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Biography of Sarah Frankland and her Family

Sarah Brook was born in Halifax in 1859. By 1884 she was living on Lovell Road in Little London in Leeds. Also living on Lovell Road was Alfred Herbert Frankland, the man Sarah went on to marry. The couple may have met because they were neighbours living on the same road. Alfred was one year older than Sarah and worked as a commercial traveller.

The pair were married on 20 November 1884 in St Luke's Church, Leeds. Their first child Reginald was born in around May 1885. He died only 20 months later in January 1887 from bronchitis. Reginald was buried in plot 12,787 in the Leeds General Cemetery where Alfred’s parents had already been laid to rest.

Tragically, only a couple months later in March 1887, Sarah had a stillborn baby. It is worth noting that this infant was buried in a common grave. This type of grave was owned by the cemetery. Common graves were the cheapest graves available, used by unrelated people who could not afford a private plot. The Frankland’s decision to bury their stillborn infant in a common grave, when only 3 months earlier they had buried their first born child in the family plot, reflects 19th century attitudes towards stillbirths. Socially, stillborn babies were treated very differently to other infant and child deaths. Stillborn infants were not named or commemorated with funerals. The registration of stillbirths wasn’t legally required at all in England until 1926. The Frankland family’s burial practices exemplify these attitudes.

Fortunes for the Frankland family didn’t improve. One year after the stillbirth in March 1888, Sarah died of fever. She joined Reginald and Alfred’s parents in plot 12,787 in the Leeds General Cemetery. It may be that Sarah’s death was the result of childbirth. The birth of Alfred’s son, Herbert, was registered in the quarter Apr-May-Jun of 1888. It is likely that Herbert was Sarah and Alfred’s third child, and that she gave birth to him just before she died. Her cause of death, fever, may well have been puerperal fever resulting from infection following childbirth.

By 1888 Sarah’s widower, Alfred Herbert Frankland, had lost two children and his wife in just over the space of one year and was left caring for a newborn. Later that year, on 22 December 1888, Alfred was re-married to Eliza Jane Pickles, who was from Huddersfield. The need for an immediate wedding becomes clear, given that the couple’s first child, William, was born in April 1889. Eliza would have been approximately 5 months pregnant at their wedding.

The painful reality of the 19th century’s high infant mortality rate is all too apparent when considering the case of the Frankland family. Eliza and Alfred’s first born, William, died when he 3 months old. The cause of death was recorded as diarrhoea, which was usually a result of poor sanitation and contaminated water.

Thankfully, after this point things begin to look up for the Franklands. Eliza and Alfred had a daughter, named Eleanor, in 1892. Census records show that in 1901 and 1911 Eliza, Alfred, Herbert and Eleanor all lived together as a family. Eleanor lived a long life, dying in 1966 aged 74. Her grave can be found at All Saints' Church Cemetery, Huntington, Yorkshire where she is buried with her husband.

Sarah; her son, Reginald; and her husband’s son, William are all buried in the plot 12,787 of the Leeds General Cemetery. The other 3 people sharing this plot of ground are Alfred’s parents and his niece. This family tree displays how these people are related across three generations of the Frankland family. You may notice trends such as the repeated use of certain family names, or instances of children who worked in the same profession as their parents. Anyone on the family tree with a tick underneath their name is buried at the Leeds General Cemetery.

Alfred’s older brother, named William Henry Frankland, appears to be the reason that so many of the Frankland family are buried in the Leeds General Cemetery. William Henry’s wife had grandparents, an aunt, uncles and a brother buried in this cemetery. Therefore, when one of William Henry’s 9 children died (Arthur Frankland), the child was buried at the Leeds General Cemetery beside his mother’s relatives. This timeline displays the chronological order in which these people entered the cemetery and the different plots in which they were buried.

At least 25 people in the Frankland family are buried at the Leeds General Cemetery in 6 different burial plots. The first was buried in 1846 and the last in 1963. The cemetery itself was only open for burials between 1835 and 1969 so this family’s use of the Leeds General Cemetery spans its own working lifetime.


Written by Imogen Gerard and Kelsie Root, as part of their internship with the AHRC project, 'Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, 1900-50s', summer 2017.