22.30 – Cissie, Jack and William Howorth

There are a lot of people on this stone, from 1895 through 1921. This post so far only deals with the last three on the stone, Cissie, Jack, and William Howorth.

Cissie and Jack were two of the children of William and Agnes Ann (Hill) Howorth. Two of eleven, in fact! You might have noticed from the dates on the stone above that these three people died within two years of each other, with Jack and William dying in the same year. The deaths aren’t linked, but close out the final three interments in this plot in a very sad way.

Cissie was born Elizabeth, and married Arthur Rhodes in March 1919. She sadly did not enjoy married life long; she died on October 4th 1919, just 7 months later. A family member supplied the information that she died in childbirth, which is even sadder (although, as you can tell from even the briefest scan through many of our stories on this website, it was very common even that late in the early 20th century).

Jack was next, and he was buried on the same day as his friend Harry Ward. We know they were friends because they both died in the same accident.

From the Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter, 25th March 1921:

Distressing Tragedy at Todmorden




A most distressing tragedy, by which two boys lost their lives and a third was slightly burned, occurred behind the Corporation Motor Bus Garage at Millwood, shortly after seven o’clock on Monday night, as a result of a prank by boys. It appears that three boys named Harry Ward (14), a little piecer, son of Arthur Ward, caretaker at the Todmorden National School; John Howorth (15), apprentice moulder, son of Wm. Howorth, engine tenter, 13 Woodside Cottage, Broadstone; and Robt. Edward Outram (14), warehouse boy, of 24, Derby Street. Had been playing a game of “relievo,” and went to hide behind the motor bus garage. On “the wash” just outside the garage, at the back, a motor bus was standing. It was one of the older vehicles, No.2, and had not been on service since last October, and was being got ready for the Easter traffic this week-end. It had been brought up from a lower portion of the ground, where it had been standing for some considerable time, owing to lack of accommodation in the garage. It had been brought up by its own power, and had about one or two gallons of petrol in the tank.

The three boys went to hide in the bus. Outram got into the driver’s cab, and began to play with the steering wheel. Then Ward and Howorth got into the cab, and Outram heard Ward ask Howorth for a match and saw him bend over the petrol tank which is underneath the driver’s seat. At this time Outram was in the act of leaving the driver’s can when he saw a flash and heard a loud report and found his clothing was on fire. He went to the assistance of the other boys, but some men appeared, and came and told him to go home and they would attend to them. The end of the petrol tank had been blown completely out, and the flames rose to a great height. The bus was entirely wrapped in flames. The driver’s seat was completely demolished, and one side of the bus was burnt away. The boy Ward seems to have been rendered unconscious before he could get out of the cab, and was afterwards found lying on the exhaust pipe, below the driver’s seat. He was frightfully burned, and it was found impossible to remove him from the garage. The boy Howorth either got out or was blown out of the cab, with his clothes all ablaze. He appears to have made his way down a slight embankment to the big gas holder, which was only 40 or 50 yards away, and probably with the idea of extinguishing the flames he jumped into the tank which surrounds the holder, and is some 30ft deep. Presently his cries were noticed, and it was found that he was in danger of drowning, and had to be pulled out. He was taken to a house in Pickthall Terrace where his injuries were afterwards attended to. The Corporation Fire Brigade was summoned, and was quickly on the scene with the tender, but the burning bus had in the meantime been attended to, and the flames extinguished by hand extinguishers. All the local doctors had been summoned, and quickly Doctors Thorp, Currie, Southwell and Bailey were on the scene and rendered what aid they could to the unfortunate sufferers. Howorth was got away to the Halifax Infirmary, where he arrived about 8-45, and died about six o’clock the following morning. Ward’s case was hopeless from the beginning, and he died in the garage about 9-45 the same evening in the presence of Dr. Thorp. The body was subsequently removed to the mortuary. Outram fortunately escaped with slight burns to the back of the head. The exact cause of the unfortunate tragedy has not been made clear, but it is thought that the boys must have unscrewed the cap of the petrol tank, as the cap was subsequently found on the floor underneath the tank. In the close vicinity of the bus were several iron casks filled with benzol, and several barrels of lubricating oil. Fortunately none of these took fire or the consequences, with the great gas holder less than 50 yards away, might have been terrible.

Another young boy who was nearby, Hubert Dawson, did his best to help save the two boys, but ultimately his efforts were in vain. Harry Ward doesn’t have a gravestone but we can remember him when we go to visit Jack and his relatives. He’s buried nearby, at 20.41, along with his mother Annie who died seven years later.

Todmorden District News, April 1st 1921

Family lore, again, has it that William died of a broken heart in November 1921, having lost two children in such a short space of time. His wife Agnes Ann lived until 1938 but is buried elsewhere – as we said, this family plot was full. She doesn’t seem to be at Christ Church at all, but as she was cremated, she might not have been included in the burial register.

Thanks to Derek Howorth for additional information – an article by Derek referring to the accident can be found in the final issue of “Milltown Memories” (no. 15, Spring 2006).

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