Your Family History #1: Throstle Nest, Wortley

This week on the Secret Library we welcome guest author Tony Stead, whose personal research into his family tree and their connections to the Throstle Nest House of Wortley is reproduced below. This is the first in a projected new series, in which family historians will present the fruits of their labour. The Stead family story perfectly illustrates the paths family history research can take you using FREE access to the Ancestry website  provided in all Leeds Libraries. Please get in touch with us if you need any assistance starting your own genealogical journey…

All images reproduced below are (c) Tony Stead, unless noted otherwise.

I found the Leeds Libraries’ photographic archive of Leeds and looked to see if there were photos of any of my relatives houses; there were Steads throughout Farnley, Armley, Holbeck, Bramley and Wortley – though the family actually originated in Ilkley, as this extract from  the 1885 book Ilkley: Ancient and Modern shows:

This Joseph Stead was my Gt, Gt, Gt, Grandfather; Gt, Gt, Grandfather William was one of those 16 children, all of whom were basically farmers – and many of whom left Ilkley and moved to the Wortley area, where my Gt Grandfather, Joseph William Stead, was born in Blue Hill Lane.

5th November 1952. View looking west at the back of number 131 Blue Hill Lane. In the foreground, the demolished remains of a garden shed, which includes a tin bath and a chair. Behind this are three semi-detached houses with sheds. Ladders and a wheelbarrow are leaning up against the houses. (c) Leeds Libraries,

His father, William Stead, built Throstle Nest House (this must have been in the 1800s) on Silver Road Hill. He had a blood manure manufacturing business (sounds smelly!) and I think he purchased blood and bones from a nearby abattoir to use in the process.

(c) Ordnance Survey

Below is a photo of Throstle Nest House: very impressive sitting up on top of the hill like that – I think it’s long gone, sadly, and the location is now a school.

William had eight children, one of whom died in infancy. One daughter, Isabella, went on to marry David Hannam Thornton, who helped form the Bradford Dyers Association and owned Brookfoot Dyeworks. Her sister, Frances “Fanny” Stead, married a John Stones Pearson, a Dyer and acquaintance of David Hannam Thornton who eventually sold his dye works to Thornton.

Possible clocking-in token from the Thornton-owned dyeworks

There is a story to why it was called ‘Throstle Nest House,’ which follows….

…and the story goes like this: building on the house started and, at some point, William noticed that there was a Throstle (Song Thrush) nesting in the bricks that were stacked up ready for use, so he stopped the building and told all the bricklayers to go home and he would let them know when the young had fledged so they could come back and continue the build. I think you’ll agree that this is a very nice story to go with the photos of the house.

These are the guys who built Throstle Nest House!

One of his sons, Albert Edward Stead, is pictured here with a horse he bred at Throstle Nest House, which got 1st prize at some show (it’s there but I can’t read it).

William had several brothers who farmed in Armley, a couple of them lived in Cow Close and another in Houghside. William died in 1892 and is buried in Wortley Church Yard with his wife Selina. When he died, the business was run down and everything was sold off, as far as I can tell. Selina moved to 1 Silver Road Street, where she died.

My Gt Grandfather Joseph William Stead moved to 7 Bath View, which I suppose must have been near the Baths. He started his family there and, at some point, he went into a partnership with another man and set up a Pawnbroker business in Boar Lane. The partner absconded with all the money and left Joseph penniless, at which point he moved away from Leeds to Barrow In Furness, and became a Storekeeper at Vickers shipyard. His brother Albert (with the horse) also moved to Barrow in Furness, where he opened several Butchers shops – and was very successful, until the Great Depression, where everything went wrong for him. Grandfather Victor was a train Driver for the LMS railway and, when they left for their new life in Barrow in Furness, he drove the trains in Vickers Ship Yard.

Oh, and here’s William and Selina…

One of William’s other children was Charles Ellis Stead, and the 1881 census shows him living at Throstles Nest, aged 9. He married an Annie Louise Webster at St Peter Bramley in 1872 and his marriage certificate shows him living at 1 Silver Road St, Upper Wortley with an occupation of Butcher. In 1901 he is living at 5 Harley Street, Bramley – still a butcher.

When the family split up and went their separate ways, he moved to Harrogate and was known for selling chickens on market day, at the Cross in the town centre. At that point he was a Pig and Poultry dealer and supplied Hotels in Harrogate with dairy produce.

Here’s Charles Ellis Stead…

Another Throstle Nest child was Harry Smith Lee Stead – He had an occupation of Building Contractor so may well have built some of the building around and about. In 1901 he was still a building contractor living with (or visiting) his Mother-in-Law at Wood Place, Hunslet. Then, in 1911, with the trade of Farmer, he is staying (or visiting) with a friend named George Green in Holbeck – but soon emigrates to the USA; settling in Massachusetts, where his wife, Elizabeth Vickerman Stead (Nee Pilling), dies in 1919.

At least that’s what I thought at first…further research revealed that, in fact, Harry Smith Lee Stead didn’t emigrate to the USA; his wife and son went, but not him – and there is some mystery around what happened to him next. I really struggled to find a death record for him, as his wife in the USA says she was a widow – when I know Harry was still alive.

The 1911 Census doesn’t help: the information is a bit jumbled, reporting that Harry was born in 1850, when he was actually born in 1861 – and that his age was 50, when he was 61. It also states he was a widower, but his wife died in the USA in 1919 – eight years later! I did find a record of a marriage in Leeds, which is possibly him – but if it is he both lied about his age and calls himself Harry Lee Stead (i.e. dropping the Smith).

It would be very interesting if someone reads the article and knows exactly what became of Harry! (Get in touch with us at the Local and Family History department, if you do have anything to add to Tony’s research)

Finally: here is the Throstle Nest Family, headed up by William, with his parents Joseph and Mary – I have only found 12 of the 16 children so far!

Please get in touch via the comments below, or directly through the Local and Family History department, if you would like us to publish your family history research.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Charles Stones says:

    Interesting because people did lie on the census. In 1911 my great grandfather put down a niece of 28 and a nephew of 2 down on the census. In fact she was no relation and the nephew was her illegitimate child.

  2. Judith Platt says:

    Joseph’s other children are by his first wife Elizabeth Spencer. The Brian you have b 1832 doesn’t exist it was actually David on the census at Hangingstone in 1851 as Brian was in Farnley with his brother Joseph. Because divorce was expensive often pretended their spouse had died especially when they married again have seen a few instances of this.

    1. Tony Stead says:

      Thank you Judith! I had worked out the bit about Brian. It all got a bit confusing because there appear t have been 2 Brians. Having said that Joseph is mentioned in Ilkley Ancient and Modern and is credited with 16 flaxen haired, blue eyed children in total and I still haven’t found all of them!

    2. Tony Stead says:

      Thank you Charles, I think in general most people told the truth on the Census. But Harry Smith Lee Stead throws up lots of questions after his wife and son emigrate to Massachusetts leaving him behind!

  3. Thank you for these comments! We’ll pass them onto Tony, the original author of the article.

    Leeds Central Library

  4. Darren Hardwick says:

    My wife and I moved to Wortley a couple of years ago into a property called Throstle House, which I believe could have originally been Throstle nest. We have been trying to find out some of the house history and any photos of the original house, the deeds confirm that it was originally owned by the Stead Family and has a lot of features still present that are shown on your old photo. It would be great to get in touch and have a chat.

    1. Tony Stead says:

      Hello Darren,
      Wow that’s really surprising! I wonder if it was a house belonging to one of Josephs Children as the original Throstle Nest House is under the school playground (I believe). There must be a connection and it would be fascinating to find out.

      Thank you for posting Darren

  5. Hi Darren,

    Thanks for this – what an interesting comment! I’m sure Tony, the author of this article would love to get in touch with you. If you email us at the Central Library, we can pass your details onto Tony:

    Leeds Central Library

  6. PamPeacock says:

    Now here is a puzzle. I have family records that show that the Woodhead family lived at Throstles Nest Wortley where my family had their engineering business/ I can’t tell you the years though

    1. Hi Pam,

      Thanks for adding this, I don’t know if Tony is aware of a Woodhead family living in his old ancestral home. If you email us at the Central Library, we can pass your details onto Tony:

      Leeds Central Library

Leave a Reply to Charles Stones Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.