36A.25 – Ann, Mary and John Pettyt Barraclough

It’s tempting to spend a lot of time talking about someone who we think might be buried here but aren’t sure about – John’s second wife, a different Mary – we’ll start with those who are here, though.

Ann Coward was born in Knottingley in 1839, and met John Pettyt Barraclough of Pontefract probably sometime around 1857. This is an educated guess based on the birth of their first son, Richard Barraclough Coward, being in 1858. They must have married soon afterwards, because their next son John was born in 1859 and was able to be registered with the surname Barraclough. Four daughters followed: Ellen, Emma, Eliza, and Mary. Mary was the last child, born in 1870.

By 1861 they had settled at Peel Street in Todmorden, moving on to Queen Street in 1871. John worked as a joiner and carpenter, and Ann interestingly as a “formerly dressmaker”. Was it having so many young children that caused her to formerly be a dressmaker, or illness? Because the next year she was dead. Very young, and leaving many young children behind.

Faced with so many young children John went looking for a new wife. In September 1872 – 8 months later – he remarried, this time to Mary Jones. What ought to have been a happy marriage was anything but, as we will see.

In 1884, his youngest daughter Mary died, only 14 years old. She was laid to rest here with her mother and possibly her sister Emma, who had died not long after being born in 1864. She isn’t in the sexton’s book though.

John’s aforementioned unhappiness continued, as his second wife Mary was continually unwell, and following a broken leg which was not set properly by a junior doctor developed an addiction to morphine. She eventually overdosed in 1901 when the family were living up at New Delight, and John was examined in great, sometimes painful detail at the coroner’s inquest and asked whether he felt he had done enough to prevent Mary from getting hold of morphine. Forget their strict instructions to all the local chemists not to sell it to her, forget the entire family’s refusal to buy it, Mary found others who would get it for her. Depressingly common still today. Ultimately John and family were “found free of censure” but it will still have been hard to experience.

John himself died not long after, in 1903.

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