53.55 – John Helliwell

John rests here, an offcumden who made the town his home.

John was born in 1824 in Halifax to William and Hannah Helliwell of Warley. The Helliwells were regular attendees of Square Chapel Congregational. He became a wool comber and in June 1845 he married Sarah Ann Cockcroft of Ovenden, who along with her parents Joseph and Hannah also attended the chapel regularly. The pair settled at St. James Street in the northern part of the town centre along with the widowed Hannah Cockcroft, but by 1861 had made the move to Todmorden with widower William Helliwell and Sarah Ann’s nephew Walter Cockcroft in tow.

The Helliwells settled first at New Gate Bottom in Millwood, where James also had a new occupation – greengrocer, with William accompanying him. Walter was busying himself as a grocer’s apprentice. Sarah Ann was busying herself with housework and helping with the business and keeping Walter fed and clothed; she and John had no children of their own, and while they did have a lodger as well as the other two men, she didn’t have an occupation on the 1861 Census. It could have been a point of pride or wishful thinking, who knows; in 1861 she was 38.

Advertisement from the 1868 Todmorden and Hebden Bridge Historical Almanack

In 1871 John and Sarah Ann were on their own and now living at Sutcliffe Buildings, now gone along with the row of shops either side of the Lord Nelson Pub. Now all you would see in that location would be Waterside Lodge and some of the very old buildings to the side of it, one of which has the “Foundry Street” street sign bolted to it halfway up the wall. That’s the newer Foundry Street; in front of those older buildings, between the pavement and the setts, is a paved area which covers where Sutcliffe Buildings stretched down to meet Rochdale Road. You’d never know they’d been there now.

Google Maps, today
1894 25″/mile OS map, showing Sutcliffe Buildings along with the rest of long-demolished Crescent and Cheapside

A year later, John died at the age of 48 (not 47 as stated on his death certificate) from rheumatic pericarditis – inflammation of the heart caused by an illness such as rheumatic fever or strep. He was buried here at Christ Church in what seems to be the non-conformist section. And he’s buried here alone; Sarah Ann ended up moving to Blackpool to help look after her ailing sister Elizabeth Ingham, and stayed on after her death to help her widowed brother in law John Ingham look after his house. John was a property developer from Bradford and very well off, and with few family members left in Todmorden or Halifax, it made sense. When he died she moved in with his daughter and her husband and family, continuing her support role for her sister’s loved ones. She never remarried and when she died in 1904 at the age of 82 she wasn’t laid to rest here. We don’t know where she was buried, in fact, only that it wasn’t Todmorden. And so John’s name is the only one on this stone.

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