53.51 – Ann, Hannah, Emma and Edmund Farrar

This is the gravestone we took our logo from, with its still-clear willow and tomb design. In the grave lie Edmund Farrar and three of his wives.

Edmund was born in 1843 to James and Grace Farrar of Howroyd Farm. Howroyd is now gone, mostly demolished but also underwater, since it was part of the area sold to create Gorpley Reservoir – you can learn more about it here. The Farrar family had a history here and while Edmund initially became a cotton weaver, he returned to the farming life and would follow it for the rest of his life in one way or another.

We’ll now meet his three wives and learn their stories, as far as we can.

Ann: we know nothing about Ann. She might be Ann Higgin of Burnley, who appears in the GRO along with an Edmund Farrar in 1870, but also along with a John Scott and a Hargreave Heap. Which man did this Ann marry? We don’t know. We know that Edmund’s Ann was born in Overtown, and there used to be an Over Town near Cliviger, but there’s also an Overtown near Kirkby Lonsdale…either way, poor Ann was born around 1844, and she definitely died in 1871, only 27 years old. If she was Ann Higgin then she and Edmund had only a single short year together.

Early 1871 had found Edmund and Ann living at Gorpley, with Edmund working as a farm labourer. His parents and younger siblings were still at Howroyd along with some uncles and aunts, so he may have been working alongside them but living separately, or he may have been working on another farm nearby.

Hannah: we know a little more about Hannah. Born around 1837 to Henry and Pegg Clegg (yes really), Hannah grew up in Bacup. Henry was from Erringden and Pegg was from Rochdale, and Henry worked as a grocer. Hannah was a weaver up until her first marriage to John Earnshaw, the landlord of the Bay Horse Inn at Dulesgate, in 1865. She and James had eleven happy years together until he died in 1877, not long after surrendering the license for the pub. No doubt Edmund was familiar with the pub and knew Hannah from there, and it had been many years since Ann died, and in 1879 he and Hannah married. But, just like Ann, Hannah was dead within a year, buried here in 1880.

Edmund in 1881 was living next to the Bay Horse Inn – that must have been strange for Hannah during their short marriage – and his widowed mother Grace had joined him there along with his sister Sarah. Somehow Edmund found work at Samlesbury as a gamekeeper, though circumstances we can’t even begin to guess about. We do know it was him there, though, because he was still living there in 1886 when he married for the third and final time. Grace had died in 1885 and maybe he took the gamekeeping job for a change of scenery…but he had already set his sights on Emma Dawson, because they married while he was still working up near Preston!

Emma: Emma Dawson was born in 1847 to William and Mary Dawson of Washer Hill, near Dyke Green and Todmorden Moor. William was a quarryman who was already on the older side when Emma was born – 45 years old – and died in 1860. Mary did not remarry and she and her children stayed close. Emma remained with her and they worked alongside Emma’s brothers as farmers. Amazingly for 1881, that year we find a census return where Mary at age 77 is calling herself a farmer of 18 acres at Higher Hanging Shaw, with one son next door at Lower Hanging Shaw and another soon on the other side of her at Woodfield Top, themselves also both farmers of 20 acres each. Mary and Emma were clearly very close and Mary’s death two years later in 1883 would have been hard for Emma to deal with. Yet again, two people suffering recent losses became close, and this time two people from farming backgrounds. It made perfect sense…

…so why were Edmund and Emma living on North Street (aka Burnley Road) in the town centre in 1891? Because they quite simply weren’t getting any younger! Edmund must have been struggling with outdoor work and had finally abandoned Bacup Road for the centre, and gone back to cotton weaving as an occupation for himself. Emma was working as a draper. It’s worth mentioning, at this point, that if you haven’t already noticed none of these people had any children. None of Edmund’s three wives had any children, not even Hannah who had been married to James Earnshaw for eleven years. Edmund and Emma didn’t have the same assistance to farm that they had given their parents, so had to abandon that life much earlier than their parents had as a result. Emma also had ideas of her own, having taken on the lease for a baby linen shop shortly after before their marriage and borrowing some money from a nephew to get it set up. When she died, Edmund had some trouble working out who was owed what, and the nephew ended up taking him to court, although to little avail. As Edmund’s solicitor says, he was a mill hand not a business man.

Todmorden District News, December 28th 1900

Edmund was now alone again. And because Edmund wasn’t one to be alone for long (he’d tried it after Ann and not enjoyed it, clearly) he remarried in 1900. That’s right, Edmund had four wives. At the end of April 1900 he married Elizabeth Thornton, a spinster 18 years his junior, at Holme Chapel in Cliviger. The couple moved to Blackshaw Head afterwards and settled at Moss Hall. Edmund was back to farming, although by 1903 he was selling up. He and Elizabeth moved back to Todmorden and settled at West End Farm at Sourhall, where finally, in 1908, Edmund had a wife who outlived him. He was buried here with his first three wives who were no doubt fed up of waiting for him.

One Comment

  1. Margaret Wood

    I recognise those names from the Sourhall side.
    I think Washer Hill has ended up through time being misspelt. It’s Weatherhill near Dyke Green. The ruins are there on the road to Dyke Green.

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