In common with many areas of the country, infant mortality in 19th century Settle was very high — one in five infants didn’t reach the age of five. Twice as many illegitimate infants died as legitimate babies. This may have been because their mothers tended to be young, poor and inexperienced. Some illegitimate children were unwanted and so were deliberately uncared for, or worse.
Poor little James has the dubious honour of being the first child to be buried in the Holy Ascension graveyard after it opened in January 1839. He was baptised on 28th February and buried on 2nd March. James was interred in an area dedicated to infant burials.
James’s mother, Judith Clemmy, was originally from Garsdale. Judith was born in 1819, but her father, Arthur, died when she was just five. Her widowed mother Mary had several illegitimate children after that, but disappears from the records by the 1841 census. In this census, Judith, then aged 21, was living with four younger sisters, a brother and a 3 year old infant in Otley, and was working in a cotton mill. There weren’t many options for orphaned children, so it’s likely that Judith and her siblings came to Settle to try to find work, and it was there that she had James.
Fortunately, Judith’s luck turned around. In 1846, she married Tim Metcalfe, a farmer, and she gave him two sons, Arthur (named after her father) and William. They lived near Harrogate. Despite the problems of her early years, Judith lived to the age of 63.