47.52 – Betty and Elizabeth Greenbank, and Sarah and Greenbank Law

The use of surnames as first names means you might have to pay attention to this one!

Betty Greenbank, the grandmother on this stone, was born Betty Barker in October 1805 to John and Hannah Barker of Stansfield. She married John Greenbank at St. Chad’s in Rochdale in September 1823. She might have been John’s second wife; John had the banns read at Heptonstall in July 1822 for himself and a Betty Greenwood, but there doesn’t seem to be a corresponding marriage registered for them. They may have changed their minds, which was quite a thing, given they already had a 4 month old daughter together named Martha.

John himself died in 1833 aged only 32, leaving Betty as a young widow with a single daughter, Sarah, to support.

John had been a maltster, ie. someone who derived malt from barley as part of the first stage of brewing beer or other spirits, and after his death the family carried on living at Ewood Maltkiln where he had lived and worked. Martha moved out at some point before 1841, when we find Betty working as a seamstress, and Sarah living with her and working in a cotton mill. A third person is living with them – Charles Law, whose occupation is given as maltster. An apprentice perhaps, or a young maltster starting out who bought into the business? He isn’t there in 1851, when Betty had moved out to work as a domestic servant for James Greenwood at Glen View in Lydgate. At that point, Sarah is the head of the household at Ewood Maltkiln, and has clearly been working on her studies because she is no longer a weaver but now a school mistress. This is quite the accomplishment, since Sarah is unmarried but has a five year old daughter…

Detail from the 1851 Census

We aren’t joking either – morals were very important back then. Linda Wilkinson’s research into the family brings us information about Sarah’s “disgrace” and subsequent restoration:

“Report of the Inspector of Factories 1846

Report by R. J. Saunders. – Teacher’s Certificate annulled.

I have annulled the certificate of Sarah Greenbank, a schoolmistress in Todmorden township in the Parish of Rochdale for immoral conduct. The only children attending her school were those employed by Messrs. Gaukroger and Smith of Ewood Factory in the same township.

Note: The immoral conduct appears to be that Miss Greenbank was unmarried and pregnant. Her daughter Elizabeth was born in 1846. Sarah must have been forgiven, as she was still the teacher in 1851. By then, the school had just 13 scholars enrolled, 2 boys and 11 girls. Reading, writing and knitting were on offer, although only 4 of the 13 chose to learn how to write. Miss Sarah Greenbank was the mistress on a salary of £13 a year. Her 5-year-old daughter was living with her at the school.”

Sarah must have been very intelligent to have been valued highly enough as a teacher for her indiscretion to be overlooked. We can make a guess as to who the father was, because Sarah married the previously mentioned Charles Law in 1852.

Illegitimate children might socially assume their birth father’s name, but as far as records were concerned, their surname was their mother’s surname and that was that. Young Elizabeth Greenbank is the “granddaughter of the above” buried here, and as we can see never married; we’ll get back to her later.

The delay in their marriage may have been to allow Charles to get his feet fully under himself, and he seems to have done so. In 1861 the Law family are living at Lineholme, not far from Betty, and in 1871 they’re still there and Charles’s occupation is now “journeyman maltster” and Sarah’s is “maltster’s wife”. By that point they have six children together, counting Elizabeth. Eliza, Grace, Greenbank, Sarah and Charles had followed. Two others, Hannah and John, had died young.

…but should we count her? In 1871, her relationship to Charles is given as “step-daughter”, and Charles and Sarah’s eldest daughter with the Law surname is named Eliza. Forename recycling happened frequently but usually only because the first child with that name died. We should go back to our assumption earlier. Was Charles Elizabeth’s biological father? If Sarah had a child out of wedlock because of a sexual assault, that would certainly have prejudiced the education board against her far less than if her daughter had been conceived, well, “recreationally”. Interestingly, in 1881, Elizabeth gives her name on the census as “Elizabeth Greenbank Law”, but by 1891 and there onwards has gone back to simply “Greenbank”. A mystery we may not be able to solve.

Descendant Susan Jackson had something to add about Elizabeth’s relationship to the rest of her family that seemed worth adding here:

“Grandmother Betty left a Will. In it she names William Greenwood of Watty, gentleman, as the beneficiary.  She leaves £50 to her granddaughter, Elizabeth and the remainder of her monies and possessions to her daughter Sarah. So Elizabeth is singled out as special as far as grandmother is concerned, even though on paper she is one of six children at that point. Which leads me to think that Charles is probably not her father!”

Why is that her conclusion? Because Betty knew that Elizabeth might not inherit anything from her reputed father, even after all those years living and being raised presumably just as one of his own. Or, perhaps, it was because Elizabeth didn’t have marriage in her future for some reason or other, and would lack the support of a husband and children or other extended family. Either way she clearly decided to make sure that Elizabeth would have her own, independent, bit of financial security.

Betty had continued working as a cook and housekeeper at Glen View all this time, even after the elder James Greenwood died and his son inherited the house. He had been alive for only a slightly longer amount of time than Betty had worked for his family. She died in 1873 and was the first buried in this plot at Christ Church.

The next into this grave was Elizabeth, but not until 1919 – a long space of time indeed. This is partly because Charles and Sarah had their own family grave which is now in the private area of the graveyard. In there we find Hannah and John, as well as Sarah, and Charles Sr. and Charles Jr. The last burial there came in 1901.

Elizabeth was a cotton weaver for most of her life, until 1901 when she became the housekeeper at 351 Burnley Road (once on the green outside where Plane Street and Churchill Street in Lydgate are located, since demolished) for her now-widowed sister Grace and Grace’s children. This arrangement continued for the rest of Elizabeth’s life. She died in 1919, and we see from her obituary that her mother’s skill at teaching had clearly been inherited, although used for the benefit of the Sunday School this time.

Todmorden and District News, October 17th 1919

Back, though, to the other two in here – Greenbank and Sarah (Clayton) Law.

Sarah Clayton was born in February 1861 in Wakefield, two years after Greenbank. Her father Thomas was a joiner from Halifax who worked (and lived) alongside his father in the same trade. While Thomas’s family stayed in Wakefield, he travelled for work, and in 1877 can be found living at Woodmill in Eastwood and working for Thompson’s corn mill there where he later became the manager. His family must have visited him from time to time in order for Sarah to meet Greenbank, but somehow she did, and they were married on New Year’s Day 1887 at Harley Wood.

Greenbank had become a butcher, and in 1891 he and Sarah were living at Major Street, with Sarah working as a tailoress. This was presumably from home since they also had their first child, Sarah, aged three with them. In 1901 they were doing very well indeed, as resident in one half of Robinwood House! This may have been helped by Sarah’s father Thomas living with them, since he had been managing the corn mill at Eastwood for decades by this point and will have had a fair bit of money. He is listed as their boarder, and his occupation is that of church verger. Either that, or Greenbank’s butcher business was doing very well indeed for itself! Even as a rented property it will have cost them a bit. Daughter Sarah is a milliner’s apprentice, clearly taking after her mother.

1911 shows Greenbank having given up the butchering business, and he was at that point a “cotton cloth warehouseman”. He did have money though; the newspaper shows him offering several properties for sale in 1907, one of them 351 Burnley Road where his two sisters had been living!

He is also now living at the far-humbler address of Mellor Street, back to back terraces still standing in Lydgate today.

Sarah and Greenbank Law with grandchildren, courtesy of Susan Jackson

Sarah and Greenbank only had the one child, Sarah, and lived out the rest of their days in Lydgate with their extended family close at hand. Sarah died in 1933 and Greenbank in 1939. They are the final two interments in this grave, keeping their grandmother and sister (natural and in-law) company while the rest of the family rest elsewhere.

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  1. Pingback:53.50 – James and Grace Spencer, and their many grandchildren – F.O.C.C.T.

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