A line of descent, Sir David Attenborough

Some time ago the Daily Telegraph, in its Weekend Section has been publishing a series of articles by Nick Barratt outlining the family history of certain celebrities including Andrew Flintoff the cricketer, Sir Patrick Moore the astronomer and Kate Moss the model.

Of particular interest to Boltonians is the history for Sir David Attenborough the naturalist published on the 29th September 2005 showing descent on his mother’s side from James Clegg of Bolton.

David Attenborough was born in 1926 three years after his brother Richard, Lord Attenborough, film actor and director, their parents being Frederick Levi Attenborough and Mary Clegg married in Paddington, London, in 1922. The Attenboroughs were a Nottinghamshire family with roots in the Nottingham area.

Mary Clegg was the daughter of Samuel Clegg, schoolmaster, his father being Alexander Clegg, also a schoolmaster, who in turn was the son of James Clegg mentioned above. At the 1861 census James was a power loom weaver and his wife Margaret a paper finisher, their 13 year old son William being a paper maker whilst their younger son Alexander age 12 was still at school.

Working from this outline information, I have found that at the 1851 census James Clegg, 25, weaver, born Little Bolton, was living at Hall i’th Wood with his wife Margaret, 23, paper finisher, born Harwood Lea, sons William, 3, and Alexander, 2, both born Hall i’th Wood, Tonge. Also living with James and Margaret was his brother John, 18, card cutter, and sister Mary Ann, 15, steam loom weaver, both born Little Bolton,

plus Margaret’s cousin Ellen Hutchinson, 18, paper dresser, born Cockey Moor, i.e. Ainsworth.

At that time, and later, Hall i’th Wood was in some state of disrepair, sections being rented out to several families. In the 1890s the Hall was bought by William Hesketh Lever, Lord Leverhulme, who paid for its restoration and presented it to the town, opening it in person in July 1902 as a folk museum.

James Clegg and Margaret Hutchinson were married at Bolton le Moors Parish Church St Peter’s, on the 4th October 1846, both being minors, i.e. under 21. James’s profession was weaver, residence Little Bolton, father Alexander Clegg, weaver. Margaret’s residence was given as Tong, father’s name and profession not listed. Both made their marks as did their witness John Sharples.

Alexander Clegg, baptised 15th February 1789, father of James, was the son of John Clegg and Jane Crook married at Bolton Parish Church on the 10th April 1787. On the 6th September 1818 he married Frances Holt, also at St Peter’s. He must have died before the 1841 census when Frances, 46, was living in Garden Street, Little Bolton, with their children Sarah, 18, James, 16, John, 9, and Mary Ann, 6.

At the 1881 census James and Margaret’s younger son Alexander, 32, elementary teacher, born Bolton, great grandfather to David Attenborough, was living in Haslingden with his wife Isabella, 44, born Bolton, children Samuel, 10, born near Redditch, grandfather to David Attenborough, Bernice, 8, Alexander, 6, Eunice, 5, and Margaret, 3, all born Haslingden. Living with them was their niece Sarah J Pilling, 22, cotton weaver, and great nephew Samuel Pilling, 2, both born Bolton.

Also in 1881 a William Clegg, 33, cotton bleacher, born Bolton, who could be Alexander’s older brother, was living at 20 Hargreaves Street, Halliwell, with his wife Sarah, 43, born London,and daughter Martha M, 2, born Bolton, but I have been unable to trace them in the 1891 census.

Aside from the Attenborough brothers, they may well be other descendents of Alexander and Frances Clegg still in the Bolton area/ perhaps even in Halliwell?

By John Watson