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Husbands and Wives.

Anne-Marie Ford    -    1 June 2014

The Reading Mercury of 26th January 1901 carried the report of an inquest into the sudden death of a local man. Under the heading ‘Death through excessive drinking’ the story ran:

Inquiry into the death of a dealer named Frederick Breakspear, aged 43, who died in his cottage on Friday through excessive drinking. Adelaide Breakspear, the widow, said that her husband was much given to drink. He had no bodily illness and his life was not a hard one. He generally drank common ale and she never saw him take spirits. On Monday night he was borne home in a helpless state. The witness tried hard to wake him but without result and then she went to bed. Next morning she found him still in the same place and unable to speak. The doctor came on Tuesday. [A dealer] living at Childrey said that in the Hatchet Inn on Monday Breakspear drank a quantity of beer and some whisky. He then suddenly fell down. Witness carried him home . . .Mr. W.M. Woodhouse, surgeon of Wantage, said that he found Breakspear suffering from the effects of alcohol, he had bronchial catarrh and his heart was in a very weak condition. Deceased did not blame anyone but himself. Death was caused by heart failure, brought on by alcoholism. The jury returned a verdict to this effect.

Excessive drinking seems to have been a constant factor in Frederick Breakspear’s life from an early age. One of his many convictions dates from as early as 1885, when he and his father found themselves in court, an item reported in the Reading Mercury of 10th January that year:

Thomas and Frederick Breakspear, father and son, describing themselves as general dealers of Witney, were brought up in custody, the former charged with being drunk in Faringdon on the 6th inst., and the latter with being drunk while in charge of a horse and cart. Both fined.

The eldest son of Thomas Breakspear(son of James and Ann Breakspear, baptised on 26th February 1837 at Uffington) and Sarah Fowler (daughter of Joseph and Jane Fowler, formerly Richens), was baptised Frederick James in 1862, the first of their known eight children. He was followed by Jane (named for Sarah’s mother, Jane Richens) in 1865, Mary Elizabeth in 1867, John Fowler in 1869, Georgina Annie in 1872, Thomas William in 1876, Walter in 1878 and Sarah Maud in 1881.

Frederick married Adelaide (Adley) Lewis/Boswell in the March quarter of 1887 in the registration district of Wantage. She was the daughter of a Gypsy well-known in those parts, Tommy Boswell, and his wife, Counseletta Smith. The use of the surname Lewis is derived from Tommy’s father’s forename and the fact that Tommy was known locally as ‘Young Lewis,’ since his father was ‘Old Lewis.’ With an extremely casual attitude to naming, Tommy adopted the surname and began to use it for his family with Counseletta. (Hence the difficulty for researchers following children baptised as Boswell, but marrying as Lewis, or, in the case of Adely, baptised as a Smith.)

What is interesting about this marriage is that it was the first of four unions of the Breakspear children with the siblings of other families, an event often found in Gypsy and Traveller families. Adely’s sister Mirannie married (as Rose Hannah Lewis) John Fowler Breakspear, one of Frederick’s younger brothers, in the December quarter of 1897in the registration district of Newbury. John Breakspear was also, like his brother, to make a number of appearances at the local court and in the Reading Mercury. In the 17th December 1887 edition, the year his brother Frederick had married, “John Breakspear, hawker, pleaded guilty to riding on the footpath at Buscot on 29th November. Fined, but committed to 14 days’ hard labour in default.”

In the 1901 census both sisters can be found together; Adelaide, just widowed, is with her six children, ranging in age from one to thirteen: Tryphena, registered in the June quarter of 1888 in the registration district of Wantage, where all her siblings were also recorded; Freddie (Darkie), registered in the December quarter of 1889; Polly (Mary Elizabeth), registered in the March quarter of 1891; Georgie, registered in the March quarter of 1893; Albie (Albert), registered in the September quarter of 1896; Tommie, registered in the December quarter of 1899. Adelaide’s sister, Rose, is pregnant with her first child with John; a daughter, Fairnettie Tryphena Breakspear, who was registered in the district of Wantage, in the June quarter of 1901; a son, Lewis John Breakspear, was registered two years later, in the September quarter of 1903.

Thomas and SarahBreakspear appear to have settled in the Newbury area, which is where two of their other children, Georgina Annie and Walter, married into the same family, both uniting with the Greens, children of Joseph and (Tabitha) Ann Green (formerly Emmens). Georgina Annie Breakspear married Sydney Charles Green in the registration district of Newbury in the March quarter of 1898 and in the June quarter of the same year, in the same location, Walter Breakspear married Sydney’s younger sister, Tabitha Ann Green, who had been born in 1881, following the census for that decade.

The 1901 census shows Walter Breakspear, a general dealer, with his wife Tabitha living in Newbury with two young children, Frederick Walter (2) and William Thomas (3 months) and Sydney, a general dealer, and Georgina, also resident in Newbury and also having two sons, Thomas W (2) and Sydney Charles (1).

Ten years later, although Frederick Breakspear has been dead for a decade, his parents, Thomas and Sarah Breakspear are still alive and still in Newbury, where Thomas is now a horse dealer. On the night of the 1911 census their son John, another horse dealer, is staying with them. (Thomas was to die the following year, his death is recorded in the registration district of Newbury in the March quarter of 1912, aged 74. Sarah, however, was to outlive him into very old age, and her death, aged 89, is registered in Newbury in the December quarter of 1929).

Both Sydney Green and Walter Breakspear, his brother-in-law, are also found in Newbury, but are now specialising as travelling hawkers of fish and fruit. Sydney and Georgina have added considerably to their brood, with five more children: Susan Ida (8); Stanley (6); Ivy Mary (4); Mabel Gladys (2); Reginald (4 months), all recorded in the registration district of Newbury. Equally, Walter and Tabitha have added four more to their family: Frank (8); Walter (6); Stanley (4); Annie (2), also in Newbury.

And Adelaide Breakspear, left a widow with six children in 1901? She had remarried in the March quarter of 1905. Her second husband was a farm labourer, William Welch, and together they had two daughters and a son. The little boy, Edward William, whose birth was recorded in the district of Wantage in the March of 1907, died in infancy, but Annie, registered in the September quarter of 1905 and Daisy (baptised as Evelyn Daisy) and registered in the September quarter of 1908,lived to marry in the pretty local church of Childrey. Annie married Thomas Herbert (Harry) James, a jockey, in the June quarter of 1924 and Daisy married Robert Bennett, a dairy farmer, in the June quarter of 1928. Adelaide was to outlive her second husband, whose death at the age of 59 was recorded in the registration district of Wantage in 1923. She remained in the village of Childrey, living on into old age, but visited her children regularly, maintaining close relationships between both of her families by her two husbands.

Copyright © 2014 Anne-Marie Ford