Flowers for Hannah

I had a quiet moment of reflection after placing my tulips on Hannah’s grave in Glaisdale.
The inscription on Hannah Raw/Hall’s grave, where she is buried. She died in 1890 at the age of 64. Readers’ detective work helped me track the grave down.


The quest to find out more about Hannah Raw has produced some excellent information, thanks in a large part to reader Marion Atkinson’s endeavours. Best of all, Marion told me where she was buried.

If you remember, nine-year-old Hannah’s 19th century sampler is on my mum’s kitchen wall alongside two by my ancestors Mary Atkinson and Jane Lacy. We didn’t know anything about Hannah or how we came to have her sampler, but for many years it was kept rolled up with Jane Lacy’s at my Nana’s home. I wanted to find out who Hannah was, and why we had possession of her pretty piece of sewing. Thanks to Marion, and to sampler and family history enthusiast Gillian Hunt, we had started to build a picture of Hannah’s life (we also discovered that, remarkably, Marion and I are distant relatives!).

We found out that sadly Hannah’s parents had died when she was young, her mum Ellis in the same year that Hannah created her sampler (1835) and her father Matthew when she was just 13. By the time of the 1841 census, 15-year-old orphan Hannah was in service living with the Adamson family. Initially we thought that there was no trace of her after the 1841 census. But we were wrong!

Thanks to Marion’s detective work, we can now flesh out much of the rest of Hannah’s story.

On 23rd December 1850 when she was 24, Hannah married John Hall, 34, a grocer and draper born in Castleton and they set up home in Lealholm. By the time of the next census ten years later, the couple had had two children, Sarah, aged nine, and six-year-old Ellis, named after Hannah’s late mother. Husband John was now listed as a joiner and wheelwright. Not much of note changed for the next ten years, but by the 1881 census, when Hannah was 55 and John 65, 26-year-old Ellis had left home, while 29-year-old Sarah, listed as a dressmaker, was still living with her parents.

In fact Sarah never married, and lived with Hannah and John all their lives. Sadly, Hannah died in 1890 at Lealholm aged 64 (and not in the Whitby district a year later, as we had wondered in my last piece about her). Marion also told me that John died in 1903 at Lealholm when he was aged 87 and that both were buried in the graveyard of the Church of St Thomas, Glaisdale.

Now I don’t need much of an excuse to go for a spin across the North York Moors, especially to the village where my dad was born, so last Sunday, a friend and I jumped in the car and set off on the hunt for Hannah’s grave. I was determined to lay some flowers and pay my respects to this child/woman whose nearly 200-year-old piece of embroidery on our kitchen wall sparked such curiosity, and whose start in life had been so difficult.

The grave wasn’t hard to find, as I was armed with a picture of it that was already available online. Finally I was as close as I was ever going to get to meeting Hannah Raw. I lay down my tulips, and read the inscription:



I spent a quiet moment thinking of Hannah, of how difficult her childhood must have been and hoping that, against the odds, she had found some happiness in life.

And it seems she did. Her youngest daughter Ellis married Glaisdale joiner William Hodgson in 1878, and thanks to them, Hannah became a grandmother to eight children, four boys and four girls.

Therefore, we can conclude that there must be some living descendants of Hannah Hall (nee Raw), and wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of them is reading this piece? If you think that is you, then please get in touch by either contacting this paper, or through my contact page at

One of my goals was to find a picture of Hannah, but as photography was in still its infancy when she was alive, it’s unlikely one exists. There is a tiny glimmer of hope though. Famous Moors photographer Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (1853-1941) was active during Hannah’s lifetime, so who knows? Maybe he snapped our long lost lady!

Read more at Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times on 24th and Ryedale Gazette and Herald on 22nd February 2023

A rather grave error

We have a simple epitaph on the my dad and sister’s grave

When I read through my dad’s old columns, I often come across references to our family, and what we were doing at the time, events that I may have forgotten or that have been lost in the mists of time.

In his column from 27th February 1982, he writes about the impressive sighting of a great spotted woodpecker trying to eat from a bird feeder in our garden: ‘As this was hanging just outside our kitchen window, we were afforded a first class view of this beautiful bird; a double enjoyment was that we were celebrating my daughter’s 18th birthday and the house was full of teenagers who’d never seen such a colourful bird in the wild.’

Reading this brought a slight lump to my throat as that sentence referred to my late sister, Tricia, who would have turned 18 on 8th February 1982. The words conjured up an image of a gaggle of excitable girls enjoying the festivities, with not a care in the world about what the future held.

Dad wrote his columns two weeks in advance, which is why he was referring to the celebrations some time after they had taken place. I follow his lead on that score, and so am writing this the day after what would have been Tricia’s 58thbirthday (she died of cancer in 2018). If you have lost a loved one, then you’ll know birthdays and anniversaries are always occasions of mixed emotions. The first few are pretty difficult, but as time goes on they become a blend of both sadness at the loss alongside happy recollections from when they were alive. To mark the day, we attended a mass being held in her memory, and then went to spend some quiet time by the grave she shares with my dad, placing some flowers on the headstone.

Dad could not have known it when he wrote the column back in 1982 that the second topic that he writes about is rather appropriate when I read it today, as it concerns epitaphs. The one we chose for my dad and sister’s headstone is very simple, just expressing our family’s sadness at their passing along with the significant dates.

However, some people choose words that reflect more about how that person lived. A reader had contacted Dad saying that the saddest epitaph he had ever seen was on a gravestone at St Mary Magdalene’s Church at Lillington, near Leamington Spa. It was for a William Treen who died in February 1810 and read:

‘I poorly liv’d and poorly dy’d, poorly buried, and no one cry’d.’

Known as Billy Treen, his final resting place is called ‘The Miser’s Grave’ because he had such a reputation for frugal living. According to a local history website, Billy, a labourer and road scraper, would beg his neighbours for discarded potato peelings and vegetable waste.

However on Saturday 18th February 1922, the local paper ran story about a tenant who was now residing in Billy Treen’s former cottage. He had found a purse containing ten silver coins hidden in the rafters dating from 1660 and 1690. Had these belonged to Billy Treen? Perhaps he wasn’t so poor after all!

Dad goes on to mention a few more. One is purportedly from a grave in Selby and reads:

‘Here lies my wife, a sad slattern and shrew.

If I said I regretted her, I should lie too.’

A rather cautionary sentiment is expressed on the grave of 10-year-old John Rose (or it could be John Dose) who died on January 27th 1810:

‘Dear friends and companions all, pray warning take by me.

Don’t venture on the ice too far, as t’was the death of me.’

There is another tale that Dad often told me to make me giggle. It goes like this: When a Yorkshireman’s God-fearing wife died, he asked the undertaker for a special line on her gravestone. It was ‘God, she was thine.’ The undertaker promised his stonemason would include the words and eventually the stone was installed upon her grave. But there was a mistake. The sentence read, ‘God, she was thin.’

The husband rang the undertaker to complain, saying, “You’ve missed off the ‘E’!” The undertaker apologised and said his stonemason would correct the error immediately. A few days later, the husband went to inspect the new lettering.

Now it read, ‘Ee, God, she was thin.’

Read more at Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 25th and the Gazette & Herald on 23rd  February 2022