37.13 – John and Mary Holmes and Hannah Buckle

Much of Hannah Buckle has already been said in the post about her sister, brother and nephew. Hannah was one of the fourteen children of Anthony and Mary Buckle of Barden, and came here along with her brother Anthony and nephew George Watson at some point before 1851. Hannah never married, and died in 1870. Her life is a mystery thanks to her unmarried status and lack of appearance in the newspapers. The relationship between her and the Holmeses is what we wondered about – was Mary her daughter, or the daughter of one of her other sisters (or even the illegitimate daughter of one of her brothers)?

Mary Heslop was born around 1825 to Richard and Ann (Buckle) Heslop. Ann was one of the fourteen Buckle children and had married Richard in 1809 in Well, near Bedale in North Yorkshire. Mary was the last child born to the Heslops as Ann died the following year. Richard died in 1833 and Mary grew up with Anthony and Hannah, who as early as 1841 were happily cohabiting and looking after two of their Buckle nephews as well. Life was hard on a farm in North Yorkshire, and Mary was working as an agricultural labourer alongside her three cousins at age 16. She followed her aunt and uncle and cousin to Todmorden, and it was here that she met the charming and already highly well regarded John Holmes.

John Holmes was born in Fixby, between Elland and Huddersfield, in late 1819. His parents were James and Ann Holmes, both of whom died before 1841. As a result it’s difficult to trace John before his arrival in Todmorden in 1849, but once he arrived, he threw himself into public life with an enthusiasm that this researcher admires and also finds exhausting to think about. John first took up a role with the railway, which was expanding rapidly as an employer and represented another way to leave weaving behind for a number of young men at the time. He and his sister Sarah, ten years his junior, were resident at the train station in 1851, and John’s occupation was “railway clerk or collector”. Sadly Sarah died in November 1856 and was buried somewhere here at Christ Church, the “new ground” as it was still termed back then. John will have grieved her, but he found companionship again in the form of his wife, Mary; they married in January 1857. And since Mary had lost her close cousin George Watson in 1856, perhaps 1857 was a new start for both of them.

John and Mary had two children – Annabella, born in late 1857, and George Henry, born in 1863. In late 1857 John left the employ of the railway and went into the wine and spirits business with his uncle Anthony Buckle. When Anthony died John continued to manage the Vaults, also known now as the Grapes Inn. He also became the Secretary of the Todmorden Joint Stock Mill Company that year; two years later, Treasurer for the Masonic Hall Company; Secretary to the group that paid for the clock at St. Mary’s; Treasurer to the Todmorden Botanical Society; Treasurer to the Todmorden Permanent Society…the man was busy. And we hope he got the most from life during this time, because he would die at the relatively young age of 55 in April 1875 after a nasty case of smallpox. His family lost their breadwinner, and the town lost a massively invested supporter in its social and educational societies.

Todmorden Advertiser, April 9th 1875

Interestingly, his other obituary mentions that he was buried the evening of the day he died – probably a measure to try and contain his infectious diease.

After his death Mary continued to run the Grapes. Son George went off to Leeds to train as a surgical instrument maker, and daughter Annabella stayed with Mary and helped her run the Grapes, along with her cousin Benjamin Holmes, and a servant named Mary Ann Wade who would remain with the Holmes family for the next thirty years. George’s career in medicine didn’t pan out, and he also moved back home to help with the running of the business. As Anthony and John had before her, Mary continued to supply the Town Board with wine and spirits for their special events, and her name appears in the Board’s accounts as a creditor on several occasions.

Blackpool Gazette & Herald, October 2nd 1896

Eventually Mary and her children decided to hang up their hats and leave Todmorden. In 1892 Mary transferred the license for the Grapes to Isaac Marshall, and the three Holmeses and Mary Ann Wade headed for sunny Blackpool. After a slightly rocky start, George finally obtained a license to sell bottled beer and spirits from a shop at the corner of Lytham and St. Chad’s Roads, on the proviso that no more than six bottles were sold at a time. The family business was back up and running, just in off-license form rather than a pub. Mary had four years to be pleased that the traditions were being continued before she died in April 1900, just a few days shy of 25 years after John’s death.

The shop at what was 117 Lytham Road, via Google Street View

George and Annabella stayed single their whole lives, and continued living together for the rest of their lives. Interestingly, George was “retired” by 1911, even though he was only 47 – ill health? Not that, because Annabella died in 1934, but George didn’t die until well into his 80s, in 1947. George had followed in John’s footsteps with being involved with civic life in Lytham, so perhaps he and Annabella were just successful enough to retire early and enjoy what time they had left…

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