40.38 and 40.39 – John, Mary Ann, and John Holt Jr.

You know when sometimes you just…know? Well, we didn’t. We had no idea there were two stones side by side here. John Holt Jr. was, according to the lost sexton’s book, buried in the same plot as little Sarah Taylor just below John and Mary Ann. Actually though he was on the side of his parents. An accidental spade drop made a sound we knew meant there was more than just grass, and – voila.

Hopefully the grass we’ve seeded since then stays put and helps keep John Jr. a bit better defined.

John Holt was born in 1793 in Halifax. Because many of his records predate 1841 it’s a little tricky to trace much of his early life. In September 1820 he married Mary Ann Shackleton at St. Chad’s in Rochdale. Both were living in Todmorden at the time and John’s occupation is given as timber merchant. Mary Ann is, of course, a mere spinster…John must have been doing well for himself or at least moving in good circles as the witnesses were George Eccles and Henry Ramsbottom, both significant people in Todmorden at the time and both of whom are also buried at Christ Church. John and Mary Ann had 8 children all told, the eldest of whom was John Jr.

We don’t have much to say about him as he had a very short life. He died in late March 1841, a resident of “Timber Yard” which refers to his father’s timber yard at Pavement, near to Bankfield Buildings. His mother Mary Ann had died a few years earlier, in 1836.

The plan must originally have been for there to be the two plots purchased in order to hold the entire family, but after Mary Ann and John Jr. died, the family dispersed out of Todmorden and this idea faded from their consciousness. John moved away from both Todmorden and the timber industry and became a railway clerk. In 1851 he was living in Chorlton on Medlock with daughters Maria and Hannah, and in 1861 he was in Kirkmanshulme, now part of Longsight, with son Charles (who had become an engineer) and his wife and son. When he died in 1863 he was brought back to Todmorden and buried with his wife and next to his eldest son, but he was the last of the family to go into those two plots.

We were glad to be able to bring John Jr. back into the light, even if only accidentally, but this is yet another reason why we wish we could see that sexton’s book again, or any other documentation. Thorough minds are on the case at St. Mary’s regarding other paperwork, but the lost book itself might tell us things that previous readers didn’t see. Maybe it wouldn’t…it’s perfectly possible that there are errors in it that can only be identified by lucky breaks, or doing things we really ought not to, or are impossible to identify. But we don’t know, and it’s galling! So whenever you, the reader, has any information or items at home that help us unravel another little strand of yarn, we really appreciate them being shared with us. It all adds up.

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