57.56 – George Watson, Anthony Buckle and Isabella Coffey

Even with the few records we have for this family, they have quite a story – if only we knew all of it!

George Watson was born in May 1829 in Barden near Hauxwell, North Yorkshire, midway between Leyburn and Richmond. His parents were George and Isabella (Buckle) Watson. And “were” really is the correct tense to use, because George junior was a posthumous baby.

Going backwards slightly; Isabella Buckle was born in 1803 in Snape, between Bedale and Masham. Her father Anthony was a farmer. It’s not clear how she got from Snape to Barden, but she and George Watson married at the parish church there on April 19th 1828. Their marriage and life together was extremely short-lived – George was buried at the same church exactly three months later, July 19th 1828. The X next to his name on the register intrigues us greatly, but no record remains that gives us a clue as to the details surrounding his death. As it predates 1837 there isn’t a GRO record we can order to find out more, and no newspaper mentions exist.

George junior must have been conceived quite close to his father’s death to be born so late afterwards. Isabella remained a single woman for a surprisingly long time afterwards – it will have been very hard to be in her position, with a newborn and no means of support beyond family But her family did support her, and twenty years later in 1848 she remarried to a fellow widower, James Coffey, an Irish porter merchant (or beerseller).

The Coffeys settled in Darlington, both Isabella and James and James’s two daughters from his previous marriage. James was fairly well off, able to employ a servant and living on Skinnergate in Darlington city centre. Their time together was longer than Isabella’s previous marriage, and James died in 1867 aged 82. Isabella remained in Darlington at 11 Skinnergate, living off the money she had inherited from James, and died in 1878. Her sole executrix was a Mary Holmes of Todmorden, her niece.

Where was George all this time? Well, George had gone to live with his uncle Anthony, aunt Hannah, and two male cousins in the meantime. Anthony was Isabella’s older brother, born ten years earlier in 1792 (there were fourteen Buckle siblings in total!), and was a farmer in Barden. Hannah was his sister, Isabella’s sister too, and George’s aunt. Now somewhere between 1841 and 1851, a great deal happened. We wonder whether it was James Coffey who introduced George to the occupation of selling alcohol, or whether George ended up introducing Isabella to James as a professional acquaintance? Who knows. But by 1851 George had become a “wine and spirit merchant” in partnership with his second cousin Nathan Buckle and had made the move to Todmorden along with Anthony and Hannah, and they lived at Hole Bottom Gate along with another female cousin from one of Anthony’s many sisters.

Because the newspapers don’t go back this far, and George wasn’t exceptionally badly behaved in any way, we know little to nothing about how he came to Todmorden with his family or what precisely he did. We know from his gravestone that he died in 1856 aged 27, not much younger than his father who had died at 32. Even more maddeningly, there is a bundle of missing death registrations from the GRO from 1856 which includes George’s! So we have no way of knowing how he died.

Anthony was a retired farmer in 1851, but by 1861 he had taken on what was presumably George’s business and was running it pretty successfully. When the Todmorden Advertiser got up and running, a regular front page advertisement that could be seen right at the top (so costing a pretty penny) is one for A. Buckle at “The Vaults”, later known as the Grapes, Church Street. This location was below street level just near the Royal George, but accessible only from the river’s side. From “Recollections of Todmorden“:

“The Vaults, among those posted up in the small matters of the place, have for a considerable length of time borne the sobriquet of the “diving bell”, by reason of the sudden descent to them from the street. Had the gangway that now connects them with Water Street been then constructed, this somewhat happy touch of local nomenclature might not have occurred. The property in Church Street has been so parcelled out, above and below, that each landlord has been said to be over or under another having an interest in it; and from the County Bridge to Royal Bridge it is no doubt a good deal mixed.

Those steps are all that’s left now of the Vaults/Grapes, as the buildings were cleared for the widening of the road in the 1970s. They run down towards the river from the side of what used to be the toy shop.

In 1861 the Buckle household also included his niece and nephew, Mary and John Holmes, and their daughter Annabella. This is the Mary Holmes mentioned before as the sole executrix of Isabella’s will. John was a wine merchant – another addition to the family via work connections? Anthony was not long for the world at this point and he died in January 1863. Hannah would follow in 1870. Interestingly, she’s buried at 37.13 with John and Mary, and more interestingly she’s named on the stone as Hannah Buckley. This happened from time to time, where a surname could be spelled one way or another more or less flexibly, but it seems fairly certain that the -y is a later additional rather than the true spelling. The stories of the Holmeses and Hannah is told in more detail here.

So the order we’ve told this incomplete story is Isabella-George-Anthony, but in terms of burial order, it’s George-Anthony-Isabella. It’s a shame more of their story can’t be puzzled out, but what could be is now here, and if you the reader have anything to add please let us know in the comments.


  1. Pingback:37.13 – John and Mary Holmes and Hannah Buckley – F.O.C.C.T.

  2. Pingback:41.3 – Thomas, Ellen, Grace, Mary, Nathan and Ellen Buckle – F.O.C.C.T.

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