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The word Navvies was first used in the mid 1700s. The commercial canals were known as navigations and the men who built them had to find a route for them or to navigate a route. The name navvies was also used in a similar way for the men who cut the route for the railways. The men were hard working but had to move with the work so they lived in rough makeshift huts. Because of the way they dressed and behaved the term Navvy was often used in a disparaging way. Navvies are often thought to be Irish but this was not always the case. Mechanisation was making agriculture less labour intensive, consequently many Agricultural labourers were happy to take on construction work. When the Manchester ship canal was being built the labour force was huge and some of the contractors erected wooden buildings for the men and even for their families, one contractor built hospitals and schools for the families to use while the work was being carried out.

We have found that Richard POSTINGS [9045] left the land to become a navvy working on constructing a railway and later on the Manchester Ship Canal.

In 1861 he was in Ombersley working as an Ag Lab with his wife Eliza and son Joseph. (On the census returns he was Richard POSTINGS 27 from Leominster.)

In 1881 he had moved to Barton Upon Irwell, Lancashire where he was a Railway Labourer and was with his wife Eliza and children Thomas, Sarah, Mary, Henrietta, George and Henry.(On the census returns he was Richard POSTINGS 47 from Herefordshire)

In 1891 he was employed as a General Labourer in Appleton, Cheshire and boarding with Joseph and Eliza  WHATTON. Joseph was a Horse Keeper and had 6 boarders in total and a stepson occupying 4 rooms in a  Tempoary Wood Erection on Ship Canal Works. (On the census returns he was Richard POSTING 57 from Leominster). His wife Eliza and their children Mary, Gerrad and Henry were with Carlly LOUIS 42 a General Labourer from Herefordshire. (On the census returns she was Eliza POSTINGS 55 a widow from Worcestershire.)

Richard’s wife Eliza SPARKES [9044] was the granddaughter of Thomas SPARKES [9032] and Susannah MOULE [7036]

(After the death of Susannah, Thomas married Sarah MOULE nee FOX [7464]. She was the widow of Susannah's brother Richard. Richard and Susannah were children of William MOULE [5373] and Susannah ROSTINS [5371]. This William was a brother of John MOULE [2018] who is on our direct line).

A second family member who gave his occupation in 1881 as a canal labourer Navvy was Thomas ELLARD [997] who was living at Canal Cos. (constructors/Company?) Yard, Kidlington. Thomas had been an agricultural labourer in1871 and became the publican of The Three Horse Shoes in Kidlington about 1889.

An interesting and full account of the Navvies' life can be seen at

The following is from an 1854 Memorial to two young navvies in Ely Cathedral Cambridge…

The Line to Heaven by Christ was made
With heavenly truth the rails were laid,
From Earth to Heaven the line extends
To Life eternal where it ends,
Repentance is the Station then
Where passengers are taken in
No Fee for them is there to pay
For Jesus is himself the way.

God's Word is the First Engineer,
It points the way to Heaven so dear.
Through tunnels dark and dreary here
It does the way to Glory steer.
God's Love, the Fire, his Truth the Steam,
Which drives the Engine and the Train,
All you who would to glory ride,
Must come to Christ, in him abide.

In First and second and Third Class,
Repentance, Faith, and Holiness.
You must the way to Glory gain
or you with Christ will not remain.
Come then, poor Sinners, now's the time
At any station on the line-
If you'll repent and turn from sin,
The Train will stop and take you in.