V7.9 – George and Alice Ann Morris

It happens often that members of the same generation of a family can be buried in opposite ends of the graveyard, and sometimes even in drastically different style of grave. George Richard Morris’s father, George Samuel Morris, only has a small plot marker with his initials on it. George and his wife Alice Ann (Hiley) have something a little grander.

We know George’s childhood story already, so we’ll skip to his adult life. Adult life starts with work for us nowadays, but by that metric George became an adult at 13 in 1871 when he went to work as a creeler in a cotton mill. Creelers wound thread onto bobbins for use in weaving (either for the warp or weft, both of which would then be mechanically wound off the bobbin and onto the warp beam or shed) and this was a sort of entry-level job for children who needed to bring in money but who weren’t large or strong enough for more complicated and heavy work. George’s father died in 1876 so it became even more important for George to be able to bring money home.

George will have met his future wife Alice Ann Hiley fairly early on in his life, we suspect – this is because her older brother Samuel worked alongside George Sr., and was friendly enough with him for George to have made a drunken stop at his house shortly before falling into the canal and drowning. George Jr. and at least two Hiley sisters were also active at the Wesley Chapel at Knowlwood in the choir – was Alice one of them? Alice was three years older than her future husband, born in Walsden in 1855 to Charles and Betty Hiley. All the working Hileys in the house at Alma Street were cotton weavers of some description, and in 1871 Alice was already weaving. She and George got married in 1877 at St. Peter’s, with her brother Charles and sister Grace witnessing the marriage. Samuel stayed home as Alice was 22 and free to marry who she pleased; and Alice’s siblings could be trusted with a secret, which was that George lied on the certificate and gave his age as 21 when he was actually 19. He could still have legally married without permission so why he felt the need to lie is beyond us! But a man has his pride after all, we guess.

The Morrises first settled a few doors down from the Hileys on Alma Street, and their only child, Emily, was born in 1879. They would later move to Hollins Place and later Hollins Road. Emily got older and, no surprises here, became active in the Wesleyan Chapel’s choir. By this time George had also become heavily involved in the Todmorden Musical Society and took part in many performances around town as a tenor and bass singer and sometimes humourist. But in August 1899 Alice died; and George, clearly mourning, buried her here in this large vault grave…

…he then, though, for reasons known only to himself, remarried in early December of the same year, to Hannah (also known as Annie) Kershaw of Pollard Street in Lydgate. A whole other valley! Annie had been born up at Lumbutts and they may have met via the Methodist circuit one way or another. The possible context for this swift remarriage is that Emily had married her beau Edwin Robinson in early November, and perhaps he was just lonely, suddenly alone in the house when he had been used to two women being around to keep things tidy and interesting. Don’t knock us about the gender roles, it’s how things often were back then! He and Annie moved away and he became an insurance agent. He must have travelled at first because in 1901 Annie was boarding with a family in Wardleworth, but in 1911 they were back together and living on Oldham Road in Rochdale. In 1913 though George died, and he was brought back to Todmorden to be buried alongside Alice.

Where did Emily go? She and Edwin stayed in Todmorden at first. Edwin was an ice cream manufacturer and was very busy around town. (Unrelated to the story here, but he was the person who found Rose Gibson‘s body in the library lock just two weeks after he and Emily got married) The couple had two children by 1911, both of whom had died, and had also gone to Rochdale for Edwin to pursue more ice cream related opportunities. Two years later, after George died, they emigrated to New Zealand, and never came back. As for Annie? We don’t know. A Hannah Morris of the correct age died in 1923 and was buried at Christ Church, but she had a Burnley address; it’s more likely that she’s buried with family somewhere else in town but we haven’t identified where.

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