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Archive for the ‘Bedfordshire and Surrounds’ Category

Colony # For some time I’ve puzzled over Clara Inskip (nee Heathorn) from Guildford , who,  in every census from 1841 – 1881,  is listed as a sole name: to whom was she wed?  Now, thanks to a story by Lisa Truttman of the Avondale Historical Society in New Zealand,  light has been shed on poor Clara’s story.

Gardener’s daughter Clara married widower William Inskip between 1835 and 1837: she was in her late 20’s, he was a few years older.  William , a baker and pastry chef, had originally hailed from Hitchen, Hertfordshire,  the son of John Inskip, a wheelwright ,and Jane Mason.  He had been sent to Guildford in1817 as an apprentice to baker and confectioner John Drewett.    His first wife, Ann Green, whom he’d married in Lambeth in 1824, had sadly died in 1835, and he’d been left with two boys to care for –  9 year old John William, and 6 year old Thomas: third son, William Green Inskip having died as a baby in 1828.

Then,  in early 1837, tragedy knocked for the second time:  William stole a keg of butter from a Mr Austen.  Apprehended for this misdeed, he was sentenced at Guilford in 3rd April 1837 to 7 years transportation in Australia.  One can hardly imagine how newly married Clara felt.

Two weeks later, William found himself in London on the prison hulk Justitia,  moored in the Thames at Woolwich.  These stinking, ex warships,  were unpleasant, unhygienic  places, where shaven headed prisoners were stripped of their individuality and frequently chained.  One wonders if Clara ever managed to visit William before he was loaded on to the convict ship Neptune and taken to Tasmania in October 1837.   (more…)

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Correction due to an error in transcription.


I have noticed that an incorrect transcription on the 1841 census on Ancestry has been copied through into several family trees on the site.  There also seems to be confusion about Henry John Inskip’s parents.  All of which means that people have not been able to go back further.

Henry John Inskip senior was a Carman in St Pancras from around the mid 1850’s.  His partner,  was Rachel Emery (no evidence of a marriage has turned up yet), born Eaton Socon, Bedfordshire about 1827, the daughter of Henry Emery and Ann King .  The surname of Meeks has been suggested for Rachel, but this is incorrect: on two of her children’s birth certificates she gives her maiden name as Emery; on that of her eldest child Henry John Inskip junior, she is also named as Emery, but strangely says she was formerly King – her mothers maiden name – although it is unlikely Rachel was illigitimate.

Henry John Inskip senior was the son of Thomas Inskip born around 1772 in Bedfordshire, and Elizabeth Ginn.  Thomas  married Elizabeth  in Great Barford in October 1805.   Together they set up home in Potton,  but Thomas died in 1829.  This is where things get messy.

Elizabeth does not seem to have kept the family together and on the 1841 census she is not obviously recorded.  However, Henry John (sen) is listed with brother James, only James’ age has been transcribed as 48, when it should be 18.  That has meant many people thinking James was Henry’s father (the 1841 census did not give relationships).  In fact, a look at the actual page will show that James and Henry live next door to married brother George.

On the 1851 census,  Henry Inskip (sen) is living with his mother and stepfather George Meeks,  who married in Biggleswade Register Office on 5 May 1847.  George is a Woodman living in Potton Woods.   This also seems to have been the source of confusion.

It is always wise to go and look at the original source when looking at your family history – it is so very, very easy to make a mistake.   If you copy from someone else make a note that it is copied and needs checking, or ask them for the source.  Also,  if you hit a brick wall,  start looking at the rest of the family and neighbours.  It is surprising how often you can confirm relationships because of the names of cousins,  or visitors with brother and sisters,  or the names of spouses, or middle names,  or even young servants.   People moved in ‘support’ networks before the advent of the welfare state,  and understanding that network can tell you so much more.

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Products_330_371_9780330371063_m_f Thomas Inskip, a watchmaker and clockmaker from Shefford in Bedfordshire was an interesting man.  He was responsible for the clock at Greenwich Observatory, left his archaeological collection to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and was a friend to labouring-class poets, Robert Bloomfield (who Thomas is buried next too in Campton Churchyard), and later John Clare.

Bloomfield and Clare are also known as ‘peasant or pastoral poets’ and are currently enjoying a revival: I recently met Jonathan Bate, author of a new biography on Clare which has used Thomas’ correspondence with Clare as a source.  (Unfortunately,  the correspondence of Clare to Inskip is lost.)

It seems Thomas befriended Robert Bloomfield when Robert, down on his luck, moved to Shefford in 1812. Thomas met Clare in London around 1820 “amongst the Cockneys, whom we both equally admire!”.  Clare related to Bloomfield as a kindred spirit, and Thomas tried to organize a meeting between them, as he regarded them as “the nation’s great poets of humble life”; but Bloomfield died “in pain and poverty” in 1821 before the wished for meeting could take place; much to John Clare’s regret.

Described in a poem by John Dalby as “kind Inskip”, Thomas  promoted John Clare’s work in the Northampton Mercury.  When Clare was  in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum “the elderly” Thomas became his outside advisor and confident.  They shared discussions about poetry and sexual desire, “the days when we were young! And the arms-full of Petticoats we rumpled!”. Thomas was also instrumental in the publication of Clare’s poetry in the Bedford Times between 1847 and 1849.  “Inskip offered what Clare always craved from his editors: a mixture of practical advice and confidence-building encouragement.”

Thomas Inskip was born in Kimbolten, Northamptonshire in 1780, the son of Edward Inskip a Farmer from Old Warden, and Mary Handscombe from Clifton. He married twice, the last to Isabella Wright in 1815, and died in 1849 in Brighton of Cholera.  His watchmaking business was taken on by son Hampden Inskip, and eventually grandson Alfred Inskip.

Book – John Clare, A Biography by Jonathan Bate ISBN 978-0-330-37112-4

Correspondence from Inskip to Clare is in Northampton Central Library.

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John and Margaret Inskip were married in January 1584, a reasonably common month to marry as weddings were not allowed during the Christmas or Lent periods.  John was aged around 28 and Margaret 26 – couples at this time only got married when they had the means to support a family and somewhere to live.  John and tudor6Margaret were relatively young for the time, up to 25% of young people in the early seventeenth century never married because they could not afford to set up a family, including John’s son Robert.

The couple had 8 children, one every two-three years, from Robert (1585) to Dorothy (1604), with no recorded child burials – given the difficult times they were living in in the 1590’s (plague broke out in nearby London in 1592/3, whilst 1596 and 1597 saw the worst harvests for a century, followed nationally by malnutrition)  this is an unusual achievement.  Interestingly conception was usually around December or August, suggesting they were not involved in tiring harvesting work, but enjoyed a rest and feasting at Christmas.

Margaret died in March 1614; she was born around 1558, at a dip in the national population, entered the menopause around age 47, and died age 56, a reasonable lifespan. With death from childbirth, illness and economic conditions around every corner Margaret’s classic female sixteenth century life shows good management.

John Inskip married second, wife, Alice Goodine from Warden Street in April 1615, he was aged around 59 and she was possibly in her late 30’s. Coming a year after Margaret’s death this was fairly late, many men married within months of a wife’s death as the family had to be supported.  However, John’s youngest child was aged 10, five others were likely servants elsewhere, and the two elder girls, who both married in Warden, may have lived at home. In September 1615 John was involved in the court case over enclosure. John had two further children with Alice,  Mary in 1616, who died at birth,  and Henry in 1617.

John Inskip died in late October 1626,  he was probably a committed Protestant who explored Puritan ways along with other Warden townspeople in the years from the 1570’s.  The Old Warden area was part of the cradle for Bedfordshire non-conformist belief that took hold in the mid-seventeenth century.  Evidence for John’s beliefs comes from the christening of his eldest daughter Elizabeth in Southill in 1595 at a time when the village had charismatic Puritan preachers;  and the naming of his second daughter Rebecca in 1598, one of the new biblical names beloved of Puritans and given to around 10% children instead of their godparents names.   The majority of children in Old Warden, as elsewhere in southern England, where given one of the popular names of  Elizabeth, Mary, Ann or John, Thomas, William and Richard.

Picture source:  A summer rural scene showing a sheep being dipped and in the background a maid milking a cow. © Folger library

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Map picture

For the last nine months I have been deep in old parchments trying to find out why the Inskips first moved to Old Warden, Bedfordshire in the late sixteenth century.  The result has been a village reconstruction of all the families in Old Warden between 1537 when Warden’s Cistercian Abbey was Dissolved, and the 1660 Restoration of the Monarchy.

So what of the Inskips? Well, John Inskip, born around 1556,  is still the earliest Inskip in the village, with his 1584 marriage to Margaret Pope – the Popes were in Old Warden at the Reformation.  John Inskip set out, probably from the Lancashire Fylde, around the 1570’s to seek opportunity.  He was part of the migration of young men from the North to the South-East of England at a time of great economic and cultural change in the country.  I found evidence of other young men in Old Warden from Lancashire and Yorkshire.

It is likely that he was the son of a husbandman – a rank in Elizabethan society- and may well have taken out a contract as a farm servant in Old Warden.  Very many young people in those times became farm servants, often on annual contacts, from age 11 – that is how they learnt how to earn a living and maintain a family.

Margaret Pope inherited her fathers copyhold tenement.  She and John lived next to what was the vicarage (possibly now the Old Post Office) on a small plot of land with a three bay cottage, a garden, an orchard and a two bay barn.  They had common rights to graze two oxen and a cow. Unlike other Warden cottagers, they didn’t keep sheep.  They paid 5 shillings a year for a copyhold worth 10 shillings in 1605 and 30 shillings in 1622.  However, they could not possibly have lived off such a small holding and so John must have had a trade and/or wage employment.  The documents were reluctant to provide that information so I have speculated on the following:

Ø Drovers or carters – based on their travel and keeping oxen with only a smallholding.

Ø Weavers or tailors – Alice Inskip’s kin (John’s second wife) were tailors, as was John Inskip’s grandson. They may have had expertise in flax weaving from Kirkham in the Fylde.

Ø Horticultural labourers – based on the family predominance in market gardening from the late seventeenth century and land fertility expertise in the Fylde, plus John’s orchard and barn.

Many ancient copyhold tenancies in Old Warden were brought out and merged into larger farms during the late sixteenth, early seventeenth century – as was the case in many areas of the country, as land was made more productive in order to feed a growing population.   However,  John held on to his copyhold and in 1615 was one of a group of men who took a local landlord to court for enclosing common land.  The documents of the case are still in the National Archives in Kew.  John must have won the case (that part is not in the archive) as when he died in 1626 he passed his copyhold to eldest son Robert.  When Robert died unmarried, around 1651,  the copyhold – one of the last remaining in the village – went to sister Elizabeth Mathie and husband Thomas.

At a time when Old Warden was going through a huge amount of economic change with land investment and shrinking smallholdings, when poor harvests, due to the little ice age of the late sixteenth and seventeenth century, brought death and disease,   the Inskips were one of the families who survived and even to some extent thrived.  That was very much through good management.

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image In February 1844 William Inskip and his wife Maria Carter from Maulden, Bedfordshire, arrived in Australia, aboard the Neptune. They had gone to Australia as much needed farmers on an assisted package.

There is a very good list of all their descendants on the Monaro Pioneers website.

William was one of 11 children. He was 5ft 4in, had brown hair, grey eyes and a mole on his chin. He had not had an easy time in Maulden, and in his teenage years had been to jail for assault; his brother George was also jailed for injuring a tree!! In 1842 William was a sexton in the village.

My own gx grandparents were William’s brother John and, possibly Maria’s sister, Elizabeth Carter. In 2000 I had the pleasure of meeting up with Gina Meyers (nee Inskip) one of William and Maria’s great x grandaughter in Monterey, California. It did feel quite epic for the two parts of the family to be meeting again after 150years. But the strangest twist in the tale was how similar current family names were – Gina and I both have a father John, a brother Nicholas, and a son Mark. Well they do say blood is much thicker than water !!!

PS (Gina has done a lot of excellent research on the family in Australia – maybe that’s in the blood as well)

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Old Warden 1622I’ve just returned from a course in Cambridge to learn how to read old documents. If you have ever tried to read and old will and found it impossible, don’t be surprised – the characters are completely different, the spelling is interesting, and the language unfamiliar to us today. I say learnt, but its like learning to read again, and I’m still at Janet and John stage 1.

Anyhow, I’ve begun to look at the Old Warden manor court rolls for the late 16th early 17th century to peek at daily life for our Bedfordshire Inskip ancestors. What they reveal is a fascinating glimpse at lives that, without the technology, are not so very different to our own!!

In 1623 we find John Inskip and his neighbours concerned that John Roffe has left his dunghill in the street and they will fine him 3 shillings and 4 pence if he does not remove it by All Hallows. Roland Throstell has been making holes in the street and must mend them or face a 3/4d fine. They want a good ditch dug between the stewpond (place for breeding fish) to the pondyard (place for keeping fish) by ‘Kristmas’ at a cost of 10 shillings. And are rather angry at a baker from Bedford, who has adulterated his flour.

So, what’s different to dog’s fouling pavements, inconsiderate neighbours, and requests to the council to make sure the drains work – besides ensuring that the supermarket has fresh fish and doesn’t use too many e-numbers. The only difference is that we have less power to do anything about it!!

PS For any Inskip who hates DIY it may be in the genes – in 1622 John Inskip’s house is noted for being ‘out of repair’!!

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