23.29 – Francis Lambert Slaney

Born Jan 5th 1896, died Dec 4th 1896. “Thy Will Be Done”

Francis was the firstborn son of Harold “Harry” Slaney and his wife, Mary Eleanor (Lambert) Slaney. Harry was one of 7 children born in Acton, Staffordshire, that number including a younger brother named Francis. Harry’s first profession was that of gardener, but in 1891 he had a career change to “coachman/groom (domestic servant)”. At this point he was still in Acton and unmarried. In May 1894 he married Mary at the parish church in Kirk Deighton. Francis, now Frank, was one of the two witnesses on the marriage certificate. Mary herself was born in Kirk Deighton, where her sister Georgiana was a schoolmistress in 1881. Mary, aged 14 at the time, was listed as “monitor in schoolmistress”, which maybe means she was a junior teacher – in 1891 the census gave her occupation as “school governess” so she must have been making her own career in education by that point.

The connection between the two seems to have been through Harry’s brother Richard’s wife. In 1891 Richard and his wife and family, and his sister Kate, lived next door to Harry and his parents and siblings. Mary was recorded on the census as staying at Richard’s house as a visitor. It’s not often you can work out how a couple met back then!

Francis Lambert Slaney was born in Kirk Deighton and registered in Wetherby – he was also baptised there four months later, though at that point his place of residence in the parish church’s register is listed as Todmorden. All the Slaney children were given the middle name Lambert, almost like a double barrelled name nowadays. As we know, he died before the year was out, and was buried at Christ Church under a small (but still in excellent condition) pale grey granite cross.

Detail from Christ Church burial register

Come 1901, Harry and his wife are still in Todmorden and he’s still a coachman. Staffordshire to Wetherby to Todmorden is an awful lot of distance to cover, isn’t it? Now, enter Roger Birch’s “Todmorden Album” website which features a photograph by Harry of Church Street, Lineholme. Because Harry had a side hustle – photography. Birch mentioned that Slaney was a coachman at Stoney Royd, so I thought I’d have a look at who was living there at the time. It was another close-to-home name, Abraham Greenwood Eastwood, who amongst his other many claims to fame was the man who laid the cornerstone for the library on Corporation Day in 1896. Harry certainly was no fool – in 1905 he was submitting a patent for “Improvements in or relating to Combined Feeders and Openers employed in the Preparation of Cotton and other Fibrous Materials”, he was active at All Saints church in Harley Wood, and exhibited his non-studio work with the local Photographic Society on a number of occasions. He even successfully sued the Town Board for £17 worth of damages in 1909 after one of his daughters was injured.

The Slaneys and their three children eventually left Todmorden and had moved back to Staffordshire by 1921, for Harry to chauffeur for the Coghill family at Brampton Tree House in Newcastle under Lyne. A. G. Eastwood died in 1911 so it may have not been very long after that that the Slaneys moved on. Their eldest daughter, Muriel, was a schoolteacher in 1921 so had followed in her mother’s footsteps.

Mary predeceased Harry, who in 1939 could be found living with two of his sisters (one a spinster and one a widow). He died in 1956. Mary and her accomplishments meanwhile passed out of the public record altogether – from a school governess on the 1891 census, to simply “wife of Harry” in the burial register in Newcastle under Lyne in 1936, so went many women after marrying and becoming housewives or mothers.

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