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Kearsley coach builders of Ripon and York
Posted by: Mark Walker (ID *****6887) Date: January 16, 2009 at 04:35:57
  of 86

I am researching the Kearsleys of Ripon and York because my
wife has a large framed portrait in oil (approx 1m by 750mm) of a 19th century Kearsley whom we believe to be William Kearsley, a coach builder born in Ripon, Yorkshire, England, between 1810 and 1814, or his father George.

I posted a similar enquiry a couple of days ago, but mistakenly attached it as a reply to another question about the Kearsleys of Ripon. New information from my mother-in-law has necessitated a number of amendments, giving me a second justification for reposting.

My wife's grandparents were friends of Mr and Mrs Arthur Kearsley, and Arthur's niece Kitty Kearsley, whose given name we believe was Adeline. I believe that Arthur was born Arthur William Kearsley in 1869/70 in York, Yorkshire, to William Kearsley and Mary Ann Hawker, and that his brother Albert Edward (Kitty's father) was born in the same place in 1871/72. Arthur was known to my wife as "old Kay" and was godfather to my wife's uncle and during the time he was known to my wife's family he lived in Roydon, Hertfordshire. I don't yet know the name of Arthur's wife (she was known to my wife's family by the rather cruel nickname "Weed", a reference to the striking contrast between her personality and that of her husband).

Kitty had the portrait of her grandfather or great grandfather hanging in her house in St Annes, and gave it to my wife when she moved into a nursing home. Kitty died circa 1990. We had it hanging in our hall until we moved into a house that was too small for a painting so large. It is now stored in our barn. If we understood its provenance better it might find a home in a museum or library in Ripon or nearby. We don't believe that there are any surviving direct descendants, but stand to be corrected if this is the case.

Arthur and his wife had a very fine mahogany bed. The words "wedding present" seem to be associated with it. It is made of solid mahogany, or similar, and has massive turned spiral corner posts. The family is adamant that it was built by a relative of Arthur who had firm of coach builders in Yorkshire. The bed was given to my wife's grandparents at some stage, but it must have been quite old when they acquired it. When it was given to us it still had a feather mattress on top of a horsehair one. I think it quite likely that the bed was built by William Kearsley. He appears to have started as a coach builder in Ripon, in partnership with another Kearsley called George (possibly his father). A William Kearsley is listed, with George Kearsley, in Pigot's 1834 Directory for Ripon as Coach Builders and Harness Makers, Kirkgate. The 1841 census lists him as a coach builder living his father George, iron merchant, and five siblings in Ripon. Beetween 1841 and 1861 he moved to York, where he seems to have taken over the premises in Little Stonegate, previously occupied by another family of coach builders, also called Kearsley.

William Kearsley clearly made a success of this business, at least until 1871: the 1861 and 1871 censuses refer to him as employer of 26 men and 12 apprentices, and of 30 men and 3 boys, respectively. He married very late in life, on 30 Jul 1867, and retired from business not many years later, appearing on the 1881 census as a retired coach builder with a young wife and sons aged 9 and 11.

So I think it likely that the bed was built in William's workshop in Little Stonegate, York, in preparation for his own marriage to Mary Ann Hawker, although it is also possible that it was built by another Kearsley coach builder as a wedding present for him.

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