17.11 – Fanny Danks (unmarked)

The stories here in this graveyard are stories mostly of ordinary people, and some could not afford grave markers. We believe the ordinary folks were (and are!) the heart of Tod, so here we remember one of them.

This is the grave of Fanny Danks. It was a popular name in the time period! She was born Fanny Jervis in Chetwynd, Shropshire in 1871. Her father was an agricultural labourer, an unskilled job which was pretty near the bottom of the working class in Victorian society. It would have been a hard life at times growing up, as work was broadly seasonal and casual. Our Fanny would have likely grown up in a small two bedroomed cottage.

When she met William Joseph Danks, and later married him in 1894 at the age of 23, she was coming up a bit in the world! William Danks was a boot and shoe maker in a time when the shoe industry was becoming increasingly mechanised. Shoemaking was a highly skilled profession, and for a bit of trivia: shoemakers were sometimes called ‘snobs’. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the artisan shoemaker was becoming less common, as handmade shoes became something only the wealthy could afford. At a guess, William Danks may have struggled to make a living.

Fanny and William were blessed with their first child, Joseph Henry, in late 1894, but he died at only 4 months old. He is buried in Wolverhampton. Sometime between the death of little Joseph in 1895, and the birth of their daughter Margery in 1897, the couple had moved to Todmorden. The 1901 census records them living at 2 Back Brook Street, and William was then listed as a boot repairer, an option taken by many boot and shoe makers as industrialization focused more on volume than craft. At this point, Fanny’s mother Margaret is listed as a visitor to the household, so we like to imagine they remained close, even after Fanny moved away.

Unfortunately, on the 21st of March 1906 at the age of about 35, Fanny died after suffering for a week with pneumonia. Margery was her only child. It appears that Margery was raised for a while by Fanny’s mother’s family. I wonder if Joseph felt he couldn’t cope with caring for the young girl after this crushing loss? It appears from the evidence that Margery was living specifically with her Aunt Emily, her mother’s sister, who had moved to Tod and was running a boarding house on Stansfield Road. The 1911 census shows William Danks living in a boarding house in Hebden Bridge, so he’d not have been far from his teenage daughter. Later in 1921 she was back living with her father and his second wife in Colne, so we would like to think they continued to be close, even if she was largely raised by her mother’s family.

And that’s it. That’s all we know about Fanny Danks. There is no marker for her grave, but she was so loved. We know this because the following notice appeared in the paper in 1909 to mark her death:

In ever loving memory of Fanny Danks, who departed this life March 21st , 1906.
The Lord Himself had need of her,
And took her for His own;
So may we, when life’s journey done,
Meet her in that blest home above.
From her loving Sister Emily; and Daughter Margery.

Perhaps they could not afford a stone. William living in a boarding house and Margery being taken in by family would suggest they were struggling. But they obviously wanted to mark her death, and celebrate her life with this short poem. It would have made a beautiful inscription.

Another “In Memoriam”, from 20th March 1908

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