My wife's connection to the Chorlton family is a tenuous one, linked as she is by the marriage of her of her great-great-grandaunt, Eliza Molesdale to John Chorlton in 1837. Even so, it was a journey I started on to see what became of these Molesdale descendants in particular and the Chorlton family in general.

It was not a simple task for various reasons and what follows may be subject to assumption error. There is a mighty assumption at its beginning – that the Eliza Molesdale mentioned above the one I thought it was, but more of that later. Then there was the Chorlton name itself, a relatively common one in the Manchester area, while the branch I was looking were often vague when giving their ages at the censuses and lived in extended family groups that can make certain identification difficult. I can only apologise if I have gone astray.

Eliza Molesdale
Liverpool Road, Cadishead
Liverpool Road, Cadishead, date unknown
As outlined on the Molesdale page, the family originated in Cadishead to the west of Manchester. Eliza was the second of four illegitimate children born to Mary Moulesdale, although the surname was recorded as Moulsden at her baptism at Hollinfare Chapel in 1815. The name went through variations in spelling until finally settling on Molesdale.

At some point in the 1830s, Eliza's brothers, Isaiah and Samuel, left Cadishead and it appears that Eliza went too. It is possible that they were joined by their mother, although I have I have been unable to verify this. The clue to Eliza's identity comes from her marriage record in September 1837, just at the time when the parish registers began to include more detailed information than just the names of the bride and groom.

The ceremony took place at St Michael and All Angels in Ashton-under-Lyne and though Eliza simply described herself as being of 'full age', Moulsdale was the attributed spelling of her surname (she couldn't write) which is closer the original form of the name in Cadishead. She didn't have a father, but rather than leaving the space blank as was usual, she named her mother Mary instead. Possibly the officials hadn't yet got the hang of the new system!

She had married John Chorlton and what I know of him is that his father's name was also John and that both were hatters. The newlyweds both lived in Audenshaw which at the time was in the middle of an industrial melting pot of townships that included Ashton, Gorton and Hyde with people moving between them for work. For example, Eliza's brother, Isaiah, was living in Gorton when he married his first wife in 1838, but in Ashton when his eldest son, Robert, was baptised in 1840.

Gorton Chapel
Gorton Chapel

From this, the likely couple to be found in the 1841 census were the John and Eliza found living at Abbey Hey in Gorton. Both were unusually specific in giving their ages, 29 and 26 respectively, which fits with Eliza's birth year of 1815. John also describes himself as John Chorlton Jun, by implication also his father's name.

The couple had then two children, Martha aged four and Edward aged two, which again fits with the 1837 marriage. The couple are not to be found on the 1851 census, possibly because they were part of the Unfilmed Census, but Martha appears to be living with her grandfather, John, in Abbey Hey, although her age is unreadable. John appears again in 1861 living in Denton and by then a widower. With him are his five children, the youngest William aged 14.

So it seems that Eliza must have died not too long after 1847 and there is indeed an Eliza Chorlton who passed away in the early summer of 1850 in Audenshaw aged 34.

John Chorlton
As mentioned above, John was living in Denton in 1861, but his son William had been born in Ashton according to the census returns, so the implication is that the family had moved regularly for work. Although John described himself as a hatter when he married, there is no evidence that he continued in this trade. He gave no occupation in 1841 and by 1861 he was a labourer working on the road-building of the time, in short he was a navvy.

Far Lane, Gorton
Far Lane, Gorton, 1951 – © Manchester Local Image Library

Unusually, John did not re-marry and had returned to Gorton by 1871, living first at Far Lane and later at Duke Street. It was in the later censuses that there were inconsistencies in his given age. In 1881 he claimed to be 70 and 81 in 1891, but on each occasion, the presence of his two unmarried children, Martha and Frederick appears to confirm his identity. John died in the summer of 1895 aged 81.

A clue as to why Martha didn't marry can be found in the 1881, the only census where she is described as an 'imbecile'. Following her the death of her father, she lived with her brother, James and his wife, at St James Street, Gorton. Here was another example of wrongly reported ages. James had died by the time of the time of the 1901 census and Martha gave her age as 50 when she was in fact in her mid-60s. The same error was repeated at her death in 1904 seemingly aged 54. It can only be assumed that the misreporting was down to James' widow, Ann, who Martha was living with, both women reliant on Parish Relief according to the 1901 census.

As for John's other children, Frederick was another whose age could vary wildly at the census. In 1891, he was said to be 51 when he would have been more like 58 years of age. There is no sign of him beyond that year, either in the 1901 census or in the death registers, and he requires further research. William is another who seems to disappear after the 1871 census.

Edward Chorlton
Eliza's eldest son was Edward who we first find in the 1841 census. He was born in 1847 in Gorton and became a coal miner, probably working in one of the mines in the Denton area. He married Mary Harrison of Denton in 1865 at St Mary's Church, Stockport, demonstrating that the Chorltons were happy to look to churches in Manchester, Ashton and other areas for their big occasions.

Two Trees Lane
Chapel House Hotel, Two Trees Lane, Haughton  c 1905 – Tameside Image Archive

Mary was the widow of of John Ogden, another coal miner. They had married early in 1860, but John had died before the autumn. However, they had a daughter, Mary Ellen, and she and her mother were living with Mary's parents at the 1861 census. Mary Ellen did not adopt her step-father's surname and married William Cowcill in 1878 at St Paul's Church, Portwood, Stockport.

For some reason, Edward and Mary were living apart at the time of the 1891 census, Edward with his son John at Tib Street and Mary 'living on her own means' at Two Trees Lane with her youngest son, Joseph. Edward appears to have given up mining at this time and gave his occupation as farm labourer. He died in 1898 and Mary in 1891.

Their eldest son, John, married Elizabeth Ann, or at least I assume he did because no record has been found as yet. In the 1891 census, they had two sons, John and James, but neither appears in 1901, nor is there a record of their deaths. Another mystery!

Edward's daughter, Martha, married Obadiah Davies at St Mark's Church, Bredbury, in 1885 and by the time of the 1891 census they were living at 12 Bard Street, Sheffield, where Obadiah was a coal miner. With them was their daughter, Margaret (or Maggie), although her sister, Mary, was staying with her grandmother in Haughton.

Hyde Cemetery
Hyde Cemetery – Tameside Image Archive

The youngest of Edward and Mary's children was Joseph Edward. He married Mary Alice Smith at St Michael and All Angels, Ashton, in 1895 while the couple were living in Denton, but by 1901 they were living at 33 Oldham Street, Hyde, Mary's home town. Joseph had become a hatter, like his grandfather, and was a felt hat planker by trade, the one who planked or kneaded the body of the hat during felting process.

Joseph died in 1910 aged just 38, while Mary lived until the age of 84, dying in 1959. They had two children, Nellie who was born in 1896. She didn't marry and died in 1931 aged 36 and is buried alongside her parents at Hyde Cemetery.

Their son, Albert, married Ellen Warden at St Mary's Church, Newton, in 1925 and lived until 1982. He and Ellen and also buried at Hyde Cemetery.

James Chorlton
Eliza's second surviving son was James born 1841. He remained in Gorton throughout his life at various addresses, including Far Lane, Barlow Street, Cross Lane and St James' Street. He worked as a labourer in an iron works and on the railway and married Ann Enwistle, originally from Hyde, at St Mary's Church, Stockport, in 1865.

They had no children and James died in 1900 aged 59. Ann was surviving on parish relief in 1901, along with her her handicapped sister-in-law, Martha, and died in 1907 aged 68.

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