locally-born population did fall from 6,535 in 1841 to 2,092 in 1901, so large numbers did gradually move away. Did the agricultural labourers and single female domestic servants succumb to the advertisements?

working population of Swaledale (graph)

It seems not. The numbers here for farming and lead mining are the same as those in the 'working population' graph in Who did what? I have also included the number of domestic servants, housekeepers and housemaids (summarised as 'domestics') and the number of all labourers. It seems that if you wanted to be an 1890s housemaid or road mender in Swaledale you still could. (All the numbers include workers born locally and incomers.)

The catastrophic drop is in lead mine workers.

Farming numbers increased by about 200 as lead mining decreased, so some lead miners became full-time farmers, but more than 1000 lead mine workers lost their jobs. I do need to compare lead-mining families across the censuses to see who stayed and who left. And where they went.

Lead-mining families who left between 1891 and 1901

But many lead-mining families left for good

I started with the 1891 Swaledale list, and checked the lead-miners against the 1901 list to see who had gone.

390 lead-mining-related people left Swaledale between 1891 and 1901 from a population of 3230 - more than 10%. Although some left from Gunnerside, Lodge Green, and Grinton, the biggest exit was from Arkengarthdale. Of the 760 people in the Arkengarthdale census in 1891, 280 left - that is, 37% - including ten complete families from adjacent houses in Arkle Town itself.

I searched for all the missing names in the 1901 England census. In matching names I assumed that if a person had (about) the same Year of Birth and close Place of Birth then it was the same person. Having an accompanying wife or children or siblings of the right name, and not being a chemist or landowner helped too! Understandably, many people moved to areas where there was already someone from Swaledale: I found single people lodging with ex-Swaledalers, or with older siblings, or couples living just down the road from their parents.

A surprising 76 of the leavers were not traceable in the 1901 England census. Of these, 9 whole families vanished, 24 were single and under the age of 40 in 1901, 15 were single and between 40 and 60. Transcription errors may have accounted for some; I learnt that George and Geo are treated differently by Ancestry's search engine so did my best with alternative spellings, but they remain untraced. The families with children who left were:

and maybe one day I will find out what happened to them.

22 school-age girls did not make it to 1901 under the same name; I guess they married but can not tell whether they stayed or left the dale. I know definitely of 3 lead miners who died (because they left widows) and probably a further 14 people who were either elderly or infants in 1891. One (only one!) lead-miner made it to retirement and moved to Lancashire with his unmarried daughter. A couple of men became insurance agents in Harrogate and Wetherby.

Interestingly, most of the young men who had moved away and were married by 1901 had wives who had also come from all over the country. Only about five wives were from Swaledale. And when father moved the whole family moved - not always to the same house, but usually to the same place.

Two big families, and a few others - 25 in all - moved to Lancashire. The men went into a variety of jobs, nothing to do with leadmining and mostly unskilled, although one became a policeman. Of the 14 who had been children in 1891, 7 now worked in the cotton mills.

The remaining leavers make a pattern, and it seems that they were able to choose a destination to suit their own needs.

Young miners stuck to mining but families with children moved to the mill towns

So it seems the youngest families were prepared to move from leadmining to coalmining; the 30-year-olds wanted to continue lead-mining, and those with older children were prepared to make a completely new start in a different industry.

Swaledalers who left between 1881 and 1891

One of the biggest drops in population numbers happened between 1881 and 1891. I looked at everyone living in Swaledale in 1881, and checked where they went. This is in a separate essay: Migration in the 1880s.

Moving up and down the dale

A surprising number of families, and individuals, were living in a different house, even a different village, by the time the next census was taken. I was interested to find out if this gave a clue about house or farm ownership, rather than renting. My later essay Home Ownership follows this up.

The UDFHG's book: "Those Who Left The Dales"

Migration from the Yorkshire Dales was so common that the Upper Dales Family History Group made it the focus of their 10th Anniversary in 2010. Over one hundred members contributed family stories to a book subsequently published by the UDFHG. Here is a link to the page of the organiser's website that explains how to buy a copy of the book for yourself.

Copyright © Marion Hearfield 2007-2012