37.27 – Lydia, George, Grace, Hannah, William and Hannah Lingard Marshall

Another one of our eroded stones that needed Ancestry’s help to decipher. Also another suicide contained within.

Before we start, a word about holly. Holly is our least favourite plant in the graveyard. Not even ivy is capable of causing such damage. Ivy might crack stones, but holly erases everything it touches. Something to do with the abrasive leaves, maybe the pH of the rainwater as it rolls off them, we don’t know but we do know that every badly damaged stone like this had a holly tree in front of of it. Please don’t plant it near a loved one’s grave, we guarantee that your descendants will be really rather cross about it in 100 years time. But back to the Marshalls.

George Marshall, a Halifax lad, married Grace Southwell in 1844 at St. Chad’s in Rochdale. Grace was eight years his senior and from Walsden, and they settled at Butcher Hill to raise a family. William was born first, then Lydia. George’s mother Hannah had settled with them by 1861 after being widowed, as well as George’s brother Richard. All the adults in the house apart from Grace were working, and George was now listed as an engineer rather than labourer, so the household must have been relatively comfortable.

Sadly, in 1870, Lydia died at the age of 20. We don’t yet have a death record for her so don’t know what happened. George and Grace were lucky that this was their only child to die before they did, but it still will have been painful. The family received a double blow in 1881 when both George and Grace both died within two months of each other. Their deaths were sad but not distressing beyond what could be classed as “normal”.

Tragedy struck the family, not in 1886 when Hannah the matriarch died (a long way from her birthplace of Pickering), but in 1893 when William died. William had married Hannah Lingard of Blackshawhead in 1872 and they had six children, four of whom were still living at this point. Ironically, their second daughter was named Lydia, and she died aged only 7 years old…but we’re getting sidetracked. William and Hannah had a family and lives, and no one was prepared for what happened in the middle of the night on April 15th 1893.

William had been suffering from inflammation of the bowels, which isn’t very fun or easy to alleviate today, but would have been insufferable back then. He had tried various medications and even gone away to Blackpool for some rest and recuperation, but nothing was doing. He must have felt desperate and been suffering terribly. Maybe whatever was causing the inflammation became a systemic illness and he was genuinely unable to think straight; the inquest tells us the rest of the story. (be warned: this is graphic stuff. You wonder how they got away with printing it back then.)

“It appears that he went to bed at 9-15 on Saturday night, taking a dose of medicine which had been supplied by Dr. Elliott before so doing : his wife retired to rest at 11-30, giving him another dose. Nothing further was heard until two o’clock on Sunday morning, when Mrs. Marshall found that her husband was taking some more medicine; she got off into a slumber without noticing whether he came back to bed again or not, but a few minutes later she was wakened by a noise downstairs, followed by a gurgling sound. The poor woman became terrified, and after calling her eldest daughter she put up the bedroom window and screamed for help. Eventually she mustered sufficient courage to go downstairs, where a sickening spectacle awaited her; lying on the floor in a large pool of blood was her husband, and the terrified woman had actually to step into the blood to get to the door. She rushed into the street in her night clothes (taking with her footmarks of blood) and roused the neighbourhood. Help was quickly forthcoming, and on P.C. Johnson entering the house about three o’clock he found that the man had almost cut his head off with a razor, which was lying close by, and the open case was on the table. There was an exceptionally large quantity of blood flowing about, the house resembling a slaughter-house more than anything else. Mrs. Marshall and her children (three in number) were attended to by neighbours, a goodly number of whom assembled round the ill-fated house. It may be incidentally mentioned that Marshall, who was perhaps better known as “Spouser,” laid one of the corner stones of Mytholmroyd Primitive Methodist Chapel a few years ago, in memoriam of his uncle, William Southwell. The news of the suicide was freely circulated in Walsden and district on Sunday morning, and caused quite a sensation; many and varied were the expressions of sympathy for the bereaved family in the unfortunate calamity which had overtaken them.

Some attempts were made to give Hannah a hard time for not having paid close enough attention to William’s melancholy, but ultimately she was not censured by the jury, possibly thanks to the coroner’s gentle reminder that it’s easier said than done to stop someone who is suicidal from carrying out their wishes.

“Has he been very quiet? Yes.—You did not expect anything of this sort happening? No.—Has he said anything to the effect that he might do something of the sort? I did not expect it, because he prayed so to be relieved and to be guided in a right way.

The Foreman: I believe the doctor has been afraid something of the kind might happen, as the man was suffering from a sort of melancholia.

The Coroner: Did the doctor say he should be watched? Yes, and I have watched him as well as I could.—l suppose a constable was sent for? Yes, but I can’t say by whom; I went into another house, and as I was almost naked some clothes were found for me. —The Foreman said there was no doubt the witness was distinctly told she must be on the look out. —The Coroner remarked that in such cases the closest watching was very often insufficient.”

We simply cannot imagine what a traumatic, terrible night that was for Hannah and her children. How do you move on from such a tragedy, especially in a day and age where the entire town knows the details thanks to the newspaper?

Hannah lived on for another 17 years. In 1901 she was living at Hollins Road with her three youngest children, the youngest of whom (Tom) was 15 at the time. We haven’t been able to work out how she ended up in Rochdale, but when she died her address was 15 Alice Street, a house that still stands today.

At the risk of sounding maudlin, the broken lancet felt like a metaphor for this family. We have made repairs to it because thankfully the “missing piece” was found at the base of the grave. We can’t erase the damage the holly caused, but we can return some dignity to this grave and look after it going forward.

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