7.40 – Atkinson and Mary Ann Wilkinson

This is the grave of Atkinson Wilkinson – great name – and his wife Mary Ann (Sunderland) Wilkinson.

Researching this couple was quite straightforward and drama free. There’s a newspaper snippet from 1902 documenting their silver wedding anniversary together. In 1911 they lived with their 3 grown up children at 423 Bowed Row, Lydgate. Atkinson was a stonemason and the census document states that they had 0 children who had died, so that’s always a happy thing to see.

It was when our researcher for this grave (Holly) saw their marriage certificate though, that she became distracted and veered off course (which she freely admits she easily does)! The name of Mary Ann’s father was Lord Wellington, what a fab name!

Wouldn’t it be great, she thought, if we could find out why he was called Lord Wellington, and after a search in the newspapers her question was answered.

From the Todmorden & District News, 6 April 1894:

DEATH OF “OLD WELLER.” – There died on Friday last, at his residence at Lydgate, in his 79th year, a well known man, distinguished by the name of Lord Wellington Sunderland, but perhaps better known by some as “Old Weller.” He was a free member of the Burnley-valley Conservative Club, and was very active and nimble, considering that he was wellnigh an octogenarian. At the social gatherings of the club he always contributed his musical quota, and last Christmas, at the annual “feed,” he sung “his songs.” as usual, in very lively style. Always when opportunity offered, he, of course quite naturally, boasted and prided himself of his advent into the world on the exact date of the Battle of Waterloo, viz., June 18th, 1815, and that his name was selected in commemoration of the Iron Duke’s battle, name and fame. Deceased was interred on Tuesday at Christ Church, Todmorden. He was a widower, and leaves a rather large progeny.

Rather large progeny eh?

Lord Wellington Sunderland married Ann Greenwood in 1838, they had at least 9 children together. Addresses for Lord Wellington Sunderland from census records : 63 Fielden Terrace (1891), 10 Bedford Street (1881) and 69 Fielden Terrace (1871). His occupation was a cotton weaver.

Interestingly, pre-1851, Lord Wellington Sunderland was just “Wellington Sunderland”, could he have “gifted” himself another name?

Looking at his baptism in Heptonstall we find out that he was actually born on 8th October 1815 (not 18th June 1815 as stated in the article). His parents were Jonathan Sunderland and Olive Nowel. It never fails to amaze us how precise, or maybe petty, some of the commentary in BMD registers can be. It’s useful but a bit catty sometimes. In this case it’s “12 weeks before its parents were married”, ok thanks.

So, did Lord Wellington Sunderland put a bit of a spin on his name for the sake of a good story? Perhaps he himself believed that he was born on the exact date of the Battle of Waterloo? Or wanted to make up for a slightly less than socially acceptable way of entering the world? Either way, he certainly sounds like a colourful and interesting Todmordian character.

He is buried somewhere in Christ Church cemetery, although I can’t be sure exactly where. Hopefully one day a headstone might be uncovered for “Old Weller”.

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