S2.1 – John and Christina Barker

Two more names hidden from the eye (for now at least) – John and Christina, whose stone we last saw in 2016.

Undated photo courtesy of Tony Barritt
The Barker’s stone (circled in red) in 2016

John Barker was born in 1854 to Thomas and Betty (Haigh) Barker. The first child of his parents, John grew up first at Honey Hole in what used to be called Hanging Ditch, then Friths Wood Bottom, then Bath Street in the town centre. Thomas was a weaver at first but later went to work for the gas board as a debt collector, a job he would do until the end of his life in 1882. John himself became a “warehouseman”, which is precisely what it sounds like.

Christina Jackson was born in 1852, the first of at four children born to her unmarried parents Mary Jackson and Thomas Heyworth. We don’t know what the story behind that relationship is, but Christina had three younger brothers and the youngest, James, was born in 1866, a year before Thomas and Mary finally married. The story must have been complicated, and it takes on an extra layer when you find out that only four years later Mary was giving her status on the census as “widowed” but had also reverted to her maiden name. It seems as though no one was happy about having Thomas (who appears in the newspapers for various counts of drunken affray) linked to them. Lacking a father’s steady income, Christina and her siblings went to work in the cotton mills while young and became full-timers as soon as they could.

John and Christina married in 1876 (unsurprisingly Christina left her father’s name blank on the certificate). They moved to Garden Terrace and started a family – four sons (Herbert, Charles, Frank and Thomas Edward) bookended by a daughter, Emily in 1879 to Ethel in 1891. Moving back to Stones Wood Bottom in 1891, the two oldest children were working – Emily as an artificial flower maker, Herbert as an errand boy – presumably for Friths Mill, the same cotton mill that John worked in.

One extracurricular activity that John took part in was the Royal Liver Friendly Society. Formed in 1851, the society was like other Friendly Societies in that it acted as a sort of workplace-cum-funeral insurance benevolent fund, which members paid into in the hopes that if they met a sudden end their families would be given enough money to ensure a decent funeral and a cushioning of any financial blow received. The Royal Liver Society was especially concerned with funeral benefits, with “the fear of the pauper’s grave” being high in the minds of its founders. The irony, of course, of John representing them at the annual meeting and chairing their meetings only to later have his grave hidden under a building, is not lost on us.

Todmorden District News, July 5th 1889

John was also a member of the local Conservatives Association. On later to Fern Terrace, and finally Farnboro Street, we can see from the 1911 Census that John and Elizabeth only lost one child out of seven which isn’t bad for those times.

Christina died first, in 1922, aged 70. It’s frustrating when we know so much about her husband but not about her to have to end it there, but that’s all we can do.

Courtesy of Tony Barritt

John moved from Watty Terrace to Friths House, and amazingly continued to work – in fact, the 1935 “last year’s deaths” column (how morbid!) specifically mentions him as a long-service employee of Luke Barker and Sons at Friths Mill. It isn’t clear when he retired, but he retired from life in 1934 when he died aged 79.

Courtesy of Tony Barritt

One Comment

  1. Tony Barritt

    It nice to read the story about my 2nd great grandparents. Hopefully we will be able to see the grave stone sometime soon. Thank you

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