57.50 – James, Mally, Isaac and Elizabeth Nuttall (previously unmarked)

This is one of the stones we liberated from a few inches of soil behind the Garden of Rest. It doesn’t tell much of a story, but do you always need there to be a story?

James Nuttall was born in 1770 or thereabouts and grew up in the Stansfield ward area of the larger Heptonstall parish. These were the days when Heptonstall covered Erringden, Wadsworth, Heptonstall itself, Stansfield, and Langfield; Lancashire began at the Calder running through Todmorden. Mary (or Mally) Dawson, the woman who would later become his wife, was literally born on the other side of the river two years later within Lancashire. James became a weaver, or webster as he’s termed in the banns, and in early September 1793 those banns were read at both St. Mary’s and St. Thomas’s to satisfy the rules around a marriage taking place between two people from different parish areas. Their actual marriage took place on September 30th. The witnesses were Charles Nuttall, James’s father, and James’s brother John. James could sign his name but Mally couldn’t – not a surprise in her case, but impressive for James.

James and Mally settled in Todmorden, from what we can discern, and had two children we can be sure of; Hannah in 1795 and Isaac in 1804. Because their lives predate regular newspaper coverage of the area and the census itself it’s hard to be sure of precisely where they were. There was a lot of movement from what we can gather, and Hannah had at least one illegitimate child that we can identify, perhaps as many as three. If she had three, then the Hannah Nuttall who lived in Leavengreave in Whitworth in 1841’s father, James, was a schoolmaster – was our James a schoolmaster as well as weaver? He and his father and brother were educated enough to be able to sign their names…but maybe that’s a stretch. We can’t be sure.

We know from the stone here, though, that Mally died in 1809. She’s buried elsewhere but remembered here – she’s most likely to be at St. Mary’s, maybe with her parents or grandparents. She was only 37 years old so her parents Thomas and Molly could still have been alive. Seeing her baptism registration and her mother’s given name as Molly made us laugh, because Mally is usually seen as a nickname for Martha, but perhaps it was a family joke. Mother Molly and baby Mally.

In 1841 we can’t trace James, but we can trace Isaac. Isaac had grown up to become a weaver like James, and in 1828 at St. Chad’s in Rochdale had married Elizabeth Marshall. Elizabeth’s background is unknown. She was four years younger than Isaac and also born in Todmorden, on the Yorkshire side, but that’s all we can glean. The pair remained in Todmorden after their marriage despite the occasional sojourn to Lancashire (first child James was born in Haslingden) and would have eight children in total. In 1851 Isaac, Elizabeth and family lived at Gate Bottom. The same year James and daughter Hannah and grandson William were living in Facit, with James described as a retired mule spinner. Isaac, meanwhile, was an overlooker at a cotton mill, and will have had a relatively good salary (although not one designed to support a wife and so many children, so it was a good thing three of the seven there at that point were also working…)

Three years later James died, and while he wasn’t laid to rest with his wife, he was laid to rest here.

Isaac and Elizabeth stayed in Todmorden, moving first to John Street and then to Albert Terrace near what is now the park. Isaac continued in the overlooker role and his children mostly moved into weaving, although a few took detours – one daughter became a nurse, another son became a warehouse boy – and he eventually died and went into this grave in 1872. Elizabeth joined him in 1875. While there’s not much else to say about them, it’s sometimes refreshing to get graves like this, where the reasons for each person’s residence here are the standard reasons we’re accustomed to. Sometimes a story without drama is just what you need.

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