Wednesday, 24 February 2016

#7 Edward and Ann Sheaf - 'Til Death Us Do Part.

Edward Sheaf of Chipping Campden is still a relatively shadowy figure in our family story. By that, I mean that I only have sparse information about his life and I am not even 100% sure of his place in the tree. However for now, let us just assume that Edward Sheaf, the son of Edward Sheaf and Catherine was born in the Buckland area of Gloucestershire in about 1725 and is a first cousin 7 times removed.

In September of 1747 he married Hannah Webb at Chipping Campden. They were both described as being "of this parish", meaning that they lived within the parish boundaries. Together they had 5 children, Edward, John, Samuel, Mary and Hannah - all born between 1748 and 1755. What happened to these children I have not yet been able to discover; that will be a job for another day.

Some time after 1755, Hannah died and in 1788 widower Edward remarried. His new wife, Ann Fletcher, had also been widowed, her husband John dying sometime after their 1784 marriage. I suspect Ann may also have had another marriage prior to that, as she would have been about 58 when she married John. Her name at the time of her marriage to John Fletcher was Ann Stephens. Ann and Edward married in the parish church at Offenham, and being described as both "of this parish" I am assuming that this is where they were now living.

Years passed and in 1803 their story takes an interesting turn.
According to the London Morning Post "A few days since, at age 83, Mr Edward Sheaf of Offenham in the county of Worcester died; and just as the hearse came to fetch the deceased, died his wife Mrs Ann Sheaf also aged 83." Another document, compiled by Peter Stewart of the registers for St Mary and St Milburgh Offenham, says  "Anne Sheaf. Died within half an hour of the time appointed for her husband’s funeral at Sawford 1st October 1803, aged 77 "

Although there are some discrepancies with ages, this is not unusual as newspapers then were about as accurate as newspapers are now! However both sources agree on the fact that Ann died very close to the time of her husband's funeral.

In terms of our family genealogy, the facts that Ann had been married to a John Fletcher and Edward had been married to a Hannah Webb are both interesting, as these are names that regularly crop up in the family tree.

Offenham Church SS Mary and Milburgh 1903

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

#6 Francis Sheaf - The Inkberrow Borrower

"Whereas Francis Sheaf, late of the Red Lion, at Falsham Pitts near Droitwich, Worcestershire, did on Saturday the 25th April last, about 12 o'clock at night borrow of John Cox a farmer at Inkberrow in Worcestershire (on pretense of going to Bromsgrove and returning the next day), a black gelding about 15 hands and an inch high, rising four years old, natural tail at full length, except one joint, some little white on the forehead  and on the near hind foot, has lost a vein by bleeding on the near side of the neck; and the said Francis Sheaf has not returned the said gelding or since been heard of."

So the story starts in the Stamford Mercury of June 19th 1789. But Francis's story goes back to about 1759 when he was born, probably in Kings Broom near Bidford on Avon, to Francis Sheaf, master weaver and Mary Vincent his wife, my 5 x great grandparents. Francis was baptized on the 12 October of that year at Bidford on Avon, the eighth of twelve children.

The next time Francis appears in the records is in 1871 at the time of his marriage to Ann Haywood at Inkberrow. A family soon followed, all baptized at Inkberrow, starting with daughters Ann and Mary in 1783 and 1785 respectively; then twins Thomas and Millicent in 1788, and lastly Martha who was baptized in September 1789. Presumably Francis was not present at the baptism of his youngest daughter as the newspaper article indicates that if and when he reappeared, there would be potentially severe consequences for his actions.

"This is therefore to give notice that whoever will give any information to the said John Cox or to Mr Jones, Attorney at Law in Alcester, Warwickshire, respecting the said Francis Sheaf, or of the said gelding, whereas the same may be recovered by the owner shall receive three guineas reward." Using a nifty online converter, this translates in today's money to about 180 pounds, which would have bought about 20 days worth of employment of a skilled craftsmen - quite a significant amount really, especially if you have had to pay a plumber recently!

One interesting aspect of this newspaper article, is that it goes on to give a description of Francis.

"The said Francis Sheaf is about 5 feet six inches high, fresh complexion, wears his own dark hair, and had on when he went away a brown homespun double milled cloth greatcoat, with a double row of twist buttons rather new down the breast, which he already borrowed of Mr Cox."(Being the son of master weaver he probably recognized a good quality item when he saw one!)

"He was seen at the house of one Lacon, a Carrier, at or near Birmingham Heath (near which his wife word blotted) on Sunday the 26th April, and is supposed to be now in or about Lincoln."

Whether Francis Sheaf ever showed up again, and whether Mr Cox got his gelding and coat back, is as yet unknown. I have not found any record for Francis beyond this 1789 article.

Red Lion, Droitwich in 2012. 
© Copyright P L Chadwick and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Friday, 5 February 2016

#5 William Harbidge Sheaf - A Melancholy Accident.

Melancholy reads a small headline in an 1837 issue of an English newspaper. When I first started investigating the Sheaf family history I came across a small footnote on a family tree sent to me by Ian Tomes in England that simply said "drowned in Weston Lock". Although I looked long and hard for some evidence of this, I was unable to find out what had precipitated the sudden death of William Harbidge Sheaf, my 3x great grandfather, in 1837. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and the intervention of a lovely lady in Wales I finally have access to a contemporary account of what happened to him and have been able to solve several small research mysteries in the process.

William was born in Bidford on Avon in about 1790 and baptised on the 7th of April of that year. In 1813 he married Mary Tomes Holland of Mickleton and they embarked on making a family of 11 children, at least 8 of whom were still alive at the time of their father's death. If you have been following the blog to date you might remember that William and Mary were the parents of 'Great Aunt Lou' and the young Charles Holland Sheaf of previous posts.

William and Mary were farming in the Bickmarsh area near Bidford on Avon. As well as their farming and family responsibilities, William had other community roles. In 1827 for instance he was Surveyor of the Highways for Bickmarsh. A 1691 Parliamentary Act legislated for each parish to appoint a Surveyor of Highways or 'Waywarden', under the jurisdiction of the Justices and County Quarter Sessions. The person nominated would be served with a warrant by the Parish Constable confirming his appointment for the coming year. Acceptance was compulsory!

According to one website, his first task would have been to take over any balance of money from his predecessor and become acquainted with on-going works. Three times a year, at least, "he had to view all the roads, byways, water courses and pavements within his precinct and make presentation upon oath in what condition he finds same, to the next Justices".

It was a requirement that owners of land adjacent to the highway clear their ways of any timber, stones or other obstructions and cleanse and scour the adjoining gutters and drains. Overhanging growth and hedges had to be cleared in order that "from one end of the parish to the other there might be a clear passage for travellers and carriages" and "that the sun may shine onto the ways to dry same".

At all times he had to look out for "and waylay any waggons, wains or carts etc. that are not drawn by the statutory number of oxen or horses". The very next Sunday after discovering any default or annoyance, he was required to stand up in the parish church, after the sermon, and proclaim any offender in order that they may be prosecuted. Now that would add a little something to the Sunday worship!

There was also the organising of six days of the year when parishioners were 'recruited' to provide Statute Labour, with horses, carts and all necessary tools, to undertake highway repair. Statute Labour Duty is defined as the amount of labour or works of public utility formerly required by Statute to be perfomed by residents of the district. In addition there was the disagreeable duty of reporting any defaulter to the justices.

If all this was not enough, the person nominated as Surveyor, who could be fined for refusing to accept office, might himself be penalised a sum of forty shillings for any default or neglect of his duty.

It would perhaps have been a fitting irony if William had met his accidental death on the highways. It was however the river Avon that was to be his nemesis. According to a newspaper of the time he was returning home on the evening of February 17th, on foot, from Stratford market. When he got to the river crossing near Luddington the boatman was nowhere to be found, so William rowed himself across the river to the other side. It is supposed that in endeavouring to step out of the boat at the far side a jolt or bump threw him backwards out of the boat and into the water. His hat and stick were found in the boat and his body was found the next day very near to the boat crossing place.

The river Avon at Luddington
© Copyright David P Howard and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
According to the newspaper he left "a wife and nine children, together with a large circle of relatives and friends to mourn the irreparable loss of a good husband, an affectionate father and a strictly honest man."

William was buried in the churchyard at Dorsington where his memorial stone simply proclaims "Sacred to the memory of William Sheaf, late of Bickmarsh, who departed this life February 17th 1837 aged 48 years".