S1.2 – Harold and Florence Alice Allister

This is another grave hidden under the school extension, and another explanation about why these graves matter. It starts with those we know are buried here and ends with those who we can only guess at, for now.

Harold Allister was born in 1895 to James and Louisa Allister. In 1908 he can be found in Fielden Bros.’s registers of child workers who were over 13 but under 14 and who had a certificate from the local school board authorising them to be released for full time work. The Allister family clearly needed everyone to be bringing home a wage, even the very youngest. Shame, because Harold was no slouch at school – in fact for several years running, 1905 through 1907, he was one of the recipients of the Clegg’s Charity Prize for good attendance, conduct and marks. But there wasn’t much of a safety net back then and his good grades didn’t put food on the table. In 1911 there was just James, Louisa, and eldest sister Jane living at Queen Street along with Harold.

His wife, Florence Alice Chambers, had a seemingly fairly secure and happy childhood, which could be thought of as something of a rarity given her origins. Florence was born in 1897 to Alice Chambers. We don’t know who Alice was or where she was from; she wasn’t a Tod lass. But she had little Florence Alice baptised at Christ Church on May 22nd 1897 anyway. Alice’s address was 29 Bacup Road.

At 27 Bacup Road there lived Alfred Naylor and his wife Hannah (Stephenson) Naylor. Alfred and Hannah had been married since 1884 but had no children of their own. They took pity on Alice and her daughter, and Alice’s personal situation must have made her open to the idea of letting them adopt Florence Alice. It must have been an informal sort of situation as she did not take the Naylors’ last name, but in 1911 we see her living with Alfred and Hannah with her relationship to them given as “adopted daughter”. Alice does not appear in the local papers bringing any paternity cases before the magistrate so we don’t know who her father could have been.

In September 1916 Harold and Florence Alice got married. Harold had already joined up in December 1915 and was posted abroad in October 1916; their daughter Nellie was born in February 1917. Harold became a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery and served all the way through to the end of the war. Florence Alice and Nellie stayed home with her adopted parents until he returned, and they all continued to live at the house at Pexwood together.

After the war was over, the family suffered more losses. Harold’s father James died in 1921, and then Harold in 1924, only 29 years old. The death notice in the Todmorden Advertiser hints at a “long illness” – what long illness? Was Harold unwell because of his service? Is this yet another potential Commonwealth War Grave?

In Memoriam for Harold (and James) Allister, Todmorden Advertiser, 3rd July 1925

Harold left behind his widow and at least two children. Poor Florence Alice; in late 1925 she lost her adopted father, Alfred. Her adopted mother Hannah continued living at the house at Pex Place until her own death in 1935. Florence Alice never remarried, and she died and was buried with her husband in 1964.

So that concludes the lives of those we know are in this plot. But as we learned while transcribing, so very many gravestones and even names on graves were missed during early transcription attempts; and the graves under the school had no transcription made of them at any point before either the temporary extension in 1991 or the newer extension in 2017 were built. So there could be many more buried in this plot that we don’t know of. Our researchers suspect that, specifically, two more generations of Allister could be buried in this plot – either another four in this single space, or as many as another ten if it were a double plot (and there are two plots to the side of this one so a double isn’t out of the question). What follows is a summary of the lives of those other two generations of Allister, put together by researcher Sally:

Bradshaw Allister (senior) was a bricklayer who was born in 1830 in Ireland. He and his wife, Mary Madill (also Irish) probably married in Ireland (I can’t find their marriage and have got Mary’s surname from the GRO register as some, but not all, of the children’s births were registered). All their children were born in England. They had 9 children, 7 were born in Kirkham, Lancashire and two born in Todmorden.

Bradshaw and Mary must have moved to Todmorden in the early 1870s. Their son Robert was born in Kirkham in 1871 and their daughter Mary was born in Todmorden in 1873. Bradshaw and Mary had 5 sons, and 4 daughters, their son, William Thomas, died when he was two years old and was buried at Kirkham in 1871. Their daughter, Mary, who was born in Todmorden died on the 27th September 1874 when she was a year old. (I haven’t found her burial). Bradshaw Allister (Senior) died in Todmorden in 1904 and was buried at Christ Church on the 8th July 1904. His wife, Mary, died in 1913 in Todmorden but I can’t find a burial record for her.

Bradshaw and Mary’s Children
Their eldest son, James, married Louisa Steventon on the 15th May 1875 at Christ Church. James and Louisa had 5 children, 3 daughters, and two sons, John and Harold. Harold died in 1924, possibly from the effects of his war service, and is buried at Christ Church. John died in 1962, he’s buried at Christ Church
and his burial was on the 3rd March 1962 and was officiated by a Roman Catholic Priest. James is also buried at Christ Church, he was buried on the 3rd September 1921. James wife, Louisa was buried at Christ Church on the 3rd August 1935.

John, Bradshaw and Mary’s second son, married Annie Dean in 1878, they didn’t have any children. He was buried at Christ Church on the 14th September 1933. Annie died in 1913 and is buried at Cross Stone.

Bradshaw, Bradshaw and Mary’s third son, who was named after his father, was a decorated war hero. He married Betsy Brownbridge at Christ Church on the 10th November 1888 and they had 7 children, 3 sons and 4 daughters. His son, Harry, was another war hero but unlike his father he didn’t return, he lost his life in WW1. After the war Bradshaw and Betsy emigrated to the United States with their children. Bradshaw died there in 1940 and Betsy died there in 1946.

Medal cards for Harold (d.1924) and his cousin Harry (d.1918)
Detail showing Bradshaw, Betsy and family on the passenger manifest for the Laconia which sailed to the US in 1925

Robert, Bradshaw and Mary’s 4th son also served in the Army, but prior to WW1. There’s a Chelsea Pensioner’s record for him giving all his service details. He married Alice Marie Sexton in 1914 in Manchester and died in Chorley in 1922. His wife died in 1930. They were childless.

Some detail from Robert’s army records

Sarah Ann, Bradshaw and Mary’s eldest daughter, married John Shackleton in 1882. They had 9 children, but in 1911 stated that only 5 were still living. Their son, Thomas Shackleton enlisted in 1915 but was discharged in 1916 “being unlikely to make an efficient soldier on medical grounds”.

Jane Allister, Bradshaw and Mary’s middle daughter, never married. She died in Todmorden in 1943 and was buried at Christ Church on the 12th July 1943. Her son, William Clifford Allister was born in Todmorden in 1895 and was killed in WW1 on the 20th July 1918. He was a Private in the West Riding regiment and is buried at the Courmas British Cemetery.

Margaret Allister, Bradshaw and Mary’s youngest daughter, married James Brownbridge (brother of Betsy, her brother Bradshaw’s wife) in 1897. They had 7 children, but lost two as babies. Margaret died in 1920 and is buried at Cross Stone.

Willie Allister (Bradshaw and Betsy’s eldest son), who had married Charlotte Woodward in 1914 at Christ Church initially went to the US but returned to Todmorden with his family and died in Halifax in 1969.

I suspect that under that extension is Bradshaw Allister, the elder. His son James, his son John, his daughter, Jane, his grandsons, Harold and John and his daughter in law, Louisa. There are possibly other descendants of Bradshaw and Mary in the graveyard as I haven’t fully researched their children and grandchildren.

To summarise the WW1 record of the family, Bradshaw (senior) had a son who served in WW1 and was a decorated war hero (Bradshaw Jr.), a grandson who was also a war hero and lost his life (Harry), and great grandson (William Clifford) who lost his life.

As well as Robert, who served outside of the world war, and as well as Harold, who may well be an uncommemorated CWGC grave. Now, many of those later deaths may be in the Garden of Rest as cremations, and we still need to put together the transcript for that area. But Sally’s head count of seven other Allisters would comfortably all fit into a double plot alongside Harold and Florence Alice. And we can’t forget Florence Alice’s adopted parents – where are they buried? And her and Harold’s children?

The worst thing of all, of course, is that we cannot be sure that the stone is even still where it ought to be. When the 1991 extension was built, the eight rows of gravestones were condensed down to four, to make room for walkways. And stones didn’t just get moved into “blank spaces” – they got moved around in all sorts of ways, either then or later on. You only have to look at the stories of Lucy Alice Davy and the Dodd family to know that (a) monuments have been radically divorced from their original placements and (b) names are on stones that weren’t seen or transcribed the first/last time around. Even if Harold is indeed a CWGC grave, there are two problems here. His grave can’t be accessed, and careful measurements of the spaces which have been built over might be required to know if his gravestone is in the right place, and if it isn’t, where the right place actually is.

Reader, if you have a historical cemetery near you, and developments are being mooted: know the law around that particular type of graveyard, and ensure that those responsible for development know the law as well. Observe, pursue accountability, and educate those around you. They aren’t “just dead people”, they are history and the people of the past, and one day you and we will be people of the past as well. What respect are we owed and what respect will we receive?

That depends on what we accord the dead today.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:53.61 – Edward and Elizabeth Callan, and Joseph Gill, Betsy Hannah, Annie and John Davies – F.O.C.C.T.

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