Including the story of the Jackson family of Walsden

by Linda Crossley


About 50 years ago I met and grew to enjoy the company of a lady I knew as Anna Mary. She was an old lady, my grandma's best and very close friend since childhood. I can still see her now, always smiling, and very pretty. She would visit my grandma every Christmas and at other times too. Grandma lived in Blackpool then, having left Walsden some 30 years previously, and Anna Mary was her link to her days in Walsden.

Recently, I dug out the Crossley family bible and found, glued to an inside page, an original hymn sheet especially printed for a wedding. This was the wedding of Anna Mary Jackson, 2nd. July 1913. Could this be grandma's best friend? I imagined it was, and that maybe grandma had been her bridesmaid and had kept the hymn sheet for posterity.

I decided to try and trace Anna Mary's family as a sort of tribute, even though I had been told she was unrelated. My first major clue was an entry in the Annals of Todmorden for 2nd. July 1913.

"Marriage of Miss Anna Mary Jackson, only daughter of His Worship the Mayor of Todmorden, to Revd. Albert Bayfield,

Primitive Methodist Minister of Ashby, Lincolnshire,"

So, Anna Mary was well connected, and through this piece of information I was able to piece together her life and trace her ancestors in Walsden. This is what I found:

Anna-Mary's 3rd. great grandfather, SAMUEL JACKSON, arrived in Walsden in the mid 1700's and married Mary Woodhead. They settled and had many children. All their sons followed in their father's footsteps and became small farmers on the Inchfield Moors above Walsden. The old man was fondly remembered by his grandchildren as "deaf old Sam"

Sam's youngest son was Robert, later known as Old Schemer. Probably as soon as he married in 1786 he took the farm known as THORNSGREESE on Inchfield. He was certainly there by 1790 and was still there when he died in 1855.

Thornsgreese apparently means "a long stepped, steep pathway bordered by thorn trees". It is barely accessible these days, so in Old Schemer's time a visitor would be a rare thing. The picture is of the long, stepped, steep pathway leading up to the farm from Ragby Clough and beyond, with the thorn trees in full blossom.
The farm is on a plateau on the edge of Inchfield Moor. By 1800 the Haigh family had started to operate the coal mine at FOULCLOUGH, a mile or so away from the farm, and with the mine came a road - Foulclough Road - which extended the existing lane up from Inchfield Bottom. Other than that, there were just foot paths and a pack horse trail. The road itself was little more than a track.
In 1825, a chapel and Sunday school was built at Thornsgreese by the United Free Methodists, instigated by a break away group of teachers from Frieldhurst in Cornholme. The building is still there, although the chapel had closed its doors to worshippers by 1891 and the faithful moved down the hill to Inchfield Bottom.
There were 4 cottages at Thornsgreece in addition to the chapel. Old Schemer and his wife had one from where he farmed his land. Three of his sons and their families occupied the remaining 3 cottages and worked as labourers and carters. Between the brothers there were at least 25 children, so plenty of scholars for the Sunday school. The chapel was sited at the far left of the block of cottages.

Thornsgreese is now one large house


The farm nestles between BROWNROADS and POT OVENS farms, the latter being a little further along the road. In 1841 all 3 farms and attached cottages were occupied by the Jackson family - 7 properties in all and even more children for the Sunday school.

For several years after Old Schemer married there were no children, which he admitted made him very unhappy, but after 4 years the children came after the other, after the other, 10 in all. Robert then complained he couldn't afford all these children! They were all born at Thornsgreese. Robert supplemented his income from his farm by working in the coal mines nearby at Foulclough and in time he was able to buy the farm and land. His beloved wife died in 1823 and he then married a twice-wed widow, Mally, the daughter of John Fielden of BOTTOMLEY. She brought a further 9 of her own children and 8 step-children in to the family, although most were adults by this time. Mally died in 1837 and Robert, who enjoyed the company of a good woman, married for a third time at the tender age of 75.

This time he chose badly. She was called Betty and it is reported that they did not get on at all well. There were frequent arguments. She had 3 previous husbands and one of these was her favourite to the extent she kept mentioning his name all the time. One day, in pure frustration, Robert agreed with her and said " yes, he was a good man alright and he has surely gone to heaven if there is such a place, and it would be a welcome place of rest, but he made one mistake." When she asked what this mistake was, he replied: "He didn't take you with him."

Despite this, Robert and Betty paddled on at Thornsgreese for a considerable number of years, both living to a great age. Robert died aged 91 and is buried at St. Mary's with his first wife and mother of all his children. Betty's grave is nowhere to be found - she is presumably with that favourite husband who failed to take her with him when he went.

Here resteth the body of Mary the wife of Robert Jackson of Thornsgreece

who departed this life 6th January 1823 aged 56 years
Also of Thomas their son who departed this life July 18th 1849 aged 59 years
Also of the above named Robert Jackson who departed this life Feb.18th 1855

Old Schemer lived to such a great age that he outlived most of his own children. One of his sons was John who married Nancy Roberts. John died before his father at the age of 56, having lived at Thornsgreese all his life. After his death, Nancy moved away from the farm, but only down the road to Height Houses. She eventually moved over to Ramsden Wood to spend her final years in retirement with her son Zachariah and his family. She died in 1869 and is buried at St. Peters in Walsden with her husband and two of their children.


In loving memory of John Jackson of Thorns Greese

who died June 21st 1848 aged 56yrs

and was interred in St. Mary's Church, Todmorden
Also of Nancy his wife

who died August 24th 1869 aged 75 yrs.

Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.

Also of Ann the beloved wife of Jeremiah Jackson

of Chapel Street, Walsden

who died May 15th 1896 aged 79yrs.
Also of the above named Jeremiah Jackson

who died August 20th 1897 aged 85 yrs.
Also of Ann the beloved wife of Robert Earnshaw

of 48, Peel St., Littleborough

who died April 18th 1910 aged 69 yrs.

Her son, Zachariah, had married Mary Crossley who was born and brought up at NORTH RAMSDEN FARM, and after their marriage they lived first with his cousin at Middle Ramsden farm and later in one of the cottages at Ramsden Wood.
The cottages belonged to Mary's uncles, the Law brothers, who owned RAMSDEN WOOD MILL. Mary's widowed mother and sisters also had cottages there. Zach worked at Ramsden Wood Mill for over 20 years as a power loom weaver.

The cottages at Ramsden Wood


Zachariah and Mary had 8 children, all of who were born at Ramsden Wood. His youngest two girls were twins, Ann, who was blind, and Elizabeth. Their second son Robert was born in 1855 a few months after the death of his great grandfather, Old Schemer of Thornsgreese. Maybe this is why he was named Robert, after the venerable old man.

It has to be said at this point that also living at Ramsden Wood at this time was my grandma's mother, Emma Law. She was born there in the same year as Robert Jackson, and they were brought up in the tiny hamlet at the same time. They were, in fact, second cousins. Their parents were first cousins, and it is almost a certainty that the two families were very close. Indeed, both sets of parents moved down the hill to Bottoms to spend their retirements at much the same time.

Zachariah and Mary brought their children up as United Free Methodists and they would have attended Sunday School either at their ancestral home at Thornsgreese, or at Inchfield Bottom, and were almost certainly baptised at one of these chapels. Such was their faith, both Zachariah and Mary were buried at Lumbutts United Methodist burial ground with two of their children.


Nancy, daughter of Zechariah and Mary Jackson,

of Bottoms, Walsden.

Born November 20th 1846 Died Sep. 8th 1884
Also of the above named Mary Jackson

Born Nov. 9th 1816 Died July 12th 1889.
Also of Sally, their daughter,

who died December 19th 1895 aged 45yrs.

Also of the above named Zechariah Jackson

Born Mar. 27th 1816 Died Aug.4th 1897.


Robert Jackson was as well educated as was possible in his circumstances and became a prominent figure in local politics, representing the working classes through the Liberal party and the Co-operative movement. He was an active temperance worker and life long United Methodist.

He started work as an assistant in a grocery and drapery shop, possibly at Hollins in Walsden, which was later the headquarters of the Walsden Co-operative Society, with branches throughout the Walsden area.


The Hollins Co-op in the 1890's.

Photograph by kind permission of Roger Birch

The store was opposite the Hollins Inn. It had grocery and drapery departments and on the upper floor there was a large assembly room for meetings and social functions.
Robert eventually rose the ladder from shop boy to become the Secretary of the Walsden Co-operative Society and President of the Todmorden Co-op. This was a far cry from the life style known by his parents and grandparents. His cousins were still living in the cottages at Thornsgreece, Brown Roads and Pot Ovens, combining farm work with coal mining at Foulclough. Robert married Mary Stansfield in 1878, setting up home at number 41, Square, then 29, Alma Street and later on at Henshaw Road.

Square Road where Robert and Mary

had their first home


Whilst still living at SQUARE, their first daughter was born. This was Anna-Mary, 3 years younger than my grandma. Anna-Mary's sister Amy was born on 22nd. December 1885, but sadly she didn't survive to her second birthday. She is buried with her Stansfield grandparents at St. Peter's in Walsden. Robert and Mary had no further children. Mary died 15th November 1902. The almanac of the time recorded her death as follows:

Mrs. Robert Jackson of Henshaw Road, Walsden, died in a most sudden manner

at the age of 50 years.

Robert busied himself with his work and politics and in 1904 he was nominated by the local Liberals to represent Walsden ward on the Town Council. As there was no opposing candidate, Robert enjoyed the privilege of a walk over. By 1907 he had been elected as an Alderman on the Council and in 1910 he was made President of the Todmorden Educational Guild. On 9th. November 1911 Alderman Robert Jackson was elected Mayor of Todmorden by a unanimous vote of the Town Council.

Robert Jackson J.P.  O.B.E.


The United Free Methodist Chapel

The next major event in the life of the Jacksons was the famous marriage of Anna Mary to the Reverend Albert Bayfield on Wednesday July 2nd. 1913 at the TRINITY METHODIST CHURCH, Inchfield Bottom . It would have been a splendid occasion, with Anna Mary being the only child of the Mayor. I like to think of my grandma and her family being there, with her parents, brothers and sisters.
Robert married a second wife, Edith Pilling, who was 17 years his junior. She became his Lady Mayoress. She was the daughter of Abraham and Jane Pilling of Langfield. Edith outlived Robert, went on to marry Alfred Nuttall, retiring to live in St. Annes-on-Sea. She died in 1957 aged 85, and is buried at Cross Stone with her parents.

Robert held his position as Mayor for eight years, serving the community throughout the First World War. In the ordinary course of events, he would have stepped down from his third term as Mayor on 9th November 1914. However, the First World War had started and in view of this the Council invited him to accept office for another year, the general expectation being that the war would be over by then. As the war continued, the same process was repeated year after year in response to the wishes of the entire Council.

In recognition of their services as Mayor and Mayoress for an unprecedented period of 8 years and for their untiring efforts during the war, the Council presented them with the Freedom of the Borough. The ceremony took place on 24th February 1919. The scroll conferring the Freedom was contained in a magnificent silver casket, and in addition, Robert and Edith were presented with a mahogany bureau and a silver tea and coffee service, purchased from publicly subscribed funds. Their war time services were summarised in a resolution adopted by the Town Council, extracts of which are below:

"During their Mayoralty, sums amounting to over £20,000 were raised for various war charities by public appeals made by Alderman Jackson.........By their unostentatious generosity, their inspiring optimism, their unfailing courtesy, and their exemplary sacrifices, Ald. and Mrs. Jackson have endeared themselves to the people. During a Mayoralty unprecedented in its strain and length of service they have at all times maintained the dignity of the office and possessed the entire confidence of the inhabitants."

Robert finally retired from the office on 9th. November 1919 and he was awarded the O.B.E. for his war time services. He died in 1922 aged 68 years. He was living at Stones Villas in Walsden when he died. True to form, he is buried at LUMBUTTS CHAPEL with his first wife Mary and his blind sister, Ann. It is also noted that buried with her parents and aunty is Anna-Mary.


Sacred to the memory of Mary, for 24yrs the devoted wife of Robert Jackson of Henshaw, Walsden,

born 18th July 1852 died 15th Nov 1902.   

Also of Robert Jackson,

Mayor of Todmorden 1911 to 1920.

Died 28th Nov 1922 aged 68 yrs     

Anna Mary daughter of Robert and Mary Jackson

beloved wife of the Rev. A Bayfield,

passed over 12th Dec 1935 aged 52yrs

" We shall meet again" .

Amy their daughter

born 22 Dec 1885 died 18th Sept 1887,

interred at St Peter's Walsden.

Also of Ann, sister of Robert Jackson ,

died Sept 2nd 1931 aged 71yrs


I was astounded when I found this grave. Anna Mary, the object of my efforts, had died in 1935, a long time before I was born. I could never have met this Anna Mary, so who on earth was she, and why was her wedding hymn sheet stuck inside my family bible? There is a simple and easy answer to this, and one which hadn't previously occurred to me. It was my grandma's MOTHER who had stuck the sheet inside the bible, not my grandma. SHE was Robert's guest at the wedding of his daughter ...... Emma Law, cousin of the bride's father, and friend from their childhood days at Ramsden Wood.

But where and who is grandma's close friend, the other Anna Mary? I have absolutely no idea!