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Sutcliffe family


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Part 4: James Sutcliffe (1861 - 1915)


Working life and marriage to Ann Beswick

James Sutcliffe was the second son of Patchett Sutcliffe and Sarah Haigh. He was born 24 January 1861 in Sowerby Street, Sowerby, and baptised 20 March 1862 at St Peter’s Church, Sowerby, along with his older brother John. By age 10 he was working as a piecer in the local cotton mill and later became a cotton spinner.

He married Ann 'Annie' Beswick (1858 - ? ) 21 January 1882 at the Halifax Registry Office. He gave his father’s occupation as an innkeeper though there is no evidence Patchett ever worked in any other industry apart from cotton. James and Annie had a steady procession of eleven children: Alfred, Mary, Sarah, Eliza, Fred, Gibson, Emma, Alice, Albert, George and Annie. Three children died before the age of two and one just before he turned eleven.

In 1899, an Education Act had raised the school leaving age to twelve so James and Annie would have had to wait longer before the children could be sent out to earn money for the family, unlike in previous generations. However, older children could have looked after the younger ones, freeing Annie to work at a mill.

It would seem that life for the family of James Sutcliffe was very hard. His youngest child, Annie, apparently never spoke of her childhood but stories from her brothers filtered down to her grandson. According to these stories, James drank all the money the family earned so his children frequently went without food, new clothes etc... Whichever child was last up in the morning had to make do without any shoes for the rest of the day. It is likely the children were harshly chastised (ie whipped or beaten) by their father. (This scenario would have been repeated in many families: It was only in the 20th century that attitudes towards physical punishment of children changed and it was no longer considered acceptable.) One of James’ sons, Albert, later said he only learned what family life should be like when he spent Christmas at an army buddy’s home.

The family lived in Sowerby until the mid-1890s. They moved to Mirfield, some eight miles to the east, between Brighouse, Dewsbury and Huddersfield. Families tended to stay within a couple of miles of their original homes so it was somewhat unusual for the family to have moved so far. The Sowerby textile mills were still thriving but it may have been a combination of personal and work circumstances that made them move. It would not be until after World War II that the textile industry went into steep decline. James’ children would be among the last generations to work in the mills.

James died aged 54 and was buried 11 May 1915 at Christ the King Church, Mirfield. Annie became a stalwart member of the local church but it is not known when she died.


Children of Joseph and Grace

Alfred (1882 - 1893) was born 11 July 1882 in Sowerby and was baptised 02 August the same year at St George’s Church. He died aged 10 and was buried 17 June 1893 at St Mary’s Church in plot K 299/41, along with three other siblings.


More information about Sarah Louisa (1883 – 1941) appears in Part 5.


Eliza Jane (1885 – 1887) was born 04 November 1885 in Sowerby and baptised the following year 13 October at St George’s Church. She died aged only 15 months and was buried 05 February 1887 at St Mary’s Church.


Fred (1887 - ?) was born 07 November 1887 in Sowerby and baptised the following year 27 June at St George’s Church. He worked as a cotton piecer and married Frances Brooke in 1914. It is not known if he served in World War I. They had two children and Fred probably died in the mid-1960s.


Gibson (1889 - 1889) was born 08 March 1889 and baptised the following month 03 April at St George’s Church. He died aged 6 months and was buried 17 September at St Mary’s Church.


Mary Elizabeth (1890 - 1890) was born in Sowerby about January 1890 but did not live long enough to be baptised. She was buried at St Mary’s Church 15 March 1890, aged only seven weeks old.


Emma (1892 - ?) was born 09 December 1892 in Sowerby and was baptised 20 November 1896 at Christ the King Church, Mirfield, along with her younger sister Alice. She worked as a cotton winder but it is not known what happened to her after 1911.


Alice (1895 - 1911) was born 08 September 1895 in Mirfield and was baptised two months later with sister Emma. She also worked as a cotton winder. Alice died around her 16th birthday and was buried 23 September 1911 at Christ the King Church. The note in the burial records stated ‘under Burial Laws Amendment Act [1880]’ which indicated that Alice was a nonconformist and her burial was conducted by a nonconformist minister though she would be buried in Church of England consecrated ground. Nonconformists were anybody who did not belong to the established Church of England (so therefore Catholics, Jews, Baptists, Quakers etc…) The area around Mirfield was known for its large non-conformist population over the centuries. It is not known if other members of the family were nonconformists.


Albert (1896 - ?) was born 26 November 1896 in Mirfield and baptised 05 July 1905 at Christ the King Church, along with younger siblings George and Annie. He worked as a twiner piecer until World War I. In December 1915 he enlisted as a private. He was mobilised in December of the following year as part of the Home Service Garrison Battalion (probably part of the West Yorkshire Regiment) which stayed in the United Kingdom for the duration of the war. After the war, he spent the rest of his life working on the railways as a guard on goods trains. He married Elsie Oakes (1898 - 1985) in 1923 and they had two children. During World War II, Albert’s train was bombed leaving him badly shaken and he never recovered from the experience. Albert probably died in the mid-1960s. Elsie died in 1985, aged 87.


George (1899 - ?) was born on Christmas Day 1899 in Mirfield and was baptised in 1905. Nothing else is known of him after 1911 and he probably died in the mid-1920s.


Annie (1903 - 1996) was born 19 March in Mirfield and baptised in 1905. She married three times and had five children. She died in Chichester, Sussex, in 1996 on her 93rd birthday.


Next: Sarah Louisa Sutcliffe