Clements Hall
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Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

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The Hurd family of Thorpe St, York

We recently received the following account of a local family, with some charming photos of Thorpe St and of local pupils. The family moved to our area from Scarborough around the turn of the 20th century. (Photos and research supplied by Edward and Sarah Ann Hurd's great-grandaughter).

This is a story of some difficult times, with desperate poverty, people moving around the area because of family circumstances, and large families living in cramped conditions.

Edward Hurd married Sarah Ann Limbert on Monday 31 December 1888 at All Saints Church, Scarborough. Edward was 27 and Sarah Ann was just 20 years old. Edward was the son of John Hurd and his wife Jane. John was a blacksmith in Scarborough, who evidently ‘fettled’ (maintained) the tools used by workmen building the Grand Hotel.

Edward HurdSarah AnnSarah Ann had a sad early life. Born in 1868, one of five illegitimate children, she left home near Leeds at the age of about 12 years, her mother and younger sister both dying in the workhouse during the following two years. She came to York under the care of her maternal uncle and lived in Cleveland Street, off Holgate Road, not with him but with his neighbour, probably as an arrangement due to lack of space. Her uncle was a William, as was the neighbour, and they were friends, train driver and stoker respectively, on the railway line to Scarborough. It is more than likely, with the perk of free rail travel, that the Williams would have taken all the children on trips to Scarborough. Sometime during the next few years, Sarah must have got a job in Scarborough, probably as a servant in a guest house.  

Somehow, she met Edward, who worked for his father, although he himself was noted as a whitesmith. Their eldest daughter, my grandmother, was born the following year and soon after that they came to York, where Edward got a job at Holgate Carriage Works, making axles for the company, and at that time was paid 24 shillings a week.

They lived first at 24 Oak Street, off Poppleton Road, where they had two lodgers. Then they went to Mount Ephraim, in Holgate and then to South Bank Avenue and later to Brunswick St. They must have then moved to 75 Thorpe Street, off Scarcroft Road, between the census in 1911 and June 1913, when their eldest daughter was married, and they lived there for quite a few years, until around 1925.Thorpe Street  Party WW1 No 2

Thorpe St at the time of the Peace Celebrations in 1919

Thorpe Street Party end of WW1


They had 12 or 13 children in over 20 years, although three or four of them died either at birth or very soon after. By the time that they moved to Thorpe Street, all but one of the children were still living at home, aged between about 22 and two years – quite a squeeze in such a small house!  Here they are a little earlier, in about 1907, the youngest yet to be born:

Hurd family

Moving to Thorpe Street must have been quite a social upturn for the family, possibly helped by several of the older children being at work and contributing to their upkeep. There is no evidence as to whether they bought or rented the house. New evidence reveals that the children went to St Paul's School in Holgate, where this picture was taken around 1907.

Scarcroft School class c1904 or 1905

Three Hurd sisters are in the second row from the back here. Fifth from the left is Alice Maud Hurd (born 1902), then Adelaide Elizabeth Hurd (born 1900) and then Henrietta Hurd (born 1899).  It is interesting that they are all in the same class. The girls may have had growth problems, possibly due to a bad diet – they were all short, especially Adelaide, and rather bow-legged. 

Several of the girls evidently went on to work for Rowntrees in Haxby Road. Two of the sons, Walter and Edward fought in WW1 and survived, the latter being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for distinguished conduct during battle - he was shot in the leg later in the war.

Sarah Ann became a monthly nurse and was one of the first midwives to be registered, in 1905, often living in with a wealthier family to help mother and the new baby. Meanwhile her own children had to look after themselves! Eventually the children all got married, except for one, who remained single and ran an old-fashioned ladies underwear and haberdashery business in Goodramgate. Edward died in 1921 in York Hospital and Sarah in 1932, sadly in the equivalent of the workhouse on Huntingdon Road. Here she is a few years before her death.

Sarah Ann Hurd

My maternal grandfather attended Priory Street Higher Grade (Wesleyan) School in the 1890s. Henry Wright was the second son of Joseph Henry Wright and his wife Martha Harriet. There were eight in the family, one son dying at the age of about four years. Joseph Henry Wright worked at Cooke, Troughton & Sims, possibly being apprenticed to the firm. He then became a sewing machine agent, running a shop in Spurriergate.

This must have been successful, because by 1892 he had bought 36 Market St, from where he ran a successful sewing machine and baby carriage business, which was run until about 1957 by three of his sons. Here is Joseph and probably a son, outside his shop.

Sewing machine shop

Harry, as my grandfather was known, won a handwriting prize at school, of which he was very proud! Here he is with his classmates.

Priory Street SchoolIt is interesting that two of his class mates were Reginald John and George Stanley Bellerby (sons of John William Bellerby painter and decorator of Petergate). Stanley Bellerby became Sheriff of York in 1954, by co-incidence the exact same year that Harry Wright’s brother Frank was Lord Mayor! More co-incidental is that Stanley’s daughter married Henry’s son in the late1940s!

When Henry left school in 1901, his Senior Master W Clare wrote a letter about him: July 1901 York Priory Street HG School I have pleasure in stating that Harry Wright is a smart, intelligent and very promising boy. He has successfully worked through the standards in the above school and for the past year has done useful work in the First Class.