Mary Ellen Easter Mason

Gressingham and Hornby are in Lancashire, in the Lune valley where the rivers Lune, Leck, Greta and Wenning come down out of the Yorkshire fells to merge into the River Lune, before finishing their short journey to the sea.

HENRY MASON is the earliest traced of my Mason ancestors. He was born 1737 during the reign of King Geoge II. Probably farming stock, he grew up to marry AGNES HARLING on December 6, 1762 in Gressingham. Henry was 25 when he married Alice and they produced five children, MARY(, b. July 21, 1765), . WILLIAM( b. May 3, 1767), HENRY (, b. May 8, 1770 d bef. 1778), RICHARD (, b. Abt. 1773) and a second HENRY MASON, (b. April 19, 1778) Henry was born in Gressingham, Lancashire but died just down the road in. Hornby.

RICHARD MASON, the second youngest child married a local lass named ANNE, surname unknown. Six of his seven children (Henry, Richard, Agnes, William, Jane & John) were born in Gressingham between 1793 and 1801.

Of their children, the sixth child was JOHN MASON the last of Richard and Anne’s children to be born in Gressingham. (1801). The 1881 census shows that he was still alive at this time and was a husbandman (labourer ?) with the unfortunate residence of the Lunesdale Union Workhouse in Farleton.
The youngest, MARY MASON who was born sometime later, in 1815 in Hornby and married a man called Dodd. She produced two children in the 1850s. By the time the 1881 census was taken , she was a widow, living in a cottage in Hornby with her widowed brother Henry and working as a washerwoman at the age of 66. Her children ( a daughter and son) were living there, unmarried and working as a washerwoman and stonemason. HENRY MASON, the brother, is shown on the 1881 census as a widower, working as a garden labourer at the age of 87 !! One can only imagine the dreadful poverty that necessitated someone to still be working at such an age but you cant help but admire the fact that someone had suvived to such an age and was still capable of bringing in the pennies.

HENRY MASON and AGNES HARLING’s fifth child HENRY was born April 19, 1778 in Gressingham, Lancashire, England, and died in Hornby. He married a lady called JANE (surname unknown) They would appear to have had just the one child RICHARD MASON, b. Abt. 1797 in Gressingham, Lancs.

By now George III (Mad King George) was on the throne with his colourful and infamous son, the Prince Regent busy keeping the populace both amused and scandalized.

This son, RICHARD married but the details of his wife are unkown. They produced two boys, both born in Hornby. The eldest (another) RICHARD was born in 1817 with WILLIAM just two years later.
Richard married ELIZABETH (b1811) in about 1838/9. The ensuing children were all born in Bentham, a spit and a jump from Ingleton, where Elizabeth was born. In 1851 Richard was working as a coalminer and their home was Faccon, Bentham. 1864 saw Richard still working as a collier but having moved to Longber End, Ingleton. By 1881 he was still living in Longber End but had changed his occupation to greengrocer, aged 64 .
Richard and Elizabeth Mason raised five children, MARY, JOHN, ELLEN, RICHARD & HENRY.
Mary (b1839) married a JOSEPH BATTY and lived at Stone Grove, Bentham..
Ellen married(b1844) GEORGE SMITH and produced six little Smiths, living at Skermond House, Bentham
Nothing more is known about Henry except that he was born in 1850 However, the two other sons John and Richard can continue my story. JOHN MASON, was my great great grandfather. He was born in Bentham in 1843 and he worked as a collier, probably in the same mine as his father. Queen Victoria had been on the throne just five years and she had married Prince Albert only four years before. In 1864, John was still living at Longber End with his family and that year he married my great great grandmother ELLEN WRATHALL o, May 16, 1864, at the Parochial Chapel, Ingleton.
Ellen was the illegitimate child of a NANCY WRATHALL and father unknown. She had been born in 1844 in Thornton in Lonsdale and worked as a servant girl from a very young age. In 1861 she was working in Longber but, by the time she married John, she had moved to work as a servant in Broats, Ingleton.
John and Ellen had seven children, five girls and two boys over a 16 year period – (ELIZABETH, NANCY, MARY ELLEN EASTER, MARGARET, JOHN T, JAMES & ISABELLA). I know nothing much, as yet, about what happened to the children, except for MARY ELLEN EASTER MASON (b1872) who was my great grandmother.

All the children except for the youngest were born in Ingleton and by the time Isabella was born in 1880, the family had moved to Burnley. John and Ellen were living at 6 Ridge Row, Burnley, probably working out ot the pit which was just a few yards away. They weren’t the only Masons to move to Burnley at that time. John’s younger brother Richard also relocated sometime between 1879 and 1881 and lodged with John and Ellen, whilst his family remained in Ingleton for a while with John and Richards parents.
RICHARD MASON (b 1846, Bentham)had married in 1870 to a HANNAH ELIZABETH GILLBANKS from Church in Pendle, Lancs.

Richard was also a coal miner and by 1891 he had moved his family a few doors down from John and Ellen, to number 10 Ridge Row. Hannah was a former milliner and dressmaker which no doubt was quite useful considering they had eight children- JOSEPH W H, RICHARD, JAMES HOUGHTON, ANN MARY ELIZABETH, SARAH E, ERNEST& AMY. I know nothing further of Richards children except that the youngest, Amy Mason married JACK MEDLEY and their children went on to provide a couple more generations of Medleys.

As for my great grandmother MARY ELLEN EASTER MASON, all I know of her is anecdotal, as she died aged 89 before I was three. I have seen a picture of her and she does look a little daunting though my mother tells me that she was a formidable but nice lady, strong on the outside with a hint of softness on the inside.
Mary Ellen married JOSEPH HEBDEN in 1893. Joe was the youngest child of a family who had moved from the Yorkshire Dales into Burnley, in the mid to late 1880s, when he was a young boy. He worked as a grocers assistant and then, when he married Mary Ellen, they started up their own grocery business on Oxford Road, Burnley.
I don’t know when or exactly why but they later changed tack when cars and motorbikes began to be accessible to the general populace.
Joe’s elder brother obtained a motor car franchise and Joe and Mary Ellen began selling the motorbikes. It was a flourishing business for many years with both Joe and Mary Ellen having a good business sense.
They produced four boys, , with three of them going into the family business on James St, now the site of the Burnley Football Club shop.

Mary Ellen Easter was apparently the first woman in Burnley to ride a motorbike which was indicative of her character - energetic, adventurous and possibly a little unconventional.

It has been said that she didn’t have much time for the female grandchildren and great grandchildren, much preferring her grandsons, though after producing four boys of her own perhaps she didn’t know how to communicate very well with little girls. Her heart attack, when I was a toddler, prevented me knowing her but I am told that her words about me were “I think I am going to like this one. I think she is going to be like me” . I'll take that as a compliment.