Local Historical Stories


Early in 1996 Alastair Robertson - one of our local historians was asked if he would write a couple of historical articles for the Alston Moor Newsletter. He thought he could manage three or four but in the event, over 20 years later, they were still going. Once, and only once, he received an unsolicited article from an outside source, this was the reminiscence of a school for wartime evacuees at Nent Hall that came from Mr. Michael Dickinson and it was gratefully included in the series.

They’re a real mixed bag, too random to put into a book, but they’re still worth keeping in a more permanent form, so the Historical Society website seemed the perfect place to have them.

Material for the articles came largely from local sources, from the Alston Moor Historical Society Archives, St. Augustine’s Church Records, Alston Library, the Cumbria County Records Office in Carlisle and the County Records Office Northumberland.

There has been editing in some cases that will be noted at the beginning of each item, otherwise the articles have been left as they were written, complete with occasional references to such things as cement lorries, the millennium, and foot and mouth disease, which are themselves now things of the past (?).
Read on …

Story No 58: Private Albert Edward Kirsopp

One day while looking at epitaphs in Alston Cemetery, as I occasionally do, I found a headstone for a branch of the Kirsopp family that compelled me to do some research, and this is where Ancestry.co.uk, Church Registers and Census Returns are invaluable.
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Private Albert Edward Kirsopp

This branch of the Kirsopp family lived at Loaning Head near Alston from before 1841 until after 1871. The father, John Kirsopp, was a lead miner who died in 1845, leaving mother Phillis to keep the family of seven children together by scraping a living as a farmer of 15 acres. She was helped out by the two oldest sons who were lead miners, and the next two sons who became stone breakers, while in 1851 the youngest son, Edward, was 9 years old and at school.

In 1868, when Edward was a labourer aged 26, he married Annie Lee, who was 25 and a servant. They lived at West Nattrass just off the Garrigill road where they had a daughter, Isabella, in 1871, but then Annie sadly died in 1874 aged 31, possibly in childbirth with daughter Jane, who survived. Edward continued to live at West Nattrass and married Mary Stephenson in 1876. But tragedy was still not far away, for their first two children died young in 1878, Joe was 10 months old and John lived only 9 days. However the couple went on to have other children, Ethel came first in 1880.

The family soon moved nearer to Alston, in 1881 they were living at Physic Hall on the Garrigill Road, where Edward, aged 39, was a road labourer. Then the family went to live in Cockermouth, where their son Albert Edward Kirsopp was born in 1883. From there they moved to Workington where, in 1891, Edward was a ‘Road & Street Foreman’. By then oldest daughter Isabella had left home, but daughter Jane was still living with them, working as a general domestic servant, Ethel and Albert were both at school, while their youngest son William Ewart (named after Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone) was 2 years old. Mary’s widowed mother, Hannah Stephenson, had moved from Alston to live with them.

About this time Edward must have been in very poor health, possibly respiratory trouble caused by dust from working on the roads, and he came back to his home town of Alston to stay at Clitheroe with his widowed sister, Sarah Place, and nephew Joseph. But he died there on 3rd August 1891, aged only 49, and was buried in Alston Cemetery.

Edward’s wife Mary stayed on in Workington and in 1901, at the age of 53, she was a confectioner. Albert Edward and William Ewart were living with her, Albert at 17 was also a confectioner, although the census enumerator’s pencilled note added ‘Baker & Breadmaker’, while William, aged 12, was at school. The family’s income was supplemented by taking in two boarders.

By 1911 Mary, Albert and William had moved to Heaton Mersey in Lancashire to be with Jane, her husband Thomas Newton, who was a general labourer in a brickworks, and their son Edward Aaron, aged 3. There they all shared five rooms. By now Albert was an iron moulder in an iron foundry and William was a joiner.

When the Great War came, it was from Heaton Mersey that Albert enlisted as Private S/4786 in the 9th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders; which brings us back to the inscription on the family gravestone in Alston Cemetery. All the epitaphs in the cemetery were recorded in 1910, when the original inscription was only for Edward Kirsopp and his two infant sons:

“In affectionate remembrance of Edward Kirsopp, the beloved husband of Mary Kirsopp, who died Aug. 3rd 1891 aged 49 years. Joseph their son who died April 25th 1878 aged 10 months. John their son died in infancy.”

Then, many years later, another death was added by Mary Kirsopp, that of her son Albert Edward, part of whose epitaph reads:

“Died in Germany, Friday 21/6/1918 of wounds received in France 21/3/1918, aged 35.”

From the Commonwealth War Graves website I found that Albert is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany, a long way, about 150 miles, inside the German border with Belgium. This might seem odd, so far from the Western Front, but a plan of the cemetery reveals that he is buried in a special section, numbered VIII.B.17, which was reserved for British Prisoners of War. Albert Edward Kirsopp had been wounded in battle and taken prisoner, only to die of his wounds after three months of suffering in a P.O.W. camp.
The final words of his epitaph in Alston Cemetery are:

“Duty nobly done.”

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About Us
Alston Moor Historical Society was founded in 1973 and, due to the nature of Alston Moor, it is a member of both the Northumberland Association of Local History Societies and the Cumbria Federation of Local History Societies.
Alston Moor Historical Society
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