42.60 – Robert, Mary, Mary Hannah, Alice and Edith Pickup

There are two families buried in this vault towards the back of the graveyard, in the corner behind the school fence – this post will focus on the Pickups of Patmos, who make up most of the interments.

The Pickups of Patmos didn’t start out as from Patmos, or even Todmorden. Robert was born in 1822 in Newchurch in Bacup, and his future wife Mary Lacy was born in Burnley a year later. They’re both difficult to trace before their marriage in 1849 in Haslingden, but we know that Robert was baptised into the Baptist faith, and that his father James was a maltster (preparing malt for brewing).

Robert’s career trajectory from 1851 to 1881 is…interesting. We want to know more. We tried to know more. We couldn’t work it out. In 1851 he was a bookkeeper; in 1861 he was a cotton mill manager; in 1871 he was a butcher; and in 1881 he was a gardener. A Jack-of-all-trades? Some disgrace of some sort? It isn’t very clear. Any disgraces aren’t covered in the newspapers. We know why he came to Todmorden, though, which is to run his own cotton spinning or weaving business inside Stackhills Mill, which stood near where the health centre is now. This is when Robert appears in the newspapers!

Todmorden Advertiser, August 9th 1862

In 1861 the Pickups were still living in Newchurch, but in 1862 Robert entered an indenture between himself and Edward and John Sutcliffe Knowles to be a tenant in the mill, running his own concern, and agreeing that he has no interest or controlling share of any kind in the wider mill itself. In 1863 he had his three children (re?)baptised at Christ Church and each time gives his occupation as “manufacturer”, so what he was doing was a fairly ambitious concern.

We can only assume that the business didn’t work out. There’s no mention of Robert declaring bankruptcy or of any other issue with anything he was doing in there, he simply ceases to be a cotton manufacturer. His addresses when his children were baptised was first Harley Bank and then Wood Street; by 1871 he, Mary and the children were at Patmos, where at least he and Mary would stay.

(Poor Mary, another silent participant like so many other mothers in these stories – when women couldn’t do much outside the house, they didn’t get much story to be remembered via public records)

Now, the children: Mary Hannah was the eldest, born at the end of 1850. Then came Alice in 1853, and Emma in 1858. The girls worked all throughout. Mary Hannah and Alice worked in cotton mills and Emma became a confectioner’s assistant. Emma would later marry Frank Bentley and so is part of the other story of this grave, so we’ll stop talking about her now.

In 1879 Alice had a daughter, Edith, out of wedlock. She had to take the father, Albion Mitchell, to court to get him to pay child maintenance – it sounds like he had plenty of problems on his own without an illegitimate child, mainly a wife and two children who were not all in the best of health. Albion later ended up going to prison for six weeks because he was in arrears, and a few years later for longer because of ill-treatment of his wife. Alice and Edith had a lucky escape most likely. They were part of the household at 15 Patmos in 1881 and we hope that Robert and Mary enjoyed their little granddaughter.

Todmorden Advertiser, April 25th 1879

Robert died in 1884 and Edith in 1888, both still resident at 15 Patmos. When Robert died, the grand sum of his estate amounted to a mere £15 – so much for his one-time role as a cotton manufacturer. Mary’s death took place on Christmas Day which is half of why she and her family were part of our “Dead For The Holidays” tour in December 2023. Mary Hannah, Alice and Edith moved to 2 Peel Street, still in the Patmos/Cobden area, and stayed there for (for some of them) the rest of their lives. Mary Hannah continued to work as a cotton winder, Edith joined the workforce as a cotton spinner, and Alice stayed at home keeping house for the two of them. It was a situation that suited them, as until Mary Hannah’s death in 1924 the dynamic remained the same.

After Mary Hannah died, Alice and Edith moved to 61 Burnley Road. Alice died next, in 1935. Edith had never married and decided to stay in Todmorden, and stay single, and at first also stayed at the Burnley Road house where she can be found in 1939. Eventually she moved to Cowhurst Avenue, her address when she died at Halifax Royal Infirmary on New Year’s Day in 1959. She left her estate to her nephew Edward Lacy Bentley. It was £287, considerably more than the £15 her grandfather had left behind even after adjusting for inflation.

One grave, two deaths at the holidays, and still a few minor mysteries to solve. You can find the story of Emma Pickup and her husband Frank Bentley here.

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