12.10 – Sarah and Doris Grindrod

The graveyard is full of stories where good, bad, neutral and unknown meet and combine, and this grave is (possibly) a perfect example.

Sarah Grindrod, her daughter Doris, and an unnamed and unknown grandson rest here. Sarah was once Sarah Halstead, born in 1879 to Reuben and Lucy Ann (Dean) Halstead. One of the younger batch of eleven children, her childhood was spent in Cornholme and Lydgate where Reuben worked as a loom tackler. When he died in 1887 Lucy Ann took her children nearer to the town centre and they resettled at Lineholme Terrace. In 1891 Sarah was 12 and still at school, but she would leave soon after this and become a cotton weaver. By 1901 the great move from Cornholme to Todmorden centre was complete and the family were all squeezed into a tiny, now-gone house at 66 Burnley Road – all seven of them. Reuben and Lucy Ann are at rest in the vaults at V13.8, by the way.

In April 1902 Sarah married John James Grindrod, one of Samuel Grindrod‘s brothers, at Lineholme Bethel Chapel in Lydgate. John was an iron moulder and Sarah was still working as a weaver, although this ceased so that she could take up the traditional role of housewife. Between 1904 and 1906 three children were born: John junior, Doris, and Phyllis, all one year after another. Poor Doris, though, didn’t live very long, and died early in January 1906 at only three month old.

In 1911 John, Sarah, John junior and Phyllis were living in Almondbury in Huddersfield, and had been so for at least a year. Sarah wasn’t working but John was. Their house was rented from the Huddersfield Industrial Co-operative Society so perhaps he was working on a larger project – we know later that he would work for Astin and Barker’s as an engineer so maybe he had a special talent for the work. We know that John travelled for work and took his family with him because John junior was born in Bolton and the two girls in Todmorden.

This is all a lot of preface to the fact that the Grindrods disappear from available public records between 1911 and 1917, when daughter Phyllis is mentioned in the newspapers for a performance, and then 1918 when the electoral register shows the Grindrods living at 35 Stansfield Road. It isn’t a common surname, and the thing is, there’s a Mrs. Sarah Grindrod that we’ve come across before while doing graveyard research, and she’s cast in the list of villains of the piece. Sarah Grindrod of 4 East Street, who was one of two grown women who should have known better and gossiped about a 14 year old coworker at Albion Mill who drowned herself the same day as a result. If you attended our 2023 Suicide Awareness Month tour, you know the sad story of Annie Marshall well (if you don’t know it, brace yourself and click the link for a refresher before coming back).

Now…we can’t be 100% certain it was the same Sarah Grindrod, for a few reasons. Here’s the case for and against.


  • Sarah was previously employed as a cotton weaver, and her occupation in 1921 was given as such on the census.
  • There were only two other married women named Sarah Grindrod in the Calder Valley in 1911, and only one other in 1921. One other Sarah Grindrod was an older widow not working 1911 and who died in 1918, and the other was married but also did not have an occupation in either 1911 or 1921.
  • No male Grindrods got married in Todmorden between 1910 and the very end of 1916, which is after Annie’s death, so the pool of suspects remains small – there is no one local to the area who we’ve missed out between the censuses.


  • We have no proof either of the other Mrs. Sarah Grindrods did not briefly return to the workforce during WW1.
  • We have no proof the Grindrods returned to Todmorden before 1918, thanks to voting rights before then still not extending to all men.
  • East/Omega Street (it had two names over time) last appeared on an electoral register in 1915, and both 4 and 6 had people living there who were neither the Grindrods or the Marshalls (although this merely proves that both families moved there after that register was taken).

In short, the evidence for is circumstantial, and the evidence against is that of lack of evidence rather than contradictory evidence. But…John travelled for work; the other married Sarah Grindrods were not in the workforce either side of the decade; our Sarah here could weave. Yes they were at another address in 1918 and Sarah wasn’t working at Albion Mill in 1921, but if your gossip had led to the suicide of a child on your street who you worked with, you’d probably move house and change employers too. It’s incredible that they didn’t leave the area altogether. And that’s the thing – there’s a scenario where non-Tod Grindrods moved here after 1911, Annie’s suicide took place, and they left the area never to return. It’s not impossible. So we should be cautious, even though the circumstantial evidence is compelling.

If the two Sarahs are the same, you have to wonder how she felt watching Phyllis grow up and reach, then pass, Annie’s age. She did, as did John junior – both grew up and started their own lives. Phyllis and her young man, David Farrar (Albert Farrar‘s son) got married in Alberta, Canada, but moved back here after Sarah died; John junior is harder to track down as he doesn’t appear to have stayed in Todmorden. That makes it hard to be sure who the unknown grandson is, although we have a possible candidate: Geoffrey Farrar, who died on May 1st 1934 only five hours old.

That was three years after Sarah’s death. She died in February 1931 and was buried here with this simple stone that doesn’t even give dates for anyone, only names. Was the stone laid after Geoffrey’s death? John senior remarried two years later and is buried elsewhere with his second wife Ruth. Was it even Geoffrey? So much mystery about this stone that we thought we solved back when we did the retranscribing and used the burial register to find the dates for Sarah and Doris. Job done, right? But that was just the start.

It also proves a point about the nature of this project – the more stories are researched, the more we find the obvious and not-so-obvious links between all these lives. Want to help us out and be part of that? Email us at friendsofchristchurchtod@outlook.com or join our Facebook group and get involved. Everyone starts somewhere…

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