53.50 – James and Grace Spencer, and their many grandchildren

This grave holds a man, a woman, and a number of small grandchildren. So often people will ask us where a young child or infant is buried, and if we can’t find them on the transcript, the first thing we ask is “who are the grandparents”. This grave is a good example of this theory.

James Spencer was born in 1834 in Todmorden, to William and Grace Spencer of Newton Green. William was a farm labourer, also sometimes as a carter, but his children all became power loom weavers. Many hand loom weavers described themselves as farmers because it used to be that home weaving was a popular second income source for farmers and farm labourers. By 1851 though, when the census shows the four oldest Spencer children as power loom weavers, the days of hand loom weaving were long gone. In 1852, William also became long gone, and was buried at St. Mary’s. Grace became a domestic servant, most likely at either Ewood Hall or Centre Vale, and she and James and his still-at-home siblings moved across the road. James became a malster and the family were resident at Ewood Maltkiln in 1861, James having taken over from Sarah Greenbank on her marriage to Charles Law.

The malting life was not for James, though, and he soon moved to Pexwood and found work on one of the farms that made up the land around what was very soon to become Dobroyd Castle. In July 1865, at the “New Chapel” on Burnley Road (likely to be Lineholme Baptist), he married Grace Cockcroft. Little is known about Grace; she seems to have been born in Heptonstall, most likely the daughter of Richard and Mary Cockcroft of Weasel Hall. Richard was a joiner, but his neighbour in 1851, Benjamin Foster, was a maltster – maybe that’s the connection? In 1861 Grace, if it is this Grace, was working as a domestic servant for the Sutcliffe family of Slack North Side; by 1865 she had moved to Todmorden and Harehill. A shame there’s no more information known.

James made a success of farming and while in 1871 he was at Pex House still, by 1881 he was the farmer for Dobroyd’s home farm. He and Grace had two sons, William Henry and John. They also had Charlie Greenhow, who in 1871 was a 16 year old boarder, but in 1881 was described as “friend” in the “relation to head of household” field.

William and John grew up. The first married Mary Barker in 1888, and the second married Ada Thorne Davies in 1904. When James died in 1891 at the age of 57 he only had one granchild, Herbert. Herbert is buried here, but is the only adult grandchild to be buried here. What happened next was that William and Mary had Cicely in 1892; she died in 1894 and is buried here. They had James Barker in 1897; he died in 1898 and was buried here. John and Ada had a single child, Clara, in 1907; she died the same year and was buried here. Both sets of couples had other children, but the ones who died young went to rest with the grandfather that none of them had ever gotten a chance to know.

What about Grace? James’s death left her at a disadvantage. His farming must not have been as lucrative as hoped, or his final illness was expensive, maybe – by the time the census was taken in 1891 Grace had already had to take on work as a charwoman. Her son John kept her close for the rest of her life and she could be found living with him, and later him and Ada and their daughter Edith, in 1911 at Pollard Street in Lydgate. She died in 1915 and, strangely, her probate went to William and to another man, not John…the following year a small “in memoriam” was placed in the newspaper. It doesn’t look like much but it’s more than many got.

Now back to Herbert. Herbert was the first child of William and Mary, born in 1890. William became a carter for a coal merchant and settled at Castle Hill and Herbert went into the same occupation, but finding work for the Todmorden Corporation as a sanitation man. Emptying latrines wasn’t a very sought after job but it didn’t hold Herbert back from having a social life. In 1923 at Walsden St. Peter’s he married Amelia Thorne of Knowlwood and the pair settled at Garden Street near there. The couple would have fourteen happy years before Herbert was hit by a passing truck while crossing Rochdale Road at Lanebottom at 8am. He had moved into bin collecting, and walked out to cross the road on the wrong side of his truck and was hit and knocked nearly six feet forward. He got up, asked the driver what he was on about, then said it was his own fault and never mind, and went back to work for a while before going home. Amelia immediately knew he wasn’t quite right, sent for the doctor, who told him to go to the hospital. It turns out that Herbert had emphysema due to bronchial pneumonia, perhaps was in the early stages of what we’d call COPD today, and the injuries he sustained after being hit destabilised his lungs to the point where they began to shut down.

The worst bit was that if the young driver hadn’t swerved, he might not have hit Herbert at all. They both tried to get out of each others way but in the same direction.

Todmorden District News, July 2nd 1937

One Comment

  1. Pingback:16.6 – Sarah Greenwood and Sarah Jane, Charles and Ann Greenhow – F.O.C.C.T.

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