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A Long Journey

Barwicker No.123
Spring 2017

I have been researching my family history for many years and discovered that my paternal three times great grandfather was a flour and corn dealer in Leeds. He was Francis Strickland (4th March) 1788 to 7th March 1853).

Francis was born in Camblesforth near Selby into a farming and milling family in ) 788 to Francis and Ann Strickland. Francis met his wife Elizabeth Dickenson (born 29th March 1796), the daughter of another local farmer of Camblesforth and they were married at Drax Church on the 3rd February 1818.

In the following years Francis and Elizabeth had a family of eight children, three sons and five daughters, born between 1818 and 1837. The family came to live in Wheeler Street near the City centre of Leeds around 1827 and set up a flour and corn dealing shop on High Street which was situated on the site of Quarry Hill. I do not know why they moved to Leeds but it may be because there were a lot of millers and corn dealers in the Drax area.

In the meantime, Elizabeth's older sister, Ann Dickenson met and married in 1819 Thomas Snarry a farmer of Nunkeeling in East Yorkshire. Thomas died in 1829 and was buried in the ancient church yard in Nunkeeling. Not very long afterwards on the 15th May 1830, Ann married a wealthy local land owner and boat owner Charles Cornwall of Scarborough who farmed the adjoining land in Bewholme. Around 1840 Ann Cornwall's niece Ann Strickland the eighteen year old daughter of her sister, Elizabeth Strickland, came to visit her at Bewholme and met the Cornwall's farm bailiff John Gardham.

Ann and John married at Leeds Parish Church on the 28th March 1841 and so became my two times great grand- parents. Their story came to a sad end. Ann gave birth to a son Francis in late 1841 and in 1844 gave birth to yet another son named Watson. Ann died shortly afterwards on the 29th July 1844 and at 10 weeks old Watson died and they were laid to rest in Nunkeeling Church yard. John Gardham went on to marry twice more before dying in 1889 in Bridlington.

His son Francis Gardham, my great grandfather, did not follow his ancestors into farming or milling but became a draper's assistant in Barnsley where he lived for the rest of his life, marrying a local girl and produced a family of eight children.

Francis and Elizabeth Strickland were now well established in Leeds and a younger son, also named Francis, also became a corn dealer in Leeds. I think that there used to be a name plate on the father's trading desk in the Leeds Corn Exchange in the mid 1800's, but with several repairs and renovations to the building in the following years it has been lost.

On the th of January 1853 Francis Strickland at the age 64 died suddenly. The Leeds Intelligencer of 15th January 1853 reported that he was "well respected".

Here my journey really begins. Years ago I thought it would be easy to find where he was buried. I now lived in Leeds and was surrounded with records and later the internet. I searched the Leeds cemetery records, the Camblesforth and Drax records thinking he may have been taken there. I could not find him anywhere and almost decided to give up. I think there is a failure with the British system - you die, a death certificate is obtained and you are buried and if it is a long time after, relatives forget where. Last year I came across one of my long lost Gardham cousins who was also involved with the family tree. She knew nothing of the Stricklands and joined in the search. She found a burial record which at last was a breakthrough. Francis was buried at St Peters Chapel, in the Parish of Leeds, 11 th January 1853 in grave number 76, row 26. I had previously been to the West Yorkshire Archives and searched the graves at Leeds Parish Church and found nothing. The Leeds Library provided a map of the Quarry Hill area and I discovered there were two St Peter's Chapels - one in Vienna Street near Marsh Lane. The one I wanted was St Peter's Wesleyan Methodist Chapel off St Peter's Street which was sold off in 1910 for warehousing. It was later demolished to make way for road improvements. Later the area became where the Playhouse now stands. For a time I wondered if Francis was actually under the Playhouse!

Next stop - WY Archives again - only to find them closed for two months for reorganisation. So in September I went along to find out what had happened to St Peter's burial ground.

They could not give me anything positive but provided me with photocopies of maps dated 1893 and 1933 to help my research. They also advised me to get in touch with the Leeds Bereavement Services at Farnley Hall.

They told me that no records are kept when bodies are reburied as it is contracted out to third parties! My next trip was back to Leeds Central Library to look at old copies of the Yorkshire Post. At last I had a breakthrough with an entry 2nd February 1910 for the sale of a famous Leeds Chapel which had started life as a cottage named Boggard House where John Wesley himself had preached on the steps. The Methodist movement spread so quickly that it became necessary to build larger premises. The cottage was extended but this again became too small for the number of people joining the Methodist movement. It was eventually turned into a Sunday School and a huge Chapel was built able to house up to 2000 worshippers with a burial ground on the land next to it. The new Chapel was reputedly the largest Wesleyan Chapel in England and was 100 feet by 76½ feet wide. The architect, Mr Simpson, was himself a Methodist and a worshipper at Boggard House. Apparently he was reported to want to build a bigger chapel than any he had previously built.

There were plenty of worshippers as the surrounding area was packed with tiny terrace houses in the area now known as Quarry Hill. The burial ground was also quite large as the area had become very unsanitary and people were dying with dysentery and suchlike illnesses.

After a time the Methodist movement made a decision to sell the Chapel, due to a decline in worshippers and thought that the Salvation Army would be interested in it. On the 26th January 1910 the interior fittings and furniture were auctioned by E.W.Batley and Sons on behalf of the Trustees.

The sale of the buildings went to auction too in 1910 and the bidding started at £1000 but became far too expensive for the Salvation Army to buy and the final bid of £3000 was by A.W.Scarr & Sons, general merchants. The sale included all the buildings and the burial ground covering 4,852 square yards. This would now be used for warehousing. There was no mention of what happened to the numerous burials in the burial ground.

I then had a breakthrough, why not try Harehills Cemetery? Someone told me there was supposed to be a mass reburial in section A. On a frosty December afternoon I went to the Cemetery looking round section A but could only see a grassy plot, and walking round spotted a council truck. Keith the driver said he was a grave digger and when I mentioned that I was looking for the mass grave he led me to an area with a head stone and with small stones marking out an area, which used to have a chain link guard around it. I read the words "This Memorial Records that the bodies interred here were removed from the old graveyard of St Peter Leeds in the year 1908". I could not believe my eyes. I had at last found Francis, and at long last my journey was over.

Ann Cornwall died 23rd September 1854 and was buried in the ancient Church yard at Nunkeeling along with many of the Gardham family. Elizabeth Strickland, Francis's widow re-married at Leeds Parish Church to Charles Cornwall on 22 May 1856, her elder sister's widower! Charles sold his farms and they both went to live in Beverley for the rest of their lives. At least I know where they are buried.

Sources: Family History Section, Leeds Central library.
West Yorkshire Archives, Morley.
Yorkshire Post & Intelligencer Archives.
Harehills Cemetery.

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