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
Ellen Yates was born on 24th April 1852 in Culcheth, Lancashire. In 1874 she was a dye worker at a factory in Birkenhead and she lived with her brother James and his wife Mary Ann at Hop Pole Farm, Croft.
In January 1870, her parents had died within weeks of one another, her mother from Bronchitis and her father from Insanity and atrophy of the liver.
In 1871, Ellen was a witness at the wedding of her brother James to her friend and cousin Mary Ann Whittle. This wedding was held at Cairo Street Unitarian Chapel and not Croft, possibly because they were cousins.
We know nothing more about Ellen's life after that apart from the fact that she must have been desperately unhappy. She felt so low that on this day, 8th August in 1874, she decided to take her own life.
Her body wasn't discovered until the next day, Sunday 9th August in a Marl Pit in Croft where she had drowned herself.
An Inquest was held on 13th August and a verdict of 'suicide due to temporary insanity' was given as the cause of death.
Ellen was buried at Croft Unitarian Chapel in grave C6 with her parents and her younger sister Hannah, who had passed away before Ellen was born.
The gravestone reads 'In the midst of life we are in death'.
Cheyvonne Bower is a local historian with a passion for the past.