S2.6 – Howorth and Ann Stansfield

Howorth is someone whose name took a little bit of figuring out – in the 1980s, his first name was recorded as “Howard/th?” – because if you can’t decide one or the other, why not both? The TAS later determined it was likely Howarth, but really, it was Howorth. And what a Howorth! He would have loved being laid to rest so near to a place that meant to much to him. Not the church, not the school, but the cricket club.

Howorth Stansfield (centre), detail from Cloth Caps and Cricket Crazy

Howorth Stansfield was born in 1848 in Todmorden to James and Mariah Stansfield. James was a travelling or “journeyman” joiner but he and his family were based in Todmorden, where he and Mariah had both been born. Howorth was the youngest of seven children. He grew up at Meadowbottom.

Between 1851 and 1861 mother Mariah died, and then between 1861 and 1871 father James died. Howorth’s siblings had all been working in weaving/spinning or masonry since his birth, but Howorth had something different in mind. In 1871 he was living with his sister Mary and her husband, James Dewhirst, and their brother Luke. While the others worked in those manual trades, Howorth is described as an attorney’s clerk. Something VERY different indeed.

Howorth worked his way up and became not just a respected accountant, and a clerk, but one of the assistant clerks for the Town Board, now Todmorden Town Council, in 1882. More excitingly though, he also joined the Todmorden Cricket Club and the first eleven. His first mention in the local papers, in 1878, is for his cricket and not his intellect; although his intellect was much respected. To top it all off, Howorth also seems to have been something of an artist, and many mentions are made of certificates and gifts being presented to retiring Local Board employees which have been “skilfully illuminated by Mr. Howorth Stansfield”.

Todmorden Advertiser, May 29th 1885

In 1889 he married Ann Sutcliffe of Patmos, just over the road from Howorth’s sister’s home on Queen Street at Cobden. Ann was born in 1852 to John and Grace (Hollinrake) Sutcliffe, one of just two – in contrast to Howorth’s larger family. John was a linen draper and a respected man about town, being involved in the Early Closing Society and serving on committees appointed to by the Town Board. Ann and her brother James were raised at 2 Patmos, where father John added grocer to his list of jobs, having taken over the grocery business his brother James owned when James died. She may have met Howorth through him being hired by John to recover debts owed to the family businesses, or perhaps through the solicitor’s office nearby. Either way, each was a very good match for each other in socioeconomic terms, with what Howorth might have lacked in parentage being made up for by his talents.

Howorth and Ann had no children, something mentioned in Howorth’s obituary later. Howorth travelled here and there for the cricket but he and Ann stayed put permanently in Todmorden. By 1911 the two had moved to 52 Garden Street. Howorth continued to work but after becoming suddenly ill had to leave his job, and within three months had died. His obituary is one of the nicest we’ve read so far from this graveyard, so we’ll quote it nearly in full:

Death of Mr. Howorth Stansfield

Former Noted Todmorden Cricketer

A very well-known and highly esteemed local townsman has been removed by the death of Mr. Howorth Stansfield, of Garden Street, best known to the older generation of Todmordians for his long and prominent association with the Todmorden Cricket Club. Deceased has for nearly half a century been a notable figure in the life of Todmorden, and his death will be regretted by a very large circle of friends and acquaintances. He was a man of fine stature and genial disposition, and few men were better known or more generally respected. For a period of 39 years he has been employed by the local authority-first the Local Board, then the Urban District Council, and finally by the Corporation as a minute clerk, and latterly as an assistant in the rate office and treasurer’s department. Previously he had been employed in the office of Mr. Wm. Gould, a former well-known solicitor. Up to quite recently- although he had passed the limit of three score years and ten, being as a matter of fact in his 72nd year- he appeared to be in the enjoyment of robust health, but about eleven weeks ago he was compelled to relinquish his duties, and since then has been for the most part confined to bed with a painful ailment. He has been in a critical condition for some time, his recovery being considered practically hopeless, and he passed away about eight o’clock on Tuesday night. He leaves a widow, but no children.

Mr. Stansfield was a beautiful penman, and for a long period his services in this respect were much in request for the preparation of illuminated addresses, of which many fine examples are in existence. It was, however, his connection with the Todmorden Cricket Club which brought him into most prominent notice. In his early days he was a fair bowler, but it was as wicket keeper and captain of the Todmorden eleven that he is best remembered. With his big wide-awake hat and his commanding figure he was a personality not to be overlooked in any game in which he took part, and as a wicket keeper he was considered one of the best within a wide radius. He was not much of a bat, but was a big hitter when he did have a day out. After serving the club as wicket keeper for the long period of 26 years he was given a benefit match in July, 1893 … Mr. Stansfield continued to serve the club for another year or two, but maintained his interested in the game and in the club almost to the finish, being a regular attender a Centre Vale on match days. His demise will be particularly regretted by his cricket contemporaries, of whom there are now not many left.

The funeral will take place at St. Mary’s Church to-day (Friday) at three o’clock, and members of the cricket club and colleagues from the Corporation offices will act as bearer.”

Unfortunately for poor Ann, being a woman in those days and having a very common surname means there is little to know her by. There are a thousand “Mrs. Stansfield” or “Mrs. A. Stansfield”s in the newspapers and we cannot identify any as definitely being her. She died nine years later after Howorth in 1930. Having no children her obituary was starkly brief compared to Howorth’s, and mostly talks about him, to add insult to injury.

Back to Howard/th?, and the difficulty of correcting previous mistakes; ok, so this mistake seems like an easy one to rectify, given the year of death and address from the sexton’s book is more or less correct. But it’s easy for us now, with searchable electronic databases. Years ago, only a keen cricketer might have twigged the name, and even then would have had to spend some time on a microfiche machine searching for the obituary to confirm that it was the same person. And they certainly would not have been able to search the entirety of both Todmorden newspapers to find any and all mentions of Howorth or Ann over time without needing a year of their life and a few different optometry appointments to get through it. And that’s just this one person…

We are very, very, lucky to have the technology we have, and perhaps the graveyard is equally lucky to have a group like us here, now, to be able to use that technology to tell their stories.

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