One of the most visited gravestones in the Cemetery is the mysterious baby memorial. The Project Team has researched for information and slowly a few of the stories have been found not to be ‘The Baby Grave Story’ all that we can confirm is that the gravestone is pre-1911.
Story 1: 1865
Child found in box
A murder was reported of a Mother who killed her child (1 year old), sadly this story was distressing as the child was placed in a box and posted to Preston and then to London. Where, when the child was discovered was interred in London.
Story 2: 1876
Child found in Box at Cemetery
The body of a small child was found wrapped in a piece of flannel inside a box on the grass at the back wall of the Cemetery. We are unable to say if the child was interred in the Cemetery as records for Church of England do not survive for this year and the child was found on Church ground, but the burials registers do show two burials for a stillborn child in the Non Conformist plot.
Story 3: 1884
A Child (Baby) was thrown into the fire by its mother.
There is a murder reported in the newspapers of a Mother in Harpurhey, Manchester throwing her child into the fire whilst intoxicated. This story was true! The 4 month old baby named Francis Clegg was buried in Christ Church Harpurhey not in the Manchester General Cemetery.
Story 4: 1887
Child found beneath headstone
A man walking through the Cemetery noticed a loose headstone. Removing it he found a body of a newly born child wrapped in a piece of old skirt, and barely covered with soil. Contacting the Police the body was taken to the Workhouse. After a post-mortem cause of death was deemed to be probably asphyxia. We are unable to say whether the child was interred in the Cemetery.
Story 5: 1911
Book published for committee members
A book by William Deighton – 1911 for members of the Manchester General Cemetery Committee. Mentions a “small nameless monument of peculiar design marks the grave of an infant child of William Pitman, inventor of Phonography”
A search ensued and what has been found is:
The inventor of phonography was Sir Isaac Pitman. (1813-1897) Isaac Pitman born to Samuel & Maria (Davies) Pitman had ten siblings, Melissa, Abraham, Rosella, Joseph, Jane, Mary, Frederick, three brothers Benjamin (in U.S), Jacob (in Australia), Henry (in Manchester U.K.), All three brothers promoted and taught Pitman Shorthand.
The Cemetery burial registers show Pitman’s being interred in the Cemetery, two children whose father was Henry Pitman a third child shows the father as Mr Pitman. Researching Henry Pitman he married Helen Tate in Sutherland 6 July 1857 having we believe ten children, Mary Mclean, Flora, Frederick Wm Henry, Lily Barton, Rose, Percy and Violet, Henry, George Mclean and possibly the stillborn child in the Cemetery. Henry was very passionate about promoting and teaching phonography, author and reporter for the Manchester Courier and Co-operative Congress he had zeal for public interest, doing this he did neglect his own welfare and at one point in time was declared ‘bankrupt.’ His friends organised a subscription to help raise funds for Henry’s benefit. Henry Pitman was staunchly against vaccination and was fined and sent to the Gaol for refusing to have his child vaccinated which at the time was law, stating his objection as “ I have seen the effects of vaccination in my own family.” Henry who was in the House of Correction, Knutsford went on to petition the House of Commons to have the Vaccination Acts repealed.
Henry and Helen had two children interred in Manchester General Cemetery, Henry Pitman aged 3 months, George McClean Pitman aged 14 days, interred Non Conformist 300. The third child interred named Pitman does not state the forename of the father, so we are unable to confirm as being Henry Pitman’s child without a death certificate, but it does seem likely.
The Gravestone is situated in the Non Conformist Public Section of the Cemetery, the Pitman children are listed in the burials register before 1886, this would confirm them to be Non Conformist.
Whilst the book does state William Pitman inventor of phonography, it was in fact Isaac Pitman, Isaac's brother. Henry lived in Manchester, promoted and taught phonography, there was no William Pitman involved with the Pitman Phonography. There was a William Pitman living in Manchester married to Mary, two children Constance and Clifford. William, Mary and Constance interred in Philips Park Cemetery and the timeframe is wrong. So, this family can be ruled out. It is entirely possible that the name of Wm Pitman was wrong and should have been Henry which would collaborate the facts we found. Making it plausible that the Baby Gravestone was that of Henry Pitman's, as a monument to his children buried in the Cemetery.