ANOTHER fascinating tale has been unearthed in Settle’s Holy Ascension Church graveyard.

Settle researcher Sarah Lister, a member of Settle District U3A Family Historians, has been looking at the lives behind the names on the gravestones and writing a book on the work.

Here is another of her findings:

The most ordinary gravestones can rest upon people who had the most amazing twists and turns of life. Take the case of Charles Ratcliffe and his wife Nancy.

The grave commemorates Nancy who died in 1848 aged 57 and Charles who died two years later aged 64. This looks like the end of the story for an elderly (for those days) couple passing away.

But it isn’t. Charles Ratcliffe, born in 1786, worked as a mill manager at Runley Mill at the peak of cotton manufacture when, incredibly, there were five cotton mills in Settle. Charles and his wife Nancy Hargreaves came from Colne. By the 1830s they had moved to Settle and Charles was listed on the electoral register - a definite sign of wealth as only 1 in 14 men met the voting criteria in those days.

In the 1841 census Charles and Nancy were living with their only child Ellen and several girls from Colne. Nancy, Ellen and the girls ran a straw bonnet business - hats were big business in Settle markets in the 19th century.

Nancy died in 1848. Grief affects everyone in different ways and it seems that as part of Charles’ grieving process, he sought the comfort of Mary Ann Hartley. Within six months of Nancy’s death, Mary Ann was pregnant with a daughter Mary Ellen. 63 year old Charles ‘did the decent thing’ and married 21 year old Mary Ann. Charles died just a year later.

Mary Ann was the daughter of a humble coachman from Great Marsden, Lancashire, who had died when she was a child. When Charles died she tried to continue the cotton business with the help of her brother Henry, but then switched to the straw bonnet business.

Her brothers Henry and John continued in the cotton trade and later ran King’s Mill in Settle for over 20 years. Widow Mary Ann married an inland revenue supervisor and moved away. Their daughter Mary Ellen married a schoolmaster and lived in Derbyshire.

So what happened to Charles and Nancy’s daughter Ellen? Well, the surprises keep on coming. She married Frederick Furlonger, an aspiring solicitor who had invested in the railways. However, like many others, he was unlucky and lost a considerable amount of money. Unlike many others, he became so desperate that in August 1850 he embezzled one pound and 12 shillings from his employer in Woodbridge, Suffolk. During the trial it transpired that he had an alias ‘Joseph Symonds’ and had committed fraud and bigamy - he already had a wife Sophie and a child Alice.

Frederick was found guilty and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour, narrowly avoiding transportation. This whole business may also have something to do with the death of Ellen’s dad, Charles, in July 1850.

Ellen ‘officially’ married Frederick in 1861 just after the death of his first wife and the birth of their second son. It didn’t finish there - Frederick was declared bankrupt in 1868. Frederick died in 1879, still working as a solicitor’s clerk in Wiltshire and Ellen died at the Lambeth workhouse three years later. Their son Charles made a living from odd jobs, including decorating and selling mineral water. Son Frederick emigrated to New Zealand and had a huge family out there.

Author Sarah Lister has now completed a book of the stories of the people she has researched to celebrate their lives.

It will be available from July 27 with a book signing at the Folly, Settle, from 11am to 2pm. It will then be for sale at the Folly, the Church and online from Stories in Stone and Settle District U3A.