Grantham 1847 – 1854 (Sand Pit Lane)
The earliest record of our Pile ancestors in Lincolnshire is when David Pile married Sarah Smith at Grantham in 1847.
Why David Pile would leave his family in Sussex and come to Lincolnshire is unlikely to be known for certain but the most probable reason would be to find work. The 1841 census taken in Westbourne records David as fifteen years old and an agricultural labourer like his father. The 1840’s were a time of severe depression across most of western Europe’s agricultural economy, crops were failing and people were starving nowhere more so than in Ireland where the failure of the potato harvests forced many thousands to flee to the United States.
Exactly when and by what means David came to be in Grantham is also a mystery, it is possible that David left Westbourne in search of work and probably obtained work on the railways and worked his way northwards until he arrived at Grantham where, as a result of his marriage, he stayed.
The railways began to appear in Grantham in 1847 when the Ambergate line to Nottingham was started, this was to replace the canal and opened in 1850. Two years later the Peterborough to Doncaster section of Great Northern Railway’s line from King’s cross to York was opened. Many of the men hired by the contractors employed to build the railways were agricultural workers who moved to railway labouring because it was better paid and many moved around the country following the developing railway system.
On 17 October 1847 at St. Wulfram’s church David Pile married Sarah Smith, David and Sarah made there home with Sarah’s parents in Sand Pit Lane, (later Welby Street), in the centre of Grantham. In the middle of the nineteenth century Sand Pit Lane was at the heart of a maze of streets and small courts, places and yards between Wharf Road and Westgate. The census of 1851 reveals that Sand Pit Lane was occupied by working class trades people and labourers of which James Smith and David Pile were typical. The conditions in Sand Pit Lane would have been very basic and hard; sanitation was poor and, although mains water had just come to the principal streets, it would still have been obtained from public pumps in this part of Grantham. A sewerage system was more than thirty years away and the houses and tenements around Sand Pit Lane had communal privies which were emptied at the end of each day by the night soil man.
It was in Sand Pit Lane on 18 July 1849 that Sarah gave birth to their first child, George Henry, according to parish records he was baptised on the same day that he was born.
Less than two years later David and Sarah had a second child, whom they called David (but later referred to as David William, probably to differentiate him from his father). He was born on 2 February 1851 and like his elder brother appears to have been baptised on the same day that he was born.
The lack of adequate sanitation together with poor cramped housing made diseases such as cholera, typhoid, diphtheria and tuberculosis endemic and led to a high mortality rate particularly among small children and it was probably these conditions that prompted the rapid baptism of both children. There is little doubt that these conditions lead to Sarah contracting tuberculosis. Her illness would have been lingering, painful and distressing, particularly to her family. Tuberculosis was still incurable with no vaccines and ineffective medication, the high risk of contagion may have meant that she was isolated. Sarah finally died in her home on 17 March 1853 and was buried the following day in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Wulfram’s, she was just twenty three years old.
No doubt James and Mary Smith would have been sympathetic towards the plight of David and their grandchildren, however their long term security would have meant that, after a respectable period of mourning, David should remarry. This he did on 15 August 1854 to Mary Orman. David and Mary married at St John’s church in Spittlegate, a small industrial township just south of Grantham town centre and they made their home in Inner Street. Previously unmarried Mary had spent her life in domestic service at one time working for Richard Brown a currier in Castlegate, Grantham.