Family Reconstructions: The Judsons of Yorkshire

Fragments: forty seven loose portrait photographs of members of the family, dating from 1880s to the 1950s. All have their names or their subjects on their reverses, but neither the dates nor the locations on which they were taken.

The earliest known ancestors of the Judsons were William Judson, a railway stoker with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, and his wife Susan Kershaw, a dress maker. Both were born in the mid 1820s in townships close to Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, William in Stansfield, Susan in Sowerby Bridge, where the couple settled after their marriage in or about 1845.

Sowerby Bridge, in the Upper Calder Valley, three miles from the center of Halifax, had evolved since the 1770s from a small community of agricultural workers and home-based textile workers into a major center of the textile and engineering industries. Its mills produced cotton and woolen cloth, clothing, worsteds and silk, and two large iron foundries manufactured stationary steam engines for mills throughout Britain.

In the next generation, the family appears to have developed primarily as two major branches, headed by the two most enterprising of William and Susan’s children, Alfred and Squire, in what was essentially a working class family.

The eldest, Alfred, after working in his youth as a piecer in a textile mill, followed his father into the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company as an engine driver. At some before 1891, still in his early forties, he retired to set himself up as an innkeeper, remaining in that profession for around ten years. With his wife, Fanny, born in Wakefield, he produced nine children all born in Sowerby Bridge between 1865 and 1899.

Early family photo, the caption on reverse reads: ‘Jesus Mary & Joseph! What an exhibition of Legs!!’

William and Susan’s third son, Squire Judson, born in Sowerby Bridge in 1850, followed an apprenticeship in a textile mill by becoming first a dyer, then a corn miller and finally an insurance agent. He married Mary (maiden name unknown) also born in Sowerby Bridge.

Squire Judson.
Arnold and Herbert, sons of Squire Judson.

Squire and Mary’s children were responsible for the family’s Irish connection. Their son, Arnold, born in Sowerby Bridge in 1879, married Agnes Tracey, whose family had come to Sowerby Bridge from County Kildare in mid-eastern Ireland, where she was born. They formed part of Halifax’s substantial Irish colony. In Sowerby Bridge Agnes found work as a yarn winder in carper-making, then one the staple industries of Halifax. Her brother, George Tracey, married Arnold’s sister, Annie.

Arnold and Agnes Judson.
Annie Judson.
Arnold Judson.


Agnes Judson (nee Tracey)

The photographs make it possible to follow, at least pictorially, the growth of Arnold and Agnes’s son, Colin Judson, from infancy, through his marriage to his time as a National Serviceman in the Middle East in the 1950s.

Colin Judson, son of Arnold and Agnes.
Arnold and Colin Judson.
A grainy photographs of Colin Judson in the Middle East, around 1950.
Martin and Lorna Judson, the children of Colin and his wife Marjorie.

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