23,000 graves and countless stories to be told, that is Undercliffe Cemetery, An English Heritage 26 acres hillside where Worstedopolis Heritage is stored for anyone who wants to read it. Good, Bad, heroic, sad as they say, “All of human life is there.” all be it in marble, stone and thought.
Among the lesser-known graves in Undercliffe Cemetery is buried a man who between 1926 and 1975 lived at 118 Manningham Lane or, as he called it, Belle View Studio.
Photographer, Benjamin Sandford Taylor’s name will be on many a sepia toned or black and white portrait or wedding photograph of that time. Benjamin was born in 1881 in the English, Shropshire village of St. Martin’s , or Llanfarthin as it is know the other side of the river Ceiriog in Wales.
On the tenth of November 1907, Benjamin S Taylor married Louisa Maude Bish at Bradford Parish Church. This marriage lasted 51 years until Benjamin’s death in 1958 and subsequent burial in Undercliffe Cemetery. Benjamin’s story is typical of many who came to the prospering city of Bradford at that time but because of his occupation there is still a great deal of visual evidence of what life was like for Bradfordians in the early to mid-twentieth century.
A great many photographic records were lost when the studio closed in 1975 but remarkably around 17,000 plates were saved and are now stored at the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit.
The Taylor’s had three children, Harry Sandford Taylor born 1908, Edith May born 1910 and Constance Mary, born 1912. Edith died in 1912, aged 2 years but Harry lived to be 92 years and Constance, 94 years.
Harry Sandford Taylor followed in his father’s footsteps and had his own photographic business. On the 11 September 1935, Harry married Elizabeth Corbett at Bradford Parish Church. He died in Scarborough on the 17 November 2000.
The most remarkable story in this Taylor history is the least known one. It is the life of Constance Mary Taylor. This 94 yearlong chronicle of events is best summed up in the eulogy read at St James Church, Bolton Road at the funeral service for Constance Mary Taylor.
EULOGY FOR CONSTANCE MARY TAYLOR
Her passport is from a bygone age. Stamped and dated by the Foreign Office on the 15 April 1950 it bears testimony to her travels. Belgium, Holland, France, Germany, Greece, Dubrovnik in Yugoslavia, and Tangier in Morocco.
Poland, Switzerland, Cypress, Italy and all the others must be in lost passports.
Friendship with Connie was a friendship for life. Her friends Monica, Ena, Winnie and Dolly met on their first day at school. They remained friends as Girl Guides, often going camping in the Yorkshire dales together. That friendship continued until, in more recent times, they passed away, one by one. Connie was the last of that group of friends.
Connie attended church here at St. James regularly.
Connie was a member of The Mother’s Union here at St. James and also a Patron of St. James (Bolton) Amateur Operatic Society. One of Connie’s great loves was going to the theatre. The programmes that she collected give a little insight into her life. On Wednesday, May 23rd 1951, Connie was at Wyndham’s Theatre in the Channing Cross Road, London to see Peter Ustinov in his own play, The Love of Four Colonels. In 1962 she was at the Bradford Alhambra for the Delius Centenary Festival and saw A Village Romeo and Juliet,
September 1995 and Connie is in the church hall at St. James for an A.O.S. production of ‘Billy’.
Constance Mary Taylor was born in Bradford in 1912.
In Britain it was a freezing winter with many dying from the cold. Things were made worse by coal, dock and transport strikes
On the 18 January 1912 Captain Robert F. Scott reached the South Pole.
On March 1st – There was a window smashing rampage in London’s West End by Suffragettes
On the 16 April 1912 : The maiden voyage of the White Star liner Titanic ended in disaster.
Against this background of endeavour, suffrage and disaster, Constance Mary Taylor was born, the daughter of Benjamin Sandford Taylor, photographer, and Louisa Maude Bish.
We have an insight into how these events may have shaped the life of our Constance Mary, as her mother called her.
C.M. TAYLOR RECOMMENDATIONS
8 September 1931. PEPPER, LEE & Co Ltd.
Miss Taylor joined the staff of our shipping department in March 1929, as a junior typist and we have every reason to be satisfied with her service in that capacity.
Her standard of work both in shorthand and typewriting is very high, much higher than that of the average girl of her age.
Signed B. Greenwood, Director.
17 September 1946. HEILD BROTHERS Ltd.
Miss Taylor has worked for us since November 1938, and I have the greatest pleasure in paying the highest testimonial that can be paid to her efficiency, willingness, and general capabilities.
It is very rare that one has the opportunity to give a hundred per cent recommendation and this is one of the few exceptions.
Signed Louise Whalley, Export Manager.
15 November 1945 ROYAL AIR FORCE , Certificate of service and Release
An N.C.O. excellent in all respects; including communications, she is efficient, reliable and has a pleasant manner. Has worked magnificently without respite and has shown unusual “staying power”. Is capable of undertaking any position of responsibility in civilian life.
Signed J. Whitaker. Squadron Leader.
Staying Power. The squadron leader was right. Constance died on her 94th birthday. That is indeed staying power. A war time edition of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus carried the news of ‘Bradford W.A.A.F. “Mentioned’.
Corporal C.M. Taylor has been mentioned in despatches for devotion to duty. She has been in the services for the past three and a half years and was previously at Abingdon Camp, near Oxford, and is now at Ossington , Newark.
In 1981 the Telegraph & Argus had a headline – B.E.M. surprise for pensioner
Pensioner Constance Taylor was so surprised to hear she had been awarded the British Empire Medal that she believed there had been a mistake.
Miss Taylor, of Ashbourne Gardens, Bolton, Bradford, immediately wrote to the Prime Minister’s office to check that it had got the correct person.
Her citation signed by the Queen reads
From Buckingham Palace to Constance Mary Taylor B.E.M.
I greatly regret that I am unable to give you personally the award which you have so well earned.
I now send you my congratulations and my best wishes for your future happiness.
Connie’s modesty prevented her mentioning that she held the British Empire Medal because, as she said herself, “I was only doing my duty.”
Connie retired on her 70th birthday, 20th August 1982. Connie died on her 94th birthday, 20th August 2006.
Like those early suffragettes, Connie was an independent lady. She travelled a lot throughout her life and often made those journeys alone. In 1937 she travelled across the North Sea on a tramp steamer to Gdansk in Poland. She recounted how she missed getting back on board for the return trip and, not speaking the language, had to find a boat to chase after the tramp steamer that was just offshore. Not long after her return to England the second World War began.
Connie was bright and intelligent throughout her life. She loved to do her daily crossword puzzle. Connie was an avid reader of books. Detective stories and the works of James Harriot were among her favourites. She was very fond of poetry including poems by Christina Rossetti, Brooke, and Tennyson. Connie was always busy, always hard working.
As we heard; her efficiency, willingness, and general capabilities were praised one hundred per cent. She was a life-long supporter of many charities.
Connie never married but she was a Godmother and loved having young people around her.
She never forgot her past describing her childhood as a privileged life compared to most children of her time, but she was very much in tune with the present time. Connie followed each week the trials and tribulations of Bradford City Football Club. Again, this is not as surprising as it might seem because she was a hockey player in her youth and, in that famous year of Connie’s birth, 1912, Bradford City were the F.A. Cup holders.
A long life. A good life.
Constance Mary Taylor B.E.M.
Benjamin Sandford Taylor, his wife, Louise Maude, along with daughters, Edith May and Constance Mary are buried in Undercliffe Cemetery, section D consecrated grave number 423.
Research by David Pyrah.