Inherited CrazinessA place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Quaker Meeting House, Great Dunmow, Essex

Quaker Meeting House (1835), New Street, Great Dunmow

Among my flurry of research prior to our recent trip and, knowing that we planned to stop in Great Dunmow on the way back, I'd ordered a copy of the marriage certificate for a pair of 3rd great-grandparents, Richard Wilton (1811-1858) and Catherine Byatt (b. 1824), because, as the transcripts I could see online didn't specify the venue of the marriage, as most do, I'd sensed there was something unusual about it. I wasn't wrong. 

The certificate tells me that the couple were married here, on 25 Mar 1843, at the Independent Meeting House (Quaker Meeting House), New Street, Great Dunmow, according to the Rites and Ceremonies of the Protestant Dissenters. Witnesses were Joseph Wilton [1] and Maria Staines [2].

The Quakers are famous for bringing us Cadbury and Rowntree chocolate, but like most people, that's about all I knew of them. Apparently Quakers are not forbidden from using alcohol (that's a huge relief in this family!)

Catherine Byatt was listed as a minor (she would have been 19) at the time of the marriage. The daughter of John and Jane Byatt (née Stokes) [3], she had been baptised in Little Canfield, on 4 Apr 1824. Richard Wilton appears on the 1841 census in the High Street, Great Dunmow. He is described as a harness maker (as he is on the marriage certificate) and is listed as being born outside the parish. He was baptised, on 20 Mar 1811, in Royston, Hertfordshire. That makes Richard 32 at the time of his marriage to the 19 year old Catherine. In these circumstances, I might expect him to have been a widower, but haven't been able to find a record of any previous marriage for him. 

Richard and Catherine had at least 7 children, for whom we find civil registrations, but not baptisms, as Quakers do not practice baptism:
  1. Ann Wilton, born 1844 (died 27 Apr 1850, aged 6, buried 2 May 1850)
  2. Elizabeth Wilton b. 6 Aug 1847
  3. Richard Wilton, born 1848 (on 1881 census), died 1889, aged 41.
  4. Walter Wilton, born in the 4th quarter of 1850, died in 1852
  5. Martha Wilton, born in the 1st quarter of 1853, died in 1854 
  6. William Wilton, born in the 2nd quarter of 1855, died in 1858
  7. Ellen Wilton, born in the 2nd quarter of 1857 (? died 1882)
Richard Wilton, Harness maker (journeyman), died on 3 Mar 1858, from Phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis). He was 46.

George Wilton, born in the Dunmow Union (Workhouse) on 3 Feb 1860, birth certificate says his mother's name was Caroline Wilton, no father listed, but I cannot find a Caroline Wilton in the area at any time. On later census returns George is listed as Catherine's new husband - John Eldred's - step-son, so George appears to have been Catherine's 'mystery' illegitimate son.

In 1861, the widowed Catherine (surname transcribed as Wilson), is living with her brother, William Byatt, in Little Canfield. George Wilton, aged 1, is listed as nephew to the head of the household. While, the 13 year old Elizabeth and her 4 year old sister, Ellen, (listed as being 6) are that year, listed as inmates in the Great Dunmow Union Workhouse.

Catherine remarried to John Eldred, widower, on 27 Sep 1862 in Great Dunmow. Various records of the marriage list her previous surname as either Walton or Wilson, however, the 1871 census record for the family, living in Braintree Road, Great Dunmow, with John Eldred as the head, clearly lists Ellen and George Wilton as step-daughter and step-son. Catherine appears to have lost 5 years in age to become younger than her new husband. 

Widowed again, on the 1881 Census, she appears as Catherine Eldridge, living at 23, Powis Road, Bromley, Poplar, London and is described as a Dressmaker, although supplements her income by taking in lodgers. 

So far, I've not found a death for Catherine, but with so many incorrect names given throughout her life, it's not easy to guess what it might be listed under. There's also the chance, of course, that she remarried once again and therefore this is under yet another totally new name.

[1] Joseph Wilton, who witnessed Richard and Catherine's marriage, is Richard's younger brother, born 1815, who on the 1841, 1861 and 1871 census is listed as a Tailor And Clothier in High Street, Great Dunmow. 

[2] Maria Staines (then 17), is daughter of Thomas Staines (Farmer of 130 Acres, Employing 4 Labourers and 2 Boys), in Mountnessing, Essex and his wife, who he married in 1812, Sally Staines (née Hockley). Maria is sister of Richard's brother, Henry's 1st wife, Sarah Staines and 2nd wife, Ann Staines. Maria, Sarah and Ann Staines were already my 1st cousins 5 times removed, because their mother, Sally Hockley, my 4th great-grand aunt, was daughter of my my 5th great-grandparents, Daniel Hockley and Sarah Turner.

[3] Catherine's mother, Jane Byatt (née Stokes) (1784-1866) was the daughter of Robert Stokes and Susan (or Susanna) Judd. Meanwhile, William Hockley's (of The Chequers Inn) second wife, Sarah Stokes (1777-1867) appears to have been the daughter of William and Mary Stokes. Both were from Little Canfield. Since they weren't sisters, in such a small hamlet, it's probably reasonably safe to assume they were cousins. 

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