April 2008

A Wife Each End of the M1, Victorian Style?

Avril Emery

May I introduce you to the Storey / Chapman / Easy tribe, late of Croydon-cum-Clopton. I first made their acquaintance while trawling through the Croydon Registers for Chapmans, the surname of one of my greatx3 grandfathers.

In 1791 Henry Chapman marries Mary Nelson. In 1795 they have a daughter, Elizabeth. Henry then vanishes from the scene completely. Not so Mary though. In 1800 there is an entry in the baptism register for Mary Story daughter of Mary Chapman, followed, in 1803, by Anderson son of John Story and Mary Chapman and in 1806 by John baseborn son of John Story and Mary Chapman. All three of these children seem to have always used Story as their surname, even the Reverend Fulford calls them by it. Eventually in 1818 John Story and Mary Chapman, widow tie the knot. 

In 1828 Anderson Chapman Storey marries Dinah Gilbert and they have six children of whom three survive. Unfortunately in 1832 Anderson becomes a ring leader in the "Machine Breaking" riot and is sentenced to transportation. As was mentioned in a previous issue of the Journal, Anderson along with John Green, never actually made it to Australia but was away for some years anyway.

In 1840 poor Anderson, aged only 37, dies in an accident at the quarry. One version says there was a cave in and another, at Downing College's archive, suggests it may have been suicide. This is about where the Reverend Fulford takes up the story.

"Entry 51. John and Elizabeth Spencer. He can read and works at Pateman's. She can read. He is brother to Henry Spencer and she is daughter to Mary Storey and sister to Ruth Lyon. They hardly ever attend church. Old Widow Storey lives with her - she is a most chattering, canting old woman, used to be a communicant, uses a great deal of laudanum.”

[What a happy household that must have been! If Mary Storey was a canting old woman I just bet she found plenty to cant about, living with her son-in-law, John Spencer, who had been a prosecution witness in the Trial of her son Anderson and his colleagues! Ed.]

Lives in the same house:- Martha Spencer Wife of ???? Spencer, son of the above. He has enlisted in the Army, having run himself much into debt. She lives now in the Walnut Field with Old Chapman, and has lately had a bastard child, which is since dead.

Later note :- She has now returned to her husband's father, having heard of her husband being alive at St Helena, January 1847. (Two doors down) Dinah Storey Widow, can read, goes out working. Her husband was a son of John and Mary Storey and was killed about two years since in the falling in of a quarry. She used to attend church very constantly but has not been for some Sundays. She has a man called John Easy living with her now, by whom she had two children, twins, some years ago, whilst her husband was in prison. He is brother of Emma Thacker and is lately become a widower, having two children now in Yorkshire where he has been living and where his wife died.

Later note. She married Easy and they are gone to live in Canada."

One of the Rector's Flock was

"Old Larkins, rents some land and is a cattle jobber and drover".

In fact Larkins rented the land from Downing college and used it as holding grounds for the cattle which were being driven down from Yorkshire and even Scotland. More than one Croydon man seems to have been involved in this droving. My own greatx2 grandmother, Ann Titchmarsh, was born in Yorkshire even though she comes from a Croydon family of several generations and all her siblings both older and younger were born in Croydon.

Now, I admit I am assuming a little bit here, but, it seems to me that while John Easy had a wife and children at the Yorkshire end of the drive he also had Dinah Storey at the Cambridgeshire end!. In May 1843 the Rector called a meeting of the Croydon ratepayers and they passed a resolution authorising the Churchwardens and the Overseers of the Poor to raise a loan towards the expenses of "poor persons having a settlement in this Parish and being willing to emigrate". Those chosen to emigrate were supposed to be "of good character" but some landlords are on record as referring to it as "shovelling out" so I imagine that they bent the rules more than a little. One can imagine that the Storey / Easy mob would have been fairly high up the Croydon Overseer's list to be "shovelled". There was Dinah and John Easy, her three Storey children, his two Easy children and their joint effort, the twins!. There must have been quite a sigh of relief from all those administering the poor rate when they got rid of that lot.


Royston and District Family History Society


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