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(nee CORT)


Ancestry Chart

Born: Turton, Bolton, Lancashire

Relationship to me: Great grandmother.

Birth: Mary Cort was born in 1835 in Bolton, Lancashire.

Research is still very actively continuing into her family.

Father: Peter Cort whose occupation was a Bleacher
Mother: Elizabeth Cort (nee Spencer)

Early Life:
She was brought up in the pleasant countryside of the Bradshaw Valley in the district of Turton, near Bolton, where she stayed well into her teenage. The family lived at Horrobin Mill, a large Bleachworks, which was adjoining the clear, fast flowing Bradshaw Brook. (The house and bleachworks have now of course gone and much of the land is beneath the water of the Jumbles Country park reservoir.)

Her father, a Bleacher, was a reasonably successful industrialist and it is known that at least 2 of her brothers were educated at Bolton Grammar School in the 1850s. The family were related and also closely connected by business ties to the influential Ainsworths of Smithills Hall, Bolton. Her gt.grandmother was Ann Ainsworth daughter of Peter Ainsworth, the founder of the successful Halliwell Bleachworks and a famous benefactor to Bolton.

Her father died during her early teens and some time after that the family moved first to Bolton and then to the Chorlton district of Manchester. She was there in 1861.

Siblings: It is known she had 4 brothers all younger than her.

Occupations: In 1861, before her marriage, she was working as a House-maid. In 1871, after her marriage, she was the Assistant Matron at the Industrial Schools, Kirkdale, Liverpool. At the age of 38 she held the important post of Matron at a large Workhouse in Coventry, but 6 years later in 1881 (as a widow) she was a Forewoman in a potted meat factory in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Mary married Thomas SMITH at St. Saviours Church, Chorlton, Manchester on 16th October 1865. Witnesses: Anne Smith, Edward Spencer, and Peter Henry Cort.

Thomas, who was born in Battersea, London in 1834, was at the time a Steward working in Carmarthen, South Wales. Earlier he had been a schoolteacher, then a Sergeant in the famous 11th Hussars (of Light Brigade fame), before becoming Secretary to the new Stapleton Lunatic Asylum at Bristol.

Mary had at least 4 children, including one who died at 18 months old. Three children were by her first husband Thomas, whilst the 4th was by an unknown partner.
1. Thomas Cort Smith born in 1867 at Carmarthen.
2. Edward Spencer Smith born in 1869 at Manchester.
3. Mary Elizabeth Smith born in 1871 at Manchester. ( she died from pneumonia in 1873 aged 18 months )

(Husband Thomas died 1873)

4. Gertrude Rawson SMITH (my grandmother), born on 27th September 1876 at 34 York St, Cheadle Bulkeley, Stockport.

Mary died of Senile Decay on 29 Jan1915 aged 79 , at home at 147 Upholland road, Billinge Higher End near Wigan, Lancashire.


The full details of Mary's life after the marriage are not yet known, but the couple moved round the country in connection with Thomas's jobs which were senior postions to Lunatic Asylums, Training Schools and later Workhouses.

They lived first of all in Carmarthen where Thomas was Secretary to the Carmarthen Workhouse and where their first child, Thomas Cort Smith was born in 1867. They then moved back to Lancashire and may have lived in Manchester, where Edward Spencer Smith was born in 1869 . By 1871 they had certainly moved to Liverpool where Thomas had gained the post of Assistant Governor at the Liverpool Industrial Schools, Kirkdale and Mary was the Assistant Matron.

Here they had Mary Elizabeth Smith in 1871, but unfortunately the child died from pneumonia aged 18 months in January 1873. She was taken back to Turton for burial in the Cort family grave.

In July 1873, Thomas and Mary beat 2 other couples for the joint posts of Master and Matron of the Foleshill Union Workhouse in Coventry, positions which entailed them living at the Workhouse.

After only 2 months there Thomas became seriously ill and died from Consumption in November 1873 . He was buried at St. Laurence's Church, Foleshill. Mary was forced to resign as the positions required a married couple.

Quote from Minutes following this sad event:
"At a meeting of the Board of Guardians of the Foleshill Union held at the Workhouse on the 12th November 1873..."
"Mr and Mrs Smith were appointed Master and Matron of the Foleshill Union Workhouse on the 18th day of June last and entered upon their duties on the 18th August. Mr and Mrs Smith continued to perform the duties of Master and Matron up to the 15th October when both were compelled to resign in consequence of the illness of Mr Smith which resulted in his death on the 6th November inst."
"Resolved: That this Board state their regret that the death of Mr Smith should have terminated the services of the Master and Matron, the Guardians being of opinion from the short period during which they performed the duties of their respective offices they would have proved valuable officers and they are certainly of opinion from such service that Mrs Smith is in every respect qualified to perform the duties of a Matron of a Workhouse or other Institution in a thoroughly efficient manner."

The real mystery lies in the years after 1873 and before October 1876 when she appears in Stockport for the birth of a daughter, my grandmother Gertrude Rawson SMITH.

Gertrude's birth was registered at Stockport but Mary stated the father was Thomas Smith ( who had been dead 3 years, unless by coincidence it was another one) ! No doubt this was to give respectability for the sake of her illegitimate baby.

It should be noted that the address stated where the birth took place in 1876 was the address of a Thomas RAWSON and Mary RAWSON in 1871 with their family. (It seems likely that for some reason this was the source of my grandmother's middle name of Rawson...see below)

But what about the "adoption", although it is clear that no formal adoption took place ?

The family story handed down but probably changed over the years is that Mary left the child with her neighbour when she went to visit the child's father, supposedly a seaman by the name of Arthur RAWSON, whose ship had docked at Manchester or Stockport. She never returned and the child was brought up by a family in Bell Green, Coventry.
We do not know for certain when or where this occurred but assume it was in Coventry because she was "adopted" by a family living there, only 500 yards from where Thomas Smith was buried, and 1 mile from the Workhouse where Mary had lived a few years earlier.

It seems very sad that circumstances forced Mary to leave her youngest child and that young Gertrude grew up thinking her mother was dead (orphan on Census) whereas she was alive. For some years the young child received gifts by post of beautifully embroidered clothes until suddenly the gifts finished.

As far as we know Mary never saw or visited Gertude after that although she lived until Gertrude was 39. How sad ! As Gertrude had 7 children by then, so Mary of course had 7 grandchildren that she was not aware of !

In 1881 Mary was at a boarding house in Lowestoft, a mainly fishing port on the east coast of England, described as a widow, and having her 2 boys with her. Her occupation was Forewoman in a Potted Meat Factory.

The 1891 Census shows the widow Mary as a boarder back in Chorlton, Manchester and her 2 sons were still with her. Mary's widowed mother and 2 of her brothers were still living close by in the same Chorlton area.
In 1901 she was probably at 19 Theodore Street in the Ardwick district of Manchester working as a Housekeeper/Domestic.

By 1911 and now aged 75 Mary had moved in with her son Edward and his wife at Gantley Road, Billinge near Orrel and Wigan. She died at 147 Upholland Road, Billinge on 29 January 1915 from Senile Decay.

Thomas Smith As research has shown that Thomas Smith was not actually MY ancestor I have not posted much detail about his background. I have a small amount of extra information about him which I am prepared to pass on to any of his descendents by email.



FACT: Sometime between 1873 and 1876 Mary became friendly with another man, who fathered my grandmother.

Q.1.Where did she go after her husbands death in November 1873 ? ( a 38 year old widow with 2 young boys aged 3 and 5)

In November 1873 Mary was a stranger in Coventry with 2 young boys to support and had presumably lived at lodging accommodation in the Workhouse which she was forced to vacate.
Her well-to-do mother and married brothers were all in Manchester 100 miles away. Surely she would go there?
Her husband was buried in Coventry. Would she tough it out and stay near his grave and raise their 2 sons in Coventry?

Q.2.What is the origin of Gertrude's 2nd name of RAWSON?

It is surely connected to the family who lived at the house in Stockport where she was born, or is that a huge coincidence?

Was it in gratitude to them for taking her in when she was in need?

Was it because the father's surname was Rawson, possibly a relative of the Thomas Rawson mentioned above.

Was that Thomas Rawson in fact the father? If so it did not seem to break up his marriage as he was still with his wife in 1881 in Stockport.

FACT: Sometime between 1876 and 1881 Mary left young Gertrude, possibly a planned and deliberate decision.

Q.3. Where did this happen?

Number 1 possibility is Bell Green, Coventry, close to where her husband Thomas Smith was buried, and where she left baby Gertrude in the care of another family.
If so, had she lived here all the time, and in that case why go to Stockport for the birth?
If she had been living elsewhere why did she return to Bell Green and then disappear again?

One possibility is that friends she had made during her stay at Bell Green, Foleshill, Coventry struck her as a suitable family to raise the child ...particularly IF her own family knew nothing about the birth.

FACT: In the 1881 Census Mary was a boarder at a house in Lowestoft, Suffolk.

Q.4. Why was Mary in Lowestoft, so far from her family connections and her abandoned child?

She had a reasonable job in Lowestoft, but was a boarder with no mention on the Census of a likely "partner".

Lowestoft was a coastal port so was the story of Gertrudes's father being a seaman true. We have searched the Census for Arthur Rawson, even on ships in port at Lowestoft, but with no success.

Q.5. What happened to Mary's other children and their offspring?

For several years this web-site has carried a request for any descendants of Mary to contact me in the hope of completing the mystery of my grandmother's background.

** In 2007 that wish was granted when a descendant of Mary's elder son Thomas Cort Smith contacted me and gave me information about his children. Since then 2 further descendants have been in touch.

This is what I know:

Elder son Thomas Cort Smith:

He was born on 17 May 1867 at Johnstown, Carmarthen in 1867. The family moved to Manchester for a few years then for a brief period in 1873 they moved to Coventry, Warwickshire where Thomas's father died from Consumption (TB). By 1881 his widowed mother had taken the boys to Lowestoft, Suffolk on the east coast of England where they boarded at 4 Mills Road.

In 1891 Thomas, aged 23, was a Carpenter living with his mother and brother at 480 Stockport Road, Chorlton, Manchester. They were boarders at the home of a Surgeon/Dentist.

Thomas married Elizabeth Thompson in 1893 and they had 16 children:
Percival; Gertrude; Edith; Jessica; Lena; Alice; Sidney; Ada; Winifred; Marion; Beatrix; Thomas; Florence; Eileen; Eric and Ronald.

They spent their lives in or near the Levenshulme district of Manchester. Sadly Thomas and his wife Elizabeth died within a few weeks of each other in the Spring of 1922 leaving all but the older three children to be brought up in orphanages.

In 1901 Thomas and family were living at 50 Shepley Street, South Manchester . He was described as a Warehouseman (Shipping).

Younger son Edward Spencer Smith:

Edward was born on 20 Feb 1869 at 3 Marriott Street, Chorlton-upon-Medlock, Manchester. His father was then a Mercantile Clerk. (see brother Thomas for details of early years).

In 1901 Edward, was still single and a Lunatic Attendant at Wittingham Lunatic Asylum, near Preston, Lancs.

He married Edith Jowett from Leeds, Yorkshire in 1910 at Wigan. At that time they were both living at 75 Frog Lane, Wigan.

In 1911 he and his wife were living at Gantley Road, Billinge (Orrell) with his mother Mary then aged 75. Edward and Edith were described as an Imbecile attendants working for the The Wigan Board of Governors. Later they had a child, Mary Smith born in 1912 (registered at Wigan). In Jan 1915 Edward was living at 147 Upholland road, Billinge Higher End but no further research on him has been carried out.

I would still love to hear from anyone descended from these 2 sons of my gt.grandmother !!

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