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The Marleys of Marske-by-the-Sea

Alfred Hardy with his wife Jane Ann (née Marley) and sons Alfred John & Wilfrid
Alfred Hardy with his wife Jane Ann (née Marley) and sons Alfred John & Wilfrid

theserpentJust like all the different sights and sounds of holidays in exotic places so researching the past always gives us an opportunity to delve into the social history of communities and particular occupations of newly discovered branches of the family in the ancient towns of different parts of the Britain. Having spent so much time researching family history in Sunderland, County Durham, it is interesting to travel only 40 miles south to Marske-by-the-Sea in Yorkshire; I’m always ending up in Yorkshire!

Marske-by-the-Sea was the home of my Great Grandmother Jane Ann Marley who was born in September 1872 into a dynasty of drapers and tailors, including The Marleys, Pattons, Wilsons, Harforths and Taylersons. She joined the Hardy family on the occasion of her marriage to Alfred Hardy, a Master Grocer from Sunderland at The Parish Church of St Thomas Bishopwearmouth on 23 June 1893¹. She was shown as the daughter of John Patton Marley (deceased) a tailor of Marske, whilst Alfred was shown as the son of William Hardy, a Police Pensioner. We’ll discover later how they likely came to meet.

Marske-by-the-Sea is a little fishing village on the East Coast of England, an area historically known as Cleveland, situated on the north edge of The North Yorkshire Moors between the resorts of Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Together with the neighbouring villages of Brotton, Stokesley and Great Ayton, all are only about 7 miles from the nearest town of Guisborough. The nearest city is Middlesbrough and they are all on the south side of the River Tees Estuary in the County of North Yorkshire. It was in 657 AD that a nun called Hilda founded a settlement on the Spoutbeck, a stream that passed through Marske, ‘mersc’ or marshland, creating a little estuary into the North Sea. Vikings came in 857 AD and they were renowned for finding river inlets where they could shelter their long boats and then pillage nearby villages, stealing horses, and riding inland to ransack the rich abbeys. Later the Church of St Germain was consecrated by Bishop Ægelric between 1042 and 1056. Of course Marske is mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and I am sure it has since seen many notable historical events. Now it is a village of some 9000 folks, although just over 200 years ago, in 1801, Marske-by-the-Sea consisted of barely more than one street of thatched white-washed cottages and a population of only 503 persons; interestingly, then,  Middlesbrough was just a hamlet with 25 residents.

We always backtrack, don’t we? In the 19th Century back from Jane Ann’s marriage to Alfred in 1893, we find her, aged 8, in the census of 3 April 1881 listed at 76 High Street in Marske-by-the-Sea with her mother Eliza Marley (née Wilson) and her younger brother Wilfrid Marley, aged 5. They were all shown as being born in the village, but surprisingly Eliza Marley (born 1848) was also listed as being a widow at the young age of 33 and, by profession or occupation, an annuitant².  Although I do not yet know the reason for the death of Jane Ann’s father in the December quarter of 1876, he was John Patton Marley¹, a Master Draper aged only 38 years old. Jane Ann’s brother Wilfrid was only a year old and her parents John and Eliza had married only 5 years earlier in 1871.

In the same census of 1881 we find, living next door at 77 High Street in Marske-by-the-Sea, Jane Ann’s grandmother and Eliza’s mother, Jane Wilson (née Searle). She is shown as a widow (the wife of Joseph Wilson) and annuitant² aged 56 years born in the neighbouring parish of Saltburn. With her are daughters Sarah Jane aged 24 years and Ada aged 12 years. Living further down the High Street at No.86 lived Jane Ann’s paternal grandparents, 72 year old retired tailor and draper Thomas Marley and his 63 year old wife Mary. Two doors down from them was Jane Ann’s uncle William Marley, a 39 year old draper and tailor, with his wife Martha (née Dickinson) and their four children Thomas aged 15 a tailor and draper’s apprentice, John 9 years, William 5 years both scholars, and little Annie Marley aged 3 years. Elizabeth Toppin is shown as a 17 year old domestic servant; her father was a local iron miner and her mother lived with Elizabeth’s five younger brothers and sisters in Chapel Street. Elizabeth later married Edwin Rowland in Sept 1886. It was a very close community.

The main concentration of the surname Marley is in the North East, specifically Sunderland and Cleveland. In the 1881 Census the largest grouping by far was in Bishopswearmouth, Co. Durham, followed by Hartlepool and Stockton on Tees on the Durham side of the Tees Estuary and Middlesbrough and the towns and villages like Guisborough, Redcar and Marske on the south side of the Tees in Yorkshire. In fact there were about 750 Marleys in Durham and Yorkshire, more than a 10 times occurrence over other English Counties.

In June 1885 at Darlington Jane Ann’s widowed Mother Eliza remarried. Her new husband was called William Grice, a Methodist Lay Preacher, and on his appointment to give sermons and teach at a number of churches on the Sunderland Mission circuit, based at the Bishopwearmouth Sans Street Wesleyan Methodist Church, they moved. By chance the Chapel was at the corner of High Street and Sans Street, a matter of yards from where the young, and no doubt dashing, Alfred Hardy was working as a Grocer’s Assistant in High Street East and we can only imagine his first encounter with Jane Ann, ‘the pretty new girl in town’. The rest, so they say, is history!

Family tragedy follows us all, doesn’t it? When Jane Ann’s brother Wilfrid Marley became ill with consumption he was nearby where she could care for him and provide good provisions from her husband’s store. But nothing could save Wilfrid and he died in March 1898, aged only 22 years. Sometimes we forget that these tragedies were far more prevalent in this era and it must have been all the more tragic for Jane Ann as she was eight months pregnant at the time. When she gave birth to a son on 18 April 1898 she named him Wilfrid after her brother; he was my Grandfather.  My Grandpa always described his mother, Jane Ann, as a genteel woman but nevertheless a matriarchal figure within the Hardy Family. Woe betides anyone who did not do her bidding, he told me, and nobody would risk bringing trouble to her door. Her husband Alfred, Grandpa’s father, however, was almost the opposite – easy-going, jovial, generous and hardworking. They had 10 children, six boys and four girls. Only two boys would survive – Wilfrid and his older brother, Alfred John Hardy (pictured above with Jane Ann & Alfred); the girls were Eliza Searle (Lily) ?, Ada?, Mabel and Ethel. You can read about them in My Grandpa – Wilfrid Hardy.

The Marleys family business as drapers and tailors must have been quite successful. According to family sources they owned ‘various properties, a villa and shops in Guisborough and District’.  Even in 1851 Master Tailor Thomas Marley, then 42 years old, employed 3 men at 142 High Street, Marske-by-the-Sea.  And, ten years later in 1861 he is described as a tailor and draper employing 2 men and 2 boys. It’s also likely that he had a number of less skilled outworkers, seamstresses working from home sewing on buttons, making button holes, pockets and pocket linings, generally finishing the garments. His son John P Marley is there aged 23 and described as a master draper whilst his younger son William is 19 years old and a tailor journeyman. A draper was originally the term for a retailer and wholesaler of cloth for clothing, a cloth merchant, whilst the tailor actually made the clothing and the tailor journeyman would travel and measure clients in their own houses. Like all apprenticed trades the jealously guarded skills were highly specialized. Although there were no Marleys listed in White’s Professions and Trade Directory 1840 for Marske-by-the-Sea there were 8 tailors, including Andrew & John Harforth and George & William Taylerson all whom would be connected at some future time by marriage to the Marley Family. Thomas Marley is included in White’s 1840 Directory for neighbouring Stokesley, a matter of 11 miles distant.

Like every period clothing during the 19th Century changed from one decade to the next. It is said, however, that by 1900 the visible distinction between the classes became less apparent. It was a matter of quality and quantity; the relevance of the proverb ‘to cut your coat according to your cloth’ is very apt. Clothing said everything about your class; you were either upper class or lower class but there was also a newer and ever growing ‘middling sort’. The upper class was generally associated with hereditary and land ownership. In the case of Marske-by-the-Sea the lord of the manor and principal landowner was The Earl of Zetland and he would have had many new outfits every year, probably made in the City of York or even London. The lower or working class, epitomized by the multitude of agricultural workers, labourers and servants of the 19th Century, would have possessed some sort of presentable outfit to wear at church on Sunday – the servant would have had a uniform provided – but many relied on hand-me-downs or second hand clothes.

It is of the ‘middling sort’, the more educated people with trades or professions, who would have patronised the small town draper & tailor. Successful middle class people could achieve great wealth and improve their appearance as a way of displaying their success and status. Ties, scarves, hats and canes could add to the elegant middle class appearance. In this varied group, around 1850, when Leeds in West Yorkshire became the major centre of the wholesale clothing industry in England, the typical wardrobe of a dairy farmer included a morning coat, a frock coat, four overcoats, six pairs of trousers and seven waistcoats, but they weren’t necessarily bought in the same year and may even have been given to him a few years before on the occasion of his wedding; he was probably only slightly better clothed than the few labourers he may have employed on the farm. By contrast, in 1860 the year when the sewing machine emerged in general use, higher up the ‘middling sort’ – a successful professional lawyer, engineer or mill owner, was expected to purchase every year, at least, four morning coats, a frock coat, a dress coat, an overcoat, six pairs of trousers and five waistcoats. By 1870 the Tailor & Cutter Magazine claimed,’ In these days, the clerk with a very moderate salary can appear on the promenade with all the airs and appearances of those very much his superior’. There continued to be plenty of work for a good tailor who could produce good quality clothes in the latest styles; plenty more work for the draper and haberdasher in supplying cloth and accessories to the dressmakers. I always think the fashions of the 19th Century are best presented in the modern dramatizations of the masterpieces of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.

Interestingly and as an aside, in 1844 Charles Dickens visited Marske-by-the-Sea to see the unusual vaulted roofs constructed on the three turrets at Marske Hall, the seat of Lord Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland. During his visit Dickens also searched for the graves of Captain Cook’s parents who are buried in St Germain’s churchyard and he stayed overnight in the Dundas Hotel?. He surely would have been intrigued about tales of the secret tunnels used by smugglers and the vicar from St Germain’s Old Vicarage to the church itself. By 1844 Dickens was an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, mostly published in monthly or weekly instalments, were read by all. Being eager to meet as many people as he could, it would have been quite feasible for him to have entertained the local middle class with a recital in a function room of the Dundas Hotel during his stay. Maybe the well dressed tailor Thomas Marley was there; maybe Dickens, as was his way, based the character Trabb in his 1860 novel Great Expectations on Thomas Marley. The character Trabb was the village tailor who made Pip a new suit of clothes before he went to London. It’s a nice thought isn’t it?

Following the discovery of a number of large seams of ironstone in Cleveland during the first few decades of the 19th Century growth in the population of villages like Marske-by-the-Sea was rapid; by 1881 all the cottages in Chapel Street and a few others were occupied by iron miners and their families, including the father of the Marley’s domestic servant Elizabeth Toppin. Whilst Thomas Marley, our senior tailor and draper, was active there in 1850 research rather suggests that the family came from Great Ayton and Stokesley, just to the west of Guisborough, a matter of 13 miles from Marske-by-the-Sea. The earliest Marleys found to date are two Robert Marleys; the first of Great Ayton married Anne Prest of Stokesley in 1717 and the second Robert Marley married Ann Rawlings on 25 July 1733 in Great Ayton. They were both of the parish and this Robert was a weaver.

Researching family history always unearths the unexpected, but nothing is really coincidental. Alfred Hardy, who married our Marske girl Jane Anne Marley, was the son of William Hardy, a Policeman in Bishopswearmouth. Alfred also had an uncle called Jonathan Hardy, who was a Sunderland Police Sergeant, and he had another uncle too; he was called George Hardy and he was the Post Master at Gurney Street, New Marske a matter of a mile from High Street, Marske-by-the-Sea where Jane Ann Marley lived. William, Jonathan and George Hardy, and in fact there were three other brothers and two sisters, were all born in Sutton upon Derwent, some 67 miles south of Marske, but clearly with some education they had escaped their farming heritage for new and emerging vocations of their century.  Post Master George Hardy and his wife Anne had three children, John was a clerk at an Iron Mine close to Marske, William was a certified school teacher maybe at the School in New Marske which was next door to the Post Office in Gurney Street and finally a daughter Jane Ann Hardy who was born in 1860 and later, in the 1901 Census, was found unmarried and in service within The Parish of St Mary & St Laurence near Rosedale Abbey south in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors.

Researching the Marleys of Marske and the surrounding villages unearths other local families engaged in the business of drapery and tailoring. Many have connections through marriage to them like the Wilsons, the Harforths and the Taylersons. The other local family that seems inextricably entangled with the Marleys is that of the Pattons. Jane Ann Marley’s grandparents, Thomas Marley? had married Ann Patton on 9 May 1837 at Marske. She was from a family of local builders and stone masons with premises in Pattons Yard and Spout Wynd.

So have I discovered all the family links? Of course not! But I’ve looked at our Marley tailors and drapers from Cleveland and discovered yet more Yorkshire ancestors.


¹ Documents
Marriage Certificate of Jane Ann Marley & Alfred Hardy, Birth Certificate of John Patton Marley, Birth Certificate Catherine Marley

² Annuitants are the beneficiaries of an annuity or persons that receive a modest pension as opposed to being rather better off, which might be described as being of independent means; maybe, of the time, the annuity could have been set up by their late husbands as a bequeathed legacy.

³ Fashion and Its Social Agendas: Class, Gender, and Identity in Clothing By Diana Crane, Quotes: Ginsburg 1988:183 – Tailor & Cutter Magazine quoted in Byrde 1992:88 – Quotes: Class – Frédéric Le Play, French Social philosophy

? The Dundas Hotel was situated on the corner of Redcar Road on High Street Marske-by-the-Sea, opposite St Marks Church and Marske Hall. It was named after, if not built and leased by, Lord Thomas Dundas, 2nd Earl of Zetland but no longer exists. The Zetland Hotel, known locally as the Top House, built in about 1860 was further up the High Street.

? Genealogy Chart of the Marleys of Marske (pdf) attached to this chapter that outlines the family connections and ancestry + a separate index of all those found in the research.

? Eliza Searle Hardy was named after Jane Ann’s mother Eliza and Grandmother Jane Searle. Her father Alfred nicknamed her Lily after his favourite music hall song ‘The Lily of Laguna’ (1898).  Ada was named after Jane Ann’s aunt Ada Wilson.


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