.jump-link{ display:none }

Tuesday 31 July 2018

A Trio of Colourful Lives: 52 Ancestors - Week 30

Week 30's  theme is "Colour" in Amy Johnson Crow's year long prompt "52 Ancestors in 52 Days".   I have chosen to look at the colourful  lives with tales of:
  • A possible Spanish blood link.
  • A stepmother with a colourful past. 
  • A butler who secretly married an heiress.  
The character of my great-grandmother, Maria Rawcliffe had always appealed to me.   Her name was an evocative mixture of down-to-earth Lancashire grit with echoes of a more flamboyant Latin nature. She looked a formidable lady from the one photograph I had initially of her. 

To give additional colour,  there was a family  story that “granny’s dark looks” came from Spanish descent, after an Armada ship had been wrecked off the Fylde coast of Lancashire. All this captured my imagination and, as a young teenager.  

The findings in the actual research were much more prosaic.  Maria was born in Hambleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire in 1859, the seventh  of eight daughters, to Robert Rawcliffe (an agricultural labourer and carter)  and Jane Carr.

As for the Spanish Armada story, a local history of Hambleton village told of an incident in 1643 at the time of the English Civil War. A Spanish frigate, the Santa Anna ran aground in the River Wyre estuary, near what is now the town of Fleetwood.  The crew were taken off the ship, which was set alight to prevent it falling into the hands of the Roundheads. No efforts were made to get the crew home several marrieded local farmer’s daughters. The dark Spanish features showed up in their children.   

So maybe I do have some Spanish blood in me after all!

Note:  With very few relatives alive, I have not yet gone one down the DNA route - perhaps this is the time to do it.  
Maria's mother died when she was was only six years old, with her surviving sisters  Jennet 8, Alice 11, Jane 14 and Anne 17. I knew from my own mother that "Granny had a step brother Joe Brekall", so presumed that father Robert had married a widow.  How wrong I was - the cardinal mistake in family history - don't assume! 

I knew from census returns that Robert's second marriage must have taken place between 1871 and 1881, so sent away for his  marriage certificate.  It revealed that Robert remarried in 1875 when Maria was 16  years old - his new wife, 
Elizabeth Brekall, 20 years his junior and a spinster! 
Census returns and parish records established that Elizabeth was born in 1840 and had three illegitimate chidren - Dorothy in 1860, Mary Ellen in 1869, and Joseph (the Joe of the family memory) in 1873- just  two years  before her marriage to  Robert.  I traced the baptism records for the children, but none included a name of their  father.

You cannot help but speculate on the circumstances that led Elizabeth to have three illegitimate children over  over 13 years, and what was her life like, living still with her parents  - her father only  an agricultural labourer.  Times must have been hard.  

In six years of her marriage to Robert Rawcliffe, Elizabeth  had a further  four children  - John, Grace, Margaret and Robert. The 1891 census showed a large, no doub,  crowded, household of Robert, aged 58, described as a farmer of three acres, Elizabeth,  and six children under eleven years old.   ]

So the Rawcliffes  became  what we now term a "blended" family of sisters, step silbings and half-siblings.
 Robert died in 1904 aged 83.  In the 1911 census, his widow Elizabeth was listed at the  home of   her married daughter Mary Ellen. 

As for my great grandmother Maria, she married at 18 years old, two years after her father's second marriage. Her address on the certificate was the home of her eldest sister Anne and her husband.  Maria's eldest sons were the same age as the children of her father and step-mother. 

Derbyshire  Advertiser: 22.3.1912
This story come to light when my cousin asked if I Could trace information on his maternal grandmother Sarah Haydon Lounds who married my great uncle John Danson.  He knew very little of her background.  but was aware of some kind of scandal with  a "black sheep" of the family who had been a servant in a large country house. 
Haydon Lounds was Sarah's brother and the British Newspaper Archive on FindMyPast  revealed his story.

Haydon's employer was wealthy widow, Mrs Eleanor Ward-Fox, who on her death in 1911   left in her  will £13,000 to her daughter, Maud,  with a legacy of £200 to "my butler Lounds in my service at my death".  (In today's money terms, these sums equate to  £938,066 and £15,634.

However  not known at the time  was the fact that her butler Haydon Lounds, "a good looking  and well educated man", according to the newspaper report, had been for three years the husband of Maud, following a secret marriage ceremony in Devon in 1909.   The online Index to marriages confirms this event.
But two years later in the 1911 census,  Haydon was still describing   himself as single  - a 38 year old  bachelor,  working as a butler for the Ward-Fox family - Mrs Eleanor Ward-Fox, with her  daughters Gertrude,  and Maud, aged 30, (cited in the census also as single) - all living at Bramhope, Torquay in a household that included a footman, groom, cook, kitchen maid and two housemaids.  Mrs Ward Fox died later that year at her home. Haddon Hall, in Bakewell, Derbyshire
The wedding was kept a secret for three years and was first reported in the then "Morning Post": 9th  February 1912,  when Haydon changed his surname by deed poll to Haydon Stephen-Fox. "The Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal":  22nd March 1912 gave a fuller report with the photograph featured here. 
The newspaper report noted that they were to make their home in Canada. No children were born to the marriage, with Maud dying in 1945 and Haydon two years later.
A "Downton Abbey" story if there ever was one!
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


  1. What great stories about family members. So glad they were passed along, as well as substantiating documents (at least about Mr. Ward-Fox.)

  2. Love this, Sue..the truth is often far more interesting, and involved, than the speculation...

  3. I had bookmarked this post for when I had time to read it. All three stories are so interesting!
    Striking photo of Maria, she does have a Spanish air about her.
    Elizabeth was lucky she was able to stay with her parents, many others would have kicked her to the curb. Her back story must be an interesting one.
    As for Haydon... colourful character indeed! Was he a romantic or a gold digger? We will never know!

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments - much appreciated. This was one of those prompts that initially I had no idea if or what I would write about. But then these three stories In my family history came to mind.


Thank you for your comment which will appear on screen after moderation.