35.6 – Arthur and Ellen Marshall, Thomas and Mary Ann Greenwood

There are lots of Arthur Marshalls in this graveyard, and this is one of them – this Arthur was a fairly unremarkable man, but not everyone in here has a grand story. Some stories are fairly straightforward ones. We were glad to be able to verify this inscription before the stone finishes delaminating and becomes unreadable, which seems likely to happen within the next 5-10 years.

Firstly, Thomas and Mary Ann Greenwood. Thomas was born in 1818 and baptised at St. Mary’s. He married Mary Ann at some point between 1841 and 1851. We could not find any record of their marriage, or at least not a marriage record which was verifiably theirs; not even at St. Chad’s in Rochdale or at Heptonstall. They did not have any children of their own. As the gravestone indicated, Thomas served Christ Church for a great deal of his life – “for 40 years grave digger of this church”. He died in 1885 and Sarah Ann followed in 1895.

Arthur was born in 1873 in Rochdale – at least, according to the 1911 Census, he was. In June 1893 he married Ellen Gibson from Burnley at Heptonstall St Thomas, and the two settled at 7 Myrtle Street – you might know it now as the little road that leads into the Methodist and outdoor market carpark, there are no houses left along that little stretch anymore. On the marriage certificate, Arthur did not give his father’s name, although a Clara Marshall was one of the witnesses.

Clara helped us track Arthur a little further backwards – she was his sister, and after more research it seems reasonable to believe that both Clara and Arthur (and several other siblings) were illegitimate. Their mother Ellen listed herself as a widow as early as 1871, which was three years after Clara was born but two before Arthur and three before the next child along. Ellen and the children were living in 1871 and 1881 with Thomas and Sarah Ann at Myrtle Street, Ellen being labelled as Thomas’s sister-in-law. The children mostly likely were of Thomas’s brother William, who lived with them in 1861 but was no longer resident there in 1871. We were able to trace Ellen’s life to some degree prior to 1871 and it is clear that she was born a Marshall, not married one; and did not have a sister named Mary Ann. Ellen herself died in 1881 aged 44, and all attempts to find anything more about her, or her life before marriage, have proved fruitless. She is buried here at Christ Church but we don’t know where. Thomas the grave digger here would know, but he didn’t leave us any clue.

Scandal followed Arthur Marshall, the next time through his wife Ellen’s sister Alice Gibson, who drowned herself in 1900 after her young man ditched her for another girl, and the inquest and lengthy interviewing of Ellen (and judgmental verdict that accused her of not having done more to stop Alice from killing herself) was in the newspapers. It seems like things happened around Arthur but not involving Arthur.

Anyway, back to Arthur. In 1911 his little family had moved over to 81 Cambridge Street and had five children living with them (a sixth was born and died between the two census returns). Arthur was still a weaver, and the eldest two children worked in the weaving and leather industries. Come WW1 and the family were now at 21 Osborne Place. Willie, one of his and Ellen’s sons, went off to fight…but sadly did not come home. He was presumed to have died in 1916 aged 19 (he went missing and his body was never found, and his death was formally announced a year later) and his name is on the memorial at Thiepval.

Arthur himself lived, as we said, an unremarkable life, and his only appearance in the local news seems to have been at his death in 1928, because of the circumstances. The inquest reads as follows:

Inquest from Arthur’s death, Todmorden Advertiser 1928

Arthur’s epilepsy, which had developed in adulthood, led him to have a fatal fit.

Ellen’s name and date of death was previously unmarked, although present on this stone – on the plinth at the base, where many inscriptions have escaped prior notice. She survived him and died in 1950 aged 75.

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