SA.1 – Sarah, Susy, Tom, Lord and Jamie Halstead

This musical family rests under a walkway, and there’s a mystery contained therein too – we think we know who Sarah is, but because there’s no formal transcript, there’s currently no way to be 100% sure,

Lord Halstead – what a name! – was born in 1836 in Heptonstall to John and Mary (Lord) Halstead. John died in 1840, just after his son John was born. At first Mary, a beerseller, carried on alone with her three sons Lord, William and baby John. Mary died between 1841 and 1851 and Lord went to live at first with his aunt Lydia, and later with her and his cousin as well as his grandparents James and Sarah Lord. That’s how he got from Heptonstall to Todmorden – the Lords lived in Shade. Lord became a power loom weaver, and in 1860 married Susan “Susy” Nuttall at Heptonstall St. Thomas.

Susy Nuttall was born in 1841 to Isaac and Elizabeth (Marshall) Nuttall. The Nuttalls were non-conformists and Susy was baptised in 1844 at Patmos Congregational Chapel. Isaac was an overlooker in a cotton mill and the family lived at Gate Bottom. In 1851 Susy was still in school but by 1860 she was also working as a weaver, maybe even at the same mill as Lord. As was common, going to school didn’t mean the same sort of literacy children enjoy today, and on their marriage certificate Susy’s name is signed as “her mark”. It wouldn’t be until the 1880s and the passing of several compulsory education acts in Parliament that literacy in children began to make strides towards the levels we enjoy today.

Todmorden Advertiser, 17th December 1864

The Halsteads moved to Albert Terrace, along with Lord’s grandmother Mary and his cousin Emma (grandfather James and aunt Lydia had died in the interim), and they had two sons together – Tom in 1862 and Jamie in 1864. Susy continued to work even though Lord was promoted to overlooker. We don’t know how Susy spent her free time, but Lord was a man of many talents and was one of the founding members of the Todmorden Musical Society. He played violoncello, viola, and organ, and his name appears repeatedly in the newspapers for his parts in various concerts and events in Todmorden.

In 1881 Susy died. She was 41 years old, young, but had been battling tuberculosis for four years and finally was too weak to fight off a case of pneumonia when it came along. Lord mourned her for two years and then married again. Despite the happy occasion it wouldn’t be long until the Halsteads had another loss. This time it was Tom, and his death would make the papers because of its unusual and tragic nature.

Todmorden Advertiser, March 28th 1884

Tom had epilepsy and had been prone to having fits of a sort for many years. Apparently he was constantly injuring himself because he would lose consciousness and fall over, although often the impact of hitting something brought him back to himself. He had been experiencing these for eight years by the time he died and presumably he knew better than to take risks. Unfortunately on the evening in question he had met a girl at the mill he worked at, Sarah Mayo, and he was showing off a little and wasn’t wearing his glasses. Tom fell into the canal at Lobmill and was too far out for Sarah to reach him, and by the time she had found some people to help it was too late. His glasses and glasses case were found floating in the water near his body. From Sarah’s account he hadn’t had a fit but had slipped and fallen in after walking too near the canal bank, and he had called her name several times after going in. Lord gave testimony and said that calling out didn’t mean anything as the water might have shaken him out of a fit. Either way, the verdict was of accidental drowning.

One particularly heart-tugging moment in the inquest was when Sarah said she hadn’t even known Tom long enough to know his last name, and only found it out when his body was being pulled from the canal and an onlooker told her.

After this Lord decided to go into his mother’s former occupation, and he and Hannah took over the running of the Frieldhurst Tavern which once stood opposite Station Road in Cornholme. It also meant they could leave the home where Lord had lost his previous wife and his eldest son. He didn’t give up his musical hobbies though and continued to play with the Musical Society and was generous with loaning out his musical instruments for events and parties. Jamie, meanwhile, stayed in the town centre and boarded with a family on Lower George Street. He had become an iron turner and this part of town was very conveniently placed for access to mills and foundries at Stackhills, Derdale, and Millwood. Short commutes for a number of different workplaces.

In 1891 Jamie married Sarah Greenwood, and in 1891 Lord also died. Hannah took over the running of the tavern and Jamie and Sarah threw themselves into supporting their church, which was Roomfield (then known as Rehoboth) Baptist. Jamie also was by now a member of the Musical Society, his instrument being the violin, and he appears in the papers playing with them. He and Sarah moved to Anchor Street and took in Sarah’s younger brother Lewis. The pair never had any children of their own. After 1901 they moved to Blackpool but the circumstances aren’t clear – was it for Jamie’s health? Did he also have TB, like his mom? He died while there in 1910 aged 47. Sarah became a boarding house keeper (although one of her boarders was her sister Sophia) but after a time decided to come back to Todmorden where her family lived.

That’s the end of this branch of the Halstead family. But you saw a fifth name in the title and you’re probably thinking it’s Sarah Greenwood Halstead. We think it’s probably her too – she died here in Todmorden in 1931. But because the 1980s brief, unchecked transcript is all we have, and it only says “Sarah Halstead, buried ?”, we can’t be certain. On there it places Sarah at the beginning of the stone/burial sequence, and there is a Sarah Halstead who died and was buried at Christ Church earlier in 1881. Lord had a cousin named Sarah Halstead who was the same age as him; was it her? Is it Sarah Lord, but with her surname incorrectly recorded by the teenage transcribers? Is it another case of a stray gravestone from another plot that was moved at some point? Who knows. It’s probably Sarah who died in 1931. But wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure?

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