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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Hill’

200 years ago there were no accurate models of human bodies for Doctors to train on. People didn’t leave their bodies to “medical science” so it was difficult to train Doctors and Surgeons. The only bodies Doctors were allowed to dissect for training were the cadavers of those who had received the death penalty for a crime. With an increase in medical schools and less harsher sentencing the Doctors did not have enough cadavers to allow them to train properly so they turned to body snatchers to supply bodies fresh enough to be examined.

Body snatching became so common in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s that it was not unusual for relatives and friends of someone who had just died to watch over the body until burial, and then to keep watch over the grave after burial, to stop it being stolen.

During 1827 and 1828, some body snatchers changed their tactics from grave-robbing to murder, as they were paid more for very fresh corpses. Their activities resulted in the passage of the Anatomy Act 1832. This allowed unclaimed bodies and those donated by the deceased’s family to be used for study which essentially ended the body snatching trade.

Stalybridge was not without its own band of Body Snatchers. Captain Sellars and his band of resurrectionists met in the Pack Horse Inn on Cocker Hill to plan and plot and the graveyard itself was pilfered many times.

The following is taken from the book “Reminiscences of a Chief Constable” by William Chadwick. William Chadwick was made Chief Constable of Stalybridge in 1862 and remained there until he retired in 1899.

“It was on a certain night, over sixty years ago, three men assembled in the bar parlour of the “Pack Horse ” Stalyley, smoking out of long clay pipes and drinking glasses of spirits. The evening was so far advanced that the spindle had ceased to whirl and the shuttle to rattle, and all was quiet save the heavy steps of the watchman proclaiming the hour in the lower portion of the village, varied by the screeching noise of an owl in the wood on the opposite side of the River. The men were deeply engaged in conversation carried on in an undertone, and there was such an air of mysteriousness about their conduct that the host was anxious for the room……..”

How good a start is that to a story? Love it.

After the described meeting in the pub the three  proceeded to Mottram Churchyard where they stole a body and placed it in a sack in a hamper and took it to a stable in Stalybridge. Later the following day a carrier’s cart received the hamper and took it on to Manchester. A well organised trade involving most of the graveyards in the area.

Another mention of Cocker Hill in William Chadwick’s account concerns a John Chadwick (no relation). John apparently had a strange way of walking and a slight speech impediment causing him to say “Bup a den”. Upon his death he was buried in the Cockerhill Churchyard. The doctors were specially anxious for his body as they thought it was likely to possess some peculiar features. A good sum was offered and the body snatchers went to work in earnest. The men were just lifting the body out of the coffin to put  it in a hamper, when the wind, whistling among the tombstones seemed to say “Bup a den”. At this one of the robbers took to his heels, and in his fright jumped over the graveyard wall, rolled down the hill to the river.

This and other cases caused a further search of the graveyard and it was discovered that the bodies were missing of old Joseph Platt, carrier, Rassbottom Street; old Joseph Hall, clothier, Cocker Hill. Joseph Hall has special significance to me as he could have been one of  Joseph Halls who owned Rock Cottage on Cocker Hill many years ago.

The Churchwardens at Cocker Hill prohibited the opening of any more graves to check the occupants; however when the graveyard was remodeled in 1972 it was noted that a number of the graves were empty.

The photo below shows one of the gravestones still in the Cocker Hill Graveyard with the Caption “This grave not to be re opened”. Whether that stone was first moved by Captain Sellars and his gang or when the graveyard was remodeled I wouldn’t like to say!

Cocker Hill Churchyard; Gravestones now used as a path into the town.

 

You can find a full list of the burial records for Old St Georges Churchyard together with the gravestone inscriptions on the website for New St Georges Church Stalybridge. Burial records Old St Georges.

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Listed below are the books about Stalybridge and surrounding areas and/or the Industrial Revolution that I have used for my research.

Two into One Will Go – Paul Denby ISBN 0 9515993 0 5

Two Into One Will Go by Paul Denby is a fantastic book containing the full history of both old and new  St Georges Church Stalybridge. The book is great, it details the history of both churches from the building of the original St Georges Church on Cocker Hill back in 1775 to the amalgamation of both congregations in the 1980’s. It is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in the history of Cocker Hill or Stalybridge in general.

The book is out of print and difficult to obtain nationally, however, the Curate at New St Georges Church has confirmed that they have a number of copies for sale  at £2.95 and he suggested obtaining them from the Church after the Sunday Service at 12.15pm. (The service starts at 10.45  if you want to attend.) Paul Denby has also allowed New St Georges to put a link to his book on their website. Two Into One Will Go – Paul Denby

Stalybridge Pubs 1750 – 1990 – Rob Magee ISBN 1 85216 061 6

This lists all the pubs in Stalybridge, gives a brief history of each pub, and provides a full list of their licensees.

Reminiscences of a Chief Constable – William Chadwick ISBN?

William Chadwick was Chief Constable of Stalybridge 1862 – 1899. I got most of the information for my post on  body  snatching from his book. I can’t find an ISBN for it; the reprint I own was  produced by The Longdendale Amenity Society.

Bygone Stalybridge – Samuel Hill. ISBN?

I love this book. It is a fascinating read about Stalybridge from when records began until 1907 when it was written. It is probably this book that got me most interested in local history. Given that the book is now over 100 years old it is surprisingly easy to read. One of the things I find useful are the list of names the author provides; eg, names of the heads of Stalybridge families, various list of manufacturers, householders, special constables, members of institutions etc. It is great book to have a look at and see if you can find anyone listed you are researching. I can’t find an ISBN for this. The copy I own was published by the author himself; there have been later reprints.

I have just found a website with the full text of Bygone Stalybridge by Sam Hill.

Five Thousand Acres of old Ashton – Winifred Bowman – again no ISBN

No references to Cocker Hill at all which is surprising as it was inside the boundary covered by the book. Cocker Hill was then part of Ridgehill and the Lanes in the Hartshead district. The book goes back to Roman times and has great descriptions of  Parish Councils, the development of the roads, schools and early industries. Great if you are researching Ashton Under Lyne or Tameside in General; less use if you are only looking at Stalybridge.

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I loved this poem when I found it; I love that the author, Sam Hill, seems to love the area as much as I do and I love the dialect it is written in. It is thanks to my Grandad that I can understand it all and hearing words like “booside” and “scholars” reminds me so much of him.  I find it best to try to read it aloud and then you can get the sense of it even if you struggle with some of the words. 

Old St Georges, Cocker Hill

 

 The Church is all gone now, but the Churchyard is still there and you can still “linger and wonder and ponder quite fierce” while looking down on Stalybridge. I often do. 

Noan far fro’ this clod ther stands an owd church
Th’ yard wo’s are grown hoary and grey,
Loike a stern sentinel up on his perch
Guardin’ the realms of decay.
I wurn’t yersterday ‘ut th’ foundations wur laid,
Wi’ that bed o’ hard rock for sil;
Theer theawsands o’ th’ owd un’s han’ knelt, sung, an’ prayed,
I’ that Little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

Aw’ve known that owd church sin’ fost aw knew owt;
Within th’ seawnd of it bell aw wur born;
As a lad, aw’ve climbed th’ wo; carin for nowt,
T read th’ owd inscriptions so worn.
When th’ gates han’ been fast, an nob’dy’s bin nee,
When th’ booside’s bin quiet an’ still,
Aw’ve linger’t, and ponder’t, and wonder’t, quite frce,
By that Little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

Ther’s lots o’ owd folk at aw knew sleepin’ theer,
‘ Neath th’ shadow o’ th’ sacred owd pile;
Ther’n restin’ till doom’s-day, witheaut any fear;
Ther’s some on’em rested a while.
Ther waitin’ till th’ day when ther’ll be a big sheawt,
When Gabriel’s trumpet shall trill  -,
That reckonin’ – day ‘ut they tell’n us abeaut
I’ that Little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

Th’ owd shepherd, ut watches o’er th’ flock ‘ut goes theer,
Aw’ve known him o’ th’ days o’ mi life,
Loike an old pilot, his boat he can steer –
It’s seldom ther’s bother or strife.
He’s noan quite as nimble as he’d use’t to be,
But he goes to his work wi a will;
Long may his owd face be seen beamin’ an free,
I’ that Little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

Every Whit-Friday aw look for th’ owd brid
When aw goo watchin’ th’ scholars I’ th’ teawn;
He’s one o’ th’ old stagers, fast nearin’ “the strid” –
Th’ owd mower keeps switchin’ um deawn.
Aw loike watchin’ th’ scholars, ther’s no deaubt o’ that;
Sweet feelin’s it seems to instil,
For it’s grand just to see ‘um com’ marchin’ full bat
Fro’ that little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

Aw conno’ do mich wi’ a romancing tale,
An’ yo’ munna’ be hard on mi rhyme;
Aw loike for t’ yer those ‘ut weather ‘t loife’s gale
Tell things ‘ut  wur wanst on a time.
Aw’m preawd o’ th’ owd landmark, it’s seldom aw miss
To let my porr een ha’ ther fill –
Aw look up fro’ th’ bridge, wi’ a feelin o bliss,
At that little Reawnd Church up o’ th’ Hill.

 

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