S6.4 – William Henry Gledhill

Plot markers can be difficult things to work out – sometimes the initials are of the plot owner, sometimes of the person buried there. Christ Church’s fairly regular grid pattern allows us to occasionally make an educated guess, and in the case of the mysterious W.H.G. under the school, we can guess that it’s William Henry Gledhill of Watty Hole who died on November 13th 1882.

Or rather, who took his own life.

William Henry Gledhill was not the only William Henry Gledhill to be born in 1851. Another existed who was the son of Joseph Gledhill, headmaster of the National School – wouldn’t that be a coincidence – but there’s room for only one former head of the school under the extension and that honour is held by Mary Crowther. THIS William Henry Gledhill was the son of Robert and Hannah Gledhill of Brown Hill, located just a little north of Blackshaw Head and accessible from the road between there and Colden. Robert was a weaver, and William was the youngest son and the second youngest of ten total children. The Gledhills lived in the area until 1861 when they reappear living at Sharneyford. The reason for the move is unknown. Hannah died in 1868 and was buried up at Blackshaw Head Methodist Chapel, as was Robert when he died in March 1882.

(Side note: we know this because of the work we’ve carried out with Blackshaw Head Chapel to produce a MI transcript for their graveyard that incorporates their incredibly detailed burial records. Many thanks to them for their interest in our project, their enthusiasm for the concept, and their 170 years of meticulous record-keeping.)

As you can see, by 1868 the family were in Walsden, although by 1871 they had moved from Wood Bottom over to Friths Wood Bottom, so to Bacup Road from Hollins Road. William also went into weaving, and in April 1873 married Elizabeth Ann Hiley (or Highley). The couple moved to Watty Hole and for the next nine years lived happily, or happily enough, having two children of their own.

William lost his father in early 1882, and the loss sat with him for a while. He began to worry about work after a spell, and began to lose sleep. He also began mentioned to both Elizabeth and to his neighbour and workmate, Enoch Fielden, that he was worried about his father. Elizabeth’s response that “what occasion has tou to be bothered about him for; he’s been dead and buried six months, and he’s happy now” wasn’t sufficient to do more than quiet him. Why was he worrying about his father? What was the cause? Was his mind disordered, or was he pondering some long-ago event or difficulty or revelation about the man? On another night Elizabeth woke to find him awake and standing at the bedroom window watching a comet (the “Great Comet” of 1882) and asked her to get out of bed and watch it with him. We’d probably do the same in the circumstances, but after the fact something about the incident that perhaps didn’t make it into the newspaper made it stand out in his wife’s mind as unusual and worth mentioning.

Everyone thought that William would be all right, although Enoch had a moment of thinking that William was going to drown himself because he was so quietly unlike his usual self, although he waved the thought away after getting home the night in question and hearing from his wife that William had already returned. Thinking his friend was fine, he went to bed. But he was awakened in the middle of the night by William’s sister, Grace Uttley, banging on his door and telling him to go next door and help Elizabeth because William was dead.

William had gone downstairs in the night, assuring Elizabeth he’d be back, and then at some point had cut his throat so deeply that he died almost instantly. By the time Enoch made it into the house he was long gone. The coroner’s jury had no difficulty deciding that he had killed himself in a fit of temporary insanity, and so he was buried here in consecrated ground.

You always wonder what happened to the families afterwards; and why is he here on his own, with only a plot marker and never a full stone? Well many full stones only get put up after a few more people are added to a grave, or the grave is filled. His wife isn’t here because she remarried. In fact, she remarried Enoch Fielden in the autumn of 1883. His wife Ann had died in the first quarter of 1883, leaving him with three children, and not long before his death William had gotten Elizabeth pregnant – so she was left with two young children and another on the way. There was already a friendship of sorts there so it made sense. Tom was born in the summer of 1883, the marriage took place a few months later, and the pair went on to have another three children together.

The Fieldens moved to Milnrow and Elizabeth became a widow again in 1896 when Enoch died. She died in 1921, and the two are buried together along with their daughter Ada at St. James in Milnrow. William’s three children with Elizabeth all married in Milnrow, or stayed single their whole lives, and all three died eventually in the Rochdale or Greater Manchester area, far from the father that only two of them even had any living memory of. That’s how a plot marker never gets replaced, and how someone gets forgotten before the digital age came along and gave us a fighting chance of discovering who they really were.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:S2.9 – Herbert, John Robert, Betsy and Arnold Cunliffe, and Jack Uttley – F.O.C.C.T.

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