The Mystery of the Angel in the Graveyard
There is an angel memorial in Fulwood Graveyard to the north of the church. Not unusual you may think, but this angel is not from a monumental mason’s pattern book. The face of the angel is said to be that of the woman buried in the grave. And the mystery does not end there. Elizabeth Skelley, the only person in the grave, seemed to have no connection with Fulwood at all, so why was she buried here?
To answer that question we will have to travel back four generations by way of her father Albert, his father Benjamin to Elizabeth’s great grandfather Thomas Creswick.
Marriage and Divorce
Elizabeth was born in 1885 to Arthur and CharlotteCreswick and brought up in Ecclesfield. She married and divorced a Ecclesfield man, William Unwin, and went on to marry James Williamson Skelley, a Scottish doctor. At different times Elizabeth Ellen lived in Ecclesfield, South Wales, Scotland and Walthamstow, but never in Fulwood. Yet she was buried there in October 1918.
Before Fulwood church was consecrated in 1837 people in the then sparsely populated Fulwood village area would quite likely have been buried in All Saints’ Ecclesall Churchyard. On checking the Ecclesall burial register I found that there were around 50 Creswick buried before 1900. I knew too, that there were over 50 Creswicks buried in the Fulwood graveyard so I thought that it was worth finding ancestors of Elizabeth’s father, Arthur.
According to the censuses, her father Arthur grew up in Ecclesfield where he had been born and baptised in 1858. He married a local girl, Charlotte Widdison, in 1884. Arthur’s parents were Benjamin and Ellen Creswick of Ecclesfield Common. Benjamin was a farmer – probably on the same farm where Elizabeth Ellen grew up. Perhaps the link was Elizabeth’s grandfather Benjamin?
In both the 1841 and 1851 censuses, Benjamin was living with his first wife’s family at Birley Carr Edge, but there was no mention of his wife living with them. This suggested that his wife had probably died – and indeed she had. Benjamin and Eliza Moore had married in June 1840. On November 1st 1840 at Ecclesfield Church, their daughter Eliza Ann was baptised on the same day as her mother was buried, aged 20.
It is a sad fact that in the 19th century, many babies did not survive long if their mothers died shortly after childbirth. However, in this instance young Eliza Ann survived. So Benjamin, a young widowed father, had to find a way of providing a home for his infant daughter and he turned to his brother George.
Two brides for two brothers
According to the 1861 census, Benjamin Creswick was born in Hallam and he was living in Ecclesfield with his second wife Ellen and their family including young Arthur. Benjamin married Ellen Moore in November 1851 and the marriage certificate shows he was a widower and his father was Thomas Creswick.
This was a family where two brothers, George and Benjamin Creswick, married two sisters, Ann and Eliza Moore. George’s wife Ann died in May 1871 and was buried in Fulwood; George died six years later and he too was buried in Fulwood.
Eliza Ann grew up with her aunt Ann (her mother’s sister) and uncle, George Creswick (her father’s brother) who lived in Crookes. George was a witness at Eliza Ann’s marriage in 1865.
So we now know that Benjamin, the woman in the grave’s grandfather, had links to Fulwood.
Her Great Grandfather
Two last pieces of evidence to help solve the mystery of the angel in the graveyard relate to her great grandfather Thomas. When his wife died in 1820, the parish clerk at Ecclesall record in the burial register that she was” the wife of Thomas Creswick, farmer of Hallam.” By the time Thomas died in 1847 his abode was given as Sheffield North, and this provided the link to Ecclesfield and course, Elizabeth’s grandfather, Benjamin.
So why was Elizabeth buried in Fulwood? The most likely answer is that Ecclesfield was probably out of the question because of her divorce from William Unwin, who was the church sexton. Elizabeth and her second husband, James Skelley, were living in Walthamstowe when she died, but they had no direct links there. Perhaps James wanted her to be buried nearer to her family, so that there would be someone to tend her grave. The Creswick family’s historic links with the Fulwood area went back into history and Elizabeth’s great-uncle and aunt, George and Ann were buried in Fulwood. So although not very close to Ecclesfield, Fulwood was nearer than Walthamstowe!