Saturday, 24 October 2015

More from the pen of Tony Goulding ............. SUICIDES IN CHORLTON-cum-HARDY

It is perhaps quite surprising for such a small community the number of suicides which took place in Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Victorian and more especially Edwardian times. 

In a previous blog piece I have already told the story of the sad demise of the Rev. Roland Joseph Blain, who took an overdose of laudanum on 31st. January, 1914. Recorded below are the details of four more stories of men taking their own lives.

Perhaps, however we should not be so surprised by the sadly familiar ring to the list of reasons given to account for these desperate acts.

A lover's tiff, the death of a partner or close friend, stress of work, financial ruin marriage break-up, approach of a possibly lonely old age.

These stories could as easily have come from last week’s Evening News as those of over 100 years ago.

1) Frederick Adam Cope

On 8th July, 1853 at "Oak Bank" the 28 year old son of Frederick Cope Snr.; who in partnership with his brother Richard operated a very successful wine merchants business through various outlets in Manchester city centre.

Two days earlier the family's eldest daughter, Barbara Anne has been married at Manchester Cathedral. (1)

The wedding-guests included young Frederick's fiancé and, according to evidence given at the inquest , following a quarrel between the bet roved couple Frederick shot himself in the heart whilst in a distraught state brought on by his (perhaps erroneous) perception that the young lady had broken off their engagement.
 Frederick was laid to rest in the old churchyard by Chorlton Green on 5th. July 1853.

When his father Frederick Snr.died in February 1874 in Leamington, Warwickshire his body was brought to Chorlton in order that he could be interred alongside his son.
In the opening years of the 20th century within just over a year three other incidents took place; two of which involved a double tragedy

2) Nicholas Marsden / Frank S. Johnson

The first such instance occurred on 6th. March, 1901 at 36, Keppel Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy.
Nicholas Marsden a 50 year old, Blackburn-born accountant arrived on the doorstep of his brother-in-law's house in an exceedingly agitated state; having lost all of his and his wife's money through, unwise speculative investments.

What his intentions were is not clear but the tragic outcome was a murder/suicide as he shot  Mr. Frank Stoll Johnson , a well-respected legal clerk in Manchester (and his brother-in-law) on his doorstep, before shortly thereafter turning the gun on himself in the front garden. Both men were buried in Southern Cemetery on the same day 8th.March, 1901.

The murdered victim in a family plot E.1546:- his assassin in an unmarked communal grave M.756.

 As a consequence of this case four school-age children had lost their father: Nicholas's son Nicholas (b.1891) and daughter Phyllis (b.1890) together with Frank's two daughters Dorothy J. (b.1889) and Jessie N. (b.1892).

The murder of her husband was the second trauma to affect her family in a 6 month period following the tragic death of her 15 year old daughter Phyllis Bertha just the previous September. Perhaps unsurprisingly in these circumstances Mrs. Janet Johnson left the area with the remains of her family, only returning (on her passing away in November 1906) to be buried in the same grave as her husband and young daughter.

3) Thomas Wood/ Newton Cookson

Another double tragedy happened just 13 months later, on 17th. April, 1902
Thomas, a dairyman and market gardener, of Redgate Farm was found with his throat cut, an open razor clasped in his dead hand, in a ditch in an area known locally, with grim prescience, as "Reaper's Field" close to the neighbouring Firs Farm.                        

It was reported that Mr. Wood was very depressed by the terrible occurrence of just the day previous when his close friend and business associate, an occupier of Brook Farm, Newton Cookson had been found drowned in the Bridgewater Canal at Stretford.

Newton's widow moved away to live with her daughter Marian, an elementary school head teacher, of 58,Derbyshire Lane, Stretford.

In contrast Mr. Wood's widow Mary as well as his two grown-up sons, James, a commercial clerk, and John Freserick William, a music teacher, all remained in the area.

Indeed the 1911 census shows John F.W. still residing with his mother at 52, Wilbraham Road -the address for Redgate Farm.
James and his young family being close by at 78, Manchester Road.
Sandwiched between these two sad events is the final example of self-destruction

4) John Edwin Lockwood
The above was 54 years old, a widower, and a tailor’s trimmings merchant operating from premises at 64, Cannon Street.

He resided at 16, Catwright Road (off what is now Kingshill Road) having recently moved to there from 44, Hawthorn Road, only a week before...This move is perhaps evidence of the financial difficulties which John Edwin was facing and which prompted him to shoot himself near "Sally's Lake," Hawthorn Lane, on 1st. September, 1901 .

His corpse was taken to the Bowling Green Hotel to await the inquest on his death. He left behind two daughters, Gertrude and Mabel Maria both of marriageable age.

Indeed the impending marriage of Gertrude (2) may well have exacerbated his anxiety over his money troubles and been a contributory factor in Mr. Lockwood's fatal decision.  John Edwin was born in Wakefield, West Yorkshire in 1847 but his family soon re-located to the Newton Heath area of Manchester, where his father, James, was an inspector in the Railway Police.

After marrying Elizabeth Bates (3) in 1865 the couple lived with John Edwin's mother-in-law, Maria from whom he also rented his initial trading premises, on Church Road, Newton Heath.

As his business progressed he moved into his own accommodation with his expanding family first in Newton and eventually in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. He also re-located his place of business to a more central area.

1) The bridegroom was Mr. Josiah Hunt of London and the wedding ceremony was conducted by the newly ordained Rev. Francis Haden Cope cousin of the bride being the son of Richard, Frederick Snr's brother and business partner.

2) Gertrude's marriage went ahead as planned when she wed Albert Edward Barlow, a cashier of 27, Zealand Terrace, at St.Clements (old church) on November 9th. 1901. Indeed within a year both John Edwin's other two children his son Harold Bates and his younger daughter Mabel Maria had also celebrated their weddings.

3) The loss of his wife Elizabeth in July 1898 was reported have induced in Mr. Lockwood a long-lasting depression Significantly after his death his body was taken to be buried with his wife at All Saints church Newton Heath.

Lastly, as a postscript, I have just come across a report from The Manchester Evening News dated 3rd. March, 1914 which shows that the taking of one’s own life is not a solely masculine phenomenon. It records in detail the death of a young woman, a Miss Maud Wagstaff, who took a lethal dose of "spirits of salts" whilst in a depressed state apparently brought on through the stress of her (over)work as a tracer
Researching this lady has proved to be something of a challenge involving a multitude of residences, some in Scotland, and a variety of different transcriptions of the various names. Maud was born in Southport in 1883, to John Buckley Wagstaff, a master engraver, and his second wife Amelia Alice .

Her father was already in his 60’s recently widowed and re-located from Scotland with his teenage son Horace. After moving around several addresses around Lancashire and Greater Manchester at the time of the tragic event Maud and her mother were living at the home of a half-sister of Maud’s ,Agnes Soppet , 74,Keppel Road. Incidentally all these three share a grave -N 1035 in Southern Cemetery. Unfortunately there is no memorial stone in situ either there never was one or it has been lost in the interim period.

© Tony Goulding, 2015

Pictures; from the collection of Tony Goulding

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