Parkgate fishing

Jonathan Mellor (1846 – 1931)

– a Neston Fisherman

Jonathan Mellor was born in Neston in 1847 and worked for most of his life as a fisherman at Parkgate. In his later years he was a fish dealer living in Rhyl where he died in 1931.

His father and grandfather were also fishermen.

Grandfather – William Miller (1776-1866).

Jonathan was the grandson of William Miller of Ayr in Scotland. The family name was originally Miller but over the course of time became Mellor, perhaps because Mellor was a familiar name in Neston or maybe even because of William’s Scottish accent!  How and why William Miller came to Parkgate is unclear but in on 4th April 1799 he married Mary Norman in Neston. She was the daughter of Neston butcher Samuel Norman and his wife Rebecca (nee Pollard).

William and Mary went on to have, at least, twelve children some of whom died in infancy. William’s occupation is given sometimes as fisherman and sometimes as mariner or sailor which may explain his arrival in the area. He lived with his wife, Mary, in Pemberton’s Green, Neston, certainly from 1841 onwards and probably until his death in 1866. In 1851 Mary’s brother Samuel, a retired butcher age 85 was living, with them as was their young grandson Lemuel then aged 2. Lemuel was still staying with them ten years later in 1861. William’s wife, Mary, died in 1862 and William died four years later in 1866 at the age of 90.

Father – Lemuel Mellor (1819-1898)

Jonathan’s father Lemuel married Elizabeth (Betsy) Billington in 1838 at St Nicholas church in Liverpool. She was the daughter of Joseph Billington, a joiner, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Smith)

Pemberton's Green, off Mill Street

Pemberton’s Green, off Mill Street

After their marriage they also lived at Pemberton’s Green near Lemuel’s father, William. By 1841 they had a daughter Mary and a baby son, William. In 1851 they were still living at Pemberton’s Green and living with them, as well as their son William, was  Jonathan (born 1846) and a daughter Sarah (born 1850).  Another son, al Lemuel, was living nearby with his paternal grandparents, William Miller and his wife.

They had two other daughters, Elizabeth(or Betsy born 1844) and Mary, who were living with their maternal grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Billington.

Lemuel’s wife, Elizabeth, died in 1858. Inn 1861 he was living in Pennington’s Yard in Neston. His son Jonathan and daughter Betsy were still living with him as well his two youngest children Ann, born in 1854 and Joseph born in 1855.  His son, Lemuel, was still with grandparents William and Mary in Pemberton’s Green and his daughter Sarah was staying with her sister Mary, now married to Daniel Smith, a gardener, at Windle Hill.

By the time of the 1871 Census, Lemuel was living in Brook Street with daughter, Sarah, and son, Joseph, now aged 16 who was also working as a fisherman. Ten years later he had moved to Pyke’s Weint where he lived still with his son Joseph, daughter Sarah, and grandson, Joseph. By 1891 he had moved to the Golden Lion yard where he was still living with Sarah and grandson Joseph. He died in 1898, aged 79.

Brother – Lemuel Mellor (1848 – 1900)

Jonathan’s brother, Lemuel, married Anne Williams, daughter of collier William Williams, in 1869. In December 1883 Lemuel’s wife gave birth to triplets increasing the number of children in the family to eight.

NESTON. Birth of Triplets. —On Sunday morning tbe wife of a poor fisherman named Lemuel Mellor, residing in Cross-street, Neston, gave birth to three male infants, all of whom are doing well. Tbe family now consists of eight children, and tbe father being at present in ill- health the wife bad to sustain the household. These poor people are now entirely dependent on their neighbours for support.

(Cheshire ObserverSaturday 01 December 1883)

His wife received the ‘Queens Bounty’, then the sum of £2, which was paid to women who gave birth to three or more children at one time. At the suggestion of Neston vicar, Rev. Canon R. W. Gleadowe, they were baptised Thomas (‘Tom’), Richard (‘Dick’) and Harry. Sadly two of them died within a few days.

Lemuel died in July 1900 when he fell from his boat just off Parkgate.

PARKGATE FISHERMAN DROWNED. A sad drowning case took place at Park, gate on Friday ‘evening. Lemuel Mellor, aged 51, a well-known Dee fisherman, who resides in Pyke’s Weint, Neston, walked down to Park- gate, and about 6.30 p.m. set off from the parade across the sands, stating that he was going for a sail in his boat. The tide was flowing in across the banks, and Mellor was seen to em- bark in his boat alone and to set sail in the direction of Heswall. When opposite Backwood he was seen to fall from the boat into the water and was heard to call several times for help.

(Cheshire Observer – Saturday 06 June 1900)

Marriage and children

Jonathan Mellor married Betsy Matthews on 4th September 1866 at Neston parish church. She was the daughter of cooper, James Matthews and his wife, Mary. After their marriage they lived in Chester Road, Neston. They went on to have at least eight children; Betsey(1871) , twins Jonathan and Mary(1873), Jane(1875), Lemuel(1878), Kate(1882), Annie(1884) and Joseph(1888).

1892 – An Eventful Year

During this time Jonathan earned his living as a fisherman. During the course of 1892 his name featured in the local paper on a number of occasions:-

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 04 June 1892

In June 1892 local and national reporters recorded that a sturgeon had washed up at Parkgate where it was discovered by a couple of boys including one of Jonathan’s sons. When he told his father, Jonathan recovered the 8ft long fish and conveyed it to Neston where he charged 2d per head to view it. As sturgeons were the property of the Crown he was uncertain as to his right to dispose of it although according to the Neston reporter writing the article, it was only the property of the Crown when found in the River Thames. Neither the Dee Fishery Board or the Connah’s Quay customs were willing to shed any light on the subject. In the end it was transported to Liverpool where it was sold for £2 10 shillings. Later that year at a meeting of the Lancashire Sea Fisheries Joint Committee at Preston, the Hon. H. Holbrook (representing the Dee Fishery Board) suggested that representations should be made to the Board of Trade requesting that the statute which declared the sturgeon a ‘royal’ fish be repealed. (Cheshire Observer – Saturday 06 August 1892)

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 23 July 1892

In July he rescued three boys from drowning.

FEARFUL EXPERIENCE OF A DEE FISHERMAN. Jonathan Mellor, a Neston fisherman, was knocked overboard from his fishing boat during the storm on Tuesday, while engaged in trawing off the Point of Ayr, and was rescued, iv a very exhausted condition, by his son (a boy), who accompanied him. He thus simply and graphically describes his exceedingly narrow escape:— “After getting the net in all right, in the heaviest of the gale I was standing by, waiting to see if it would go any better, but a heavy sea coming over us all roads, I went forard on the forcastle to back the jib over so as to let the boat come round, and the jib sheet struck me and threw me overboard. This was in the heaviest of the wind and rain, and I remained in the water as near as I could guess half an hour before my son could give me any assistance. When I could see him I told him to get the bight off the trawl rope to throw over me, and he threw it several times and missed me, but the last time I repeated the Lord’s words two or three times, and he threw it over my head and I caught it. I struggled hard, and at last got it over my body, and then my son hauled me to the side and fastened me. I told him what to do to get me aboard. I told him to get the jib halliards down to hook any part of my clothes, but there was nowhere only the oilcoat buttonholes. My son hoisted me till I told him to stop, and then he got hold of my legs and rolled me in the boat. I had no help in me, but I had my good senses, and it made me worse to see my son in such a way when I was in the water. I thank God ! I am very sore with knocking against the boat, and I remained in my wet clothes from ten o’clock till six at night, when I returned home — and thank God to see home ? ” Our correspondent adds that Mellor has given a very modest account of what is known to have been a most marvellous deliverance from the very jaws of death.

Narrow Escape of Three Boys

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 03 November 1894

In November 1892 he rescued three Heswall boys who were in a small boat on Salisbury Bank of the Dee near Dawpool.

Three boys, Peter Buckley, aged 13, Walter Smith, aged 12, and George Shone, aged 8, had a narrow escape from drowning in the Dee, near Heswall, on Saturday. It appears that Jonathan Mellor, a Neston fisherman, was engaged in mussel fishing at Dawpool, in company with two of his sons and another fisherman named Peters, when they noticed a small boat near Salisbury bank, one of the most dangerous places in the Dee. It appeared to be an ordinary drawing boat, but as the tide ebbed they found it contained three small boys. The boy Smith managed to escape on to the bank and ran about screaming for help, while his companions crouched in a terrified condition in the boat. Mellor and his companions at once emptied the mussels out of their boat, and with some difficulty rescued the young adventurers from their dangerous position. They had been away from their homes since morning, and it was four o’clock when they were discovered. The fishermen state that they would certainly have perished if they had been allowed to remain a little while longer.


In 1903 his wife Betsy died and the local newspaper reported her funeral and recorded names of the friends and relatives who attended it. (Cheshire Observer, 14th June, 1903)Three of their children were by then married with children of their own.

His daughter, Betsy, married Thomas Henry Groom in 1894. They lived in Wales then Burnley.

In 1896 his daughter  Jane married collier, Joseph Leadbetter.

Jonathan junior married Dorothy Jane Robinson of Little Neston in 1897.

Soon after her death their son, Lemuel, married Ann Leadbetter, Joseph Leadbetter’s sister, in 1903.

Two years later, in 1905 Jonathan senior remarried. His new wife was a widow, Sarah Ann Sleigh of Rhyll. She was the second wife  of Robert Sleigh who died in 1900.

Aberdovey and Conway

In October 1906 he, with group of friends and relatives, decided to try the mussels beds at Aberdovey, the River Dee beds having proved disappointing. He was accompanied by his son, Jonathan jnr, daughter in law, Dorothy Jane Mellor (nee Robinson), and nephews Lemuel Mellor, Joseph Mellor and William Fewtrell (his sister Betsy had married fisherman George Fewtrell in 1866). Also in the company were Thomas Robinson and John Robinson.

(Chester Courant and Advertiser for North Wales 10th October 1906)

They set off from Parkgate, as stated, about 5 a.m. on Thursday, and arrived in Liverpool 3.30 to 4 p.m. The “Dora,” a steamer that runs to Aberdovey once a week, was lying in the Clarence Dock, and leaving their punts in readiness for the boat, the party returned to Parkgate until Friday, when they returned to the Clarence Dock, and about 9 a.m. they and their belongings, including the four punts, mussel lakes, anchors and some nets, embarked on the steamer. Aberdovey was reached about 5.30 a.m. on Sunday, and about 9 a-m- they took lodgings together at a Temperance House kept by a widow named Morris. About 3 to 4 o’clock the captain of the steamer came to the Temperance House and asked the Parkgate men to take off the punts. On reaching the jetty where the steamer lay they proceeded to take off the boats and to anchor them with an anchor fore and aft.

Perhaps unsurprisingly they were not welcomed with open arms.  Although they succeeded in gathering a good haul of mussels their punts were mysteriously damaged and then hauled to a nearby common and both the catch and most of their equipment was stolen. However, a collection was made amongst local townspeople to pay for their return home. They tried again, after threatening to sue the townspeople for damages, and gathered cockles as well as mussels. They finally left Aberdovey in November, reportedly because the beds became covered with sand.

In December 1906 another group of nine Parkgate fishermen, including Jonathan Mellor Junior, decided to try the mussel beds at Conway and four of them found lodgings at Berry Street in Conway while the other five stayed in Deganwy. They were: George Wellings, Samuel Evans, John Thomas Robinson, Jonathan Mellor, junior; George Fewtrell, Herbert Fewtrell, William. Fewtrell. Joseph Mellor, and Daniel Roscoe. The Lancashire and Western Sea Fishery Board decided that they were entitled to fish there as long as they confined themselves to the seaward side of the bridge and arrangements were made for them to send their catch from Deganwy Station rather than Conway. Although several public meetings were held protesting at their presence they were relatively undisturbed although they did require police protection on a couple of occasions. They remained at Conway until the end of the season in 1907 but did not return the following year.

According to one reporter this was not the first time that Parkgate fishermen had strayed into Wales. (The Chester Courant and Advertiser for North Wales 21st November.)

Years ago, when the grandfathers of the present, generation of fishermen were up and stirring a dearth of mussels, drove them to Conway. It was before the days of the steam engines and railway trains and with a thoroughly businesslike instinct the men of Parkgate took with them a flat (the latter class of vessels could anchor then at Parkgate) so as to effect a wholesale capture. The big scoop, however, did not come off, for when the Parkgate boats drew up alongside the flat prepared to transfer their mussels into it, the Welshmen suddenly descended upon them, and by main force tipped the mussels into the river. After this the atmosphere of Conway grew so warm that the Parkgate men hurriedly sailed for home.

Later Years

In 1907 Jonathan’s daughter Jane Leadbetter died along with her infant daughter, leaving her husband Joseph with four young children. The following year  Joseph married Jane’s sister, Mary and they went on to have two more children. They lived in Pear Tree Crescent near her twin brother Jonathan and his family.

In 1911 Jonathan and his wife, Sarah, were staying in Sutton Oak, St Helens with William Richard Carrington and his wife Mary and his occupation was then recorded as ‘fish dealer’. His stay in St Helens may be explained by the fact that some of his children had settled in St Helens. His son Lemuel, with wife Ann and their children, was living in Sutton Oak, St Helens where he worked as a miner (Ann’s uncle, Richard Leadbetter, although originally from Neston, also lived in Sutton Oak, St Helens where he was licensee of the Victoria Vaults, still known locally as ‘The Little Pig’. Jonathan’s daughter, Kate, eventually married Richard’s son Humphrey Leadbetter in 1917 and they too settled in St Helens.

Jonathan evidently lived in Rhyl towards the end of his life and he died there in 1931 aged 84. Although the families had moved away from Neston reportedly they returned to Neston each year for Ladies Club.


Jonathan Mellor Junior (right) on the occasion of Mr Griffith's 80th birthday.

Jonathan Mellor Junior (right) on the occasion of Mr Griffith’s eightieth birthday.

Pear Tree Crescent

Pear Tree Crescent

Jonathan’s daughter Mary died in Neston in 1938. Lemuel and Kate continued to live in St Helens and Lemuel died there in 1971 and Kate in 1973.

Betsy Groom and her husband eventually settled in Burnley where she died in 1934.

Jonathan Mellor junior remained in Neston living in Pear Tree Crescent until his death in 1955. His oldest son, James ( Jimmy), died in 1911 aged 14 when he fell overboard whilst fishing with his father and is buried in Neston.

Descendants of his other children, Betsy, Jonathan (Jack) and Robert(Bob) still live in Neston and the surrounding area.

Fishing Parkgate 3