Buried Stories

Yates Memorial Card

A Manchester Tragedy

The inscription reads:-
“In Memory of Mary Hannah Taylor, aged 11 years; Hannah Maria Taylor, aged 6 years; William Robert Taylor, aged 4 years. Forbid them not to come unto me: for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. These poor innocents were found dead on 16th May 1862 and to avoid a paupers grave, Mr B Lee received in a few hours from upwards of 300 persons of all classes and sects voluntary contributions sufficient to provide a respectable funeral and purchase of this monument. One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”
This inscription reveals a terrible tragedy which started with a boiler exploding in a rented property in Strangeways resulting in the death of Harriet Jane Taylor, sister of the above children and who was buried in an unmarked grave nearby. The children’s father, William Robert Taylor and his wife Martha Ann went to the offices of Evan Mellor, a Manchester property agent and their landlord, in the city centre and stabbed him repeatedly with a butcher’s knife as they believed him to be responsible for the death of Harriet Jane. Mr and Mrs Taylor were duly arrested and when the police went to his home at Great Ducie Street they found the bodies of three more of their children, who had been dead for some days, either poisoned (possibly with chloroform) or suffocated. The police found notes with the children’s names and ages and also the following: “We are six but one at Harptry lies, thither our bodies take. Mellor and Sons are our cruel murderers but God and our loving parents will avenge us. Love rules here. We are all going to our sister to part no more.” William Taylor was tried and found guilty of the wilful murder of Evan Mellor and publically hanged outside Kirkdale Prison on 13th September 1862, his wife and the children’s stepmother, although charged as an accessory to murder, was acquitted. The coroner ruled that the children did not die of natural causes but there was no positive proof as to how and by whom their deaths were caused. William Taylor refused to say how his children had died except “Mellor murdered them”.

The funeral took placed on 19th May 1862, the arrangements for which were carried out by Mr L Ogden, an undertaker from Long Millgate. The coffins were of oak and each bore a plate engraved with the name and age of the child and Mr Copeland from Victoria Market (who later planted the grave with shrubs) provided a large bouquet of flowers to decorate the coffins. So great was the public sympathy, that Mr Lee had people queuing at his house to donate to the funeral and monument fund. Hundreds of people lined the route to Harpurhey and on arrival at the Cemetery there was a delay as the crowd was so immense the gates had to be cleared to allow the hearse to pass through. Crowds also gathered in Queen’s Park adjacent to the Cemetery to watch the funeral.

The monument, was commissioned from local stonemason, William Grimshaw , to a design supplied by Mr B Lee. The monument comprised of three foot square base on which was mounted a rectangular obelisk which was in turn topped by a Latin cross. This stood at the head of the grave which was surrounded by kerbstones topped with iron palisading decorated with crosses to match the main cross on the obelisk. The grave was then planted with shrubs provided by a Mr Copeland of Victoria Market. Beneath the inscription a bunch of lilly of the valley flowers was carved. Lilly of valley symbolises purity and innocence. Today only the base and rectangular obelisk has survived.





The gravestone marking the burial place of the three Taylor children who were found dead on
16 May 1862. Their sister, Harriet Jane, who died in a boiler explosion earlier in the same year is buried in a unmarked grave nearby.

Back of the Gravestone
of the three
Taylor Children.

Another Manchester Tragedy

(research courtesy of MGCTP team members Beannie and BarbaraH)
41 year old, Martha Ann Carr was found dead at her house in Harpurhey on July 5th 1912. She had been strangled. When the police arrived, they found her husband, who they believed committed the offence, sitting in a dazed state staring at his wife who lay on the rug in front of the fire. Two of the couple’s children, who were in the house at the time, raised the alarm by their screams. It seems that her husband, James, had been in poor health and unemployed for some time. Financially they were desperate and his former colleagues at Cawley’s bleach works in Blackley had made a collection which had raised more than £8. Just before Martha Ann was found dead, a workmate was on his way to the house to give them the money. James Carr, a finisher’s labourer, aged 44, was subsequently charged with murder. Evidence was given that he was a sober, industrious man who had lived happily with his wife, however, he had been out of work for some time and suffered from depression. When the case came to Crown Court in November 1912 the jury was dismissed as Mr Carr had been certified insane and had been sent to an asylum. Martha Ann was interred at Manchester General Cemetery on July 11th 1912.

First Church of England Burial
The inscription reads:-
“Kate, daughter of Christopher and Sarah Eliza Sweeting of Manchester who departed this life December 2nd 1848, aged 18 months. First interment in this consecrated ground.”
Whilst Manchester General Cemetery opened in 1837 and the first burials were those of a still born child and Margaret Segate Watt on September 7th 1837, it wasn’t until 1848 that the Bishop of Manchester, the Right Reverend James Prince Lee consecrated part of the cemetery for Church of England burials. Kate Sweeting was the first person to be interred in this consecrated ground.

Manchester General Cemetery's Oldest Residents?

Until recently William Draper (Consecrated 3536) held the record as being the Cemetery's oldest resident. He was 101 years old when he died in 1903.

This has now been beaten by Mary Walker who was buried on 14th December 1862. She was aged 106 years and a resident of Lamb Lane, Collyhurst. It was reported in the local press that "she had never been compelled to resort to the use of spectacles". Apparently until the last two years of her life, she always fetched her own water from the well and always fetched the 5s 6d per week allowed to her by the Guardians. Mary Walker was interred in a public grave (Unknown 18621214) and as far as we know there is no gravestone.

We also have four more (so far) centenarians buried in the Cemetery - Margaret Flevill buried 28th May 1847 aged 100 years; John Ainsberry buried 22nd September 1849 aged 100 years, Jane Davies buried 30th July 1850 aged 100 years and Hannah O'Neil aged 100 years buried 30th October 1879. Will we find our first supercentenarian (110 years or more)? Watch this space and we will let you know if we do.

William Draper 26th Mar 1903 Manchester Courier
Mary Walker 18th Dec 1862

“Killed in a Main Sewer”

From time to time the MGCTP team come across a gravestone inscription with gives a small clue as to the what caused the death of the deceased person and quite often there is a story to tell. In the case of William Henry Slack, the nature of his death and the story behind it is a tragic one.
The inscription on the gravestone on Non Conformist 1650 reads:-
“......... William Henry, beloved son of Matthew and Hannah Slack, who was killed in a main sewer at Moston. Octr 23rd 1868, aged 14 years and 6 months .........”
A main sewer seemed a very unusual place to die so it warranted further investigation. A search of the newspapers told the story of a tragic accident. At around 12.00 noon on October 23rd 1868 at Boggart Hole Clough, Moston, William and two friends left the nearby construction site where they were employed on their break and came across the opening of the sewer which was around 17 feet in depth. One of the boys wanted to show off his athletic ability descended into the sewer and came out again safely. Not wanting to be beaten, the second boy did the same. William Slack followed but on his way out, he missed his footing and fell. Seeing what had happened, one of his friends wanted to raise the alarm and bring help but the other boy cautioned against it thinking it would be better to say nothing, so they left him there. It wasn’t until around 10.00 p.m. that guilt got the better of one of the two boys and he confessed what had happened to his older brother who raised the alarm and called the police. William Henry Slack was found dead at the bottom of the sewer. At first the police thought his death was suspicious and was as the result of foul play but after an enquiry it was found to be an accident. The cause of his death was an injury to the head.

Non Con 1650 (Slack) crop


Hannah Warde (1791-1837)

"Hannah Warde, Wife of Mr. Saml Warde, who departed this life Octr 17th 1837, Aged 46 years......"
This is the earliest Non conformist Gravestone recorded in the Cemetery by the MGCTP Team. Hannah's burial entry in the Cemetery's burial Register was No. 6.

Alice Godwin 1837


Alice Godwin (1784-1837)

"Alice, Wife of John Godwin, who died Novr 4th 1837, Aged 53 years...."
The second earliest Non Conformist gravestone recorded by the MGCTP Team. Alice's burial entry in the Cemetery's burial Register was No. 9.
Alice and John Godwin lived on Rochdale Road

Non Con 4035 Samuel Perkin


Samuel Perkin (1765-1837)

"In Memory of Samuel Perkin who departed this life Novr 11th 1837, aged 73 years ......"
This is another the early gravestones the MGCTP team have recorded.
The first burials at Manchester General Cemetery took place just two months before Samuel Perkin was buried. We believe Samuel Perkin was baptised at the Collegiate Church of St Mary, St Denys and St George (which became Manchester Cathedral in 1847) on 17th February 1765 and was the son of Thomas and Martha Perkin

The Manchester Boiler Explosion 1916

Intrigued by three burials in the name of Caldwell which took placed on 4 November 1916, we subsequently discovered that Henry Caldwell and two of his children, Hilda and Richard, were the victims of a boiler explosion which occurred at Prince’s Chambers, John Dalton Street, Manchester. Henry Caldwell, aged 41, who lived at Sanitary Street, Oldham Road was the assistant caretaker of the building and had taken two of his children to work with him. Apparently Henry Caldwell was stoking the boiler when it exploded. All three were taken, in a critical condition, to Manchester Infirmary where Richard, aged 10 , died from his injuries soon after. Henry and Hilda, aged 8, received such terrible burns and scalds they also died later the same day. All three were interred at Manchester General Cemetery in Consecrated 251, a public grave. The inquest report noted that Mrs Caldwell, Henry’s widow, was a cripple and still had five children to support , the youngest of which was a babe in arms and the maximum amount of compensation she would receive would be 6 shillings a week. The tenants of Prince’s Buildings set up a fund and by the 16 November 1916 the amount of £158.10s had been raised. The fund was being managed by a Mr Kerridge, an insurance broker, who arranged for Mrs Caldwell to be paid 10 shillings a week.

Frederick Ernest Nosworthy (1854-1874)
The inscription reads:-
"Also Frederick Ernest Nosworthy, aged 20 years, who was lost in the wreck of the "British Admiral", near Melbourne, June 1874"
The iron full-rigged ship, British Admiral, sailed from Liverpool on her maiden voyage for Melbourne on 7th January 1874. Under the command of Captain Taylor, she carried 38 crew, 49 passengers and a valuable general cargo. Frederick Nosworthy was a saloon passenger. On the 17th January she encountered heavy gales and was forced to return back into Liverpool for repairs. The ship finally resumed her passage on 23rd February but after a boisterous voyage she was lost after running on to the reef about two miles offshore between Currie Harbour and the Ettrick River. She was immediately swept by heavy seas and many of those on deck were washed overboard with others struggling below decks. Most of the lifeboats were swept away or lost whilst being launched. 79 lives were lost and there were just nine survivors. An enquiry into the wreck exonerated Captain Taylor and his crew from all blame for the disaster. It is thought the chronometers had been damaged during the passage resulting in inaccurate calculations of the ship's position immediately prior to the wreck.

Arthur Horton (1890-1918)
The inscription reads:-
"Arthur, beloved son of John and Priscilla Horton, born April 15th 1890, died Jan 16th 1918 in Shrewsbury Prison - a Martyr for Conscience. His end was peace"
Arthur is recorded as living in Rochdale Road in 1891, 1901 and 1911. His father, John, was a clog manufacturer and Arthur himself was a journeyman clogger in 1911. At the age of 25 he objected to military service on religious grounds. He was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). His case was dismissed by two tribunals and October 16th 1916 he was arrested, court-martialled and sent to prison where he remained except for two short intervals when he attended further court-martials. He was in good health when he was arrested but during his first sentence developed a cough. In 1917 is was ill with colic and by December of that year was suffering from broncho-pneumonia from which he didn't recover. His condition worsened and he died on January 16th 1918.

Employees of Rochdale Road Tramways
The inscription reads
“In Loving Memory Of James Diamond, late Timekeeper, who died January 16th 1903, aged 32 years; Also William Kelly, late Guard, who died January 24th 1904, aged 24 years; Also Albert William Griffin, Ticket Inspector, who died September 4th 1906, aged 53 years. Rochdale Road Tramways Employees”
Maybe these men were colleagues or maybe they didn’t know each other at all however because they worked for Rochdale Road Tramways they were buried together and possibly the gravestone was provided by their employer.

Lavinia Howard (ca1828-1876)
Lavinia Howard (formerly Lavinia Dearden) was the 48 year old wife of Manchester broker, Samuel Howard, and in 1871 was the mother of five children. They were married at St John’s Church, Manchester in 1853. Her death certificate recorded the cause of death as “consumption aggravated by excessive drinking” certified by the surgeon, a Mr Evans, who had attended her for more than a year. However , on the day of her burial at Manchester General Cemetery, the City Coroner, Mr Herford, received a letter which apart from defamation of her character and that of her husband and one of her daughters, also alleged that her death had been caused by violence inflicted by her husband. After an investigation and and post mortem examination on the body which had been exhumed an inquest was opened. No evidence could be offered to support the contents of the letter nor could the author of the letter be identified. The inquest jury therefore returned a verdict that Lavinia’s death had indeed been caused by consumption and as the deceased was addicted to drink, this aggravated her illness.

Explosion of the Boiler on the Locomotive Engine “Irk”
George Mills, William Stones and William Alcock were killed by the explosion of the boiler on the locomotive enginer, “Irk”, on the Manchester and Leeds Railway on 28th January 1845. The inquest was controversial as the jury recorded a verdict of accidental death but also said there was some negligence. From the evidence presented, they believed the ordinary valve was closed to facilitate the pressure of steam and that for some unknown reason the safety valve did not work. There was also a fault on the copper plate and fire box which coupled with the build up of pressure resulted in the explosion which killed Messrs. Mills, Stones and Alcock. The remains of George Mills and William Alcock were interred at Manchester General Cemetery whilst the body of William Stones was taken to Bolton for burial

Mary Mitton (1803-1869) and her son, Thomas, (1846-1869)

The following inscription led to a newspaper search to discover how Mary Mitton and her grown up son, Thomas, had died on the same day:-
"...... Mary Mitton, his wife, who died February 22nd 1869, aged 66 years ....... Thomas Mitton, son of the above Daniel and Mary Mitton, who died with his mother February 22nd 1869, aged 23 years ....."
Their deaths were extensively reported in both the local and national newspapers. They lived at 445 Rochdale Road where they ran a retail business selling lamps and paraffin oil. At about 10.00 p.m. a fire broke out and it was initially believed that both the occupants had escaped. However after extensive enquiries were made they couldn’t find them so they searched the premises. They found mother and son in the front bedroom over the shop. It was believed they suffocated from the fumes of burning oil and spirit and that the cause of the fire was the leaking of a lamp containing benzoline spirit. It would appear from the inquest report that Thomas Mitton at another house further down the road when the fire broke out but went back to try to rescue his mother. He was seen at the bedroom window and was encouraged to jump but said something about his mother and went back into to the room. The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death.

Mitton Grave


Non Conformist 4930
Mitton Grave

Building Collapse Resulting in the Deaths of Three Children

The inscription reads:
“Sacred to the Memory of William Harry, aged 7 years and 7 months, and Frank Albert, aged 4 years and 4 months, sons of Henry and Ann Wilkinson who were killed by the falling of a building in Queen’s Road on May 22nd 1868”
The accident, which resulted in the death of three children and injury of a man, was well reported in the local newspapers and an inquest was heard by the City Coroner, Mr Herford. The property which collapsed was known has Hamilton’s Buildings and was owned Thomas Chesters, an Ardwick brewer, who was having the site cleared for the construction of a public house. The demolition was being undertaken by Hulme building contractor, Mr David Rowland. The inquest heard that as the work progressed the gable was left standing in an unsafe state without support. The gable gave way burying the three children: brothers, William and Frank Wilkinson and Charles Edward Roberts. All three children were dead when they were pulled from underneath the debris. The coroner returned a verdict of accidental death. A passer-by, William McCormick was knocked down when the building collapsed. He was taken to the Royal Infirmary and his injuries were not serious.

The Wilkinson children were buried in a family plot at Manchester General Cemetery. The third child, Charles Edward Roberts, aged 4 years, was buried at Cheetham Hill Wesleyan Cemetery. He was the son of Francis Roberts of Market Place, Queen’s Road.

Non Conformist 3441 Wilkinson


Non Conformist 3441
Wilkinson Grave

NC 2287 (Baker) South Wales Daily News 25 March 18

Mary Ellen Baker (1872-1884)

Mary Ellen Baker was aged just 11 years and 6 months when she was tragically killed in unusual circumstances. She was a pupil at the Board School, Harpurhey when just before 2.00 p.m.the school bell, which was being rung for afternoon lessons, fell from a height of 50 feet and struck her on her head. She died instantly from a fractured scull. She was buried in Non Conformist 2287 at Manchester General Cemetery. The grave is a private grave situated in Non Conformist Plot 2, however there is no gravestone.

Died from Loneliness

“Also Henry Lamont, beloved son of Charles H Cooper and Clara M Cooper died Dec 14th 1946 aged 39 years”
Henry Lamont Cooper was the son of Charles Henry and Clara Maud Cooper (formerly Lawson) who were married in 1906. Their son was born in 1907. His tragic story was discovered following the death of his mother in October 1946. Up until the age of nine years, Henry Lamont Cooper had attended school regularly. His mother then removed him from school and the education authorities forgot about him. He was hidden for 30 years and since that time he had never spoken to anyone apart from his mother and had never left the kitchen of his home. He was discovered after neighbours reported that Mrs Cooper hadn’t taken in the milk for several days. The authorities entered the house and found that Mrs Cooper had passed away and they found her son, crouched and terrified in the kitchen. He could only talk baby talk and was unable to dress or feed himself. The welfare officers removed Henry to an institution to be taken care of but after six weeks the police said he had died from loneliness. Henry Lamont Cooper was buried with his parents at Manchester General Cemetery.

The Strange Story of Jane Shakeshaft Sweeney - An Unsolved Mystery

In March 1866 a death occurred in Angel Street, Manchester and was registered in the name of Jane S Sweeney, aged 24 years, 1st quarter 1866 Manchester 8d 309 but all was not as it seemed because Jane didn’t actually die. Somebody else did and was buried in her place.

This is the account which was told to Mr Herford, the City Coroner for Manchester at the inquest held on 6th April 1866:

In February 1866, a man and a woman rented a house in Angel Street, which is located off Rochdale Road in the Harpurhey district of Manchester. They lived as man and wife and were known by the name of Sweeney. The woman was about 24 years old. Within a few weeks the woman became very sick and was tended by the landlady who made her gruel. Mr Sweeney added sugar to the gruel and fed it to his wife. She became much worse and on 30th March 1866 she died.
The following day, Easter Saturday, Mr Sweeney travelled to Toxteth Park, Liverpool to visit a
Mrs Hill who was his wife’s sister to inform her that he had fallen in love with Jane Shakeshaft, they had subsequently married and now Jane Shakeshaft Sweeney was lying dead in Manchester. That very same day, Mr Sweeney wrote to his wife’s and Mrs Hill’s mother, who lived in Blackpool, and also called upon another of his wife’s sisters to inform them of Jane’s death. The bereaved family comprising Mr Sweeney, his mother-in-law and his two sister-in-laws all travelled to Manchester on the following Monday for Jane’s funeral and burial at Manchester General Cemetery. Prior to the burial the family members viewed the body and according to the newspaper reports at the time didn’t recognise her as their relative. However, they presumed her illness had changed her appearance so didn’t take the matter any further. The burial proceeded as planned and afterwards the family returned back to the rented accommodation in Angel Street at which point Mr Sweeney disappeared. On the Monday evening, Jane’s mother and sisters returned to Liverpool. Shortly after their arrival, Mrs Hill was shocked by the appearance of Jane at her home, the sister who she believed she had just buried in Manchester. Jane, having heard rumours of her death, had decided to visit her family to put their minds at ease. Meanwhile, the surgeon in Manchester who had attended the death had been asked at the time, by Mr Sweeney, to guarantee the cost of the funeral and other related expenses and was now being called upon to repay the debt.

The body which had been buried in Manchester General Cemetery was exhumed and the cause of death was confirmed as “effusion of blood on the brain”. The remains of the unknown woman were re-buried but her identity has never been discovered and so remains a mystery.

©Manchester Libraries

Angel Street, off Rochdale Road ca 1900

Angel Street, off Rochdale Road

Thomas Barton (1774-1855)

Thomas Barton of Miles Platting died on July 12th 1855 and was buried at Manchester General Cemetery on July 17th 1855, grave number Unknown 28. He was known to be the oldest deaf and dumb person in the area. He had no education at all but brought up a large family upon the precarious earnings of his trade – hand loom weaving. His funeral was attended by adult members of Deaf and Dumb Society.

William Bradbury (circa 1804-1855)
An unusual funeral took place at Manchester General Cemetery on May 8th 1855. William Bradbury was a lamplighter who died of heart disease on May 3rd 1855, aged 51 years. He died in Blackburn at the home of his son having gone there the previous week due to ill health. His funeral procession was described as “singular” and comprised of 38 of his fellow workers who walked two by two dressed in white with black caps and black gloves, a crepe sash and a band of crepe on the left arm. They formed a procession at the lamp office in Clarence Street and proceeded to Naylor Street, Oldham Road, the home of the deceased from where they followed the hearse and three mourning coaches to the Cemetery. He had worked for the Corporation for 20 years and he was survived by his widow and six children who were left unprovided for.