Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Story of John Hornby - Part 1

I mentioned, in my very first post, my connection to the Hornby family.  Here is John's story (and that of Mary Bainbridge too).

Firstly, why am I writing about John Hornby?  Well, like Patrick McCarthy, he is another of my ancestors to migrate to Australia.  Unlike Patrick, who was one of the earliest Europeans to arrive in Tasmania, John Hornby arrived later - in 1893.

John was born in tiny locale in Westmorland, England (now called Cumbria). 'Meeclop' is the locale shown on the 1881 census, but I believe it was Meathop (there is no Meeclop). John's parents were living in the Meathop Huts at that time (near Meathop).  These were restored workers' huts left behind after the completion of the rail crossing across the sands from Arnside to the north shore of Morcombe Bay (the Kent Viaduct). John was the 6th of 8 children - his parents were Simon Bryham Hornby and Grace Hornby (nee Harrison).

Shorthly after John's birth, his family moved to a narrow, two-storey terrace house at 44 Broughton Road, Dalton-In-Furness, Lancashire. Here he was raised.

John worked in a local iron mine as a Stoker from an early age - the 1881 census shows him working at the age of 14. He would remain in the mining industry until retirement, many years later.
Dalton-in-Furness High StreetHigh Street, present-day, Dalton-In-Furness
Image via

Dalton-in-Furness was close to a number of iron mines that opened during the 1880's. The region prospered as the number of mines grew, jobs were created and output increased. In this setting of economic prosperity, John met his future bride - Mary Jane Bainbridge.  Mary was a girl from the Lakes District, born in a small village called Hawkshead, near Ambleside, Lancashire.  I don't know when, how or where they met, but they married in the Parish Church, Dalton-in-Furness, on the 27th of February 1888. Mary was 8 months pregnant on that day, as their first child (Grace) was born on the 29th of March 1888.

Dalton in Furness Methodist Church.Methodist Church, Dalton-In-Furness
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John and Mary had two more children, a son (Joseph) in March 1889 and another son (Simon) in May 1890. Unfortunately, sad times befell the family. Baby Simon, no more than 6 months old, contracted diarrhoea and after four days died of exhaustion in October 1890.  Then, only two months later, young Joseph, only 21 months old, succumbed to bronchitis and convulsions (possibly Russian flu).  Only the eldest child, Grace, survived. The two young boys are buried at Cemetery Hill in Dalton-In-Furness.

By the early 1890s, production of iron ore decreased rapidly as the sources of ore depleted.  The mines produced less and less, men were laid off.  Unemployment soared.  Dalton-In-Furness offered little else in the way of work, as its only other real resources were agricultural. In June 1891, during these dark economic times, John and Mary had another child - Margaret (my grandmother). 

At the time of Margaret's birth, Dalton-In-Furness was steadily losing  population. Many residents, men and women without work, families,  migrated to the economic drawcards at that time, such as the diamond mines opening up in the Kimberley, South Africa (John's brother Jos (Joseph) moved there in 1894). At the same time, Zeehan, in Tasmania, was a booming mining town, following the discovery of a large deposit of lead and silver there. John's brother Thomas had already moved his family to Zeehan in about 1891.

What to Do?
In 1892, John and Mary made a big decision - John would travel to Tasmania, alone and see if he could secure long term employment.  If it failed, he would return, but if it worked out well, Mary and the two girls would travel to join him in Tasmania.
Above: John and Mary Hornby, with daughters Margaret (left) and Grace (right) ca. 1892. Dalton-In-Furness, England

Go to Part 2

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