51.57 – Fielden and Betsy Hannah Varley

This plot marker took a while to discern, having to manually rule out all the known V surnames in the graveyard and their immediate families. We still aren’t 100% certain about who is in this plot – we have guesses – but we’re certain that F. V. refers to Fielden Varley, and it’s likely that this grave contains his first wife, Betsy Hannah Crossland, and a few of their children as well as one of his children with his second wife; and maybe even the man himself.

Fielden was born in January 1848 in Walsden to John and Mary (Eastwood) Varley. John was a boatsman from Padiham and, unsurprisingly, lived at Gauxholme wharf along with Mary and Mary’s father John Eastwood. The couple had two children, Fielden and Alfred. John Varley died in 1855 and John Eastwood also at some point between the 1851 and 1861 Census, but Mary stayed on at Gauxholme with her two sons, who became cotton workers.

Meanwhile, the Crossland family were setting up at Dobroyd. Who were they? Joseph and Mary (Kirwin) Crossland were offcumden from two entirely different directions; Joseph from Dalton in Yorkshire, and Mary from Bristol. The two married at Kirkheaton in 1843 when Mary was just 17, and in something of a rush as their son Alfred was born later that year; they would have five children, the third being Betsy Hannah. Betsy was the first of their children to be born in Todmorden. Joseph was a warehouseman in a cotton mill and found the valley to his liking and stayed even during the worst of the 1860s cotton famine. He, Mary and their son Joseph are buried in the private area, daughter Laura Ellen Law is at 8.38, and other daughter Julia Virginia Violetta Taylor is at 3.26. But we digress.

Betsy and Fielden married in 1870 and had four children together that we know of. Unsurprisingly given they both had brothers named Alfred, their first child’s name was Alfred. He was born in, and died in, 1871. It seems unlikely that he’s buried here. Joseph Crossland and little Joseph died in 1862 and 1863 so little Alfred may be in that grave along with them. Next came Frank in 1873, John William in 1873, and Laura Ellen (named for her sister) in 1875. 1876 is the year that seems most likely for this grave as in May of that year little Laura Ellen died, and in November Betsy herself died at only 25 years old. The grave to one side of this plot marker is another plot marker, W. G. (so practically undiscernable), and to the other side is a series of graves with initial interments ranging in 1874 and 1878. 1876 feels about right for this grave to have been purchased by Fielden and his wife and daughter added to it.

Fielden remarried in 1879 to Betty Butterworth of Millwood and had two more children, Mary Jane (1880-1881) and Emma (1881-unknown, but she had an adult baptism in 1900 so she at least survived to adulthood along with her half brothers Frank and John William). Amusingly Betty had a son born out of wedlock named Frank who was born the same year as Fielden’s son Frank, and so in 1881 Frank Varley was living with them, but in 1891 Frank Butterworth was living with them – it threw us off for a moment for sure. Fielden’s only newspaper lines from from 1894 when he was working as a stoker at a corn mill and in a nasty accident where he broke his arm while working alone and was found unconscious. He recovered well but the injury was enough for the accident to receive a few lines in the newspaper.

In 1897 Fielden died and was buried at Christ Church, but we know not where. Well, we mean, we can make a pretty darn good guess that he’s in here with Betsy and Laura and probably also Mary Jane; but we’ve no proof except the grid layout, the burial registers, and supposition. If any descendants have hold of a grave receipt or two it would help enormously, so as always, get in touch if you do.

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  1. Pingback:3.26 – James, Laura Ellen, and Julia Virginia Violetta Taylor – F.O.C.C.T.

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