This album gives a fascinating insight into the striving working class of Victorian Britain. Despite the best clothes on show in the photographs this is a family who just managed to reach the ‘Fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings’ category, and who never achieved the heights of ‘Middle Class. Well-to-do’.

The story starts with William Stansfield a Shuttle Maker (b. 1830) marrying Elizabeth Hirst (nee Tattershall, b. 1837). Elizabeth was one of nine children of the blacksmith at Stainland-with-Old-Lindley, a village near Halifax. William and Elizabeth's first born was Adelaide in 1857 and then a son Joe H in 1859 (died) Herbert was born in 1861, then John W in 1866, Agnes in 1867 and Edward in 1870.

The album has two photographs thought to be of Herbert as a child. The first one shows him in Lord Fauntleroy style of clothing. This was very fashionable and not typical for a working-class child. Some photographers would keep a range of clothes for children to be dressed up in, which is a possibility. The other one was taken at Rievaulx Abbey. A cabinet card of the Abbey itself is also included in the album. The impressive ruins would have made that a very memorable visit.

Disaster struck when William died aged 40 in 1870. With Edward just 1 year old and two other children under 5 Elizabeth faced a struggle. The 1871 Census shows Adelaide at age 14 has ended her education and is employed as a print winder, Herbert aged 10 is a shop errand boy. Despite her household of six Elizabeth manages to fit in two lodgers who are also textile factory workers.

In 1878, aged 41 Elizabeth marries James Pickles. The 1881 census shows no sign of James, but he may have been elsewhere on census night. Elizabeth has a new baby Alice Pickles. They are living at 17 Allerton Place and the family are still working hard. Adelaide and Agnes are both spinners and weavers of worsted, John at just 16 is a wheelwright and Herbert is a ‘clicker’, a person who make eyelet holes and cuts leather for shoes and boots.

One bright spot is that next door, at number 19, is Elizabeth’s younger brother Alfred who is a master machine maker, a skilled and higher paid trade. With more wages coming in and family support nearby they are better off.

Herbert had an important talent. He could sing and his future career suggests that he was trained from a young age, perhaps as a chorister at Halifax Minister. Choristers had a high workload of services and rehearsals and they had to learn music and be literate. Free schooling was often provided to ensure they were up to the standard required.

By 1891 Herbert marries Judith (Judy) Colllinson who was born in 1859 to Thomas and Elizabeth Collinson. Her father was a gardener and sometimes a domestic servant and they had lived at 12 Norfolk Place, Kings Cross Road in Halifax for 20 years. Although not a high paid profession the fact that Judy is an only child helps to keep their life affordable. At the time of her marriage she has her own trade as an upholsterer.

Judy and Herbert move to Chester and find a house in a modest working-class area conveniently between Chester station and the Cathedral where he is a Lay Clerk. This is a great step up and the job enables him to be on the spot to participate in the musical life of the Cathedral. While living in Chester they have an old photo of Herbert’s father William enlarged into a cabinet card.

In 1890 they take possession of a fine photo album. The inscription may read  Luke Thompson  Esquire but is scraped out. Did the album have a previous owner? The date of 20th September 1890 is left intact. 

Meanwhile James Pickles must have died because Herbert’s mother marries for the last time to William Crowther when she is 47. In 1891 they are living at 339 Queen’s Road Halifax, and William is listed as a bookbinder age 70. Herbert’s younger brother, Edward Stansfield, is living there too. He is a shoe maker and little Alice Pickles is still at school age 10.

The 1901 census shows Elizabeth, age 64 has now moved to 339 Osborne Terrace with Alice Pickles a 20-year-old tailoress. Their household does not include William Crowther who may have died. Instead they are sharing the house with Fred Hirst, her nephew who is listed as a retired Washing Machine Maker (even though he is only 45). They also have a boarder Maud Seamer who is a ‘Wesleyan visitor’. The following year, in 1902, Alice marries Alfred Fielding an accountant’s clerk in and they move to Wakefield. Alice has two sons by 1911.

During this time Herbert, Judy and their daughter Kate (born 1894) have moved to 20 Park Grove, York where they are shown in 1901, and 1911. Herbert is now a Cathedral Songman, so can sing full-time (the family believe he is also the choirmaster). Their neighbourhood is a bit better than before typically clerks and office workers (including typists) although there are still bricklayers and other manual workers mixed in. Oddly enough they  live just a few roads away from Luke Thompson a solicitor. Maybe the album  was gifted to the Stansfields,  or they picked the album up in a thrift sale. at any rate they struggled to fill it.

In 1911 Herbert is listed at a Verger at the Cathedral. The final large photo in the album shows Judy and Kate at around that time, both looking relaxed and happy. Judy is holding a dog on her lap and there is a third young woman in the photograph who is unidentified, but has Collinson features.

Judy dies in quarter 4 of 1931 aged about 73. Kate has not married and dies a few weeks later aged just 36 .Without looking at certificates its not possible to know if their deaths were linked, (for example, to an infectious disease) but it must have been a terrible blow to Herbert. He dies just 18 months later in quarter 1 of 1933 aged 72.

The album then passes within the family, but is finally offered for sale with some helpful family details supplied. It is tantalising to not know exactly which names belong to which faces, but normally far fewer people can be identified in such albums so there is an unusually rich story here. This includes the fact that, perhaps due to Herbert’s career, there are a large number of photographs of him, which permits his life in particular to be commemorated.

The young lady with the violin also remains unnamed. A cabinet card would normally be of a member of the family, and the date would tie up for this to be Agnes, Herbert’ younger sister, but it cannot be proved. She marries James Naylor a fishmonger.

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