Restoration Project to Begin Soon
The image above shows just how neatly the burial ground was kept whilst the chapel was open. If you look at the gentleman walking down the path, you can see the two original yew trees next to him.
All of the trees, plants and grass are immaculate in the few images available from over the years.
The last 30 years are where you can really see the difference.
In 1993, you can still see the two trees, though they seem to be growing bigger.
By 2006, the two yew trees now look like one and have grown out in every direction.
By September 2021, the two trees have fully merged into one and have brambles and ivy growing between the branches. They are damaging the graves and the path.
Time for Change
The maintenance of the graveyard is the legal responsibility of Warrington Borough Council, but as you probably know, they do little more than cut the grass every six weeks or so. Despite bringing this to their attention, they have done nothing different.
Thankfully, Croft Parish Council were willing to listen and to help. They have agreed to pay for a specialist landscaping team to cut back the yew trees to two individual trees at a managable size and also to clear the remaining weeds and overgrowth around the grounds.
Work is due to begin soon. Thankyou, Croft Parish Council!
How did Ellen Yates travel to work in Birkenhead from her home in Croft?
Those who have read the sad story of Ellen Yates will know that she was employed as a mill hand in Birkenhead, according to her death certificate.
I had assumed she must have travelled there by horseback, or even walking. Somebody else suggested that she may have had lodgings in Birkenhead, which is also possible.
It is unlikely we will ever know for certain how she travelled to work and how often, but I wanted to look further into it.
I came across an advertisement in a copy of the Leigh Chronicle from 1856 showing train times and prices.
Leigh would probably still have been too far out for her to walk, though she did have family in Leigh at the time.
Culcheth Station wasn’t opened until 1884, after her death, which ruled out her travelling from there. I then found that another local station, Kenyon Junction Station, had been open to the public from 1831.
An estimate of the distance from where she lived (Hop Pole Farm) to Kenyon Junction is about two and a half miles, which she could have easily walked.
The train journey took one hour and forty minutes, meaning a long day for her if this was the method she used.
The Kenyon Junction Station was on the Liverpool to Manchester Line and there were many routes to Birkenhead mills available from Liverpool Crown Street Station.
1850 September 11th, at Croft, near Warrington, Mrs. ELLEN YATES, wife of Mr. Samuel Yates, farmer, of that place.
The death of Mrs. Yates demands more than a passing notice in our obituary.
She was born in Warrington, on the 5th April, 1778. Her maiden name was Urmston, and her parents were working people in that town. At the early age of nine years she went to service in the house of the late Rev. Aspinall, minister of the then Risley congregation. On the death of Mrs. Aspinall, which took place a few years after, such was the care, foresight, prudence and industry manifested by the young servant, that Mr. Aspinall continued her in his service as housekeeper until her marriage with Mr. Yates, which took place at Flixton, on the 13th February, 1803. She was the mother of ten children, six of whom survive her. In 1838, the Independents, amongst other of their nefarious attempts to wrest our chapels from the descendants of those who built them, succeeded in the case of Risley chapel, though they failed in their efforts to connect it with their own body, as the Scotch Presbyterians eventually got a minister of their own appointed to it.
On this event, Mr. and Mrs. Yates, with that zeal which so eminently characterized their lives, opened their house for divine worship on Sundays; and for nearly a year service was carried on by supplies, chiefly from Warrington, but occasionally from other neighbouring places.
Mrs. Yates, moved with a holy zeal on behalf of the Unitarian cause, determined in her own mind that a chapel should be built for the dispossessed congregation of which she was a member; and, disclosing her intentions to some of her more immediate friends, received such encouragement as to induce her to proceed in the work with vigour.
With no other influence than the native eloquence of a devoted heart, and strengthened by her faith in God's providence, she successively visited Warrington, Manchester, Dukinfield, Bolton, Bury, Walmsley, Liverpool, Hindley, Rivington and Chowbent-her husband assisting her in Manchester, Gorton and Hyde - and succeeded in raising upwards of £500 for the purpose.
To save expense, she frequently walked great distances in these journeys, not unfrequently returning home through the dark and dirty lanes of the country, tired and wet, at nine, ten, eleven, and even twelve o'clock at night.
Her zeal, combined with great simplicity and moderation, roused a public feeling in her favour.
The late Holbrook Gaskell Esq. of Warrington, when he saw her determined earnestness in the work, consented to become the Treasurer of the fund. The late Mr. Blackburne, of Rhyl, who had an estate in Croft, a township adjoining Risley, and conveniently situated for the purpose, gave the land, which also supplied clay for the bricks.
Workmen were employed, many of the congregation helping as opportunity served, and in less than a year a very neat and suitable building, with school-rooms attached, was erected; and the opening services, on September 27th
and 29th 1839, were conducted by the Rev. J. Martineau and the Rev. J. H. Thom, of Liverpool; and very handsome collections made, which, with the balance of subscriptions collected by Mr. and Mrs. Yates, produced an endowment of £200, to aid in carrying on the permanent services of the chapel.
The delight she experienced in joining with her fellow Christians in the worship of God, made her a constant attendant at the chapel as long as health and strength remained to her.
On one occasion, after spending a Saturday in Manchester, collecting money for the building of the chapel, she arrived at the railway station just after the last train had started; but rather than not be in her accustomed place in the Sunday meetings that were then held in her own house, she resolutely determined to walk the whole distance, about 18 miles, and reached home about two o'clock in the morning.
She took great interest in the Sunday schools and taught there till her growing infirmities kept her at home.
First her eyesight declined, till she became quite blind; and then she was afflicted with a painful cancer in her back, which at length brought her useful and valuable life to a close.
Patience and resignation to the Divine Will ever accompanied her sufferings. Her interest in the welfare of her fellow creatures remained with all the force her declining faculties would allow, until at length she fell asleep in Jesus, on September 11th, 1850, aged 72 years.
The Croft congregation, desirous of commemorating her zeal and usefulness, commenced a subscription for a plain marble tablet, and, with the assistance of a numerous body of friends in Warrington, Liverpool, Manchester, Bury, Dukinfield, Knutsford and other places have nearly succeeded in their object.
It will be a plain marble slab, fixed in the wall above the pew she usually occupied in the chapel, and will bear the following inscription:
IN MEMORY OF
ELLEN, THE WIFE OF SAMUEL YATES OF CROFT.
SHE WAS BORN IN WARRINGTON ON THE 5TH DAY OF APRIL 1778
WAS MARRIED AT FLIXTON, THE 13TH FEBRUARY 1803
AND AFTER A LONG AND PAINFUL ILLNESS BORNE WITH MUCH PATIENCE
SHE DIED THE 11TH SEPTEMBER 1850,
AGED 72 YEARS
HER GREAT AND UNWEARIED EXERTIONS AIDED BY THOSE OF HER HUSBAND
UNDER THE BLESSING OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE
THE CROFT CONGREGATION OF UNITARIAN CHRISTIANS
ARE CHIEFLY INDEBTED FOR THEIR HOUSE OF PRAYER
AND THE ENDOWMENT CONNECTED WITH IT
HER MEMORY AS A WIFE AND MOTHER
TREASURED IN THE HEARTS OF HER SORROWING HUSBAND AND CHILDREN
HER READY KINDNESS ENDEARED HER TO HER NEIGHBOURS
WHILE HER CONSISTENT EXAMPLE THROUGH A LONG LIFE OF
ZEAL WITHOUT BIGOTRY, OF EARNESTNESS WITHOUT PRESUMPTION,
OF UNDOUBTING FAITH AND CHEERFUL TRUST IN GOD
WAS SUCH AS TO ADORN AND EVIDENCE
THE DEEP SINCERITY OF HER CHRISTIAN PROFESSION.
TO COMMEMORATE HER ZEALOUS LABOUR AND THEIR OWN SENSE OF HER
GREAT CHRISTIAN WORTH HER FELLOW WORSHIPERS JOINED BY A NUMEROUS
BODY OF DISTANT FRIENDS CAUSED THIS TABLET TO BE ERECTED
BEING DEAD SHE YET SPEAKETH
What are Listed Buildings?
Listing marks and celebrates a building's special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.
The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed.
Historic England makes recommendations to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and they make the final decision as to whether a building should be listed or not.
As well as listed buildings, there are Local Listings and Local Heritage Assets and Historic Environment Records.
Local listing helps to raise the profile of local heritage by identifying heritage assets that are of greatest importance to local people.
Local heritage assets can range from buildings, designed landscapes, archaeology and elements of the natural environment.
The Historic Environment Record (HER) is the record of all known designated and non-designated archaeological sites and historic landscapes.It includes sites dating from prehistory through to the military remains of the more recent past.
Croft Listed Buildings
There are 13 listed buildings in Croft, all of these are Grade II.
Croft Historic Environment Records
There are 7 Historic Monument records in Croft, 3 of these being the sites of the accomodation for the Royal Ordnance Factory at Risley. These are now the Emerald Drive estate, Taylor Business Park and HMP Risley.
The site of HMS Ariel is another listing. The former Croft Unitarian Chapel and its burial ground are both listed.
The final one is a ditched enclosure at Southworth Hall Farm.
Croft Local Listings
There are 19 local listings in Croft.
The original 2' square stone, made of slate, must have been unsuitable from damage and was replaced with the ledger stone. Later, the original was restored and added to the ledger. It has on it the quote:
“Grief to our coffin adds a nail, no doubt;
Whilst every grin, so merry, draws one out.”
Cheyvonne Bower is a local historian with a passion for the past.
A member of
Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society and The Society for One-Place Studies.