Wanderings of a Barwick Son Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page

Wanderings of a Barwick Son

Barwicker No.112
December 2013

William Thompson
Some Barwick residents seemed to be content to spend their whole life in the village. Take William Thompson for example - Parish Clerk for 40 years as reported in the Skyrack Courier'(1) - however not his grandson, William. The Thompsons had been well represented in village life from the late 18th century to the late 19th. They were small farmers with tenancy agreements(2) and within the community had kept accounts over a number of years as overseer, church warden, constable and highway officer'". There were plenty of them, quite healthy as well - in one generation four boys and five girls, some living well into their seventies.

But then things started to decline. Richard Thompson, William's father who was a butcher, had married Elizabeth Ainge, (originally from West Haddon in Northamptonshire), in Leeds on January 1st, 1874. They had five children, Annie, Laura, Elizabeth, William and Ellen Sophia. The baptism record for Laura in 1876 also describes Richard as an Assistant Overseer. The 1881 census again shows Richard to be a butcher at the Cross apparently next to the Black Swan where Joshua Hartley was the innkeeper. Sadly Richard died on 2nd August 1887 when only 36. Family folklore suggests drink but the official cause of death was phthisis pulmonaris of long standing viz tuberculosis.

William was allegedly one of the boys who had climbed the maypole. He also was awarded a third prize on December 20th 1889 for his studies at Barwick School(4). The 1891 census shows l0 year old William as a scholar with his widowed mother now working as a seamstress. Elizabeth appears to have carried on with the upbringing of the children and married Charles Wrigglesworth on 6th April, 1892(5). The next event was unexpected. She was admitted to the Tadcaster workhouse where she committed suicide on 14th June 1897. The coroner returned a verdict that 'the deceased committed suicide by swallowing a quantity of phenyl from a bottle whilst temporarily insane,(6). Added to the woes, William's older sister Laura died on 27th June 1897, a few days later. The younger family was brought up by their aunt, Mary Hartley, now the widow of Joshua Hartley who ran the Black Swan. She must have been a saint and 'Aunt Mary' was often referred to with affection by the family.

Many of the headstones of the characters so far mentioned are to be found in the Jubilee Gardens behind the Methodist Chapel in Barwick. It is unclear when William left Barwick but in the 1901 census he was a gardener lodging in Chapel Allerton in Leeds.

The inspiration for the next event I can only imagine. He boarded the White Star Line ship, Baltic; in Liverpool on 10th October 1906 travelling 3rd class and arriving in New York on 19th October'". The captain was Edward J Smith, later to achieve fame as captain of the Titanic. In the Ellis Island records he is described as a gardener, 5ft 7"ins. tall, in good health, had the necessary $50.00 and had been born in Barwick-in-Elmet, He was of fair complexion, had dark hair and brown eyes and was neither an anarchist nor a polygamist! Facts are thin but family anecdotes suggest that he worked [n New York as a scene shifter for the Metropolitan Opera House, was a tram driver and accidentally killed someone, had his money stolen and then had to work his way back to England on a cattle boat with a full complement of fleas.

What happened after that is unclear. On February 7th 1910 he married Beatrice Sharp, daughter of John Sharp, publican of the Wellington Hotel, 60 Wellington Street, Leeds, now West Riding Engravers. On the marriage certificate he is described as a barman which might go back to earlier training at the Black Swan. By the 1911 Census he was described as a fish fryer at 507 Harehills Lane, Leeds - it is still a fish and chip shop to this day (last visited July: 2012).

Faraway places again beckoned and this time it was to be Australia with my grandmother and father as a very young baby in tow. They embarked from Tilbury on 8th October 1912 on the Port McQuarie, 3rd class, bound for Melbourne (8)". This time he is recorded as an agricultural labourer. They settled, I think, in Waga Waga but it did not work out as there were no jobs to be had and my father as ,a young baby boy was unwell in the heat. They returned to London 3rd class on the Suffolk on 10th April 1913 via Durban and the Canaries (9). He was then described as a joiner.

He then had a brief and undistinguished encounter with the Navy in the First World War on HMS Victory (not the original) in Portsmouth and Gosport as a stoker. Apparently stoking did not suit his health and he was discharged in 1917 after a short period.

But then followed more entrepreneurship. WiIliam Thompson's noted Tripe shop appeared on 52a Harehills Road (now taste of Heaven Sandwich Bar- July 2012) which turned into a grocery store and continued throughout the Second World War and beyond. He was never one to miss a chance and his management style was to say the least, idiosyncratic as family members have frequently recalled. But the shop prospered until he retired. Perhaps recalling earlier days he enthusiastically kept up his garden in Harehills with two greenhouses producing tomatoes. He regularly played at the Roundhay Bowls Club and finally passed away on 30th August 1958.


(1) Skyrack Courier 10 January, 1891, British Library, Newspapers, Colindale
(2) William Thompson Tenancy Agreement s 15th July 1807 and 11th December, 1852 - WYRO
(3) Barwick-in-Elmet Accounts: 1753,1765,1774,1792,1811,1813,1829,1833,1834,1835, 1836 - WYRO
(4) Barwick in Elmet School Record - WYRO
(5) I am grateful to Dave Teal for pointing me in the right direction here
(6) Skyrack Courier 3 July 1897 British Library, Newspapers, Colindale
(7) New York Passenger Lists, SS Baltic leaving Liverpool 10th October 1906p
(8) UK Outward Passenger Lists, Port McQuarie leaving Tilbury 8th October 1912
(9) UK incoming Passenger Lists London SS Suffolk 10th April 1913

Back to the top
Back to the Main Historical Society page
Back to the Barwicker Contents page