Sunday, August 31, 2014

Mary Ann Brown (1819 - 1901) - wife of John Orton

Farmland near North Kilworth
(image by Stephen McKay,
Mary Ann was the eldest daughter of Joseph Brown, a farmer of North Kilworth in Leicestershire, not far from Husbands Bosworth. According to "The Modern Doomsday Book" printed in the Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury 11 March 1876, Joseph owned just over 35 acres of land, worth  £97.15s.  He seems to have been an active member of his community, serving on a Grand Jury in 1842, supporting the Liberal candidate for parliament in 1868, and being listed as a partner in the Leicestershire Banking Company in 1870.

It's easy to imagine, then, that Mary Ann's marriage to the hot-headed John Orton in 1841 may not have met with great approval from Joseph and Mary. Mary Ann must have had quite a tough life being married to John.

Their first son, Thomas Brown Orton, was born early in 1842 a few months after their marriage. Over the next 20 years at least 6 other children were born to Mary Ann - William John, Lucy Ann, Alfred, Fanny, Mary Jane and Agnes. As mentioned before, they seem to have been baptised in two batches, one in 1845 after the birth of Lucy Ann, and the second in 1862 after the birth of the youngest child, Agnes, all in Husbands Bosworth.

Two of Mary Ann's married sisters, Catherine Dent and Maria Latham, were visiting her on the night of the 1851 census, along with Maria's infant daughter Isabella. Maria had married a man from London, John Latham. Sadly she died of tuberculosis at her parents' home in 1856, an event noted by the Leicester Chronicle.

At the time of the 1871 census Mary Ann and 15 year old daughter Mary Jane were staying with the eldest of the Orton's daughters, Lucy Ann. Lucy Ann's husband John Thomas Pulford was a "beer house keeper" at the New Royal Arms, St Margaret in Leicestershire. The Pulfords had a one year old daughter Liza and a one month old, Ann, so perhaps Mary Ann and Mary Jane were there to help. Strangely, Mary Ann is described as "farmer's wife", though there is no record of John ever being a farmer.

The early 1880's were a time of change and sadness for Mary Ann. Her husband John died in the middle of 1880. Not long afterwards, in early 1881, Agnes died at the age of 19. William was an inmate of the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum when the census was taken in 1881, and seems to have died not long afterwards. Fanny was working as a school mistress in the workhouse at Great Bowden. Alfred and his wife Henrietta had moved to West Derby, near Liverpool, and Thomas and wife Sarah had moved to Manchester. In the census of 1881 only Mary Jane was still at home with Mary Ann.

But Mary Ann still had many years of life in her. She was listed in the 1881 census as the publican of the Cherry Tree Inn in Husbands Bosworth, probably the same Cherry Tree mentioned in John's defence in his trial in 1861. Mary Jane was a waitress, and six year old grandson Oliver Pulford was staying with them, along with a boarder, a groom named Joseph Bacon.

In September 1886, according to the Leicester Chronicle, Mary Ann was charged with keeping her licensed premises open on a Sunday (8 August) and with allowing gaming to occur there. A zealous policeman had noticed that the back door of the inn was open, and had gone in to see what was going on. Mary Ann and her lawyer successfully argued that what the policeman witnessed was a private party in honour of her granddaughter's birthday. The case was dismissed, although the judge commended the policeman for rigorously carrying out his duties.

By 1891 Mary Ann had retired to Knighton in the Blaby district of Leicestershire and was living alone "on her own means". She went to live with Lucy Ann in Leicester some time before 1901, and died there in the second quarter of that year, at the good age of 82.

Monday, August 11, 2014

John Orton (1813-1880) - a reckless driver

In October 1861 John Orton of Husbands Bosworth was charged with 'over-driving a horse'. A witness claimed that his pony cart had been going "at a furious pace" near Lubenham (about 4 miles from Husbands Bosworth), maybe as much as 10 miles per hour, with John thrashing the poor pony relentlessly.

The witness, a gentleman by the name of Captain George Ashby Ashby Esq (sic), having failed to stop the driver or obtain his name, went to the police in Husbands Bosworth, where the pony cart was headed. The policeman, hearing the story, said 'he thought he knew who it was'. They both proceeded to follow John Orton, still thrashing his horse, to his house where Captain Ashby identified him. 

The Cherry Tree, Little Bowden (near Market Harborough)
image by Mat Fascione
In court, PC Farmer claimed that John was drunk, "his hat being to one side and nearly off". John called to his defence the proprietor of the Cherry Tree Inn in Market Harborough, who said that John had been perfectly sober when he left there at half past six. John Shirves, who had seen John Orton at the Crown Inn in Theddingworth, said he had been perfectly sober when he left there at 8 o'clock. And Esther Fox, who was charing at the Crown Inn, agreed that John Orton had left there 'perfectly sober'.

The judge decided he could give no opinion on the charge of drunkeness "since if the defendent was drunk it was at Bosworth and if riotous it was at Lubbenham." He ordered John be fined 10 shillings and 14 shillings costs on the first charge of over-driving his horse.

John Orton, born in 1813, was a colourful character. We've seen already that in 1841 he and Mary Ann Brown were married in Birmingham, although John was from Husbands Bosworth and Mary Ann from the nearby North Kilworth. Whether this was because he was working in Birmingham, or because they experienced some opposition to the marriage we'll never know. Thomas Brown Orton, their first child, was born early in 1842.

19th century tool bench
John followed his father (also called John) into carpentry. He seems to have have been successful enough at his trade to employ others, but not always without friction. In December 1842, a young apprentice named William Rose complained to the Court of Petty Sessions that John Orton had beaten him, refused to pay him for five weeks' work and kept his clothing when he dismissed him. John's defence was that he had only given a 'gentle clout or two' to the lad's head when he misbehaved. The court determined that Rose should pay for his board, and that John Orton should return the clothing he'd seized and pay the expenses. A week later a warrant was issued against John Orton for not complying with the Magistrate's decision, but the outcome isn't recorded.

In March 1843 a John Orton, aged 29, of Husbands Bosworth, was charged with another man named George Glover of the more serious offence of assaulting a police officer. They had apparently been drunk at the time that the policeman, Thomas Bailey, called at the house in Husbands Bosworth to investigate the noise they were making. If the newspaper is to be believed, the policeman was close to death for a few days from the injuries he received. Both men were sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment. 

At this point Mary Ann would probably have been pregnant with William John (born about 1844). Their first three children (Thomas, William and Lucy Ann) were all baptised on the same day in 1845, presumably after John returned home.

A one-line item in the Leicester Chronicle records that John was back in court in 1846 charged with non-payment of wages. He was ordered to pay. Perhaps he became quieter for a while - the only record of him between then and his reckless driving charge in 1861 was when he served on a jury in Husbands Bosworth in 1849.

The Leicester Chronicle mentions John once more in 1869 when he was in dispute with a William Gimson, a timber dealer of Leicester, over a load of hay which John had sold to him to offset the cost of some timber. The hay, it seems, was of poor quality and not worth anything like the 5 pounds per ton that John had claimed. 

John appears listed as a carpenter and wheelwright in various directories of Leicestershire and Rutland in the 1860s and 1870's. In the newspaper article in 1869 and in the 1871 census he is described as a builder. He died in 1880, at the age of 67. No probate is recorded.

It is worth noting that John had several namesakes in Leicestershire. One of these was born in 1791 and lived in Husbands Bosworth in 1841. He was married to Sophia and is described on the census as an "F. W Knitter W". He and Sophia had moved to Blaby by 1851. 

Another John Orton, born about 1817 in South Kilworth, was a carpenter and his first wife was called Mary, which is obviously a possible source of confusion. However he remained in South Kilworth all his life. He is mentioned in a couple of newspaper articles as John Orton of South Kilworth. All the articles I have used above specifically refer to John Orton of Husbands Bosworth.