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Bazaina

Anne-Marie Ford    -    2 September 2018

Bazaina Smith was baptised in 1834 in Dean, Bedfordshire, the daughter of Edward and Vidence Smith. Her father, Edward, was one of the four known sons of William Curtis and Viramenta Smith and when he partnered Vidence she had already had two, or perhaps three, children with her first husband, Henry, probably also a Smith.  Vidence had baptised a son Joseph in 1824, at Langford in Bedfordshire, a daughter, Permelia/Pamela in 1826 in the same place, and possibly another Vidence.

Vidence and Edward Smith were to have five children together: Hemlock, Bazaina, Humphrey, Britannia and Caroline.  Interestingly, the unusual name of Bazaina was also used by Edward’s brother, Abraham, and his wife, Mary Booth, for a daughter, although the baby died in infancy.  Perhaps it was the name of a sister, certainly its use by the two brothers suggests a family name.

Like her mother, Bazaina Smith was to have two unions.  Her first husband, Elijah, was the son of William and Craney (Kerenhappuch) Smith, a chair bottomer of Weston Flavell.  His mother had been a Loveridge before her partnering of William Smith and this connection with the Loveridge family was to be continued in the union of Bazaina’s brother, Hemlock, with Sarah Loveridge, Kerenhappuch’s younger sister, and her brother, Humphrey, with Matilda Loveridge.  

Elijah was the father of Bazaina’s first four children: Jonas, baptised at Caistor, Lincolnshire, on 1st May 1855, Constant, baptised at Buckden, Huntingdonshire, on 20th January 1856, Kerenhappuch, baptised at Southoe, Huntingdonshire, on 18th March 1859 and Keziah, baptised at Chatteris, Cambridgeshire on 28th October 1861. Elijah next appears in records when he had a brush with the law in 1862.  The Bedfordshire Mercury of 27th September noted that ‘Elijah Smith of Langford was fined 11/- with costs for absenting himself from his master’s service at Biggleswade.’ It was a fine he duly paid. It was the last mention of him before his early death. On 2nd June 1863 Elijah Smith died at Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire; he was in his mid-thirties, and recorded as a Gypsy.

What happened to the widowed Bazaina and her four children?  It seems she may have met her second partner through her brother Humphrey.  In 1864 the St. Neots Petty Sessions recorded a charge of ‘maliciously damaging a fence.’  The miscreants, who presumably used it to light a fire, were John Reason and William Reason of Buckden, labourers, (who appeared) and Humphrey Smith (who did not).  Whilst William Reason was acquitted, John Reason was sentenced to 21 days’ imprisonment and Humphrey Smith, in his absence, to 14 days’ imprisonment.

Two or three years after her first husband’s death Bazaina formed a union with John Reason, and their first child was born c1867. The 1871 census shows the couple at Over Road, Willingham, Cambridgeshire and the children with them are all listed with their mother’s name of Smith: Kerenhappuch, Keziah, Holland and Ned.  In fact, both Holland and Ned (Edward) were John Reason’s children. Also with this little family is John Reason’s former partner in crime, Bazaina’s brother, Humphrey, his partner, Matilda Loveridge, and their children: Elijah, named after his former brother-in-law, Britannia, given the name of one of his sisters, Vidence, in honour of his grandmother and Everildey.  Like Bazaina’s family, all the children are recorded with their mother’s surname, since neither couple were legally married, and all, save for John Reason, are listed as Gypsies.

Following their marriage, in 1875, John and Bazaina appear to have settled in the village where he was born and brought up, the son of William and Elizabeth Reason, with siblings Eliza, William and Christopher.  The 1881 census finds John and Bazaina Reason at Baker’s Lane, Buckden, Huntingdonshire, with Kerenhappuch, Holland, Edward, Humphrey, Christopher and Elizabeth Reason. Even Kerenhappuch is given her step-father’s surname here, although all the children, with the exception of Elizabeth, who was born after her parents’ marriage, were recorded as Smiths at birth, and, indeed, Elizabeth appears to have been recorded in the civil register of births not as Elizabeth, but as Matilda Reason.

Baker’s Lane was to remain home for Bazaina and,  ten years later, she is recorded as Basaney Reason, a hawker and a widow, for John Reason had died ‘aged 55’ in 1887.  Bazaina is not without family around her though. Humphrey and Christopher, two of her sons, are still at home, together with her daughter Elizabeth, and her niece, Alice Smith, a daughter of Humphrey Smith and Matilda Loveridge.  Living close by is Bazaina’s daughter Keziah, who married an agricultural labourer, Neville Levitt, the son of a journeyman miller, in 1881. The couple have six children, mainly named after siblings: Emma, Tom, who has the name of both Neville’s father and a brother, Holland, in reference to Keziah’s half-sister, Jack, Arthur and William, all the names of brothers of Neville Levitt.

By 1901 there are more grand-children for Bazaina.  Keziah and Neville have added Mary, Christopher, Keziah’s brother’s name, and Violet to their brood and Elizabeth Reason has also had a daughter, Vidence, named after her grandmother, Bazaina’s mother.  Although Edward, too, is recorded as living at home with his mother, he has formed a union with Clara Jane Pepper, a local girl, with whom he already has two children, Harriet Elizabeth and Horace Edward.  Nor was this the only union with the Pepper family, for Humphrey had partnered Eleanor Pepper and had also fathered two children, Florence Grace and Herbert George.

1901 was to be the last census record in which Bazaina would appear, however.  Her death was recorded in 1908, when she was said to be 68 - actually she was 74 years of age. Widowed twice, the mother of nine children and countless grand-children, she had lived for nearly three-quarters of a century, always, it seems, surrounded by family members and rarely travelling very far, finally settling in the village where her husband had been born and brought up, a village that was also a favourite stopping place for her tribe.  

Copyright © 2018 Anne-Marie Ford