Harry Moores Bletcher

Grandad – we had a brief introduction to Harry earlier, he married Sarah Elizabeth Cowen in 1919; this is his story.

In 1896 the City Engineers Department undertook a survey of buildings and streets; the images are held online (https://images.manchester.gov.uk/) and I have been able to identify the house grandad and his family lived in – 28 Store Street, Manchester.

For many years I worked in Rail House, Store Street and was astounded to realise that my grandad and his family lived just down the road – nearly 100 years ago.

The house was next door to a pub, or ale house, called the ‘Horse & Jockey’ and I was lucky to find the picture below, which was taken on 14 February 1896 between 3pm & 5pm. 

The family moved to 28 Store Street sometime in the early 1890’s and lived there for around 10 years.   It would have been extremely unusual to see a photographer, with all the equipment they would need, taking a picture of your house so the occupants of number 28 are, quite rightly, curious.  As our family were living there in 1896 it is highly likely this is a picture of Annie Moores (great gran) and one of her sons, possibly William Ernest – he would have been around 10 when this picture was taken.  There is also what looks like a small child behind the mother, this could be one of the daughters – Margaret would have been 5

Harry Moores Bletcher, grandad, was born on Sunday 20 February 1898, baby number 8 (and 4th son) for Joseph Thomas and Anne Moores.  They went on to have one more son, in 1902 – making a total of 9 children – 5 sons and 4 daughters. 

The family were lucky and only lost one child to illness, Mary Jane was 14 months old when she succumbed to whooping cough and bronchitis in 1894.  I say they were lucky – the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 was high at the end of the 19th Century, statistics show there were 228 deaths per 1000 births – or 1 in 5 children died under the age of 5.

The baptism record for Harry took some figuring out – he was baptised on 15th August 1898; nothing strange there, except the notation P.B. in the margin and that the baptism took place on a Monday.  

The initials P.B. signify a ‘private baptism’ so Harry wasn’t baptised at the Sunday service.  A likely scenario is that he was gravely ill and not expected to survive, therefore baptised at home.  He obviously recovered and the record shows that he was received into the church on Sunday 21st August 1898 – just a few days after the private baptism.

The 1891 census shows that 28 Store Street was a 3 room dwelling, which housed Joseph and his wife Annie and their children – up to 10 people lived in very close proximity !

This, however, was nothing compared to the move to 19 Boardman Street, where the family were living when the 1901 census was taken.

Boardman Street has disappeared now a map detailing the area in 1849 shows Boardman Street crossing Travis Street and it would only be a few minutes’ walk from Store Street.

19 Boardman Street was a 4 room house and in 1901 it housed 14 individuals !  Joseph Thomas and his wife Annie, their 7 children; Annie’s brother and his 3 children and Joseph Thomas’ step mother – shown as mother in law, she was his father’s second wife (maybe he wasn’t sure how to note their relationship in the census)

That is a lot of people in 4 rooms ………………

In 1910 the family were living at 23 LimeBank Street, just off Ashton Old Road – no further information is known about this house but LimeBank Street is still in existence.

Things have improved 10 years later in 1911; the family have moved to 7 Bridge Street, Ardwick and this house has 5 rooms.  Joseph Thomas is living with his wife Annie with 7 children still living at home with them.

The school years…….

On 10th January 1910 there is a school admission register for Harry and his younger brother Robert; the school is Chester Street School, Ardwick.  From the dates shown in the register Harry was a pupil until 19th February 1912 – if these dates are correct Harry was 13 years 11 months old when he left school. 

The school leaving age was raised to 12 years old in 1899 and did not change until 1918, when it was raised to 14 years of age.   1911 census shows Harry ‘at school’, so it appears he was able to stay on at school after the compulsory leaving age.

Chester Street School, just off Ashton Old Road Ardwick.

Determined to serve.…….

On 7 April 1915 Harry Moores signed up to the Territorial Force – he gave his age as 19 years 3 months and his occupation is a Carter.  If you remember he was born 28 February 1898, so would actually have been 17 years 1 month old.  At 17 Harry was eligible to sign up to the T.A., so, why add years ……..

The Territorial Force came into existence in April 1908 as a result of the reorganisation of former militia and other volunteer units.  It allowed men to join the army on a part time basis, with training carried out at weekends and in the evenings.  Territorials were not obliged to serve overseas but were enlisted on the basis that in the event of war they could be called upon for full time service.  The physical criteria for joining was the same as for the Regular army (taller than 5 ft 3 inches and to pass certain physical tests) except the Territorials had a lower age limit of 17. Enlisting into the army – The Long, Long Trail (longlongtrail.co.uk)

However, things were changing in the run up to WW1 and whilst enlistment into the Territorials remained open its men were on full time service from August 1914.  This is probably why Harry added a couple of years to his age.

Unfortunately a career in the Territorials or Army was not to be and Harry was discharged in July 1915 with the comments – ‘not likely to become an efficient soldier’ due to extremely flat feet and ‘defective intellect’.  This could have meant anything from dyslexia to not following orders quickly enough.  ‘Not likely to become an efficient soldier’ was used on a large number of discharge notices and very likely covered a large number of reasons.

However, Harry was determined, and he did get to serve.

I haven’t been able to trace all the records, but Harry did serve in WW1.  I have found a medal card and a pension card which shows he was in the Labour Corps (LC), East Lancashire Regiment (EL) and Royal Field Artillery (RFA). 

Harry had two service numbers, the first was 478743 (LC) and the second 706628 (RFA).  The numbering system changed during the first world war and this could be why there are two service numbers. 

From the pension and medal cards it looks like Harry was a Driver in the Labour Corps and if I am reading the dates correctly, he saw service in France from 1915. 

His determination was amazing and he must have been a strong minded young man (he was only 17 years old) who decided what he wanted and went after it.  

Medal card

Life after WW1

January 1919 was a particularly cold month, with heavy snowfall in the north of England.  On Saturday 25th January 1919, Harry and Sarah Cowen were married in St Andrews Parish Church, Travis Street, Ancoats.  Unfortunately, nothing is known about how they met, Sarah’s mother did run a beer house on Great Ancoats Street, which was the main road running along the top of Travis Street, Store Street and Fairfield Street and they could have met here. 

The address given for both bride and groom on their marriage certificate is 104 Fairfield Street; this is probably what is known as ‘an address of convenience’, if Sarah is still living at her mothers’ on Great Ancoats street this is likely to be in a different parish; this would mean the banns being read in two parishes – along with the costs incurred in each parish.  

The earliest picture we have of Harry and Sarah could be their wedding picture.  The uniform is very likely to be Harry’s Royal Field Artillery uniform.

The dates on the pension card (and the fact Harry stated he was a soldier on his wedding certificate in January 1919) would seem to suggest that Harry was demobbed at the end of March 1919. 

The 1921 census shows Harry and Sarah living at 26 Gatley Street, Ancoats with their son Harry who was born in the early part of 1920.  The house was compact, with 3 rooms in total for the small family and they lived here for some years.

Their daughter Olive followed in 1922 and then Margaret Ann in 1926.  Sadly Margaret Ann died on  June 1927, suffering from convulsions due to teething and exhaustion. 

She is buried in the family plot in Southern Cemetery.

Ivy was born in 1928, Lilian in 1932 and finally Robert in 1935………..and their family was complete.

In 1925 and 1928 Harry is listed as a member of The National Union of Railwaymen, he was a Carter for the Midland Railway. 

The 1939 register shows the family have moved to 2 Dantall Avenue, White Moss (near to Boggart Hole Clough and Booth Hall Childrens Hospital) – and here they stayed.

On Friday 26 March 1965 Harry died; a week earlier he had undergone an amputation to his lower leg.  He had an infection which had not been treated and went gangrenous.  Cause of death was coronary thrombosis, atherosclerosis, gangrene right foot – mid thigh amputation.

Harry’s legacy

6 children

15 grandchildren

And an ever growing gang of great grandchildren and great great grandchildren in the UK and Canada

%d bloggers like this: