John Bryan moved to Chesterfield from Droitwich Worcestershire sometime between the census of 1871 and 1881.

His father George Bryan was a Gas Stoker and quite probably moved here to work at Sheepbridge Iron Works.  In 1864 Dunston and Barlow Co Ltd had purchased Sheepbridge Iron Works, with Blast furnaces, foundries and a forge and families moved to Whittington from all over the country to work there. Houses were built especially for the families and the Bryan family made their home on the Brushes.

John worked as a coal miner and on 20th September 1899 he married Sarah Harvey.

The 1901 census shows the couple lived at 133 Church St  with their young daughter Mary Anne.

Sarah’s daughter Ethel told her granddaughter that her mother acted as a midwife and “had a packed bag at the end of the bed and would be called out anytime of day or night and would not return until baby was born”.  It is likely that Sarah Bryan  was quite well known in the community.

According to the couples great granddaughter, Raewyn,  Sarah and John had eight children – the first three Mary Anne (1900), Gladys(1903) and William(1905) were born at Unstone Lane and the remaining five children Mabel(1907), Henry(1909), Jess(1911), Ethel (1915) and John-Jack(1920) born at 133 Church Street.   

At the time Gladys started at Websters Endowed school, 1907, the address was given as Unstone Lane.

OS Map courtesy of

The map from 1897 shows roughly the area the family lived in, the junction with Unstone Rd and Hundall Lane is clearly shown at the top left of the picture.

However when her brother William started there in 1908 the address was Church St.  It could be possible that as the family lived near the Unstone Road junction there could be a slight discrepancy in the address details!

Raewyn kindly shared some family photos:

Gladys and Molly(Mary Anne) at the back with Harry, William and Mabel at the front.

Mary Anne went on to marry an oil driller from America who had come to locate oil in and around Chesterfield!   

This photo shows John Bryan with Mabel, Harry and Jess

According to the information Raewyn gave me John suffered an accident in the pit and damaged his hip, which meant he always leant on one side.

Finally a picture of Raewyn’s grandmother Ethel as a young girl, according to family stories sitting atop a wall on Unstone Lane.

Ethel Bryan on Unstone Lane

John Bryan died in 1939 in Chesterfield and his wife Sarah in 1961 in Bradford Yorkshire.

I have to thank Raewyn for sharing her family history.  It is so interesting to be able to put faces to the names on census, school records etc and actually see the people that lived in Old Whittington so long ago.


Sheepbridge Coal and Iron Co – Graces Guide

Sheepbridge –

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