Volunteers at the Chapel on the Bridge open day were delighted when a visitor, Joyce Jackson, explained that her Great-Grandfather, George Thorpe who was a tobacconist lived there in the chapel with his wife Jane Thorpe (nee Newell). Also living there at the time were his son Thomas and wife Polly (nee Greaves) Their 1st three children were born there, William 1876, Alfred 1878, and Thomas 1880. (uncles)
In due course she let the Friends group have photos and copies of the children’s birth certificates. This formed a welcome addition to the contemporary history of the chapel as their stay was in between census records 1871 -1881 and could not have been picked up that way.
However, the story does not end there, having checked out the maternal side of the family they then decided to follow up the paternal side and an interesting and poignant story it is.
Many years ago Robert Jackson (born 1861)(Joyce’s husband’s grandfather) lived in Knock, County Mayo, Ireland, he owned a small farm. He fell in love with a young girl named Maria Ferris (b 1856) but
Maria came from a well to do family and in order for stop the romance her father sent her to live in America with her aunt. Robert sold his farm and everything he had to raise the money to travel to America to try and find Maria.
It is estimated that as many as 4.5million Irish arrived in America between 1820 and 1930. Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States.
Miraculously he did find Maria and together they eloped and married in America. Maria and Robert had a baby girl Jane born 1889 in America, they went back to Ireland and on 12/6/1890 they had a son called John Robert.(Geoff’s father/Linda’s Grandfather) Times were hard in Ireland and eventually they made their way to England and Robert found work in the mining industry at Silverwood Colliery in Thrybergh.
The 1901 census shows them living in Court 1, Albert Street, Rotherham which was in the Masbrough ward aged 35 and 37 respectively and had a further three children George J 1894, Catherine M 1896 and Elizabeth 1898. A nephew, Robert Terris (possibly Ferris?), from Ireland aged 19 was also listed and worked as a general labourer.
Robert the head of the household was listed as being a Coke Drawer – who retrieved coke produced by burning coal. Coke was commonly used as a fuel, or to smelt iron ore.
When the houses on Albert Street were demolished Maria and Robert bought a piece of land and had a house built at 25, St Stephens
Road. When their son George reached 18 he went to live in America. He married there and had one daughter named Marjorie and never returned to England.
Over 60 years later in an attempt to try and trace her ancestors, Marjorie wrote a letter to 25 St. Stephens Road. Living there at the time were Sybil and Ernest Robinson. Coincidently Joyce Jackson happened to be working with Sybil at Grattan’s Catalogue Offices. One particular day Sybil came into work with a letter that she had received from America ! and it told the story of how she was trying to trace The Jackson family who had lived in Rotherham, and her only lead was the address of 25 St Stephens Road where she believed the her Father and Grandparents had lived all those years ago.
Maria Elizabeth was living there in 1939 with her daughter Catherine Maria Wall, her husband George whom she married 23rd June 1917 and son George E Wall.
She gave the letter to Joyce to read and straight away recognised the names of her husband Geoff Jackson’s family Grandparents and Aunties and Uncles who had lived there. They contacted Marjorie and made arrangements to meet her, first in London and then she came to Rotherham to see the house where her grandparents had lived, whom she had never met. She was able to meet up with her cousins, including Geoff Jackson and also visited the grave of Maria and Robert Jackson which is in the old Victorian Moorgate Cemetery; it is a lovely little grave which stands just inside the entrance through the gates to the left down the little grass banking there.
Maria lived to the age of 84 and died on 1st April 1940, Robert lived to be 75 and died on 29th Nov 1936. The inscription reads “Sacred to the memory of Robert beloved husband of Maria E Jackson who died November 29th aged 75 years RIP. Also, the above named Maria E Jackson who died April 1st 1940 aged 84 years. Reunited” and so a romantic tale criss-crossing the Atlantic and the Irish Sea of over 60 years ended.
Robert’s great Granddaughter Linda Stringer, says “I always feel it is a happy place to be and I have heard of a story about someone moving in to 25 St Stephens Road and finding a letter behind the fireplace saying that they had had a long and happy life there and wanted the finder of this letter to pass their best wishes to family and friends for health wealth and happiness and for a long and happy life too. I always feel that this letter was from them and that somehow it was meant for us to read. I feel it is a romantic tale of my ancestors love for each other and their determination to be together, my dad and I have given the grave an uplift a couple of times but it has remained in good condition. I still take flowers
and often have a walk there to take a look and spend a few minutes thinking of them”.
Marjorie has since died but in later years her son Robert Aitken and his son Sean-Paul have also visited Rotherham and met up with family members.