SA.7 – Ruth, Mary Emmyline, Joseph and Ann Sutcliffe

Buried here are a pair of Unitarian royalty – yes, here, not at the Unitarian – we believe underneath the external walkway around the back of the school extension. Joseph and Ann’s birth families are here at Christ Church and so they chose to rest here instead.

Joseph Sutcliffe was born in 1840 to James and Betty Sutcliffe of Dulesgate (who are themselves buried in the private area) and, like most children in a large poor family, went into work as soon as he would. In 1851 aged 11 he was already working as a jobber in the same mill his father worked in. James was an overlooker so did make a little more than the “common” spinner or weaver, but it wouldn’t feel like much with six children. James died in 1853 and Betty in 1867. In between those times the Sutcliffe children who were still at home continued to stay at home to support Betty, but even after her death they remained together. Joseph was the titular head of the household in 1871, with four siblings still living with him, as well as a sister in law and a niece.

Meanwhile, Ann Holt had been born four years earlier to John and Ruth (Ingham) Holt (who are buried at 43.7). Ann’s childhood and her parents’ lives were much different. John Holt was not just better off than James Sutcliffe; he could have been James’s employer. John was a cotton manufacturer who employed men working at Folly Mill off Woodhouse Road. The Holts lived near Folly at first, but later moved to Queen Street. Ann’s eldest brother Thomas was at first a bookkeeper for the mill, and later took over the running of it when John retired.

In 1871, the Sutcliffes had left Dulegate and moved to the town centre, also to Queen Street, and that’s how Joseph and Ann met. Despite both of them being baptised at Christ Church, and either both or one parent being buried here at that point, they were of a more non-conformist bent. Joseph, also, had already begun to indulge some of his personal interests and had joined the Todmorden Society of Ringers – bellringers, that is. He was even moonlighting as one of the original, larger cast of the Todmorden Handbell Ringers. Maybe he simply saw an opportunity to get in on the ground floor, as it were. Whatever the reason…in 1873, the economically mismatched couple tied the knot. Their wedding made the newspapers not because of Ann’s family name, but because of the location.

Todmorden District News, March 7th 1873

That’s right – Joseph and Ann were the very first couple married inside the new, sparkling, ornate Unitarian Church at Honey Hole. The Mrs. John Fielden at this time was Ruth (Stansfield) Fielden, herself one half of an economically mismatched couple, although to further extremes than Joseph and Ann. Still, it’s an interesting coincidence. Joseph and Ann’s marriage was happier than John and Ruth’s, luckily for them, although not without its hardships. They had four daughters and two are buried here.

Joseph and Ann moved to Mount Pleasant to start their new lives and wasted no time about it. Their first daughter, Ruth, was born in January 1874 Named after Ann’s mother, not Ruth Fielden! Sadly she would die in September 1875 aged 20 months, not long after their second daughter Betsy was born. She won’t be buried in this plot but is somewhere else at Christ Church, possibly with one or the other set of grandparents. Then came Annie in 1880 and lastly Mary Emmyline (or Emmeline – the burial register says one thing and the stone supposedly says another) in 1881. When you look at the burial register for 1882 on Ancestry, Mary’s name appears in the middle of the first page for that year. She died in January aged 7 months old. Having been born after the 1881 Census was taken, she just missed being recorded anywhere else.

The family moved along to 33 Industrial Street after this but it wouldn’t be long until another loss shook them. In 1886, Joseph died. His death came as a surprise to everyone, and the bellringers paid their own tribute to him after the funeral.

Todmorden Advertiser, March 5th 1886

Ann soldiered on, taking in lodgers to support her, Betsy and Annie. In 1891 they had three there with them, a stonemason and two telegraphists. Ann’s health was poor though, and in 1900 she became the last to be buried in this plot, after rupturing a blood vessel due to post-influenza coughing.

Todmorden Advertiser, June 22nd 1900

Afterwards, Betsy and Annie moved to 19 Garden Street together. Both had been working in cotton mills and both continued to do so, but not for long. In June 1901 she married a clerk for a corn mill named Charles Stansfield at Mount Olivet Baptist Chapel in Lydgate. Annie married John Willie Dewhirst in 1903 at Cross Stone. Both Betsy and Annie are buried elsewhere from Christ Church.

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