37.26 – James and George Rodley

James Brearley and George Edward Rodley’s short little lives mean short stories. They were two of Frederick and Mary Ellen (Brearley) Rodley’s eleven children, and they died within two days of each other in November 1869. We also suspect that Mabel Rodley, their sister who died in 1882, is also buried here, but cannot prove it.

Both boys had whooping cough, and neither was old enough to weather the convulsions that accompanied fever and the physical strain of the illness.

Frederick, their father, was the Surveyor for the local board and worked alongside the Nuisance and Sanitary Inspectors during his long career with Todmorden’s local governing committees. A native of Manchester who grew up in Liverpool, he married Mary Ellen Brearley in Halifax in 1860 when he was 26 and she was 20. They lived in Halifax for a brief time while Frederick pursued his first career: stonemason employing either 13 or 15 men (the census record has a black dash through it obscuring the second number). His father Richard had also been a stonemason so Frederick was merely following in the family trade. From stonemason to sanitary surveyor…quite a leap! Or maybe not quite, since Frederick would need to not just be able to carve stone to order, but also understand the mechanics of fitting them together and the building trade. Maybe going from there to the town board surveyor doesn’t seem so unlikely.

His move into sanitary inspection came quite simply from necessity – Todmorden was growing by leaps and bounds, and the decision was made to build a new, comprehensive, and extensive sewer system. Enter Frederick’s knowledge of building and architecture. But addressing every aspect of this ambitious idea was too much, and by 1868 he was asking the Town Board to appoint a separate Sanitary and/or Nuisance Inspector to take on the work. Rodley’s wishes were granted and he was able to devote himself more fully to building the sewers, first in the town centre and then out the three valleys, while the other Inspectors could handle the niceties of asking (forcing) homeowners and landlords to update and expand the system of water closets and urinals to meet the new sewers and be fit for purpose.

In 1882 Frederick moved on to a Surveyor role with Whitworth Urban District, and ultimately he and Mary Ellen ended up moving to Blackpool. This could be why Mabel isn’t mentioned on the stone, even though she is buried at Christ Church – it’s strange, but what other explanation is there? They certainly weren’t in financial straits.

Frederick died in 1912 and Mary Ellen in 1929.

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