Memorial to a Baby

As well as memorials to prominent local people, there is also an unusual stone depicting a small figure lying across an opening, which is believed to be in memory of a baby whose name and gender are unknown. How the child died isn't known for sure and stories passed down through the generations vary from the child being thrown into the fireplace to the over tired mother nursing her child and falling asleep which resulted in the baby rolling from her lap and into the fireplace.


(Click to view)

Ben Brierley
With the kind permission of Manchester Archives

Sergeant Charles Brett (ca1816-1867)
The inscription on the gravestone reads:-

"In affectionate remembrance of Sergeant Charles Brett of the Manchester Police Force who died in the discharge of his duty at Hyde Road on September 18th 1867 in the  52nd year of his age.  Dare not I must do my duty."
Sergeant Charles Brett was the first Manchester police officer to be killed on duty.  He was shot as supporters of the Fenian movement attempted to rescue their leaders who were imprisoned in a van which Sergeant Brett was escorting. 


Sergeant Charles Brett

The Funeral of Sgt Charles Brett

Edward & Eliza and the smashing of the van
a play written by Eileen Murphy,
telling of a fictional story of Sgt Brett's brother,
Edward and his Irish Wife Eliza and their relationship in the aftermath of  his murder.


William Hughes (1808-1859)
The inscription on the flat tombstone which the team has recently uncovered reads:-

"To the memory William Hughes, late Governor of Henshaw's Blind Asylum and inventor of the Typograph for the Blind, died April 29th 1859, aged 51 years"
Henshaw's Blind Asylum, later known as Henshaw's Institution for the Blind, was founded in a building built by public subscription in Old Trafford (situated on a site close by to what is today the Greater Manchester Police Headquarters).  It became one of the largest institutions in the country.
William Hughes and his wife, Mary, were the first Governor and Matron of the Asylum and in 1850, Mr Hughes took out a patent for the Hughes Typograph which he claimed to be the first typewriting machine which was designed to enable the blind to communicate with the seeing.  A Hughes Typograph was awarded a gold medal at the Great Exhibition in 1851


Edward Meacham MRCS (1823-1897)
The inscription on the gravestone reads:-

"Sacred to the memory of Edward Meacham MRCS, founder in 1870 and for 26 years medical superintendant at the Manchester Medical Mission, Red Bank.  Entered into rest September 18th 1897, aged 73 years.  Forever with the Lord.  Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord henceforth"
Edward Meacham was baptised on 25 November 1823 at the Church of St Peter, West Cheap, London.  He arrived in Manchester circa 1846 where he was appointed labour master at the Chorlton Union Workhouse, a position which gave him experience of working with the very poor.  He embarked upon his medical education at Manchester Royal Infirmary and the Manchester Royal School of Medicine and he was a surgeon at the Manchester Hospital for Sick Children.  In 1865 he was appointed as medical officer for the St Georges district of Manchester and soon after founded the Red Bank Medical Mission (later known as the Manchester Medical Mission and Dispensary).  He attended the Mission as medical superintendent for 26 years.  Despite retiring as a medical officer due to ill health, Edward Meacham continued to practice and to attend the Red Bank Mission until his death on 18 September 1897, aged 73 years.

Samuel Hyde (1789-1876) - A Veteran of Waterloo

The insciption on the flat tombstone reads:-

"In Memory of Samuel Hyde, who died May 14th 1876 in his 88th year.  Also Mary Hyde, wife of Samuel Hyde who died November 21st 1861, aged 71 years"

Samuel Hyde, of Leigh and Newton Heath, died 14th May 1876, and was buried at Manchester General on the 20th May, aged 87.  A short obituary in the Manchester Times for that week read: “Hyde, who was born at Leigh, was reared as a hand-loom weaver in this city [Manchester], where he enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at the age of 18, and subsequently served through the Peninsular campaign, being actively engaged at Nive, Nivello, Corunna, Badajos, Roderigo, Toulouse, St. Sebastian, Vittoria and Salamanca. He was wounded at the Battle of Waterloo, after which he was pensioned off with a shilling a day, which was increased to 1s. 6d. about two years ago. The deceased veteran’s relations reside at Newton Heath.

Samuel Hyde’s pension record states that he was “wounded through the shoulder joint” at Waterloo, as a result of which he was discharged at the age of 28 after nine years’ service. He was described as being five foot eight, with brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion.  Samuel was married to Mary Grimshaw in Manchester Cathedral on January 16th 1808.

Samuel Hyde
With the kind permission of Shirley Phelps Bruso


Reverend Thomas Grant
With the kind permission
of Colin Grant

Reverend Thomas Grant (1835-1909)
The inscription reads:-

"In Loving Memory of  Rev Thomas Grant, for 24 years Registrar of this Cemetery, who died December 16th 1909 in this 75th year"
Reverend Thomas Grant, Manchester General Cemetery's Registrar and Chaplin from 1885 until 1909 lived at Cemetery House, 775 Rochdale Road, Harpurhey with his daughter, Elizabeth Lucas Grant.  He was born in Millbrook, Hampshire.  In the late 1850’s and early 1860’s he worked for the Church Pastoral Aid Society and later as a London City Missionary in Southwark, London.  After working as a teacher in Elham Kent, he became the Minister of the Congregational Church in Billericay, Essex and then Minister at St Mary’s Newington.  He was married to Mary Elizabeth Grant nee Lucas but she died in 1875 so he was a widower when he arrived to take up the position at Manchester General Cemetery.

James Fielding (1803-1886)
The inscription reads:-

"In Memory of James Fielding. for more than 31 years Registrar of this Cemetery, who died July 4th 1886, aged 81 years"
James Fielding was the Cemetery Registrar prior to the Reverend Thomas Grant and also occupied the Cemetery House on Rochdale Road.  He is buried with his wife, Harriet, who died in 1871 aged 63 years and their son, John, who died in 1865 aged 28 years.


Reverend Jonathan Wood (1783-1871)
The Reverend Jonathan Wood held the position of Registrar at Manchester General Cemetery from 1837 until 1848.  He was an Independent/Congregational Minister and was born circa 1783 in Penistone, Yorkshire.

John Owen (1815-1902)

“In Memory of James Owen who departed this life October 22nd 1848, aged 75 years.  Also Alice, daughter of John and Mary Ann Owen, who departed this life April 15th 1858, aged 2 years 14 weeks. Also Samuel Fox, late of Deansgate, corn dealer, who died December 16th 1864, aged 68 years. Also Mary Ellen Owen, who died November 15th 1865, aged 17 years.  Also Mary Ann, wife of John Owen, died December 19th 1876. Aged 59 years. Also John Owen who died January 18th 1902, aged 86 years.

Born in Bolton le Moors , John Owen was the author of the famous Owen Manuscripts.  He died on January 18th 1902, aged 86 years.   The Owen Manuscripts were his life’s work and took around 60 years to compile.  He travelled extensively around the region gathering information comprising monumental inscriptions, parish registers,  genealogical, architectural and archaeological information. His historical notes include a history of Manchester and a collection of the MI’s from both inside and outside of the Collegiate Church, some of which have been lost forever or which have been covered or are now inaccessible.

He was a talented draughtsman and the collection comprising 91 volumes includes drawings of houses, churches and gravestones.  The entire collection is accessible via Manchester Archives.

John Owen
With the kind permission of Manchester Archives


Nancy Cunningham (1862-1931)
The inscription reads:-

“In Loving Memory of Nancy Cunningham, daughter of John and Tamer Gradwell of Blackley, who went to Heaven Aug 23rd 1931, aged 68 years.  At peace with God.”
Nancy Cunningham was born at Barnes Green on 12 August 1862 and baptised at St Peter’s Church Blackley on 22 February 1863.  She was the daughter of John Gradwell, a brick setter and steeplejack and legend has it that as a young girl Nancy would often scale mill chimneys to deliver her father his dinner.  She became a renowned singer and whistler and earned the sobriquet of “Dicky Bird”.  She married twice, first to John White in 1886 and then to Joseph Cunningham in 1901, with whom she had two children. Nancy had an alcohol problem and became the scourge of Rochdale Road, accumulating an impressive 173 convictions for being drunk and disorderly.  Then in 1912, Nancy was saved and joined The Salvation Army.  At meetings all over England Nancy stood up and spoke against the evils of drink and whilst she sang “The Old Rugged Cross” the collection was taken.  However her conversions were many and she spent the last 20 years of her life torn between the bottle and tambourine.  Despite this the people of North Manchester took her to their hearts and her funeral in 1931 was well attended, so much so that extra police had to be drafted in to control the crowds and the cemetery gates had to be closed.

Nancy Cunningham (1) R.jpg
Nancy Cunningham (2) R.jpg




Charles Ridings (1799-1858)
Charles Ridings, who was buried on 24th March 1858,  was for many years an active and prominent member of the Manchester and Salford Licensed Victuallers Association.   He was the landlord of the Royal Oak Inn situated on Downing Street, Ardwick and he socialised with the “Lancashire Poets” including the John Bolton Rogerson, Registrar of Manchester General Cemetery  and Elijah Ridings.  He put himself forward as a candidate in the Council elections in the late 1840’s representing the ward of Ardwick.  In 1851 he was elected as Chairman and President of the Manchester and Salford Licensed Victuallers Association.  In 1853 the Royal Oak Building Benefit Society was formed at the Royal Oak Inn.  The license of the Royal Oak Inn was transferred to John Redford on 15th April 1858 due to the death of Charles Ridings the month previously.

George Crozier (ca1793-1847)

George Crozier, formerly of Eccleston in the Fylde had lived in Manchester for 16 years prior to his death at his home in Peel Street, Hulme in 1847.  He was known as a distinguished botanist having given up his business as a master saddler due to ill health.  He had severe asthma but the cause of his death was inflammation of the windpipe due to severe cold.  As well as botany he excelled in ornithology and entomology and was also an accomplished taxidermist. He was described as a tall, upright man with flowing white hair and of a placid and cheerful nature. His funeral took place on 20th  April 1847 and he was survived by his three sons and three daughters.

Stephen Thomas Norris Cooper (circa 1785-1843)
(with thanks to Rootschatter, BarbaraH, for her research assistance)
Stephen Thomas Norris Cooper died on 13th September 1843 and was buried in Manchester General Cemetery (Non Conformist 4098) on 17th September 1843.  He was 59 years old when he died.  He was an ivory and box rule maker and conducted his business from Miller Street, Manchester.  His death was recorded in Axon’s Annals of Manchester when he was credited with being the first to introduce rule making to Manchester.   According to the 1841 census where Stephen and his family are recorded as living in Miller Street, Manchester he was born within in the county of Lancashire however this may be incorrect as the evidence tends to point to him being born in the London area and moving to Manchester in the early 1820’s.  His marriage to Sarah Norton on 3rd September 1809 took place at Christchurch, Greyfriars (also known as Christchurch, Newgate Street), which was situated opposite St Paul’s Cathedral, London.   Today the ruins now form part of a public garden.  After her husband’s death in 1843, Sarah Cooper, formerly Norton, continued to run the business.  The MGCTP have located the grave and there is a flat tombstone in existence today however Stephen’s name does not appear on the inscription although he is buried in the grave.  The grave also contains the remains of two of his sons, Stephen Thomas Norton Cooper and Henry William Cooper, his daughter-in-law, Jane Cooper, and his grandchildren,  Benjamin Stephen Cooper. Stephen Oswald Cooper and Catherine Cooper.

John (Johnny) Peach (1824-1869)
Pugilist, John (Johnny) Peach, died at his home in Manchester on January 20th 1869, aged 44 years.  He was born in 1824, weighed 8st 8lb and was 5’6”” tall.  He was buried in the Church Public plot at Manchester General Cemetery in grave number C306.  There is no record of the exact position of the grave and the gravestones in this section no longer exist however because of the excellent work of Mr Herbert Morton in the 1950’s who transcribed by hand the inscriptions on the stones in this section (in excess of 4,000) there is a record of his burial.

Robert (Bob) Cousens (1818-1867)
Pantomimist, Robert Cousens, known as Bob, died on Wednesday, August 28th 1867, at his home in Peter Street, Manchester after a long illness.  He was aged 49 years.  He was born in Bristol in 1818 and made his first appearance on the stage at the age of 15.  Subsequently he joined the company of the Manchester Theatre Royal and was a member of the original stock company for the opening of the building in 1845.  He also appeared at the Adelphi Theatre in Liverpool.  Following a visit to America he joined Moffat’s Circus.  From that time onwards his professional appearances were confined to the Adelphi Theatre, Liverpool and the Queen’s Theatre, Manchester where he appeared as Pantaloon in no less than eleven pantomime seasons.


James David Curtis (aka James Curtis Emerson) (1869-1904)
James Curtis Emerson died at the age of 39 years at his home in Chorlton-on-Medlock.  He was taken ill whilst playing in Richard III at the Queens’s Theatre, Manchester.  He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and was at one time manager of the Queen’s and St James’s Theatres.  He was buried on May 28th 1904 in Consecrated 3900.

Notable Burials 1

Hannah Beswick, the Manchester Mummy

Manchester General Cemetery is the final resting place of Hannah Beswick, who became known as the Manchester Mummy.  She was buried in July 1868, some 110 years after her death, due to her fear of being buried alive.  Prior to her death she spoke with her physician, Dr Charles White (a founding member of Manchester Royal Infirmary) and asked him to keep her above ground and check on her periodically for signs of life.  After her death, Dr White embalmed her body and although he checked her for signs of life at the beginning he then transferred her remains to an old grandfather clock which he opened from time to time for visitors to view.  After Dr White's own death, the Manchester Mummy ended up in the care of the Manchester Natural History Society and later was looked after by Owen's College (now the University of Manchester).  By 1867 there was little interest being shown in Hannah Beswick's remains and it was decided that without a doubt she was definitely dead.  The Bishop of Manchester gave permission for her to be buried on 22 July 1868.  As far as we know there is no gravestone and until recently we did not have a grave number as she was buried in Consecrated ground and the burial registers prior to 1886 haven't survived.  We now know that the grave number is C223 which we believe is located in the Public Ground area right at the back of the cemetery.

Benjamin (Ben) Brierley (1825-1896)

There are two stones, one for Benjamin and Esther and the other for their daughter, Annie:-"In Loving Memory of Ben Brierley, who died January 18th 1896 in his 71st year.  Also Esther, beloved wife of Ben Brierley, who died on her 80th birthday, May 25th 1914""In Loving Memory of Annie, only child of Ben & Esther Brierley of Collyhurst, who died June 13th 1875, aged 18 years and 7 months

Benjamin Brierley was born in Failsworth on 26 June 1825, the first surviving son of James Brierley, a hand loom weaver (late Gunner in the Rocket Troop of the Royal Artillery, & fought at Leipsic & Waterloo), and his wife Esther.         He started work in the textile industry whilst educating himself in his spare time.  He rose from bobbin winder, handloom weaver and silk warper to become an author, journalist and politician and probably Failsworth's most famous son.  He was to become one of Lancashire's most popular authors and the writer of humorous prose and verse in the dialect of south-east Lancashire as it was spoken and was famous for his recitals in the local working men's clubs.  He was employed as a sub-editor at The Oldham Times where he worked until 1862 and was a co-founder of the Failsworth Mechanics Institute with the aim of improving conditions for the working man.  He served on Manchester City Council from 1871-1881, was an original member of Manchester Literary Club and was on the Free Libraries Committee where he fought for working class reform.  He died at his home in Moston Vale on 18 Jan 1896, aged 71 years.

His funeral took place Wednesday 22nd January at 2.30pm. A great assemblage of people attended, mainly of the working class. A procession accompanied the coffin to the grave including members of the Manchester Literary Society, members of the Arthur Sullivan of Wilton Masonic Lodge all wearing sprigs of acacia (Masonic emblem of mourning), members of the Ben Brierley Angling Society, Blackley Literacy Society followed by overseers of Moston, Chairman of the Salford Hundred Quarter and many friends and acquaintances. Wreaths from the Manchester Literacy Society, Burnley Literacy and Philosophical Society and the weavers of Failsworth were sent. The burial service was read by Thomas Grant, Chaplin of the Cemetery.

After the coffin was laid to rest, one of those present threw a posy of flowers upon it speaking as he did "poor old Ben Brierley - he has made many a home in happy Manchester" 

A statue was erected in 1898, paid for by public subscription, in Queen's Park, adjacent to Manchester General Cemetery but despite him being a hero of the working classes, this was vandalised and eventually taken down about 20 years ago, the Pedestal still remains.  A new statue was commissioned and erected in Failsworth, the town of his birth, which was unveiled in 2006.

David Stewart (c1810-1850)

David Stewart's gravestone says he was an Ancient Forrester. The Ancient Order of Foresters was formed in 1834 although its origins can be traced back to the Royal Foresters which was established circa 1745.  The organisation has survived to the present day and trades as Foresters Friendly Society.  It was formed with the ethos to provide assistance to members of the community who “fell into need as they walked through the forests of life”.  This usually occurred when the head of a household fell ill, could not work and received no wages.  Illness and death often left families destitute.  Assistance was provided by a kind of insurance policy where members paid a few pence a week into a common fund which was then used for sick pay or funeral grants as and when needed.

John Craven (1835-1900)
John Craven was interred at Manchester General Cemetery on 14th June 1900 and although the family requested a private funeral it was attended by a large gathering comprising 1,000 employees, walking four abreast, of the firm Craven Brothers, tool makers and machinists.  His coffin was of polished oak and bore the inscription, “John Craven, born 29th April 1834, died 12th June 1900” and the officiating minister was the Reverend A W Taylor from St Oswald’s Church

William Craven (1929-1906)
William Craven who died at St Annes on Sea was the son of Thomas Craven of King Street, Manchester, an engineer who is reputed to have sold the first planning machine made in the district.  He was buried at Manchester General Cemetery 14th May 1906.  William Craven with his brother, Greenwood Craven, formed a small tool making business in 1853 in Dawson’s Croft, Salford.  The business subsequently moved to Collyhurst and then to Osborne Street, Manchester where they were joined by their other brother, John Craven.  From 1875 the business concentrated on crane building making it their speciality.  In 1885, a company was formed with Greenwood Craven as Chairman.  Upon his death, William Craven succeeded him as Chairman with John Craven as Vice-Chairman until his death in 1900.  The company moved to a large, modern works at Reddish.  William Craven resigned in 1903 due to his failing health and was succeeded as Chairman by Mr W H S Craven.