42.60 – Frank and Emma Bentley

Emma’s backstory is told in the story of her parents, sisters and niece – but we thought for the sake of the medium read not becoming a long one that we would separate the stories out.

Emma Pickup, as she was before marriage, was born in Newchurch, Bacup, in 1858. She had lived in Todmorden since 1862 and, as the youngest, had a little more freedom to choose where she went to work. Rather than go into the cotton mills like her sisters, she went into confectionary. Although that’s not quite true…

Her older sister, Alice, had an illegitimate child in 1879, and so had an extra reason to need to work. Alice has ended up being one of those unique people who appear in the census not once but twice in the same year. In 1881 she was living with her family, but she also ended up on the return for Edward Crabtree’s baking and confectionary premises at 15 Water Street. There was someone else there, too, but we’ll get back to that.

Anyway, Emma went into confectionary first, her occupation being given as confectioner’s assistant in the 1881 Census. We don’t know where she worked at first, but we know that by 1888 she was working for Crabtree because she ended up before the magistrate for accidentally selling some fireworks to a ten year old boy. Forget how she managed to sell fireworks to a child; why was the bakery and confectioners selling fireworks?!

Todmorden District News, November 16th 1888

Going back now to 1881 and Alice’s double entry on the census. Another person working for Crabtree at that time and supposedly living on the premises was Frank Bentley, 19 years old, his “adopted son”. That threw us, briefly, but it seems as though Crabtree was more than a little loose with the requirement for accuracy when giving information to the returning officers. Frank might have been his adopted son in his mind, but Frank was only lacking a mother at this point. His father was very much alive, and very much a known person.

Frank was born in 1862 to John and Jane Bentley of West Longfield and was the youngest of their children. John was then a cotton manufacturer (like Frank’s future father in law) but later became a letterpress printer. You might recognise the name John Bentley as that of the local publishing company, John Bentley and Sons – and you’d be right. John and his family moved down to York Street not long after, with his eldest two sons joining in the family business. Frank preferred a more edible occupation, clearly.

The “adopted son” moniker might be because John Bentley suffered a stroke at some point after 1871 – in 1881 he is living with his daughter Martha Hannah, and the census notes him as being “partly paralysed”. He died in 1887 and left his children a reasonable amount of money, which Frank used to change careers in order to become a clerk. In case you haven’t worked it out, he will have already been acquainted with Alice Pickup through work, and then again with Emma. The two married at Christ Church in March 1890.

It took them a while to start their family, and they only had one child in the end, Edward Lacy (or Lacy, or De Lacey) Bentley. It will have been both a nod to a well-known local name of status as well as to Emma’s mother Mary’s maiden name. Frank, Emma and Edward settled at 36 Wellington Road and Frank pursued the secretaryship of the Lifeboat Appeal, was an organist at Patmos Congregational, and moved from clerking into the insurance industry as an agent. Sadly for them, Edward was the only child they would have together. Emma died in 1901 aged 43, and was buried in this plot along with her parents. The Bible book and verses inscribed after her name is Proverbs 31:28,30, and 31:

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

Frank and Edward carried on alone for some time after, and Frank never remarried. A maid was hired to help look after Edward and keep house, Mary Parker, and she must have been worth every penny as Frank kept her with him until at least 1939. Be cynical and say they were more than employer/employee if you like, but if they were pretending, they kept it up for an awful long time. They may have just enjoyed each others company, and maybe Mary appreciated not needing to marry a man to keep a decent roof over her head.

Edward joined the army and became a gunner in the A Company Siege Battalion, at which time Frank and he were living at 1 Hammerton Terrace. Edward came home in one piece, married in 1921, and both Bentley households eventually ended up living at Woodlands just below Stansfield Hall. Frank died in March 1949, joining Emma again a full 48 years after her death.

When we said John Bentley left his sons a bit of money, we weren’t lying; Frank’s estate when he died was worth £56,573 – the equivalent today of £1.6million. You don’t make that sort of money from being an insurance agent. No wonder such a beautiful cross covers this grave.

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