Edward Rifle Mann & Helen Wolstenholme
Layton Cemetery is located in the seaside town of Blackpool, within the county of Lancashire. A holiday destination situated on the NorthWest Coast of England.
Opened in 1873 when the council decided its parish churchyard was replete with burying. This sprawling Victorian necropolis contains many notable graves.
If you walk through the original peeling cemetery gates and head towards the now derelict Church of England Chapel, you may catch a glimpse of a modest stone, weathered, crumbling and unassuming, yet adorned with the imagery of a strong Christian faith.
Although obscured by a towering monolith celebrating the life of a local brewer, its worth risking a twisted ankle on the soft ground and paying a visit to the final resting place of Edward Rifle Mann.
During the summer season of 1886, Edward Rifle Man, a twenty six year old German national, was employed on Blackpool’s seafront by The Wolstenholme Bathing Van Co. Very much enjoying the summer sunshine, sea air and bathing belles he was happy in his work.
Being young and strong he coped admirably with the physical labour and long hours, he worked voraciously, saving every penny he earned for his up and coming wedding to his beloved fiancée Helen.
Now bathing machines (or vans) were a necessary component of English beach etiquette during the 19th century. Typically a canvas, windowless box, stretched over a wooden frame with a door at each end which was raised off the floor by its wheels. Entry was made via a stepladder before being pulled out to sea.
The machines protected the modesty of bathers, allowing them the privacy to change into swimwear away from prying eyes!
Towards the end of the afternoon of the 1st of August, Edward, his boss Samuel Wolstenholme & Samuels brother, John, were preparing to pack up for the day when Edward was approached by two young gents eager to hire a van and enjoy a quick dip in the briny water. But the tide appeared on the turn, the weather seemed to be becoming inclement so conditions were not ideal.
The gentlemen though, could not be discouraged.
Against his better judgement Edward reluctantly agreed, dragging men and machine out to the waters edge.
After a short while spent standing on the beach, he noticed the swimmers in some difficulty quite a distance from the shore.
With no thought for his own safety Edward swiftly dove into the unforgiving waves in an attempt to rescue the pair.
Bravely battling against the current he managed to reach one of the friends and drag him to the safety of the sand. He then valiantly headed back out into the whitecaps, but the sea was relentless and the second man was swallowed by the undercurrent.
Tragically Edward lost his own life performing this courageous recovery, for he too was drowned.
With just two weeks until they were to be wed poor Helen was left bereft, her dreams shattered and her heart broken.
Edwards memorial stone in Layton cemetery was paid for by the local townspeople. As news of his bravery had spread a collection was generously donated to – in testament to the heroic young man. It is one of very few English graves that relate the full story of how someone died.
Two months after Edwards sad demise a baby son was born into the Wolstenholme family. He was named Edward Mann Wolstenholme in Edwards honour.
Helen went on to marry John Wolstenholme, who you may remember was not only Edwards colleague but also his boss’s brother! But her first love was never far from her thoughts. In fact, she continued to carry a torch for him throughout the rest of her life.
Upon her death in 1903, her selfless husband arranged for her to be buried alongside her One True Love.
So although parted in life Edward and Helen are forever reunited in death. They now eternally rest together.