51.62 – George, William, Nancy Ann and Anthony Whitehead

In many graves here at Christ Church you can find children mentioned whose existence is often lost in the search for ancestors; they may or may not have been baptised, and if they were born and died between census returns then it’s easy to miss them. This grave is one such grave. Their father was well known, their mother was a Travis (although not one of those Travises), and they are only remembered here on the stone.

Anthony Whitehead was born in Todmorden in late 1854 to George and Ellen (Howarth) Whitehead of Hall-Ing, between Salford and Crescent and opposite where Morrison’s is now. George was a tinplate worker, similar to a whitesmith, and all the Whitehead boys worked alongside him at the foundry at Salford. Anthony was the fourth of five sons and in 1871 only the youngest, Sam, was still in school – all the others were hard at work. This familial support allowed George to grow their shop into George Whitehead and Sons and set his children up to be a little more comfortable than most!

The Whiteheads were Unitarians and Anthony in particular would remain loyal to the church his whole life. In February 1876 he married Nancy Ann Travis at the Unitarian Church, which at that point had only been open for three years. Nancy was a year younger than Anthony, born in December 1855 at Calf Hey in Walsden to Charles and Jane (Howarth) (no relation) Travis. Charles was a weaver and if he’s connected to the late great John Travis then we don’t (yet) know about it. This line of Travises weren’t writers but labourers, and Charles would eventually move from weaving to carpentry and became a joiner. They moved to Butcher Hill and Nancy stayed there until she met and married Anthony. The Travises were also Anglicans, which explains why this family are buried at the parish church here rather than the Unitarian.

Anthony and Nancy had six children, and the “bookenders” are buried here in this grave. Their first child, George, was born in December 1876 – ten months after their wedding – and died only a few years later in 1879. By then their son Charles had been born, and their daughter Jane would come along the next year. Clara and Bertha also got a chance to see adulthood…but their last child together, William, was born and died within the same year, 1888, and joined George here.

Anthony was helping grow the family business at Salford but was also working his connections as best he could by becoming a Freemason, and being very active within the Prudence Lodge here in town. Interestingly he doesn’t appear in the newspapers much in relation to the lodge until much later; you could almost look at it as him taking on more outside interests as his children grew up. Perhaps Nancy was unwell too and he was needed more at home, or the business needed so much of his attention that he had none spare. Who knows, because we don’t get to do proper time travel with this research, sometimes the best we can do is make guesses. Nancy died in 1896 from valvular heart disease so was probably ill for some time, and even with Anthony being apparently very successful his time and energy will have been diverted into the home perhaps more than some other husbands of the time.

Given all that though, surprisingly, the Whiteheads never had a servant living in with them. Pride? Thrift?

Anthony waited longer than many widowers did to remarry, but he did, to Hannah Woolfenden in 1900. This is around the time his masonic duties exploded and his name appears regularly in the news. He also became part of the Northern Union Rugby Football League, within the management committee. He and Hannah moved to Dobroyd Road and he had gone from a worker to an employer by the time of the 1911 Census. He even ran for local government, applying to be the Liberal candidate in 1910, although he was unsuccessful.

Todmorden Advertiser, June 17th 1910

In 1913 Hannah died, and in 1914 Anthony remarried for the last time, to Sarah Newell. Sarah was a widow and running the Hare and Hounds after taking over the license in 1913 when her husband George died. On marrying Anthony she gave up the license and became a housewife. The Whiteheads moved to Southport where Anthony lived out his days and died in 1926 from complications from diabetes. He left a hefty bit of money behind – over £2000 – and the Todmorden Advertiser announced his death on May 7th 1926 with an obituary that laid out how the second half of his life had been spent actively.

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