S7.2 – Samuel Wood and John Greenwood, Susannah, John Willie and Law Southwell

We always get intrigued when we see different surnames in a grave – and, of course, as this stone is under the school, there’s no inscription we can see which might offer a clue as to family relationships. The answer to this particular mystery is “the usual one” – a child born out of wedlock – and the family relationships were quickly able to be worked out.

John Greenwood Southwell was baptised John Wood, because his parents weren’t married when he was born in June 1841. Born to Samuel Wood and Hannah Southwell of Thistle Hall, Walsden, John seems in fact to have spent very little time with his parents at all. In 1851 John is found living with his grandmother Jane, two doors down from his parents and little brother Mark. In 1861 he isn’t even a neighbour – we can’t find him at all! It seems odd, and unlikely to be an issue of shame, since there were quite a few more illegitimate children around then you’d probably think there would have been. Where did John go?

Samuel and Hannah both died within a few years of each other – Samuel in 1863 and Hannah in 1867. John married Susannah Law in 1866 and they and their first child, Law, were living at Springside in 1871. Also living with them was 10-year-old Samuel Wood, John’s youngest brother, interestingly designated a “lodger” rather than brother to the head of the household, and with an occupation in the cotton mill. Echoes there of John, who when he was 9 in 1851 was also working in the mill. Neither he then or Samuel in 1871 are listed as half timers. In 1881 Samuel is still living with John, Hannah and Law, as well as their second child Sam who was born in 1880.

Samuel moved out soon after that, and died soon after that, only 21 years old in 1882 while living at Burnt Acres in Eastwood. He was the first into this plot that we know of.

John worked a number of different jobs in his life – cotton spinner, clothier’s warehouseman, and in 1891 an oatcake baker! The family settled at 11 Myrtle Street, and it was there that in 1904 John and Susannah passed away ten days apart from each other. John was buried at Christ Church on February 5th, and Susannah on February 15th – also ten days apart.

A little more than a year later, John Willie followed them into the grave. A sweet in memoriam was placed in the local newspapers for him a few years later by one of his aunts, Susannah’s sister. She had six sisters so don’t ask us which one it was.

Now for Law. Law had an eventful life, as far as the newspapers were concerned. His first appearance is in 1883, when he was in an accident at Nanholme Mill where he worked and lost a finger.

Next was twenty years later in 1903, when Law was caught quite possibly with his actual pants down in Rochdale. At least this was his first offense.

His final newspaper appearance came at his death, which seems to have been an unfortunate accident. Law was living in Lydgate on Plane Street but according to brother Sam enjoyed going over to Rochdale on a Saturday night. Occasionally, he would miss the last train home and walk along the canal back to Todmorden. One night in February 1912, he might have been a little too tired, or tipsy, or maybe even melancholy – who knows. But he fell into the canal near Summit and drowned. His body was found the following morning caught in the lock mechanism. The jury couldn’t find any reason to conclusively say it was accident, suicide, or murder, so returned an open verdict of “found drowned”. He was buried with his parents, brother, and uncle; and that concludes the story of this grave.

…although it doesn’t, because we’ve found people buried here who weren’t recorded in the 1980s but were named on stones. So could (second generation) brother Sam also be here? Unusually the burial register gives us a clue that he may not be; the registers rarely gave burial plot information on them, but the register for 1961 (when Sam died) gives this information next to each entry. Florence Allister who is also under the extension is labelled as “back of hut”, referring to the caretaker’s hut which once stood behind the original school building. Sam is labelled as “row 27 plot 31”.

Row 27 in those days corresponds with row 8 now, and plot 31 in 1961 would also correspond with the current plot 31, and in this space is…an unmarked grave containing Lilian Willan, who died in January 1903 aged 5 months. No relation we can ascertain. We know from the 1911 Census that Sam and his first wife Mary had two children who died between their marriage in 1901 and the census being taken, but their burials don’t appear to have been recorded by the sexton in his book or their names recorded on any stones. Yet more mysteries!

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