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BETTY CROSSLEY

1880-1975

(read to the end and win a prize!)

   

Henry Crossley and Emma Law were married at St. Peters Church, Walsden in October 1879, witnessed by Henry's distant cousin and best friend Reuben Crowther, and Emma's sister, Sarah Ann Ogden.

Henry was a weaver, living at Nicklety at the top of Inchfield. He was the grandson of William 'Toys' of Knowsley Cottage. Emma was living with her parents at Bottoms in Walsden. She was a granddaughter of Samuel Law who built the mill at Ramsden Wood .

Betty Crossley

   

Reuben Crowther and his wife, Susey,

outside their shop on Rochdale Rd.

After their marriage Henry and Emma lived with Emma's parents at Crescent, Bottoms. It was there where their first child was born on 1st. September 1880. They named her Betty after Henry's mother, Betty Howarth.

Betty was followed, every 2 or 3 years as was the norm, by 7 siblings. Her youngest sister, Emma, died at the age of 9 months from Spina Bifida and a Hydrocephalus coma. She was buried at Christ Church in 1898.

Betty also lost another sister, one who she loved dearly. She was Mary, who was born in 1891 and died shortly before her 22nd. birthday in 1913 of consumption. She is buried at St. Peters in Walsden.

The other 5 siblings, all surviving to old age, were Mark, Hannah, William, Sam and Edith.

 

The family lived at Bottoms in Walsden for many years at 811 Rochdale Road. The cottages were back to back, 2 up, 2 down, with a row of toilets at the gable end side of the end house.The rear houses face the narrow river, with no more than a yard separating the door from the retaining wall of the river, beyond which used to be open country side. The front houses face west and are built right up to the edge of the road. They overlook the steep and rocky hillside leading up to Allescholes.

 

   
No. 811 is the middle house of 3, facing the road and overlooking the magnificent scenery. The front door led into a small front room off which there was a staircase blocked off by a heavy velvet curtain. Originally the only windows were the two seen on the photos, one up and one down.
   

By the time she was 10 years old, Betty was working at Bottoms Mill as a cotton spinner. Her parents paid a penny a week for her to attend part time school. Being the oldest child she was expected to act as nursemaid to the younger ones and consequently had little time to herself.

Life became a little easier for the family in 1891 when Betty's granddad, William Law, died. He had owned the leasehold on a considerable amount of property in Bottoms, and his estate amounted to £805, translating to about £50,000 at today's values. He left his entire estate equally between his son Tom and his daughter Emma, so Betty's mother became quite wealthy. However, even with this newly found wealth, the family stayed put at Bottoms.

It seems that some of the money was used to improve their home. They acquired the house at the back of them and knocked through, making one nice sized house. Not only that, they also had a bath installed - a rare luxury for those times, but not an inside toilet. They still had to leave the house and use the facilities at the side of next door.

The eldest son was Mark. He was a clever lad and received as much education as could be reasonably had in those days whilst working in the mill. He became a clerk and then went to work for the newly emerging Labour Party as full time staff. He travelled every day to Sowerby Bridge, probably on the train from Walsden station. He had political ambitions for himself with recognised potential to become a Parliamentary candidate.

   

The Butchers Arms, now the Border Rose

One day, the Butcher's Arms beerhouse at Bottoms was taken over by a new family from London. Mark no doubt called in for a pint on his way home from work of an evening, and as time passed he fell under the undoubted charms of the landlord's daughter, Elsie Cameron.
   

She was a lot younger than he was and not a typical Walsden lass. She was a Londoner, and had brought city ways with her when she arrived. She wore glamorous clothes, lipstick, and, what was worse, she smoked in public! And all this in Walsden!

The locals of the day were intrigued by Elsie Cameron. Boys would ogle her from the safety of their bedroom windows, the chapel ladies would tut at her behaviour, and the Crossley clan weren't too enamoured with her. Nevertheless, she married Mark. Rumour has it that she "had a sniff of money". They had a daughter, but the marriage was doomed and ended in an acrimonious separation, whereby Elsie took the daughter back to London and was never spoken of again. At some point during, or just after, his marriage, Mark took to the bottle. His marriage was over and his political career was ruined.

Meanwhile, Betty, still a spinster and working now as a weaver at Bottoms Mill, had begun a relationship with a man whose name has never been handed down the generations. In 1914, when she was 34 years old, she fell pregnant. She may well have married her lover, or maybe he wasn't free, but fate intervened. He went off to war and never returned. Her son was born on 3rd. March 1915 at 811 Rochdale Road and was baptised at the Mount Zion Chapel in Walsden 6 weeks later. He was Donald Crossley. Donald was welcomed into the family, and lived at the house with his mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles for some time to come.

   
Donald went to the local primary school and also to Bottoms Primitive Methodist Sunday School where he won 1st. prize for regular and punctual attendance during the year 1923. The prize was a copy of Tom Brown's School Days. There is a certificate in the book signed by W. Beardwood, F. Sutcliffe, and T. Hesselden (superintendents) and Ernest Sutcliffe (secretary).

Bottoms Chapel

   
Betty's mother suffered with gall stone problems and died prematurely at the age of 61 in 1916. Her father Henry lived on until 1922 when he died of carcinoma of the coli aged 71 years. They are buried together, alongside their daughter Mary, at St. Peters.
   

Bottoms in the 1920's looking southwards

   

Betty's domestic responsibilities ended with the death of her father. Her oldest brother, Mark Crossley, was still on the verge of a political career. Her other two brothers were in the pub trade and about to move to Blackpool, and her sisters were old enough to look after themselves. Donald had done well enough at school to be allowed to go to Todmorden Grammar school, which was quite some way from Bottoms in Walsden. Betty packed her bags and took Donald to Todmorden to live with her Uncle Tom Law at Leeming Hall, Millwood.

Leeming Hall was best described as a Gentlemen's Residence dating from the 17th. Century. It was an interesting stone built house with an attached cottage, stables and a dairy on the outskirts of Todmorden in an elevated position overlooking the Calder Valley. The house was occupied by a John and Mary Dawson in the early 1700's, and then was taken over by a Sutcliffe family. In 1779 Todmorden Turnpike Roads Trust allowed William Sutcliffe the sum of £26.5s.0d. towards the cost of widening the road by 2 yards from the old barn to the gateway near the house. The Sutcliffes were still there in 1824 when Samuel Sutcliffe, Gentleman, resided there.

 

In the early days there was a considerable amount of land at the rear, but the Railway Company compulsorily purchased much of this in order to build the railroad. In the last quarter of the 19th century it had been the home of the Barker family of Millwood, Engineers and Millwrights, until James Crabtree purchased it in 1891 for £980. The estate measured 4298 square yards at that time.

In 1909 the estate was broken up into lots and sold off at auction. Tom Law purchased Lot 7 for £430. This consisted of the house itself, the dairy, the cottage known as number 2, Millwood and two closes of land. The total area was 860 square yards. The Deed of Conveyance states:

 

"Dated 29th. January 1910
William Henry Sutcliffe Esqre. and the personal representative of Mr. James Crabtree deceased to Mr. Tom Law, the Conveyance of the freehold estate called Leeming Hall situate at Millwood in the borough of Todmorden in the County of York with the dwelling house Garden Cottage and the appurtenances thereto belonging.
Eastwood and Sutcliffe Solicitors Todmorden."
   

Leeming Hall in 2001

Tom moved in with his wife Emily Jane Fletcher. They had no surviving children. Emily Jane died in 1915 and Tom continued there with the help of a housekeeper, Annie Jackson.

 

   

Betty and Donald joined uncle Tom about 1925. Betty's brother Mark remained at 811 Rochdale Road with her sister Hannah, a spinster.

Tom Law died in December 1927 aged 73. He left his entire estate to Betty and her 5 siblings in equal shares. Leeming Hall was sold to Ellen and Mary Ashworth for £865. Betty now had enough money to buy her own house, but where?

Her parents were both dead, although the family home at 811 Rochdale Road was still occupied by her brother Mark and sister Hannah. Her other siblings had married and had begun to move out of the valley to a cleaner, more healthy town - Blackpool by the sea. Her youngest brother, Sam, had the Golden Lion Hotel, New Road, Blackpool. He later bought the Thatched House at Poulton. Her brother Bill had taken over the Dog and Partridge Pub on Lytham Road in the resort and had taken his only son, Jack. Donald and Jack had been playmates as well as cousins, and this may have been one of the motives for her decision to move to Blackpool and buy a house there.

   

Betty bought Blake Dane, 51 Layton Road, and moved there with Donald and her sister, Hannah. This was about 1928, and Donald was dispatched to Palatine School to join his cousin Jack. After his demise, brother Mark was obliged to join his sisters and nephew in this house.

Donald & Jack at 51 Layton Road

51 Layton Road

   

Betty at 51 Layton Road

Some 40 years later the three siblings could no longer care for themselves. Hannah and Mark went to live in a nursing home, whilst Betty moved to live with Donald and his family.

Betty had always been an intelligent woman. She read copiously, using the local libraries. Even in her 90's she would set off to the library. On one occasion, wearing a new pale blue coat, she set off with the words: "do you think I'll cop off in this?"

Her passion was the Labour Party and she was frequently heard singing "The Red Flag" around the house. She always spoke in the old Walsden dialect and never forgot her roots in Walsden.

   
In February 1972 the miners had been on strike for some considerable time and there was a severe shortage of coal throughout the country. Periods of blackout were imposed on the British public in order to preserve as much coal as possible. Electricity was cut off for several hours at a time and it was a return to candles for most households. These blackouts lasted for 20 consecutive days. For many people it was a time to reflect on how their ancestors may have lived. It was during this time that the elderly had the most problems, not least Betty.
   

She was walking through the hall in the dark when she fell, breaking her leg. She was admitted to hospital then transferred to Wesham Park. Her brain had given way to senility. She died peacefully on 3rd. December 1975 and was cremated at Carlton Crematorium. The family attended the funeral and afterwards they had lunch at the Thatched House in Poulton. It was ironic as this had been the home and business of her brother Sam. Betty had been the oldest of the 8 children of Henry "Toys" Crossley and Emma Law and she was the last to die at the age of 95.

 

She took the secret of her son's father to the grave.

 

**There is a prize on offer to the first person to identify this man. He is my grandfather, and my family tree is very lopsided.

 

Clues

  • Betty was born in 1880
  • Her lover went off to fight in WW1 and never returned
  • Donald's birth certificate, 3rd. March 1915, father's details blank
  • Donald's baptism certificate shows only his mother
  • Donald's marriage certificate shows his father as HENRY WHITEHEAD CROSSLEY, deceased - was this made up to avoid embarrassment or is it genuine? There is no such person on the Todmorden War Memorial, nor with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
  • Family gossip has it that the man was either a mill manager or owner, had a daughter and an invalid wife.

Someone will have known.........have they passed this piece of scandal down?

 

*

Grateful thanks to Frank Woolrych for the photo of Bottoms in the 1920's

 

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