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30 Nov 2011

A tale of two grandmothers

I can see I will have to go to Furness, the isolated bit of Lancashire accessible only by coast, from Morecambe, and now swallowed up by Cumbria.  My grandmother worked at Bassenthwaite Hall during the War, inland, and later married at Ulverston Methodist Church, Furness.

Strangely, I do turn out to have family members in Furness, but nothing to do with this grandmother.  It was my OTHER grandmother, born at Turnpike Lane (on the Piccadilly line) in the London suburbs, who has the Lakes ancestry, although she never lived there, and rarely had the chance to visit.  She was the granddaughter of John Airey the grocer of Windermere.  Or Winandermere, to give it its full name.

It was formally known as Applethwaite, or Lower Birthwaite, but I think it had always been known locally as Windermere.  When the God-given railway arrived in the 1840s, up went the sign WINDERMERE, and in came the visitors.  Hill-walkers, Wordsworth enthusiasts, consumptives, artists laden with oils and canvas, all the wealthy from Leeds, Manchester and London, were keen to visit England's biggest inland body of water.  John had just bought a site on Victoria Street, built by an uncle, and had forty very good years in the town.  The town also became a home for Annie, whose father had been crushed to death in the North-East aged 30, John's future wife.

John Airey also had two grandmothers, and the younger of these gave me much puzzlement.  She was Betty born about 1779 in Troutbeck round the corner from Windermere, long before the tourists got in.  She had clearly married, to Joseph Barnett, and had a slew of children, and descendants, most of them in the Furness pensinsula.  There were several Bettys born about 1779 in the parish, but none of them looked very interesting.

That was until a rogue tree on Ancestry made me consider Betty might after all have been someone already on my tree!  That is: Elizabeth Airey baptised in 1780 at Troutbeck.  Timing was very very tight as a girl was supposedly born 16yrs later.  But if we ignore her, that buys us more time.  She still has to marry at 18, for the true firstborn of 1799.  The censuses scream that 1780 is just too late, but they're wrong.  Elizabeth Airey DID marry, in 25 Feb 1798 at Troutbeck, to Joseph Barnett.

We are fortunate to know so much about a 4xgreat-grandmother.  She and her sisters all survived until the time of the censuses, and various family names were passed around which may lead us yet further back.  Of course we now descend from the Aireys of Westmorland twice over, and so it's for us even more a tight-knit family, centred around the beautiful unspoilt village of Troutbeck.

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