The Sharow Burial Mystery

Plan of a section of the graveyard at St John's, Sharow

My interest in my family history started when I was about 10 years old when my mother & father took me for a day out to the Ripon area. I was taken aback to see a headstone at St John’s, Sharow with my name on it! My father informed me that it was my great-great grandfather Stephen Smithson. I now know this headstone and that of his son Ralph Pickersgill Smithson very well having frequently visited St John’s over the years. The bush marked on the plan by Stephen’s grave was removed sometime in the early 2000’s.

When my father died I inherited various family papers. Amongst these was a used envelope that had been opened up and a plan of a section of St John’s churchyard drawn on the inside. The envelope has a postmark dated August 28th 1900 and it is addressed to Mr R P Smithson, 3 Bingwood Terrace, Ripon. I know this to be my great uncle Ralph Pickersgill Smithson Jnr, the son of Ralph Pickersgill Smithson Snr. Ralph Snr had a pork butchers on Kirkgate, which when he died at the age of 33 in 1872 from smallpox, was subsequently passed on to an employee, Thomas Appleton. Ralph junior rose through the various ranks of clerk in the post office and died in 1938 in Wimbledon. I can only assume Ralph Jnr drew the plan.

Now to the mystery. The plan shows the two headstones I know well, those of Stephen and Ralph Snr (marked Grandfather and Father on the plan) near to the main door of the church. It also shows a row of burials for which there are no headstones but on the plan they have been transcribed as follows:

  1. “Grandmother 1869. Levelled. ”
  2. “Stephen (father’s brother)”
  3. “Pickersgill – Grandmother and Mrs Hardy’s father”
  4. i)
  5. ii) Three burials simply marked “Hardys”
  6. iii)
  7. “Thackeray (married Hardy’s niece)”
  8. “Aunt Hardy”

Wouldn’t it have been helpful if he’d used their names when he drew the plan? I’m aware that Ralph jnr did conduct some family history research but for some reason threw it away with the comment “where there’s cows there’s muck” although he used another word in place of ‘muck’!

What it was he discovered that so appalled him I don’t know but I thought it was about time I discovered who these Hardys, Pickersgills and Thackwrays were from this last remaining piece of Ralph juniors research.

Through a process of research and elimination I now believe the burials to be:

  1. Ann Pickersgill
    Born in 1808 in Sharow, the daughter of Christopher Pickersgill (3) was baptised on 19 November at Ripon Cathedral. She married my great-great grandfather Stephen Smithson on 13 February 1836 at St Columba, Topcliffe. They had three children, Ralph Pickersgill Smithson snr, William Smithson and Stephen Smithson (2). Ann died 29 November 1869 at Copt Hewick and was buried on 3 December 1869.
  2. Stephen Smithson
    The third son of Stephen and Ann (1) born 3 May 1845, died 17 January 1848 at Copt Hewick and buried on 18 January 1848. Cause of death: “fits”.
  3. Christopher Pickersgill
    The father of Ann (1), he was baptised 24 May 1773 at Ripon Cathedral and was buried 29 January 1843. He married Elizabeth Smithson on 21 December 1799 at Ripon Cathedral – more here. He had three daughters. Elizabeth b1805, Jane (8) b. 1807 and Ann (1) b. 1808.
  4. Dorothy Hardy
    The fourth daughter of George Hardy (6) and Jane Pickersgill (8). Dorothy was born in 1835 at Hutton Conyers and baptised at St John’s on 5 April. Dorothy died at Sharow and was buried on 13 April 1858
  5. Thomas Hardy
    The third son of George Hardy (6) and Jane Pickersgill (8). Thomas was born on 18 March 1839 in Sharow and baptised on 7 April at St John’s. He died in 1860 and was buried on 18 June.
  6. George Hardy
    The husband of Jane Pickersgill (8). George was born in 1801 at West Tanfield and married Jane on 4 December 1826 at Ripon Cathedral. They had eight children. George died in 1861 and was buried on 19 July.
  7. Joseph Thackwray
    Ann (1) and Jane Pickersgill (8) had a sister Elizabeth born 1805 in Sharow. She was baptised on 4 October at St John’s. I believe she had two illegitimate children, James b1833 and Jane. Jane was born on 7 September 1843 at Rainton and baptised on 1 October 1843 at St Columba’s Church, Topcliffe. She married Joseph Thackwray, a blacksmith, on 31 December 1860 at Baldersby St James. Joseph was born in Winksley in 1837 and was baptised there on 12 February. He died at the age of 34 in Sharow and was buried on 26 June 1871 at St John’s. Jane then married Mark Beckwith (another blacksmith) on 28 April 1872 and died in 1879 and was buried on 9 September at Baldersby St James. Mark went on to marry Elizabeth “Betty” Kipling.
  8. Jane Pickersgill
    The wife of George Hardy (6). Jane, the daughter of Christopher (3) was born at Sharow in 1807 and baptised on 13 June at Ripon Cathedral. She spent her later years living with or near her eldest daughter Elizabeth in Stockton on Tees where she died on 23 May 1884. She was buried on 26 May 1884 at St John’s.
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