Industrial Archaeology

Stoke Lane Sept 2011 001 copy

St Michaels Church, Stoke Lane before 19th century rebuilding

When researching family history, one expects to come across generation after generation of labourers or agricultural labourers and, occupational records being sparse before the beginning of civil registration (1837) and the census of 1841, that is usually what you accept as the default. However I have been lucky with many of my families in that both rural and urban lines have often revealed crafts and trades of a variety of types. So far I have come across carpenters, plumbers and glaziers, masons, retailers, bakers, blanket weavers, railwaymen, musicians and many others. The distaff side, as well as the usual servants, laundresses and dressmakers has included a 19th century “shop huckstress” and a 17th century midwife. The rural lines have produced a number of labourers but also many husbandmen and yeomen (both of which we would now call farmers) as well as a wool comber, flax dresser, miller and a lime-burner. The most numerous of all the tradespeople however, occuring almost somewhere in every line are shoemakers, in one form or another: cordwainers (an ancient term denoting one who not only made shoes but worked in leather goods generally), boot maker, slipper maker and shoemaker itself. Of these, my starting point in this article is William Noyes (1815-1894), my ggg grandfather.

3 Temple Gate, Bath Parade

William Noyes’ shop and house on Temple Parade (probably the second from the left of the row of cottages; this was formerly Redcliffe Almshouses)

William’s daughter, Maria married John Flexney in Bristol in 1861 and died, tragically young in 1880, and we have seen (here) how they possibly met, John working as a railway porter at Temple Meads Station, which faced William Noyes’ home and shop on Temple Way. William had been working as a self-employed boot maker in Bristol since the 1830s (although the 1861 census also records him as employing three men) and he had married Eliza Pritchard at Temple Church in 1838. In their early years the family lived at several addresses in the Temple or neighbouring Redcliffe areas, but by 1861 they had settled at Bath Parade in Temple Way. Of William and Eliza’s eight children, only three survived into adulthood; Henry, a railwayman (1840-1904), Maria (1841-1880) and Clara (1857-1897) who was left the whole of William’s estate of £595 when he died; William’s wife Eliza had passed away three years before, in 1891.

I have been unable to take Eliza’s line back very far; she was the daughter of Joseph Pritchard (1783-1851) and his wife Catherine (nee Kill 1782-1859), who lived in Winchester where Joseph worked as a gardener. More research at Hampshire Record Office is required. William however proved a little easier to research as his roots lay in Somerset. When first tackling his origins I was given two clues; living with him in the 1841 census were another William Noyes and a Sarah Noyes. Of course, no relationships are given in that record (and by 1851 both had died), but their ages suggest that that could be William junior’s parents. In later censuses William gives his place of birth variously as Murtrey, Murtry near Frome, and Medtree as well as the unhelpful “Somerset” and “Bristol”. This took a little time to track down, although the “near Frome” gave the greatest clue, as in 1841 William senior gave his occupation as “miller”. A search of old maps finally showed the solution as clearly marked on the 1881 OS map is Murtry Flour Mill, just to the north-west of Frome and lying in the parish of Buckland Dinham.

Murtry Mill 1888 OS

Murtry Flour Mill on an 1881 OS map

The parish register of Buckland did not have William’s baptism however and no others for any children of William and Sarah. After a search for other Noyes baptisms in this area of Somerset, I finally found the baptism of William Noyes, son of William and Sarah at St Michaels, Stoke Lane (also known as Stoke St Michael) on April 14, 1816, with the parents’ abode given as Buckland Dinham. I found a further clutch of baptisms for William’s siblings as well as the marriage of his parents, William Noyes and Sarah Clavey on October 7th, 1805. At the marriage both parties are described as “of this parish” although William is further designated as a “sojurner”, meaning he was not born in the parish but, at the time, lived and worked there. Before we turn to Sarah’s family, I managed to trace William’s parentage by returning to the register at Buckland Dinham. He was baptised there in 1784, the son of yet another William Noyes and his wife Elizabeth. Beyond that there is not a great deal more – William and Elizabeth Sears married at St Johns, Frome in March 1780, but I cannot trace either of them any further back as yet. It could well be that this first William was also the miller of Murtry Mill, but there is no evidence so far. His other son, named John may be the John Noyes who is listed in nearby Mells as a miller in an 1844 Directory, but at least we can be sure that the William baptised in 1784 worked at Murtry from at least 1813 until 1820, when the family appears to have moved to Stoke Lane. The mill itself is no longer standing; it was recorded as “disused” in 1930 and demolished in the 1950s. Only a few stones now remain alongside the old mill race.

Returning to Sarah Clavey, there is much more information available on her family, who had been settled in Stoke Lane for at least 200 years. The earliest reference so far is to a Richard Clavey who was granted a licence to sell ale there in 1615, and it may be that the numerous Clavey family of the parish all descend from him. Sarah’s branch is well documented back to the early 18th century, although problems with the parish registers which are disordered and damaged, and the near-total lack of wills for Somerset make anything further more complicated. The collection of wills for Somerset, proved at the bishops’ and archdeacons’ courts (as well as those for Devon) were destroyed in the bombing of Exeter during the Second World War. Only a few proved at Canterbury, even fewer copies preserved in local archives, and the Estate Duty Office copies of 1812-57 survive. Luckily three of these survivors exist for Sarah’s ancestors. One of them is the will of Sarah’s father, Abraham Clavey (c1742-1829) which adds valuable information about the family other than the bare records of the parish register. Abraham describes himself as a yeoman and the will, dated October 6th 1828 provides bequests to his three surviving children, all daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah as well as Sarah’s eldest son, Joseph. As well as his household goods and chattels, which were left to Elizabeth, Abraham’s estate consisted of two properties; one called Rawlings which was leasehold and included a cottage and gardens, was also left to Elizabeth. The other called Fussells “where I now reside”, was freehold (although with a mortgage of £8 per year with six years to run) and was left to Sarah, and following Sarah’s death to Joseph. After paying off the mortgage, Sarah had to pay her sisters one shilling per week for the remainder of their lives. Fussells consisted of a house, gardens and pasture land running to about ten acres. Both properties lay on Withy Brook Lane which runs westwards from Stoke Lane Village towards Oakhill.

Abraham had married Martha Gullick at St Michaels church in 1764 and both were seemingly from the village. Unfortunately the baptisms are missing from the parish register for the period 1741-8 and (from the age given at their burials) both their births would have occured in that period; Abraham’s around 1742 and Martha’s three years later. They had nine children, but as previously mentioned, only three daughters survived them (Martha died in 1813). Mary the eldest died in 1835 and Elizabeth, who remained single like her elder sister in 1866, leaving her estate to her nephew, Joseph Noyes; Joseph was a cordwainer like his younger brother William, but he spent the whole of his life in Stoke Lane.

We are lucky in being sure of Abraham’s parentage as his father’s will exists too (as an abstract ) in the Estate Duty copies. It records that he leaves 2/6d per week to his daughter Mary Ann charged against real estate left to his son Abraham; Abraham also received a leasehold wooded area called Rich’s and a workshop erected on the site as well as the residue of the estate. Most of the Claveys of Stoke Lane lived to good ages, if they survived childhood, but Abraham’s father, William holds the record, dying in 1811 at the age of 97. In many ways he is the most interesting member of the family as we possess more information about him than any others. Once again we have to rely on the record of his burial to establish the year of his birth (c 1714) so his parentage is uncertain, the registers again being in extremely poor condition at this time. He is probably the son of another William, but anything further is plain conjecture. We do know however that he married Mary Fussell of Stoke Lane (her family is probably the source of the name of Abraham’s house) at Great Elm on August 19th 1739; William is described as “of Mells”. Both Mells and Great Elm lie slightly to the north-west of Frome (Great Elm is adjacent to Buckland Dinham) and there is no obvious reason why this parish was chosen for the marriage. What might be a factor in the location and William’s residence at the time, lies in his occupation. We are fortunate in having a document that describes him as an “edge tool maker” of Stoke Lane. Now the making of edge tools was an important and growing industry in the area. The leading lights were a family named Fussell; whether or not they had any connection to Mary we cannot be sure, but it may be that William worked with or for one of the family who, although originating in Stoke Lane, built up their business in the Mells/Great Elm area. Their business is usually dated to 1744 when James Fussell obtained a lease from the Horner family of Mells (descendants of “Little Jack Horner” who pulled out the “plum” of Mells manor at the dissolution of the monastries), but it may be that they were working in the area beforehand utilising the swift streams that ran down to the river Frome. The Fussell business later grew into a large, world-wide exporting empire by the early 19th century, but failed to capitalise on technological change and had closed by 1900.

Whatever the connection, we can see evidence of William’s business in an estate map of 1760 which clearly shows a wood named “Clavy’s Wood” with a mill and waterwheel and the adjoining “Riches Wood”. Also shown to the east of the mill is another building which may be the workshop referred to in William’s will. To the bottom right corner of the map may be made out a cottage in the field named “Batch Mead”. This was the Clavey’s home, being recorded as both Riches and Claveys at different periods. It had disappeared by 1841.

Stoke Lane 1760 detail copy

1760 Estate map showing Riches Wood, Clavy’s Wood with mill and workshop, and William Clavey’s house in Batch Mead

In a wooded valley with a stream running through it, this is surely the site of William’s mill. Edge tool making required a ready supply of power, and water mills were the principal source in the early 18th century as for generations before. There was a steady and growing need for edge tools such as spades, scythes and sickles in the agriculture of England which was booming with the Agricultural Revolution, which had started at the beginning of the century, taking hold. We have no record of how successful a business William’s was, or how long it continued. A lease of 1754 records the grant of land to William by the Horner family, and a survey of 1783 mentions the exitence of his edge tool mill; but it is significant that none of his sons seems to have continued it. We can however see an amazing example of the type of mill and workshop that he operated. The Finch Foundry, now owned by the National Trust is the last remaining water-powered forge in England and has regular displays of the process of producing tools of the sort that William made. It is near Okehampton in Devon. I visited it a few years ago and experienced a real thrill seeing how one of my distant ancestors toiled all those years ago.

Finch Foundry

Finch Foundry

An earlier visit had been made to Stoke Lane and I took the opportunity to explore the woods that William leased to see if any trace remained. To my surprise there were several signs there of what had existed before. A few small walls which might be the site of the mill and certainly a mill race and holding pond. With so few direct links with my distant forebears, it remains one of the highlights of my ancestral trail.

Stoke Lane Sept 2011 Mill wall

In Clavey’s Wood showing wall of mill

Whilst it is difficult to identify William’s parentage, we know that of Mary as her father’s will survives in the Somerset archives. He was Thomas Fussell, a yeoman of Stoke Lane who died in 1748. He left to his wife Mary (nee Shepard) two cottages and ten acres on Withy Brook, which are surely the ones mentioned in Abraham Clavey’s will of 1828 as one of those was named “Fussells”. Thomas further stipulates that following Mary’s death all his estate is to pass to his son-in-law, William Clavey whom he named as his executor. William had to pay an annuity to his sister-in-law, confusingly called Mary Ann Fussell (she had married a man also named Fussell), of £5.10s a year, and in addition pay of a debt incurred by Mary Ann’s husband of £27. Perhaps though, William was left enough to enable him to invest in his own edge tool business.

Stoke Lane Sept 2011 mill leat

Clavey’s mill showing the mill leat and sluice gate


A Voice from the Past


Will John Godfrey 1616 original mark

The mark of John Godfrey from his will of 1616

In a previous article (here) I made the arguement that my ancestor, William Godfrey alias Smith was the son of the John Godfrey of Hailey who died in 1782. That remains to be proved, but I decided to chart the line of the Godfrey family, with the help of a fellow researcher whose forebear had married into the Godfrey family in the late seventeenth century. The descent, as it appears most likely is as follows:

William Godfrey alias Smith (1757-1821)
John Godfrey (1707-1782) (here)
Daniel Godfrey (1665-1737) (here)
John Godfrey (1634-1705) (here)
John Godfrey (1596-1670) (here)
John Godfrey died 1616 (here)

The wills for all of these (except William) survive and help to prove the connections and relationships, as well as their occupations (to see transcriptions of them, click on the “here” after each one). All of them, with the exception of the two earliest Johns, describe themselves as husbandmen or yeomen; the second John was a cooper and the first a sivier, that is one who made sieves. My fellow researcher brought to my attention a mention in the Survey of London (available in British History Online) regarding the church of All Hallows Barking (otherwise All Hallows by the Tower); this referred to a letter held in the parish chest which was from a John Godfrey of Crawley in Oxfordshire to his sister Elizabeth Goddard who lived in Tower Street and dated 1615 ( the note is in section 3). My curiosity engaged, I visited the London Metropolitan Archive and photographed the letter. It is shown below together with my transcription.

It is impossible to say if this is the same John Godfrey as the one who died in 1616, but there appear to be no others of this name in the parish, and some of the names in the letter, such as Amy and Joan were used by him for his own children. In any case the letter is an interesting social history item and although, no doubt, couched in formulaic terms, shows the close relationship between John and his sister as well as the deep religious faith that obviously underpinned life in that period.

Godfrey letter full

London Metropolitan Archive ref P69/ALH1/G/04/001 letter no55

nb. Permission to use this image has been allowed by the London Metropolitan Archive on the understanding that copyright is held (until 2035) by the writer and his direct lineal descendant. If anyone should be able to prove to have the senior line of descent, I shall be pleased to acknowledge or withdraw the illustration as required. I would also be very pleased to make contact with another possible distant cousin!

Transcription of the letter of John Godfrey 1615

Jesus Christ

Most loving and kinde sister Elizabeth I and my weife
wth the rest of us comend us right harttely unto you
geving you harty thankes for yor great & extraordinary
Tokens to us sent not knowing how to requite it not any
other wayes but wth thankfull hartes, and and evrmore
dayly prayers to god for yor good and happy beeing
in this triblesome worlde [to blese yo wth] and evrlasting ioyes in the
world to come Amen. Theise are to let you
understand that I receivd yor letter and tokens
for our selves and yor sister Joane geving you harty
thanks for yor often kindnesses And I have here
sent you for a smale Token a Cake for you and yor
frend to tast of this Alhallen day wch is now at this
date well near come praying to except of it as though
it were a greter Token –

And I thanke god be it spoken at this tyme
wth yor gret chardges and wth my owne laboure
that god hath blessed mee wth I can now bid you
welcome or any frend I have to my owne house
wch is in Witny parish about half a myle where
I dwelt before at a vilage cauled Crawly
This sertyfying you of all or good healthes: hoping also
of yors I end wth A Thousand comendacons comitting
you unto the lords blessed proteccon Crawly the
xxix of October And. 1615
yor loving Brother &
Sister Joh Godfre &
Ame his wiefe

The Carier ys paide


To his very loving sister
Elizabeth Goddard at
the lower end of Tower
street against Barking
Church theise bee
delivred wth speed
The carrier is paide


There are many interesting points to be found in the letter. First of all the speed with which John expected it to be delivered; he has noted on the cover that it is to be “delivered wth speed” (a 17th century first class post no doubt) but All Hallows day, when he was expecting Elizabeth to “tast of” the cake he sent, was on November 1st, so just three days after the letter was written.

If this is John Godfrey the sivier, it is interesting that he has managed to acquire his own house, presumably having previously only rented a property. He declares that it has been obtained with his “owne laboure”, although possibly also by Elizabeth’s “gret chardges” – it is not clear what this means, but I feel it most likely that the charges referred to were urgings by his sister that he take this step. Sadly, assuming the two John Godfreys to be one and the same, the following year was to see the death of both John and his wife, Amy. John’s will, dated August 29th 1616 leaves £3 and a sheep each to his five daughters, Margaret, Marjorie, Joan, Alice and Amy with the remainder of his estate going to his son, John. Probate was granted on September 28th, so John must have died within a few weeks of drawing up his will. There is no mention made of wife Amy in the will, so it must be presumed she died earlier in the year, or in late 1615. Unfortunately the parish register of Witney is missing burials for this period, so we can’t be sure of the date of her death.

I think the letter is not in John’s own handwriting, but dictated. The use on the cover (in the same hand) of “to his very loving sister..” and the subscription of “yor loving brother..” sound second-hand rather than immediate. Furthermore, if we are to accept that the John of the letter and the John of the 1616 will are the same man, then we know from the latter that the testator made a mark rather than writing a signature. Indeed, if the two documents are compared, there are enough similarities to assume they were written by the same person, and the will is most definitely dictated. Although both contain inconsistancies of spelling and letter formation, there are instancies where the writing is too identical to be ignored. Below I have shown the name John Godfrey from the will (referring to the testator’s son) and the subscription of the letter. The letter formation of the abbreviated “John” and the shape of the capital G are virtually identical. I suspect that both documents, written within a year of one another, were the work of a local scrivener or clergyman, or possibly a literate friend.

Will John Godfrey 1616 original name
Godfrey letter name

To my mind there is enough circumstantial evidence to treat the maker of the will and the writer of the letter as being the same man. If so, it is extrememly satisfying for a family historian to hear the voice of one of his ancestors speak from the long distant past. I have discovered another letter from a certain ancestor, dated 1619, but, although autographed, it remains a fairly standardised plea for advancement. This letter of John Godfrey is a much more personal and, to my mind, a more interesting document.

One final item of interest is the cake which John has sent to Elizabeth. This was, no doubt, an All Hallows or Soul cake, which played a prominent part in the festival of both the day itself and the Eve on October 31st. Most surviving records make it sound to modern ears more like a biscuit or cookie (a recipe is shown below) and it played a part in the medieval and early modern version of “trick or treat” which we associate with Halloween. Children and poorer members of the community would go from door to door “souling”, offering to pray for the souls of the household’s departed, and in return were given a soul cake; the cakes were usually decorated with a cross on top (like hot-cross buns) which were supposed to stand for either the cross of Christ which would redeem the souls in Purgatory, or alternatively bones representing the dead.

All Hallows cake recipe (makes 12)

375g self raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp mixed spice
185g butter
155g caster sugar
90g currants
90g sultanas
1 egg
125ml milk

Mix the dry ingredients into a bowl and rub in the butter
Add the fruit and spices and mix; make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk
Mix well together and using a spoon, arrange on a greased baking tray, making a cross on the top
Bake in preheated oven (220C/Gas 7) for 10-15 minutes until golden

Next Halloween I shall make some All Hallows cakes and remember my (probable) ancestors, John and Amy Godfey of Crawley, and perhaps offer up an (atheist’s) prayer for their souls.




Election Fever


William Hogarth – Polling Day

Elections of one sort or another have been constantly in the news for the past few years and the prospect of yet more hangs above our heads like the sword of Damocles. So, as my genealogical side took over, I decided to look back at the voting record of my ancestors and try and discern what were their motives or priorities in the way in which they cast their ballots.

Of my immediate forebears I can say little, other than than guess how they voted and why; I’m fairly sure I know how my parents cast their vote from conversations with them; my grandparents less so. Beyond that all is a mystery caused by the secret ballot which was introduced in the UK in 1872. Of course, prior to the 1920s my female ancestors did not have the vote, and few of my male ones did either before the Second Reform Act of 1867. However, when the ballot was not secret, the lists of voters and for whom they voted were printed and published for all to see. In many cases, no doubt, many voted with this in mind; it did not go unnoticed that one’s employer, landlord or creditor would discover where your vote was cast.

The constituences of the pre-Reform Act Parliament which existed until 1831 were vastly different to the ones we know today. Everyone has heard of the “Rotten Boroughs” where the franchise was exercised by a handful of people; in the notorious case of Old Sarum in Wiltshire there were at one time just 7 electors, controlled by the local landowner who owned all the houses by which they exercised their voting rights. There were many others, all returning two members to Parliament. In addition though, there were the free boroughs where the franchise was extended to all freemen or burgesses. Some of these, like Westminster or Bristol had very large electorates indeed, Bristol usually recording a total of over 5000 votes in any election. As well as the boroughs, each county returned two “Knights of the Shire” who were elected by a land-owning or renting franchise. Quite often in the 18th century at least, elections in the shires were not contested as the Tories or “Country” party normally took all the seats.


William Pitt the younger addressing the House

The Parliament these conditions gave rise to were again very different to that of the post-Reform Act assemblies. The core of the house was the “Tory” knights of the shires who generally voted according to their own consciences or desires. They did not necessarily back any particular line, whether government or opposition. There were also many placemen, usually elected from seats where the government could control elections; naval ports were the main ones, but there were others. These MPs always voted with the government. Finally there were the “professional politicians” who are the ones we have usually heard of; Pitt Fox and Burke for example. They normally sat for rotten or pocket boroughs, nominated by the patron of the seat, although some, like Burke, sat for the free boroughs and took their chances at election time. One must remember that the government of the day was very much the King’s government. No ministry could survive without the royal patronage, if not always the royal approval. The King appointed his ministers, but generally understood the need to have some chance of them securing a majority in the House of Commons when required. In the 18th century, it should be noted, no government ever lost a general election.

Although we still use the labels “Tory” and “Whig” for the factions in Parliament, they do not really mean very much; what was required to govern was the confidence of the King and a majority in the House. Some have preferred the labels “Ins” and “Outs” as being more realistic.

I am lucky in having several ancestors who were enfranchised at one time or another. There are one or two who appear on a voting list where I cannot find a Poll Book with the votes cast, but in two cases my forebears were freemen of boroughs where the data for every election survives.

1721 Bristol Poll Book

The published Poll Book for the 1721 election in Bristol

John Harwood (sometimes spelt Horwood) was a house carpenter and merchant of Bristol. At the time of the 1721 election he is listed in the Poll Books as a Freeholder of St James parish. Other records show that he purchased property there in the early years of the century and his will (1744) makes mention of freehold houses he owns in St James’ Square and Merchant Street. His vote is recorded in three elections; 1721, 1734 and 1739.

John Horwood Poll 1721

John Horwood’s votes recorded in the Poll Book

In 1721 there were three candidates for the two places as MP for the City and County of Bristol: Sir Abraham Elton, Joseph Earle (John cast his vote for these two; every voter could choose one or two candidates) and William Hart. The final result was Earle 2141, Elton 1869 and Hart 1743, Elton and Earle being returned. Both the new MPs were prominent local men, Elton a previous Mayor and Earle a Sheriff of Bristol, and both are described as Whigs, whereas Hart was a Tory, but it seems that local considerations were uppermost in the voters’ minds – who would do best for Bristol and its trade. The election of 1727 saw the return of Abraham Elton (son of the winner of 1721) and John Scrope who was another Whig and Secretary to the Treasury. William Hart had decided to stand again, but was bribed by Elton to the sum of £1000, and did not proceed to the poll.

The mention of direct bribery, which in this case was denied, but expressed as a reimbursement to “offset election expenses”, reveals how rotten the system was even in the nominally “free boroughs”. As well as other candidates, voters were usually offered inducements, from free food and liquor to outright cash payments. A letter of the time records that at this 1727 election “The people who sold their votes have received from one to five guineas per man”, which shows how expensive campaigns could be.

In 1734 Elton and Scrope stood again, this time against the Tory Thomas Coster, but Scrope was beaten into third place, mainly because he had voted in Parliament for an Excise Bill (which as a government placeman he would have to) against the wishes of the Bristol Corporation. John Harwood again voted for the two Whigs. Thomas Coster died in 1739 and a by-election was called to replace him. On this occasion, a non-partisan, Henry Combe, a Bristol merchant stood against Sir Edward Southwell, a Whig country gentleman with no particular connection to the City. John Harwood voted for Combe but the establishment Southwell won by a narrow majority. Seemingly John Harwood voted for the local candidates who stood for the interests of Bristol merchants and trade, rather than strictly partisan party issues. The following election was unopposed and John died in 1745.

Several of my Bumstead ancestors, confusingly all called Stephen, were freemen of the town of Ipswich, and as such were entitled to vote in both the elections for the two MPs for Ipswich and the two Knights of the County MPs for Suffolk. The latter, however were virtually never contested and the only record I have of voting was in 1790 when Stephen Bumstead (1751-1831) voted for the successful Tory candidates Sir John Rous and Sir Thomas Charles Bunbury. Stephen is recorded as voting at all the Ipswich elections from 1784 until 1826; he is often referred to as “senior” after his son Stephen (1778-1841) became a freeman and acquired voting rights in 1800. Three of Stephen’s sons in turn became freemen and voted from the 1826 election onwards. In this latter election the three Stephens are recorded as “Stephen Bumpstead, Stephen Bumpstead junior and Stephen Bumpstead (London), my great great grandfather having moved to the capital sometime in the mid 1820s.

1826 Electoral Poll Book Ipswich copy

The 1826 Ipswich Poll Book

There is little point in listing the results of the many elections the family took part in, but they always voted for the Blue candidate. Party politics in Ipswich was a fiercely divisive matter and the parties were usually referred to as the Blues and the Yellows. The former were the “Country” party standing for the landowning interest, but also the upholding of the established church and establishment in general; they were generally coalescing into the Tory party whilst the Yellows adhered to the Whigs and represented a more radical outlook. Election time was noisy and often violent with gangs of dockers and others terrorising the town and trying to persuade voters one way or the other; as in Bristol in earlier days, bribery and coercion were common. The open ballot and the time taken (elections were often spead over four or five days) presented plenty of opportunity for pressure of one sort or another to be applied. For the voters though there were good pickings, if one was careful. It is interesting that the three Bumstead brothers all travelled from London to Ipswich to vote in the late 1820s and 1830s, which meant a couple of days travelling and time off work – could they really have been such sincere party adherents?


Mr Pickwick at the Eatanswill Election Hustings

A wonderfully satirical glimpse into contemporary elections is seen in Charles Dickens’ “Pickwick Papers” when Mr Pickwick and his companions visit the town of “Eatanswill” at polling time; Eatanswill is actually Sudbury in Suffolk and the atmosphere must have been very similar to nearby Ipswich. All the corruption and fraud around elections necessarily produced results that were challenged. In Ipswich, both the 1820 and 1826 results were overturned on appeal, the first resulting in the two Blue candidates being disqualified and the Yellows triumphing; in 1826 exactly the opposite was the case.

Tory ad 1823

1823 Ipswich newspaper advertisement

Apart from election time, at least one of the Bumsteads took an active role in political matters. Two newspaper advertisements give an indication of this. One lists a Stephen Bumstead amongst the signatories protesting at the invitation (by the Yellows no doubt) made to Daniel O’Connell, the Irish Nationalist to speak in Ipswich in 1836 and another dated 1823 indicates the establishment of a constituency group to advance conservative principles. Again Stephen Bumstead is one of the names listed. With the deaths of all three bearers of the name in the period 1831-46, this stage of my forebears political life draws to a close. The next generation (yet another Stephen 1844-1903) had to wait for the later 19th century reform acts before he appeared on a list of electors in Bristol in 1897.

1897 Stephen Bumstead electoral roll copy

Another alias, alas

Hailey Chapel copy


In researching family history one continuously comes across the problem of “how much proof do I need” to be sure one is making the correct connections and relationships. This is particularly true the further one delves back when the only source of information are often parish registers with perhaps the occasional will or other document to help. Even the registers cannot be relied upon as they were frequently copied up once a year from notebooks (if you’re lucky) or even scaps of paper notes made by a clerk or sexton. There are many omissions and mistakes in them which can rarely be checked. All these problems lead to an increasing number of “brick walls’ where one may have an inkling as to the truth, but no real proof. Which brings me to the Godfrey family of Hailey, near Witney in Oxfordshire.

My ancestor, Edward Flexney married Mary Godfrey at St Marys, Witney on March 12, 1815. They had a family of ten children and, following Edward’s death in 1853, several of them moved to Bristol where Mary is also found in 1861; she died in 1878 and was buried at St Mary Redcliffe. Mary was the illegitimate daughter of Merlin Godfrey and her baptism is recorded at Witney in August 1796. We can be confident that this is correct baptism as Mary named her eldest daughter Merlin and the name is used by other members of her family. It is a rare name, occurring just a few times in the 17th century in Oxfordshire and more often in the 18th. It is variously spelt Marlin, Merlin or Marlyn and is probably a pet-form or diminutive of Mary; it is the forerunner to the more recent Marilyn.

Merlin was the daughter of William Godfrey of Hailey and baptised at the chapel of St John in Hailey on June 25th 1780. This record and the baptism of her daughter Mary are the only records I can find of Merlin. So far I have not been able to discover a marriage or a burial for her. It is with her father, William Godfrey that we start to encounter problems. Several children are baptised in Hailey or Witney to a William and Elizabeth Godfrey and the confusion with names begins with what appears to be their eldest son who was baptised as John-Godfery son of William and Elizabeth Smith of Hailey. There is also presumably an elder sister, Tabitha baptised the previous year as Tabitha Smith. This led me to a marriage on August 13 1776 between Elizabeth Leveridge and William Smith alias Godfery at St Marys, Witney. William signed the register as William Smith. All their other children were baptised as either Godfrey, Smith Godfrey or some form indicating an alternative name of either Smith or Godfrey. Not finding any earlier form of the alias or double-barrelled name, and there being several possible baptisms for either a William Smith or a William Godfrey I let my research lapse for many years.

Making contact recently with someone else looking at this family, I resumed my efforts in trying to take this line further back and finding out why the alias might have come into use. Life has been made a little easier in recent years as the parish registers and wills for Oxfordshire have now come online. Searching the latter for Godfreys and Smiths I came across the will of John Godfrey, yeoman of Hailey who died in October 1782 (for a transcription see here). In it he leaves some cash bequests to various nephews and nieces, mostly named Godfrey but the bulk of his estate is left to two brothers who are rather uniquely described as “Thomas the son of Ann Harris (heretofore Ann Smith Spinster) which she had before her Intermarriage with her present Husband John Harris the younger of Hailey aforesaid Yeoman” and “William the Son of the said Ann Harris which she likewise had before her Intermarriage with her said Husband the said John Harris”. William was to receive all John’s property, buildings and land in Hailey as well as all his personal possessions and money, whereas Thomas was to be paid £500 within one year of John’s death. This sum was to come from the estate and William was appointed sole executor. What does this lead us to conclude? To begin, William the executor at probate, swore an oath as “William Harris”, but it may be that was what was required owing to the wording of the will, which gives neither brother a surname. Could this therefore be William Smith alias Godfrey; if so it would provide an obvious solution to the problems with his surname.

From here on we are in the area of conjecture, but there are other pointers that may help. There is will of a Thomas Smith Godfrey made in 1809 and proved at London (in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury {PCC} – the highest probate court in England) on June 10th 1820 (for transcription see here).Thomas looks a good fit for the man mentioned in the will of John Godfrey. He was a butcher of Witney and the reason for the probate being granted at the PCC rather than Oxford was that he held government securities, Consols, which were deemed to “reside” in London; should an estate hold property in more than one diocese, probate could only be granted in the higher court. This Thomas left his estate to his wife, Elizabeth and son Daniel, but with the proviso that if both predeceased him it should go to his “reputed brother William Smith Godfrey of Woodgreen near Witney”, and failing that to William’s children. So it would appear even more likely that we are looking at the the two sons of Anne Smith/Harris named in John Godfrey’s will as the surnames fit the situation – the use of an alias can often indicate illegitimacy – and Woodgreen in Witney was at the time in the parish of Hailey rather than Witney itself, thus tying in with the location of John Godfrey’s farm.

In due course research into the manorial records of Hailey may help to provide further information and possibly proof of all these supposed connections, but to summarise, I will lay out what I consider the most likely narrative to explain the history of the Smith Godfrey family:

Baptism William Smith 1757

Baptismal record of William Smith in 1757

John Godfrey, the son of Daniel Godfrey of Hailey was born in 1707 and no record of his marrying exists. At some point he contracted a relationship with Anne Smith also of Hailey resulting in the birth of three children, William baptised 1757, Mary 1763 and Thomas 1765. The first two are shown in the register as “base born” but I think Thomas was the child baptised in June 1765 as Thomas Harris, the son of John and Anne. This marriage is the one referred to in the will of John Godfrey and took place in April 1765. My belief is that Thomas had already been born before the marriage but was baptised shortly afterwards as John Harris’ child. What the latter thought of this one can surmise, but it was not uncommon for men to marry a wife who was pregnant by another man and perhaps there was some financial inducement by John Godfrey; John Harris was a labourer when he married Anne Smith but is later described as a yeoman. I think both brothers would have normally been referred to as Smith (or possibly Harris in Thomas’ case) and nothing would have changed until possibly the point when William found out about his origins and was told he would inherit John Godfrey’s estate. This may have been at any time before John’s death in 1782, but I’m inclined to think it was in the late 1770s and was the cause of William beginning increasingly to use the Godfrey name. I can find no positive trace of Mary, the sister of William and Thomas. She may be the Mary Smith Godfrey buried at Hailey in 1796, but then it would be unusual for her not to be mentioned in John Godfrey’ will – unless of course she was not John’s daughter after all.

William Godfrey and his wife Elizabeth had a large family, twelve children in all including Merlin, and it may be that his social position declined in time. He looks likely to be the William Godfrey who was buried in Hailey in 1821 where he is described as a labourer. Possibly he was not a good farmer, or that the £500 he had to pay his brother in 1783 saddled the farm with debts it could not service. Agricultural depression following the Napoleonic Wars would not have helped. Thomas however prospered. There is no knowing what his estate was valued at in 1820 when he died, but it sounds substantial and his only son, Daniel went on to become a very prosperous solicitor.


Note: transcriptions of the wills of John Godfrey and Thomas Smith Godfrey are now  available on the Oxfordshire FHS site of transcribed wills (here) along with those of the ancestors of John Godfrey.

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.



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

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.