S6.6 – Ada, Agnes, Florence, Samuel, Fanny, Roger and Mary Ackroyd

The Ackroyds are dear to our Chair’s heart, with Fanny being his literal great-aunt Fanny – and this grave is slightly unusual for those under the school for the sheer number of people buried in it. Sadly that’s partly because four of the seven were young children; what was their story?

Roger was born in 1854 to Barker and Mary (Cummins) Ackroyd, or Akroyd – for the purposes of this story we’re using the Ackroyd spelling. Barker was a cordwainer, aka shoe and boot maker, and he had met Mary while travelling. Mary hailed from Sunderland and married Barker in 1840 in Rochdale, when she was 21 and he was 23. Roger was the sixth of their seven children. He grew up in the area originally known as Oddfellows Hall and later Brook Street and became a railway porter. Maybe that’s how he met Fanny Sutcliffe, on a train between stations or helping her with her luggage on the platform…

Fanny was born in Walsden in 1855 to Samuel and Mary (Holt) Sutcliffe. Samuel was a stoker in a cotton mill – supposedly one of the dirtiest and most arduous jobs you could have. He would have gone to work every day and spent all day shovelling coal into the furnace to keep anything not powered by water moving along nicely. The Sutcliffes lived at Alma Street and Fanny became a weaver in the mill after she left school. At some point after 1871 the Sutcliffes moved to Littleborough, and Fanny would describe Samuel on her marriage certificate as a “civil engineer” – a change of fortunes for the family, or just a posher way of describing him.

Roger and Fanny were married in 1877 at St. John the Baptist in Halifax, settled at Union Street in the town centre, and wasted no time starting their own family. Roger had been promoted within the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and was now a foreman porter. Things were looking up. This is what makes this grave story one of the sadder ones; Roger and Fanny had nine children in nineteen years, and four of them are buried here. One made it to two and a half years old, and that was it.

The first one into the grave here was their third daughter, Ada, who died in 1883 at a year old. She died from convulsions brought on by teething. Soon afterwards Roger received yet another promotion and the Ackroyds left Todmorden and moved first to Wakefield and then to Sowerby Bridge.

Often moving away means whoever is resting in a grave rests alone, but sadly a combination of sentiment and bad luck means Ada doesn’t rest alone. Next came their fifth daughter, Agnes, who died in November 1888 aged 20 months from gastrointestinal catarrh.

Four months later their sixth daughter, Florence Hilda was born; two years later she too was dead from meningitis.

Roger was now a railway passenger guard and the family moved from Carlton Street to Orion Place, and you can see the toll that child loss had on him and Fanny as there is a six year period between 1890 and 1896 where no more children are born. Finally, in 1896, their ninth child and third son Samuel Barker was born. But old patterns re-emerged, and he died in 1897 aged one year old, from a combination of tuberculosis and pneumonia. His death certificate is particularly sad in context; older sister Annie, then 18 years old, registered his death rather than Fanny.

Roger and Fanny were left with five children – Mary, Annie, Ruth, William, and James. Each child in turn grew up, married, and moved out, apart from Mary. Fanny must have been terrified at the start of WW1 but neither of her sons or sons-in-law were lost. In 1920, 23 years after her last child’s death and 37 years after her first’s, Fanny died and was reunited with them in their grave behind the original school building.

Roger had retired before WW1, although he returned to duty in 1916 due to shortages of men in the industry, and after his wife’s death he and Mary continued on in their home at Orion Place. Mary had worked all sorts of jobs since she left school; worsted spinner, mattress weaver, wire wrapper, and woollen weaver. She continued working to help support Roger. Ten years after Fanny died, he joined her. His obituary is the only one of anyone in this grave’s that gives any context to their lives. We learn that he continued on for a few years after the war at Copley and that he was keen on cricket, being a regular supporter and helping hand at Sowerby Bridge Cricket Club. It’s a shame we know so little about Fanny’s life in comparison.

Todmorden Advertiser, August 1st 1930

Mary never married, and in 1939 was still at the exact same address – 9 Orion Street – and still working as a woollen weaver at age 61. She died in 1950 aged 72 and was buried with her family, the last one into this large grave.

Other Ackroyds are in more accessible areas of the graveyard – Roger’s parents are in the private area of the yard along with sisters Mary and Agnes and brother James, brother John is at 13.11, and brother William who rose to the ranks of station master at Halifax Railway Station is at 13.12. In fact, Roger is almost the odd one out, not being in row 13 or the family vault with either grouping of his family members; but then, his losses began so much earlier than theirs that it’s no surprise that Christ Church’s gridded burial system meant his resting place is so far removed. His own small family unit is together. Meanwhile, Fanny’s parents and two of her brothers are at 32.23, sister Ruth is at V13.4, and sister Margaret at 17.18. She, too, is far from all of them, but also is with exactly the people she would want to be with for eternity.

One Comment

  1. Pingback:54.45 and 13.11 – John, Sarah, Thomas and Barker Ackroyd – F.O.C.C.T.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *