Local family “the Woods” describe their family history and ties to Nether Kellet…

Tucked away, these days, beside the M6 and a just a few miles from Carnforth and Lancaster, Nether Kellet is perhaps not the best known of Lancashire villages but its association with the Woods family is extremely strong and stretches back at least 200 years.

This particular history begins in the year 1800 with the birth of Robert Woods in Nether Kellet. Like the son and grandson to follow, Robert worked as an agricultural labourer in and around the Lancaster area and he didnít stray very far to find a wife; Betty Wilkinson was born in Ellel. Robert and Betty were married (most probably) in the late 1820s because their eldest son, Henry Preston was born in Nether Kellet in 1831. At the time of the 1851 census, we find Robert and his wife living in Nether Kellet with their four children: Henry P, Sarah (aged 18), Peter – an agricultural labourer (aged 16 – more of him later!) and Jane (aged 12). Also living with them was a lodger: Henry Williamson, a labourer, aged 74.

Robertís wife, Betty died sometime before 1861 because for that census we find Robert – now aged 61 – a widower. He has moved away from Nether Kellet and is living at Beaumont Cote, Bolton le Sands, presumably working on the estate. He is sharing accommodation with housekeeper, Ann Atkinson (52) and cook, Catherine Edwards (42). By 1871, Robert has moved to Broadgate, just north of Cockerham where he is employed as a gardener/servant and lodging with a James and Elizabeth Gibson and their two young children. In 1881 the old boy is still alive but has moved back to Bolton-le-Sands and is living at Windy Harbour with his unmarried son, Peter . We must assume that Robert died between 1881 and 1891 because he is not to be found on the 1891 census.

Henry P Woods also went “south” to find his spouse. At the time of his marriage on 27th April 1861, at Garstang Parish Church, he was living and working in Winmarleigh. He was lodging with the Bilsborough family. His wife-to-be, Jane Reynolds (or Wrenolds) was a local girl, born at St Michaels and at the time of their marriage, living at Kirklands – a district just south west of Garstang. It is interesting to note that the Woods/Parker story further unfolds in Wyresdale but that is for some other time!

Henry and Jane’s first child, (another) Robert was born in Churchtown in 1861/2 (I have yet to send for his birth certificate to be sure exactly when he was born). However, the call of Nether Kellet is strong because their second child, James was born there on 11th June 1864. James’ birth certificate tells us more about Jane; she registered the birth, signed with her mark and must have confused the clerk at the registrarís office because her surname is spelt: Wrendols!

By the time of the 1871 there are two more children, Henry (aged 4) and William (aged 2) both born in Nether Kellet where the family now live. On the night of the 1881 census, sons: James (now 16), Henry (14) and William (12) are all at home in School Cottage, Nether Kellet. Interestingly, they have a visitor, Elizabeth Bateson who is thought to be the benefactor named in Nether Kellet Chapel.

Also, of interest on that March night of 1881 is the eldest son Robert, now living at Ellel, apprenticed to Edward Winder, a Master Blacksmith. Did Robert’s grandmother, Betty (nee Wilkinson) provide the introduction because she was from Ellel?

By 1891, we find Henry and Jane with youngest son William (now employed as a Stone Quarryman) unmarried and living with his parents. In 1901 Henry (now 70 and employed as a Stone Breaker!) and Jane (75) are still alive but they have moved away from Nether Kellet and live with their eldest widowed son Robert at 104 North Road, Carnforth.

James (known to the family as Jim) becomes our next generation. Although I have yet to send for his marriage certificate, we know that the marriage to Elizabeth Ann Shaw was registered in Lunesdale in the second quarter of 1889. Elizabeth was born in Caton in 1865 and as a single woman in the 1881 census was employed as a domestic servant by Stephen Haythornthwaite at Town End, Caton. Her father and brother were Blacksmiths. (I have additional info concerning the Shaw family as I have for most of the families of the Woodsí spouses)

At some time between 1881 and 1891 James had “left the land” and gained employment as a Railway Guard. I assume that this happened before his marriage and, at the 1891 census, James and Elizabeth were living at 43 Highfield Terrace, Carnforth. James was a lay preacher and was no doubt influenced by his boyhood experiences at Nether Kellet Chapel; remember Elizabeth Bateson the family visitor to his home in 1881 when he was 16 years old.

The 1901 census reveals that James and Elizabeth had moved from Highfield Terrace to 118 Kellet Road, Carnforth and, by this time had produced four children: Elizabeth Jane (b.1891) (Auntie Jaynie later to marry Thomas Arthur Huyton then James Cock before emigrating to Canada), James Anthony, Maggie (b. 1894) and Alicia A (b. 1898). James died in 1935 outliving his son. Elizabeth died on 3rd May 1945 (coincidentally the day my own parents were married!)

The coming of the railways was especially significant for the busy junction at Carnforth. This new employer must have enticed many young men from their work in farming as well as causing people to set up home in the town. James Woods was probably typical of many and it was hardly surprising that his own eldest child, James Anthony (born at Highfield Terrance, Carnforth on 17th June 1892) chose to work on the railway.

Picture father and son walking down the hill to work at Carnforth station/engine sheds during the First World War period. At the end of that terrible war James Anthony married Lucy Ellen Marguerita Parker on 4th February 1920 at St Johnís Parish Church, Yealand Conyers.

James Anthony was an Engine Driver at the time of his death on 11th August 1934. The following obituary – with photograph – appeared in the local newspaper.

“Widespread regret was felt at Nether Kellet and Carnforth when it became known that Mr J A Woods had passed away on Saturday after an illness of nine days. Mr Woods was the only son of Mr and Mrs J Woods (of Highfield Terrace, Carnforth) and was only 42 years of age. A widow and five children survive. Mr Woods was a native of Carnforth and for 27 years had been an employee of the LMS Railway Co. He was esteemed by his employers and colleagues as a man of stirling character.”

Of course the history does not stop here and also there is much to tell about the Parker side of the family but some further interesting facts and figures are as follows.

With the sad exceptions of James Anthony and his own son John James Melrose, the Woods males seem to be a fairly healthy and long-lived bunch. Robert (b. 1800) and Henry P (b.1831) both worked until they were 70 and lived into their 80s. Robertís son Peter was the infamous recluse who, at the 1901 census was living at (and I quote) the Shed, Charity Field, Halton. He died aged 101. James (b. 1864) died aged 71 and my own father, Peter Anthony reached his 85th birthday gingerly before passing away in May 2007!

So, as I write a “surviving six” Woods males are keeping the Nether Kellet flag flying: thank you to Alan Robert (b. 1935), Richard George (thatís me, b. 1946), Peter John (b.1948), Alastair Richard (b. 1969), Simon Andrew (b. 1970) and, the latest addition, Connor James Mackenzie (b. 2005)

Geography also has its fascination. Until Connor’s birth in South Africa all the Woods males, since 1800, have been born within 25 miles of Lancaster; true Lancastrians.

Richard G Woods (June 2007)