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Mary Ellen Bebbington (1905-1913)

Mary Ellen Bebbington was the daughter of George Bebbington, (1859 – 1911)  and Hannah (nee. Stevenson, 1864 - 1910).  George was a stonemason and learnt his craft at the foot of the King Charles tower of Chester town wall. By 1901 the family were living at 26 Verona Street. Five of their children had died in infancy but the family, and their remaining 8 children lived there with their domestic servant.

George Bebbington was the Chief “Setter Out” of the stone for the Liverpool Cathedral Lady Chapel. He would check and sign off the architects plans confirming that they could be transferred to the stone. He would make thousands of zinc moulds to guide the stonemasons in the cutting of the stone. The photograph of George and his family taken outside 26 Verona Street, Everton in 1901. It shows him wearing his bowler hat, a symbol of his employment status.

Mary Ellen Bebbington was born in 1905 and was the next to youngest of the siblings. Tragically on 3 December 1910, her mother Hannah died after choking on a bone whilst making her children's packed lunches. By this time George Bebbington was in the West Derby Union Infirmary with Pulmonary Thrombosis, commonly known as “Stonemason's Lung”.  He was so ill that he was not told of his wife's death. He died on 16th February 1911 just  10 weeks after his wife's death. George and Hannah are buried in Everton Cemetery, in an unmarked grave with their children who died in infancy.  George's descendents have paid for a brick commemorating him to be laid in the “People's Path” outside the Lady Chapel.

Of the remaining siblings, the eldest, also a stonemason, already had a family of his own. He and the other siblings, including Mary Ellen were still living at 26 Verona Street in April 1911. There were 6 adults and 5 children living in the 5 roomed house – this would have included the kitchen.  Many of the siblings ended up in the Victoria area of Australia, including the youngest child, Nora. Some fought in WW1, but it seems that Mary Ellen was ultimately placed in the Liverpool Orphans Asylum, Melville Place, off Myrtle Street, presumably because her siblings were unable to take care of her. She was living there in 1913.

From Melville Place, Mary Ellen Bebbington was moved to Upholland Grammar School, Wigan. She died there on 7 August 1913 of Acute Lobal Pneumonia .  

Mary Ellen is the only one of her large family to have a headstone, and the only one buried at St James' Cemetery. She is one of many orphans listed on Gravestone number 0985, which lies flat in Section 5. These large memorial stones were paid for by the Liverpool philanthropist, Harmood Banner.  He was closely involved in the Liverpool Female Orphans Asylum and used his financial skills to help manage such institutions.

It seems fitting that tragic Mary Ellen is buried in sight of the wonderful cathedral that her father worked on. 

Source: © Jane O'Sullivan