V13.8 – Reuben and Lucy Ann Halstead

There’s nothing we like more than a plot marker – sometimes we mean that, but in this case we almost didn’t. Thankfully the sexton’s book filled us in on two of the inhabitants, although there was a cryptic note attached reading “also four interments of ashes”. Can we puzzle out who those might be?

Reuben Halstead was born in 1844 to John Sutcliffe and Mary Halstead. At the time Reuben was born John was still an overlooker at the power looms, but by 1861 his fortunes had improved considerably and he was able to list his occupation on the census as that of cotton manufacturer, with the addendum that he employed five men and three boys. The family had by then moved from Fair View in Cockpit to Cross Street – likely so they could have a larger house, since by that point there were six children in the household, three of whom were over the age of 18. Not long after this, in September 1865, Reuben married Lucy Ann Dean.

Lucy was born in 1845 to George and Sarah Dean, also Todmordians. She grew up with a similarly large family to Reuben’s but in different circumstances. The Deans lived at Hey Head, above Cross Stone, and George was a gingham weaver. George was probably one of the last holdouts of the old generation who wove at home in and amongst other occupations, or for whom farming and weaving were considered perfectly reasonable dual occupations to hold at once, as did so many before the power loom began to appear in the 1820s. By 1861 the Deans had also made the move to the town centre and George was no longer a weaver but an agricultural labourer (hence our assumptions about the style of his gingham weaving; he didn’t make the move to a weaving shed). The family were now at Roomfield Lane, not so far from Cross Street, and Lucy was working as a weaver herself.

Reuben and Lucy married in Halifax, but rather than stay in the centre of Tod, they moved out to Cornholme. The reason why may lie in Reuben’s hobbies. Reuben was an extrovert and a performer, and was involved with both the Cornholme Brass Band as well as the Oddfellows. We see his performances mentioned many times – songs, recitations, dialogues, and of course, as a teller or assistant for the Brass Band. Brass bands were serious business back then, and bands would sometimes lure talented players to an area so they could join up with the promise of guaranteed work or a reduction in rent on their house – in one controversial case in Cornholme that was reported in the Brass Band Times, a reduction in the ten-year tenancy on a pub for a publican who also happened to be known as an excellent band conductor!

The couple had a staggering eleven children between 1866 and 1884. Even more staggering, they all survived their early childhoods. One son, Tom, died in 1890 aged 16, which must have been a blow to the whole family. Especially given the timing…because Reuben died in 1887, only 43 years old, and only three years after the birth of his final child, Florrie. He was the first Halstead buried in this grave.

The family had already made a move down to Lydgate before 1887 and Lucy is there in 1891, at Lineholme Terrace, with eight of her eleven children. Lucy didn’t have to worry about money. Her children helped support her of course, but Reuben also left her with £331 when he died, the equivalent of £35,000 today. He had invested in property over time and rented houses out at Victoria Street, Sunny Bank, and Station Road in the years before his death. As her children moved out Lucy moved closer to the town centre, and eventually she ended up living with her daughter Mary and her husband, George Suthers, on Adelaide Street. She would eventually move in with her daughter Sarah Grindrod at Back Byrom Street, where she died in 1929.

Now for the four ashes interments…you might say, oh, that’s Tom; but he wouldn’t have been cremated in 1890. As of 1911 Lucy reported that only two of her children had predeceased her. The truth is we can only guess. The burial registers uploaded to Ancestry get spotty after the 1940s, and for some years only a small number of entries are available (far fewer than there would have actually been). Sometimes the sexton’s book and the burial register go hand in hand, but not here. The ashes could be children or grandchildren. What we do know is:

Tom: died 1890

Arthur: died 1904

John: 1926, but not buried here

Sarah (Grindrod): 1931

Louis: 1934, but not buried here

Albert: 1944, but not buried here

Mary (Suthers): 1946, in Todmorden, but location unknown

Lucy Ann (the younger)(Stansfield): 1956

Florrie (Thomas): 1963, but not buried here

Frank: 1969, but not buried here

Emily (Greenwood): unknown date and location

Which leaves the only children who are likely candidates for the ashes as Mary, Lucy Ann junior, and maybe Emily. A mystery indeed…

Lastly, this is how this grave looked at one point, after we had cleared the ivy and bramble and retrieved the Halstead stone – isn’t it much nicer now?

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