46.62 – William Howarth and Andrew and Clarissa Russell

This set of sidestones is a frustrating one, because not only have William and Andrew’s stones been separated but Clarissa’s stone has also gone missing between the 1980s and now. Clarissa was buried here with both her husbands, two very different men in many ways.

William Howarth was born in 1849 in Sowerby Bridge. His parentage is a little vague, as there are many William Howarths (or variants thereof) and pinning this one down has proved difficult. Until his marriage we don’t know anything about his life; and his marriage record from 1873 is unsatisfying, as it’s the civil record only.

Clarissa Wood was born in 1852 in Knottingley to James and Zillah Wood. James was a lime burner (burning down limestone to make lime for industrial processes) and Clarissa was one of several children, and money was tight. By 1871 she had gone into service for widowed innkeeper Cawthorn Isaac, lying about her age to make herself seem younger than she was. Usually it’s the other way around to get work, right? It’s curious because Clarissa continued to give her age as younger than she was, even when it would have made things awkward, such as when marrying William in 1873 when she would have supposedly only been 16 years old. Maybe that was for William’s benefit, as she continued to give a younger age going forward. The 1881 Census shows him as 32, her as 26, and their only child Willie as two years old.

William was a stonemason and worked hard, and unfortunately also played hard. His appearances in the local papers for drunkenness are rare, but it’s noticeable that their address seems to change on a regular basis. At some point we suspect Clarissa took Willie and left, because her presence at his inquest is curiously sketched in very vaguely. William died in January 1890 at the age of 41 after literally drinking himself to death via a series of fits leading to a coma.

Todmorden Advertiser, January 10th 1890

Clarissa’s vague involvement with the inquest comes at the end, where she is referred to only as his widow, not named, is noted for not having been present in the courtroom until this final moment, and only to say – not under oath – that he was subject to fits only when “coming off a spree”. She mourned him for a year as was common, and then married Andrew Edward Russell at the Unitarian Church, another stonemason. Presumably one with better habits.

Andrew Russell was born in 1859 in Liverpool. His father Edward was a pattern maker but Andrew chose a different occupation. In 1881 he had moved to West Derby, just outside Liverpool, to lodge with another mason and his family plus another young mason – either working for him or as some sort of informal apprenticeship. On March 7th 1886 he married Margaret Ellen Hayes, another Liverpudlian, and not a moment too soon as their son John Edward was born on March 22nd 1886! A year later the couple were hoping to welcome another child but predictable tragedy struck. Little Margaret Russell was born and a few days later on November 26th mother Margaret died from peritonitis following confinement. Three days later John Edward died aged 20 months old from marasmus, otherwise known as severe malnutrition. Today we mostly see it in developing countries. Margaret must have been severely unwell for some time, or the family were very poor indeed, or both. The two are buried together at the Liverpool Necropolis.

Andrew and little Margaret left for Todmorden, for reasons we don’t know, and here he met Clarissa. The two married and together raised their respective children in first Todmorden and then later Sowerby Bridge, never having any children of their own together. Andrew took on work with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway which may explain the move – as before, he went where the work was. By 1901 they were living there at 33 Tuel Lane, which would later become 33 Mount Terrace, Tuel Lane. Andrew died in September 1918 at the age of 59 and Clarissa took the interesting step of having him buried with her first husband back in Todmorden. We do wonder why…a shortage of burial space? Did Clarissa truly love her first husband even with his bad habits, and not want to divide her loyalties? Maybe Andrew had regrets about his first wife and child being so far away and she didn’t want to feel the same. Who knows…

Halifax Evening Courier, November 16th 1938

Clarissa herself died in 1938, twenty years after Andrew and 48 years after William, and was buried here with her two husbands at long last. We know this because of her stone which, as we said at the beginning, has gone missing somewhere. We keep hoping that it will turn up but we don’t dare hold our breath after (at the time of writing) 19 months of the FOCCT project being in operation. But then there are many seemingly unmarked sidestones being used as path boundaries, and maybe she’s hiding on one of those somewhere…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *