Born in Bishop Auckland County Durham on 16 Feb 1867, William was the son of William Brownbridge and Elizabeth Ann Bygate. William Snr. was a greengrocer, and William became his assistant. He was one of seven children. They lived at 29 Fore Bondgate, Bishop Auckland, which was attached to the grocer's shop.
In 1892, at the age of 25, he married Eleanor Quail Ismay of Camerton, Cumbria. Work must have been difficult to come by, and William moved his family to Blyth in Northumberland, where he worked as a coal miner. He and Eleanor (Ellen) had six children, my grandfather John Charles being the second youngest.
Eleanor died on 8th Feb 1910, when my grandfather was 9 years old. Her eldest daughter, Madge, was 16. William was therefore left to raise the children to the best of his ability. How he managed this, I don't know yet. My mother says that her father left home young and lied about his age to join the Army, to get away from his father's drunken tempers - this is possible, but I have no living relatives who would know this.
A Lonely Life
Quite what sort of life William had after Eleanor's death is impossible to say. One by one, the children grew up and married; Madge was first, within 3 years of her mother's death, ending with James in 1927, 17 years after his mother died. John, my grandfather, had left home some time prior to 1919 and joined the Durham Light Infantry, before meeting and marrying for the first time in 1919. By the time he met and married my grandmother in 1937, his father had died. I don't know if he knew about this.
Great grandad Brownbridge ended his days is the Preston Infirmary, North Shields, which had previously been the Tynemouth Union Workhouse. He was a patient on the male infirm ward in 1934 (a letter to his niece on her birthday confirms this). He ended up in there as none of his children could (or would) take him in and look after him, which is quite sad. He finally passed away there in the first quarter of 1936 after an operation to repair a hernia. He is buried in the Preston Road cemetery, South Shields, whilst his wife is interred at the Cowpen Road cemetery in Blyth. Neither burials are marked with a gravestone as they were unpaid plots, so their exact location remains a mystery, but it is sad that they are separated in death like that.