David and Maria Vero

Referring to the grave at Layton cemetery Blackpool, a little bit of research shows that both David and Maria Vero were from Dewsbury and both, it seems evident, possessed a committed radicalism to their causes. Dewsbury (Wiki) was a centre for radicalism and Luddite riots as industrialism grew faster than the society around it could cope, or care. David was working in a mill by the age of 14, and his brother, James, was also working in a mill at 12yrs old, so it can be assumed that David had started work at an early age, too. Both David and Maria would grow up with the aura of desperate dissatisfaction and the concept of the unfairness of working conditions and those inevitably bound within them. It would have been evident all around them and a compassion for humanity and a derived contempt for the injustices of life, would develop from there.

David Robinson Vero and Maria Brear were born in Dewsbury in 1837. On the 1851 census Maria was a scholar and her father a millwright, so the Brears were a little bit further up the social scale than the Veros whose pater familias was an iron founder and David and his brothers, mill workers. By 1861 at the baptism of his daughter, David is described as a mechanic and, on the 1871 census, he is working as a mechanic on a metal lathe. In 1911 David, who had been living with Maria in Blackpool for some years by now, after working away, is described as a superannuated member of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers.

David Vero and Maria Brear married in 1860 in Dewsbury. A daughter Teresa was born in Batley in 1861. Though Maria is living at No 33 Exchange Street while David is still working in Batley, their address on the 1911 census is given as 35 Exchange Street, next door, when David had moved permanently to Blackpool (earliest date; 1906 electoral roles but their daughter Teresa married Alfred Heald in 1897 in the Fylde, so there is already a connection here).

Maria, so her gravestone states, was a member of the women’s suffrage movement. The Manchester branch of the movement was a hub of northern activity. She was involved from the earliest days of the movement when the final straw and the inspiration for women to get together and unite against the unfair domination of the male in society is demonstrated in the general reaction to the Contagious Diseases (Women) Act of 1865. Both David Robinson Vero and his wife Maria were active in campaigning for a repeal of the Act and its amendments, and held meetings at their Dewsbury home at Crossbank where Mrs Vero presided. The Act stated that women could be stopped, searched and even locked up without redress if suspected of prostitution. This was to protect men, especially the armed forces, against women and the spread of contagious diseases. Women were considered more dangerous than an enemy it would suggest. The Act was repealed in 1886 (Wiki). In her old age, Maria Vero may have been one of the suffragists harassed off the beach with violence by an unsympathetic crowd of both sexes at Blackpool in the summer of 1908.

In 1874 the Veros are also indicated in the celebrated case of the Tichborne inheritance. Taking the side of honesty, reason and fairness, they rallied against the forces of corruption and privilege in high places. The Tichborne case (a film was made about it in the 1990’s) involved the disappearance and alleged reappearance of Sir Roger Tichborne, heir to extensive estates. He had been assumed lost at sea but a man claiming to be him appeared back in England from Australia and made claims to the title and estates. Though he was able to convince the dowager Tichborne that he was her son, he had the demeanour and appearance of an ordinary man and that fact put him at loggerheads with the ruling classes in the ensuing court case. To others, then, just because he had been working as a butcher in Australia for many years it did not disqualify him from any legitimate entitlement and he became a kind of working class hero. The Veros come into it when the man was declared a fraud, sentenced to fourteen years penal servitude and his defence Counsel, Dr Kenealy, an eccentric character by all accounts, disbarred. In the Batley Town Hall, David Vero chaired a meeting to deplore a class system that had given an unjust sentence to the claimant and had resulted in the unfair treatment that Dr Kenealy had been handed out. The final resolution of this meeting reads, ‘That this meeting sympathises with Dr Kenealy in the unjust persecution to which he is now exposed and resolves to petition Parliament for the abolition of Gray’s Inn as a useless and corrupt institution.’ Extreme, no holds barred sentiment.

It was irrelevant whether the claimant was genuine or not, and there is still controversy as to his status, but David Vero, along with his wife Maria fought against perceived injustice with a religious fervour.

The gravestone also refers to a commitment to the Temperance movement, solidly adhered to by the heartstrings of some, vigorously opposed by others who reserved the right for the need to drink themselves to oblivion – or just to enjoy a glass or two of wine or ale. In the 19th century, Temperance was opposed by the (Liberal MP) owners of the celebrated Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Blackpool area, and championed by the MP for North Lancashire, Wilson-Patten, whose successful Parliamentary Bill was ridiculed on one occasion by a Blackpool licensee, in an incident of ironic humour, and which would have made good material content for a situation comedy script in today’s world.

It appears that both David and Maria possessed some strong immunity to controversy, in which their heart strings were made of a strong weave. The reference to the Ancient Templar on the gravestone would no doubt relate to the commitment to the Temperance movement in particular to the Order of Good Templars, (instituted in USA 1n 1851 and established in England by 1870) and eventually a global society, which accepted women equally to men among its ranks. David and Maria Vero were involved from the very beginning of these movements for the cause of fair treatment and justice for all human beings. For the International Order of Good Templars, the only requirements for qualification as a member was a belief in God and an abstention from all alcoholic liquor and drugs. On the one hand this may be seen as being a party pooper, but for those who have witnessed or have been subject to the effects of the abuse of alcohol, as many women then and now have experienced, it would be considered sensible and rational. There was a deep, religious conviction in the movement without the need to belong to a religious denomination. Well, Christian denominations anyway, at the time. It would seem that both David and Maria possessed this conviction and exercised it throughout their lives.

My great grandfather in the above certificate was a member. He was from a background of severe naval discipline which ultimately resulted in the break up his marriage from which his wife and children returned to England from Capetown after experiencing the Boer war there. For some, yet unknown, reason Mrs Marsh chose to settle in Blackpool. She is buried in Layton Cemetery.

The censuses keep David and Maria apart. They are living together in Batley in 1881 but in 1891 David is living with his mother in Batley. Maria is not there. In 1901 he is boarding in Batley while working as a mechanic. Maria, in 1901, is described as a boarding house keeper at 33 Exchange Street. Her daughter and son in law Alfred are living with her. Next door at No 31 is Senior Vero and wife. Senior is a younger brother of David. It seems that David’s eventual retirement from full time work, allowed him to settle in Blackpool with Maria.

The gravestone at Layton cemetery reveals that Maria died Feb 20th 1913, aged 76, five years before she would have qualified to vote. David died 22nd December 1924 aged 88. Both were at 35 Exchange Street at the time of their deaths.

Their daughter Teresa, born in 1861 in Batley, married Alfred Heald in the Fylde in 1897. (Alfred was a Yorkshire man born in Holmfirth). She continued living in the family home of 35 Exchange Street and then, by the late 1920’s, can be found on the electoral registers along with husband Alfred. They have a daughter, Maria, born in Blackpool and the family line continues from there.


Images are copyright British Library Board and the account is almost exclusively from the British Library newspaper archive via findmypast. Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk).

Any information that hasn’t come from newspapers or the gravestone itself, which I have visited myself at Layton Cemetery, has been sourced below. Where I have consulted Wikipedia, it is included in the text.

The verse on the gravestone is the last verse of a Temperance hymn, which can be found here;- https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=blQEAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=endless+glory+will+your+useful+labours+crown&source=bl&ots=BhjX34qliY&sig=ACfU3U3qL9-n-IpqVEqoqacmNxsjNnLCvA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj3osbB4d3lAhVMiFwKHYC9ALIQ6AEwAnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=endless%20glory%20will%20your%20useful%20labours%20crown&f=false

Further information on the International Order of Good Templars is sourced from here;-


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