S7.1 – Alice Elizabeth, Mary, Sally, Thomas and Mary Ann Shackleton

The Shackletons were longstanding residents of Patmos both as Shackletons and Sutcliffes – and on the Sutcliffe side, were deemed important enough to be included in John Travis’s geneaology of the family. His inclusion of their little family unit is prematurely, briskly brief – names, issue, and their marital status. But he was right in a way to sum them up so briefly, because their family unit ended and is contained entirely within this grave.

Thomas Shackleton was born in 1823 to John and Mary Shackleton of New Gate Bottom, although he would give his age as slightly younger at later dates. Mary died shortly after his birth. John was one of a long line of Shackletons who gave their time and energy to the parish, both at St. Mary’s and later Christ Church. The youngest of four children, he became a cotton weaver before moving into his career for life – that of boot and shoemaker. Once he had learned the trade he established a business at Patmos, become successful enough by age 28 to not only live on his own but to also employ someone under him. It’s not surprising given that he was making shoes for the Taylors of Todmorden Hall, as was mentioned in his obituary – rich and well connected clients indeed. In 1851 he was the sole resident of his address at Patmos.

Next door to him in 1851 was James Sutcliffe’s grocery store. The widowed James lived with his also-widowed mother Sally, his little daughter Ann, and his sister who was also named Sally. Sister Sally was nine years older than him and never married. 1851 was a bad year for the Sutcliffes – little Ann died later that year – but 1852 brought the wedding of Sally and Thomas, and 1853 brought the birth of their first daughter Mary. Sarah Ann followed in 1854, and Alice Elizabeth in 1858. A nice little detail about Thomas and Sally’s wedding: the other couple married at St. Chad’s that day witnessed their marriage, and Thomas and someone else witnessed theirs (Sally couldn’t because she couldn’t sign her name).

Alice Elizabeth was the first in the family unit to die, in November 1859 at 19 months old. She is named here but clearly isn’t buried here because of the date of the grave in the grid formation. Her grave location is unknown – it’s in Christ Church, that’s all we know. Her cousins, aunt, and uncle James are buried in the private area but her name isn’t on their gravestone.

Thomas’s shoe shop was gaining popularity and by 1861 Thomas was able to employ four men rather than just one. He seems to have had boots stolen often, so perhaps one of the new employees was muscle. By 1871 there’s no mention of how many men were in his employ, but we can see that Mary has become a trainee schoolteacher. And here is where the story gets a little mysterious…

Enter Mary Hardman. Not the Mary Hardman buried here in Christ Church, but Mrs. Mary Hardman of Sussex Road, Southport. In 1881, we find Mary and Sarah Ann Shackleton living with her as boarders. Mary’s occupation is “C. T. School Mistress” and Sarah Ann has no occupation at all. What were they doing there?

Mary Hardman ran a hydropathic house, where water was used externally or internally (ew) to cure various ailments. This could mean anything from saunas, to enemas, to electrified water being applied to one’s person. Some hydropathic institutions used brine, some used steam, some were merely spas for the wealthy and nervous in which to escape whatever in their lives was making things impossible. Mary and Sarah Ann were young and not terribly wealthy, so why were they there?

They were there because at the point the 1881 Census was taken Mary had 18 months left to live.

Mary had consumption, and died in June 1882 of phthsis pulmonaris, or pulmonary consumption. Her lungs would have been collapsing and ulcerated from the effects of the disease. A year earlier, perhaps time spent in warm moist air made her feel temporarily better, but it was one of the least helpful things she could have done for herself.

We were wondering where Mary had taught, since information about her career was thin on the ground. An article written about Christ Church in 1895 came to our rescue – a stroll around the graveyard where the author, a man after our own hearts, detailed some of the more interesting stones he’d seen. One jumps out when you’re looking for Mary – that of Mary Shackleton “of the National School, Padiham” who died in 1882 aged 29 years old. One of the few accounts of any grave under the school extension that we’ve seen to date.

Sally, having lost two of her three children, began to fade, and she died three years later. She had already lost her brother James in 1872 and all but one of her nieces and nephews and had suffered a great deal, even by the standards of the day. Now only Thomas and Sarah Ann were left. Travis’s short summary of the family from 1889 makes more sense now, doesn’t it?

Thomas continued to make shoes and boots and Sarah Ann stayed home keeping house. Thomas retired in 1893 and his niece Maria began to spend more time with he and Sarah, eventually moving in with them. At this point Thomas had lived in the house on Mills Street since his marriage to Sally back in 1852. But all good things come to an end, and when Sarah Ann and Maria moved to Walsden, Thomas moved with them. He died in 1909 and his obituary brought up all sorts of interesting details missing from other public records. We mentioned his work for James Taylor of Todmorden Hall before, and we also mentioned his family’s connection with the parish church. But Thomas had a surprise for us on the latter point – his secularism, aka atheism!

Todmorden Advertiser, May 7th 1909

Interestingly, this is the last time Walsden gets mentioned, and in 1911 Sarah Ann and Maria are back living at 16 Mills Street. Perhaps they were merely renting the Walsden house, or perhaps it was Maria’s house they moved into rather than Maria in with them. She was working as a caretaker for a solicitor’s office while Sarah Ann stayed home, still. In 1914 Sarah Ann died and was buried here with her family. And that was that.

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