2 Bishops, 7 weddings and 9 funerals

A story of 2 Bishops, 7 weddings, and 9 funerals – the struggle of life and love in the 19th century.

If you’re not a fan of Hugh Grant films, then don’t worry – today’s blog post is actually a story of a struggle for life and love in the 19th century.

As the title suggests, this probably isn’t going to be the most cheerful thing you’ve read today.

Only just a few weeks ago, some incomplete ‘parked’ research into two ancestors of mine (a father and a son), had suddenly moved from two male ‘Ag Labs’ in Cambridgeshire whose wives predeceased them, leaving them with several children, to two men who between them, married a further 5 times, and traveled across three counties.

I’d previously parked these two: John Bishop and his son Simpson, as the names connecting to ‘John Bishop’ in the small group of villages that he lived in, were all very similar and seemingly overlaping.

Similarly, Simpson Bishop occasionally appears as ‘James’ or ‘James S Bishop’ or variations on ‘Simpson’ (eg. Simson, Samson etc).

Whilst trawling through the Soham registers, I decided that I needed to map this puzzle out, so took each event with similar names and close dates and used a kind of card-sorting technique with post-it notes, each carrying a name, date, and event.

Breaking down a complicated set of names and dates using 'card sorting' via Post-Its.
Breaking down a complicated set of names and dates using ‘card sorting’ for John Bishop’s timeline via Post-Its on a wall.

Having written all the names and event dates onto the post-its, I used each piece of evidence in turn to get them into order. The baptism, marriage, and burial registers were useful, as well as census returns.

Also invaluable here, was to keep an eye on the witnesses at marriages – as these also helped sort the events into an order.

With this done, and post-its on my wall, i realised that I’d just grown some new branches where I thought there were none.

Bishop #1: John Bishop (1795-1868)

John Bishop was born on 1st May 1795 in the Cambridgeshire town of Soham. He was the second of the eight children of Joseph Bishop and his wife Elizabeth (née Clements). He was also my 5x Great Grandfather.

Like his father, John worked in agriculture – a manual labour in the dark, flat, rich and fertile fenland that surrounded where he lived. In 1818, when he was about 22 years old, he married 24 year old Elizabeth Simpson (also of Soham) and the couple settled down to life together.

It’s pretty clear that at the time of marriage, Elizabeth was already pregnant with their first child, my 4x Gt Grandfather, Simpson Bishop.

Soham St Andrew's, Cambridgeshire. Photo: Steve Day via CreativeCommons.
John Bishop would become a frequent visitor to Soham’s St Andrew’s Church. Photo: Steve Day via CreativeCommons.

With Simpson being born in the latter part of 1818, the couple remained in Soham, where they went on to have a second son, John, in 1823.

Elizabeth fell pregnant again in 1825, this time with the couple’s first daughter, but by the time that she (Elizabeth) was born in 1826, her parents’ lives were about to change for the worse. Seemingly, either during or shortly after baby Elizabeth’s birth, Elizabeth, the mother, died. She was just 34.

She was buried at Soham on 11th June 1826, on the same day as her daughter’s baptism. This left 31 year old John Bishop as a widowed labourer with three young children in need of his care.

The grief must have consumed him, but it didn’t stop there – by the August, baby Elizabeth followed her mother to the grave.

Five months later, in January 1827, John walks down the aisle of Soham church with his second wife, Elizabeth Saunders. She fell pregnant shortly after their marriage, but again, bad luck was set to strike. Elizabeth gave birth to baby Elizabeth Saunders Bishop in 1827, but again, it appears that Elizabeth died during or shortly after childbirth. She was buried on 23rd October 1827 at Soham, once again – the same day that her baby Elizabeth was baptised.

Sadly, within a year, this baby also followed her mother to the grave. John, at the age of 33 had married twice, been widowed twice, fathered four children, and buried two of them.

Four months after his second wife died, John returned to church, this time to marry Sarah Leonard, who was fifteen years his junior on 8th February 1828. Their first child, Henry Bishop, was baptised at Soham in April 1829.

Thankfully both he and Sarah survived, with Henry going on to move from the fens of Cambridgeshire, getting married, and moving to Great College Street in Islington, London by the 1880s. John and Sarah continued to have three more children; Mary (who died as an infant), William (who survived and lived next-door to Henry in later life), and Sophy (who died as an infant).

After 8 years of marriage to Sarah Leonard, John (now 41) was widowed again in 1836 – when Sarah was just 26 years old. She was buried in Soham on 17th October 1836.

Less than a year later, John appears to embark on his fourth and final marriage – this time to Martha Earith, 17 years his junior – on 7th August 1837.

However, 8 months later, Martha died, aged 26 years. There is no indication of whether the couple had a child, or whether Martha was pregnant, but it appears that after 42 years of life in the fens, John never remarried. He died in May 1868, aged 73 years.

Bishop #2 : Simpson Bishop (1818-?)

Sadly for Simpson, that oldest child of John Bishop and Elizabeth Clements above, he didn’t escape his own share of bad luck.

By the time that his father had remarried 3 times, and he’d witnessed the deaths and burials of 3 step-mothers, and three half-sisters, Simpson was 20 years old. A few years later, in December 1840, he married Elizabeth Taylor, also of Soham, and by 1842, they became parents to my 3x Great Grandfather, James Simpson Bishop (a nod to the baby’s grandmother). Six further children were born to the couple, during which Simpson worked as a labourer, and a malster.

During 1851, Simpson takes his family to Little Wapses farm in Twineham, Sussex (presumably as tenant farmers), but they return to Cambridgeshire by 1861, by which time Simpson has become a shepherd.

However, Elizabeth dies at some point between 1858 and census night in 1861, in her early forties. There’s a few certificate options here, so i’m busy looking for more clues (newspaper reports, marriage witnesses etc) before ordering a certificate. On 19th June 1861, at Newmarket Register Office, Simpson marries his second wife, Elizabeth Ellinor, a 36 year old daughter of a labourer from nearby Burwell.

Whilst researching, I jumped ahead to 1871 to see where Simpson and Elizabeth were, but couldn’t spot them. I eventually found widower Simpson and his four youngest children living in Reedsholme near Crawshawbooth, Higher Booths, Lancashire – and all employed by the local cotton industry at Reedsholme Works.

Reedsholme Works where Simpson took his family. Photo: Robert Wade via CreativeCommons
The remnants of Reedsholme Works, where Simpson took his family to work by 1871. Photo: Robert Wade via CreativeCommons.

Life would undoubtedly been hard for the Bishops at the mill, and maybe it wasn’t the new life that they might have originally bought into. By the time of this 1871 census, two of Simpson’s children that had joined him in Lancashire had married:

  • William to Sarah Swann, who went on to have at least 5 children, and at the time of the 1871 census are living in Little Marsden, Lancashire.
  • Ann Elizabeth to George Eve.

It even seems that in 1875, whilst the family were up in Reedsholme, daughter Keziah died aged 22. I’ll order her death certificate out of curiosity to see whether it was due to work – as on the 1871 census, she is noted as a ‘Cotton Weaver’.

I found that Simpson, returned to church when on 25th January 1868, he married his third wife Sarah Washington. However, she’s missing from the 1871 family group (presumably dead too), and it’s not clear whether Simpson is married actually on the folio.

Simpson joins Sarah in my research as ‘currently missing’ after the 1871 census, but I hope to find the final steps of his journey.

Did Sarah survive or did Simpson marry again?

A journey that I thought I’d finished with him and his father a long time ago, back somewhere in Cambridgeshire… but which then proved to take me through unexpected twists and turns.

Thanks for reading… I’ll post an update once i’ve got further with Simpson and Sarah, but in the meantime; have you ever used card-sorting to solve a family tree puzzle?

Do you have ancestors who worked at Reedsholme Works, or in the cotton weaving industry?

Leave me a comment below – as i’d love to hear from you.

Bulldozing History – How the Eagle and Lamb became extinct

How The Eagle and The Lamb became extinct in Ely, Cambridgeshire, and how my ancestors survived it.

I get a sense of comfort or closeness in knowing that I am visiting somewhere where an ancestor once worked, lived, or even died. I don’t think I am alone in this, but it’s frustrating when you can’t see or visit the place they once knew.

It was five years ago since I first wrote about my publican ancestor, the uniquely named ‘Vine Cross’ (or Sabina Steadman Taylor as it turned out), on this blog.

Since then, my goal of seeing a photograph of her now demolished pub had drawn a blank and I aptly put it ‘on ice’. However, I recently received an email from a Robert Flood who had seen my request somewhere online, and had a photograph of the pub on file. This was Vine’s home and business. This was The Eagle and Lamb on Cambridge Road in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

The Eagle and Lamb, Cambridge Road, Ely
The Eagle and Lamb just before demolition in the 1980s.

You can be sure it’s the same site, going by the distinct chimneys of the house next-door, and that the pub site was also home to the Eagle brewery, part of which has been incorporated into one of the few houses that the newer development contains. The photo is sad, and I can probably understand why it was demolished in 1987/88. The pub closed in September 1932.

The modern day site gives little away – the lampost has seemingly moved a few feet, and perhaps some brick wall survives, but aside from this, there’s no other mark of this once being a place where many patrons enjoyed getting slightly (respectfully of course) sloshed, and where my Great Great Great Grandmother ‘Vine’ Cross and her husband George worked and lived, and for a while seemingly brought up their daughter’s Moden family.

Between George and Vine, the couple had the second longest landlord holding of the property (12 years). They were beaten only by Charles Scarr who held it from 1873 to 1889.

As for the wider history of the site, I turn to ‘Ely Inns’ by Patrick Ashton. As part of his book he has documented its past from the land purchase in 1848. He says:

.. on 7th April 1856, Richard Porter, freehold brewer, purchased the site for £700 and ran his business from there until he sold the premises to Morgan’s Brewery Co. Ltd on 24th June 1889 for £1250. Morgan’s closed the brewery part of the business in 1902 but used the site as a distribution depot until 11th May 1920 when Ely brewers A&B Hall purchased the premises for £5000.

My Great Great Great Grandfather George Cross was landlord from 1892 until his death in 1898, afterwhich he was succeeded by his wife ‘Vines Cross’, who then held it from 1899 to 1904.

In 1901 Sabina appears as ‘Vina Cross’, a 48 year old widow. Joining her at The Eagle and Lamb, are a ‘roadman’ Richard Ingrey (67yrs), and William Lemon (44yrs) a ‘railway platelayer’. In two rooms, it is listed that her 30 year old married daughter Mary Ann Moden, was living with there with her husband Edward and their three daughters (one being my Great Grandmother, Susan Jane Moden).

Calling time on pub life

Ten years later, she’s still on Cambridge Road, but living further along on the corner with Barton Road. She’s living alone, aged 58 years, and working as a shop keeper.

Vine Cross signature 1911

Sabina/Vine died in March 1916.

The shop was handed on to her daughter Mary Ann Moden who lived nearby, and the site remained as a shop until the 1980s (during which time I visited it once as a child, but was completely oblivious of my connection to it). It is now a private house.

What next for my Eagle and Lamb research

I hope to now find more records relating to George and ‘Vine’s time at The Eagle and Lamb, and also seek out an old photograph of Vine’s shop whilst it was under her ownership. It seems that there may be a trail of brewery documents to follow, but for now, it remains a mystery.

If you use Google to search for the Eagle and Lamb in Ely, Cambridgeshire, you pretty much only get search results for content that I’ve created. Surely there’s more information waiting to be discovered?

Climbing Up The Vines

Vine Elizabeth Moden (1893-1980)There are a few strange names in my family tree – Yarrow, Moden, Tingey, Gotrop, Babbage and many more but none are quite as strange as the female firstname of Vine.

My Great Grandmother’s older sister was born as Vine Elizabeth Moden in Ely in 1893. She married a Frederick Newell of Ely, where she remained until her death in 1980. She has always been referred to as ‘Aunt Viney’ – but it has often occurred to me as to what a strange first name that is.

Often, strange names like Vine, are simply a maiden name of a maternal ancestor re-used – and I’ve seen them occur as middle names but rarely the first name. I decided that I should try and find out where the name Vine came from.

The 1870 birth certificate of Mary Ann Cross (Vine and my Great Grandmother’s mother), gave me their parents – George Cross and Vine Taylor. This was backed up by the Census returns for 1871 onwards. “Vines” Cross was the landlord of The Eagle and Lamb pub on Cambridge Road in Ely during 1899-1904, preceded by her husband George from 1892 until his death in 1898. The pub has long since been demolished (although I’d love to see a photo of it).

Having seen the census returns and found the burial entry in 1916’s Ely Cemetery for Vine Cross (née Taylor), I decided to try and find her birth certificate. However, no ‘Vine Taylor’ was indexed as registered in Cambridgeshire and searches at FindMyPast, the IGI and Ancestry.co.uk brought me no closer with their wider UK searches.

With Vine Taylor having been born in the 1850s and married with a 1yr old Mary Ann Cross by 1871, 1861 was to provide the clue I needed that would link Vine Taylor to a Taylor family… but, ah.. the flood. The critical record I needed was the one that was destroyed by flooding years ago.

Stuck.

Stuck until a chance comment on RootsChat.com (where I post most of my awkward puzzles that magically get solved in hours) when a forum member suggested I tried variants of ‘Vine’ – real big strange variants – and that brought up a ‘Sabina Taylor‘ – born in Ely at about the right date (1852). Quite how you can go from Sabina to Vine in 10 easy steps, I’m not sure.. but I gave it a go and ordered ‘Sabina Taylor’s’ birth certificate. I soon found that Sabina was the illegitimate daughter of Susan Taylor of Cutter’s Yard, Ely and that she also bore the middle name of Steadman.

‘Susan’ linked nicely in with my tree too – with my Gt Grandmother and her deceased infant Aunt also having this name.

With another name thrown into the midst, I started tracing Susan Taylor, to see if Steadman or Vine played a role in her family tree… in a bid to confirm that this Sabina was the right person in my tree and if so, to then find the Vine link. I found no trace of Vine there, having found myself in the mid 1700s.

After browsing through marriage records, I stumbled across the marriage of Sabina’s mother to a William Steadman in Ely, in 1856. This made me feel certain that the ‘Steadman’ appearing on Sabina’s birth certificate was right – confirmed by this, their eventual marriage.

Still, no mention of Vine though…

…until I started looking at William Steadman’s ancestry (afterall, at that point in my research, I was quite enjoying the potentially ‘surrogate’ family). I soon found a baptism for William Steadman’s younger sister, and there it was…… Vinecrow Steadman. She was baptised on 13th August 1836 but lived only the age of 1 year.

Again, expecting to find that the mother of this Steadman family once used the maiden name of ‘Vine’, I was proven wrong. In 1829, James Steadman married Elizabeth Murfitt in Ely… but at second glance, there it was again.

Witness to the marriage was a Vine Steadman!

..so the trail continues…….