25.40 – Susy, Grace, William and Sarah Hannah Redman

This grave holds a man and his two wives, and one of his children. Another child of his doesn’t rest here, but had their life turned upside down by his mother’s illness and his father’s inability to manage…as well as the death of his baby sister.

William Redman was born in Coley, Northowram in 1860 to John and Hannah Redman. John was a spindle maker and William was the second child to be born to the family. The Redmans were steady residents at Back Raglan Street and William stayed at home until after 1881, when we can see on the census that his occupation is “cotton piecer (unemployed)”. The unemployed bit explains part of his move to Todmorden; the other part is down to his first wife Susy Helliwell.

Susy was born in 1862 in Walsden to John and Sarah Helliwell. She had eight siblings, with the last one named Helliwell Helliwell, in what must have been a token of John and Sarah’s surprise at having to come up with this many names. Sarah died some time between 1871 and 1881, and in 1881 Susy and a few of her siblings were living with their father, who was working as a railway labourer, on Hollings Street (presumably Hollins Road?). She and William married in 1884 and promptly moved to Hebden Bridge where their first son, John Thomas, was born. Todmorden didn’t hold William for long! The couple then moved back to Halifax and had two more children, Percy and Arthur. 1891 found them living in Pellon, and Susy would soon move back to Todmorden, again, and have two more children – George in 1892 and Sarah Hannah in 1893.

Why did they come back? Archive information relating to reformatory schools gives us the answer. Sadly for their eldest, John Thomas, things were not right at home and he found it hard to cope, and worked through his feelings like many young boys do; through being a bit of a one. By 1893 Susy was already sick with consumption, which would eventually lead to her death in 1898. It’s likely that Sarah Hannah wasn’t born in the best shape, and she died in late October 1893 only six months old, and is the first Redman into this grave (although her name doesn’t appear on any of the remaining sidestones). Two weeks later eight year old John Thomas stole 60 newspapers and sold them, used some of the money to buy pies, gave the rest to some friends, and threw the unsold papers into the canal. At his trial William mentions that his son had started to stay out late and they had made him give up selling papers as a punishment. We can look at this now and clearly see a cry for help and attention, but back then such things got you nothing other than a few strokes with a birch rod and a threat of prison if you got in trouble again.

Todmorden District News, November 3rd 1893

Unfortunately John Thomas did get in trouble again, and was sent to Calder Farm in 1895 for a five-year stint. Hopefully he was allowed home to see his mother again before she died in 1898. His photo from his intake shows an average young lad, trying to look older than he is, and in many ways a lot older than he ought to have been at that age…

William, like so many men left with young children, remarried quickly. He and Grace Heyworth married at Springside Chapel in September of that year. Who was Grace? An excellent question. Born around 1860, she seems to have been the daughter of (maybe) John and (definitely) Hannah Heyworth. Hannah was widowed at some point before 1881, when she, Grace, and Grace’s sisters Sarah and Emilla (Emilia?) are living at Horsfall Buildings. Before this we find Grace and Sarah living with a John Heyworth, who is married, but no mother is living at home. In 1881 Hannah was a housekeeper so perhaps she was live-in domestic help – unusual given Grace was only 11 in 1871! That mystery might remain unsolved. Anyway, Grace stayed unmarried and looked after her mother until 1898 when she and William married and she became the stepmother to four boys. That must have been a very interesting experience.

By 1901 the family were back in Todmorden for good and living at Bond Street, near Union Street, and while William and Grace had not had any children of their own John Thomas had finished his five year sentence and come home. William had become a chimney sweeper, and in 1911 the family were at Pitt Street in Millwood and he was working as a chapel caretaker, probably at Rehoboth Baptist Chapel. His working life had certainly seen many changes and he will have taken whatever work he could to make ends meet. Was it a relief that he and Grace never added to the family?

Grace herself died in March 1923, and William again mourned for a short period before remarrying, this time to a widow named Mary Grace Sutcliffe. No young children as an excuse this time, but some people hate being lonely, and maybe he was one of them. The couple moved back to Halifax and he had found work as a lamplighter, something a little easier on the body in terms of labour. By 1939 he had retired and he and Mary Grace were living at the Joseph Crossley almshouses on Arden Road just across from Lister Lane Cemetery. In the end, for a manual labourer, he did pretty well for himself in terms of life expectancy, dying in 1945 at the age of 85 and finally coming to rest here with his first two wives and his only daughter.

What about young John Thomas? He joined the army and went to India in 1902, came back later, got married, and lived out his days in Todmorden with only the occasional mention of a mild indiscretion or slightly too good a time being had at the pub. He died in 1958 and is buried at Mankinholes.

Leave a Comment

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