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The early years

In 1904, the month of October was dull, rather cool and dry; it was Friday 14th when Grandad Spencer was born, 4th child to Bertha and Henry. 

Bertha was our great gran and this is her story.

Bertha was born on Sunday 16th December 1877 to parents William and Sarah.  Bertha was their third child, a sister for William and Emily.

When Bertha was born the family lived at 12 Wilkinson St, which is somewhere in the Oldham Road area, near Manchester centre.  6 months later, May 1878, Bertha was baptised and the family had moved to 148 Cheltenham St, Collyhurst – just around the corner from Willert Street Police Station

Every 10 years a count of the population is taken, in 1881 this was taken on the evening of Sunday 3 April.  The family were now living at 176 Cheltenham Street and Bertha’s mum is now a widow.  In January 1880 Bertha’s dad William died, he was only 29. 

William had made a living as a shuttlemaker, literally making the shuttles for the looms in the cotton mills, where the work was hard and the days were long.  Cause of death was bronchitis and it is likely that his job and the conditions he worked in contributed to his death.

Bertha’s mum Sarah Ann is now a widow with 3 young children.  To bring in money she is working as a charwoman, she has also taken in a female lodger to help with finances.  Her two daughters Emily, age 7 and Bertha, age 3 are living with her.  William (Bertha’s brother) is staying with his aunt Emily, Sarah’s sister, at 6 Collyhurst Street.

In 1882 Sarah Ann married again and went on to have a further 3 children from her second marriage – Arthur b1883, Joseph b 1886 and Sarah Anne b1888.

Bertha & Henry

ON 26 December 1896, Bertha and Henry married in the Parish Church in the Parish of St Mark, Newton Heath.  Henry was 25 and a greengrocer, Bertha was 19.  Boxing Day wedding !!  Christmas was probably the only day that time off could be guaranteed, Christmas day and Boxing day were traditional holidays long before they became bank holidays.

Their first child William Henry was born on 14 February 1897 (grandad Spencer’s eldest brother)

But less than 6 months later little William died.  Intussusception (a painful and rare disorder where one part of the intestine slides inside another) and exhaustion.  Heartbreaking to discover and this must have been so hard for Bertha and Henry to deal with.

September 1899 saw the birth of Sarah Ellen, their daughter.  She was christened on 8 October in St James, Collyhurst. 

In 1901 the census was taken on the evening of 31 March, Henry was an inmate in Workhouse & Workhouse Hospital, Crumpsall.   We know Henry was suffering from TB so the assumption is that he was in the infirmary.  I have been unable to trace Bertha and Sarah Ellen in the 1901 census, it is possible they were not recorded or their names were not transcribed correctly. 

On 11 July 1901, aged only 22 months, Sarah Ellen died from pneumonia.  They were living with Henry’s older sister Hannah Jane in Gunson Street,  

Mary Ann was born in 1902, followed by Alfred (grandad) & Bertha – but more tragedy was to follow; Henry died on 29 October 1907, acute phthisis (TB) and cardiac syncope (loss of consciousness).  Bertha, their youngest daughter, was 9 months old when she died from cerebral haemorrhage and cardiac arrest just 6 days after her dad.  They are buried together in Phillips Park Cemetery (grave D859)

Mary Ann died in 1918 at the age of 16; cause of death was heart failure. 

Grandad Spencer was the only child from this marriage to live to adulthood

Life would have been hard for a single mum and it was common for a widow or widower to remarry quite quickly; Bertha remarried, in the early part of 1908, to James Hyde. 

Bertha and James went on to have 3 children – Joseph (dad’s Uncle Joe), James and sadly a baby, un-named. 

The 1911 census was taken on the night of 2 April and records James and Bertha with Mary Ann Spencer and Joseph Hyde b 1910.  Although it is recorded that this marriage – for Bertha – had existed for 11 years !  I think the wording was misread…..

Bertha was widowed for the second time in 1917 when James was killed in the first world war.

In 1939 Bertha is living with her youngest son James, at 9 Coleridge Street.  James is a rubber works labourer.  Annie Westhead is living next door in no 7; Bertha and Annie must have been great friends, they are buried together in Philips Park Cemetery.  In 1940 James married the ‘girl next door’ Mary Westhead.

I have found a further record for Jane Hyde (aunt Janie Hyde) born on 25 January 1921.  Mother is Bertha but fathers name is not recorded.  The family were living at 9 Coleridge Street, Newton Heath. Family stories tell that James Hyde’s brother Alfred is Jane Hyde’s father.  Alfred is buried with Bertha and Annie in Phillips Park.

I have looked at the family returns for 1921 census, Bertha is living in 9 Coleridge Street with her sons Alfred, Joseph, James and daughter Jane (aged 5 months).  The return records that Jane’s father is dead.  Visiting for the evening were Bertha’s mother and stepfather. 

Jane Hyde married in All Saints, Newton Heath on 23 June 1945; her husband was William Westhead, son of Annie Westhead (Annie and Bertha are buried together and, I assume, were great friends).  The wedding certificate shows Jane’s father as Alfred Hyde – so the family story was true.  Bertha was married to James Hyde, who was killed in the war and she then went on to live with/have relations with his brother Alf Hyde. 

Wedding picture is Jane Hyde and William Westhead, Annie Westhead and her husband and Bertha and Alf Hyde.  It does look like Bertha and Annie are wearing the same dress 😊

Bertha certainly led a full life, giving birth to 9 children with 5 growing to adulthood, 2 husbands and an ‘unknown’ partner.

Bertha died on 17th August 1954

Bertha Boot

Bertha and I think her two daughters – Mary and Jane.
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