A Half Hidden Headstone

A Half Hidden Headstone - The Story Of James Edward Heath Born 1873

Whilst wandering around the Churchyard at Christ Church Biddulph Moor I found a headstone laid flat under the ground. As you can see from the photo almost all of the inscription was hidden by the surrounding turf.

The legible part of the Inscription says ~Also Francis..loved wife of James E Heath..Hot Lane Biddulph Moor.. who died April.. 1927 Aged 34 years'

Intrigued I consulted the family tree the only contender was a James E Heath who married a Frances E Hambleton, they are shown on the 1911 census living at Well House Cottage, Biddulph Moor. He is a collier hewer and she at that time is described as his housekeeper aged 17 and single. However there is an unnamed child aged just 8 days old and described as a son, presumably of the head of the house, James. James and Frances do marry 5 years later in 1916 according to BMD.

So where does James fit into the tree?

To begin with I went backwards from 1911 to 1901 and found James aged 27 listed as a coal hewer and head of the house at the same address Well House, Biddulph Moor along with Sarah Mellor (incorrectly transcribed as Million on some sites), she was described as a housekeeper.

Further back another 10 years to 1891 and he is listed as a boarder with Sarah Mellor and her collier husband Hezekiah Mellor living at New Road Biddulph Moor.

The search for James E Heath 10 years earlier in 1881 took a bit of a twist as to begin with I couldn't find him. So I searched for the couple he would spend the next 20 years with and was rewarded with the following

1881 Cottage Horton
Hezekiah Mellor 37 coal miner Born Horton
Sarah Mellor 37 wife miners wife Born Horton
James Mellor 6 son scholar Born Horton

So it would appear that James was either boarded with or unofficially adopted by the Mellors, who was listed as a Mellor in 1881 but reverted back to Heath thereafter. I found a baptism for James Edward Heath at Christ Church Biddulph Moor on 20th August 1876 when he was nearly 3 years old being born in September 1873. His Mother is named as Hannah Heath an unmarried woman from Dairy House Bank, she was the daughter of George Heath and Mary Wheeldon who at the time of James' birth would have been 20 years old. As it is she who is taking him to be baptised she must have kept him with her until that time and then maybe handed him over for boarding/adoption by the Mellors who lived near to the Church at New Road. Her own local church would have been St Michaels Horton. How hard that must have been having cared for him for 3 years.

Hannah went on to have at least one other son and moved away to Yorkshire, she's not shown on any other census with her elder son, I wonder if she ever saw him again?

So from just one small section of partially buried headstone a whole life story can be brought to life.

Melanie Myatt Jul 2016

Update 26 August 2016

I went back to the Half Hidden Headstone today with Mark and Helen Heath, James mentioned in the story is from the same line as Mark. We pulled back the turf which had done a fantastic job of preserving the inscription and decoration on the headstone, we found more of the headstone. It shows that James' wife Frances was buried with his adoptive Mother Sarah Mellor please see the attached photographs.