Women of the Wharf – Elizabeth Leeson

Elizabeth appears at the Wharf in 1858 and remained there until her death in 1917. Originally Elizabeth Bird, she was born in Badby in 1835 and baptised there on 3 Jan 1836. Her parents were Badby born Samuel Bird and Sarah Foster from Dodford. On the 1851 Census, Elizabeth was working as a house servant for John and Sarah Key at Preston Capes. John was a farmer, employing several men and boys. Her future husband, Henry Leeson, was a farm labourer in Norton in 1851 – perhaps he moved to the farm at Preston Capes and that’s how they met.

Elizabeth and Henry were married on 28 January 1858 at Long Buckby, with Henry’s father George, and Elizabeth’s sister Emma as witnesses. They made their home at the Wharf and their first child was born around the beginning of December 1858. Sadly little Samuel George Leeson died at only 8 weeks old, and was buried on 31 January 1859 at St Lawrence Church in Long Buckby. Their next child, Caroline, was born in 1860 and was swiftly followed by another eight children. Another little boy died far too early, George Samuel was buried on 26 November 1870 aged 3 years and 10 months. The rest of the children survived to adulthood, although a third son, Albert Charles, died at the age of 20 in 1902.

While Henry was at work on the railway, working as a platelayer, Elizabeth brought up nine children in a little cottage. They lived close to Henry’s family, and by the time of the 1871 Census his eighty year old mother Sarah was living with them as well. With no running water, gas, or electricity, or any of the everyday things we now take for granted, household life was hard work and Elizabeth would have been constantly on the go, never a moment to herself.

One of her probably daily tasks was to make bread for the family, which meant buying flour from the miller in Long Buckby. Delivered to the Wharf by a carter, this led to an involvement in an embezzlement court case in 1887. The local miller, Frederick Thomas Coleman of Long Buckby, who worked for Mr T H Reynolds, discovered that his carter, Lewis Cox, was pocketing the money for the flour and barley meal he was delivering. Elizabeth was a witness for the prosecution and stated that she received flour from him weekly, and a regular delivery of barley meal. John and David Thompson of the Wharf were also regular customers whose money was taken by Lewis Cox. He pled guilty and was sentenced to three months hard labour.

Elizabeth is only named in records as a daughter, wife, mother. The only other thing that is known about her is that she could read and write – she signed her marriage certificate. Did she have time for any hobbies, and if so, what were they? What was her favourite book, did she like music? The answers to these questions are lost in the mists of time. Possibly her descendants might have heard tales of Elizabeth’s life, and know more about the woman she was.

Elizabeth died on 28 December 1917, aged 82. She was buried in the churchyard at St Lawrence in Long Buckby on 2 January 1918 where there is a headstone for her and Henry:

In loving memory of Henry Leeson who died April 10th 1922 aged 90 years. Also of Elizabeth, the beloved wife of Henry Leeson, who died Dec. 28th 1917 aged 82 years.

Elizabeth was obviously a well known and well regarded woman for her funeral to be described in the local paper. Sadly it seems that her husband Henry was unable to attend – he was in his eighties, perhaps unwell, or grief-stricken. There were two floral tributes from people outside of her immediate family – Flossie and Benny are currently unknown, Betty and Willie may possibly be Bessie and William Green from the Wharf.

Northampton Mercury 1918 4 January

  • Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912 22P/7
  • Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1912 197P/20
  • Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912 197P/12
  • Northampton Mercury 1887 8 January
  • Northampton Mercury 1918 4 January
  • Northamptonshire Family History Society. Memorial Inscriptions at the Church of St Lawrence the United Reform Church and the Baptist Church of Long Buckby. 2007

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