Richard Totton: An Extraordinary Extra Ordinary Man

After a pregnancy in the wettest summer and autumn in years, Alice Totton (formerly Berry) gave birth to a boy on 25 November 1875. Given the name Richard, he was the youngest boy of Alice and William Totton. Just under three years later, his sister Ethel would take the spot of the youngest child. This gave the couple nine children in total (three boys, six girls), with two girls sadly dying in their childhood.

A postcard showing Cowcliffe wherw Richard grew up via Huddersfield Exposed (

Death struck Richard’s childhood traumatically in another way, with the untimely death of his mother Alice, when he was just five years old. Cancer of the uterus tore her away from Richard and his siblings in January 1881. It is unclear how this loss affected Richard and if it changed much about him and his future as he was so young.

Childhood continued regardless of the loss as Richard managed to obtain a one hundred percent attendance record in July 1884. He was being educated at Cowcliffe National School and after a ceremony of songs and dance, he got his award.

Singing was the passion of another Totton sibling; Clara preformed at a variety of places including the Methodist Free Church in Lindley. She also performed recitations and readings which were greatly appreciated by the audience. I can imagine William sat watching proud as punch while Richard and his siblings just want to go home and play outside!

Methodist Free Church in Lindley via Huddersfield Exposed (

Richard ended up working as a gent servant by 1891, when he was 15 years old. He lived at 32 Thornes Lane working for the Whittam family in Thornes, Yorkshire. We sadly do not know much about this period of his life, only this quick snapshot via the 1891 Census.

He returned to the homeland of Lindley, by Autumn 1895, where he began to work as a labourer.

Richard married Betty Smith in the fourth quarter of 1897 in the Halifax registration district. Soon after their marriage, the couple moved into one room in the Lindley Moor area. The birth of their eldest child, at home, followed the move, at around 17:30, on 25 May 1895. With the arrival of this baby boy (named George), Richard began to work as a coal miner to provide for his growing family.

The family decided to up sticks by 1904 and relocate approximately 7 miles to Halifax Road in Liversedge. George was baptised at the unusually late of 6 years in 1906 at the local church in Hightown. The next year another boy, Wilfred “Wilf”, was born to the couple on 7 August 1907 at roughly 20:15. Wilf would also be baptised two months after his birth at the same church.

Halifax Road via Google Images

The third child of Richard and Betty, Lucille, was born in the early hours of 13 February 1911, at home. Richard was promoted to be a Colliery Deputy at some point between the baptism of Wilf and birth of Lucille. Things were looking up for the family with the boys being educated and George starting part time work to help out his parents but sadly it was not to last.

Death would strike again.

Lucille would become ill with Tubercular Peritonitis in March 1912. The disease is a form of extrapulmonary tuberculosis which affects the tissue lining the abdominal wall. She fought it for an impressive two months, but she succumbed to the disease, aged 15 months, on 30 May 1912 at home. She was buried at the nearby Liversedge Cemetery on 3 June 1912.

Liversedge Cemetery circa 1903 via Ebay

My Great Grandmother, Doris, was born 26 June 1914 at Sycamore Cottage in Liversedge. She was baptised at St Barnabas Church on 25 February 1917. The family had moved to Clough Lane by this point, and Richard continued to work in the coal mines.

The Tottons moved into the village of Hartshead by 1920, where they resided at Highfield House which they rented at the value of £18, from Sir Geo. A Armytage. The house came with land and stables. We know from Richard’s notebook that he had some sort of interest in horses and a photo pictures Wilf with a horse too.

Wilf outside Highfield House with a horse

George married Ada Whitley at Upperthong Parish Church on 2 April 1923. The couple lived with Richard and Betty up until 1927, when they moved a few houses away to Walker’s Buildings. The couple’s first grandchildren were born in this period, Edith in 1924 and Jack in 1925.

The reason of the move might be quite simple, as Richard and Betty would move into one of the smaller neighbouring Parkview houses. With less space, George and Ada may have preferred to have more space for themselves and their young family. The reason for the move for Richard and Betty may have been down to a variety of factors including downsizing or issues with their finances.

Wilf would get married in 1930 to Minnie Ripley and the couple moved down Peep Green Lane. Richard and Betty continued to live up at Parkview in Hartshead with Doris. Five became three and was sadly about to become two.

Two of the three, Doris and Betty outside their house

10 May 1934 was a dark day for Richard Totton. His wife of 36 years died, aged 60, at home. She was interred in Section A Plot 986 with her daughter Lucille at Liversedge Cemetery on 12 May 1934.

Betty’s death was caused by Pernicious Anaemia, which is caused by a lack of vitamin B12, which is used to make red blood cells. Bad cases of pernicious anaemia can damage the heart, brain etc… but can also cause a variety of other issues such as memory loss and digestive tract problems.

Richard has also changed occupation by this point, becoming a road labourer for the County Council. This was perhaps due to his age or better conditions and pay.

Doris and Richard would live together up until the early 1940s. Richard had met a widow, by the name of Miriam Roberts, who resided in the nearby village of Clifton. The two got married at St Peter’s Church in Hartshead on 29 Mar 1941, in the midst of the Second World War.

Richard’s marriage to Miriam

Richard would not make it to the end of the war. He became ill with a form of cancer and died, aged 69, on 24 April 1945 at his new house in Clifton. His son Wilfred was in attendance at the time of his death and registered it. His burial took place on 27 April 1945 at Sowerby Bridge Cemetery in the Roberts family plot. Richard retired shortly before his death.

The Tottons hold a special place in heart. They were the first family I managed to find a large variety of sources on, building a story which was not just names and dates. I am able to hold Richard’s notebook in my own hands, which is the strangest feeling I can think of. It is hard to compute that I am holding the notebook of a man I know so much but so little about, my direct ancestor and a man that will have never even thought about my existence as a passing thought.

Richard is special to me for the reasons above, but also for the fact he went through so much in his life. I will always remember and ramble on about the story of my Great Great Grandfather Richard Totton.

A truly extraordinary extra ordinary man.

Published by

One response to “Richard Totton: An Extraordinary Extra Ordinary Man”

  1. A well written piece I look forward to reading more of your stories I know live in Spain but come from the Spen Valley with Ancestors from the Batley Irish community and the other business people from Heckmondwike thank you for your stories


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: