Bruce Johnson's Family History Website

The Barlows: From Lancashire to London - then Scotland

Family tradition has it that the Barlows were a Lancashire family who worked as bargees on the canals, and at length found their way down to London where they mingled with the Thames lightermen and the coastal sailors.  James Barlow was born around 1764 and his brother George around 1769.   They married girls who were first cousins, George married Margaret Rankin whilst James married Elizabeth Rankin.

Elizabeth must have died because James married again,  this time to Hannah Mudford in 1802.

The first Seaham Connection

George Barlow and Margaret Rankin had a son James Barlow born 1798, who married Sarah Williams from Limehouse.

Their son James was born in 1835 and took to the sea. .  He married Ann Dennis in Sunderland. The 1861 census shows her at Dawdon with two children,  James 5 and Sarah 10 months.   Her occupation is listed as Seaman’s wife. and their daughter Ann Barlow was born in Seaham Harbour on 21st February 1867.   So in the 1860's we already had ancestors in the area,  the  Rayners were in Sunderland and the Barlows in Seaham 40 years before the Johnsons arrived.

The London Connection


Meanwhile the other branch of the Barlow family were still in London.  James Barlow (   b 1764 ) had re-married a young woman called Hannah Mudford, (or Medford) a west-country girl. The Mudfords were weavers in an age when small scale textile mills could be found in many regions of Britain, such as Axminster in Devon which lent it’s name to carpets. Hannah had come up to London seeking work and by 1802 she  had found a husband into the bargain. Of her six children the third was Charlotte Barlow, born in 1810.
Charlotte Barlow married a sailor called William Thomas Wheatley in 1827.  He took her away with him.  Their first son George was probably born in London in 1833  though on some census returns he gave various locations on the south coast. They appear to have kept their family connections to the area around Christchurch and Fordingbridge.  The 1841 census shows two families of Wheatleys, agricultural labourers , in that area. 

The 1851 census shows Thomas William Wheatley (occupation Mariner) with his wife Charlotte and his son George, all at Lymington.  There is no sign of the younger children whom we must assume are cared for by a relative while the adults are away at sea. As the Barlow's roots lie in far away Lancashire, it seems likely that it was the Mudford relatives who took care of the younger Wheatleys.

William, and later his sons, went to sea at a time when Great Britain was the workshop of the world and all trade was conducted by sea. They were not deep sea sailors, but coastal carriers who knew their way around the coasts of Britain, from Poole in Dorset where agricultural produce was loaded to the teeming London docks and from there up to Sunderland for coal, or to the East coast of Scotland where textile mills buzzed beside fast flowing streams. 

Charlotte Barlow and William Wheatley appear to have had a taste for exotic names, and although George had escaped lightly the next three boys were to be named after the biblical characters Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but in reverse order !

George Wheatley born 1833
Sophia Ann Wheatley – born 1835, died 1863

Wheatley was born 1838
Mesach  Wheatley born London 1839
Charlotte  Wheatley was born in 1846 (2)
Shadrach Wheatley  born 1843 in Fording bridge near Southampton

The great mystery of the Wheatleys.
The 1861 census shows Charlotte still alive and living in Montrose, Scotland. It appears that somewhere in the 1850s this London girl and her seagoing English husband, had suddenly migrated to the East coast of Scotland where they settled down and lived for the rest of their lives.  This was part of the central puzzle in my family tree,  ultimately it would explain why John Rayner was married to a Scottish girl,  Anne Wylie Wheatley.

Why would Charlotte Barlow,  a woman in her 40s with six children suddenly move to Scotland. I can come up with only two possible  explanations, and it has yet to be proved, that Charlotte Barlow had relatives living in Scotland.

The most obvious explanation would be that there were jobs going in the textile mills on the East coast of Scotland.   Charlotte's family had a history of work in those trades and so they moved from London to Scotland, William gave up the sea and they both worked in the factories.

<>There is,   however,  a more exciting possibility which still needs further research.  Charlotte (Barlow)  Wheatley may have had relatives in the area.
Corporal John Barlow had grown up in Lancashire at the time of the French Revolution and had sought fame and adventure by joining the Royal Welch Fusileers, the last British regiment to still wear the pigtail and ribbon in their hair. By 1809 John was stationed in Scotland, possibly guarding coastal batteries against the threat of invasion from Napoleon’s forces in Holland and Denmark. Though it is true to say that with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s revolt still within living memory it was standard government policy, even in peacetime, to keep a sizeable garrison at the forts which held the gateway to the highlands.  John Barlow married on October 24th 1809.  His bride was Isabel Smith, daughter of John Smith and Margaret Adam, born in Dundee on November 10th 1781,  she was two weeks short of her 18th birthday. John resigned from the army to live the life of a married man – but rejoined in time to fight at the Battle of Waterloo.  It appears that he survived and they had a child.   If John Barlow was Charlotte's relative this could explain why she moved to Scotland .

For whatever the reason, Charlotte,  and her husband William Wheatley, moved to Scotland.  Their children and other members of his family continued to go to sea, and would have numerous links with Sunderland and Seaham Harbour.

To follow the story on from this page
Click Here

Contact Me