, , , , , , , ,

The Hingerty family was mentioned in my last post on lodging houses in Victorian Stafford (25 July 2016). Patrick and Bridget Hingerty kept the lodging house at No. 12 Back Walls North from around 1855 until the late 1870s but ultimately the family moved out of the twilight world of lodging houses and integrated into wider Stafford society. This post traces in more detail the process by which this occurred in the longer-term history of the Hingerty family.

Uncommon name, unusual origin: the Hingertys as outsiders

Although most of Stafford’s Irish labouring families came from the Castlerea area, the Hingerty family was one of the exceptions. They told the Census enumerators they came from Co. Tipperary. Hingerty is an unusual surname, and the Griffiths Valuation shows its was indeed found only in Tipperary. A Patrick Hingerty occupied a ‘house and small garden’ at Old Turnpike Road, Nenagh, and he could well be the Patrick Hingerty who later turned up in Stafford. Three other Hingertys lived in the same area of North Tipperary.[1] The Hingertys were one of only two families from the county who are known to have settled long-term in Stafford.[2]

The Hingertys must have survived the worst of the Famine but left Ireland in the early 1850s. They may indeed have been victims of the evictions on the Massy-Dawson estate near Nenagh.[3] Two Hingerty relatives came to England at this time. Denis Hingerty, his wife and two sons, travelled through Liverpool and settled at Oswaldtwistle between Accrington and Blackburn in Lancashire. A very extensive family descended from that line. Patrick and Bridget Hingerty came to Stafford with their sons Daniel and Michael Richard. Patrick was probably Denis’s brother. It is unclear whether any links were maintained between the two branches of the family, but if they were they are not known to descendants.

Hingerty Trees_0002

The immigrant Hingerty families in Stafford and Lancashire.

There is no family memory or legend as to why Patrick and Bridget Hingerty chose to settle in Stafford. It seems likely, however, that they were attracted there by two earlier ‘pathfinders’ from Tipperary already living in the town, Alexander James McDonald and Mary Kerrigan. We shall meet them again later.

The Hingertys were real outsiders when they settled in Stafford. Like the other labouring Irish they were initially outside Stafford’s working class social network, but they were also outsiders to the dominant Irish network from the Castlerea area. The family’s early history in Stafford reflects these facts. Their social connections were not with the Castlerea Irish even though they lived close to families from that background. A majority of the Hingerty children who grew up in Stafford did not marry, something that suggests a lack of suitable social contacts. The family’s establishment of deep roots in Stafford did not look likely even in the late nineteenth century. Emigration or withering away in Stafford would have been the expected prognosis for the family at that time. The Hingertys’ ultimate shift of fortunes is evidence that immigrant families could move in unexpected directions.

Although Patrick Hingerty was a labourer we know that as early as 1855 he and his wife began to make more money running the lodging house at 12 Back Walls North. In that year Patrick Hinnerty (sic) was fined ten shillings plus costs for infringing the lodging house bye-laws. [4]  At the time of the 1861 census eight lodgers, all of them Irish, were packed into this little four-roomed cottage on Back Walls. Including the Hingerty family, there were twelve people in the building. Only one of the lodgers had any connection with settled Stafford Irish families, something that demonstrates how lodging house occupants were often drawn from outsiders and the socially marginal.

Patrick Hingerty died in 1866.[5] Bridget was left to carry on the business, which she continued to do until around 1879. In 1871 there were seven lodgers in the house, but only one of them was Irish. Four were English farm labourers, one from Stafford and the others from rural Devon, Wiltshire and Norfolk. There was also an old Staffordian couple eking out their final years as rag collectors and apparently working with Michael Flanagan, a 40-year old Irishman in the same occupation. Bridget’s customers were still, therefore, people like themselves – poor outsiders marginal to the local and Irish social networks. The number of Irish farm labourers in Stafford was declining steeply at this time, but three of the Hingertys’ English lodgers had all come from counties where farm workers’ wages and rural poverty were worse than Staffordshire.

The 1860s and 1870s were a time of generational transition for the Hingerty family. Patrick’s son Daniel (b. 1839) was now in his late twenties, a single man living at home and working in the building trade as a bricklayer’s labourer. His social life probably revolved around the local pubs and he was arrested three times for being drunk and disorderly.[6] In the 1861 case he was out drinking with his brother’s father-in-law James McDonald. In 1873 he and two others refused to leave the Bricklayer’s Arms just round the corner in Gaolgate Street. His fellow boozers were James Hart and Michael Maloney, young men from poor Castlerea families.  This shows the son’s social connections had widened by this time. As Daniel got older he settled down, but he never married. He was still living with his mother in 1881, but by then they were in 10 Clarke’s Court. The move suggests they were very poor. He remained there in 1891. By then he was on his own, for his mother had died in 1890 after living into her 70s.[7] Daniel lived to a ripe age, but his must have been a poor and lonely life. He probably drifted into dementia because he died in the County Lunatic Asylum in 1917.[8]

The thin line of family survival: Michael Richard Hingerty and his children

Members of the family who live in the Stafford area today are all descended from one man, Daniel’s brother Michael Richard Hingerty (b. 1850 in Tipperary). Michael Richard had moved to Stafford when he was a young boy, and the shift to an urban lodging house in a different country would have been a shock. He would have found it difficult to make friends with other children from different Irish and Stafford backgrounds. When he grew up he worked as a bricklayer’s labourer, and later as a plasterer.

Hingerty Trees_0001

The children of Michael Richard Hingerty and Catherine McDonald.

The Hingertys did stay in contact with their predecessors from Tipperary, Alexander James McDonald and Mary Kerrigan. This couple lived in Stafford in the early 1850s and got married at St Austin’s in 1852.[9] They then moved to Walsall.  Sometime in the early 1870s Michael Richard Hingerty used his family’s contact with Alexander McDonald to also get work in Walsall. Then, in 1873, he married the McDonalds’ daughter Catherine in that town. The newly-weds initially stayed in Walsall, and their first three children, Daniel, James and Mary Ann were born there between 1875 and 1878.[10] Then they moved back to Stafford and settled permanently in the town. They were clearly poor, however. In 1881 they were living in a court off St Chad’s Place in the town centre. It was a small house and they were already a family of six, but they still had to take in a lodger, Mary Reddish, a hawker. There was another hawker, Mary McQue, there as a ‘visitor’. As she had been born in Walsall, she was probably a contact from their Tipperary background. The couple had three more children in Stafford but the marriage was not to last long. In 1885 Michael Richard died at the early age of 35. Catherine was left alone to bring up the six children in conditions of great poverty.[11]

The Hingerty family staggered only fitfully into the next generation. Four of Michael Richard and Catherine’s six children did not marry. The first-born, Daniel (b. 1875), was able to make a decisive leap into the core of the local economy by becoming a finisher in the shoe trade. Even so, he never married and lived at home for much of his life. He and his mother came to a tragic end. In 1922 they were living at 30 Back Walls North, a house Catherine had occupied for over 20 years and where she ran a small confectionary shop. On the morning of Monday 6 November Catherine and Daniel were found dead in their beds. They had been killed by gas escaping from a broken main outside the house. Two families in neighbouring houses also suffered gas poisoning and it was concluded that heavy traffic, perhaps a steam roller, had fractured the 3-inch main some time on Sunday.[12] A complaint had been made to the Corporation gasworks, but nothing was done in time to save Catherine and Daniel Hingerty.[13]

Two more of Michael Richard and Catherine’s sons also stayed single. James (b. 1876) worked as a paste fitter and laster in the shoe trade and lived at home until his death in 1909. He did not, however, lead a life isolated in an Irish household. He had associates in the Staffordian community. We have evidence of this when, in 1907, he was out in the countryside with three friends, all local men, when they were involved in a dispute with a local farmer. Abuse was hurled and stones thrown, though the case against James was withdrawn. He seems to have taken a low profile in the incident. There is also a family legend that he played football for Stoke City FC. Though this scarcely had the glamour and wealth of Premier League footballers today, it does show he was an active outgoing person. William (b. 1881) also lived at home but died in 1913. He was probably a betting man. In 1902 he was amongst 25 people arrested during a police raid on the Trumpet pub in Foregate Street. The landlord was fined £50 for running a betting business on the premises, but William Hingerty and the others were discharged as it could not be proved they had been in the pub to bet.[14] Both James and William died relatively young, probably due to their unhealthy jobs in the shoe trade and the poor living conditions in Back Walls.[15] Mary Ann Hingerty, the only daughter, was born in 1879 but lived just two years.

At this distance in time it is impossible to know why the three Hingerty boys failed to marry. They all went into Stafford’s core industry and would have had extensive social contacts at work. We have also seen some evidence of their contacts outside work. It may be that the three simply became ‘home boys’, happy to live with their widowed mother and with no reason to break the family bonds. Even so, they may have had an ambiguous identity that led them to avoid extensive and intimate contacts with local people from different social backgrounds.

Just two of Catherine Hingerty’s six children did break the bonds. John (b. 1885) did it by moving to Leicester in the 1900s. This was a common move for Stafford shoemakers but in his case it probably had the added attraction of breaking free of the family household. In Leicester he married Mary Godson, a Protestant. Their first two children, May and William, were born in Leicester in 1908/9, but the couple then followed the shoe trade back to Stafford and settled in the town. In the Great War John Hingerty served with the North Staffs Regiment. He survived the conflict and lived on till 1940.The couple had six surviving children and there are descendants in Stafford and elsewhere today.


John & Mary Hingerty with their children May, William, Sid, Alec and John, c. 1918. John is in the uniform of a private in the North Staffs Regt. (Photo courtesy of Mrs Christine Went)

The remaining son of Michael Richard and Catherine, Michael (b. 1883), married in 1909. His bride was Mary Elizabeth Norwood from a modest English family who also lived in Back Walls North. Her father originally came from Corby in Northants but he had moved about the country on labouring work before settling in Stafford in the 1890s. It is significant that Michael was drawn to someone from outside the local population. He also worked in the shoe trade but during the Great War he served as a private in the North Staffs Regiment. Like his brother, he survived. By 1922 the couple were living on the Weston Road, They had got out of the family’s traditional Back Walls base, a move that suggests modest prosperity and the aspiration to do better. There are also descendants of this branch of the family.

The Hingertys’ integration into Stafford society

 Although members of the Hingerty family were labourers and settled in Stafford in the aftermath of the Famine, their history was distinctive. Their origin in Co. Tipperary set them apart from the Castlerea social network and emphasises that just being ethnically ‘Irish’ did not necessarily cement social contacts or cohesion. The Hingertys retained more significant links with people from their own county. They were forced by poverty to live in the town centre slums close to many other Irish people, but they remained somewhat apart from them. Only slowly did contacts develop with both the Irish and local people.

The family’s lodging house at 12 Back Walls North was the refuge of the socially marginal, but they avoided the disorder of Jane Kelly’s establishments (last week’s post). Amidst a household filled with transients the Hingertys tried to build a strong home life. This attachment to home and family bonds strengthened as the years progressed. Though they had their scrapes, the second and third generations of Hingerty boys sought more stable lives through work in the shoe trade and some friendships with people from local society. They sought a modest respectability, and by the 1910s they seem to have achieved it.

The Hingertys were Catholics. Their children went to the Catholic schools and life’s events were commemorated at church. They always lived in the Back Walls area and this placed them in St Austin’s parish. It was the church of the Catholic middle class, and for many years the poor Hingertys would not have found it easy or attractive to get involved in the church’s social network. They almost certainly attended Mass, however, and by 1914 we find a glimmer of evidence that they were breaking into the Church’s social scene. In that year a ‘Mr Hingerty’ – probably Michael – went to St Austin’s annual soirée in the Co-operative Hall and won a prize in the whist drive. As I described in my post on Soirées (13 January 2016), those who went to these events were normally from relatively secure, aspirant and respectable families. The Hingertys were arriving at this position after more than sixty years in Stafford. In the end John Hingerty married a Protestant woman and adherence to the Church weakened substantially amongst subsequent descendants.

Attachment to any Irish identity ultimately seems to have withered away amongst the Hingertys. Bridget Hingerty’s death in 1890 removed the last person whose formative years and sense of self was demonstrably Irish. She had experienced the horrors of the Famine and certainly passed on to succeeding generations the fact that the family came from Tipperary. No legends were, however, passed on about their previous lives and the traumas they might have experienced. Here we have a family in which a mental break with the past was made in the generation after the Famine and emigration. The survival of the family then hung by a single thread through Michael Richard Hingerty but his children forged new lives as working class Catholic Staffordians. Subsequent marriage partners came from the wider population and the family merged into twentieth century Stafford society.


[1] Patrick Hingerty, entry reference 26, Griffiths Valuation, Co. Tipperary North Riding, 1852, Ask about Ireland website and Ancestry Database accessed 5 August 2016.

[2] The other was the Duggan family. John Duggan, a tailor, had been born in Killenaule, Co. Tipperary, and he came to Stafford in the late 1850s. He married a local woman and there is no evidence that he either knew or was ever associated with the Hingertys. John Duggan’s family always lived in the north end of the town.

[3] James S. Donnelly Jr., Great Irish Potato Famine, (Stroud, Sutton Publishing, 2001), pp. 123-4.

[4] Staffordshire Advertiser (SA), 7 April 1855.

[5] Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 2, Entry 2326.

[6] He was up before the magistrates on drink charges in 1861 and 1873. SA, 19 October 1861 and 22 November 1873. In 1869 a ‘Patrick Hingerty’ was before the magistrates in the company of Patrick Maloney for a breach of the peace, but this was probably an error and Daniel was the culprit. SA, 20 November 1869.

[7] Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 6, Entry 10628.

[8] Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 11, Entry 8531.

[9] Mary Kerrigan was working as a servant in Stafford at the time of the 1851 Census. Alexander James McDonald was not then present in the town but must have arrived shortly afterwards.

[10] Mary Ann, born in 1878, died in 1881. Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 4, Entry 7549.

[11] Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 5, Entry 8751.

[12] Family legend communicated by Mrs Christine Went née Hingerty, April 2004.

[13] SA, 11 November 1922.

[14] SA, 17 May 1902.

[15] Stafford Borough Council Burial Record, Vol. 9, Entry 5676 and SA 4 October 1913.