Naming the Shuttle Row Women 1890s

Until August 2015, I hadn’t seen this photo before. Thanks to Gordon Cook for sharing it here. Pictured, certainly before 1897, is Shuttle Row. The photo likely dates from the early 1890s or perhaps late 1880’s.

The women are outside beating their carpets, which would have been a regular occurrence whilst the menfolk were out at work. The railings obviously provided a good backing to drape the carpets over, whilst beating them, or for drying before bringing back inside. A cart in the foreground may belong to a local builder or gardner, for to the left of it is an empty wheelbarrow. The photographer captures the whole of the historic building and as common for such a photo, several people are intent on being in the photo, standing at doors or hanging out of windows. Another brilliant atmospheric photo, over 120 years old and one which deserves to be displayed permanently at the new Centre, once renovated.

As with any photo sent in to me, I like to see if I can add something to it. So I set off to try to work out who the 3 women could be in this photo. On the assumption they lived there and using the closest 1891 census, I worked out some possibilities. Could this be Annie Frew 32, Annie McGowan 54, Elizabeth Anderson 68, Sarah Crookston 36, Lizzie Martin 21, Ann Cummings 50, Catherine Cummings 20, Jessie McDonald 36, Christina Gordon 30, Janet Hamilton 30, Catherine Shaw 37, Agnes McDowall 35, Catherine Lynch 22, Mary Hamilton 24, Mary Henshaw 24, Jane McCormack 20, Mary Ann Morrison 27, Jeanie Corbet 36, Matilda Thomson 51, Matilda Hendrie 21, Margaret Dolan 36, Mary McNab 50, Jane McInally 46, Elizabeth Bonnar 65, Catherine Murray 74, Jane Naismith 28, Isabella Young 33, Mary Tindall 46 or Margaret Scott 51?

These 29 women all lived at Shuttle Row at the time. In the photo, they all have dark hair, so I’m making the assumption (only in the interests of narrowing the people down) that those pictured are are under 60, therefore eliminating those above over that age. Next, I looked at the census to see how had a day job and who was a ‘stay at home’ mum. On the assumption that workers would not work on a Sunday, and given the wheelbarrow and carpet beating, this is a working day of the week, I looked at the census to see who would be away from home at their jobs. Several of these women were weavers, assistants or housekeepers for other homes. I could therefore eliminate those working mothers. Next, I looked for any mothers who only had a single child, under 1 year old and eliminated them, on the assumption no mother would go downstairs for a photo and leave their infant under one year old in the house upstairs alone or left to be looked after by a toddler of similar age. This may be 20th century “precious” ideology but I’m assuming the motherly instinct would have been to take the child for the photo too. 

This narrowed the list of these 3 featured women down to just 11 possible people:
Annie Frew 32, Annie McGowan 54, Sarah Crookston 36, Ann Cummings 50, Jessie McDonald 36, Janet Hamilton 30, Catherine Shaw 37, Agnes McDowall 35,  Mary McNab 50, Jane McInally 46 and Mary Tindall 46. I think there is a distinct possibility the 3 pictured women are named in this group of 11 people, but I’ll leave the further detective work down to others.

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