57.51 – Margaret Howorth and Grace Stell

Ten plots from her lover/almost-husband and her son lies Margaret Howorth, and another woman whose relationship to Margaret is entirely unknown.

As discussed in the story of Richard Newsome, he nearly (but never quite) married Margaret Howorth or Howarth of Todmorden in 1834. Margaret was, when we were researching that story, something of a mystery…and she still is, in a way. This is what we know;

Margaret was born in 1813 to Hannah Howarth and an unknown father – and we don’t know where either. In 1841 and 1851 she is marked as having been born on the Lancashire side of Todmorden. In 1841 she and her mother Hannah, brother George, and children Mary and Charles were Mount Pleasant along with a lodger named Grace Midgley, a power loom weaver just like Margaret.

Grace’s origins are equally vague, although we know a little more. She was born in 1812 in Heptonstall, the daughter of William Midgley, a glazier. How she came to Todmorden is unknown, and why she lodged with the Howorths is unknown. Without a baptism register entry we don’t know her mother’s name, and we cannot find a marriage for a William Midgley that would fit the right time frames that is linked to a Howorth. She didn’t live with them long that we know of, because in 1843 she married Robert Stell, a weaver nine years her junior who also lived in Todmorden and whose father was a shoemaker. One of their witnesses was a John Howarth; another intriguing link between the families.

By 1851 Margaret was living on her own with her two children at Mills Street and Robert and Grace were still at Mount Pleasant, on their own, with no children. No other Howorth/Howarths are nearby. As we know from the other story, Margaret was not long for the world at this point, and she died and was buried here on October 1st 1855. This is in line with other burials in this row, and even though we know the stones in this row may have not all originated here, we don’t think anything is out of place or, more importantly, that there are any earlier burials in this plot. Such as a stillborn or very young Stell child, or even Robert Stell himself, because he died two years earlier in 1853. He and Grace had ten years together. He’s buried at Christ Church but we don’t know where.

Grace never remarried and lived alone for the rest of her life. First at 5 Mount Pleasant, later at 1 Mount Pleasant, as she aged her fortunes diminished in the world. She went from a cotton weaver to a charwoman; not an upwards or even sideways movement, but very much down in the world. We can’t find her at all on the 1881 Census, and it seems as though she may have left the area for a time. In 1885, there is mention in the newspapers of a Grace Stell who the Board of Guardians was trying to remove to the workhouse in Rochdale, and a dispute over whether she qualified as a burden on their taxpayers rather than ours. If it’s the same Grace Stell then the case for her removal was supposedly proven, but perhaps the plan was never carried out. Our Grace Stell died in 1889 at Fair View and was buried here.

Todmorden District News, February 6th 1885

The mystery of why Grace and Margaret are buried together remains unsolved. Were they dear friends? Cousins? (Something more? We hesitate to even theoretically or speculatively “out” anyone) Or is it that this IS one of the shuffled-around stones, and actually, the story is more simply that Robert Stell was buried first, dear friend/relative Margaret died suddenly shortly after and Grace said “I own a plot, may as well go into it”, and Grace went in many years later? If this is the case, how did anyone know that Margaret and Grace had a connection of any kind, given Robert isn’t on the stone? If Grace was so lacking in support that she was being sent round the workhouses, who would have known? Perhaps Margaret’s children could tell us, if they were still alive, but of course they aren’t. So the “why” of this grave may just have to remain an unanswered and unanswerable question.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:57.61 – Richard Newsome and Charles, Mary Jane, George and Alice Howarth – F.O.C.C.T.

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