35.17 – Christopher Wilson Procter

Just next to Grace Bell along the school path, another plot marker with three initials on that helped us illuminate this otherwise forgotten life.

Christopher Wilson Procter was born in Stainforth, near Doncaster, in 1844 to John and Esther (Wilson) Procter. The Procters were North Yorkshire stock who had moved south in search of work, and John worked as a farm labourer, groom and gardener for one of the several wealthy families who lived nearby. They were ether unlucky with children or very careful; Christopher had a single younger sister, Ellen, five years his junior and born when Esther was 40.

By 1861 Christopher had made the reverse trip back up to Horton in Ribblesdale where he was working as a stone cutter and lodging with a quarryman named Jonathan Morphet and his family. How he got from there to our area is unknown, but he next appears in public records marrying cotton tenter Rebecca Bramley in Halifax in 1868. Rebecca was four years his junior, born in Stalybridge to travelling clogger James Bramley and his wife Agatha (Stephenson). The Bramleys were back and forth between Todmorden and Stalybridge for a while but settled here not long after Rebecca was born, and are both buried along with James’s parents at 43.iv. Rebecca’s sister Mary and brother Richard are buried at 32.36, but more about them another day…

The Procters settled first at York Street, with Rebecca continuing to work evern after marriage and their first child being born, and later moved down towards Walsden. They settled again at Butcher Hill with Rebecca’s newly widowed father moving in with them. By 1891 the family, even with the eldest children still at home, were at Friths Terrace, where Christopher and Rebecca would stay until their relatively early deaths.

Christopher is something of a mystery and his only mentions are found in Todmorden Urban District Council minutes as a contractor to the UDC, presumably working on roads or walls or other buildings. He operated as an independent contractor from what we can see, perhaps employing a few men, but payment always being made from the UDC directly to him for services rendered. The 1870s and 1880s saw a large programme of sewer works and improvements to outdoor toilets being made, as well as repairing roads damaged by this and by laying gas pipes, and he probably was never short of a few quid. Which is good because he and Rebecca had seven children who survived to adulthood (and sadly four who did not, who are also buried somewhere at Christ Church).

From 1892 their children began to marry and leave home, but with a sixteen year gap between oldest and youngest this didn’t happen very quickly. And in autumn 1895 all seven children were left orphaned very quickly. Christopher died first on August 8th from phthsis pulmonalis (tuberculosis in the heart) and syncope (subsequent unconsciousness) aged 52.

Just over a month later on September 16th Rebecca died from liver congestion, dropsy (heart inflammation) and peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal wall usually caused by organ rupture) aged 47. Their youngest, Sarah, was only 9 years old.

The family began to separate; Sarah went with older sister Mary Ellen and her husband to Accrington, the next two youngest Benjamin and Esther stayed in Todmorden with older sister Margaret and her husband but later went to Stockport, and Alice married and moved to Sowerby Bridge and later Manchester. Only James, the son who had been the informant for both his parents’ deaths, stayed in Todmorden – he’s buried up at Mankinholes.

The C.W.P. marker might only mark Christopher’s grave, or maybe it marks both him and Rebecca. There’s a chance she could be buried with her parents and grandparents though – we simply don’t know. But at least we’ve been able to put a name to the initials and tell a little bit of the story.

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