Select Moss Miscellany

Here are some Moss stories and accounts over the years:

The Moss or Peat Bog in Lancashire

The term moss for peat bog is widely used in Lancashire.

There was once a great moss that extended widely within the parishes of Manchester and Salford in the 16th century, leaving its name to the Moss Side township that was later incorporated into Manchester.  Then Salford has had its own bog named Chat Moss which comprised about 30% of the town.  Ashton Moss was a 250 acre peat bog within the vicinity of the present market town of Ashton under Lyne.  And Page Moss lay near Huyton on Merseyside.  Meanwhile Lindow Moss was the main recorded peat bog in Cheshire. 

The peat bogs of Lancashire and neighboring Cheshire have been fast disappearing.  The Lancashire Wildlife Trust has been seeking to preserve many of the remaining mosses in the region.

John Moss of Otterspool House

John Moss built a new house, Otterspool House, along Ottterspool creek on Merseyside in 1812 and that was to be his home for the remaining twenty five years of his life. 

Liverpool was a boom town at that time because of the slave trade and John Moss was part of that boom.  He was first and foremost a banker to the trade.  He also owned up to 1,000 slaves in the Caribbean.  Here he had
to react quickly to the mounting anti-slavery legislation which eventually brought about emancipation in 1833.  He and another slaver John Gladstone shipped in paid workers all the way from India to their West Indian sugar plantations, a controversial act at the time which helped to solve their labor problems. 

He was also said to have been a railway pioneer.  That is not strictly true.  But prior to the opening of the Liverpool to Manchester Railway, it is believed that George Stephenson, the engineer of the Rocket, stayed at Moss's Otterspool House and constructed a trial model of the first passenger railway in the world there. 

The recent discovery of 312 of his letters, unseen for over 150 years, has enabled new light to be shed on his life. 
His story was told in Graham Trustís 2010 book John Moss of Otterspool.

After he died in 1837, two of his sons, Thomas and Gilbert, continued the banking business.  In 1864 that bank became the joint stock company, North Western Bank.  Another son John entered the ministry; while a fourth son, James, founded the Moss Line shipping company of Liverpool. 
Thomas subsequently married the heiress Amy Edwards of Roby Hall in Huyton, which he made his home.  He became a baronet under the name of Edwards-Moss. 

Otterspool House fell into disrepair in the early 1900ís and was no longer occupied by the Moss family.  A renter William Cross started a small zoo in its grounds in 1914.  Liverpool Corporation subsequently acquired the site. Otterspool House was demolished in 1931 and the area is now the Otterspool Park and Promenade

Moss Potters in Stoke-on-Trent

One concentration of Staffordshire potters in Stoke-on-Trent was along Red Street in Wolstanton.  The Moss family was the last in Red Street to make crockery, but abandoned it about 1845 for bricks and tiles which they had been making from the 18th century.

Thomas and Henshall Moss were listed in 1796 as manufacturers of earthenware, bricks and tiles.  Henshall Moss also kept the Wheat Sheaf in Red Street.  He died in 1833 at the age of 78.   Meanwhile Richard Moss made earthenware and Egyptian black at Red Street where he also kept the Crown Inn.  He died in 1847 at the age of 64. And Edward Moss was a maltster on Red Street in 1863. 

This combination of Moss potter and publican was found elsewhere in Stoke.  Joseph Moss was recorded as a potter on Newport Lane in Stoke in 1818.  He was also listed as the keeper of the White Swan at the same location

The Jewish Transition from Moses to Moss in England

Charles Bardsley in his 1896 A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames made the following remarks about Jews in England adopting the Moss surname.

ďIt is curious to find that the modern practice, whereby Jews settling in England change their surname from Moses into Moss, is supported by the fact that six centuries ago Moss was the English nickname of Moses.Ē

The Moses families were often Jews of Russian origin who had come to Britain during one of the pogroms against the Jews.  Early details were often vague.  Sometimes birth records were falsified to make it seem that the immigrants were in fact born in Britain.

The change from Moses to Moss made the name fit in more in the English context.  Thus Moses Moses adopted the Moss name when he started his clothing store business in Covent Garden (now known as Moss Bros) in 1851. 

Some did and some didnít change their names.  Jacob Moses of London had four sons - Samuel, Moses, Lawrence and David Ė born in the 1820ís.  Samuel, who emigrated to Tasmania and then returned to London, remained Moses. But Moses who went to Australia became Moss; as did Lawrence and David in Canada.

The Moss Farmers in Fairfax County, Virginia

John Moss was a tobacco farmer in Fairfax county, Virginia at the time of the Revolutionary War.  After the war he was a Commissioner of the Land Tax and also served as a justice of the county court.  He built his Green Spring farmhouse at that time, which was to stay with the family until 1840.

By the 1790ís farmers like Moss were no longer growing tobacco. Moss had converted to grass cultivation as tobacco was no longer economically feasible.  It depleted the soil and had limited markets, while grains had become in high demand during the Napoleonic Wars. Tobacco was also a labor-intensive crop and required many slaves.  By getting out of tobacco, John Moss was in a position to liberate his slaves which he apparently did in 1795.

On Johnís death in 1810, the farm passed to his elder son William and later to a younger son Thomas.   Both William and Thomas served as clerk of the circuit court in Fairfax county.

Many farmers were leaving Fairfax county at this time and moving to Kentucky and Ohio where they saw better farming opportunities.  It appears that the Moss brothers wished to make the move too as the Green Spring farm was advertised for sale.  They did not move.  The farm was only sold in 1840 after Thomasís death.   William Moss of the next generation became a doctor instead.  He fought and died in the Civil War.  Other descendants made their home in West Virginia.

Anne Moss and Her Voyage to Australia in 1850

In her family recollections, Sarah Ann Moss wrote much later:

ďIt must have been early in the year 1850 that my Uncle William and his sister Aunt Anne left England for Australia.  As this happened before I was born I must fall back on what I was told.

The voyage occupied six months in a sailing vessel.  I believe it was a beautiful but very monotonous voyage. However, the little God Cupid was busy even in those days.  A good-looking and what is of far more value a good young man (a medical student I believe) fell in love with my aunt and wooed and won her in due course. He used to write long letters to my grandmother in England extolling the virtues of his dear Annie.  His love and admiration did not cease on the wedding day for he continued to be her lover until the day of his death.Ē

Two years after she arrived in Melbourne, Annie married this young man, John Dunne, at the local Congregational Church.

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