Arthur Blackburn Stringer and his Forebears


 Arthur Stringer with his grandsons, Ian, Frank, and David circa 1948.


From what I remember of our grandfather, Arthur Stringer, he was a quiet modest man and probably the easiest of the grandparents to get along with. He showed an interest in his grandchildren and was prepared to entertain us. When one explores his life story he emerges as a quite remarkable and admirable person.

When I first investigated Arthur’s forebears it was difficult to trace far back with any degree of confidence. Recent improvements to census databases have now enabled me to establish a clear line for his forebears going back to the 1841 Census.

In 1841 our great great grandfather, John Stringer, was living with his family at Blast Lane Sheffield. He was described as an engineer. The picture below provides an idea of what a mid Victorian engineer may have looked like.


Mid Victorian engineer


Blast Lane is adjacent to the Sheffield canal and canal quay, see below.


Blast Lane is close to the Sheffield Canal


Blast Lane today clearly leaves something to be desired.


Blast Lane, Sheffield today


The family included: the father, John, aged 30; his wife, Ann, 30; and children, William, 12; Fanny, 8; Mary, 6; Elizabeth, 4; and Joseph, 2. The 1841 Census did not provide detailed information about birthplaces and all are listed as being born in Yorkshire. On the Census sheet below John is the last entry on the left hand page and his family continue at the top of the right hand side.


1841 Census for John Stringer


By 1851 the family had moved to Manchester. Given that the youngest child was born in Mansfield in 1847, see below, one may assume that it was after that date.

In 1851 the family of John Stringer and his wife, Anne, were living at 75 Grove Cottage, Chorlton, Manchester, with  seven children, see the census details below.


STRINGER, John Head Married  M 41 1810 Engine Fitter Manchester, Lancashire
STRINGER, Ann Wife Married  F 40 1811 Ecclesfield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, William Son Unmarried  M 24 1827 Engine Fitter Ecclesfield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, Mary Dau Unmarried  F 21 1830 Home Servant Ecclesfield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, Elizabeth Dau  F 14 1837 Winder Cotton Sheffield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, Joseph Son  M 12 1839 Scholar Sheffield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, John Dau  F 10 1841 Scholar Sheffield, Yorkshire
STRINGER, Henry Son  M 5 1846 Scholar Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
STRINGER, Sarah A Dau  F 4 1847 Mansfield, Nottinghamshire


In the three years since the 1841 Census there had  been three additions to the family, namely: John, 10, (there must be an error since s/he is listed as female and described as a daughter; Henry, 5; and Sarah, 4. Henry,  was our great grandfather and his full name was Henry Blackburn Stringer. I mention this because the name Blackburn was obviously important within the family since it continues through the next generation to our grandfather, Arthur Blackburn Stringer, but I cannot trace where it comes from. (I would guess that the name may have come from the distaff side of the family and there were plenty of Ann Blackburns living in the region who could have married a Stringer at that time but I cannot verify for any of them a link with the Stringer family.) Also for some reason John’s birthplace had changed from Yorkshire to Manchester. I assume that it could be an error confusing his birthplace with  the Registration District of Manchester.

It is salutary to think that this family of nine, including four adults, were living in a cottage. Elizabeth Stringer the cotton winder could well have been working at Chorlton New Mills, which were built between 1813 1nd 1845, see below.


Chorlton New Mills


From the birth place locations and other information one can establish that for much of his working life John and his family moved at least three times within a fifteen mile region around Sheffield. One can only assume that this was in order to find employment. I cannot discover what exactly an engine fitter did but probably he assembled machinery of some description. The type of work he may have undertaken was installing new machinery at coal mines or the many factories being built around Sheffield during the Industrial Revolution.

An intriguing fact that stands out from the  census evidence is the birth-date of the first child, William, who was born in 1827 when his father was 17 years old and his mother 16 or 17. We may have a hint of naughtiness and another scandal in the family history or at least atypical behavior. While people tended to mary at an earlier age than nowadays in that era they usually did not marry until in their early twenties. Had John chosen to marry at this young age or were he and his  wife forced to marry? As an engine fitter John probably had to serve an apprenticeship and if so he could still have been indentured when his first child was born. Did they have to get married because they were going to have a child? Or were they even married? I suspect that they did get married because if the union had been what at that time would have been illegal John could have lost his job and the family would have finished up in the workhouse.

By the time of the 1861 Census the family was very much reduced in size. John and Ann were living with Henry, now aged 16, at Kilton Street, Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield. Henry was a model maker. I cannot discover what that job would have involved but it was probably making models with sand for moulding iron. All the other children had left home or, in the case of the youngest, Sarah, probably died. Brightside was an industrial area which made up part of Sheffield, see here, and at that time it was probably near open country. John Stringer died in Sheffield in 1864.

The 1871 Census recorded Ann as a widow and her circumstances illustrate conditions at that time. She was living with the Thompson family at Stinnington, a village some six miles to the west of Sheffield. Stannington,  as it is  known today, is now part of Sheffield. The Thompson father was a 57 year old widower and a farmer who employed one laborer. There were seven family members living in the home including a one year old infant and a one month old baby. Ann was employed as the housekeeper. Anne died in Sheffield in 1879.

To return to ‘our’ Henry Stringer. The next record for him is his marriage  to Maria Staniland in 1867. His life strory is continued on the Staniland page, here.