10.34 – Joseph and Emma Scragg

The inscription on this lovely Celtic style cross reads: “In Christ is Life. In memory of Joseph Scragg, Stones, Todmorden,died Feby. 17th 1902 aged 46. A valued faithful servant in the Fielden family for 30 years. Also of Emma the beloved wife of the above who died Sepr. 3rd 1917. Aged 64 years. At rest.” Ironic, because their direct descendant is our group’s Chair, and he famously does not like the Fielden family. Perhaps all will become clear, or at least, a little less obscure, after this.

Joseph Scragg was born in Crumpsall in the second quarter of 1856. His father William was a gardener for Thomas Fielden, the eldest brother of “Honest John” Fielden MP, who lived at Waterside House in Crumpsall and was by far the wealthiest of the elder generation of Fielden Brothers. Joseph grew up and also became a gardener, also working for the Fieldens; we know this from the inscription on the stone. Thomas died in December 1869 and many of his servants were essentially “bequeathed” to his nephew John along with the newly-completed Dobroyd Castle. Some, though, stayed behind with his widow Marianne, and the Scraggs were some of those. In 1871 Joseph is working as a “page boy” which will have been near the start of his 30 years of service for the Fieldens.

Joseph had married Emma Williams in October 1883 in Denbighshire. Emma was born in 1853, one of eight children. Her father Edward was a labourer and to support themselves she and her sister Harriet went into service, and in 1871 had ended up in Fulshaw (now Fulshaw Park, Wilmslow) both working in the same household, Emma as a kitchen maid and Harriet as an under-housemaid. She and Joseph must have met somehow via their respective wealthy employers.

Marianne died in 1884, and accordingly 1891 is the first time the Scraggs can be found in Todmorden. By 1901 they had four children, William, Frank, Lily, and Fred. Joseph is still working as a gardener and their address is given as Stones, which is just to the side of Dobroyd. Joseph was not an old man but not a young one either, and working outdoors could take its toll – especially in winter. Our Chair is fond of saying that the bloody Fieldens had him working outdoors in winter and that’s what finished him off, and certainly by this point Joseph’s employer would have been Ellen Fielden, John’s second wife and widow, who was known for being less generous and philanthropic towards Fielden employees than her husband’s family were famous for…so it’s tempting to believe it, isn’t it? He claims the phrase “bloody Fieldens” came straight from his great-grandmother, Frank Scragg’s wife, and she must have heard some stories…

…but we digress. Joseph died in February 1902, and as this is not the only stone which mentions someone’s faithful service to a wealthy family, it’s likely to have been paid for by the Fieldens themselves unless Joseph or Emma was particularly proud of his decades of service – the reader can decide how likely that is to have been. He was only 46 years old.

Emma’s youngest was only 6 when Joseph died, and we don’t know what she did for an occupation between censuses, but in 1911 she is living at Oak Street with William, Lily and Fred. Frank had already moved out and gotten married by then. Emma died in September 1917 having, luckily for her and not typically for most women her age, seeing all three of her sons survive WW1.

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