52.54 – Jane Chalcraft and Frederick John Radcliffe

Information on Jane Kendall Chalcraft, via Ancestry

“Other than that, Jane seems to just vanish” – and that’s why we’re here. You could stop reading now, frankly, but you can continue if you want. This grave’s story is of a grandmother and grandson, one with a life and one whose life barely got started before it ended.

Jane Kendall, or Kendell or Kendle, was born sometime between 1805 and 1811 (her age on various official records varies) in Alverstoke, Gosport. Her father Robert was a carpenter and later butcher and Jane grew up staying at home for most of her life. We know so little about her apart from these basic records, so in some ways her story is fairly short. In 1847 she married William Harford (or Arthur, depending on how he felt at any given time) Chalcraft, a pork butcher and beerseller who had been widowed some time before and who had four children, the youngest of whom was 11 at this point. He and Jane would have one child of their own, Kate, born the following year.

William died in Havant in 1871, which (spoiler alert) is after Jane, and also on the Hampshire coast. So how Jane came to be in Todmorden is difficult to ascertain. As we can see in Derek’s story above, in 1861 she (or at least a Jane Chalcraft) can be found in 1861 working as a servant for a much-younger single farmer who lived not too far from Emsworth. In 1862 her husband was taken before the magistrates for assaulting a man who had uttered unspecified slanders about him. Was one of the slanders something to do with Jane’s departure? Less amusingly, his youngest son Daniel would be charged in 1883 (aged 48) with indecently assaulting a 12 year old girl. The charge wasn’t proven in the end but whether something actually happened is, of course, unknown. Was this somehow linked to Jane and Kate’s disappearance? Because Kate also disappears entirely from public records in 1861, and only reappears in 1870 and 1871 in Todmorden…

But first was 1869, and at the end of November 1869 Jane Chalcraft died at the age of 64, and she was buried here at Christ Church. She and Kate were living in the small house which originally stood at the back of the National School. Jane’s death registration says that she’s the widow of William Arthur Chalcroft, pork butcher of Emsworth, Hampshire; interesting, except that it isn’t Arthur, and as we mentioned he didn’t die until 1871. Jane had built a new life and wasn’t giving anything more away than absolutely necessary. Her cause of death was neprhia, aka Bright’s Disease, affecting her kidneys.

Kate was working as a schoolmistress which would explain her presence at National. Her mother was gone and she kept going, but more drama was about to occur. Behold; the flood of July 1870.

Poor Kate! The following spring she was lodging with the Sutcliffe family who ran the post office by the Oddfellows Hall, a household which also included the Betty Shackleton who was Jane’s informant on her death certificate. Her occupation there is given as “retired schoolmistress” – she was only 23! But that’s because she had plans. Later in 1871 she married Charles Joseph Radcliffe, which would of course have meant quitting her teaching position, so the “retired” is explained. Charles was a reporter as labelled on his marriage certificate, but he was also a printer and seems to have been skilled in a number of newspaper printing processes. We can guess from the 1881 Census that he worked for the Todmorden Advertiser and Hebden Bridge Newsletter because on that census return, once the Radcliffes had moved to Liverpool, they had a lodger with them – the one and only Thomas Chambers of 36.16, brother of the founder of said newspaper and himself its occasional deputy editor. Kate and Charles would have several children but their very first, Frederick John, lived only a short time. Born in February 1872, he died in January 1873, and is buried here along with his grandmother Jane.

Charles and Kate both stayed in Liverpool for the rest of their lives and are buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery.

What a mysterious story – it’s frustrating when there seem to be answers dancing just out of reach, or when you have to resort to speculation (especially sordid speculation) to guess at motivations. It was no small feat for Jane to move over a hundred miles away from the only place she’d ever known, with a child, and to attempt to start over elsewhere. Was she desperate or simply determined to change things for other reasons unknown? We aren’t going to be able to figure it out. But as always, if anyone knows anything, let us know…

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