S6.9 – Charles, William, Annie and Edwin Corbett, and Mary Howells

This family here hails from London and Shropshire – three generations in one place, far from home for Mary, Edwin and Annie, but a stone’s throw from the only home the two children knew.

Mary Howells was born in August 1819 to Joseph and Elizabeth Howells of Wellington, Shropshire. Elizabeth died not long after. Joseph remarried, and he and his second wife Martha had some children of their own together. The Howells were working class people and Mary went out to work as a young woman, finding work at the Preston Hospital near Wellington. This hospital was something like Stansfield View in the sense that it had two types of inmate – pensioners and young children being schooled. Mary appears as one of four female servants living and working there on the 1841 Census.

Joseph died, though, and Mary had to move home to help support her widowed stepmother. Also still at home was her younger half-brother Benjamin. Eleven years her junior, he was working as a labourer, while Martha was working as a washerwoman. Interestingly Mary has no occupation, although that could just be an error. She could also have been keeping house for the other two – maybe Martha had a decent thing going with the washing and didn’t want to give it up?

In 1853 Benjamin married Sarah Cottam and they started a family. There are three children we definitely know are theirs – Margaret, William and Annie. Benjamin became a plate layer on the railway and Mary continued to look after Martha until her death, when she moved in with Benjamin to help with the children (as Sarah had died in 1862, not long after Annie was born).

Annie grew up and at some point met Edwin Andrew Corbett, a travelling house painter, and the two married in Wellington in 1880. Edwin was a Londoner, born in Guildford a few years before Annie. He had moved to Wellington in time for the 1871 Census because of his widowed mother’s second marriage to Thomas Devey, himself a travelling house painter, and Edwin was apprenticed to him while one brother was an apprentice stone mason and the other still in school. After the marriage, Edwin and Annie moved to Todmorden, and their first child Sarah Ellen was born at 7 Doghouse one month before the 1881 Census was taken.

Edwin and Annie had two more sons – Charles and William. Both little lads died about a year after they were born, give or take a few months, Charles in 1883 and William in 1885. Sarah Ellen remained the only child to survive. 13 more years passed with no more Corbetts born in Todmorden, and then in 1898, Annie died.

“Had since been taken there” – “there” was the Fielden Hospital, and the reason was typhoid. A wave swept through Todmorden in 1898 and a number of people died. Annie ended up being among them. Annie’s death was reported not just in the Todmorden Newspapers, but also back in Wellington, where she was remembered to people as the daughter of the late Benjamin Howells.

Wellington Journal, April 9th 1898

Late, because Benjamin had died in 1895. After Annie’s death, Mary continued her caregiving role and came up north to help Edwin. Or perhaps she came up before Annie’s death while she was unwell. Either way we know she came here, because in February 1900 she died and was buried here with her niece and two grandnephews.

Edwin and Sarah Ellen moved to Spotland after Mary died, presumably to get away from nearly two decades of painful memories. Sarah Ellen moved out to pursue her own life and Edwin moved onwards to Pontefract, still painting houses to earn a living. He died there in 1913. Sarah Ellen is difficult to trace but she may well be the same Sarah Ellen Corbett who died in Rochdale in 1972 aged 91. She lived to an exceptional age by most standards but outpaced even her great-aunt Mary, who had been 80 when she died.

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