Wednesday 31 December 2014

Christmas in Sussex

The appropriately named Richard Christmas was baptised on Christmas Day 1838 in Chiddingly.

Christmas is one of the rarer surnames (it is ranked 26,344th in the world) but it is not so unusual in Sussex.  It may have its origins with a 12th century Cristemass family although it is often thought to be a surname given to those involved in organising Christmas celebrations or to someone born at Christmastime.

Richard Christmas’s family were sometimes recorded as Christmas but more frequently their surname was spelled Chrismas.

Richard's father was Treyton Chrismas who was born around 1810, possibly the son of James and Sarah Chrismas of Wartling.  Treyton married Mary Ann Sargeant on the 22nd September 1833 in Ticehurst (this made his wife Mary Christmas and the marriage was witnessed by Henry Cole aka Old King!).  

Treyton and Mary had a large family beginning with Frances baptised in Ninfield in 1834 and followed by Orpah (1835), Benjamin (1837) and Richard; all baptised in Chiddingly.  The family then moved to Battle where Treyton farmed at Beech Farm and the family grew with the addition of Mary (1840), Tilden (1841), Jane (1843), Trayton (1844), Thomas (1847), Charles (1848), Sarah Elizabeth (1850) and Frederick George (1851).
Jane doesn’t appear in the 1851 census with the family so it’s probable she died in infancy despite the lack of burial record and there is no baptism record for Thomas but he appears with the family in 1851.  Treyton junior died in 1846 but all other children appear to survive to adulthood.  The 1851 census entry refers to a daughter named Charlotte but this appears to be an enumerator error as Charlotte was actually Charles.

Treyton and Mary’s youngest son was born posthumously after his father died on the 3rd May 1851 aged just 43 years.  His will is straightforward and leaves everything to his wife who moved to Hastings where she continued to bring up their young family.

Richard, according to the 1861 census, trained as a blacksmith and by 1861 was working just down the road from his mother’s house.  He married Mahalath Dabney in 1860 when he was just 21 years old and she was only 18 years.  A year later their daughter Mahalath Jane was baptised in St Leonards church on the 7th April 1861.

Mahalath was to remain an only child, Richard sadly died just a few years later at the age of only 25 years.  By 1871 Mahalath was living with her maternal grandparents, William and Sarah Dabney, in Hastings her mother had probably remarried but this cannot be confirmed at present.  In about 1880 Mahalath met Constantine Maguire who was working at a drapery shop in Hastings high street.  They soon found themselves having to marry and just a few weeks later their eldest son Horace was baptised.  Horace was followed by May Frances in 1883 and after moving to Newhaven they also had Hubert Joseph in 1888.

Like her father Richard, and her grandfather Treyton, Mahalath died young.  She was only 28 years old when she died in Lewes.  Constantine and their three children moved in with his parents.  Constantine never remarried, by 1901 he was working in an iron foundry as a foreman in Lewes but by 1911 he was a house painter in Eastbourne.  He may have died in 1924 in London.

Richard’s grandchildren were slightly longer lived than their mother, grandfather and great grandfather.  Horace began working as a footman in Kensington before setting up his own business as a newsagent in Pimlico.  He married Rosa Blatchford in 1912 and they had three children Anthony (1914) and twins Mary and Winifred (1917).  He died in 1963 at the age of about 73 years.  His sister May never appears to have married. She worked as a school nurse in Lewes for a while and died in Somerset at the age of 83 years.  Their younger brother, Hubert, began by following the same career path as Horace as the 1911 census shows him working as a footman in Marylebone.  He married Jane Leachman in 1915 in Lincolnshire and they had two children Albert (1918) and Alaric (1924).  Hubert was the first of the three siblings to die - he died in 1947 at the age of 58 years.

Saturday 20 December 2014

The oldest occupation

Our female ancestors did not have particularly easy lives, they were effectively second class citizens, answerable to their fathers and then their husbands, with little freedom to make their own way in life.
Most women worked hard too.  Unless they belonged to the upper class with lots of servants at their beck and call then they would be kept busy taking care of their children and home without the benefit of modern conveniences.  Many women had employment too; in the towns many worked in millinery, teaching and in retail.  
One occupation which gave women a bit of independence, although at a high price, was prostitution.  As prostitutes women had more choice, they could to some extent choose when and where to work, they control over their income and a freedom from the social restrictions which governed other women.  It was not always an employment option that the women wanted to take but often one they were left with little choice but to take.

It is not easy to identify prostitutes in the census but concentrating on the 1881 census I was able to identify a few with links to Sussex.

Margaret Robinson was resident in Ypres Castle Prison in Rye in 1881, she was 26 years old and had lived in Rye all her life.  Her occupation was recorded as prostitute but this had been crossed out and replaced with ‘no occupation’.  

Fanny Smith was living in Derby Place in Brighton where she worked as a prostitute.  She was born around 1848 in Sussex and is recorded as being married although there is no husband living with her.

Kate Coombs and Frederica Grigson probably never knew each other but in 1881 their lives had brought them to a similar outcome.  Both were born in Brighton in around 1862 and in 1881 both were in prison for prostitution, Kate in Dorchester and Frederica in Westminster.

Two Sussex women were suffering the unpleasant consequences of their occupation; Ann Leggett was born in Petworth in about 1859 whilst Annie Petersfield was born in Brighton in about 1847 but by 1881 both were resident in lock hospitals.  Lock hospitals were hospitals which specialised in venereal disease. Annie was in an Aldershot lock hospital whilst Ann was in one in Paddington.

Sarah Pipman, born in Brighton in around 1859, was living in London in 1881 where she lodged with the Painter family whilst she worked as a prostitute.

Most women did not want to be labelled as prostitutes in the census.  Most of the women above were in circumstances which did not give them control over how they were presented in the census.  Often women would record their occupation as anything but prostitute, seamstress is a common alternative occupation and in many cases the women may have had two jobs, working a regular job and earning a bit extra on the side.

Sometimes it is possible to identify women who probably worked as prostitutes even though they are not listed as doing so in the census.  Carrie Wood says she was born in Brighton in 1831 but by 1881 she is living in Mint Street in Southwark, an area noted by Charles Booth for its prostitutes.  None of the women lodging along with Carrie are listed as prostitutes but of the 23 residents only one is a man and one is a child of 23 days.  The ages of the women vary from 18 years to 64 years and their occupations vary from ironers to seamstresses to laundresses and a variety of other low income jobs.  Carrie and another women are listed as ‘unfortunate’.  The likelihood is that this is either a brothel or a lodging house where the majority of the residents earn their income from prostitution.  It is also likely that few of them gave their real names as there are 2 Browns, 2 Smiths and 6 Jones within the group.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, it is hard to locate these women in other censuses. Margaret Robinson and Ann Leggett can be located in earlier censuses but I have yet to find the other women in the earlier censuses and have found none of them in later censuses nor can I identify any obvious marriages or burials.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Miser of Mayfield

William Luck was buried in Mayfield in 1704 and as his burial record shows he was worth a bit more than expected - especially as he was getting handouts from the parish in order to get by:

13 [Dec 1704] Willm Luck had Releife of ye Parish Dyed with Eighty pounds by him

According to Measuring Worth ( his £80 is equivalent of between £11,000 (based on standard of living value) to more than £1 million (based on economic value).

The discovery of that money must have had the parish officials gnashing their teeth!  

Wednesday 3 September 2014

One thousands years of criminal justice

Yesterday the Keep held one of its lunch time talks; this one was given by Christopher Wittick and was looking a thousand years of criminal justice in Sussex.

Chris looked at the history of our justice system from trial by battle in the post Conquest period through to Henry II's Assize of Clarendon which saw the start of trial by jury and eventually the development of the Quarter Sessions and the Assizes.

It was only a short talk so there was little time to go into any detail but it was interesting  for me to see that early on crime was seen as affecting only the person against whom the crime was committed (and his/her immediate family), it was only in the 12th century that people began to feel that crime affected all of society.  

As always it is the gruesome details which stick in one's memory; hanging was always the more generally accepted method of execution but in the Cinque Ports, including Hastings, they had a far more locality based method - they threw people off the cliff!  Also for a short period in the 16th century poisoners could be executed by boiling - apparently it was first used in 1531 after the Bishop of Rochester was served poisoned porridge!

It was an excellent talk and I look forward to their next one.  None appear to be scheduled at present but keep an eye on their events website.

Thursday 15 May 2014

A woman's place

I have just signed the petition to have mothers names included on marriage certificates, something I feel very strongly about.  In this day and age it is ludicrous that mothers are not included - not just to help the family historians of the future but far more importantly to recognise we are just as significant as our spouses - and in many cases it is the mothers who are primary carers in their children's lives.

Having done that I was then reading the Sussex Advertiser from the 8th July 1851 and came across the following entry:

Distressing case:- At the termination of the magisterial proceedings, a poor
woman named Martin appealed to the Bench under the following 
circumstances - She stated for months past she had been a martyr
to the ill-treatment of her husband.  She had been married for 15 years
had had several children and yet he not only refused to contribute
to their support but would frequently beat her in the most unmerciful
manner; the last time had had done so having been on Friday week.  Her
object was to preserve herself from his ruffianly attacks and she therefore
sought the advice of the Bench.  Mr Deane said that the proper course
would have been to have obtained a summons against the man after
the assault on the day mentioned by the woman.  So long a time had
now elapsed that the only suggestion he could make was that she had
better let him do it again (laughter).

Unbelievable!  Well, they were only 'ruffianly attacks', that doesn't sound too bad at all. At least once the Bench had stopped laughing and enjoying themselves they did agree to bring her husband in front of them to answer for his conduct.

I guess Mr Deane would not be in favour of mother's being given equal billing on the marriage licence!

Wednesday 30 April 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

All Saints Church in Buncton has to be one of the prettiest churches I have visited and it is certainly one of the most photogenic.  It also has one of the nicest approaches - there is a rather muddy path (there is no road access) down the side of a small valley, over the bridge and up the other side, with almost no sound except for the birds singing away in the trees , then around a corner you'll find the church in one of the counties most tranquil and peaceful locations.

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Pipewell Gate, Winchelsea

The Pipewell or Ferry Gate was built in the early 14th century along with three others to allow access into the new town of Winchelsea.  The road from this gate led down to the ferry across the river Brede.  The gate was destroyed in 1380 during a French raid but rebuilt in around 1404.