1836 - 1912

by Janet Rooks


Not often do we see a lady witness quite so many varying aspects of our society as our great grandmother Mary (Barker) Stott. In common with most wives and mothers, her life was based primarily around her family, which also involved a secondary supportive role in their interests and activities. During her lifetime, she experienced the highs and lows of family life with which we can all empathise, and topics of discussion around her kitchen table must have been diverse.


In the first half of the 1700's, the Barker family were makers of water wheels for woollen spinning mills etc. and they took over 6 cottages at Priestwell where they lived and had a workshop. From them, sprang all the Barker millwrights and engineers. They built many of the water wheels for the early Todmorden mills at the Priestwell workshop. Born into this renowned Barker dynasty of Millwrights, with foundries at Phoenix in Millwood, Salford in Todmorden, Atlas Works in Bacup, and others in Spotland and Oldham, Mary was the third child of James and Sarah Barker. Having been preceded by two brothers, William in about 1833 and James in 1834, Mary was their first daughter. Other children followed for James and Sarah, namely; Jane, John, Robert, Edwin and Sarah. Although Mary was born in Wardle on 2nd February 1836, she was christened at St Paul's at Cross Stone on 7th August 1836 and spent all her life in Todmorden. St Paul's had played a large part in the history of the Barker family, with a long tradition of family key events taking place there. The fact that Mary came from such an established and industrious family meant that she was brought up to value the meaning of hard work. Of course, she could not follow her older brothers into the foundry, so she was introduced to work in the cotton mill. In her teens, she was a power loom weaver.

All soon changed for Mary, when she met up with John Stott. He was a local chap who worked as a Warehouseman in a cotton mill, being the oldest child of Thomas and Alice Stott, and almost exactly ten years older than Mary. They were married at Halifax Parish Church, which is dedicated to St. John, on Saturday 4th Aug 1855


Houghstone, a reconstruction drawing by kind permission of the widow of Lawrence Greenwood

The couple's early married life was spent at Houghstones, up above Meadow Bottom, and that was where their first two children were born, Sarah Jane in 1856 and Thomas in about 1859. John Stott had his roots in the cotton manufacturing trade and by 1861, he was manufacturing Calico himself.

So now "shop talk" around Mary's kitchen table would be that of looms, spinning and weaving and such like. Having worked as a weaver herself, she would be familiar with the day to day problems, which John would have to deal with and no doubt she would try to help whenever possible.


Over the next ten years, their little family grew and John's business prospered. By 1871, he was in business with Mr Hardman at Der Street Mill and employed 13 men, 10 women and 1 boy. Six more children came along to swell their household. They were Willie, Alice, John William, Annie, Emily and James Barker Stott.


Woodside Cottage

Der Street Mill


With the family growing, John and Mary decided to move house and took up residence on Broadstone Street at Priestwell, in a house that is also known by the name of Woodside Cottage. From here Mary could overlook the Millwood area where her forefathers had lived and worked in their foundry and also see what was to be her new Church, at Castle Grove on King Street. Woodside Cottage would house Mary's kitchen table for nigh on 50 years.


Whilst Mary's christening took place at Cross Stone, John had been raised in a Methodist family and he had been christened at Myrtle Grove Chapel at Eastwood. His faith was an important part of his life and he has been described as " one of the pillars of Free Methodism in this district".


In his adulthood, Castle Grove U.M.F.C. had the benefit of his loyalty and support in many different ways, as a teacher, superintendent, steward and trustee. As we have so often seen, this would involve Mary and the whole family too, in attending services, school, social, and fund raising events.

However at this point in their lives, sadness comes to touch Mary and John. Their daughter Annie was born on 18 Oct 1866 but lived for less than 3 months, passing on 7th Jan of the following year. Her parents buried her at Cross Stone. Co-incidentally, Mary's older brother William, who was a Millwright and lived at Fir Trees in Bacup, had just experienced a similar misfortune with his own son Willie, and the brother and sister bought adjoining plots at Cross Stone. Regretfully, Mary and John went on to lose another two children, each being just 5 years old, John William and Emily in 1871 and 1872. They were buried with their sister Annie at Cross Stone.


Mary's fortunes took a turn for the better when three more children were born starting with John Edwin in 1873, Bertha in 1875 and finally, Mary's very own namesake in 1881. John became in sole charge at the mill and his interests were expanded even further to include membership of the Todmorden Local Board and later the Board of Guardians, which would of course bring extra topics for the pair to discuss, around their table.

All seemed to be going well for Mary, but as in any family, no matter how noble or well meaning, embarrassment can occur and 1885 saw John's "brush with the law". On 1st October 1885 he had to appear before the local bench to answer a charge of, employing a child before and after 1p.m. same day. This contravened the Factory & Workshops Acts of the day.

His case was heard before Rev. T. Sutcliffe, J.A. Ingham and H.C. Taylor M.D., gentlemen with whom John was no doubt acquainted, which would only serve to enhance his discomfiture. Apparently, it was explained that the offence was unknown to the masters, and arose, through the sending of the children in question, the whole day, to take the place of sisters who were absent through sickness. Of course, John had to take full responsibility, and a penalty of 10s-0d was imposed, with costs of 7s-6d.


The 1880s and 1890s saw many celebratory events for Mary, as this was the era during which, several of her children chose to marry. Sarah Jane married Smith Fielden who was a Todmordian who went on to become a newsagent and later a printer and stationer in Burnley. Thomas married Margaret Stephenson and later Hannah Ashworth. Alice married a local building contractor, George Scott. James, who was an electrical engineer, married someone called Sarah and went to live in the Midlands. John Edwin married Edith Mary Helliwell. Grandchildren abounded for Mary; they tumbled along at intervals, to number over a dozen.


By the turn of the century, John gradually spent less time at his mill on Der Street, and was leaving the running of the firm in the hands of his sons. However, by early 1902 Mary's concern over John's health was mounting. He had suffered from bronchitis for some considerable time, but his attacks now seriously worried her. On Sunday 23rd March, he was taken rather worse than usual, but Mary confidently hoped that he would recover, unfortunately her hopes was not realised. John became gradually worse, and notwithstanding the efforts of Dr. Thorp, he passed away on Wednesday the 26th. After almost 47 years of marriage, these were dark days for Mary.

John's funeral took place at Cross Stone cemetery on Saturday 29th March, in the presence of a large number of mourners. Dr Lightfoot officiated, assisted by Rev. J Longden. A large number of people from Castle Grove U.M.F.C. and school attended, and Messrs D. H. Astin, Thomas Greenwood (Board of Guardians) and Mr. F. Hollinrake (clerk). There were five wreaths, including one from the work-people at Der Street mill, six of whom acted as bearers, and one from the Sunday school at Castle-grove. On the Sunday afternoon, Rev. J. Longden conducted an impressive memorial service at Castle Grove.

In the course of his sermon, the rev. gentleman said that the deceased had been a most ardent supporter of both the church and school ever since their erection in 1858, and he was one of the pillars of Free Methodism in this district.

Times were not getting any better for Mary. Whilst nursing John in his illness and later mourning his loss, she had other matters to give rise for concern. Her son Willie had caused her some anguish for a while. Towards the end of December 1897, Willie went to India to manage a cotton mill in Bombay, but on his return, did not follow any regular employment. This would go very much against the grain, and I am sure Mary must have been at a loss as to how best to help and advise him. Willie was taken ill and literally died in the street, at Inchfield Bottom, Walsden, on 10th May 1902, just a few weeks short of his 40th birthday. He was buried at Cross Stone at the foot of his father's grave.


Castle Grove Chapel is to the back left (behind the banner) I wonder if Mary is one of the ladies?

Photo taken about 1910

In contrast, four years later, Saturday 3rd March 1906 was a pleasantly memorable day for both Mary and Castle Grove U.M.F.C. too. After a long search over many years for a site to build new premises, one was finally found, and with generous help from the Railway Company, a new church was built at King Street, which was not far from the old one.

March 3rd was the day of the stone laying ceremony at the new building, and the programme of events occupied much of the afternoon and evening. Fortunately, the day was bright and sunny, and the Castle Grovers began their ceremonies with many of their dignitaries walking down the valley to meet up with the Nazebottom Temperance Brass Band. The band played and headed their procession back to the site of the new chapel, where there was a very crowded gathering awaiting them. Rev. R. R. Baker led the proceedings, which were interspersed with speeches, hymns and prayers.


The ceremony of laying ten memorial stones then began and occupied more than an hour. The mallets were given by the secretary to the chapel trust, Mary's son Mr John E. Stott, and had been made by Mr H. Sutcliffe, of Sandholme. A notable and very poignant feature in the presentation of most of the trowels and mallets was that the person selected for this subordinate duty was generally a daughter or son of the recipient. In addition, the little speeches they made were very touchingly expressed, as they generally contained references to dear ones who had passed away, in whose memory one or other of the stones was being laid.


Mary laid the first stone in memory of her late husband, John, who had laboured faithfully in connection with the chapel and school for 42 years. Their daughter, Bertha, presented the trowel and mallet. It had not normally been the case for Mary to step into the limelight, but how fitting it was that she should be called on to lay the first stone of this new Church in Millwood.

The trowel - a treasured possession of the family


Mrs. John Barker of Harley Bank laid the second stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Sarah A. Lord.


Mrs. George Scott, who was Mary's daughter, Alice, laid the third stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Mary Scott. Underneath this stone was placed a sealed bottle containing copies of the local papers, the circuit plan, a printed programme of the day's proceedings, and one new penny.


Mrs Frank Crabtree laid the fourth stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Grace A. Helliwell.


Mrs James Halstead laid the fifth stone in memory of her late husband. Trowel and mallet presented by Mr James B. Halstead.


Mrs Samuel Barker laid the sixth stone, in memory of the late Mr and Mrs John Roberts. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Ann Barker.


Mr Jeremiah Crossley laid the seventh stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Mr Albert Holdsworth.


Mr Joseph Crowther laid the eighth stone in memory of his late wife. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Maggie Crowther.


Mr John Ackroyd laid the ninth stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Clara Ackroyd.


Mary's son, Mr Thomas Stott, laid the tenth stone. Trowel and mallet presented by Miss Mary Stott.

Rev. R R Baker then made a few announcements and the proceedings at the site closed with another hymn and the benediction. Afterwards a procession was formed and went by way of Halifax Road, headed by the band, to the mother church at Bridge Street, where tea was provided and an evening meeting held.

1910 saw another family loss for Mary. This time, it was a quite sudden and unexpected passing of John Edwin, her youngest son. He was a well-known and highly respected townsman and he died at his home, at Craigside, Hollins, from an acute bout of pleurisy. Whilst only 37 years of age he had worked at his father's mill on Der Street and been prominently connected with Castle Grove U.M.F.C. where he had been a teacher, leader, secretary of the trustees and school secretary. It has been said that, h is whole heart and sole went into the work of making their church what it was. His funeral was held at Castle Grove followed by interment at Cross Stone, and he left a widow and four young children.

Two years later, a much happier event was to occur, and the setting, once again is Castle Grove Church. On the 2nd April in 1912, Mary's daughter Bertha travelled down the hill from Woodside Cottage to King Street to be married. Her groom was another staunch Methodist from Hebden Bridge, John Sutcliffe. Whilst John lived down the valley, his family roots were firmly based in Todmorden, through the Sutcliffe and Hiley families from Shade and Nicklety. However, his own loyalties were to Cross Lanes Chapel, and after their marriage, Bertha worshipped with him there. Mary would have found comfort to notice that her daughter's new husband displayed so many familiar family traits. Just as her own husband had been a hardworking individual with a strong religious and public conscience, she would recognise the same qualities in John Sutcliffe and they would come to the fore, in years to follow.


Another event happened a little later that same month, which would have evoked sentimental memories for Mary. As his father had been before, Thomas was a member of the Todmorden Board of Guardians and on the 24th. he was elected vice chairman. She must have been pleased to see so much of a likeness between her husband and eldest son.


Mary's life came to a close on 7 Nov 1912 and she was buried with John, and alongside her brother William, at Cross Stone, where the inscription on their memorial stone ends with the words: "IT IS THE LORD, LET HIM DO WHAT SEEMETH HIM GOOD".