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James Mobbs

Eric Trudgill    -    6 January 2013

James Mobbs, baptised in Pytchley, Northants in 1796 son of Thomas and Margaretta, and buried there in 1876 (aged 79), married Bethia Smith (baptised in Seaton, Rutland in 1800 daughter of Wisdom and Hannah) in S Luffenham, Rutland in November 1816. He was said to have been agorjer, and although in the 1841 census he was recorded as a travelling chairmender indistinguishable from his Gypsy companions, and in the 1861 census as formerly a musician, a gorjer he surely was.

He was also said to have shared the favours of his wife with a distinguished Gypsy, William Gray, born in New Wimpole, Cambridgeshire about 1794, and husband of Bethia’s younger sister, Tabitha Smith. I’ll be discussing William and Tabitha’s family next month. For now I’ll merely note William and BethiaGray christened a William Gray junior in Ancaster, Lincs in 1822 three days before William and Tabitha Gray christened their first child, Hannah Gray, in Ingoldsby, Lincs, a short distance away. And Elkesley, Notts in 1827 saw the joint baptism of a Cornelius and Righteous Gray (unusual forenames later given to his first two children by James and Bethia’s son, Moses Mobbs), Cornelius and Righteous Gray being recorded as sons of James Gray (not Mobbs), basketmaker, and Bethany Smith (not Mobbs); perhaps James was making a point, or perhaps Bethia wasn’t sure who’d sired her sons and was splitting the difference.

Presumably James and Bethia were sure, and we can be sure, about the paternity of at least three of their children: James Mobbs junior was christened in Castor, Northants in 1818 son of James and Bethoy; the afore-mentioned Moses was christened as Moses Mobbs in Corringham, Lincs in 1840 son of James and Bethany; and Letitia Mobbs was christened in Hougham, Lincs in 1846 daughter of James and Bethyany. Probably too we can be fairly sure about the paternity of two, maybe three, children in the gap between 1818 and 1840: the Betty, Sabina and Francis Mobbs travelling with James in the 1841 census; the first (probably a Bethia) was born either about the time of James’ marriage or around 1820, Sabina was born about 1836, and Francis about two years later.

But some things about James Mobbs’ family lack even the relative clarity of the christening of Cornelius and Righteous. In 1861 Bethia was travelling with her daughter, Letitia Mobbs, and a Joshua whom we know from the gypsiologists and other sources to have been her son, born between about 1830 and 1834: unfortunately Joshua in the 1861 census called himself a Gray (and was recorded as the brother of William and Tabitha’s daughters, Eldery and Charlotte; in 1864-72 he christened all his new children as Grays, travelling with William and Tabitha’s son, Sidney; and in the 1871 census he called himself a Gray; but despite all this, in the 1891 census he called himself a Mobbs.

Joshua Mobbs/Smith/Gray, James Mobbs’ possible son, born about 1830-34, married Harriet Brown daughter of Francis and Rosetta, christened in Blyborough, Lincs in 1836. They had the following children: William Brown, christened in Burton on Humber, Lincs in 1854 son of Harriet single woman, travelling besom-maker; Elijah, born in Minting, Lincs about 1856; Joshua Smith, christened in Cammeringham, Lincs in January 1859; Moses Smith, christened in W Barkwith, Lincs in 1861; AnyanGray (male), christened in Market Rasen, Lincs in 1864; DeloraineGray, christened in Lissington, Lincs in 1866; Uriah Gray, christened in Market Rasen in 1869; and Charles Gray, christened in Market Rasen in 1872.

Francis Mobbs/Smith, James Mobbs’ probable son, born about 1838, married Eliza Boswell daughter of William Gray’s close friend, Elijah Boswell, by Alice Smith, born in Mansfield, Notts in 1841, They had the following children: Delizanna, born about 1857; Francis junior, born about 1858; Cornelius Smith, christened in Belton, Axholme, Lincs in 1859; Eliza, born about 1861; Avelina Smith, christened in Eastoft, Lincs in 1862; Elisha Smith, christened in Gainsborough All Saints, Lincsin 1863 son of Francis and Jane; Bethany, born about 1866; and Delarina, born about 1868. I haven’t got far tracking these children. Cornelius seems to have married a Sarah Sylvesta, born in Yorkshire about 1879; Avelina may have married a John Smith; and Elisha allegedly married first an undocumented Sophia Mobbs/Smith, second a Susanna Cobb, and thirdly Cornelius’ wife, Sarah Sylvesta.

By the arrival of Delarina Francis seems to have transferred his affections from his wife, Eliza, to (perhaps temporarily) her older sister, Henrietta, daughter of Elijah Boswell by Alice Smith. In the 1861 census Francis and Eliza had been together. In January 1868 Francis and Henrietta christened a daughter, Emily Smith, in Winteringham, Lincs. In the 1871 census Eliza was absent (Henrietta too), while Francis tended the children. And in the 1881 census Francis and Eliza were together again, with Emily, his daughter by Henrietta, part of the family, but Eliza was recorded as a boarder, and (significantly I think) as only 30 years old, not 40.

Moses Mobbs, James Mobbs’ certain son, christened in Corringham, Lincs in 1840, married Sylvia Smith, christened intriguingly in Corringham in 1841 daughter of Robert, vagrant, and Tabitha. They had the following children: Righteous Mobbs (christened in Glentworth, Lincs in 1860), who married Lucy Rodgers in 1882; Cornelius Mobbs (christened in Springthorpe, Lincs in 1863), who married Elizabeth Ellmore in 1881, with an undocumented Noah Mobbs as a witness; Levi Mobbs (christened in Lincoln St Paul in the Bail, Lincs), who married Mary Ellen Gabbitas in 1886; Mary JaneMobbs, christened in Treswell, Notts in 1867; James Mobbs (christened in Gainsborough Holy Trinity, Lincs in 1869), who in 1891 married Sophia Gray daughter of Sidney &Edingale; John Mobbs (born about 1871), who married Elizabeth Smith in 1894; Elizabeth Mobbs, born about 1873, who married Harry Smith in 1909; and Florence Mobbs, christened in Gainsborough Holy Trinity in 1884.

Finally, Letitia Mobbs, James Mobbs’ certain daughter, christened in Hougham, Lincs in 1846, married (20 daughter of James Mobbs) Joseph Kitchin (20 son of John) in Lincoln St Paul in the Bail in 1864. I haven’t found any children.

At Letitia’s wedding James, I assume, was present only in name: by now he’d left his family of colourful Gypsies to return to the gorjer world he’d left half a century earlier. In the 1861 census he was living just south of Pytchley, Northants in the home of his younger sister, Elizabeth, wife of an agricultural labourer, John Tompkins. In the 1871 census he was still with Elizabeth, both now widowed, with Jamesnow suffering, it seems, from senile dementia. Perhaps he’d come home to what was left of his birth-family when his health first began to fail. Or perhaps he’d become alienated from his Gypsy family, and that was why of his children only Moses as an adult seems to have consistently called himself a Mobbs.

Copyright © 2013 Eric Trudgill