Horner is an occupational
surname coming from the word horn itself and means one who makes or blows
horns. It can also mean one who makes spoons, combs etc from cow horns.
“Horner, Popham, Wyndham and Thynne,
When the monks went out, they came in”
After the dissolution of the monasteries, these four families were granted Abbey lands. Legend has it that a John Horner was steward to the last Abbot of Glastonbury. The monks sent him to London with the title deeds of their estates concealed in a pie. Hunger overtook him and he started to eat the pie, discovering the deeds inside. He managed to get them vested in himself and so the plum of the nursery rhyme is his acquistion of these estates. Some accounts have Thomas, not John,as the Horner concerned. So is Little Jack Horner an ancestor of ours? It would be nice to think so.
A Wakefield saying goes: “Horner, Horner, There’s one in every corner”
Our Horners were indeed from the Wakefield area in Yorkshire, with our main branch of the Horners eventually moving to Lancashire. There is a booklet entitled “The Horner Family of Wakefield”, published in 1879, which I have had the good fortune to read and it has extended this section of the family tree considerably. Thanks to Mark, Patrick and Diana Clements for sending me that.
One theory of how Wakefield gained its name is that it was named after the Anglo-Saxon settler who first made his home there–a man named Waca–and that the name derives from Waca’s feld or field. Therefore the first spelling would probably have been Wacanfeld.The settlement grew up around a little church and preaching cross at the top of the hill, where three lanes met–to be known as Westgate, Kirkgate and Northgate. These had gates which were shut at 8pm each night to prevent stray animals entering. In the year 867 A.D.,York was captured by the Vikings, and the county came under Norse rule. These settlers introduced the three Ridings, and their sub- division into Wapentakes.Wakefield was mainly settled by Danes, and was the centre of the wapentake of Agbrigg.
This section was going to start with Joseph Horner of Ardsley,born in 1754. However, thanks to the Horner Family of Wakefield booklet, 1879, compiled from Public Records and Family Archives, we will start around 1550 instead. Quite a change of plan!
It was then that Thomas Horner was born. He married Jane Foxcroft in Batley on the 15th of June and started an unbroken line of descendents to myself in 1950. The same source also names Thomas’ wife as Elizabeth Foxcroft. However, in the Records of the Transfer of Land and Property, from the Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series, there is a reference to ‘Thomas Horner and Jane his wife’ having ‘4 messuages and a shop in Wakefeild and Pontefracte’ in 1589. So I take Jane to be his wife and Elizabeth as an error in the booklet.
Francis Horner, their son, is our next direct ancestor. We don’t know when he was born, 1573 at the earliest, but we know that he died in 1616 and was buried in the parish churchyard in Wakefield. We don’t know his wife’s name but we do know that he had a son called James Horner who married Jane Smithson at the parish church in Wakefield in the July of 1634.
The dates of birth of James and Jane are not known, but they continue our branch of the family with the birth of James Horner in 1635 in Ardsley and baptised in April at Wakefield parish church. He married Mary Twigg at Ardsley Church in East Ardley, Wakefield on August the 9th 1663. Ardsley is two miles from Wakefield. Their son, James, born in 1665, continues our line.We don’t know the name of his wife but with his only daughter, Ellen, born in 1692, it’s a fair assertion that his wife was called Ellen, too, and that they married in 1691. They had three sons. William was born in 1699, John in 1695, and James in 1694. All their children were baptised at Wood Church. It is their eldest son, James, who continues our line.
James married Dorothy some time
around 1721 with their son James born in 1722
and christened on September the 23rd at Wood Church. The IGI has this
christening date, but with Samuel Horner as the father not James. I have found
no leads from this one and must go with the Horner Family book’s James and
Dorothy as the parents of our James here. However their other children listed
in the H F book, are not born until the 1730s, with James given as the father.
Something further to research here. Dorothy, it says, was buried at Wood Church
in 1747, and her husband James the following year. But the H F of W book is clear about James being the son of James and Dorothy
and it is he who continues our line.
From now on the records are very
definite. James Horner married Mary Rayner on the 21st of August, 1745 at
Woodchurch. She was born in 1726. This marriage is recorded by both the H
F of W book and by the IGI (they refer to Woodchurch as Woodkirk)
This was the year that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army marched from Scotland towards London but turned back at Derby. The Horner Family of Wakefield books relates that James and his neighbours hid and even buried valuables at the time. James was an active anti-Jacobite, as well as one of a congregation of independent dissenters who worshipped at Morley.
Hannah Horner was their first born in 1745 at
Ardsley and christened on the 18th of December at the Morley Congregational
Church. Mary Horner is recorded as being
christened on September the 1st, 1751 at the church above. She married George
Craven. There is no christening date for Elizabeth but she married Jeremiah
Stott of Wakefield in 1788 at Wakefield. James
Horner was born in Ardsley in 1765 and married Mary Wood of Harewood. He
died in 1814.
Their eldest son was Joseph Horner who was born in Ardsley and christened on the 30th of December 1753 at Old Chapel Independent, Morley. This record is from the IGI. The H F of W book just has him born in 1754 (well he nearly was!)
He was to have started our line (see the beginning of this section) but instead he continues the line started by Thomas Horner.
Joseph Horner 1753-1814
Mary Blackburn 1757-1815
Joseph was a merchant by trade.
Most likely he was involved in the local Wool Industry like the Races (see
In 1777 he decided that Mary Blackburn of Tingley Moor was the woman for him, and the IGI records show that they were married on the 23rd of December at Saint Peter’s in Leeds. They must have been very much in love because they had a second wedding in 1778. More likely this one is an error in the HF of W book. Mary was born in 1757 and her father was William Blackburn. Tingley Moor was close to Wakefield. Notable Morleians include Prime Minister Asquith and cyclist Beryl Burton. Ernie Wise grew up in Ardsley.
Joseph, living in Wakefield, had to walk six miles to worship at Morley Independent Chapel. Being a strict Sabbatarian he couldn’t ride. Consequently, he became an active promoter of Zion and Salem independent chapels. He eventually withdrew from Zion in order to concentrate on Salem and the building of a chapel in Wakefield. The H F of W book relates that it was said of him that “he had Christian faith enough to have walked on the water.” He took great interest in the working classes and gave a course of lectures on Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, which was unique for that time. His death on December 23rd 1814 was such that “every Christian felt he had lost a brother, and every poor man a friend.” He was buried at Salem Chapel. Mary died on the 25th of January 1815.
Joseph and Mary had nine children between 1779 and 1794. Their middle child, James, is the one who continues our line but before meeting him, we should consider some of his siblings.
THE CHILDREN OF JOSEPH HORNER AND MARY BLACKBURN
John Horner 1779-1829
John was the eldest son, born on the 21st of January 1779 in Wakefield. He married Sarah Hall,also of Wakefield, on the 2nd of February 1804. Sarah was born on August the 24th 1788 which means that, according to the H F of W book, she was only fifteen when she married John.T hey lived at Horner’s Place and their children were all born in Wakefield. Sarah was still only 26 at the birth of her seventh child.
Eliza was John and Sarah Horner's first child, born on the 26th of February, 1805.She remained single and died on May the 16th,1857.
Maria was born on the 30th of September 1806. She died, just after her twenty-first birthday, on December the 27th 1827.
William was born on the 18th of October 1808. He married Frances Stead on the 12th of May 1833 at Rothwell,Yorkshire. They didn’t have any children. William died on January the 5th, 1860.
Sophia Horner was born on May the 28th 1810.
She married William Dawson Mortimer of Bradford about 1837. William was
christened on the 6th of November 1814 in Tong,Yorkshire, the son of William
and Elizabeth Mortimer. Sophia and William lived in Bradford, where William
Alexander Mortimer was born in 1838, and Walter Hall Mortimer was born in 1846.
Walter had been given his grandmother Sarah’s maiden name as his middle name, a
common practice and helpful to genealogists! Walter became a wholesale tea
dealer, and he and his wife Jemima lived at Ropley Lodge in Middlesex with
their four children and four servants.
Sophia and William moved to Lewisham in the 1860s where William died in 1872. Sophia passed away six years later.
Emma Horner was born in 1811. She married
John Fawcett of Wakefield on April the 1st 1832 in Wakefield. They had one
daughter who became a farmer’s wife, marrying John Rogerson.
Sarah became Joseph and Mary’s 6th child when she was born on the 13th of March 1813 in the Stanley area of Wakefield.. She married Joseph Sykes about 1836, and they had one child,Walter Sykes, born in 1837 and christened in the 30th of April in Swinton by Sheffield. Walter qualified as a doctor at Edinburgh University and went into practice in Batley.
John Horner was the 7th and last child, born in 1815. Sadly he died aged eight in 1823.