Henry Byrom, the son of Henry and Ann Byrom, was born in Blackburn about 1794. We know nothing of his early life but it seems he never learnt to write as all the documents he signed in later life only have “his mark”. We do not know whether he could read. Although we cannot say much of Henry’s early life, it is, however, possible to depict the town of Blackburn at the time of his birth.
The main streets of Blackburn at that time were Church-street leading to Salford Bridge, Northgate, King-street (then known as Sudell-street), and Darwen-street. The population of the town was somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000. From Salford Bridge to the bridge at Whaley Banks was about ¾ mile and, from the top of Northgate (now Sudell Cross) to Darwen street bridge (the bridge that crossed the Blakewater) about ½ mile. The oldest part of the town was the top of Church-street where the parish church and the old Bull Inn stood. The parish cross, stocks and the old draw well were also situated here. Half way down Church-street was Shorrock Fold, this was a passage which took you through to the old Square and then a pathway led to Tackets ending at the foot of Richmond Hill. Near to Tackets was Thunder Alley which led onto Northgate. The girl’s Charity school was built here in 1764; and later in that century, a National School was built next door. Between Northgate and King-street stood Fish Lane and the house where Robert Peel, the Grandfather of the future Prime Minister, Robert Peel, lived.
In 1794, the bridge over the Blakewater at Salford was very narrow, hardly wide enough to allow two carts to pass unhindered. Salford led on to Penny-street and the road to Whalley. At the time, the Blakewater was open and bent further round towards the church making the grave yard much smaller than it was later. Chapel Street (where Henry Byrom lived in 1812) ran parallel with King-street. It was laid out just after the Independent Chapel was built in 1778.
Dr. J. Aikin’s book “The Description of the County Around Manchester” says:
“The Town of Blackburn is seated in a bottom surrounded with hills. It has long been known as a manufacturing place…It was formerly the centre of the fabrics sent to London for printing, called Blackburn Greys… The fields around the town are whitened with the materials lying to bleach. The town itself consists of several streets, irregularly laid out, but intermixed with good houses, the consequences of commercial wealth. Beside the parish church, there is a newly erected chapel of the establishment, and five places of worship for different persuasion of dissenters. There is a free-school in the town founded by Queen Elizabeth to the use of the poor, with cattle may be pastured.
Blackburn has a market on Monday… It has an annual fair on May-day, and a fortnight fair for cattle.
The Church of Blackburn… belonged to the Abbey of Whalley. The archbishop of Canterbury is now the rector and the living is served by a vicar…Half of the site of the town belongs to the rector, who lets it on lease for twenty one year’s…To the east of Blackburn is Fore-gate [Furthergate], where are some good new buildings… A little to the South [Grimshaw Park] is a capital brewery, close by which the new canal from Leeds to Liverpool takes it course, [the canal was not completed until 1816]. A mile on the Preston-road is a large printing ground [Mill Hill print works], and a factory [Wensley Fold] for spinning cotton twist. On the south of the town lies Hoadley-hall [Audley Hall] which with its land, belongs to the rectory.
The land about Blackburn is in general barren, and much of it sandy. Coal is found in plenty in the southern end of the parish, and in several parts much stone slate is got, which is used for covering the houses. In one of the hills there is a mine of alum stone, which…had long been neglected on account of the increasing expense of removing the super-incumbent strata.”
The same book gives an extract from the parish register of Blackburn from 1779 to 1794. For the year December 1793 to December 1794 there were:
389 Christenings, 185 Marriages, and 393 Burials.
The only newspaper in the town at this time was the Blackburn Mail which was first published in 1793 by Jonathan Waterworth, at Salford Bridge, and from 1796 by Joseph Hanby at 2 Water-street. The paper ceased publication in 1832.
There were no manufacturers, as such, in Blackburn at this time; they were known as merchants and did not own large factories as they would later but kept warehouses from which they would supply the handloom weavers with their warps and wefts. The yarn would be woven into cloth in the homes of the weavers who then returned the finished product to the merchants. The weavers were paid by the merchants for the work they had completed. The leading merchants at this time were the Sudells, Feildens, Liveseys, Boltons, Hindles, Yates, Whalleys, Thorntons, Boccocks, Marklands, Haworths, Leylands, Cardwells, Birleys, Chippendales, Smalleys, Glovers, De la Prymes, Hornbys and Mauds. These men had their warehouses scattered round Blackburn and their large houses were situated in or close to the town. The weavers’ houses, by comparison, were small and comprised of perhaps a couple of bedrooms and a combined kitchen living room. Overall, living conditions would have been very unsanitary. The most important room in the house was the workshop. Some houses may have had a garden to the rear adding fresh vegetables to a meagre diet. Wages would depend a lot on how the markets fluctuated, weak markets meant the weavers would get little or no pay but if the markets were strong they would live well.
© britishbattles.comFIRST REGIMENT OF FOOT GUARDS
By 1812, Henry Byrom was 18 years old and living in Chapel-street. An 1818 directory of Blackburn records a Henry Byrom, weaver, living at 41 Chapel-street. This was probably Henry’s father. We can only speculate as to why Henry joined the army in1812. Was there no work for him? Had he just got bored with the mundane life of a weaver? We will never know. Even at that time there were certain regulations regarding enlistment. The requirements stated that:
“In the Infantry, men enlisted are not to be taken above twenty-five years of age, nor less than five feet six inch high; but growing lads from seventeen to nineteen years of age, may be taken as low as five feet five inches. The lads and boys are to be enlisted as privates, without any promise or expectation being held out to them that they are to be of the band, or put on drummer's pay.”
Was Henry recruited in Blackburn by a recruiting party? These soldiers would scour the countryside and towns for able-bodied men who would then be cajoled, or bribed to enlist into the army. The prospective recruit would be offered up to two months pay to enlist, or he may be plied with drink until he did not know what he was doing, this together with stories of the “cushy life” a smart uniform to impress the women would probably be enough to tilt the recruit in favour of enlistment. If all else failed the recruiting sergeant would slip the “King’s shilling” into the man’s pocket.
HENRY'S ATTESTATON PAPERS
Henry’s Attestation papers show that he was attested at Dover Castle in Kent, so perhaps, he made his own way there to enlist? Either way on the 5th May 1812, an
18 year old Henry joined the 3rd Battalion Guard Regiment of Foot Guards under the command the Duke of Wellington. After enlisting, Henry would have been obliged to swear the “Oath of Fidelity” in front of a magistrate, as follows:
“I swear to be true to our Sovereign Lord King George, and to serve him honestly and faithfully, in Defence of His Person, Crown, and Dignity, against all His Enemies or Opposers whatever: And to observe and obey His Majesty's Orders, and the Orders of the Generals and Officers set over me by His Majesty.”
Since 1808, Britain had been at war with the French in what was the Peninsular war. Henry’s army records list the places where he served. During 1812, he was in service in Spain, 1813 in Portugal, 1814, France, and, in 1815, Waterloo and Paris. Throughout 1816 to 1818 Henry was part of the army of occupation.
It is possible that one of the first battles he fought in took place early in June 1812 when an Anglo Portuguese army marched on Salamanca which was then in hands of the French under Marshal Auguste Marmont. By the 22 July, after the French had suffered more than 13,000 causalities, Salamanca was taken.
On 24th June 1812, Napoleon began a disastrous invasion of Russia which culminated in his retreat from Moscow in October of that year. The Allied armies also suffered great losses after the disastrous siege of Burgos. British casualties were seven times greater than the French and during the retreat back to Portugal many of the troops suffered from starvation. The Allied troops arrived at Ciudad Rodrigo about mid November where they spent the winter.
In May 1813, the British were once more on the move back into Spain. As the troops left Portugal, Wellington turned in his saddle and said; Farewell, Portugal! I shall never see you again.”
The 3rd Battalion took part in the battle of Vitoria, 21st of June, 1813. In total, there were 60,000 French troops under the command of Napoleon’s brother Joseph Bonaparte. British, Spanish and Portuguese soldiers took the town with a loss of some 5,000 men. After the battle, it was widely reported that there was much looting by the allied troops. Wellington was noted to have commented; “We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers”. That did not stop Wellington, however, taking his share of the spoils! How much, if any, did Private Henry Byrom get?
The next battle was on the 28th of June, 1813 when Wellington laid siege to San Sebastian. An assault on the city in July had failed and the British suffered heavy losses. It was not until the 31st of August that the city was taken, and, as at Vitoria, the British troops went on a rampage and plundered the city.
The British crossed the Bidassoa River into France, 7th of October, 1813.
The French were being pushed back and Napoleon abdicated 10th April, 1814; the Treaty of Paris was signed on the 30th of that same month.
After Napoleon’s escape from Elba in February 1815, the scene was set for Henry Byrom’s last battles fought between the 16th and 18th of June. These were at Ligny, Quatre Bras and Waterloo. At this time, Henry was part of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltourn’s Light Company of Grenadier Guards.
MAP OF HOUGOUMONT
The night before “Waterloo” saw torrential rain fall making the ground wet and muddy. Wellington was in command of between 67,000 to 68,000 troops comprised of British, German, Dutch and Belgium soldiers. They were over 72,000 French troops. The Light Company of the Grenadier Guards was positioned at the farm house of Hougoumont. This farm was at the far right of the Allied position, and garrisoned with the light companies of the Coldstream and 3rd Foot Guards under Lieutenant Colonel James MacDonnell of the Coldstream Guards. The troops spent the night of the 17th of June fortifying the buildings at the farm.
© britishbattles.comCLOSING THE GATE AT HOUGOUMONT
At 11am on the 18th June the French attacked Hougoumont. They rushed the main gate but the British guardsmen managed to keep them out. By the afternoon, the British in the farm were virtually out of ammunition, but Sergeant Fraser of the 3rd Guards got back to the main line and returned with a wagon load of cartridges, enabling the defence to continue. During the battle the farm had been set on fire and the buildings were heaped with British dead and wounded.
The French never captured Hougoumont and suffered heavy losses in their attempt. Of the 2000 Guards men who defended the farm there were 500 dead and wounded.
After the battle of Waterloo, the 1st Foot Guards were given the title “the Grenadier Guards, to commemorate the regiment’s role in overthrowing the French Grenadiers of the Old Guard”. All ranks were given the bearskin cap to wear.
© britishbattles.comTHE LIGHT COMPANIES OF THE 2nd AND 3rd FOOT GUARDS
HOLD THE CHATEAU OF HOUGOUMONT
In 1816-17 every man who had fought at Ligny, Quatre Bas or Waterloo was given the Waterloo Medal. This is the first medal issued by the British Government to all soldiers or their next of kin regardless of rank. Each man’s name was engraved round the edge.
In 1818, Henry returned to England where he probably spent the rest of his army career. According to Henry’s army records, he left the army on the 27th August 1831 “of his own free will” and no other explanation is given. Perhaps he had become bored with the army life. Whatever the reason, he signed a declaration that would rescind his pension, it said:
“I Henry Byrom in the Grenadier Regiment of the Foot Guards hereby declare that I do, of my own free will, request to be discharged from his Majesty’s Service. And I further declare that a period of not less than thirty days has elapsed since I first made application for my discharge. And it has been fully explained to me, and I perfectly understand, that in receiving my discharge at my own request, that I entirely relinquish all further claims to pension. And that, even if I should re-enlist, my past service prior to the date of my present discharge cannot be allowed to reckoned for the purpose of obtaining any benefit from Chelsea Hospital.”
Henry had served a total of 21 years and 115 days.
On his discharge a description is given of him as follows:
37 years of age,
Height 5ft 8½ in
By trade a Weaver.
About his conduct: “The officers composing the board having examined the defaulters book and received parole testimony from Captain Hood, Assisting Adjutant, 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, are of the opinion that his conduct as a soldier has been very good.”
He told the board that he intended to return to Blackburn and live at 38 Chapel-street. If he did return to Blackburn, it was not for long. By July 1834, he was living in Preston and, on the 22nd of July, he married Alice Wilson, a widow, at St. John’s Church, Preston. The 1841 census shows them to be living at Alfred-street Preston, together with Alice’s children, George Henry and John Wilson. The census records show that Henry was living on an army pension but he had given up this on his discharge. Could it be that he was living on money that he had obtained at Vitoria and San Sebastian?
Alice died on the 19th of October 1847. In 1851, the census shows Henry living at 40 Adelphi-street. The household consisted of Henry, aged 57 who was listed as an army pensioner, William Bateman, 61, army pensioner, John Sherlock, 68, Blacksmith and his wife Hannah, 68, their daughter Jane, aged 25, and Jane’s daughter, Mary Jane Sherlock.
Mary Jane was ten weeks old. The child was, in all probability Henry’s, however, the baptism record show that Henry and Jane were not being all together truthful. Mary Jane’s baptism took place at St. John’s Church Preston, which was their local church, on the 2nd of February 1851. It reads:
Baptism: 2 Feb 1851 St John, Preston, Lancashire, England
Mary Jane Sherlock - [Child] of Henry Sherlock & Jane
Abode: Adelphi St.
Baptised by: John Kitton, Curate
Register: Baptisms 1850 - 1852, Page 65, Entry 518
Henry claimed to be the husband of Jane, and a joiner by trade, although the address is the same as the census record.
Later in the year, 25th of April 1856 a marriage was registered at Walton-le-dale between Henry Byrom and Jane Sherlock. On the certificate, the bride’s father is John Sherlock, blacksmith, as shown on the 1851 census. The ages of the bride and groom, however, are completely different to those listed on the 1851 census. According to the marriage certificate, Henry claimed he was 50 years old and Jane 38. Henry was actually 62 years old and Jane was 30, nearly twice her age! They are shown to be living in Walton-le-Dale. Had they not married in their local church at Preston, because of the lie they had told at their child’s baptism? Even at their wedding they had again lied, perhaps it was the age difference that made them lie this time. By 22nd of September 1856, a son, Henry, had been born and baptised. The family were living at Brougham-street in Preston. The child only lived until 1858. In 1859, another son was born and also named Henry; he was baptised on 1st May 1859 and died in 1863. Henry’s profession on the baptism record is Police Man.
On the 1861 census the family are recorded still living at Brougham-street as follows: Henry, 67, pensioner; Jane, 36, winder, Mary Jane, 10, Henry, 2; John Sherlock, 78, the father of Jane.
The 1861 census was taken on the 7th April, and, just a month later on the 6th of May, Henry Byrom died at his home, 22 Brougham-street. He was 67 years old. The cause of death was chronic bronchitis and Henry Wilkinson, from Adelphi-street was with him when he died. Henry’s occupation was listed as a police constable. This may not be as strange as it seems. Certainly, all the census records show Henry as a pensioner, presumably an army pensioner, but we have seen that Henry relinquished any right to an army pension when he left the army “of his own accord”.
The baptism record of 1859 lists Henry as a Policeman, and in 1846 an article appeared in the “Preston Pilot” (see below for the full article) which states that Henry was “an officer at the house of Correction”. This would be what is now H. M. Preston Prison. We cannot say whether he had this job up until his death but it could explain the reference to the occupation of Policeman on his Death certificate. Henry was buried in a communal grave at Fishwick cemetery, Preston; his name registered as Byrn. It should be noted that throughout the years his surname name is spelt three different ways. Mostly, it is spelt the correct way, that is Byrom, but on Henry’s Waterloo medal certificate it is spelt Byram and his death certificate spells the name as Byrn.
The article referred to above was printed in the Preston Pilot and reprinted in the Blackburn Standard of Wednesday 24th June 1846. The incident occurred at a Waterloo anniversary, and says:
“A most unlooked for meeting took place on Thursday last, on the occasion of the celebration of the Waterloo anniversary, between two veterans who had been engaged in the fight; the one named John Stable, who at present resides at Ulverstone, the other Byrom of this town, who was an officer at the house of Correction. These two men were of the same Regiment at the battle of Waterloo, and during the engagement were kept near each other, until Stable received shot whose effects had all the appearance of proving mortal, and Byrom left him under the full conviction he should never again see him alive in this world. The reader may fancy what must have been the surprise of these two men on suddenly meeting each other on Thursday for the first time since they parted at Waterloo on the 18th of June 1815. Seeing, it is said, is believing, but it was scarcely proof strong enough to convince the men that they really saw each other.”
It is unfortunate that only the surname Byrom is used, but we can be almost certain that it is referring to Henry Byrom. Both Stable and Henry Byrom were part of Lieutenant Colonel Lord Saltourn’s Light Company Grenadier Guards and would have been at the farm house of Hougoumont fighting side by side and there is no record of any other Byrom in the Company.
Jane Byrom did not spend a lot of time mourning her husband! On the 18th of August 1861, just three months after her husband’s death, she married Roger Foster a 39 year old widower; she was 37 years old. Jane died in July 1866 aged 40 and Roger Foster died October 1866, aged 41. Henry and Jane’s daughter, Mary Jane, married John Ratcliffe they were both twenty. Mary Jane died in 1922.
Stephen Smith, Community History Volunteer, February 2015.
Thanks to britishbattles.com, ancestry.com and The Lancashire Telegraph for the use of images.