The Dean Family of Crawford Village, Upholland


In October 2023 Ceri Jones from Montgomeryshire in Wales reached out to local Facebook history groups in the Wigan area in an effort to find the next of kin of Joseph Dean, a farmer who once lived in Crawford Village, Upholland. 

Sometime previously Ceri’s partner had bought her an old dresser. In one of the drawers, wrapped in oilskin, she found legal papers, including a will, and personal correspondence addressed to Joseph, dating from 1903 onward. Ceri set out on a journey to find any living descendants of Joseph in order to return the documents to the Dean family. After contacting Ceri and intrigued by her story I decided to undertake a full research of the Dean family of Upholland.

 Old Lancashire Farming Family 

The Deans were an old established farming family who had farmed the West Lancashire Plain for many generations. The 1798 Land Tax Redemption Register lists Josiah Dean (1752-1808), as being the tenant of Ollerheads Farm, which was situated in Dicks Lane, Westhead, near Ormskirk. 

(The 1849 Ordnance Survey map of the area also shows the farm named as Ollerheads but by the time of the next OS map, published in 1892 the name had been corrupted to today’s name of Otterheads). 

Otterheads Farm, Westhead, near Ormskirk 2023

Ollerheads Farm was part of the Cross Hall estate in Lathom owned by Thomas Stanley. It was one of the ancient holdings of the House of Derby, originally built for Sir James Stanley, third son of Sir George Stanley, Lord 9th Baron Strange, and grandson of Thomas, the First Earl of Derby. 

When Revd Thomas Stanley died in 1764 his son, also Thomas (1749-1818) inherited the Cross Hall estate. Thomas Stanley Jnr spent his youth at Cross Hall but after university he embarked on a political career and was member of parliament for Lancashire for thirty two years. Although spending the majority of his time in Westminster he invested heavily in the estate and from 1783 also served as a Colonel in the Royal Lancashire Militia, leading a campaign against the rebels in Ireland in 1798. Thomas never married, when he died in 1818 he was buried in the Cross Hall vault under the Tower of St. Peter & Paul’s CE Church, Ormskirk. 

Among legal paperwork retained by the Dean family from this era is a letter from a William Glover dated 19 October 1802, addressed to his wife Margaret in England. It was in response to a letter from her telling him he had inherited property in Lancashire. 

William was a soldier serving in the 11th Regiment of Foot (later to become the Devonshire Regiment) who sailed out to Martinique in the West Indies in 1800. By September 1802 they were stationed on Dominica. There was an accompanying letter from his Commanding Officer Lt. Col Rufane Shaw Donkin 1902. This was for the use of the executors of William's bequeath, confirming that William was alive and well.

Sadly William was not to see his inheritance, he died the following year on 20 Nov 1803 at the Marne Bruce Garrison at Roseau, on the west coast of the island of Dominica. Sadly the regiment arrived home in England without him in 1806. As well with the letters was a death certificate, signed 17 May 1814 by the Commissary General of the Musters Office in London (today known as the Army Records Office)

(As of yet the identity of William Glover, his wife Margaret or the address of the property he acquired has not not been established)

Setting Down Roots in Upholland 

Josiah Dean’s son Joseph (1772-1842), made the move four miles to the south east, from Westhead to Crawford Village in Upholland, where the 1841 census finds him farming 30 acres of land on Pimbo Lane. 

After Joseph’s death the following year his son Josiah (1801-1872) took over the tenancy. Later the same year he married Susannah Nixon, a farmer’s daughter from Winstanley, at St, Thomas CE church, Upholland. They were to have six children, four boys and two girls. 

The Electoral Register of 1857 lists Josiah still at Pimbo Lane, but by 1861 he was farming the 60 acre Rainford Bounty Farm in Long Lane, Crawford, along with his wife Susannah and five of their children. Subsequently he moved to Billinge Bounty Farm, a mile and a quarter away on Pimbo Lane, where he employed four labourers to help him farm 64 acres of land. 


Old Bounty Farm, Pimbo Lane, Upholland

Josiah's Last Will and Testament which was dated 31 January 1865 makes for interesting reading as it shows the customs and practices of inheritance nearly 160 years ago. His sons Joseph and Thomas were nominated to be executors. Josiah bequeathed the whole of his estate to his wife Susannah but with conditions. She was allowed to dwell in the house and make use of all the furniture and household goods so long as she remained a widow. If she remarried or on her death the estate would be shared equally among their five children, Joseph, John, Thomas, Alice and Josiah.

As well as his farm Josiah owned other freehold properties and also 'The Kings Buildings' at 110 Lord St in Southport. Newspaper advertisements indicate that at the time it was leased to auctioneer William Bentick. Unfortunately the building which stood next door to Southport Library has been lost to street development.

Joseph and Thomas were directed  upon his death to make an inventory of every item their father owned. They were to make two copies. Both of which their mother was to sign, keeping one herself and the other retained by her sons as co-executors.

The inventory, which was taken on 12 November 1873 has survived and makes for equally fascinating reading. In total there were 237 individual items including two horses, a brown filly by the name of 'Fanny' and a brown horse called 'Colonel'. He also owned three red and white cows, two roan cows, two white heifers, one in calf, the other barren, and three pigs. All the farming implements in the granary and barn, and every item in every room of the house were recorded. In total it was valued at £400. 2s. 7d. (worth £54,500 today)

Josiah made a Codicil dated 16 August 1872, following the death of his wife Susannah and the marriage of his daughter Alice to farmer William Dearden of Winstanley. In it he directed that all his clothes and personal possessions be sold, and likewise the Kings Buildings in Southport was to be disposed off and all the proceeds added to his estate.

All other leasehold properties were to be retained and his children were to receive equal tenancy. A trust fund was set up to ensure that his daughter Alice was provided for in the event she was widowed, and that her children would also benefit on reaching the age of 21. 

Josiah died 11 December 1872. He was buried in All Saints graveyard, in Rainford, alongside his wife Susannah who had died just ten months previously, and that of their daughter Sarah who died 16 Jan 1855, aged five. 

Headstone of Josiah and Susannah Dean, All Saints, Rainford 


John Dean (1844-1902)      

John Dean, the second son of Josiah, was born in Crawford Village on 9 September 1844. In 1877, thirty three year old John married Ann Kerfoot at All Saints, Rainford. She was a farmer’s daughter who had been helping her widowed mother and two brothers run Kerfoot Farm in Rainford. 

Her father Richard Kerfoot had been admitted to the notorious Haydock Lodge mental asylum in October 1866, where he died on 2 February 1868. The Lodge, located in Warrington Road, Haydock, originally belonged to the Estate of Sir Thomas Legh, MP for Newton- Le-Willows, and whose main home was Lyme Hall in Cheshire. 

The institution had been started as a business venture by George Bevan Coode, an eminent barrister and secretary to the Poor Law Commission in London. His superintendent was Charles Mott, an ambitious and ruthless character who himself had been a Poor Law Commissioner. 

The pair saw the chance to make their fortunes by keeping down the running costs of the asylum and use the residents as cheap labour for its farming activities. Over the course of eighteen months, they drew in hundreds of paupers from hard-pressed parishes across the country, eager to save the ratepayers' money. 

Haydock Lodge Asylum

The licence for the establishment was for forty private and 160 pauper lunatics but the asylum continued to grow, reaching its peak with a license for 450 patients confined in its accommodations, the largest regional asylum in the country. The inmates lived in appalling conditions and were starved, mistreated and neglected, all for profit. The results were predictable, the vile conditions led to disease and a high mortality rate, in a period of twelve months, over a quarter of the patients died.

The disgraceful conditions were exposed by Revd Owen Roberts, a Welsh vicar who visited the Lodge to accompany a fellow priest home after being discharged. He wrote to ‘The Times’ newspaper and the case was taken up by Thomas Wakley, MP for Finsbury in London. 

Wakley, a radical social reformer was also a surgeon and founding editor of the Lancet medical publication. He asked questions in Parliament which almost brought down the Government of the day, but eventually the scandal led to changes in the laws governing the treatment of the mentally ill.

(Haydock Lodge continued in use, adjacent to Haydock Park racecourse, up to its demolition in 1970, the Post House Hotel, now the Holiday Inn was later built on the site.)

The Manor House 

After his marriage in 1877 John Dean took over the tenancy of the 182 acre Prescott’s Farm on Pimbo Lane, where he employed four men and two boys. By 1891 John and Ann were living in the Manor House in Crawford Village with their seven children, four boys and three girls. Four years previously they had lost their son Thomas aged two. 

The Manor House 1884. Ann Dean with four of her children, Helen, Susannah, Josiah, and Ann

(The Manor House was thought to have originally been built by Christopher Pennington of Up Holland (1681-1734) and has the date 1718 on the porch. It was listed as a Grade II star building in 1952 by Heritage England. It was subsequently listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as of being of special architectural or historic interest.  When sold for redevelopment in the 1980s, the Manor House was partially derelict, the upper two floors on one side had fallen in, along with most of the roof. Approximately a third of the exterior required rebuilding, at the same time the 14 bedrooms were reconfigured. The property has now been restored to its former glory).  

The Manor House, Crawford Village, 2023

Tragedy Strikes 

On Friday 7 December 1894, sixteen year old Helen Dean, John and Ann’s eldest child, welcomed her school friend Sarah Ainsworth, who lived at 46 Upper Dicconson Street, Wigan to Manor House Farm where she was to stay the weekend. 

The next afternoon, the two girls joined a shooting party on Upholland Moor, organised by her father who had invited four other guests. They were accompanied by gamekeeper William Lawrenson who lived in Moss Cottage at nearby Digmoor. 

The party formed a line abreast of each other as they walked across the moor, William Lawrenson who was on the extreme right carried a loaded and cocked double barrel shotgun over his left arm. Suddenly the left hand barrel of the weapon discharged, hitting Helen - who was stooping to pick up something off the floor - on the right side of her body and fracturing an elbow. Her corset took a lot of the impact but the wounds were still severe.

Still conscious, she was taken back to the Manor House where a doctor was called to tend to her wounds. However her condition deteriorated over the weekend and she died on Monday morning, 10 December. 

Two days later an inquiry was held at the Balcarres Arms in Crawford Village by the County Coroner, Mr. Samuel Brighouse. After hearing all the evidence from witnesses the foreman of the jury returned a verdict of accidental death. Helen was buried in All Saints graveyard in Rainford.

Headstone of Helen Dean (1878-1894)

Helen had been a highly promising student at Wigan Church High School in New Market Street, Wigan. The school prize giving day, which was scheduled to happen shortly after her death was cancelled out of respect, and the prizes were awarded in private at school, by the Rector of Wigan, Canon George T. O Bridgeman. 

Helen, who had received a distinction in Religious Knowledge in the Cambridge Local examinations held in Southport was due to receive two books as prizes, ‘Early Church History’ and ‘Motley’s Dutch Republic’. Shortly after, her father was re-elected as a councillor for Upholland Urban District Council.

William Lawrenson the game keeper was grief stricken and overcome with guilt. It is said that he starved himself to death, he died in early 1896 aged 62, just over a year after the tragic accident. 

History Repeats Itself 

In 1902 history was to repeat itself. Whilst at home at Manor House Farm on 21 June Ann Dean heard the sound of a gun being fired, she rushed into the kitchen where she found her husband John slumped in a chair with a fatal wound to his neck, and a shotgun by his side. 

John Dean (1844-1902)

The Coroner, Mr. Brighouse was again called to hold an inquest, this time at the Manor House. Dr. Brinskill of Rainford gave evidence that the wound was a large one, fired from close range that fractured his skull, killing him instantly. In his opinion John must have been reaching up to take the gun from the wall when it discharged accidentally. 

Whether his death was accidental or if he took his own life, no one will ever know. What is known is that John was in serious debt at the time. It was in a period known as the ‘Great Depression of British Agriculture’, caused by the opening up of the American prairies to agriculture. As a result the market was flooded by cheap grain from the USA and Canada, and British agriculture didn’t recover until after the Second World War. John was buried alongside his daughter Helen in All Saints graveyard in Rainford, he was aged 67. 

John and Ann Deans headstone, All Saints CE church, Rainford

In July of that year the Wigan Observer published a preliminary notice of an agricultural sale. It was to be held by auctioneer George Wilcock at the Manor House on 5th August 1902 at 1.30pm. For sale was all the growing and gathered produce of wheat, oats, rye grass and clover hay. Five horses, seven head of cattle, and poultry and ducks, along with all the agricultural equipment and farming implements. The Manor House and sixty acres of land was to be let.  

Ann and her children moved back to Prescott’s Farm in Crawford Village which they still leased, and where the 1911 census shows her still farming the land with two of her sons, John and Joseph. Ann died on 26 October 1912 aged 63, and was buried in the family plot in Rainford.  

Ann Dean (nee Kerfoot) (1849-1912)

It was John’s younger brother Joshua, a partner in a Southport Law Firm who had the unenviable task of giving evidence on the family’s behalf following the tragic death of John. He had performed the same duty eight years earlier after the death of his niece Helen in the accidental shooting incident. 

Joshua was destined to lose his own son in the Great War. Captain Josiah Stanley Dean, aged 26, of the 7th Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment died of his wounds in a hospital in Boulogne, France on 7 May 1915. He lies in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery in Plot 11, Row A, Grave 22. 

John and Ann Dean’s Surviving Children

Josiah Dean (1879-1968)

Josiah, the second child and eldest son of John and Ann was born in 1879 and baptised at All Saints, Rainford, on 19 October of that year. 

The 1911 census shows his occupation as an assistant land agent for Edward William Bootle-Wilbraham, the 3rd Earl of Latham. At the time Josiah was lodging with waterworks engineer Joseph Peet at Dark Lane, Burscough. The following year he married Dorothy Kennedy at St. Peter & Paul CE church, Ormskirk. 

In 1915, at the age of 36 Josiah enlisted into the Territorial Force, 3/2nd West Lancs Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, which was part of the 55th (West Lancs) Infantry Division. He entered the theatre of war in France in 1917. A casualty list in the Liverpool Echo on 24 July 1917 lists him being in hospital after being gassed for a second time during the fighting. 

He was also badly wounded by shrapnel to his face at Passchendaele during the ‘Third Battle of Ypres’. By 1918 Joshua held the rank of 2nd Lieutenant (Acting Captain). He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry on 9 April of that year for his actions during the defence of the town of Givenchy in France, part of the larger Battle of Estaires. He received his award at Buckingham Palace on 22 April 1920 from King George V. Josiah was also awarded the Silver War Badge (wound badge), British War Medal, and Victory Medal, as well as a disability pension for his war time injuries. 

When the Lathom Estate was sold off in 1924 Josiah found employment working for the agricultural committee of Lancashire County Council as an inspector of land drainage.  The 1939 Register taken at the start of the Second World War shows him living at 36 St. Helens Rd, Ormskirk. 

Josiah and Dorothy later moved to nearby number 69 St. Helens Road where Dorothy died on 15 Aug 1954, aged 65. Josiah died 28 July 1968, aged 88, and was buried alongside Dorothy in St. Peter & Paul’s graveyard in Ormskirk. 

Their only child, John Gordon Kennedy Dean (known as Gordon), was born 29 April 1922. During World War Two he enlisted into the Royal Air Force (Volunteer Reserve), becoming a navigator in Bomber Command with 156 (Pathfinder) Squadron, No. 8 Group, based at RAF Warboys in Cambridgeshire. 

The Pathfinder squadrons located  and marked targets with flares, at which a main bomber force could aim, increasing the accuracy of their bombing. On 16 April 1943 Gordon was the navigator on Lancaster W4854/GT on a bombing mission to Czechoslovakia, code-named ‘Operation Frothblower’‘. Their target was the massive Skoda armaments factory in Pilsen, one of the largest in Europe. The complex was captured by the Germans in 1939 and eventually produced a third of all German armaments.

The Skoda Armaments factory in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia after a bombing raid by the RAF in 1945 

On the raid a navigational error by the lead aircraft led to the accidental bombing of a psychiatric hospital in the nearby town of Dobrany. One hundred patients, 60 German soldiers, and 35 civilians were killed. Out of 746 houses only 200 were left undamaged.

On its return journey Gordon’s plane was shot down over north eastern France, crashing at Augny, north west of Chalon-sur-Marne. Gordon was killed along with the rest of the crew, he was twenty years of age. Of the 327 aircraft taking part in the raid, 36 failed to return to England. 

Gordon’s body was found by a lady in her garden in Conde-Sur-Marne, just south of Rheims. 1452042 Sgt J.G.K Dean is buried in grave number 17 at the local civilian Communal Cemetery, and his burial is the only Commonwealth War Grave in the cemetery. The other six crew members are buried in Châlons-en-Champagne Communal Cemetery East, some ten miles to the south. This suggests that the aircraft exploded in the air. Gordon’s name is commemorated on his parents headstone in Ormskirk Parish Church, and also on the Dean family headstone in All Saint’s graveyard at Rainford.

CWGC grave of Sgt JGK Dean RAF, Conde-Sur-Marne Communal Cemetery, France

Tribute to Gordon Dean on the family gravestone in All Saints graveyard, Rainford

Susannah Dean (1880-1965) 

Susannah was born 20 September 1880 at Prescott Farm and baptised at All Saints, Rainford on 17 October. Sometime after her father’s tragic death in 1902 she left home and embarked on a teaching career. The 1921 census finds an unmarried Susannah as a teacher of Modern Languages at Highbury Hill Girls High School, north London. 

In 1958 the UK and Ireland Passenger Lists show her arriving at Southampton on board the Royal Mail Ship 'Edinburgh Castle' from Durban in South Africa, where she had been visiting her nephew Geoffrey who had emigrated ten years earlier. Her destination address was Babbacombe in Devon. 

Susannah remained a spinster and died on 25 July 1965, aged 84. At the time she was living at 8 Oxford Rd, Southport. The records show that probate was granted to Amy Lamb, a married woman.

Ann Dean (1882-) 

Ann was born in 1882 at Prescott Farm. Like her elder sister Susannah she followed a teaching career. The 1911 census finds her as a teaching assistant and living at 3 Windsor Terrace, Fleetwood. It is not known if Ann married or when she died as up to present no other records have been proven. 

John Dean (1884-1953)

John was born 1 May 1884. After the death of his father, the 1911 census finds him and his younger brother Joseph helping their widowed mother Ann work Prescott’s Farm. 

When Ann died the following year the two brothers continued to work the farm. John married Edith Margaret Pritchard, a native of Huyton in 1920 at St. Thomas CE church, Upholland, leaving Joseph at Prescott's Farm. 

The following years census finds John and Edith living at Tower Hill Farm in Upholland, three miles from Prescott’s Farm. However he was to have a career change, as by the start of the Second World War John owned a petrol station at 53 Brookside Road in Knotty Ash, Liverpool. The couple were to remain childless. 

John died 10 December 1953, aged 69 in Knotty Ash. Edith eventually retired to 52 Andrews Lane, Formby. She died on 15 November 1971, aged 90. 

The Formby Times newspaper ran an article, dated 9 February 1972, detailing the bequeaths that Edith had made in her will. She left £500 each to Wrightington Hospital Management Committee, Broadgreen Hospital, and Huyton Parish Church. She left £250 to Knotty Ash Parish Church, and also £200 to Litherland Boys Club. Probate was granted to Joseph A. Gray of Crosby on the Isle of Man and also the National Westminster Bank, Liverpool.  

Richard Dean (1887-1988) 

Richard was born 14 April 1887 in Crawford Village. After the death of his father in 1902 he was obliged to leave Upholland Grammar School. He gained employment as a bank clerk with Parrs Bank Ltd at their newly built premises at 2-4 Standishgate, Wigan. The site had previously housed Woodcock, Sons & Eckersley Bank, and prior to that the Wigan Bank. 

Nat West Bank, previously Parrs Bank, 2-4 Standishgate, Wigan, where Richard served his apprenticeship.

By 1911 Richard had moved to the Sandbach branch in Cheshire where he was lodging with John William Bennett, a building surveyor, at 62 Crewe Road. He subsequently worked at the Wrexham and Widnes branches, followed by a move to the Cressington branch in Aigburth, south Liverpool. 

In early 1918 Richard married Agnes Irene Loyd in Liverpool. That same year the bank amalgamated to form London County Westminster & Parrs Bank Ltd, with 329 branches now operating. The Census of that year shows Richard living at 5 Pelham Grove, Park Lane, in Liverpool, where he worked at Parr’s Castle Street branch. 

Richard Dean (1887-1988)

With the declaration of war in 1939, and Liverpool certain to be a target, Richard deemed it safer to move his family to Ormskirk, some eleven miles from the city centre. Firstly staying with his brother Josiah in St. Helen’s Road before finding accommodation at 27 Stanley Street. 

After the war they moved back to Liverpool, residing at 6 Grosvenor Road in Aigburth for seven years before Richard and Agnes retired to Eastbourne in Sussex. Agnes died there in 1972, aged 84. Richard died in 1988 at the grand old age of 101. 

Richard and Agnes were to have three children, a boy and two girls. As a direct descendant of John Dean of Crawford Village, Richard’s branch of the family tree was the only one to produce male heirs that survived to successfully carry the Dean name forward to the present day.

Here it is worthwhile to look at Richard and Agnes's children and follow this remarkably talented line to its conclusion before returning to the children of John and Ann Dean.  


Dr. Joseph Geoffrey Kennedy Dean CBE. MD. FRCP. MRSH (1918-2009). 

Richard and Agnes’s eldest child, known by his middle name of Geoffrey, was born 5 December 1918 in Wrexham, North Wales. At the age of seven he was sent to Bishop’s Court Preparatory School, at Formby, near Southport. Geoffrey then continued his education at Ampleforth Catholic Boarding School in North Yorkshire. 

Bishops Court Preparatory School, Freshfield, near Formby, Lancs

In 1936, aged 17, Geoffrey started his medical training at Liverpool University, whilst also shadowing Dr. Haslam Fox, a GP who ran Ormskirk Hospital. The following year, sponsored by Nelson Rockefeller the multi-millionaire American businessman, Geoffrey went to Germany, to study German at Frankfurt University. Here he spent time on camping trips with students who were members of the ‘Hitler Jugend’, and the girls equivalent, the ‘Bunde Deutsche Madchen’.  

He also witnessed at first hand the persecution of the Jewish community by the ‘Sturmabteilung’, storm troopers who wore distinctive brown shirts. Geoffrey came to the conclusion that Germany was actively preparing for war, and on his return to England a year later he wrote a report for Rockefeller, who was known to be alarmed about the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1930’s, on what he had seen in Germany. In effect Geoffrey was spying. Rockefeller went into politics and became Governor of New York between 1959 and 1973, later he was elected Vice President of the United States between 1974 to 1977 under President Gerald Ford. 

In 1941, during the second year of World War Two, Geoffrey, still a student, was appointed Casualty Officer at Stanley Hospital in Bootle. During the period 2nd to 6th May, Merseyside was the target of numerous attacks by the Luftwaffe. Geoffrey was on duty on 3 May when a 500 strong bomber raid targeted the docks area in Bootle. 

The hospital was hit and badly damaged, causing numerous deaths and injuries. Geoffrey spent the whole night treating the badly wounded, recovering bodies and helping with the evacuation. In 1942 Geoffrey qualified as a doctor and was appointed house physician at Broadgreen Hospital in Childwall, to the south of the city. 

In August of that year he received his call up papers as a medical officer in the Royal Air Force Bomber Command. After basic training at RAF Halton in Buckinghamshire he was posted with the rank of Flying Officer to RAF Bitteswell, near Lutterworth in Leicestershire. Bitteswell was an operational and training station flying twin engine Wellington Bombers.

A move soon followed to RAF Waterbeach in Cambridgeshire, a major operational base flying Lancaster four engine bombers. Geoffrey married Mary Norah Devlin (known as Nonie) in Cambridge on 7 June 1944. The pair had met in Liverpool two years previously where Nonie was also a medical student. After his demobilisation from the RAF in September 1945 he returned to Liverpool and the couple moved in to a flat at 29 Ullet Road, near Sephton Park. He managed to find employment as a Medical Registrar at Liverpool Royal Infirmary. 

Joseph 'Geoffrey' Kerfoot Dean (1918-2008)

Norah 'Nonie' Mary Devlin (1922-1999)

In post war England the prospects for advancement as a doctor were daunting, so Geoffrey decided to take a chance on emigrating. In 1947, to offset the cost of the fare, he secured passage as ships doctor on board the 'SS Priam', bound for Cape Town in South Africa. 

He eventually settled in Port Elizabeth in Eastern Cape and started practicing as a consultant physician. Six months later Nonie and their son John joined him in South Africa. Intrigued by medical research he started a 20 year study of porphyria (a disease that can cause paralysis). Geoffrey was to become a renowned epidemiologist and travelled all over the world researching and lecturing. Over the coming years he was to conduct studies into multiple sclerosis in the Mediterranean region, motor neurone disease, and the connection between smoking and lung cancer. 

He also investigated the link between Down’s Syndrome in Dundalk in Ireland and a fire that had occurred at the Windscale nuclear power plant (now known as Sellafield) in Cumbria on 8 October 1957. The fire burned for 16 hours and released radioactive iodine into the atmosphere. A 200 square mile area around the site was contaminated and the sale of milk was banned for several weeks. After much research Geoffrey came to the conclusion that there was no link between the two events. A decision that was criticised, amid calls that it was an establishment cover up.

In 1951 their third child Jennifer was born, but tragedy struck two years later when their four year old daughter Patricia was found floating face down in the family’s swimming pool. Geoffrey performed artificial respiration for twenty minutes but without success. In a last desperate measure he opened his daughter's chest with a knife just below the rib cage and massaged her heart, but all to no avail. In September of that year their youngest child Michael was born, which must have gone a long way in helping to heal their grief. 

Jennifer Dean (1949-1953) who tragically drowned in South Africa.

In 1954 Geoffrey’s parents, Richard and Agnes arrived for a month long visit, they returned home on board the SS America and disembarked in Southampton on 30 April. Their destination address in England was 60 Oakley St in Chelsea. 

Six years later Geoffrey and Nonie were to divorce. She stayed on in South Africa with her children John, Jennifer, and Michael. She took two degrees in English Literature at Port Elizabeth University and subsequently lectured in English at the university. Nonie died in 1999 aged 77, and was buried at Nelson Mandela Bay, in the Eastern Cape. 

Headstone of Nonie Dean (nee Devlin) (1922-1999)

In 1961 Geoffrey married Maria Von Braumbruck who was born and raised in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia. She had lived through the German bombing of Belgrade in April 1941, known as ‘Operation Retribution’ and the following four years of German occupation. Together they had two children, Gordon born in 1964 and Elizabeth in 1966. 

In 1965 at the height of apartheid, Geoffrey found himself in trouble with the South African authorities. Whilst researching through records in Port Elizabeth Hospital he came across medical records of prisoners who had been admitted to hospital after suffering injuries whilst in detention in Port Elizabeth. 

He wrote a letter which was published in the South African Medical Journal to highlight the assaults and deliberate cruelty suffered by prisoners in the police stations and jails. This earned him a visit by two members of the security police, who informed him he was breaking the law because it was a criminal offence to make any comments about the prisons. The penalty of which was three years imprisonment. 

Shortly after, Geoffrey left for Argentina, where he was to give a lecture on lung cancer in Buenos Aires. On his return to South Africa a few weeks later he was arrested by the security police and taken to Port Elizabeth Jail. Here he was photographed and had his finger prints taken. He was then told he was to be tried in the Supreme Court in Cape Town. His passport was confiscated and he was released on bail. A patient of his who worked for the Post Office later warned him that his phone had been tapped and his mail opened. 

Friends and fellow physicians alike rallied round in support, and a committee consisting of eminent people was formed in London to speak in his defence. Eventually the Minister for Justice, John Vorster (later to become Prime Minister and, still later, State President) agreed to drop the charges if he would make an agreed statement in Court, stating that his intentions were merely medically motivated and not political. On 3 February 1966 the statement was read out in the Supreme Court by Geoffrey’s barrister, Advocate Patrick Tebbutt, and Geoffrey was acquitted of the charges. 

In 1968 Geoffrey applied for the post of Director of the newly formed Medico-Social Research Board of Ireland. He was successful and he and Maria flew to Dublin on 27 October to start their new life in Ireland. Geoffrey retired from the post in 1985 but remained in Ireland where he continued to write and conduct medical research. 

In 2003 he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Among his other accolades was a doctorate of science conferred on him by University College, Dublin and a fellowship of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland. Geoffrey has published over 200 articles and books, including his autobiography, ‘The Turnstone - A Doctor's Story'’

Geoffrey Dean receiving his CBE at Buckingham Palace, from HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2003.

Dr. Joseph Geoffrey Kerfoot Dean CBE passed away on 7 September 2009 in Dublin, aged 90. He asked that his ashes be buried with his daughter Jennifer in South Africa, but when the time came half his ashes were to be buried alongside that of his wife Maria in Ireland. Maria died 21 October 2020 in St. Vincent's Hospital in Dublin. Owing to the Covid pandemic restrictions in force at the time only six persons, including the priest, were allowed to attend the funeral. Her ashes were buried along with her husband's in a cemetery high up in a valley in the Wicklow mountains. Geoffrey and Nonie had three surviving children, John Francis, Jennifer, and Michael. 

John Francis Dean

Dr. John Francis Dean 1946-2016

Their eldest child, John Francis Dean, was born in Crosby (near Liverpool) in 1946. He obtained degrees in physics and astronomy before coming to England to work with Sir Bernard Lovell at the renowned Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire. After earning a doctorate in radio astronomy, he returned to South Africa to work at Cape Town Observatory. Later, he became a physicist and science advisor at the South Africa Electricity Corporation in Johannesburg. John married Ann and had two children: Geoffrey Richard Dean, born in 1979, and Pamela Mary Dean, born in 1980. 

Geoffrey Richard Dean

John Francis Dean's son, Geoffrey Richard grew up in South Africa where he attended St. John's College in Johannesburg alongside the grandchildren of Nobel Peace Prize winner President Nelson Mandela. He later completed a post graduate Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the Gordon Institute of Business Sciences (GIBS). In 2005, he married Cindy Wamsteker at St. Francis of Assisi Anglican Church, the oldest Anglican church in South Africa, located in Simonstown, Cape Town.

Geoffrey and Cindy have three children: Jennica and Isabella, born in 2004 and 2008 respectively, and Joshua John Dean, who was born in 2012. Feeling a pull towards his ancestral homeland, Geoffrey decided to return to England with his family. They now reside in East Anglia. Joshua Dean is the last male descendant in the direct line from Joshua Dean, who was born in Lancashire in 1752. 

St. John's College, Johannesburg where Geoffrey R Dean attended 

Jennifer Dean

Geoffrey and Nonie's second child Jennifer studied at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, and then took up nursing at Groot Schuur Hospital in Cape Town. She married architect Erik Schaug in 1984, shortly after they moved to England to live in Bristol. The couple returned to South Africa in 1994, settling in a suburb of Cape Town. 

Michael Dean

Youngest son Michael won a scholarship to spend a year in America, studying at a college in West Hartford, Connecticut. The following year he won a scholarship to study medicine at Cape Town, qualifying as a doctor in 1976. He also served for two years as a medical officer with the rank of Lieutenant in the South African Army. Whilst in the army he met and married Jennifer, a nurse who was involved in nursing education. He also learned to fly and gained his private pilot’s licence. 

In 1985 Michael came to England and in London passed the examination for membership of the Royal College of Physicians. Back in South Africa he practiced as a consultant physician but then decided to specialise in cardiology, obtaining a consultancy post at Tygerberg Hospital in 1989. He also spent a year in England at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, standing in for the professor of cardiology who was away on sabbatical leave. He later became consultant cardiologist at Port Elizabeth Hospital. Michael and Jennifer have three daughters, Alison, Deborah and Catherine. 

Gordon Dean

Geoffrey’s second marriage to Maria produced two children, both born in South Africa but raised in Ireland from an early age. Gordon born in 1964, was named after his father’s cousin who had died in the RAF in 1943. He attended his father’s old school, Ampleforth College in Yorkshire, before studying history, economics and law, and eventually qualifying as a solicitor. In 1997 he was elected as a Liberal Democrat county councillor for Norfolk. He is now senior partner of a law firm in Norwich. He married Charlotte and together they have two daughters, Lily who teaches art to adults with learning difficulties and Rose, a solicitor who recently moved to Brisbane, Australia. 

Gordon Dean

Gordon is the family historian and possesses some family heirlooms, presumably from the old Manor House in Upholland, including furniture and a grandfather clock, and also two large family bibles with details of the family tree inscribed inside the cover.

Elizabeth Dean

Geoffrey’s youngest child is Elizabeth, born in 1966. She was a make up artist on the 'Phantom of the Opera' and other theatre productions, and also on the film 'Braveheart'. She subsequently worked for RTE Television in Ireland. She has a son Zack and lives in Dublin. 

Sketch of Elizabeth Dean applying make up to the Phantom of the Opera 

Pauline Dean (1921-) 

Richard and Agnes Dean's second child, Pauline was born in Liverpool on 16 April 1921. She graduated from Liverpool University Medical School in 1945. Five years later she moved to America and began post graduate studies in paediatrics at the Children's hospital in Columbus, Ohio. In 1953 she interrupted her studies to join the Medical Missionaries of Mary (MMM), an Irish based Mission. She was posted to Nigeria in 1961, where she worked at St. Luke's Hospital in Anua. In 1965 she returned to America to resume her post graduate studies in paediatrics.

On her return to Nigeria in January 1968 Pauline found herself in the midst of a bloody civil war, known as the Biafran War, the conflict had started six months earlier when the Biafran State declared independence from Nigeria. She was assigned to St. Mary's Hospital in Urua Akpan in the south of the country. The Medical Mission comprised of an administrator, two doctors and two nurse midwives.

St. Mary's Hospital, Urua Akpan, Nigeria

Food was scarce so the hospital started a farm, planting vegetables such as pumpkins, melons, french beans, tomatoes, and yams.

On 3 March 1968 the hospital was bombed resulting in four deaths and twenty one wounded. In a scene reminiscent of her brother Geoffrey's experiences in the Second World War Pauline helped to recover and treat the wounded and undertake emergency operations on the more serious cases.

As the bombing increased and the Nigerian Federal Forces advanced, refugee camps were set up in the area and more and more wounded civilians arrived at the hospital for treatment. As well as operations for gunshot wound and injuries from shelling the work load for the sisters increased dramatically, regularly seeing up to 170 patients at clinics in the refugee camps.  As well as performing amputations and other surgery, Pauline was also in charge of the maternity ward, regularly delivering babies and performing cesarean operations.

On 19 May the city of Port Haricourt was taken and cut off by Nigerian government troops. A blockade was imposed as a deliberate policy during the ensuing stalemate which eventually led to the mass starvation of hundreds of thousands of Biafran civilians.

On 7th July the brave sisters were finally evacuated and flew to the island of San Tome, a former Portuguese colony off the west coast of Africa. From there they sat on the floor of a cargo plane for the 12 hour flight to Lisbon in Portugal.

During the two and half years of the war, over a million Biafran civilians, mainly from the Igbo region, died from ethnic cleansing and of starvation. After the war Pauline returned to Nigeria to continue her missionary work. 

Later in her career she worked in Kenya, where she established a HIV-Aids program in one of Nairobi's biggest slums, Kibera. She spent the bulk of her working life in Africa as a paediatrician, and was responsible for saving thousands of young lives. Forty years after the conflict Pauline found her diary from her days in Biafra in an old suitcase. This was published as the 'Biafra War Diary' by the Medical Missionaries of Mary.  

Sister Pauline is still alive and well with a sharp brain still. Aged 101, she is living at the Medical Missionaries of Mary's Mother House in Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. 

Helen Dean (1924-2015) 

The youngest child of Richard and Agnes, Helen, was born in Liverpool in 1924, she first qualified as an architect but later turned to teaching. She spent many years teaching religious studies to catholic pupils in Surrey and Kent. Helen retired to Tunbridge Wells, passing away there on 1 April 2015, aged 90. She left a significant estate to her sister Pauline’s Order, the Medical Missionaries of Mary.  

Helen Dean with her brother Geoffrey and sister Pauline at Dun Laoghaire, Dublin in 2001 

Joseph Dean (1889-1940) 

Now we return to the children of John and Ann Dean of Upholland. Their youngest child, Joseph, was born 17 April 1889 at the Manor House in Crawford Village. After the family moved to Prescott Farm following the death of their father, the children gradually moved away from Crawford Village but Joseph and his older brother John stayed on at the farm to help their mother. After the death of his mother, John moved to Tower Hill Farm leaving Joseph at Prescott's Farm. Joseph married Mary Alice Latham in 1926 at St. Thomas CE Church, Upholland. 

His nephew Geoffrey tells in his autobiography, ‘The Turnstone - A Doctor's Story’, of visits to Prescott Farm with his sister during the summer months and how his uncle Joe kept them entertained with songs, with Auntie Mary at the piano. They would ride the horses Tommy and Queenie and recalls that Joseph had found coal on his land which he utilised for his own use, but eventually opened a small but profitable coal mine.

They also visited their uncle John and aunt Edith at Tower Hill farm. Geoffrey would accompany his uncle to Wigan market with panniers containing a hundred weight of potatoes each. There were twenty four panniers in a cart load which sold for four shillings and six pence each.

Joseph acquired Prescott Farm when the playboy 3rd Earl of Lathom, Baron Skelmersdale became bankrupt due to his extravagant lifestyle. In 1923 he sold the entire Lathom estate to Mr. Debenham a banker who then lived on the estate and arranged for the sale of all holdings and contents by auction at four sales held in 1924.

Joseph Dean died 29 Dec 1940, aged 50. Probate was granted to his siblings, Richard and Ann. Mary Alice, Joseph’s widow, who was thirteen years his junior, married again in 1950 to Herbert H. Hodge. She died 16 Jan 1991 at Silver Birch Lodge, an assisted living residence at Aughton, near Ormskirk, aged 88. 

The couple had two children. Their son Joseph Malcolm was born 15 May 1926. During the latter part of the Second World War he was a 'Bevin Boy', one of 48,000 young men conscripted to work as a coal miner, later he qualified to be an architect. A heavy smoker, Joseph Jnr died of lung cancer in 1981, aged 54. He remained single. 

Their daughter Lorna Sonia Dean (known as Sonia) was born in 1937. She first emigrated to Tasmania then moved to Melbourne where she became curator of the National Art Gallery of Victoria. For 27 years she was editor of ‘The Bulletin’, an art journal, until her retirement from the art gallery in 2002. 

In June 2023 Sonia was recognised in King Charles’s birthday honours list. For significant services to museums and galleries and as an art researcher, writer and curator she became a Member of the Order of Australia (AM). 

Sonia, as the great granddaughter, is the nearest next of kin to Joseph Dean whom the long lost letters were addressed to. Sonia remembers that the Dean papers were kept in a dresser drawer wrapped in oilskìn at Prescott Farm. Now 86, she still lives in Australia and has been contacted by Ceri Jones who found the correspondence. Sonia has decided that the letters should be donated to Wigan Local History & Heritage Society, of which at present they are awaiting delivery of.  

Graham Taylor 2024


Many thanks to Gordon and Geoffrey Dean for providing photographs and valuable information on the Dean family.   



Biafra War Diary by Pauline Dean MMM 

Find My Past 

Imperial War Museum 

Lancs BMD 

Lancs Online Parish Clerks 

Mr Mott’s Madhouse by Allan Smith 

The Cross Hall Story by Dot Broady-Hawkes  

The Turnstone, A Doctor’s Story by Geoffrey Dean 


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