A newspaper clipping shown below describes how 14 trees were planted in commemoration of his 14 children, to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII.
The previous section on his father George (6b3) indicates the poor living conditions to which this family had been reduced since the break up of Corridge. His birth certificate shows he was born at New Cassop, which lies a few miles south east of Durham City.
The family had moved to Trimdon by 1859 when his sister Mary was born and there was a church school here so he would probably have some education, the School Board Act was not introduced until 1870. The 1871 census shows him working as a stoker at Usworth Colliery at the age of 16 years. He must have obtained work on The North Eastern Railway soon after this as his marriage certificate dated 1875 gives his occupation as Block Instructor.
By the last quarter of the 19th century the laying of railway lines all over the country was almost completed and travelling by rail was so well established that a large number of trains was using each line and several accidents were occurring, According to W W Tomlinson's book "The North Eastern Railway" there had been several of these accidents on the NER in the 1860's due to incorrect signalling and experiments were being carried out with a system of block signalling designed to prevent any train entering a section of the railway which already has a train on it. As a result of serious accidents at Thirsk in 1869 and at Brockley Whins near Boldon, in 1870 it was decided in May 1871 to apply the block system to the whole of the NER system and "To arrange for the establishment of classes in which pointsmen, signalmen and other servants of the company might be instructed and trained to perform efficiently the duties required of them,"
It is assumed that the NER advertised for men to be trained as instructors and William was one those selected and hence is designated a 'Block Instructor' on his marriage certificate.
He and his bride Margaret Ann Mariner lived close together as the 1871 census shows their families adjacent to each other:-
At 57 Old Engine
Matthew Mariner Head 39 Coal Miner Birtley
Isabella Mariner Wife 33 Washington
Margaret Ann Mariner Daughter 14 Washington Thomas Mariner Son 9 Scholar Washington Jonas Mariner Son 5 Washington
Robert Mariner Son 3 Washington
At 58 Coxons Row, Usworth
George Harle Head 45 Labourer Witton Gilbert
Isabella Harle Wife 38 Pelton
Robert Harle Son 18 Labourer Cassop
William Harle Son 16 Stoker Cassop
Mary Harle Daughter 12 Trimdon
The first child was born four months after their marriage, so the addresses on the certificate are probably false, and was used to avoid having the banns read at the local church, few neighbours at Washington would hear any details of weddings at North Shields in those days.
It will be seen that Margaret's father was a labourer but it is known from the previous census that he had been a coal miner and was born at Birtley, her mother was Isabella and some idea of Margaret's family can be obtained from these extracts from a letter from Mabel Topping (nee Harle) c1971.
"I'm afraid I do not know much about my father really. I was only a small child, about seven when he remarried. I cannot remember any of his people coming to stay or even hearing of them. He had one sister, Mrs Hall who I met once she lived at Low Fell if I remember rightly. Both my mother and father came from the same village, Usworth near Washington, My mother Margaret Ann Mariner had three brothers Jonas, Thomas and William and a sister Mrs Rutherford who lived in Jesmond. I knew uncles Thomas and William's families very well, they were very good to me, they all lived around Washington and their families live there today. My maternal grandmother, when I knew her was Mrs Pringle having remarried. Uncle Jonas was manager of a working men’s club in Usworth or thereabout. I only met him in 1936."
The first child mentioned above was Mary Alice born at Brandy Row Washington on the 7 December 1875 and the certificate gives William's occupation as signalman, it was quite common for women to go home to mother to have the first child so William and Margaret may have had a home away from Brandy Row perhaps a railway house.
By the February of 1881 the family had moved to Harvey Street in Heaton, Newcastle Upon Tyne, William is still a signalman but will have been upgraded and is probably in one of the larger signal boxes on the main London - Edinburgh line.
They lived in Harvey Street until 1889 when they moved to Tynemouth Road not far away. It can be assumed that William had a few promotions during the ten years they lived at Tynemouth Road as his next move was when he was appointed stationmaster at Heddon on the Wall, quite an important position in those times when the railways were the most important means of transport. It must have been a great blessing to Margaret to have a large detached railway house after living in a small terrace house, since by this time their family had grown to ten, seven girls and three boys, the oldest only fourteen years of age. The railway is long since gone but the station house is still occupied and was only recently modernised.
Margaret had one more child, Ernest Edward in 1901, the last to have a tree planted in his name as shown in a cutting from the Hexham Courant. (The original dated 19 August 1903). She did not have the pleasure of living in the large house for very long as she developed pneumonia in the first days of 1903 and died of heart failure on the 13th January. They had fourteen children in the twenty years of their marriage, three had died and the oldest two were married leaving William with nine still to be looked after.
From Mabel's letter (op cit) it would seem that Margaret's family were very helpful with the younger ones and may have had some of them to stay at Usworth. As a stationmaster William may have had domestic staff but even so the long-term solution to his problem would be to employ a nanny. It is thought that Mary Henderson was chosen for this position but whether this is true or not William was definitely married to her before the year was out.
Mary Annie Henderson was the daughter of Luke and Jane and was baptised at Whittingham Parish Church, Northumberland, Octavia Annie, it is not surprising that she changed the first name to Mary when she was a few years older. Luke's first wife Margaret was a local girl and they were married at Whittingham but his second marriage to Mary's mother Jane took place elsewhere and the certificate has not yet been found. Mary's address on the certificate is Glanton, which is close to and in the parish of Whittingham and could be where her mother was living so if her brother and sisters were still in the area her family would be well represented at her wedding. Mary was fifteen years of age when her father died so she should have remembered his name and occupation, which for some reason are omitted from the marriage certificate.
Not long after his second marriage William added a codicil to his will omitting his daughter Lilian out of any benefit. She left home and went to live with her mother's family, whether she left of her own free will or was forced to leave is not known but all the older children also left home as soon as it was conveniently possible.
Matthew immediately went to live with his sister Kate, married and living in the west end of Newcastle, and Margaretta left home and went into service at Ebchester, Alice and probably Ethel were already married. Isabella if not married at this time was married soon after but she kept in touch with the family as a postcard dated April 1908 confirms. The postcard is from William who is 15 years old and still at home, to Barbara Watson a sister of Isabella's husband.
The family moved to Appleby c1906 and William was stationmaster here until 1913, when he retired due to ill health and moved back to Newcastle. He died at Bolingbroke Street, Heaton in May of the same year and their last child was born some months later. Mary and the family continued to live in Heaton until about 1925 when they moved to a farm at Blencarn, at the foot of Cross Fell in Cumbria, Mary died at Barningham in Yorkshire in February 1947 at the age of 72 years.
William and his two wives had 18 children 4a1 to 4a18.