33.29 – Sutcliffe and Mary Ann Thomas

This couple died many years and many, many miles apart! What’s their story?

Sutcliffe Thomas was born in September 1825. His parents Richard and Hannah, of Wadsworth, baptised him and his brother John at Longfield Wesleyan Chapel some time later. Sutcliffe apprenticed as a plasterer and in 1841 was found living with his (maternal) aunt and uncle, likely because of said apprenticeship. Between 1841 and 1851 Richard died, and in 1851 Hannah is living with her also-widowed sister Grace Pilling and the Thomas children. Also living there is Margaret (Robinson) Thomas – she and Sutcliffe had gotten married in 1850. Everyone apart from the five year old is at work, not uncommon in a household headed by two widows. Every penny would have counted. Interestingly, Margaret’s occupation in 1871 is given as “plasterer’s wife”!

Sutcliffe worked hard and by 1871 was employing two men underneath him according to the census, but he and Margaret had no children. They have a nephew of Margaret’s and a lodger living with them at 5 West Street, and just next door at number 6 is his brother Richard and his family as well as mother Hannah. In 1875 Margaret passed away. Sutcliffe soon remarried Mary Ann Wilkinson, both listed as widower and widow on their marriage certificate.

Mary Ann Wilkinson was herself Mary Ann Holmes, once. She was born in 1846 in Rastrick to Henry and Nancy Holmes but the family soon moved down to Fixby, where Henry himself had been born. Henry was a “farmer and market gardener” according to the 1861 Census. At some point the family went back again to the Rastrick area and Mary Ann married John Wilkinson, a railway porter, in May 1870. This was either not long before or not long after their daughter and only child together, Martha Hannah, was born (her birth was registered in the April-May-June quarter of 1870). Their marriage was a short one; John died in June 1872, only 26 years old. Even more sadly, that was not Mary Ann’s first loss that year; Martha Hannah died in October.

After Sutcliffe and Mary Ann married, they started their own, possibly much longed for on both sides family. Three children followed – Annie, Ben and Clara. Although this marriage lasted longer than Mary Ann’s last one it was still cut short, because in 1888, Sutcliffe died suddenly during the night. His death warranted a brief notice in the newspaper, stating that he “retired to bed in his usual health” but became sick in the night, and although a doctor was called he passed away around 4am.

The family carried on as best they could, but clearly at some point at least one member of the family decided that they needed to do something different. We don’t know precisely how, but Mary Ann, Ben, and Annie ended up in Canada. They emigrated in 1907 and ended up at Port Arthur, Ontario. Annie married a fellow Englishman who had been there for a little longer, Henry Thomas Hill. Ben stayed a bachelor until 1934 when he married Bridget Mary Murray, a widow. And Mary Ann carried on in a new setting.

Mary Ann died in 1936, with her death certificate listing her cause of death as senility. The informant was her daughter Annie Hill. Clara, who had stayed behind and married boot repairer Thomas Ogden, will have been the one who made sure her mother’s name, if nothing else, was put alongside Sutcliffe’s.

This grave required a little bit of research legwork as an error was made in the transcription of the sexton’s book, with Mary Ann’s burial being given as 1946 rather than 1936. There was indeed a Mary Ann Thomas buried at Christ Church in 1946, but she’s a different woman altogether.

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