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.

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