Luke Ralph, 20 Years Master of the Wrexham Workhouse

LUKE RALPH 1837 – 1884

Luke Ralph was born in 1837 in Giggleswick, Yorkshire, he was the son of Robert Ralph a cabinet maker and Mary Higson, and had 8 known siblings.  By the age of 24 Luke had become a schoolmaster in Dewsbury Union Workhouse, and his appointment to the mastership of the Wrexham Workhouse took place on the 9th June, 1864, there were 35 applications. On 23 June 1864 he married Elizabeth Hesketh in Bradford Parish Church. Elizabeth was from Leyland in Lancashire, her father was John Hesketh a plumber.

The couple became Master and Matron in Wrexham Union Workhouse, and by 1871 had four children, but Charles Bentley 4 and John William 3 were listed as   deaf and dumb from birth.  Mary Henrietta 5 and Robert James 6 months who was later also found to be deaf and dumb.

In 1881 they are still at Wrexham Workhouse with John William, but now have another 3 children – Richard Oswell 9, Bertha Elizabeth 7 and little Alfred Ernest Luke 2 who is also deaf and dumb.

Robert James 10 and his brother Charles Bentley 14 are at the Manchester School for deaf and dumb children.

Luke was a keen gardener and won many prizes at the Wrexham Floral and Horticultural, Society Flower Shows. His obituary gives many details of his life.

Luke died at ten to nine in the evening in the Workhouse on 16 July 1884; he had been ill for some time and had been confined to his bed tor ten weeks.  He was buried in Wrexham Cemetery.

His funeral was attended by a great amount of important people including the children from the workhouse.

The coffin was of polished oak, and bore the simple inscription “LUKE RALPH. Died July 16th, 1884, Aged 47 years.” On the coffin were a number of beautiful floral wreaths and crosses, including a cross at the head and at the foot a wreath, and in between and round the sides were wreaths from many well known local people.

His probate shows he was a quite a wealthy man with a personal estate of £1099. 16s 4d

The family had to leave the workhouse and in 1891 Elizabeth is at 3 Nelson Terrace with 5 of her children, she is living on her own means, Mary Henrietta 25 is an elementary school teacher, Charles Bentley 24 (deaf) is a bookbinder, Robert James 20 (deaf) is a tailor, Richard Oswell 20 is a joiner and Bertha Elizabeth 19 is a shop assistant.

Alfred Ernest and John William are not at home, they are both at the Deaf and Dumb school in Manchester.

This means they had 4 sons with the same affliction. Charles Bentley. Robert James, John William and Alfred Ernest.

Elizabeth died and was buried with Luke on 25 August 1896.


So – what happened to the children, they had very mixed fortunes.

Mary Henrietta Ralph 1865 – 1954

Mary Henrietta never married. By 1901 she was a schoolmistress and was boarding at the Peck and Bottle Inn, Morden, Dorset. The Innkeeper is Catherine Burr aged 45 and single. By 1911 Mary Henrietta is the head mistress at the Council School in Morden, two other female teachers are with her, both members of the Burr family. In 1939 Mary Henrietta has retired, she is at “The Firs” Sandford, Wareham, Dorset, with her is her good friend Catherine Burr and Ruby B S Ralph born 13 Jan 1901 who is a companion.

Mary Henrietta died at East Borough Hospital, Wimbourne on 18 November 1954, and was buried at Wareham Church.


Charles Bentley Ralph (deaf and dumb) 1867 – 1910,

By 1901 Charles Bentley is in Salford, he is still a book binder, and interestingly he is lodging with Ernest Jones and his wife, who are also both deaf and dumb. It’s possible they met at the Manchester School, but Charles returned to Wrexham died at the Workhouse, he was buried on 5 May 1910 with his parents. It`s sad that he died in the place he was born, probably in much different circumstances.


John William Davies Ralph (deaf and dumb) 1867 – 1925

In 1891 John William is in Preston, he is a cabinet maker and boarding with a family, he is listed as deaf and dumb from birth.   In 1893 he married Mary Kellett who was also deaf and dumb and by 1901 they have a son Luke Oswell aged 7 who was born in Scotland.  His brother Robert James also deaf and dumb is living with them.

In 1911 they are in Blackburn, John William is still a cabinet maker, Mary is a paper bag maker and son Luke is a Letterpress feeder. They only had one child.

John William Davies Ralph died in Blackburn and was buried on 10 June 1925.


Robert James Ralph 1870 – (deaf and dumb)

In 1901 Robert James is with his brother John William in Preston, he is single and still a tailor. By 1911 he is back in Wrexham lodging on Ruthin Road and is a Book Hawker. It`s not certain when Robert James died.


Richard Oswell Ralph 1871 – 1911

In 1891 Richard Oswell is in London, he is a saw mill manager. In 1904 he married Ruby Maud Sophia Cambell who was 21 at St Pancras.

In 1907 they had a daughter Ruby Bertha Sophia and the next year Richard Norman was born.

In 1909 they left for Wellington, New Zealand, but sadly Richard Oswell Ralph died 18 March 1911 at Waikato. It `s possible Ruby Maud went to South Africa as in 1935 her daughter Ruby Sophia is arriving from there, proposed address Sandford, Dorset where she was in 1939 with her aunt Mary Henrietta.

Ruby Sophia died in 1948 in Dorset.


Bertha Elizabeth 1874 – 1938

In 1897 Bertha Elizabeth married Thomas Moss Davies, an auctioneer’s clerk in Wrexham and in 1901 they are in Bradley Road. Thomas died aged 31 at 28 Bradley Road and was buried on 1 September 1905.  02923

Bertha Elizabeth moved to Australia and in 1910 married Joseph Cunnings Coutts in Sydney and had children. She died 5 October 1938 and is buried in the Baptist Cemetery Woronora.


Alfred Ernest 1878 – 1907

Alfred Ernest was admitted to Denbigh Lunatic Asylum on 22 February 1898, he was 19 and classed as a pauper. In 1901 he is at Glan Y Wern Lunatic Asylum in Llandyrnog, he is single aged 21 and has no occupation. Sadly he is classed as both deaf and dumb and a lunatic. He died in late 1907 aged just 28, as his death was registered at Denbigh it seems he died in the Asylum.


Grave No: J-02924

Source: Researched by Annette Edwards; Photographs Graham Lloyd


Wrexham Cemetery staff carried some sympathetic restoration of the headstone, if you’d like to be involved in future work parties visit the group page on Facebook here.