John Partleton (1788-1868)


John Partleton was born on 14 October 1788, the son of Thomas Partleton and Margaret Lee:

His place of birth is Hensingham, which we see on the outskirts of Whitehaven, circled in the map below:


I found a description of Hensingham from a Victorian publication, the National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland:

HENSINGHAM, a chapelry in the parish of St. Bees, ward of Allerdale-above-Derwent, county Cumberland, 1 mile S.E. of Whitehaven, its post town. The village, which is situated on rising ground, commands a view of the town and harbour of Whitehaven. A portion of the inhabitants are employed in the linen and thread manufactory. Limestone is largely quarried and burnt into lime at Overend.

Here's a picture of the current church at Hensingham, though we should treat this picture with caution as it's definitely not a 'chapel' & probably was much smaller in 1788:

What the family is doing at Hensingham in 1788, it's hard to say. Perhaps John's dad is working in the aforementioned limestone quarry.

But by 1802, we do know what they are doing. They are down a coal mine.

An internet search reveals that the Cumbria Genealogy Society has kindly published a transcript of the Howgill Colliery payroll for 1802. In it, we find John, at the age of just 13, and his father Thomas, along with another Partleton, Edward, who is probably John's brother. Thanks to information from Dave Banks of West Cumbria Mines research, I can reveal that the location of the Howgill Colliery is circled in red on the map above. Interesting to note is that women and 80-year-old men work in the mine. A 19th century coal mine is probably a place you and I would prefer not to be...

At some time before 1812, John marries. His wife is Mary, whose surname is unknown, and in 1812 they have a child, William Shepherd Partleton. William has his own web page which you'll find on the 'In Their Shoes' page for Cumberland.

In 1822 John and Mary have another son, Edward. And in 1828, a daughter, Mary.

We move on to 1841 and finally we have a census to help us with who's who and what's what:

Above we see John, still a coal miner, and Mary with their two younger children, Edward and Mary.

They reside in the tiny township of Oughterside, circled in the map below:

Below we see a detailed map with the exact location (blue arrow) of the mine, which was open cast. The family are living in one of the small cluster of buildings nearby:

Here's a photo of how Oughterside looks today, nice:

So we proceed to the 1851 census; John has moved yet again:

The enumerator has carelessly omitted the page headings, but, no matter - we know that this is the census for CleatoriMoor which is circled in the map below. It's not so far from Hensingham where John was born. Daughter Mary is now married to William Varty. Most neighbours on this sheet are Iron Ore miners. John and his son William are operating mining equipment.

The family are living at 'Jack Trees', so let's find it on a map of 1863... we can see the nearby iron ore pits; Crossfield Pit; Gin Pit; James's Pit; Crowgarth Pit. Jacktrees has its own pit, not marked on the map:

Searching for images of CleatoriMoor on the web, I found the website of Tom Duffey,, where you can find the following three photographs and a lot more about the town:

The first one is the railway bridge, circled in red in the map above. The railway was not there at the time of the 1851 census but John may have witnessed its development and its inauguration in 1855:

Here's Cleator Moor market square:

The High Street

The CleatoriMoor Iron Works, for processing ore into steel was started in 1842. Below we see the Iron Works in 1934, after it was closed down. I guess some of it would be familiar to our John:

And so we move on to 1861, and something a little bit strange happens:

Above we see John and Mary in their old age, having moved to Whitehaven. But their surname is spelled Partington. The explanation may be that they aren't literate, which would be quite a common condition for a working class man and woman during this era. They are relying on the enumerator to spell the name, and he's got it wrong.

They are living at Saw Mill House, next to Lucknow Villa, in a part of Whitehaven called Preston Quarter. John is the 'Engine Man' at the sawmill, owned by Stuart Jameson 'Timber Merchant employing 20 men & 3 women'. Below we see Saw Mill House on a map of 1863, and a modern satellite photograph. It's gone, but the cricket ground is still there...


Both John and Mary are now near the end of their lives, but a mystery persists: there is no record of their deaths in the official record. So we have to look a bit harder - and we do eventually find them. The clue comes from the spelling in the 1861 census:

So both John and Mary, having lived their whole lives together as Partleton, were registered at their deaths, again as Partington...

How did this come about? Well, its a good question, and they are not the only Cumberland Partletons to have blurred the distinction between these two surnames. Is there some connection here? Only time will tell.

If you enjoyed reading this page, you are invited to 'Like' us on Facebook. Or click on the Twitter button and follow us, and we'll let you know whenever a new page is added to the Partleton Tree:

Do YOU know any more to add to this web page?... why not send us an email to

Click here to return to the Partleton Tree 'In Their Shoes' Page for Cumberland