S2.2 – John and Ada Ireland

If you haven’t read the story of Catherine Armistead, go read that first – this story follows on from there and finishes hers, although it raises a few other questions along the way.

We left Catherine’s story with one unanswered question: how did Catherine, whose Todmorden links were unclear, end up being buried here? She had worked for a member of a notable Todmorden family in her youth; and both she and a sister lived here briefly and did the same job, although twenty years apart; but neither of those things explained her presence here in life or in death. Two researchers put their heads (and paid access databases) together and discovered the answer: John Ireland, the husband of beneficiary Ada Ireland, was born in Arkholme in 1861. Not only that, but his mother was Ellen Ireland, maidenly Armistead – Catherine’s older sister.

John was born in 1861 to John and Ellen Ireland, and likely was born in the cottage where his parents and three older sisters lived – the cottage being the next address along from Cowkin Farm where Ellen’s parents and siblings lived. Catherine had already left Arkholme by then to go work for the Rev. Ramsbotham. John Sr.’s occupation in 1861 was cordwainer, which is how a shoemaker who made new shoes from leather was described back then. History lesson: this was to distinguish them from cobblers, who dealt exclusively in the repair of shoes. In 1871 and onwards John Sr. is described as a shoemaker, or “master shoemaker” later, and he also doubled as Arkholme’s postmaster.

Between 1861 and 1871 five more siblings were added to the family, and that plus a young person’s general desire for escape will have impelled the younger John to leave home. He went to Liverpool to live with his two unmarried aunts, Alice and Jane, at 2 Northumberland Street in Toxteth Park. You might wonder how two unmarried aunts might be more exciting than staying home, but if you remember their names from Catherine’s story, they were both publicans in a former life. This, in 1881, was their former life. 2 Northumberland Street was also known as The Grapes and Alice was the licensee, and Jane the barmaid. John’s occupation was the significantly less thrilling “general commercial clerk”.

Detail from 1891 town plan of South Liverpool

In 1887 John married Ada Pilling at St. John the Baptist, Toxteth Park. Ada was a Tod lass – and that, ladies and gents, is the Todmorden link that actually means something to this story. How did the two meet though? One possible explanation is through John’s work, but another is through John’s family. In 1881, as we said, his aunt Mary was living in Todmorden working as a dairy maid. Another possibility is through John’s sister Jane, who became a maid to a Mrs. Mallinson of Dobroyd. This will have been a daughter of Ellen Fielden, formerly Mallinson – Ellen, of course, being John Fielden Jr.’s second wife, who continued to live at Dobroyd on and off after her husband’s death and whose miserly ways we discuss at some length in Orah Marion Stacey’s story.

Ada Pilling was born in 1862 in Todmorden and grew up at Ridge Bank. Her father William was a plasterer, described in 1871 as a “master plasterer” (say that five times fast) who employed nine men. William’s business was successful enough for him to have a warehouse as well as employees and he is named as the plasterer for Harley Wood Church School when it opened in 1871. William died in 1878 and his widow and children initially stayed at Ridge Bank, but the business doesn’t appear to have been carried on by Sarah, and Ada and the other children still at home and old enough to work were working in the cotton mills by 1881.

After their marriage, John and Ada settled back in Todmorden. A year before this John had suffered a serious attack, described in the newspaper as a stroke that left one side of his body paralysed. He was only 25 years old (not 23 as it said in the paper) which is very young indeed. He seems to have made a recovery, but his time as a clerk seems to have been cut short by this medical event. Even though he was still a clerk when he married Ada, this was no longer the case in 1891.

In 1891 they were living with Sarah and two of Ada’s sisters and their first daughter Una Margaret at Wellington Road. John was now working as a “work passer”, an inspector in other words, for a fustian mill and Ada as a cotton weaver. By 1901 this family unit had moved to 44 Stansfield Street and Una had a little sister, Ellen Victoria, added to the group. By 1911 they had moved a few doors up to 47 Stansfield Street – the address given for Catherine in the burial register.

By 1921 daughter Una had moved out and mother Sarah had died, so 47 Stansfield Street only contained John, Ada, Ellen, and Ada’s sister Emily. But in 1922 that number would go down again, because John died on May 13th aged 60. Ada and the family continued to live at the same Stansfield Street address. In 1939 the family unit was Ada, sister Emily (who by this point is described as “incapacitated”), daughter Ellen, and Una’s son Donald. Ada died in 1949 at the age of 87.

One last loose thread: Ernest Hargreaves, Catherine’s other beneficiary? Born in 1886 in Todmorden to Thomas Hargreaves and Jane Milner, in 1912 he married Una Margaret. Nephew Donald, living with Ada in 1939, is Donald Hargreaves, born in 1916.

As with so many stories in the graveyard, you can’t tell the story of one without telling the story of the other. The researching of Catherine Armistead is a perfect example. And it was a surprise to find these three linked lives both buried under the school extensio. Now, the final mystery of this long two-part tale: with all the disarray under the school, gravestones being moved hither and thither and not having any of the reasoning or before-and-after fully documented, how do we know if Catherine isn’t actually buried at S2.2 with the Irelands? Or that the Irelands aren’t buried at S1.1 with Catherine? Are these two separate graves, or one dishevelled grave? There’s only one way to find out…


  1. Carolyn Greenwood

    Ernest Hargreaves was an estate agent in Todmorden. Ellen Victoria Ireland became my step grandmother when she married my grandad Richard Harold Horsfall in 1956.

    • Hi Carolyn – is this Ernest Hargreaves the same man as Ernest Hargreaves the left-handed cricketer? If so then that ties him to another person buried under the school, Howorth Stansfield (although he came to the club long after Stansfield retired)

  2. Pingback:S1.1 – Catherine Armistead – F.O.C.C.T.

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