24.32 – Cunliffe, Martha, James and Tom Brewer

This was a Mother’s Day gift for “graveyard momma”, aka secretary Sarah – a stone that hadn’t been transcribed before, because it was upside down. Who were the Brewers?

Martha Bottomley was born in 1857 in Walsden. Her father James was a Tod lad, and her mother Esther hailed originally from Runcorn. James abandoned the family sometime around 1878 and Martha stayed with Esther for many years afterwards, helping to support her and her young sister Annie.

Cunliffe Brewer was born in 1865, also in Walsden but nearer to Shade, at Lion Street. His father Richard worked for the gas board as a stoker. Cunliffe’s parents stayed married and stayed alive, and he and his siblings also stayed living at home and mutually supporting one another, as was very common at that time. “Leaving home at 18” is very much a modern invention. The siblings all worked in cotton mills in various capacities – Cunliffe himself was an “under overlooker”, whatever that is.

Esther Bottomley died in 1881 and Martha moved from Swineshead Clough up to Prince Street to live with her sister Elizabeth, who had been widowed, and her children; but she must have met Cunliffe by then, and the two finally married in 1893 at Christ Church. Finally able to start their own family, they did – first James Richard, then William, and finally Tom.

Three children in five years; as was common at the time, they didn’t all survive. Losing two out of three is hard though regardless of what might be “common”. James Richard was born in January of 1894 and died in February 1894. You may have noticed the inscription on the stone reads “James W.” – mistakes on stones are common and people couldn’t always afford to have them fixed. This stone was carved long after those two little boys died and whoever had it made (probably William) didn’t realise they had the wrong initials. The just-mentioned William was born next, in 1897. Tom came last, and was another very short little life – born in February 1898, died in March 1898, only 16 days old.

Cunliffe and Martha seem to have led fairly unremarkable lives. The exception was a mill fire in 1916, when Cunliffe can be credited for saving many lives by discovering and raising the alarm about a fire at Wadsworth Mill.

Todmorden District News, January 28th 1916

The family stayed in Shade, at Bridge End where they had lived more or less since their marriage. Cunliffe died in 1930 and Martha in 1935. Their stone being upside down for so long means the gilded letters still shine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *