15.22 – Jane, Amy Jane, and Thomas Hargreaves

This grave tells a very interesting story – one of definite grief and confusion, and one of possible suicide or a corporate cover-up. The reader will have to decide. You can find it next to the cedar growing out of the middle of the lower half of the graveyard next to the informal path.

Jane Milner was born in Skipton in April 1845. Her family moved to Huddersfield very shortly after and she would give that place as her place of birth on the census for the rest of her life. Her father Richard was a fire-drawer and warehouseman – a jack of all trades labourer, it would seem. She went into service young, and in 1861 at age 16 was an in-home domestic servant for a woollen manufacturer in Batley.

In 1875 she married Thomas Hargreaves at Manchester Cathedral. Thomas was a yarn agent and a Tod lad, who prior to his move to Manchester had lived at home with his widowed mother and siblings on Omega Street near Hallroyd. Thomas did very well for himself and when he had brought Jane home to Todmorden they settled first at Lydgate Villas and then at 31 Knotts Road. Thomas later became an accountant and they must have been reasonably comfortable.

Thomas was a busy man – a keen cricket player, a member of the Liberal Party, and a sought-after speaker. Life will never have been boring in the Hargreaves household.

Their children, Joseph, Mary Elizabeth, Amy Jane, and Ernest, grew up, and while some left home others did not. Jane died in 1899 and Amy Jane and Ernest continued living with their father from that point on. In 1911, they’re both to be found with Thomas and all still at 31 Knotts Road.

Todmorden District News, September 29th 1911

Amy Jane’s death was sudden, unexpected, and contentious. From the inquest printed in the Todmorden District News on October 6th 1911: (be warned, graphic details ahead)





The terrible railway fatality at Holme, near Todmorden (particulars of which appeared in our last issue) was the subject of a coroner’s inquiry last Saturday morning. The body of the woman had been identified as that of Amy Jane Hargreaves, aged 29, daughter of Mr. Thos. Hargreaves, 31, Knotts-road, Lydgate. The inquest was conducted by Mr. H. J. Robinson, the East Lancashire coroner, and Mr. G. Dawson, solicitor, and Messrs. E. Tetlaw and G, Seddon, officials, represented the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.

Mary Jane Holding, 76, Higher Antley-street, Accrington, a married sister of deceased, said that deceased had not been in good health lately, having been medically attended for nervous depression. She had followed no regular employment, but had stayed with her father, looking after the house. About six months ago she came to reside at her house in Accrington. She last saw her alive at half-past four on Thursday afternoon. She then said she was going out with a parcel.

The Coroner: She had not arranged to go home?

Witness: No.

Replying to Sergeant Corner, witness said she had kept deceased short of money, so that she could not travel to Todmorden.

By a Juror: Deceased had lately seemed much better.

The Coroner: Was it at all possible for her to return home by train?

Witness: Yes; she had some little money of her own.

George Walter Pym, porter at Holme Station, was the next witness. In reply to the Coroner he stated, that he saw deceased for the first time about 6-10, on the up platform.

The Coroner: What time was the express due?

Witness: It passed through the station at 6-15.

The Coroner: Where was the woman then?

Witness: She was at the far end of the platform, on the slope; I saw her at the foot of the slope just when the train passed the platform.

The Coroner: What did she do?

Witness: She appeared to me to throw herself in front of the engine. As soon as the train had passed, I fetched the stationmaster, Mr. Openshaw, and we found one portion of the body in the four-foot, and the other on the outside of the rail … Mr. Dawson: Did she leave anything on the platform?

Witness: She left a purse.

The Coroner: Do you think she might have fallen sick and been drawn on to the line?

Witness: I think she threw herself under the engine.

P.C. Shortcliffe said he removed the body from the station to the Ram Inn. It was practically cut in two. The right arm was cut off, the right thigh badly crushed, and there were injuries over the right eyebrow.

The Coroner: Did you find a railway ticket on her?

Witness: No. Her purse contained a penny and four halfpennies, and four Accrington Co-operative Society checks. There was also a portion of an envelope on which deceased had taken some measurements, and also an address Oswaldtwistle.

The stationmaster, Mr. Openshaw, stated that he had no recollection of anyone getting off a train from Accrington. One ticket from Accrington to Holme was collected that day, but he did not know from which train. Deceased might have come early in the day.

The Coroner: I should like to know whether the lady was a customer or a trespasser.

Witness: I think that at the time of her death she was a trespasser.

A Juryman: With being on the platform the railway officials would naturally think that she was a customer.

This concluded the evidence, and the Coroner, addressing the jury, said that everything pointed to the lady having made away with herself. She had evidently been suffering from nervous debility for the past twelve months, and someone had been put in to look after her. Notwithstanding these precaution, she had given them the slip.

A Juryman: People like that are very cunning.

The Coroner: Yes.

The jury unanimously agreed to the following verdict; “That deceased threw herself in front of express train at Holme railway station, and was run over and accidentally killed, and that she was suffering from nervous depression, and was not of sound mind.”

Mr. Hargreaves, father of deceased, objected to this verdict. The porter, he stated, was at the other end of the platform when he saw her throw herself in front of the train. It appeared to him (Mr. Hargreaves) that deceased was on the platform, and when the train came- he supposed it would be going about forty miles an hour- it caught her garments and drew her in.

The Coroner : That is all theory, and does not make any difference to the verdict, which, I think, is a just and reasonable one.

The Foreman : I have know Mr. Hargreaves for many years as a very respectable man, and I feel great sympathy for him. I think the jury should give him a vote of condolence.

The Coroner (to Mr. Hargreaves) : I will report it. You have the sympathy of the jury.

It seems fairly likely, given Mary Elizabeth’s evidence, that Amy Jane did indeed kill herself. But the loss of a child is a terrible thing and particularly a loss under such circumstances is something that all parents hope they’ll never have to experience. Thomas will have of course been grasping at straws and trying to make sense of his loss. Easier to believe it was an accident than to have to think of his child doing such a thing.

Thomas died on September 13th 1915. His gravestone erroneously says 1916, but he was buried on September 20th 1915. He was remembered fondly in the Todmorden Advertiser but no mention made of his lost daughter.

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