In Search of English Ancestors

The Four Men from England

Further research into the Hawley ancestry from families in certain villages of Derbyshire and Staffordshire

In THE HAWLEY RECORD author Elias Sill Hawley published correspondence from three men by the name of Hawley living in England:

William (of Monyash, Derbyshire)

Samuel (of Alstonfield, Staffordshire)

James (of Ardwick, Manchester)

James was the brother of Samuel. He also describes another letter from Samuel Hawley which provided him with interesting details of the family history, but this letter is not published in the book.

 “This paper, highly valued, was laid away so safely, or mislaid, that it cannot now be found”.

Recently Trudy Hawley, genealogist of the Hawley Society discovered another letter found inside a personal copy of THE HAWLEY RECORD belonging to E.S. Hawley, which had been passed down to his granddaughter.  In this new letter, a fourth man, Thomas Bonsall of Monyash, is mentioned as a descendant.

This new letter, however, is written by William and not by Samuel Hawley, so it is not the missing one from the book. It is dated January 1872, the day after the one from Samuel published in THE HAWLEY RECORD, and describes the same journey, made by Samuel, William and Thomas Bonsall, with some subtle differences in detail (no two genealogists necessarily record information the same way!) as well as some valuable additional information. It tells of a day trip made by the three men to Kniveton, Parwich and Alstonfield looking for parish records on the Hawley family.  Much of their work, as described in THE HAWLEY RECORD, was to find antecendents of John Hawley, born early in the 18th century and who apparently moved from Kniveton to Monyash.

The letter provides some key pieces of new information. John’s occupation was that of a hand loom linen weaver and he was a single man when he came to Monyash. The surname of John’s wife Hannah, was Boam. John’s age was ‘nearly 100’ as opposed to ‘over 100’ claimed by an earlier letter from the men, dated 1870, so we can assume he was born somewhere roughly between 1704 and 1714, having died in 1803. It also lists the parish records for Kniveton, supposedly the source of John’s family. A combination of the letter and THE HAWLEY RECORD state that John, hereafter referred to as ‘old John’, had eight children, five boys and three girls, all born in Monyash.

From other sources I have obtained the potential names of those 8 children and quite detailed records of the descendants of one, William. As an exercise I sought to discover who the letter-writers were, and from that, more details on John Hawley’s family.

So it looks like there are four strong candidates for the men who wrote the letters and participated in the research in England for Elias Sill Hawley in the 1870s. Firstly, Samuel Hawley, farmer of Alstonfield, Staffordshire. Next, his brother James, a grocer, born in Alstonfield but who settled in Ardwick. They are likely to be the sons of John and Ellen Hawley. Thomas Bonsall married to Hannah Hawley, another great-grandchild of old John Hawley, was the non-blood relation. Finally, farmer William Hawley of Monyash, son of John, grandson of William and great-grandson of old John, is for the moment the prime candidate with that name.

Map of relevant area of Derbyshire & Staffordshire

Peak District National Park outlined in green.  Larger roads in black, minor roads in yellow


The letter implies that all four gentlemen concerned are of the same generation.

“This John Hawley was our Great-grandfather”

“Samuel Hawley to whom you had written, was one. He is a descendent in the same degree as ourselves”.

They were all alive at the time of the letters (January 1872), and if they were all great-grandchildren of John, they would have been born roughly between 1800 and 1845.

 Finding The Writers

William Hawley

William lived in Monyash, so there are a number of possibilities for him, from known descendants who were born in that village. Unfortunately throughout the Hawley family they used the same forenames consistently, which makes it difficult to point to one individual! Also, given the repeated use of the same names, there are likely to be other great-grandchildren by the name of William who are not in my records.

Although there are many candidates, from research it seems that the most likely William is the one with dates of 1827-1897.



The new letter starts:

Dear Sir:

I duly received your letter addressed to me, in reply to one received by you from Mr. Thomas Oldfield, of Manchester, concerning the ancestor of the family of the Hawleys.

This Thomas Oldfield provided a vital clue.

In the 1871 census at 25, Ardwick Green, Ardwick, Manchester (the home suburb of the other letter-writer James Hawley), was Thomas Oldfield, a porter, aged 49 in 1871, his wife Mary (48) and a niece Jane Hawley aged 9. It would imply that Mary Oldfield’s maiden name could have been Hawley. Thomas and Mary were at the same address in 1861. Thomas claimed to come from Taddington, Derbyshire and Mary from Monyash – reinforcing a Hawley connection.

In 1841 in Monyash, what looks to be ‘our’ Thomas Oldfield (aged 15-19) was found, working at Summerhill farm owned by John Bowman – alongside another farm servant of the same age, Mary Ann Hawley. It seems a strong possibility that they became the Ardwick couple.

It is quite likely that Mary Ann Hawley was the daughter of John Hawley and Jane Wibberley, and that her niece who was living with her in Ardwick, was the daughter of Mary Ann’s brother William Hawley and his wife Maria Millington. This idea seems supported by the 1881 census where Mary Ann Oldfield, by now a widow, had moved back to Monyash and was living with her brother William and family (including Mary Ann’s niece Jane) at Summerhill, now farmed by William.

Grave of William Hawley of Summerhill Farm, Monyash  

Thomas Bonsall

The second of the foursome married into the Hawley family and is easy to identify. Thomas Bonsall married Hannah Hawley (daughter of Benjamin Hawley and Mary Hadfield), and they lived in Monyash all their lives. They married on 16 September 1850 and had at least four children. Hannah was still alive at the time of the 1901 census.


The remaining two men – James and Samuel Hawley

The third man, James Hawley from Ardwick, provides an interesting link to the social history of the Derbyshire and Staffordshire area in the mid to late 19th century. Farming went into steep decline as imports began to come in from Australia and Canada, typical cottage industries such as hand loom weaving practised by their great-grandfather old John Hawley were wiped out in a short space of time, and many people moved from the countryside to work in large factories as the Industrial Revolution took off. Two major industrial locations  – Manchester (cotton) and Sheffield (steel) were the nearest cities to the homes of the Hawleys (34 and 22 miles away from Monyash). Given their background in weaving and farming, it may have been more natural for the Hawleys to migrate to Manchester to work in the cotton factories. From the census records it can be seen that many members of this family and neighbours from their villages moved to the Manchester area. The Ardwick district seemed to have been where the Alstonfield and Monyash Hawleys decided to move, and there are a number of probable cousins there in the mid- to late 19th century. Ardwick is described below:

By the early 19th century, Ardwick was a pleasant and elegant suburb of Manchester and Ardwick Green was a popular and sought-after neighbourhood in which to live. It was here that one James Potter, great-grandfather of the Lakeland writer Beatrix Potter lived. Nowadays, Ardwick Green is a busy traffic intersection where Hyde Road and Stockport Road converge to meet the City of Manchester. In Victorian times it had been pleasant gardens with an ornamental pond.

By the late 19th century, Ardwick was heavily industrialized, with mills in Union Street, Limeworks alongside the Medlock, Ironworks, Boilerworks, a Sawmill, Chemical works, Brickworks and Spindleworks. Effluents from the Brickworks and Chemical works emptied freely into the River Cornbook and it was so heavily and dangerously polluted that the locals referred to it as the “Black Brook”. Jerry-built back-to-back houses crammed in amongst the factories and mills.

In the 1840s the Manchester & Birmingham Railway arrived in the district, effectively cutting it into two sections, Higher Ardwick on one side, and what came to be known as Lower Arwick on the other. Later, two other railways were added, and these, with their distinctive railway viaducts have defined much of the present day look and feel of the area.


Although Thomas and Mary Ann Oldfield lived in the more pleasant area of Ardwick Green, the other Hawleys did not, and for them, it must have been a grim contrast to the open fields and villages of Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

The new letter states that Samuel Hawley came from Alstonfield, Staffordshire and a letter written two years earlier by the men (Dec 1870) lists James Hawley’s address as 60, Bedford St, Ardwick; Samuel’s letter of January 1872 mentions ‘my brother James’.

So an attempt has been made to find two brothers, Samuel and James, who were both born in Alstonfield, with James moving to Ardwick.

Alstonfield, like Monyash, is a small village, and is only 4 miles from Parwich (potential home of Joseph Hawley who emigrated to Connecticut) and about 11 miles from Monyash and Kniveton. It is however in another county, Staffordshire – the border being along the river Dove which cuts the road between Parwich and Alstonfield.



Alstonfield village

James Hawley

Unfortunately, there are two James Hawleys in the Alstonfield records born about 1820, both of whom married a wife called Sarah Ann, which confuses matters. Both were in the 1881 census, so they are clearly not the same person. Neither James can be confirmed in the 1841 or 1851 censuses, although there are two James Hawleys working at a farm owned by William Mason in Hartington, Derbyshire in 1841 and one or both may be the ones we are seeking, especially as it is possible that they were first cousins. One James then appears in the 1871 and 1881 censuses in Leek, Staffordshire.

The other James Hawley, a grocer, cannot be found in the 1851 Ardwick census, which was badly damaged, but he is listed as James Halley, shopkeeper of 12 Camplin Street in Slater’s Manchester Directory of 1855.  There is also a James and Sarah A. Hawley in Ardwick in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses with no children. In 1861 they were at 12 Camplin Street, in 1871 at 60 Bedford Street (as in the letter) and in 1881 they lived at 16 Tiverton Street. The Hawleys gradually moved up in the world, with Camplin Street being a crowded street of tiny houses in the lee of the major railway line and viaduct. Bedford Street is nearer to Manchester itself, and had slightly bigger plots, but it was close to the polluted river with iron, soap, oil, chemical works in nearby streets. Tiverton Street was near the open spaces of the cemetery, a playground and by hospitals and schools, although still close to the railway goods yard. Sarah, born about 1824, came from further north – Holmfirth in Yorkshire, and it is likely that James met her once he had moved to the Manchester area. James died on 14 February 1887 at 16 Tiverton Street of ‘extensive glandular suppuration of the neck’. Sarah remained at the house in Tiverton Street until she fell downstairs and died on August 24th 1897 aged 73 years, from ‘compression of the brain due to haemorrhage from fracture of the skull’. Because of the nature of her death an inquest was held two days later, but her fall was deemed accidental.

Samuel Hawley

Samuel Hawley, born about 1825 to John and Ellen Hawley (possibly née Edge) was living with his parents in the 1841 census in Alstonfield, and was in still there in the 1851, 1861 and 1871 censuses. He is the only person of this name in the village and in fact was the only one in Staffordshire in 1861. As the letters were written in 1872, he seems a prime candidate for the letter-writing Samuel Hawley. Therefore, for the moment, the James Hawley of Ardwick is assumed to be brother of this Samuel, and son of John and Ellen Hawley.

Note: Tree is not a confirmed family tree. It is only speculative. Do not use as fact.

Possible ancestry of the four gentlemen letter-writers (unconfirmed)

So it looks like there are four strong candidates for the men who wrote the letters and participated in the research in England for Elias Sill Hawley in the 1870s. Firstly, Samuel Hawley, farmer of Alstonfield, Staffordshire. Next, his brother James, a grocer, born in Alstonfield but who settled in Ardwick. They are likely to be the sons of John and Ellen Hawley. Thomas Bonsall married to Hannah Hawley, another great-grandchild of old John Hawley, was the non-blood relation. Finally, farmer William Hawley of Monyash, son of John, grandson of William and great-grandson of old John, is for the moment the prime candidate with that name.

This article is taken from longer research, with full sources, available from Sue Honoré, British Archivist, The Hawley Society, 2008.