38.12 – Mary Ann Tootill

This little plot marker has two sets of initials, and so far we only know the first set’s owner. The owner is, like so many others here buried under small plot markers, only a small child. Her story is brief.

Mary Ann Tootill was born on August 1st 1875 to William and Ellen (Brindle) Tootill. When the two married in 1866 in Preston William’s last name was spelled Tootle, but that’s most likely the result of neither of the two being literate. The Tootills lived at 14 Gate Bottom and William was a labourer working at a “warp size house” – slathering cotton or wool with chemicals or treatments that would make them easier to weave with on an industrial scale. Wikipedia tells us how it works:

Before mechanisation, the sizing process was a time-consuming task. The weaver painted the size onto the warp as it lay on the loom, then fanned it dry before weaving the cloth. The sizing machine improved the process by sizing a warp before putting it into the loom. The warp threads are first wound onto a large beam, which is then placed at one end of the sizing machine. Then the warp is drawn off the beam and passes through a bath of boiling size, between sets of rollers and cooled, dried and rewound onto another beam. It is then ready to be woven.

The Tootills are impossible to trace either before or after Mary Ann’s brief existence. No other Tootills (of any spelling) were born or buried in Todmorden, at least none with a mother whose maiden name was Brindle. Mary Ann died on March 31st 1876, a day shy of eight months old, and was buried here under this marker. She must have always been unwell, and her cause of death raises questions (and maybe answers some others) about the seeming lack of siblings. Her cause of death was “congenital debility” and “dropsy 14 days”. In other words, she was born sickly through some sort of disease, or maybe even prematurely, and never managed to thrive.

Poor Ellen died in May the following year, now at 16 Gate Bottom, from bronchitis and general exhaustion. She isn’t named in the burial register for Christ Church though so must be buried elsewhere, somewhere unknown.

Now, the marker also reads “M. I.” underneath it. Who was M. I.? We don’t know. The problem with these markers is that the top name is either the owner or the first person buried here. Guessing at other initials, especially with no middle initial, is hard. Mary Ann’s siblings who were born in Preston in 1868 and 1869, Henry and William, both died before they were a year old as well. William Sr.’s movements after Ellen’s death are unknown. A little marker that promised to reveal something, but the reveal was of not very much at all in the end. Never mind – she’s no longer just initials, and that’s what matters.

As always, if you know something else we didn’t find, let us know…

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