39.5 – Jim, Jim, Judy, John and Jeremiah Crossley

A family of Js? Not an affectation, just a coincidence that the children buried here all share the same first initial as their father.

Jeremiah Crossley was born in 1791, most likely in Halifax, the son of a Northowram ropetwister. He grew up to become an iron moulder and made his way down the valley to Todmorden and Butcher Hill in Walsden for work, and in 1814 married Susan Ambler at St. Mary’s. Susan was four years his junior and it must have been love, because children followed on very quickly: Judy in 1815, Hezekiah in 1816, and Jim (the first) in 1817. Poor Susan then had a bit of a break before Susey in 1826, John in 1828, Sally in 1831, and Samuel in 1835. All told, by the end of things, Susan would have eight children – that we know of – in the space of 24 years.

1839 brought joy and sorry for the family in equal measure. At the beginning of January their son Jim died at the age of 22. Susan would have already probably been around three months pregnant, and by October that year they had welcomed their last daughter Mary and had her baptised at Christ Church. As far as we know this was the first child the Jeremiah and Susan lost, and the location of this grave tracks for the year 1839 to be when it was first opened.

In May 1841 Susan had her last son and last child, and he was named Jim after his lost brother. Unfortunately he was the second person in the family to enter this grave – he died in April 1842, although his stone has an error and says he died in 1841. If we hadn’t already known where this grave was, we would know from the burial register, which includes a rare annotation reading “2 grave from Wildsmith the soldier, 1st row from bottom”

To geek out for a brief moment; this tells us three things that we would have had little to no chance of knowing otherwise. Firstly, the first Jim Crossley’s grave wasn’t marked and had to be identified by using an existing marked grave as a reference. Secondly, Wildsmith Burchell‘s mother Ann wasted no time in sending the money up from Sussex to have her son’s final resting place (which was another one of the rare annotations, “at the base of the lilac”) marked out, to the point where two years later it was being used as a reference point. Thirdly, the sudden-ish drop from the back slope downwards towards the school path has always seemed a little precipitous, and that’s because it used to be an actual drop. Wildsmith is in what we now call row 38a and the Crossleys in row 39, although this distinction is a holdover from earlier transcriptions and it’s probably easier to consider them as a row 38-ish row. The existing school path separates rows 34 and 35. Rows 35, 36, and 37 previously being a sharper slope which was bordered by a path of its own makes a lot of sense.

Maybe you had to be there. I found it exciting anyway. Shush.

Judy died next, in 1847. She had been working as a cotton spinner like most of the other grown children and was 32, rather old for an unmarried young woman, but then as the eldest daughter she was probably expected to stay at home and help Susan in and around her day work. Don’t forget, in 1847 there still would have been two children under the age of 12 still living in the house. 1848 brought two final deaths to the household; Jeremiah, aged 57, in March and John, aged 20, in November. This closed out the grave for this family as far as we know, although when Susan died in 1854, it’s likely she was buried here too but her name never added. The clue is in the gap after Jeremiah’s name…it was left for her. For whatever reason, her children never filled it.

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