William Jackson – no Mr Darcy

William Jackson, yeoman, of Yanwath, was 44 and a wealthy bachelor when he married Emma Pears in 1872.

It’s hard not to read the marriage certificate without thinking of such great novels as Middlemarch, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre… and Pride and Prejudice.

For after all:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife

Secondly (thinking of Marianne Dashwood, Jane Eyre, and Emma Woodhouse), Emma Pears was just 20 when she walked up the aisle. The bridegroom was more than twice her age.

Thirdly (Middlemarch), William Jackson was ‘a landed proprietor’ and she was from the ‘merchant middle class’. Her father was the son of a respected farmer and cow doctor, and had built up a (then) thriving coach-building and saddlery business in Penrith.

But in 1869, he decided to move out of town and rent a house and 64 acres of farmland at Yanwath where he and his wife could raise their seven children in nice surroundings.

(It didn’t work out to be as idyllic as all that: as this post recounts).

 But what of William Jackson?

William Jackson was born in Barton parish, Westmorland, in September 1828. He was the only son of William Jackson senior and Hannah Bird, who had born him three daughters (at least) before providing him with a male heir.

The births are spaced out, so there may have others between who didn’t survive.

It left four children – to a father who was 33 years older than the eldest and 50 years older than the youngest (and 10 years older than his wife).

None of the daughters married and the son was still single at 44.

A Cumbrian statesman

William Jackson senior was ‘a statesman’. Statesman is a Cumbrian term (only) for a land owner who works his own land.

I mentioned him in a general post on using wills in family history.

I didn’t note the source for the following quote:

it seems probable that the “statesmen” of Cumberland and Westmorland entered on their lands in very remote times, either as conquerors or squatters; and that the feudal system introduced by the Norman conqueror was but an episode in their existence…

On the 1841 and 1851 censuses, William Jackson junior was living with his parents and his sisters, Mary, Hannah and Catherine. 

‘Like it or lump it’

William senior died in January 1855. Eldest daughter Mary died five months later.

That messed up William senior’s will – for he had basically put Mary in charge of his affairs after his death. 

In summary, his widow Hannah was get ‘the house within the Garden Croft and appartenances’ – and lump it.

His wife was to accept this “in full satisfaction of her claim to dower out of my real estate”. And basically the will says that she should butt out and leave Mary to organise everything.

But of course, Mary died (aged 43).

In August 1855, Hannah, Catherine and William (the surviving siblings) applied for probate, as Mary, their sister, had died without sorting out the will and their mother Hannah “and another interested party” had renounced their claim.

Who that interested party was is not recorded.

Still living together

The family harmony doesn’t seem to have been greatly disturbed, as in 1861:


Hannah Jackson,  72,  widow,  landed proprietor,  born Ainstable; 

Hannah Jackson, 39, daughter,  unmarried born Barton; 

Catherine Jackson 32, daughter,  unmarried, born Barton; 

William Jackson, 30, so, unmarried, gentleman, born Barton

With their mother dying in 1866, the 1871 census finds the three remaining siblings living together, unmarried, getting their income from the land etc.

Then suddenly in 1872, when he is 44, William gets married to a 20-year-old girl, Emma Pears, whose parents are only a year or so older than he is and who are now his neighbours.

You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you

Did Emma Pears marry William Jackson for love? Did he love her?

Or was his interest primarily in the need for an heir?

Did she see in him security and comfort? Against her chances, living in a small village, with a small pool of eligible young men, of finding love and security with someone her own age?

Whatever their feelings, William Jackson and Emma Pears got married in the church at Barton on December 30, 1872. And the marriage was ‘till death do us part,’ 28 years later.

A distinguished son

Emma Pears bore William Jackson six children, two of whom died while still babies.

The youngest, Albert Jackson, was to become a colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

But this is about William Jackson and Emma Pears, so the last piece of this story is his will.

Like it lump it, take II

William Jackson died in 1901, but he’d written his will in 1878, when they’d been married just six years and the oldest of their (then three) children was just five.

To my wife Emma, 1 cottage house at Yanwath and appurtenances, and £60 a year so long as she remains my chaste widow.

The rest is left to William’s sister Catherine and (solicitor) James Parkinson Shepherd of Appleby, in trust to pay the annuity, as long as Emma remains his chaste widow.

The trust money is to pay for the education, maintenance, and advance of son William and after-born children if under 21. Any daughters are to have the money for their sole use (not husbands’).

William directs the trustees to choose and appoint the cottage house devised to his wife for life, ‘with which choice I desire she shall be content’.

The trustees are empowered to to retain in their hands the homestead, outbuildings, garden and croft adjoining, for any unmarried children as a home for them.

The trustees are to ascertain the share of any child who shall resort thereto of the expense of keeping in hand the homestead and other premises, and to charge each child therewith.

Catherine Jackson and James Parkinson Shepherd to be guardians of children’s minorities (of their fortunes).

It is understandable that in making his will when his young wife was still only 26, William Jackson would want to ensure his fortune went to their children, and not be snapped up by a second husband.

But he gives Emma no choice at all in where she will live for the rest of her life.

Instead, if he had died sooner, it would have been his sister and a solicitor in Appleby who got to choose Emma’s future.

And William Jackson made it clear in his will:

with which choice I desire she shall be content.