Another neglected genius

Scholemoor 03

I was originally attracted to this memorial in Scholemoor Cemetery by the letters MRCP that follow ‘Stafford’. I was once a proud possessor of these letters myself, until promoted to a fellowship. However here they cannot represent Member of the Royal College of Physicians and are still unexplained. Rodgely Lodge is at Chebsey, just outside Stafford. The last four lines are from Gray’s Elergy and I couldn’t help but wonder who considered this individual to be a man of genius and on what grounds.

Thomas Griffith died just too early to be recorded in the 1871 census of Bradford but he is in a single trade directory as a provision merchant, which confirms the wording of the memorial. His premises were at 16 Darley Street and his home address is given as 72 Victoria Street. There are several Victoria Streets in the Bradford area but we are likely to be dealing with the one in Manningham I imagine. Griffith is not present in the 1866 directory so his arrival in Bradford was probably quite recent. I can be definite that Thomas Henry Griffith, bachelor, died on July 10th 1870 and his age suggests birth in 1832-33. He died intestate but letters of administration were granted at Wakefield, for an estate of less than £100 value, to his father Thomas Llewelyn Griffith also of Victoria Street. Griffith senior came from Stoke on Trent and was back there by the 1871 census. I assume that he either moved to Bradford with his son in a joint business venture, or visited the city when his son became unwell.

We can track the younger man in earlier UK censuses. In 1851 Thomas Henry, aged 18, was living with his parents, Thomas Llewelyn, 40 & Amelia Ann Griffith, 39, in Stoke on Trent. Thomas Llewelyn was a lime & coal owner and Thomas Henry was probably his only child whose last appearance in a census came in 1861 when he was a lodger in Whitchurch, Salop working as a commercial clerk. In the same census his father was a proprietor of houses and we get a further look at father in 1871 when, having soon left Bradford, Thomas Llewelyn Griffith, 60, retired merchant, & Amelia Griffith, 60, are living at Queensville, Castle Church, Stafford. Living with them is the father’s sister Mary Matthews. Although she is described as a ‘land-owner’ their neighbours include a retired signalman, a publican and a brick-maker. This suggests a rather modest establishment.

That is almost all the evidence I have at present. The inscription expresses no overtly Christian sentiment, except for the use of ‘sleepeth’ rather than ‘liest’ possibly. The wording seem implausible for a bereaved father to write. I imagine that in his decline Thomas Henry himself worked on the last public expression of his genius and I cannot help but wonder on what his opinion was based. Both his parents survived until the 1881 census when they were living together at 3 Severn Square, Shrewsbury. If her surname was misspelled as Griffiths Amelia Ann probably died in 1889, nearly twenty years after her son, but I cannot find a record of her husband’s death. If Thomas Henry Griffith intended his last words to provoke curiosity then I can only say that they worked.

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