11.8 – Sarah and Alice Fielden

This small ledger was upside down, and as it was only small we turned it back right side up to check that the people listed as buried here were indeed here. Cue our chair muttering darkly under his breath about Fieldens. But we love all of Christ Church graveyard’s residents so let’s find out about these two.

Sarah Jackson was born in June 1875 to parents Joseph and Sally (Newell) Jackson. The family moved from Walsden to Cross Lee and then to John Barker Street in Lydgate and Sarah was baptised (or re-baptised) at Harley Wood when she was 12 years old. Joseph was a farmer, and Sarah went into weaving, perhaps at Robinwood Mill or maybe Canteen or Lineholme Mills. In Lydgate around that time you were spoiled for choice of workplace if you worked in textiles.

In May 1901 she married John William Fielden of Robinwood Terrace. John was a mechanic’s labourer and a year older than Sarah. Originally from Featherstone, near Pontefract, his family had come to Todmorden in search of work and from 1881 were living in Lydgate with his father Abram working as a picker maker. A less dangerous occupation than his former one of miner.

Sarah and John William had two children, Alice and Doris. Alice was their first child, born in January 1905. She was also baptised at Harley Wood, a month after her birth. Sadly Alice did not live very long, and died in August 1906 at only 19 months old. The sexton’s book says she was buried at Christ Church aged 20 months, easy mistake we suppose.

Their other daughter, Doris, was born in 1907. By 1911 the family had moved to Hebden Bridge and John had opened a fish and chip shop of all things. They lived at 36 Market Street in a 6-roomed house, likely the business itself with the home overtop. This is now Tall Poppies, and if you walk past, you can see the “blue plaque” sticker in their shop window with John’s name on it that was produced as part of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival’s “Who Lived On Your Street?” project in 2016.

We don’t know what happened to them after 1911; many Ancestry family trees having John as dying in July 1926 and being buried at Christ Church, but that was a different John Fielden altogether (he was the landlord at the Rope and Anchor and was married to a Margaret Ann). We do know that Sarah in 1939 was a patient at Storthes Hall Asylum near Huddersfield and that John was still alive at that point as her marital status is married rather than widowed. She died in August 1944, still at Storthes Hall. The cause of death on her death registration was “senile decay” – at only aged 69, that is very early, and her condition must have been too difficult for her to have remained at home with John or Doris caring for her. The lack of a name given for her husband on the certificate is also puzzling; was he entirely detached from the whole business? Or were they just in a hurry to register her death and no one bothered to call anyone to ask?

Family trees tell us that Doris died in 1966, having never married. If any other family members can tell us more, please do. In the meantime, we’ve brought her name back into the light. We can honour her life and what we know about her today, even if at the end of her life she was unknowable to those around her.

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