55.44 – W. V. (James and George Veevers)

This plot marker has only initials, and only one set of them. Initials on plot markers can either be those of the person buried there or those of the plot’s owner (in one instance here, both initials are on the stone) and in this case the V gives us a pretty good clue as to the identity of one of those people. Using the V surname as a starting point, and looking at the age of the graves around the marker, one name leaps out; that of George Veevers who died in 1859 aged 16, the son of William and Betty Veevers. W. V., indeed. But his brother James who died in 1855 is also potentially buried here in this plot, so we’ll cover both in this post.

James Veevers was born in 1828 and George Veevers was born in 1842. Their parents George and Betty (Burrow) had married in 1825 at St. Chad’s in Rochdale and William was then described simply as a labourer. Either his prospects improved massively or the designation was an oversimplification, because in 1841 and 1851 William’s occupation on the census was “wharfinger”. No, not a lesser known Bond villain, but the owner or manager of a wharf – quite a step up from “mere” labourer. How well it remunerated William is unknown though. 1841 saw his and Betty’s home as Hanging Ditch, and 1851 as “Ware House Yard”. The burial register would give the address as Canal Yard, but you can see the meaning clearly. William’s wharf must have been what is now the marina to the side of the Golden Lion.

Because of the dates there’s very little that is known about the deaths of either of the two sons that can be found outside of their actual death registrations. James, who had become a joiner, died in March 1855 from phthisis and was buried in the “new ground” at Christ Church. It’s almost certain given the dates on the stones around here that this is where James lies. He was 27 years old and his address was Canal Yard, Todmorden. He wasn’t living with the family in 1851 but must have come home due to his illness; William was the informant and may well have been helping look after his son during his final days.

George, meanwhile, had a more perplexing cause of death. He died in May 1859 of what the death registration calls “scrofulous disease of the ankle joints”. This is now known as tubercular arthritis, and is caused by the bacterium that causes TB finding purchase elsewhere in the body than the lungs – in this case, the ankle joints, which is itself quite uncommon in the range of joint-involved tuberculosis. From the NIH website:

Tuberculous arthritis is usually ‘cold’, which means that there is no erythema and the skin over the infected joint is the same temperature as normal skin. The most common symptoms of TB of ankle joint involvement are pain, swelling, limited range of motion, bone tenderness, limping and muscle spasms. Inguinal lymphadenopathy or systemic manifestations such as fever, night sweats, malaise, anorexia and weight loss may also be present. At a more advanced stage, there might be complete joint degeneration and ankylosis.

His brother Thomas was the informant at his death.

There may well be more Veevers here in this grave, but for the range of time and given the initial interments around this grave, we can only safely say that these two are here. Some other children of William and Betty’s are buried at St. Mary’s, and a search of the Christ Church burial registers reveals quite a few Veevers buried here over time, but strangely not a single one has more than a plot marker to their name in the entire graveyard. Maybe that was by design though; in 1861 William also has “Methodist Church preacher” written within the occupation line on the census alongside “carrier agent” (a less archaic term than wharfinger but meaning roughly the same thing). Perhaps William had different plans for a memorial, or took issue with the family being buried at an Anglican church in some way so never got around to having a stone placed there with more information on. Or, even more simply, a nonconformist graveyard presented itself and the family was buried there afterwards. A Mary Ann Veevers of Barker Street was buried at Christ Church in 1865, and after that not another Veevers appeared here until 1904. William, Betty, Thomas, all those other later siblings…all elsewhere. Hence all that’s left being a simple W. V. marker.

A look through the local newspapers indicates that an objection to other denominations is a likely contender; a letter writer to the Todmorden Advertiser in 1907 references a split in the local Methodist circuit in 1867 over the issue of whether heaven was open to those who believed with pureness of spirit or whether adherence to a specific doctrine was key, and mentions that he left Methodism precisely because William Veevers preached that salvation was not extended to those who believed regardless of the finer details. It seems William was a hardliner. Maybe that rigidity really did extend as far as refusing to properly mark the grave of two of his sons. Maybe…

Todmorden Advertiser, March 8th 1907

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