12 Nov 2012

Part 24: More answers, more questions

Exciting new information has now been found about the Swinfield family of Earl Shilton. This adds significantly to the story of Thomas and Sarah, who had married on 25th January 1829 at Trowell in Nottinghamshire, and their family.
In earlier parts of this Blog, I have told the story of this colourful couple and their children. One of them, William (1841-1905) was to become my great-grandfather. Their first child, Jane, was baptised at Earl Shilton, Leicestershire, which was Thomas's home parish, less than two months after the marriage, on 8th March 1829. Sarah would have been at least seven months pregnant when they were married. Only two further children were baptised. They were Mary and William in 1836 and 1838. William was to die at only 10 months. Two others, Ann and Richard, born in 1831 and 1834, have no recorded baptism. Clearly this was not a happy union as by 1839 Thomas was living in Nottinghamshire with another woman, Maria Cooper, with whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth. Meanwhile, Sarah was cohabiting with Thomas Brown and she had two illegitimate children, presumably by him, named as Joseph in 1843 and Sarah in 1845. She was still living with Thomas Brown at her death in 1862!
By June 1841, Jane Swinfield was languishing in Millbank Penitentiary, London, apparently aged 13. In Part 3 of the Blog, I reported how she had been tried by the Leicester Quarter Sessions on 4th January 1841 for larceny and sentenced to seven years transportation to Australia. This week, the latest addition to FindMyPast's extensive collection of databases, a collection of British newspapers from 1750 to 1900 was put online. Of course, the first thing that interested me was, “What Swinfield articles are included?” Brief accounts of her trial and conviction were published in the Leicester Mercury on 9th January and the Leicester Chronicle on 16th January 1841. These tell us that, at the age of only 11, she had stolen some quite valuable property from her mistress, Charlotte Bugg, in August 1840. She was eventually pardoned and released in August 1841.
Leicester Mercury - 9th January 1841

In Part 16, I wrote about what appeared to be her death in the OldWindsor Union Workhouse on 23rd November 1854. She had died aged only 26 of phthisis. There is no other woman in my database who could have been this deceased and, of course, there are no surviving records of the Workhouse for that year. Imagine my surprise when I discovered (thanks to Joan Rowbottom of the Guild of One-Name Studies who completed the Market Bosworth marriage challenge) that a Jane Swinfield, aged 20, had married in Bagworth church, Leicestershire, on 26th March 1848. This is the parish where her two brothers, Richard and William, were working as coal miners in 1851, but were incorrectly given the surname of Hewit. As Jane's father was recorded as Thomas Swinfield, FWK (framework knitter), there is no doubt that she was the child christened at Earl Shilton in March 1829. Her husband was Joseph Rudens, a collier.
1848 Marriage of Jane Swinfield at Bagworth 
Neither Jane Rudens nor Jane Swinfield can be identified in the 1851 census. Her husband, Josh Rudings was a 40 year-old married coal miner in Bagworth, who with his widowed mother, Sarah, was lodging with a family called Kilnam. Where was his wife of just three years? Her death is not recorded under any variant of her husband's surname. Had this marriage broken down too and had she wandered away as far as Windsor, where she was to die as a “spinster” in 1854?

Leicester Mercury - 21st August  1847
The Newspaper Collection includes one more delight. On 21st August 1847, the Leicester Mercury reported the deliberations of the Earl Shilton Petty Sessions held four days earlier. The Overseer of the Poor presented Thomas Swinfield, currently living near Arnold, Nottinghamshire, for deserting his wife. After pleading not guilty, he claimed that she (Sarah) had lived “in a state of adultery for the last eighteen years, and had six illegitimate children”. Sarah admitted that to be true and the case against Thomas was dismissed with costs payable by his wife. There are clearly two sides to every story.
It would appear that the marriage of 1829 had broken down almost immediately and that Jane was probably their only legitimate child! Thomas has sought solace with Maria Cooper, the Chartist movement, and eventually spent the last 40 years of his life in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  

1 comment:

  1. But where was Jane in 1851? Maybe she just escaped enumeration.