27.20 – the children of Elizabeth Greenwood

Rather than type all their names into the title, here lies seven of Elizabeth and John Ashton Greenwood’s children – Sarah Elizabeth, Evelyn Josephine, John Ashton, Florence, Sybil, Theresa, and Elizabeth Ann. So many children.

Elizabeth Ann Greenwood was born Elizabeth Sykes in Preston in June 1860. She is hard to track down before 1881, when she first appears in the record in Todmorden; there’s a chance that an Elizabeth Sykes who was living in a union workhouse in Stockton-on-Tees with three of her young siblings and no parents is her, but it’s impossible to prove. It would make sense in some ways because even though she’s listed as a “scholar”, female orphans who found themselves in workhouses were often trained to go into service as a way of ensuring they could earn their keep. Remember Agnes Wilson’s story? Hammond House did a similar thing with the “naughty girls” who were sent there. And in 1881, Elizabeth had made her way to Todmorden and was living and working at the Glen View in Portsmouth as a domestic servant.

John Ashton Greenwood was born in 1862 in Todmorden, the son of Ashton Greenwood, a stone getter/carter, and Sarah (nee Stansfield). John Ashton also became a carter. He and Elizabeth married in Todmorden in 1882. Elizabeth became, like a lot of women at the time, a housewife and mother. And mother to many children. In the 1911 census (by which time they were living in Burnley) they stated they’d had 12 children, 9 of whom had died – 7 of whom are on this stone. We searched the General Register Office records and could find only 10, so we think the other two must have been still born or died before their births could be registered – which would mean their deaths weren’t registered either. The only one of these seven to have his death reported in the newspaper was their only son, in the Todmorden Advertiser on 20th November 1891.

Elizabeth didn’t have an easy time of it – not just because of her sad losses, but because her husband was not the sort of man she would have wanted to be going through life with. In 1905 Elizabeth took her brother in law, William to court for assault, and it made the papers. The story was that she had gone looking for her husband and found him at the house of a Mrs. Holt, along with his brother and Mr. Holt, drinking. The stories diverge here – Elizabeth said that John, William and Mrs. Holt attacked her and beat her badly, William said Elizabeth was drunk that evening, but also was slightly mad and that his brother was always having trouble with her. Mrs. Holt said she was always coming round looking for her husband and had smashed the Holt’s windows before. William also said that it was his brother who had punched her and knocked her to the ground, not him. Much was made by William and Mrs. Holt of Elizabeth being jealous, paranoid, and neurotic – that John had a lot of trouble with her and no wonder he wanted to drink and spend time outside the house.

When you think about their many losses, and even if you don’t think it right to believe everything that Elizabeth said without question, it seems like she had a terribly unhappy life. John Ashton Greenwood died in Burnley in 1927 and Elizabeth died there in 1941. In the 1939 register she was living as an inmate at Primrose Bank Public Assistance Institution.

As for the children who lived;

Mary Agnes married George Miller, they had 5 children (one died as a baby). She died in Burnley in 1955. 

Winifred Harriet didn’t marry. In 1921 she was living in Blackburn with her ‘adopted father’ and her son. In 1939 she was alone at the same address and listed herself as a widow. She died in 1957 in Blackburn.

Edith in 1911 was living in Blackburn with Winifred, Winifred’s son, and their step grandfather (who is Winifred’s adopted father in 1921). In 1921 she was still living in Blackburn with William Whyles and her daughter. She is described as a ‘mistress’ on the census form – something we’ve never seen before! She died in Blackburn in 1934. 

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  1. Pingback:18.36 – John and Ellen Partlin – F.O.C.C.T.

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