38.8 – Edward and Mary Billington, and Mills, Sarah, Thomas, Jane and John Duckworth

This stone is a great example of how we can’t always trust a gravestone, or a burial register, or indeed much else, to tell us the truth about someone. From our Facebook page, via researcher Holly:

“Been very confused researching this headstone! Normally these things are a valuable tool for giving accurate names and dates. But…

  1. Edward Billington is carved on the stone (seems like he was actually called Edmund Billington). Death date is 26th June 1854, although his burial was a day before on the 25th June…
  2. Mary (his wife), maidenly Mary Crook. I’m currently finding no reference to her death at all.
  3. Mills Duckworth (their grandson). On the stone his death date was 26th October 1849, whereas the burial was 27th October 1853 (official death registration is also 1853).
  4. Sarah Duckworth. Death date on stone is 30th April 1851, burial date 4th May 1854 (death registration 1854).
  5. Thomas Duckworth. Death date on stone is 29th September 1852, burial date 4th January 1856.
  6. Jane and James Duckworth (above children’s parents). This info appears correct!

Can any of the other researchers verify that I’m not going completely mad?”

From researcher Sally:

“I agree with everything you’ve found and I can’t find Mary Billington’s death either. You’re not going mad! I’ve never come across a gravestone riddled with inconsistencies like this – it must have been very frustrating to research.”

From researcher/Secretary Sarah:

“In the Sexton’s book, Mills’s name is given as Miles – and there are no Duckworth burials at all in the burial register in the years 1840 or 1849!”

Let’s see if we can summarise what we have found for certain;

Edward Billington is Edward, not Edmund, on his marriage banns, which show him marrying Mary Crook in Burnley in September 1819. Mary Crook was a spinster who had already had a child, her daughter Jane, out of wedlock with another man, Robert Howgate (occupation given as a “gentleman” on Jane’s marriage certificate later) in 1818. Edward raised Jane as his own and he and Mary had a daughter of their own, Elizabeth.

Edward worked as a “plumber and glazier” although on the 1841 Census he is Edmund Billington the potter, living at George Street in Todmorden. Daughter Elizabeth is married to James Bull and they were living next door to Edward, Mary, and Jane. Edward died in 1854. Mary, her two daughters both grown, and apparently not able or willing to accomodate her in their homes, went into service and was living in Burnley in 1861 as a servant. After further research we found her death occurred in February 1872, still in Burnley.

Jane Crook also worked as a servant and married James Duckworth at Heptonstall in July 1845. James was a shoemaker from Crawshawbooth who lived at Brook Street. He and Jane had six children all told, several of whom are buried here: Mills (or Miles), Sarah, and Thomas. Because of the early dates of their deaths, no newspaper information can be found giving clues as to why they died. Miles died first, aged 5, in 1853. Sarah and Thomas both died at age 2, in 1854 and 1856 respectively.

The Duckworths moved up and down Brook Street for the rest of their married lives together, seemingly as renters who weren’t always able to stay in the same house but stayed on the same street. Jane died in 1877, and James in 1885. No one in this family seems to have had any sort of exceptional life; just ordinary people living their ordinary lives. The most mysterious thing about them turns out to have been their error-riddled gravestone! But that’s the beauty of the FOCCT project. We don’t just remember the most interesting people…we remember everyone. Not every reader here is exceptional, and some of you might even say you aren’t terribly interesting! Does that mean you shouldn’t be remembered, and respected in death? We don’t think so…

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