Mark’s History: Tragedy of the young couple ‘accidentally killed by lightning’ in Stanningley

The couple were buried in the graveyard of St Thomas Church in Stanningley. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Words & photos: Mark Stevenson

Thomas was helping his brother James out at the feast in Farsley as his brother was the keeper of a travelling bazaar.

It involved long hours and the locals were not to be trusted, so Thomas had been sleeping in the bazaar all week at the Farsley feast.

It was not until nine o’clock on Sunday, 5 September 1869 when Matthew Hainsworth, Thomas’s friend, who lived on Cockshotts Hill, had helped him pack his lurry. Emma (Thomas’s girlfriend) was glad of Matthew’s help as it looked like rain. Packing done they said goodnight to Matthew and headed up to Stanningley. 

George Beaumont, a Police Constable who lived on Charles Street, was heading back to Farsley from Stanningley when he was just coming through the ‘snicket’ (possibly the one between Sunfield Place and WestRoyd Park) when he noticed a couple.

The ‘snicket’, close to where the bodies were found. Photo: Mark Stevenson

He noticed the girl had her dress over her shoulders and that they were standing against the wall. He recognised Thomas from the feast but not Emma. He remembered the rain was light but as he got back home he could hear thunder.

James Walker, who was a cloth weaver, was on his way home from Fulneck when he was crossing the fields between Stanningley and Farsley (Westroyd Park?) when, as he came through the “snicket”, he noticed the path blocked by two drunks passed out on the floor.

The ‘field’ – now Westroyd Park in Farsley – where the bodies were found. Photo: Mark Stevenson

He gave them a nudge with his umbrella asking them to get out of the way.

Realising his mistake he went to Isaac Rhodes’s house which was nearby on Top Sun Close to ask for help and raise the alarm as he had just discovered the bodies of Thomas and Emma.

George the constable was called about eleven o’clock to attend the scene. He noticed Thomas and Emma lying dead in the field a few yards from where he had seen them earlier near the “snicket”.

George noticed Thomas was on his back and that Emma was face down with her unopened parasol under her with the handle smashed. The bodies were taken to a nearby pub called The Sun.

Site of The Sun pub at Stanningley Bottom, where the bodies were taken. The pub, later known as The Rising Sun, is now a Thai restaurant. Photo: Mark Stevenson

Martha Robertshaw, whose husband Andrew was a mule spinner, helped to lay out the bodies in The Sun. She noticed there were no marks on them other than a mark on Thomas’s forehead and a mark on Emma’s face.

Emma’s parents were Henry and Mary and Emma was the second child they had lost. Emma once had a brother Samuel who she never knew. Emma’s parents were married young in 1851. Henry (20) and Mary (15) with a one-year-old child Samuel.

An inquest was held at The Sun and a verdict of “accidentally killed by lightning” was returned by the jury.

When Thomas Hardaker and Emma Carrick’s funerals were jointly held most of Stanningley came to a standstill as they were held in such high regard as teachers at the nearby St Thomas Sunday School.

If you go into St Thomas’ Church on Stanningley Road, you will find a stained glass window depicting The Good Shepherd. 

This window memorialises the two young Sunday School teachers, who were tragically struck by lightning while out courting 150 years ago and are interred in the churchyard just to the left of the church doors. The church held a special service to remember the couple in 2019.


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