Robert Rothwell the Schoolmaster

Its been quite a while since I have looked at my Rothwell research so I thought it was time to tackle the problem of Robert Rothwell.  I have two major stumbling blocks in this part of my research and they are both called Robert Rothwell.  You can find more information on them elsewhere in this blog.  I have named them: Robert Rothwell the Schoolmaster and Robert Rothwell the Prisoner.  I have been trying to look into the parentage of Robert the Schoolmaster on and off for a while.  There is no baptism for him in Bolton.  He could have been born outside of Bolton but I think it is unlikely.  Another reason for a missing baptism could be because his family was nonconformist.

Robert the Schoolmaster married Ruth Balfern (whose family was definitely nonconformist) at St Peter’s in Bolton in 1812.  They had nine children: Benjamin; Marianne; Henry; Robert; Elizabeth; Jane; Richard; John and Susannah.  Benjamin is named after Ruth’s brother.  Marianne could possibly be a combination of Ruth’s mother’s name (Ann) and stepmothers (both named Mary) or it could be because Marianne was a popular name around that time.  There are no Henrys in Ruth’s family so could he be something to do with Robert’s?  Possibly a brother or father?  Looking at the marriage entry in the parish register, all of the parties, including the bride and groom and witnesses signed their names.  The witnesses are both Rothwells and whilst one name is clear the other is not.  The second witness was Jane Rothwell but I thought it better to leave her aside for now as I had no idea whether she born a Rothwell or married a Rothwell.  I thought perhaps the initial on the first witness signature may be an ‘H’.  As Robert’s second eldest son was named Henry, I began looking into possible Henry Rothwells born around a similar time to Robert the Schoolmaster (born c.1791) and found a possible candidate.

Henry Rothwell, born 25 June 1794 to parents Robert and Susannah (Greenhalgh).  Robert the Schoolmaster named his youngest daughter Susannah – perhaps after his mother?  At first this seemed very promising, a father named Robert (yet another Robert!).  As Robert was a barber, he is now ‘Robert the Barber’ and I have a possible 4 generation run of Roberts: Robert the Barber, Robert the Schoolmaster, Robert the Prisoner and his son Just Robert (who worked hard and died at the young age of 31).  Henry had three older sisters:  Jane 1783; Lucy 1785 and Catherine 1789.  This leaves a five year gap between Catherine and Henry, enough time for another birth.

Looking into Robert the Barber’s parents I found a baptism for him 1759.  His parents were Richard and Hannah (Stones) who married in 1758 and Robert the Barber was the eldest child, born in 1759.  He was followed by ten siblings including twins.  Mary 1761; Eleanor 1762; Richard 1765; Henry 1767 John 1769 Hannah and Martha (twins) in 1771; Richard 1773; Mary 1776 and Jane 1778.  Richard was a barber and peruke maker in Churchgate.

If Robert the schoolmaster is part of this family where is his baptism?  I decided to see if Henry had married and found an entry for him in the parish register and even better, the witness was ‘Robert Rothwell’.  I compared the signatures of Robert the Schoolmaster with Robert the Witness and also to see if Henry’s signature showed any similarities to the Rothwell witness in Robert’s marriage entry.  Well when I looked at them, my first thought was that they were not the same person.  Then I looked again.  The two ‘R’s are different but look at the rest of how he has signed his first name; both signatures are very similar.  Could it be the same person?

Robert the Schoolmaster’s signature from his marriage licence.

Robert and Ruth’s signatures in the marriage register 1812

The signatures of Henry Rothwell, Betty Hopwood and Robert Rothwell in the marriage register for Henry’s wedding in 1818.

The signatures of the witnesses of Robert the Schoolmaster’s marriage in 1812

I’m fairly certain that Henry who married in 1818 was the same as the witness at Robert the Schoolmaster’s wedding:  look at the ‘th’ in Henry’s surname and how it tails off at the end.  It looks quite similar to me.

The top two signatures are earlier (1812) and the final one comes from Henry’s marriage entry in 1818.  Would six years make a difference or perhaps he was ill?  If Henry was the witness at Robert’s wedding, then surely Robert would have been the witness at Henry’s wedding rather than it being a different Robert Rothwell?  Another supporting piece of information is that Henry had an older sister called Jane – and a Jane Rothwell was one of the other witnesses at Robert’s wedding.  Thankfully there is little doubt over her name as she has signed it clearly.

To summarise the similarities:

Henry Rothwell signatures similar

Similarities in parts of Robert’s signatures

Robert married into a nonconformist family (the Balferns); Henry came from a family of nonconformists.

Ruth Balfern’s father ran a fabric shop in Churchgate – Robert the Barber and his father ran Barber shops in Churchgate.

A further Churchgate connection is through Jacob Butler standing a guarantor for Robert’s marriage licence.  Jacob was a clockmaker based in Churchgate.  If Robert the Schoolmaster was a son of Robert the Barber, Jacob would have been well acquainted with the family.

There are shared family names: Robert, Henry, Elizabeth (perhaps from Henry’s wife); Jane, Richard, John and Susannah.

Robert was a schoolmaster, Henry was a manufacturer and Jane could also sign her name confidently; all of them had a reasonably good education.  Is this because they came from a reasonably well-off family and/or because they were nonconformists?

I’m not fully satisfied.  The difference in signatures and a lack of a baptisms is irritating.  The researcher in me needs some other corroborating evidence.  I haven’t found any wills for Richard or Robert the Barber so I’m off to find out what happened to Jane, Lucy, Catherine and Henry and to look into the records of Bank Street Independent Chapel.  In the meantime, I welcome any thoughts on the whether you think Robert the Schoolmaster is the son of Robert the Barber.

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