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WINTON, Allexander DNA linked
BROUN, Jean DNA linked
GOOLD, William
(1753-Before 1798)
WINTON, Alexander
GUILD, Janet
(1778-Before 1841)
(About 1818-0004/1892)


Family Links

1. WEBSTER, Helen

WINTON, James 1

  • Born: About 1818, Water of Leith, St Cuthbert's Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland 2
  • Partnership (1): WEBSTER, Helen
  • Died: 10 June 1892 at 4.00 pm, 187 Causewayside, Edinburgh, Scotland

   Cause of his death was heart disease and bronchitis over 3 days.

  General Notes:

No birth or baptism document has been found as yet for James Winton. Other documentary evidence produces a range of dates, 1813-1819, for the year of his birth. The earliest evidence puts his birth year between 1818 and 1819, as does his recorded age at death.

The census for 1841 recorded Robert Winton with his wife Helen and their four children, living at Henderson's Cottages in Cowpen, a village in Northumberland, England, not far from Blyth. In the same household, but living separately, was James Winton, 23 years old, born in Scotland, and an engineer like his brother Robert. The word 'Inmate' was added to describe his status " (ditto [meaning Engineer] Inmate) ", though the circumstances of the choice of this term was not explained in the census entry. On the same page of this 1841 census can be found three examples, including James, of the use of the word 'Inmate' applied to individuals living with, what appears to be though the census does not say so, family groups. The other people are tradesmen, labourers, farmers or servants.

The census of 1851 for Edinburgh, St Cuthbert's, recorded James Winton, his wife Helen Winton, and their daughter Norminia, living at Sime's Court. James was a machinemaker by occupation and was recorded as 34 years of age. He had been born in Edinburgh.

In 1861 the census recorded James Winton, head of the household, his wife Helen Winton, and their daughter Prozinia (sic but undoubtedly Normina or Norminia), living at 395 Lawnmarket in the registration district of St Giles, Edinburgh. James was recorded as a journeyman wright by occupation. His age was 42 years, ten years younger than his wife. He had been born in St Cuthbert's parish, Edinburgh. Their house had one room that was windowed.

James Winton was, by 1871, according to the census of that year, the head of a household living at Redrow in the village of Bonnyrigg, in the registration district and civil parish of Cockpen in the eastern part of Midlothian. He was recorded as 58 years of age and his birthplace as Water of Leith, Edinburgh. He worked as an engine fitter. The household he headed comprised himself, his wife Helen, his daughter Normina, and two young people noted as his grandsons: Alfred Traghiam, aged 5 years and born in England, and David Phillips aged 3 months and born in Cockpen. Their home had two rooms that were windowed.

In 1874 James Winton was the informant of his brother, William Winton's death, before the registrar in Cockpen, Midlothian.

James was recorded as an engine fitter in the marriage certificate of his daughter, Normina, in 1876.

In 1881, the census for St Cuthbert's parish in Edinburgh recorded James and Helen Winton and their granddaughter, Janet Phillips, living at 21 Cowan's Close. James and Helen were recorded as married, and James, head of the family group, was recorded as aged 65 years. He had been born at Water of Leith in Edinburgh, and his occupation was 'engine fitter at works'. In this record, Helen Winton was noted as two years older than her husband.

In 1883, James was widowed. It was he who was the informant of his wife's death. He made his X mark. The certificate recorded his occupation as 'engineer's fitter'.

The 1891 census for St Cuthbert's parish, Edinburgh, recorded James Winton, a widower, and his unmarried granddaughter, Janet Gordon Winton, residing at 187 Causewayside. James was recorded as 77 years of age, and as having been a 'Machine (General) Fitter'. Miss Winton was employed as a laundress and was aged 18 years. The entry recorded that James had been born in Edinburgh, and his granddaughter in Bonnyrig, Edinburgh-shire.

In June of 1892 James died. His death certificate recorded him as a single man. His recorded age at death was 73 years. By occupation he had been a 'Mechanical Engineer'. Both of his parents were deceased.

In 1937, when his daughter Normina died, James was recorded as deceased. His occupation was noted in her death certificate as 'carpet factory engineer'. 1 2 3 4 5 6

  Research Notes:


James Winton was described, from the earliest document we have, as an 'engineer'. Yet when he was the informant of the death of his wife, he made his X mark. He did not, presumably could not, sign his name. In our contemporary world of universal schooling, this seems a strange state of affairs, but James Winton seems to have been a man typical of the first half of the 19th century and caught in a momentous cultural transition.

His father was a weaver. Born in 1818-1819, James came nearly last in a family of nine children. Times were economically very difficult after the Napoleonic Wars. In addition, even quite young children were expected then to work and earn their keep, either at home or beyond. The Parliamentary Act of 1833 regulated child labour and made employers provide for the welfare of the children in their employ. By then, James Winton was already a youth of 14 or 15 years of age, beyond childhood, and looking to his working future.

That working future, by his early twenties, had brought him to be an 'engineer'. It would be wrong to misconstrue the meaning of 'engineer' and therefore to misunderstand what James did. Being an engineer did not necessarily mean he invented or built machines. It may simply have meant that he operated a machine, or machinery.

Indeed, the variety of terms used throughout the course of his life about his occupation may have meant that the nature of it changed somewhat as each decade passed: 'machinemaker', 'engine fitter', 'journeyman wright', 'engineer's fitter', 'mechanical engineer'. These all indicate work with some kind of constructed machine or engine, with James perhaps operating, building, or repairing, the item in question.

An enormous number of mechanical advances took place during the period of James Winton's life that transformed many aspects of Scottish life and work. As a glimpse of his life shows, schooling was not, at that time, necessary for a man to be part of that huge transformation.


Generally inmate refers to a resident of workhouses or asylums, but occasionally it refers to prisoners. Cowpen was one of the townships of Tynemouth Union Workhouse. The Workhouse, Preston Lane was erected in 1836 and enlarged in 1888 and later became Preston Hospital. It is possible that the use of the term inmate for James Winton is connected in same way with the administration of the Poor Law.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act did require wards to be set aside for the impoverished sick, and empowered justices of the peace to give an order for medical relief to any poor person with "sudden and dangerous illness". The 1841 census entry does indicate James Winton is separate from others, but with some family nearby. There are others in the entry also called 'inmates'. So it may be that James Winton had an illness that could have been easily communicated to others, and therefore required some form of isolation, with some family members, who would provide food and general care, near but in a separate household.

Another possible explanation may be that he was and inmate in an establishment that had a direct connection with him being or becoming an engineer, although one would expect there 'engineer's apprentice'. The main period of mining at Cowpen was from the middle of the 19th century until the mid-20th century. But there were sinking of shafts and some colliery workings before that, as early as 1792, and presumably therefore some need for engineering skill. In 1841 James Winton was 23 years of age, not highly experienced possibly, but perhaps open to new opportunities. Was there a camp there, of which he might have been termed an 'inmate'? As well as the coal workings there would also have been waggonways and railways, where either horses or steam engines bore the burden. This was the period when the famous George Stephenson, engineer, was at work in the north of England. It was in the 1840s that the old centre of Cowpen and the new one of Blyth were in an embryonic stage that would give way to centres of mature power and industry. machines were holding out an unthinkable promise to the old world of changes and opportunities that would transform society.

  Medical Notes:

The causes of death were certified by W. Hoath FRCS(E.)

James Winton, nephew of the deceased, notified the registrar at Edinburgh, R. W. Charlton, on 11 June 1892, of his uncle's death.

James had a relationship with Helen WEBSTER, daughter of Richard WEBSTER and Catherine JACK. (Helen WEBSTER was born about 1809 in Water of Leith, St Cuthbert's Parish, Edinburgh, Scotland 5 and died 30 November 1883 at 10.15 pm in 21 Cowan's Close, East Crosscauseway, Edinburgh, Scotland.). The cause of her death was 'apparently bronchitis'.

  Marriage Notes:


The 1891 census recorded James Winton as a widower. In 1892 his death certificate recorded him as single. This contradiction, even potential mystery, has gradually unravelled itself as more information has been discovered.

The death certificate of Helen Webster in 1883 recorded her husband's name as James Winton and her father as Richard Webster; indeed her husband 'James Winton' was himself the informant of her death. 'James Winton' was also the name recorded as the father of Normina Winton in her marriage certificate in 1876.

No record has been found in the Old Parish Records, pre 1855, nor in the Statutory Records, post 1855, of a marriage between James Winton and Helen Webster. It is most unlikely that there is one.

A marriage between Robert Winton and Helen Webster has been found. It took place in St Cuthbert's parish in Edinburgh, on 14 July 1829. The record mentions that the bride's father was called Richard. Four children of the this couple are known: Helen, christened 6 May 1830 in St Cuthbert's parish Edinburgh; Alexander, christened 3 September 1833 at Kilmadock, Perth; Catharine christened 13 August 1837 in Dundee; and Elizabeth Robertson Winton, christened 16 February 1844 at St Cuthbert's Edinburgh.

The person called Helen Webster in both relationships is the same person. She was recorded with both men, and some of her children, in Cowpen, Northumberland, by the 1841 census. Between then and the 1851 census, Robert died. James, his brother, by the time of the taking of the census of 1851 was living with Helen Webster as man and wife, and had a daughter by her.

It would have been against Church law, and illegal by State law at that time, for James Winton and Helen Webster to marry. Both systems of law forbade people of their degree of kin or affinity to marry. Thus it was that James, though he had styled himself married and a widower in the course of his life, was recorded as single in his death certificate.


1 GRO Scotland, Marriage certificate Edinburgh/Canongate No 42 1876 April 18/daughter Normina.

2 1851 UK census, Edinburgh St Cuthbert's Sime's Court 685/02 en d 66/02 page 4-5.

3 GRO, Edinburgh St Giles 365 Lawnmarket 685/04 en d 13 page 10.

4 1871 UK census, Cockpen 676 en d 2 Bonnyrigg Redrow.

5 1841 UK Census, Tynemouth Northumberland Cowpen Village en d 6 page 19.

6 GRO Scotland, Death certificate Cockpen 673 no 39 1874 16 August.

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