Home » Open Letter To The Wallwork Clan - 2001

Open Letter To The Wallwork Clan - 2001

This letter contains information as it was known in 2001 and is not necasarily true now. This letter is provided for archive purposes only. The more recent 2005 letter can be found here.

The project to search for my ancestors was started in 1999. At first just working on my family line and researching the history of southeast Lancashire, because that was the area my father came from looking for work in 1923. Then widening the search to call in all our kith and kin in the United Kingdom, with surprising results.

I used the I.G.I as a search tool on the internet to find all the Wallwork's in five periods 1535 to 1600 -1650-1700-1750-1800. Based on the parish records of marriages, births and christenings, I discovered that only very few had ventured out of that corner of Lancashire which was the Wallwork heart- land. In the UK census of 1881 you will find 1576 Wallwork's living in Lancashire and only 234 in the rest of England. The 234 are made up of eleven families in Cheshire (just over the boundary) and six families in County Durham. As for the rest they were mostly journeymen, tradesmen, female servants, visitors or boys away at school. Only one man living in Ayr Scotland. The majority of our small tribe lived within a 25 miles radius of the centre of Manchester.

By the way, the 1881 census on CD is a mine full of facts, you can see where families lived, where they were born, what they did for a living, and their marriage status. Every page has a story to tell, some sad, some not. It's all about the Wallwork's! Think of young Frances 7 years old who was an inmate at St Pancreas Industrial School, Leavesden, Watford, Herts. He was listed as a pauper. Then at the other end of the Wallwork's social scale we have Henry Wallwork aged 50, an iron founder employing 150 men and boys. He lived with his wife Mary who was 38 at 261York Cheetham. They had two boys, two girls and domestic servants, was it a sweet life? The next census might tell us!

At this point I would like to discuss the spelling of our name, this is the range I have come across so far:

The earliest was christened Doritye Dorothy WALWORKE on the 26th March 1558 in Radcliff Parish, her father was Elyce Ellce WALWORKE.

WAWORCKE 1558 Manchester
WOLWARKE 1599 Rochdale
WOLORKE 1603 Ormskirk
WALEWORK 1606 Eccles
WALEWORKE 1606 Clifton
WALLWORK 1624 Manchester
WALLWARKS 1734 Stoke on Trent
WHALLWORK 1782 Ellton

Misspelling was very common in the early Parish registers, spelling became more standardised in the 18th Century. I take the overall view, making allowances (as spelling is not my strong point). For example the chaplain at St Mary's, Oldham, 1665-1669 was sometimes known by the name 'Walworth and at other times by the name Walwork'. A modern mistake was made in the 1881Census when the census taker made an error and spelt BETHELL WALLWORK as Wallnork, he was my grandfather and because of this mistake he took a lot of finding.

The Wallworth's are not of our family, a different tribe altogether in my view! The Census of 1881 numbers them at 8600-spread throughout England mostly in the south, only 150 in Lancashire answered to that name. William Walworth was the famous Lord Mayor of London 1374 -1380 who cut off the head of Watt Tyler the rebel peasant leader, but I cannot claim him as one of ours! At that time I think our little group of families would have been tucked away in the Salford Hundreds, hard working builders, farmers, spinners, weavers, and miners. Working in tune with the seasons trying to keep a roof over their heads, a full belly and out of trouble.


I have traced my family line back to:

JOHN WALLWORK born 1724 in the Oldham area. He married RUTH LEES on 26th January 1748 at St Mary's, Oldham. I have only been able to trace RUTH LEES parents so far. RUTH's parents were:

  • GEORGE LEES born 1671 in Oldham
  • HANNAH WHITTAKER born 1675 Oldham (I think this is where a close association with the Whittakers' began, see The Wallwork's of Oldham below.)

JOHN WALLWORK and RUTH LEES were blessed with 3 children:

  • JAMES born 1st December 1749 (he died young)
  • ANN born 10th November 1751 at Priesthill an old ward of Oldham.
  • JAMES born 9th September 1753 he was my great great great grandfather and was christened in Saint Mary's, Oldham.

JAMES married MARTHA BARDLEY on the 15th April 1773, she was 22 and they had 12 children: (some died young)

  • THOMAS born 22nd December 1776
  • BETTY born 30th May 1779
  • JAMES born 8th July 1781
  • MARTHA born 15th June 1783
  • ROBERT born 30th October 1785
  • ROBERT born 19th August 1787
  • JOSEPH born 18th April 1790
  • JOSEPH born 4th December 1791
  • JOSHUA born 1793
  • JOSEPH born 11th September 1796

JOSEPH, the last born (11th September 1796), was my great great grandfather, and married MARY LOFTUS in Saint Michael, Ashton under Lyne on the 3rd February 1818 by licence. I have a copy of the marriage bond and a photo of the entry in the parish register.

Their son ISIAH was my great grandfather and ISIAH'S son BETHELL was my grandfather. My father FREDERICK WILLIAM was born 8th Nov 1890 and I was born 22nd Sept 1926. I have a printed family group sheet for each of my family line, in three different formats.

If anyone has any more information please could they let me know. If you are a Wallwork outside the UK, I would be especially interested in hearing from you.


Oldham is in the Parish of Prestwick which is part of the Salford Hundred, Lancashire. Kaskenmoor manor included Oldham and most of Cromton in 1212. Oldham did not become a Parish until 1850. Then the church of St Mary had its own vicar, before that the Rector who had the living of the parish could appoint parochial chaplains or curates to cover all the outlying churches. John Walwork was there 1665-1669, he was made responsible for the upkeep of the vicarage, he must have been very poor! I don't know yet whether he ever married or went on to have a better life.

Daniel Defoe in 1717 records his impressions of the Oldham district.

"This country seems to have been designed by providence for the very purposes to which it is now allotted for carrying on a manufacture, which can nowhere be so easily Supplied with the conveniences necessary for it .Nor is the industry of the people.Wanting to second these advantages. Though we met few people outdoors, yet within we saw the houses full of lusty fellows, some at dye vats, some at looms, other dressing the cloths; the women and children carding and spinning; all employed from the youngest to the oldest, scarce anything above four years old but its hands were sufficient for its own support.not a beggar to be seen not a idle person, except here and there in the alms house, built for those that are ancient and past work. The people in general live long; they enjoy a good air, and such circumstances hard labour is naturally attended with the blessing of health, if not riches. The sides of the hills were dotted with homes hardly a home standing out of speaking distance from another; and the land being divided into small plots or enclosures, every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging to them. In the course of our road among the houses we found at every one of them a little rill or gutter of running water at every house of size was a manufactory, which could not have carried on without water, these small streams were so parted and guided by gutters and pipes that not one of the houses wanted for a rivulet. The scouring dye houses and where the water was used it was tinged with the drugs of soap, dye, oil, tallow, and other ingredients used for dressing and scouring the cloth. The lands through which it passes would be exceedingly barren, and are now enriched by it beyond imagination.

Every clothier keeps at least one horse to fetch home his wool and provisions from the market, to take the finished goods to be sold each family keeps a cow or two by this means the small pieces of enclosed land fed the family. As for corn, they scarce grow enough to feed their poultry."

An environmental disaster in the making.


The most likely employment was coal/iron mining, blacksmith and building. These skills would have passed from father to sons. Trades and artisan much sort after in the new industrial age. There was spinning and weaving wool at home then as demand increased for cotton it was spun in the mills. Women and children toiled at the mills for a wage. (This was a new era women and children being paid to work away from the family home). The man would still work the small holding (toff and croft) though most of the time he would be at his weaving loom until daylight faded. A hard life where infant mortality was high due to poor drainage, water supply and housing, as well as the working conditions.

The Oldham cotton spinner, John Whittaker, relocated to Hurst in 1808. Most of his work force followed him. Joseph Wallwork moved from Oldham to Hurst and was married at St Michael Ashton 1818 and eventually became a manager in a mill presumably working for Mr John Whittaker. Hurst is a case of the early industrial movement to a Greenfield site where the owner undertook to build a community around his ever expanding factory, with modern housing, school and a chapel, employing a thousand people. The 1848 map shows school, chapel and rows of 'modern' housing, with slightly larger houses for the managers. Some of which still survive today. Hope Street was where my ancestors lived. At house number 88 great grandfather Isiah lived, at number 83 Grandfather Bethell had a grocers shop where my father Frederick was born. In Princes St great uncles Handel, Ben, Cyrus and John lived. Queens St housed at one time great great Grandfather Joseph the patriarch father of all.

John Whittaker died in 1840 leaving a mill and four sons John, Oldham, Robert and James (Oldham is a significant name in the Wallwork family). Only John and Oldham played a part in the business proving to be at least as capable as their father. Oldham built his own mill in 1847 just down the road, nearer to the new housing estate. The two brothers employed most of the population of Hurst at Whittaker Mills and like their father before them were humane employers. They made generous efforts to alleviate the suffering of workers during the worst years of the cotton famine (1862-1864).

John Whittaker jnr died in 1864 leaving his brother two large mills. Oldham Whittaker died on the 31st of December 1871 leaving his mills to his son and son-in-law.

St. John's Church, a new church benefited from the generosity of Oldham and John. Oldham gave £1,000 to the building fund and £3,600 towards the spire and transepts. John gave similar sums of money to the Queens Road Methodist New Connections Chapel.

Three Canal companies joined together at Ashton from 1795, the canals were bought out by the railway companies (1840-1845) and were subsequently run down.


There will be mistakes and omissions, it's just down to time and space. Look on this short paper as a foundation on which to build, the truth is out there.

Good Luck!

Raymond Wallwork
Allesley Village, UK