Now that’s what I call a Parish Register!

Lower Lamb St.

Lamb Street, St Augustine’s, Bristol

I thought I had reached another, all too frequent, brick wall in my research concerning my Gibbs/Street ancestors when I got back to Charles and Mary Gillard, the grandparents of Martha Ann Gillard who married George Street in 1863. The Gillard family lived in Lamb Street, close to Bristol Cathedral and Charles was a wheelwright. I could find no marriage for them in Bristol and judging by the registers of St Augustine the Less, the first child who was baptised there was Mary Ann (1808) followed by John (1810 – Martha Ann’s father) and five further children. So it was safe to assume they had married c1805-7.

Charles died in February 1851, maddeningly just a few weeks prior to the Census of that year which was the first to record places of birth. Mary however lived for another four years and the Census tells us that she was born in Oakhill in Somerset around 1783. Searching for a marriage of a Charles Gillard to a Mary I found one at St Peter and St Pauls, Shepton Mallet dated October 29 1805; “Mary Tapscot of this parish, spinster to Charles Gillard of the parish of Ashwick, sojourner”. Now this looked a real possibility as Oakhill is a village, indeed the main settlement, in the parish of Ashwick and it could be that Mary had moved to Shepton to work, or briefly stayed there to gain residency, and Charles was working and living in Ashwick, but came from elsewhere. Further researches found the baptism of “Mary dafter of Jacob and Martha Tapcut” on December 22nd 1781 at the church of St. James in Ashwick. I later found that Jacob and Martha became members of the Presbyterian congregation in the village, so perhaps that was why Mary married in a different parish, to avoid parental displeasure or embarrassment.

 

Parish_Church_of_St_Peter_and_St_Paul,_Shepton_Mallet_-_geograph.org.uk_-_378435

St Peter and St Paul, Shepton Mallet

All of this was speculation and I could find no further trace of Charles in surrounding parishes, nor any baptism in the whole of Somerset or Bristol that fitted. But the marriage suited the dates of the baptisms in Bristol, even if the gap between it and the baptism of Mary Ann at St Augustines was greater than normal. The problem of Charles and his origins was put aside for some time until I tried to research the Tapscotts further, and carrying out a search for Jacob Tapscott on a genealogical website, I was directed to an entry in the parish register of Henstridge in the south of the county. I was doubtful at first as Henstridge lies so far to the south that is is almost completely surrounded by Dorset parishes. Here however was the record of the baptism of James and Elizabeth, twins born July 26th and baptised September 14th 1806. There are two registers recording the same details for this period – one with rather better spelling than the other, but there is no clue as to which is the original and which the copy; in one each baptismal entry is separate and the other combines both children. The more legible entry reads:

James/Elizabeth twins son & daughter of Charles Gillard (who was son of Thomas Gillard Flaxdresser of this parish & Mary his wife) & Mary his wife (who was daughter of Jacob Tapscott Worsted Comber of Oakhill, Somerset & Martha his wife) born July 26th baptised September 14th 1806.

Baptism James and Elizabeth Gillard 1806

What we wouldn’t give to have more Parish Registers as full as this one. Not only the grandparents of the children, but the parish and occupation of the grandfathers too. For some reason the clerk or vicar only made this type of entry between 1802 and 1812. Before that there is the formulaic “John son of John and Mary Surname” and after the regular printed forms that commenced in 1813. In some cases he plainly didn’t know the details and left the space blank, but obviously tried to record all the information he could glean.

So this entry makes clear that we have the correct marriage for Charles and Mary and Mary’s parentage; in the Ashwick records Jacob is described as a Woolcomber (worsted is one of the two main techniques of wool combing) and Mary’s place of birth in the 1851 Census confirms we have the correct person.

Colonial Wool Comber Painting; Colonial Wool Comber Art Print for sale

So what of Charles and his family?

The parish register at Henstridge records just one baptism for Thomas and Mary Gillard, a son William who was christened there on October 11, 1789. Yet we know that Charles was their son, as too was a John whose eldest son, George was baptised at Henstridge in 1804 where the details of John’s parents are given in the same detail as Charles’. All of John Gillard’s other children were born in the village of Horsington, just to the north of Henstridge but baptised at Nether Compton. This village lies to the west of Henstridge, close to Yeovil,  and so much does the county boundary meander in this area that Melbourne Port in Somerset and Sherborne in Dorset lie between them.

Map Henstridge and Nether Compton

In the register of St Nicholas, Nether Compton can be found the baptism of Charles, son of Thomas and Mary Gillard, on July 15, 1781. Also baptised there are a daughter, Christian (1780) and another son, Thomas (1783). It is worth noting that both John and William are recorded as flax dressers in later documents, although William eventually enlisted in the 8th (Kings) Regiment of Foot and served from 1809 to 1827.

So we have Charles birthplace established, but there is no baptism for the eldest son, John. I cannot find one in the immediate area in either Somerset or Dorset or indeed a marriage for Thomas and Mary. However there is a marriage between a Thomas Gillard of Broadwindsor and Mary Guppey of Beaminster, which took place at St Marys, Beaminster on February 22nd 1775. A son, John was baptised at Broadwindsor on August 14th, 1776 and no further children of this marriage appear in any local registers. This date ties in exactly with John’s age in the Census of 1851 (74). The town of Beaminster which is only a little distance from Broadwindsor was a notable centre of flax growing and linen manufacture, so it is quite feasible that this is the same family who arrived in Nether Compton around 1778/9. So far, no definite trace of either Thomas or Mary’s baptism can be verified. Thomas and Mary remained in Henstridge until their deaths – Thomas in 1821 and Mary in 1836. Their ages as recorded in the burial register gives approximate birthdates of 1733 and 1752 respectively, so Thomas was about twenty years Mary’s senior. It may be that he was a widower at the time of their marriage – the register doesn’t say, only recording that Mary was a spinster. More research required!

Register entry courtesy of Somerset Heritage Centre

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My great grandfather Stephen Bumstead 1844-1903

Stephen Bumstead copy
On 26th February 1843, Stephen Bumstead married Phoebe Ann Gait at St Mary’s Whitechapel in the east end of London. Stephen described himself as a plumber & glazier, and a widower, the son of another Stephen Bumstead, also a plumber & glazier. They both signed their names (Phoebe signed Phebe Ann Gaitt) and the witnesses were Mary Ann Bumstead and Henry Chapman. As we have seen (here) Stephen moved to London from Ipswich, where he was a Freeman and where his family had practiced the same trade for several generations. Mary Ann was his sister-in-law, wife of his brother William Wase Bumstead and a Henry Chapman appears in the 1841 census with the same occupation as Stephen, so he may be a colleague.

Prior to his marriage to Phoebe Stephen had been married to Elizabeth Kennedy who had died in 1838 and he seems to appear in the Census three years later where there is a Steven Bumstead, living at 57 Chiswell Street, Finsbury, sharing accomodation with Hannah Maguire. This Steven gave his occupation as “painter” and Hannah was a servant. The ages in that Census, unlike later ones were rounded down for adults to the nearest 5 years. Steven is shown as being 30, so he could have been 34, but he was in fact 39, if this is our Stephen. Hannah was 20. The next property listed on the Census is 95 Milton Street and interestingly our Stephen Bumstead gives his address as 96 Milton Street on the marriage certificate of 1843.

The first child of Stephen and Phoebe, a son also named Stephen was born on 14th January 1844 at 41 Betts Street, near St George’s Church in Stepney. Stephen’s occupation on the birth certificate is given as a painter.

Old Montague Street

Old Montague Street, Spitalfields

Stephen senior died on 31st May 1846 of Typhus Fever. His age is given as 46 and the family had moved north to Old Montague Street in Spitalfields. On the death certificate Stephen was given as a painter and glazier. He was buried in the churchyard of Christ Church, Spitalfields on June 3rd. Phoebe was by then expecting a second child; a daughter was born on September 28th and she was given the name Georgina Ellen Gait Bumstead at the registration of the birth the following month. Poor Phoebe was to suffer further grief as baby Georgina died at the age of 8 months on 22nd June 1847, and she too was buried at Christ Church. By then Phoebe appears to have remarried for she signed her daughter’s death certificate Pheby Ann Rogers.

Christ Church Spitalfields

Christ Church, Spitalfields

Although Phoebe still gave her Spitalfields address on Georgina’s death certificate, the baby actually died in Tranquil Vale, Blackheath. There is no obvious family connection to the area, but it is interesting that there was, at the time a family named Bumstead living in Blackheath Vale. The 1841 census shows a Mary Ann Bumstead and a daughter, Eliza and son Edward. Further searches have revealed that a Stephen Bumstead married Mary Ann Swain at St Margarets, Lee on 9th December 1811. Their children were baptised at St Alpheges in Greenwich in the succeeding years. This Stephen died in 1838.

Phoebe had not in fact remarried but had moved in with a George Rogers, who was almost certainly a cousin. He too had been in London for some time, although coming originally from Somerset, like Phoebe. His first wife had recently died, leaving him with a young son, another George. Although living together since 1847 and having several children, they did not finally marry until 1856. The story of Phoebe’s ancestors is told here and her personal story here.

George and Phoebe Rogers stayed in London for a short time, a daughter whom they also named Georgina Ellen Gait Rogers being born in the first half of 1848. By 1850 though, they had returned to Somerset, a second daughter, Lydia Ann being born in the village of Stanton Drew where the family was to stay for over forty years.

Rogers Family 1851 Census crop

Stanton Drew Census 1851

As can be seen Stephen now appears as Stephen Rogers, son of George and Phoebe. Besides the two girls there is George’s son, from his first marriage. By 1861 however a major development had taken place. The 1861 Census for Stanton Drew shows that the Rogers family had moved to the neighbouring village of Stowey (they were back in Stanton Drew by 1871) and grown with the addition of a son and two more daughters. Stephen was no longer with the family and had moved to Chew Magna, into the household of Samuel Gover, a blacksmith, whose apprentice he was. He had also reverted to the surname Bumstead (it appears as Bomsted in the 1861 Census).

We cannot know what happened to provoke this change – did Stephen fall out with his step-father or mother, or was he just asserting his independence. Interestingly he was baptised at Chew Magna (at the age of 16) on 18th March 1860, presumably whilst living there with the Gover family. He gives his father’s name as Stephen Bumstead, upholsterer. Was he only getting part of the story or perhaps guessing his father’s occupation? Later, on his marriage, he gave his father’s name as George Bumstead, Cabinet Maker – an interesting combination of the names of his biological & step fathers, although George Rogers was a carpenter rather than a cabinet maker.

By 1868 Stephen had moved to Bedminster and the next record we have of his life is the marriage to Louisa Peters who had also been living in Chew Magna. Louisa was a little older than Stephen (having been born on the 25th June 1842) and she was the mother of an illegitimate child. Her daughter had been born in Chew Magna in 1864 and registered under the name Rosina Fear Peters. It was common practice when a father would not (or could not) “do the decent thing” to give an illegitimate child the father’s surname as a middle name, and we can see that the father of Rosina was Samuel Fear (see here).

On the marriage certificate Stephen gave his address as North Street, Bedminster and Louisa was at West Street. Addresses at marriages are not always permanent residences – people used convenience addresses to be able for the Banns to be read – three weeks in a parish was enought for one to be considered a parish “member”. On the marriage certificate Stephen describes himself as a smith and on the Census of 1871, when the family were living at 29 Richmond Terrace, Bedminster he was still using the term Blacksmith. Rosina was given the surname Bumstead (or Bumpstead in the record).

A son, Frederick Walter, was born in 1879, and by the 1881 Census the family had moved to Canon’s Marsh. The address is difficult to read but appears to be “Offices, Heaven, John”. Stephen’s profession is now Engineer Driver for Saw Mills. A neighbour also worked in the timber trade and there were certainly timber yards on Canon’s Marsh in the nineteenth century, so it seems likely that the family lived “above the shop” in the company accomodation of John Heaven & Co. an established timber merchant in Canons Marsh. The progression to engineer was a natural one – many of the early journeyman engineers started their lives as blacksmiths, and Stephen seems to have stayed in the industry for the rest of his life, working on the stationary engines that powered the saws. On the census both Louisa and Rosina are recorded as Shirt Makers.

Canon's Marsh timber yard

One of the many timber yards on Canon’s Marsh

Not many records survive of Stephen’s life, but one that does concerns the drowning in Bristol Harbour, of a quay labourer, Peri Ryan who fell into the water between the mission ship Bethel and the quayside in December 1886. The newspaper report of the inquest tells how Stephen, the only witness, heard moans and saw the deceased wedged between the ship and the quay and tried to help him, but could not hold on. The coroner expressed his opinion that there should be some sort of protection between the quay and the ship. This was carried out afterwards as the photograph of the site of the accident below clearly shows.

Bethel Mission ship

Bethel Mission Ship, St Augustine’s Reach

Stephen’s step-sister Phoebe Isabella had drowned in a boating accident at Bath on July 6th 1888 (see here) and just twelve days later, her father George Rogers travelled to Bristol to make his will in the offices of the solicitor William Watts. His estate, which totalled £220 was left to his wife Phoebe and thereafter to his surviving children. However there is a special bequest of £2.10s to his stepson, “Steven Bumstead”.
On the 1891 Census the family are still living in Canon’s Marsh and another son, Albert (actually George Albert, born July 3rd 1888, although he always seems to have been known as Bert) is present. Rosina had left however, having recently married John Roberts. Stephen is a Stationary Engine Driver and no occupations are recorded for Louisa or Frederick.

George Albert Bumstead c 1898

George Albert Bumstead c1898

Next to Bristol Cathedral stood the Church of St Augustine the Less (the Cathedral was St Augustine the Greater) and family tradition records young Albert as a chorister there. This was presumably before 1900 when the family moved back to Bedminster. Kelly’s Bristol Directory for 1900 has Stephen Bumstead at 2 Sheene Road, Bedminster, and from 1902 onwards shows the family at 176 York Road. In between, the 1901 Census has them at 1 Diamond Street (just off West Street). Although Stephen’s occupation remains the same, both Louisa and Frederick are recorded as Machinists (Wood Cutting). They now have a much fuller household; as well as Stephen, Louisa and the two boys, Louisa’s widowed mother, Elizabeth Peters, a niece, Lilian Chapman and three other boarders are recorded. Lilian and the other girl boarder, Rose Kruse work as cigarette packers (no doubt at Wills factory, just a few hundred yards away), whilst one of the male boarders, George Chapman, who worked as a railway stoker on the GWR was born in Bermuda in the West Indies, where his father was stationed in the army.

1 Diamond Street crop

1 Diamond Street, Bedminster

The move to York Street, on the New Cut, facing the suburb of Redcliffe, was to be Stephen’s final one. He died on Christmas Day 1903 aged 59 of gastritis and was buried in a family plot in Arno’s Vale Cemetery. Louisa was to live on until 1923, when she too was buried in the grave. Their eldest son, Frederick was also buried there on his death in 1947.

Arnos Vale tombstone

Bumstead grave marker in Arnos Vale Cemetery

 

The Bumsteads of Ipswich

The surname Bumstead originates in the Essex villages of Steeple Bumpstead and Helions Bumpstead and was rarely found outside Suffolk or London, where it first appears in the thirteenth century.

The furthest we can go back with certainty in our line is the baptism of Stephen Bumstead on 15th September 1751; he was the son of another Stephen and his wife Mary and the ceremony took place at St Clement’s Church, Ipswich.

St Clement Ipswich

St Clement’s Church, Ipswich

Stephen was apprenticed in 1765 to Christopher Skidmore who was a painter/plumber/glazier. The next two generations were to follow in this occupation, although variously describing themselves on documents. The trades were all linked and imply one who works primarily with lead (Latin: plumbum); this would include water supply and sanitation plumbing (not the major part of the job as it is nowadays); glazing, where leaded windows were often the norm as large panes of sheet glass were very expensive; lead work on roofs and guttering, as well as painting, where white paint was lead-based.

SB apprenticed to Skidmore 23 Aug 1765 copy

Christoper Skidmore belonged to a family that had been established in Ipswich since the early seventeenth century and he was a Freeman of the town. This was an important privilege – it gave the right to be self-employed in the town, exemption from tolls, business protection and a share in the borough administration influencing the price and quality of goods. It also gave the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections. The latter was especially valuable at election time as bribery was rife in “free” boroughs, where the open ballot ensured electors voted for whom they had committed to.

Before the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, there were four methods by which Freemen could be admitted:

By Patrimony – male claimants had to be at least 21 years of age, born in wedlock and with their father a Freeman
By Servitude – claimants (male or female) had to be indentured to a Freeman for seven years, born in wedlock and at least 21 years of age
By Purchase
By Presentation

In 1772 Stephen (b1751) was admitted as a Freeman by servitude. It seems he took his responsibilities seriously as in 1784 he was elected a Chamberlain of the borough. This position (two Chamberlains were elected each year) involved the collection of income (mostly rents from properties owned by the borough and market stalls) and the payment of outgoings. At the end of the year the Chamberlains had to present a summary of their accounts which were then audited and passed by the senior members of the town administration.

On 10th June 1777, just three months after his father’s death, Stephen had married Elizabeth Naunton at St Margarets Church in Ipswich. Elizabeth was probably the daughter of John and Mary Naunton (one of the witnesses at the wedding was a John Naunton); she had been baptised at St Margarets on 3rd December 1745 and so she was six years older than her husband.

St Margaret Ipswich

St Margarets, Ipswich in the 19th century

The marriage produced two children, Stephen born in March 1778 and Elizabeth, who was born in 1779 but only lived a few weeks. Their mother herself died the following year, her burial at St Clements being recorded in June 1780.

Widowers with small children did not normally stay long unmarried in those days and Stephen wedded Sarah Daniels at St Clements on 4th February 1781. They had a further three children, Sarah (born & died 1782) Charlotte (born 1783) and James (born 1785).
We can assume that the eldest surviving child, Stephen was apprenticed to his father in the early 1790s if not before. He was certainly admitted as a Freeman of Ipswich in 1799 (by patrimony), his occupation given as a painter. In 1801 he married Betsy Wase at St Clements Church – among the witnesses are Stephen’s father and a C. Bumstead – possibly sister Charlotte who was 18 and may have been a bridesmaid. Another witness and possible bridesmaid was a B. Wase, almost certainly Betsy’s elder sister Barbara, who, unlike Betsy was able to sign her name.

Later that year Stephen (b1778) applied to the Lending Cash Charity that had been established as far back as 1566 to help poorer tradesmen with an interest-free loan of £25 for ten years. The person requesting the loan (the Obligor) had to find two sureties to guarantee the repayment – the three individuals were liable for double the amount lent (£50) if the loan was not repaid. Stephen had as his sureties John Gray, draper and John Gostling, whitesmith. One of the conditions of the loan was that the obligor did not leave the town and continued in his trade (here Stephen is described as Plumber and Glazier). He is also described as “Stephen Bumpstead the younger” but signs himself “Stephen Bumstead Junor”

Loan Document Stephen Bumstead 1801

At some time during the next year Stephen (b1778) moved to the Parish of St Matthews on the north west edge of the town, for his three eldest children were baptised there: Stephen (baptised 10th July 1802), Matilda (26th January 1804) and William Wase, named for his maternal grandfather (9th March 1806).

Two more sons were baptised at St Margarets; George in 1808 and John in 1809 but by 1814 Stephen and Betsy had returned to St Clements where their last three children were baptised: Samuel in 1814, Mary Ann in 1817 and finally Robert in 1823. The family were living in Rope Walk at this time; baby Samuel’s death is recorded there in 1816 and an advertisement in the Suffolk Chronicle records Stephen as a tenant of a property.

Rope Walk, Ipswich about 1934

Rope Walk, Ipswich

It is sometimes difficult to identify which Stephen Bumstead is being referred to in the records although “senior” and “junior” are occasionally used. In the Quarter Sessions records for the borough there are often lists of bills authorised to be paid – in 1800 for instance we find:
Stephen Bumstead: for work at the Old Gaol £3.11.10
Stephen Bumstead: for work at the Bridewell £2.17.1
This is almost certainly the Stephen born 1751, who was a well connected figure in the town, rather than his son who would have been only 29, although it is possible that they worked together. The Poll Books for the municipal elections regularly list both Stephens in the early 1800s, sometimes using senior or junior to differentiate them.

The four eldest sons of Stephen (b1778) were all duly admitted as Freemen of the borough on reaching their twenty-first birthday: Stephen in 1823, William Wase in 1826, George in 1828 and John in 1831. At the time of their admissions the address of Stephen, William and John was given as London; Stephen’s occupation was given as painter. Although not listed in the admissions book, we know from elsewhere that William was a baker – the occupations of the other two I have not yet discovered.

The document registering the admission of Stephen (b1802) is shown below. He is described as “Stephen Bumpstead son of Stephen the younger”. There were now three Stephen Bumsteads all Freemen of Ipswich and all practising the trade of plumber/glazier/painter.

Stephen Bumstead Admission as Freeman 1823

 

We are lucky to find them all listed together in the Parliamentary Poll Books for the general election held in June 1826. Although voting on different days (polling continued for four days altogether), all four members of the family eligible to vote were recorded as follows:
Stephen Bumpstead Ipswich Plumber
William Wase Bumpstead London Baker
Stephen Bumpstead London Glazier
Stephen Bumpstead snr Ipswich Painter

The printed copy (below) gives a summary:

1826 Electoral Poll Book Ipswich copy
Ballots were not secret in pre-Reform Act days and we can see that all four voted for Robert Dundas and Charles Mackinnon, who were, in fact, both elected as Members of Parliament for Ipswich (the borough elected two members and there were four candidates in all). Both of the new MPs were Tories and it is perhaps not surprising that the family voted thus as a newspaper advertisement shows the allegiance of one Stephen :

Tory ad 1823
Suffolk  Journal 1823

No record has been found of the death of Sarah Bumstead, the second wife of Stephen senior, but he married for the third time on 7th November 1818 at the age of 67. The wedding took place at St Clements and his bride was Sarah Wright. Stephen senior died in March 1831 at the age of 80 and was buried at St Clements, the last of the family to be so. He had lived in Fore Street and in July of 1832 the house was put up for sale. There are no signs of a will for Stephen, but one must suppose the third Mrs Bumstead inherited the quite grand freehold property – “five rooms on the ground floor, a cellar, three chambers and two attics with two staircases from top to bottom” with entrances from a passage from Fore Street or from the St Clements churchyard at the rear. In 1834 his son was still in the parish at New Street:

I take this to read that Stephen was himself a tenant and sub-let part of the property, rather than being himself a freeholder. New Street has now been swept away, but Fore Street remains much as it was with many seventeenth and eighteenth buildings still standing.

Houses in Fore Street, Ipswich

Fore Street, Ipswich

The map below shows the St Clements area and was published in 1778 – the year of one of our Stephen’s birth. You can see quite clearly the church in the centre and its proximity to the docks (roughly above the words “THE RIVER”). Fore Street sweeps around the church from the north-west to the south-east (shown as St Clements Fore Street). New Street is due east of the church. The main part of the town is to the west and north-west of St Clements. The Bumstead house in Fore Street would have been immediately to the south of the church.

Map of St Clements Parish 1778
Within a few years the family were dispersing: Three sons at least had moved to London, the fifth one Samuel had died in 1816 aged two, so only Matilda and youngest son, Robert remained at home (the youngest daughter, Mary Ann married John Sheppard at St Matthews in 1840). By 1841 they had returned to St Matthews. The family lived in Globe Lane at the time of Stephen’s death, which occurred on the 18th April 1841, just a few weeks before the Census was taken. In the Census return, which is too illegible to be reproduced, Betsy is shown as a Laundress and a widow. With her are Matilda and Robert, both of whom were to die in the following year. I have never been able to trace Betsy’s death.

Stephen (b1802), as we have seen, was in London by 1823. On the 7th April 1828 he married Elizabeth Kennedy, a widow, at St Clement Danes church in the Strand. By 1837 they were living at Vine Place in Hoxton. There was a great deal of building taking place in this area of east London and Stephen may have moved to be close to opportunities for work. The couple do not seem to have had any children and Elizabeth died at Vine Place and was buried at St John Hoxton on 5th March 1837. Stephen was to marry again in 1843 and we will return to his family in a future article.
William Wase Bumstead married Mary Ann Fairburn in London around 1835/6. He continued in his occupation as a baker, appearing on the 1851 Census in Tower Hamlets. His descendants stayed in the London area for several generations., but I have not yet found any certain trace of John Bumstead, his brother.

St Clements Ipswich font
The font in St Clements Church, Ipswich where generations of Bumsteads were baptized.

The Flexney Merchants

 

flexney-tree

Simplified tree of the Flexney family

 

All my previous articles have concerned my direct ancestors or very closely related forebears. This one is different. In tracking down my Flexney family in Oxfordshire it was necessary to identify as many of the bearers of the name as possible in order to add or eliminate them from my line. In doing so I came across one branch of the Flexneys who prospered in the wooden trade, moved to London and whose story ended in a mixture of wealth and tragedy. I have decided to publish my findings here as a matter of interest and also to record part of the history of the wider Flexney clan.

quaker-meeting-house-witney

Quaker Meeting House, Wood Green, Witney

There were many branches of the Flexney family in West Oxfordshire in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but one was pre-eminent in status. This was the line starting with Justinian Flexney, a fuller of Witney who died in 1675. His christian name indicates that his family may have originated in Stanton Harcourt, where there were at least three Justinian Flexneys in the late sixteenth/early seventeenth century, but a gap in the parish registers there makes it impossible to be sure. He married Ann Collier around 1640 (although I can’t find where) and had children baptised at St Marys, Witney in the 1640s. Strangely there is no mention of him in the Protestation Roll of 1641/2, although there are two Justinian Hicks listed. Now one branch of the Flexney family was known by the alias Hicks/Hix so it quite possible that Justinian belonged to one of these. A certain Justinian Flexney alias Hix was a party to two law suits in Chancery in the early 1600s and this may be his father; another identification may be the Justinian the younger, whose father died in 1634 in Stanton and who left a strange bequest to his son in his will (see here).

 

croatia-sep-2012-fulling-mill

A Fulling Mill

Fulling (or in the south and west, tucking) is a process in the manufacture of cloth whereby the woven material was repeatedly hammered in a fulling mill, using a combination of chemicals (fuller’s earth) and soap in order to clean it and wash out any impurities, at the same time binding the fibres tighter. No doubt, with the importance of the cloth trade, especially the manufacture of blankets, fulling was a major industry in the area. Justinian died in 1675 and in his will (see here) he left his son John, three racks and three pairs of fullers shears as well as his house in Corn Street after the death of his widow, who had the use of it for life. An inventory lists all his possession including the shears, racks and furniture “att the mill”, which implies he must have leased it. There are small bequests for two sons-in-law, but no mention of his younger son, Daniel, then aged about 13.The burial register for St Marys, Witney is missing for the relevant period, but we can assume that Justinian was buried there, as in his will he states that to be his wish.

A document dated 1678, just three years after Justinian’s death names John Flexney as a fuller, and involved in the acquisition of a plot of land near Wood Green in Witney, which was to become the site of a Quaker Meeting House.This is the first indication that any of the family had joined the Society of Friends. By the start of the eighteenth century John and his brother Daniel were prosperous clothiers (cloth merchants) as well as being in the forefront of the Quaker community in Witney. Their names often appear at the head of any list in the minutes of the Monthly Meeting which organised the business of the Society. Their mother, Ann died in 1706 at the advanced age of 92 and in her will (see here) she left her son, Daniel the sum of £20 as well as her household goods which are “in his possession”; the will was drawn up in 1699 and shows that Ann was living with Daniel at that time. There is a proviso that the household goods should go to whichever of her children she was residing with at the time of her death. There are cash bequests for her daughters and a son-in-law and also to her sister, but the remainder of her estate is left to her eldest son, John. Ann was buried in the grounds of the Quaker Meeting House on Wood Green.

Around 1686 John Flexney married Ann although no record has been found. They were to have seven children of whom four, three girls and a boy, John survived to adulthood. Their youngest daughter, Hannah often appears on online trees as having emigrated to Pennsylvania and married one Thomas Rossiter; this is wholly incorrect for in fact she married Samuel Whittington and was named as Hannah Whittington in her father’s will of 1728. John and Ann’s final child was John who was born in 1698 and whose marriage to Anne May is recorded in the Quaker registers in 1724. John was described as a fuller, following the family trade, but his father was designated as a clothier in documents around this time. Anne May was the daughter of Edward May of Drayton in Berkshire (now part of Oxfordshire) who was a prominent Quaker also, and whose son, Edward had already moved to Witney and was a successful clockmaker.

John Flexney senior made his will in 1728 and died late in 1730. Thereafter nothing more is heard of this branch of the family in Quaker or other records, with the exception of his daughter Elizabeth, (who was unmarried in 1735, aged around 45, and was still receiving money for her rent from Quaker charity funds into the 1760s) and an unnamed daughter of his son John, who were both mentioned in the will of their uncle.

witney-q-womens-accounts-final-payment-to-sarah-flexney-1764

Elizabeth Flexney’s rent paid by the Witney Quakers 1764

The family of John’s younger brother Daniel is rather better documented. Daniel was baptised at Cogges church in 1662, the youngest of the children of Justinian and Ann, who must have been around 47 years old when he was born. Quaker registers show him marrying Mary Fitchett on 4th July 1691 and he was already described as a clothier. The couple had six children of which two sons, at least, survived into adulthood: Daniel born in 1694 and Joseph in 1698. It appears that at some stage Daniel senior moved first to Widford, near Swinbrook and then to Burford where he leased a property in 1717 (The Swan) and, judging from the text of his will, carried on his business. He retained a freehold property in Witney which encompassed a messuage, yard and garden and a piece of “Meadow Grounds”.

Daniel made his will on October 18th, 1735 and was by this time, blind (for transcription see here). It was drawn up and witnessed by Joseph Besse, the noted Quaker writer who was later to compose “A Collection of the Sufferings of the people called Quakers”. Besse noted in an appended declaration that he had known Daniel for several years and that he also drawn up a private schedule which was to be kept by Besse until delivered up to the Court for probate. Besse notes in the will and declaration that Daniel had dictated both documents to him and approved of both on having them repeated to him. Together with a codicil made three weeks later (and to which Joseph Besse does not seem to be a party) these documents give an interesting insight into the Flexney family and Daniel’s religious convictions. Apart from the normal family bequests of cash, ranging from £5 to a niece up to £250 each to the two daughters of his son, Daniel, he left his freehold property in Witney and all the remainder of his estate to Daniel, appointing him his executor. The younger son, Joseph recieved the leasehold house in Burford and the “giving and forgiving” of a debt of £1000 which was outstanding. This gives some indication of the wealth of the family.

One section of the will and the “secret” appendix relates to the desire of Daniel to establish the survival of a charity bequest as well as to arrange the printing of some papers which he had written on religious matters. The latter are described as a manuscript containing “a paper…..against Plays, another against Games and Whitsun sports so called and also a paper of mine containing advice to Magistrates to suppress Vice and Immorality”. These were to be printed and distributed “among my Neighbours acquaintance and such as have heretofore been my servants or employ’d by me in and about Burford and the adjacent places”. The charity bequest was in the form of £100 put out at interest, and for the interest thereon to be distributed by Trustees nominated by the Witney Quaker Monthly Meeting.

The codicil to Daniel’s will arranged that in the absence abroad of his son Daniel, the younger son Joseph was to be his executor and bound him to carry out the terms of the will. It would appear that Daniel senior was fast approaching death and was concerned that probate might be delayed if his eldest son did not return in the near future. The codicil was dated November 11th 1735 and the will was proved, naming Joseph as the executor on December 4th, so we must assume Daniel senior died soon after the date of the codicil. There is no record of his burial. Was he aware that his son Joseph had married in an anglican church six months earlier one wonders? Joseph’s bride was Constant Hart and in the register of St James, Newbottle, Northamptonshire the couple are both described as “of Burford in….Oxfordshire”; the marriage was by licence. Constant was baptised in 1708 in the church at Burford, so may have remained an Anglican. Only one child of this marriage is recorded – another Joseph born in 1737. Following the terms of his father’s will, Joseph took on the property in Burford and extended the lease in 1735, for a further 21 years, agreeing to spend £100 in repairs. Joseph continued his father’s business as a clothier but also invested elsewhere. In 1737 he was a partner in providing capital for a paper mill at Upton, just upstream of Burford. It may well be that Joseph expanded his business into London as did his elder brother, Daniel (see below) for in an Old Bailey trial of 1737 the accused is indicted for stealing 5 yards of cloth belonging to Joseph Flexney in the parish of St Leonard, Shoreditch.

The younger Joseph married Martha Taylor of Shutford in a ceremony recorded by the Monthly Meeting of Burford on July 11th 1759. Both father and son are described as “Clothers” and both sign the certificate. There is no mention of Constant so it may be assumed she had died by then. A year later, Joseph junior was a witness at the marriage of his cousin, Hannah (see below), but records of the two Josephs are sparse after that. Joseph senior died at Burford on January 3rd, 1783 and was buried, alongside his family no doubt, in the Burial Yard of the Meeting House in Witney. The instruction to the gravedigger bears the remark that Joseph “stood disowned” so had presumably broken with the Quaker community.

Joseph junior and his wife Martha moved to London at some stage, for the Land Tax records shows Joseph living in Kensington from 1797 onwards and when Martha was buried at Hammersmith in 1807, her address was Kensington Gravel Pits. This was just north of Kensington Palace, and was a far more prestigious residence than it sounds. The same address is given on Joseph’s burial five years later, with the added comment “not a Member”. So it seems both Josephs had cut ties with the Society of Friends.

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Location of Kensington Gravel Pits

In contrast, Daniel Flexney the younger, who was born in 1694, maintained his Quaker faith throughout his life, as far as the records show. As we have seen above, he was not in England in 1735 when his father made his will. It is most likely that he was in Pennsylvania where he had many trading connections. The first mention of him comes upon his arrival at Philadelphia in 1718. A certificate from the Witney Monthly Meeting, dated August 11th 1718 was presented there on September 26th and describes him as unmarried and the son of Daniel Flexney of Burford. It was signed by his father, uncle and cousin, John. It would seem that Daniel spent some time in America, making trading contacts and buying land. He certainly struck up a relationship with the Phildelphia merchant John Reynall, who for many years acted as a factor for Daniel and was involved in numerous transactions with him. One concerned the commissioning and building of a ship “The Mary” which was constructed in Philadelphia on behalf of Daniel (for details see here). There are many references to Daniel, his trading connections and law suits on the internet should anyone wish to delve deeper into his career.

Daniel was certainly back in London, living in Lime Street, in 1722 when he married Elizabeth Mayleigh, the daughter of an apothecary, on June 4th at Devonshire House. His father and brother were present at the Quaker ceremony and signed as witnesses. Daniel junior is already described as a merchant. The couple were to have six children, all born in London, but sadly only two survived childhood, their daughters Mary and Hannah. Looking at the records of the childrens’ births we can see that Daniel and Elizabeth lived at first in Camberwell, but later moved to Bishopsgate Street in the city. Daniel is sometimes referred to as an apothecary like his father-in-law, so presumably he carried on this profession whilst maintaining his trading contacts. Certainly one document of 1737 complaining of his business actions refers to him as an apothecary, at the same time mentioning that he owned a ship called “The Elizabeth” (see here); It also refers to him living for some years in Jamaica for the sake of his health.

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Daniels’s burial in the Quaker register for Devonshire House

Daniel’s wife Elizabeth died in 1735 and was buried at the Long Lane Burial Ground in Southwark; Daniel died on January 4th 1748 (1747 Old Style) and was buried in the same place. The burial record notes that he died “of a Consumption”. His will dated December of the previous year leaves all his estate, including his property in Witney, equally to his two daughters, making them joint executrices; he makes it plain that Hannah the youngest was to act as such even though she was under the age of twenty-one. He must have been a wealthy man, his address at the time of his death was New Broad Street which consisted at the time of substantial brick-built houses constructed in the 1730s, and so his death left his daughters (with their already generous legacies from their grandfather) rich heiresses. Mary the elder of the two married William Hyde, a Corn Factor at the Devonshire House Meeting on September 1st 1748, and twelve years later her sister Hannah married William’s brother, Starkey Hyde, a Stockbroker in the same place. Both couples went on to have several children and I had intended to finish my account at this point, but in researching details of when the two Flexney sisters died, I discovered the tragic story of the Hyde family.

William and Mary Hyde appear to have had only two children, Richard (born 1749) and Elizabeth (born 1751) before Mary’s early death (of a “Consumption” like her father) in 1754. Elizabeth is probably the child whose burial is recorded, aged 12 in 1764; she too died of consumption. Starkey and Hannah had four children, but the three eldest (all boys) died in infancy, leaving a daughter, Mary who was born in 1768.

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Dissolution of the partnership

William Hyde and his son Richard had gone into partnership, presumably as brokers, but this partnership was dissolved by William in October 1772 and an advertisment placed in the Middlesex Journal warning others not to advance any money against bills or notes drawn on the partnership. It is noted that the two month delay in placing the advertisment (it is dated December 15th) was caused by the sickness of William Hyde. Further evidence of the falling out between father and son is given in the will which William drew up in 1775; now retired from the Corn Exchange, living in Kingston upon Thames and styling himself a Gentleman, William left his only surviving child “one Shilling and no more”. The bulk and remainder of his estate (after some cash bequests to sister and cousins) he left to his brother, Starkey.

On June 28th 1780 Richard Hyde was indicted at the Old Bailey on a charge of breaking the peace and riot and was tried before a jury (for a transcription of the trial see here). The crime in question took place on June 6th and involved the breaking into and ransacking of the house of one Richard Akerman, which was later set fire to and destroyed. This action, carried out by a mob of several hundred, was part of the Gordon Riots which saw many government properties attacked, as well as much private property. Several witnesses confirmed that Richard Hyde had been one of the first to enter Ackerman’s house. The evidence and statements taken at this trial give an insight into the troubled world of the Hyde family. One medical witness, Dr Munro states that he knew the family and had attended William Hyde in October 1772 (the date of the ending of the partnership) when he was “in a state of insanity”, and although his son Richard was perfectly sane. Yet the following year Munro attested that he had found Richard too in a state of insanity. Another witness stated that he believes William was, at the time of the trial, in a state of confinement, and many others provide evidence that Richard was at times clearly insane and at others, quite normal and sensible. It further emerges that his uncle Starkey, although not insane was “extremely low and melancholy”. It seems as if William gave his son an allowance of a guinea a week although at one point Richard (whose comments pepper the trial) claimed that this had been reduced to half a guinea as “I kept two women instead of one”.

The counsel for the crown finally moved that Richard be found not guilty as long as he could be held in confinement, and the Judge agreed and released him into the custody of Richard Kirby of the Wood Street Comptor, a small debtors prison (Newgate, the Clink and other prisons had been badly damaged by the Gordon rioters). His illness and that of his father would probably be diagnosed as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia today, but in the eighteenth century it was merely classed as insanity and confinement was the only recourse. If William was also confined, it was presumably in comfortable circumstances, owing to his wealth, and overseen by his brother, Starkey. However, in 1781 Starkey died and we may assume Hannah his widow continued his role in the family’s trials. It is a fact that William did not make a new will following his brother’s death, so perhaps was incapable of doing so. In August 1780 Richard had been transferred to the Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) which was the main destination in London for anyone suffering from mental health problems. It has a fearsome reputation, but some good work was also carried out there into restorative therapy. However in Richard’s case an annotation in the margin of his admission record states “Nov 3rd 1781, Not Cur’d but recommended to the care of his Relation”. This must be Hannah his aunt.

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Admission register for Bethlem Hospital 1780

William Hyde died in 1785 and administration of his estate was, quite amazingly, granted to Richard “his natural and lawful son”. Apart from Starkey there were two other executors named in the will but they renounced their position. Possibly this was a period of remission for Richard, or more likely, his aunt was somehow controlling his actions. In any case, Richard did not live long to enjoy his new-found wealth; he died on 25th February 1787 “of a Decline” being just under the age of 37. He was buried where most of his family had been interred, at Long Lane Burial Ground, the record noting that he was not a member of any Meeting, but the burial was “granted at the request of Hannah Hyde”.

His will makes interesting reading; there is an affadavit attached, being the statement of Robert Gramond, Gentleman who knew Richard and had seen him sign his name. He confirms that the document is in Richard’s hand and the signature is his. The will itself is a more personal document than the formulaic type usually encountered. Following the normal form of confirming that he was sound of mind, Richard starts by saying “I resign my life to him who gave it with as little regrett as a young man naturally fond of this World can be expected to do”. He then continues with a request that he be buried as near his father in Long Lane Ground as is possible. He requests that a couple of specific debts are paid using remarkably modern language by saying that one loan was made “at a time I really wanted it”. The main beneficiary of the will is a Betty Eaton, wife of Wall Eaton, “now living at Dr. James Shattens at Bethnal Green”. From what little I can discover, I think this was another place of confinement for lunatics. Richard makes it explicit that Betty’s husband is to have no benefit from this legacy. He adds that he should perhaps have left his money to his aunt Anna (the sister of William and Starkey) but concludes she is old and infirm and that his aunt, “the widow”, namely Hannah, will look after her “as long as she lives as her Daughter will immediately come into possession of so good a fortune”. So little love lost there I think. Richard names as his sole executor “my dear and worthy friend Dr Henry Saffory Surgeon of Devonshire Street”, who in due course obtained probate. It may be worth noting that Henry Saffory was a leading expert in the treatment of venereal disease.

Richard’s will is a sad document, perhaps written by someone who had no direct control over his assets, but was, nevertheless determined to see that they went where he desired. For a will it is a very personal document and is moving, in a way not often encountered.

There is very little to add to the story of the Hyde family. Richard’s spinster aunt Anna Hyde died in 1789 and was also buried at Long Lane, and his other aunt, Hannah died in 1813, her residence given as Lower Grosvenor Street (or Place in one document), Pimlico. She too was buried with all her family at Long Lane. There appears to be no will for her and I can find no further trace of her daughter Mary.