57.48 – Grace Whitaker (previously unmarked)

This previously unmarked ledger announces the beginning and end of a very short little life – that of Grace Whitaker, who from her stone we know was buried here in late 1852 aged 18 months.

Like little Sarah Taylor, her parents went to great expense to mark her grave, but then never ended up here themselves. Why?

Like Sarah Taylor, Grace had her beginning and end at Hanging Ditch, what we now know as Longfield Road/Cockpit behind the Golden Lion. Her parents James and Mary were devout Congregationalists who both worshipped at Patmos and were, in fact, the first marriage to take place there when it opened.

British Banner 1848, May 9th 1849 (no we don’t get it either)

It makes sense – Mary was born Mary Brownbridge and the Brownbridge family were active at Patmos – but for both their marriage and for Grace’s baptism they are both described as members of the congregation. It just goes to show that the tradition of allowing nonconformist burials in a Church of England graveyard is not a later thing, but was accepted as early as 1852. It does give us an indication that this area of the yard was perhaps not consecrated…but that’s a consideration for another day.

Grace was born on April 1st 1851 and baptised at Patmos in December. James, her father, was described as a house painter. He and Mary Brownbridge had married in 1847 and on the 1851 Census it’s just him and her at home – Grace’s birth was just a few days too late for the census taker to have the chance to record. She would be long dead before the next census came around, having died in October 1852. Her aunt Elizabeth was present at the death and we can see from her death registration that Grace had whooping cough and pneumonia. At that age and in those days, she had no chance.

The Whitakers would move after 1861 to 42 York Street and James’s business would go from strength to strength…but the Whitakers had no more children. Little Grace was the only one. It adds an additional note of pathos to James’s advertisement in the newspapers thanking his customers for their trust in him but also advertising for an apprentice…there was no son to go into the trade with him.

Todmorden Advertiser, March 11th 1865

James was very successful in his business, even winning the contract for the redecoration of the interior of Cross Stone Church in 1881. He also remained active socially, assisting with the Baptist church on Wellington Road and being part of the committee involved in fundraising for and installing the Taplin memorial fountain that used to stand outside the Oddfellows Hall (now Boots/the newsagents). His commitment to Christianity clearly was nondenominational as well as nonconformist. James died on October 14th 1885, just two days before the 33rd anniversary of Grace’s death. Mary died in February 1886 after suffering from a bad cough for some time that resulted in sudden hemmorhaging…another painful irony.

But despite staying in Todmorden for the rest of their lives neither are buried at Christ Church. This is the variance from Sarah Taylor’s experience. She’s alone in her grave because her parents moved away, but where did James and Mary go? They went to Cross Stone to be buried with Mary’s parents Joseph and Grace Whitaker at plot I53. This must have been due to Mary’s nieces and nephews – perhaps they never even knew Grace had existed.

We know, though…and she can see the light again thanks to us.

One Comment

  1. Respect Sarah.
    Good one.

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