Tombstone story of famous family

Andrew Slater with the stone bearing the name of Joseph Tozer
Andrew Slater with the stone bearing the name of Joseph Tozer

The 121-year-old tombstone of a Garstang man discovered in a back garden is set to be donated to a fire service museum.

Shocked dad-of-one Andrew Slater, 57, was digging in the garden at his house in Russell Avenue, Ribbleton, when he discovered the stone, bearing the name Joseph Rose Tozer last year.

Mr Tozer, who records show had lived in Garstang and died aged 22 during the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal, was descended from a long line of firefighters, including his grandfather Alfred, who was superintendent of the Manchester Fire Brigade.

Mr Slater appealed for help in tracking down his living descendants – and the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum, based in Rochdale, has managed to find some of his living descendants in Durham.

Margaret Bancroft, who recently retired after a career in the fire control room at Durham County Fire Service, and her sister Jill, are fifth generation relatives of Joseph Tozer.

Their father, the late William Tozer, was deputy chief officer at the same brigade.

Margaret has indicated the family does not want the stone returned to them and instead would like it to be given to the museum.

Bob Bonner, curator of the museum, said: “They are all fire service people.

“I have followed the family story for some years because it is very interesting to them but I had lost them.”

William Tozer was his last link to the family, so he contacted Durham fire service and managed to find Margaret.

Mr Slater, who has lived in his Ribbleton home for a decade, said: “It is not very ornate so I can understand his family not wanting it. They are probably happy to have found the source of the story.

“It was just something quirky and I’m happy if the museum want it and they can find a use for it.”

The Tozer family was probably the most famous name in the world of firefighting, according to the museum.

Joseph Rose himself was not a fireman but worked for fire engine builders Merryweather and Sons.

His grandfather Alfred had started the family’s connection with Lancashire when he moved to Knott End after retiring from the Manchester Fire Brigade.

According to records held by the website Ancestry.co.uk, Mr Tozer was born in Manchester in 1869.

The records say he worked as a fire engineer for Merryweathers in Manchester.

Other records also suggest that he lived in Garstang during his life and died in 1891.