James Wright and his wife, Mary (nee Benson), were my 3xgreat-grandparents and lived the majority of their lives in Acomb, near York. The church of Acomb, St. Stephen's is pictured to the left. They had 10 children, including their second eldest son Henry - my great-great grandfather - the pedigree is viewable here. In this post I am going to detail how I found out more information about the life of James Wright from the York City Archives, York Reference Library, Borthwick Institute and Acomb churchyard.
James Wright's life in Acomb
Having found my 2xgreat grandfather Henry Wright and his various siblings in the 1871 -1891 censuses, I had been able to identify a tombstone in the St. Stephen's churchyard as that of his father James Wright. Coincidentally, this tombstone is next to another Wright tombstone - that of Eustace Wright and family, though I do not think that they were at all related as Eustace came from the Midlands. These MIs are also kept at York Reference Library thanks to an indexing project by a Miss J. Baxter in 1974. The tombstone (pictured) read in part:
"also JAMES WRIGHT / father of the above / who died 9th December 1908 / aged 72 years / 'thy will be done' "
From the Acomb parish and census records and trade directories, I was able to find out that James Wright was living in Acomb village from about 1868 (when he was aged about 30) onwards and that he appeared to have varied occupations:
22/10/1868 - farmer at baptism of son Henry
5/3/1871 - farmer at baptism of dau Mary Ellen
10/4/1871 - farmer of 20 acres employing 2 servants (Isabella Barker and William Dykes), living at Poplar Villa in the census.
1872 - market gardener in Acomb (directory)
10/11/1872 - farmer at baptism of son James
25/10/1874 - farmer at baptism of son William
1876 - market gardener in Acomb (directory)
15/6/1877 - farmer at baptism of dau Amy
27/7/1879 - gardener at baptism of dau Flory
3/4/1881 - brick manufacturer and farmer of 80 acres, employing four servants, living at Poplar Grove in the census. James Wright also has boarding a boy who is described as an imbecile. We know from family history that he took in mentally handicapped children to look after as a business.
1881-1882 - brick & tile manufacturer in Acomb(Stevens directory)
10/9/1882 - market gardener at baptism of dau Lucretia
1890 - market gardener at Poplar Grove (Bulmer's directory). Though his wife Mary is listed as the victualler of the Marcia Inn.
5/4/1891 - licensed victualler at the Marcia Inn, Acomb
9/3/1895 - market gardener at wedding of son Henry 1895 - market gardener in Acomb (White directory)
31/3/1901 - market gardener living at Poplar Grove. James Wright is now blind.
9/12/1908 - dies in Acomb.
It seems therefore that James Wright was primarily a farmer or market gardener and brickmaker who lived the majority of his life at Poplar Grove. Throughout the last half of the nineteenth century the land he was farming increased in size and he was at one time farming 80 acres. He also though was at times running the Marcia Inn and had a side-business in looking after ill children. I also have a document given to me by the current owners of the house at Poplar Grove that describes that James Wright was declared bankrupt between 1883 and 1899, so some of his endeavors may not have been so successful.
James Wright between 1862 and 1868
James Wright arrived in Acomb in around 1868. This can be seen from the baptism of his son Henry Wright which occurred in Acomb. Before that, he and his wife seem to have lived in the parish of York known as All Saints Pavement (church pictured) from 1864 to about 1868 where two of his daughters were baptised. This parish covers the very centre of York around the streets of Coppergate, Pavement, Piccadilly, High Ousegate and Parliament Street. The period between 1862 and 1864 is also confusing. James' first child, John George Wright was born in 1862. On all his census records his birthplace is Dringhouses, a parish on the outskirts of York near to Acomb. I could not find his baptism in the Acomb registers (though I may not have gone back far enough in my original search). The IGI claims that John George was baptised on 6th April 1862 in Acomb, so it is possible that he was baptised here but born in Dringhouses. I therefore know that James and Mary had three children between 1862 and 1868, but am not entirely sure about their whereabouts or occupations during this period.
The marriage of James Wright and Mary Benson
For a long time I could not find the marriage of James and Mary. I knew from the census that James was born in Dringhouses and Mary was born in York but had lived in the neighbouring parish of Acomb, so I searched these registers but to no avail. Also the parish registers of All Saints Pavement (where their second and third children were baptised) and the parish register of Holy Trinity Micklegate (which is in between A.S.P. and Dringhouses) also failed to show the marriage record. Finally, I got lucky when I searched the newspaper index at York Reference Library and found an entry for 30th March 1861 in the Yorkshire Gazette.
"WRIGHT - BENSON - On the 24th inst., at St. Olave's Church, Marygate, in this city, by the Rev. A. Bartliff, Mr. James Wright, son of Mr. Wright, gardener, Dringhouses, to Mary, eldest daughter of Mr. George Benson, farmer, of Acomb, near this city."
St. Olave's Marygate is pictured here. It is adjoined to the city walls, next to the Museum Gardens. The fact that their son John George was born only one month after the wedding may be a factor in why I found it so hard to find the parish in which the wedding occurred. It seems that they may have married hurriedly in a parish that they did not normally frequent.
I have no details about the occupation of James at this time as I have not got either the parish record entry or marriage certificate yet. Two weeks later the 1861 census was taken, and James and Mary Wright are living with James' parents, John and Ann Wright and their children in a private house in Holy Trinity Micklegate, York. James Wright is described as a gardener, like his father and brother Henry.
The early life of James Wright
In 1851, James Wright is aged 14 and living in Dringhouses with his parents John and Ann. John is a gardener of 16 acres and James is also working as a gardener.
In 1841 the family are living in the Bishophill Junior part of the Dring- houses parish where John Wright is a gardener. Though I have not found the baptismal entry of James Wright, from the IGI I have found that James was baptised on the 3rd June 1836 at St. Mary Bishophill Senior.