V12.11 – Richard, Martha, Nellie, Lilian, Sybil, Horace and Ella Hartley

Vault area graves hold a lot of interments, and this is no exception. The entire Hartley family rests here along with Horace’s wife Nellie. The stone itself has a unique, elegant font on it which isn’t repeated anywhere else in the graveyard, and if there wasn’t so much knotweed plaguing the area you would want to stop and look for a little while at it. It grabs your attention.

Richard Hartley was a Yorkshire lad and Martha Thistlewhite was a Lancashire lass. Richard’s family, though, were always moving around, and while he was born in Halifax his brothers were all born over the border. Why did they move around? Because Richard’s father Edmund could command work wherever he went; he was a chemist and druggist. Someone in this trade who was good at their job was worth whatever they charged. Richard clearly saw the value in this idea and became a dentist himself.

He and Martha married in Littleborough in 1880. On their marriage certificate she leaves her father’s name and occupation blank. We aren’t sure if this is hiding a secret or not. In 1861 she’s listed as the youngest daughter of John and Sarah Thistlewhite, but in 1871 she’s listed as their granddaughter. If she was their daughter, then her mother was 48 when she had her…not impossible but rather late. If 1871 is correct, then she most likely would be the illegitimate daughter of their eldest daughter Alice, who would have been 20 when Martha was born. On the other hand, maybe the daughter of a farmer was a little self conscious about marrying a medical professional. It’s a romantic story in novels, but maybe in real life she was too embarrassed. That seems a little convoluted though, so maybe we should go with the standard and not that uncommon illegitimacy line of thinking.

Richard and Martha had four children – Horace, Sybil, Lilian and Ella. They might have had more, but Richard died aged only 38 years old in 1888, from pneumonia and complications from kidney and liver failure.

Todmorden Advertiser, 9th November 1888

“Young children” indeed – Horace was only 7 and Ella only a year old. Somewhat tastelessly by the newspaper, directly above this notice is an advertisement for Thomas Maden‘s dentistry office…

Martha began the difficult business of recovering debts to her late husband and trying to work out how to carry on and support her children. Newspaper advertisements continue for some time after Richard’s death advertising his office and services at 16 York Street, aka Halifax Road. Martha converted the business into a druggist’s and took on young Fred Sutcliffe to assist, and this way she was able to keep things going. Not without some bother; in 1899 she was summoned for selling camphorated oil that had been adulterated down to 1/7th of its original strength, but she escaped with not too large a fine as it was the first such case in the district following a new law, and she admitted that the oil wasn’t as strong as it ought to be. Never mind – onwards and upwards!

Horace Hartley – detail from a photo from Roger Birch’s Todmorden Album

Horace trained as an optician and began to operate alongside Martha in the York Street shop doing both optometry and assisting as a pharmacist. He married Nellie Taylor in 1916. Nellie was seven years younger, born in Burnley to a cabinet maker and working as an assistant schoolmistress before meeting and marrying Horace. They had two sons, Richard and Derek. Horace had been exempted from service during WW1 and became a special constable instead, as well as trying to help keep the Todmorden Tradesmen Association going.

Martha died in 1928 in Morecambe, having retired there not long after the 1911 Census where she had been living at the shop with Horace and Lilian. She was well respected and active in many local groups and the church there, and the May Day celebration was started with a moment of silence in respect. Nellie’s parents lived much longer, being found living with Horace and Nellie and their sons in 1939 at 28 Park Road. This is also where Horace and Nellie were still living when they died, Nellie in 1949 and Horace in 1964.

Let’s not forget Horace’s sisters. The eldest, Sybil, became a music and painting teacher, and was earning her way as such in 1901 while still living with her mother and sisters (at this point Horace was away studying). By 1911 both she and Ella were living in Torrisholme, near Morecambe, living in a boarding house and working as primary school teachers. Don’t forget, this was Nellie’s occupation before marriage as well; Nellie’s marriage ended her career, but Sybil and Ella remained single and so could continue. This also explains the Morecambe connection and why Martha retired to that particular area.

Lilian stayed in Todmorden for the longest of the three sisters and in 1911 was living with Martha and Horace, presumably keeping the house – no occupation given for her then. In 1939 we find her living with Sybil and Ella and listed as a housekeeper. You wonder why she of all the children did not go into any sort of educated field of work, but the record is silent about why this might have been. The British Newspaper Archive does give mention of a Lilian Hartley active in the Morecambe and Heysham Drama Club as both an actress and producer – is it the same Lilian?

As we can see from the stone, Lilian died in 1953, Sybil in 1959, and Ella in 1979 at the grand age of 92.

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