In 1848, Jane Ann McDowell, William and Sarah’s first child, was born on Canongate Street, in the town of Alnwick, Northumberland. Later, in the 1851 census, we find them living in the Tile Sheds, Village of Letch, Longhoughton. They have a new daughter, Alice born that year, 1851. Alice was followed by James born 1853. The children were duly christened at the Church in Longhoughton.
So, while William laboured and made his way, Sarah was kept busy having children. By 1855, my great grandmother, Elizabeth was born in Embleton. The family had moved again. Sarah signed with an X on the birth certificate showing that she was the one that registered the child. An entry in Whellan’s directory for Northumberland 1855 Embleton shows William McDowell as co-proprietor of a beer house. As stated below, employers often owned and paid their employees from a public house so I think we can assume that William was either managing or owned a tilery by this time.
From The Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton by Louise Creighton:
“Creighton, the vicar, had a poor opinion of the villagers (of Embleton): “In many ways the moral standard of the village was very low, and it was a difficult place to improve. There was no resident squire, the chief employers of labour were on much the same level of cultivation as those they employed, and in some cases owned the public-houses and paid the wages there .”Writing two years after he had left Embleton, Creighton said: “I always felt myself engaged (at Embleton) in downright warfare, and strove to get hold of the young … working through the school, the choir, the G.F.S., any possible organisation of the young, that here and there one or two might be got hold of who would make a testimony. The unchastity of Embleton was terrible – low, animal.” (Quoted from Life and Letters of Mandell Creighton by Louise Creighton 1904 and posted on Wikipedia.
Not an easy time for Sarah, it would appear, following William around as he looked for work. The 1851 English census shows her parents and a brother living in Hesleyhurst, about 12 miles southwest of Alnwick. However, her brother Fergus can be found in Embleton on the 1861 census so it is likely that William and some of her brothers went to that area for employment. One definitely gets a sense of how important family was during those times. Sarah’s family came to visit her in Ireland many times over the years.
Two things happened in the following 5 years, another girl was born, Sarah in 1859. and William somehow came into contact with Lord Edward Stanley, the 15th Earl of Derby. From this he was assigned management of a tilery at Solloghead in Tipperary, Ireland.