Jane Sollis (1801-1864)
Childhood and Marriage to Thomas Holbrough
The story as far as we know it, begins in Eastleach Turville in Gloucestershire, near the Oxfordshire border at the turn of the nineteenth century.
It was there that Robert Sollis , an agricultural labourer, and his wife Elizabeth had at least eight children, one of whom was Jane, born in 1801. Although her own baptism has not yet been found, Jane was always consistent on marriage certificates and census returns throughout her life that her fathers name was Robert Sollis and that she was born in Eastleach Turville around 1801. (The rest of the family does appear in the parish register.)
Eastleach Turville is a small, quiet village where life has hardly changed over the centuries. Situated in the heart of the Cotswold's on the border with Oxfordshire it is in a farming area, away from the main roads and away from the main towns. Its main claim to fame is in the fact that it has a twin village of Eastleach Martin with its own church separated by only 200 yards and the tiny River Leach at the bottom of the churchyard and that Eastleach St. Martin’s rector, in the early 19th century, was John Keble, a leader of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, in whose memory, Keble College, Oxford was founded. He was a popular figure in the twin villages, founding a Sunday School and often dining with the locals. The picturesque clapper-bridge between the two is named after him.
As a child, Jane would probably not have gone to school, even if there was a charity or ‘Dame School’ in the village. With a large family and the very poor wages of her father, she would have been needed to help her mother to look after the others and as soon as she could, she would have been sent out to work, either doing little farm jobs or in service to one of the farmers wives.
Jane was married at the age of about 17 to Thomas Holbrough of the neighbouring parish of Great Barrington. The wedding was in the February of 1818 at St Andrews church, Eastleach Turville in the presence of Richard Holbrough and Thomas Newport
Jane and Thomas then appeared to have moved from the village. Their son, William was baptised in the May of 1818, only three months later and this took place in the parish of Charlton Abbots. On the baptism records they are described as living at Homely Hoo House although it is thought that this should probably be Humblebee How which is near the ancient Belas Knap Burial mound, between Winchcombe and Charlton Abbots. But they did not settle here.
By 1820 Thomas and Jane had moved to Winchcombe probably in search of work in this much larger town, and this was where their daughter Sarah was born. At her birth Thomas is described as being a labourer.
The birth of Sarah was followed in 1822 by Ann and 1824 by Mary. The children were baptised in the church at Winchcombe. Thomas Holbrough was usually described as a labourer but Charles, another son by Thomas, would later describe his father as a blacksmith on his wedding certificate.
Then in 1825 her husband died suddenly at the age of only 31. Jane, who was only 24, found herself a widow with four small children aged between seven and one, living away from her family.
Description of Winchcombe
Widowhood and ‘Spurious’ children.
In 1830 Jane was living at the Oaks, Sudeley - part of the by now derelict Sudeley Estate, when she gave birth to another son, John. In the Sudeley parish records, Jane’s profession is recorded as 'a widow', the father's name is recorded as 'spurious'. What is curious about this is that at the time there was no church in Sudeley, it having been destroyed by Cromwells Soldiers along with Sudeley Castle during the Civil War.
In April 1834 she did it again - this time with George. On his baptism certificate she is described as living in Winchcombe and he was christened there by the vicar John Hervey on April 27th 1834. No fathers name is given, there are no God parents names recorded and again, she is described as a widow
In the November of the same year, aged around 33, she married Japheth Griffin, a widower of 47, in Winchcombe church, by licence, in the presence of John Mason and Ann Griffin. It is not impossible, but seems unlikely that someone unconnected with the child would have married the mother only seven months after it's birth so Japheth remains the most likely candidate for George’s father.
John Mason was relieving officer for Winchcombe - and apparently also for Sudeley Manor. This wedding led to a dispute between the parishes of Sudeley and Winchcombe concerning the Illegal Marrying of Paupers.
The Poor Laws and an “Illegal Marriage”
Since some parishes had better job opportunities than others, it was inevitable that people would leave their home parish when times were hard, to look for employment. However, if they later became paupers, needing parish relief, it seemed unfair that their new parish should be expected to support them.
This led to the Settlement Act, which declared that your Legal Place of Settlement was the parish/township in which you were born. Thus, if you fell on hard times and needed relief, your home parish was responsible for your support, and had to pay for your Removal back to that parish.
Your place of settlement could be changed if :-
- You completed an apprenticeship there,
- You served as a parish official,
- You rented property there at an annual rent of £10 or more or
- You worked in the parish for at least a year.
- When a woman married she immediately acquired her husband's place of settlement. An illegitimate child automatically took its mother's legal place of settlement, rather than its own place of birth. Your new parish was the one responsible for your support should you fall on hard times.
Before 1601, the Church was responsible for caring for the poor, but under the Poor Law, every parish was made responsible for its own paupers. An Overseer of the Poor was to be elected each year, to levy a poor rate on all householders and to give sums of money to the parish poor.
Parish officers would go to great lengths to keep expenses down. In cases of female paupers, parish officers would resort even to bribery to relieve the parish, by marrying off their female paupers, especially paupers with families. They would pay for the marriage licence, for a gold ring, for the Church fees, for a marriage feast and would promise a marriage portion and pay it on completion of the marriage.
When an unmarried woman was found to be pregnant, she might get the child's father married her of his own free will or under duress. If it was the parish officials that were bringing pressure to bear on him, then it was known as a 'knobstick' wedding.
In the case of Jane & Japeth, they married by licence, even though they were supposed to be paupers despite the fact that this cost 10 shillings at the time as opposed to 2 shillings and 6 pence for marriage by banns (where an announcement was read out in church for three weeks before the wedding). This was a lot of money; in 1839 a Farm Labourers wage in Gloucestershire was around 9s a week, and if you were lucky, a ‘tied’ cottage
In 1835 Winchcombe Parish took Sudeley Parish to court for The ‘Illegal Marrying of Paupers’
Parish of Winchcombe, Gloucestershire.
We the undersigned Churchwardens and Overseers of the above parish do hereby give notice that a vestry meeting will be helden in this Parish Church on Saturday the second of May next at the hour of two o clock in the afternoon for the purpose of taking into consideration and consulting on what steps should be taken upon the subject of the late marriage between Jarbeth Griffin and Jane Holbrow and on other special business, dated this 25th Day of April 1835. John Kendrick & Wm. Hyatt, churchwardens and John Cooper, Richd. Lecy, James Finch & John Mann, overseers.
A meeting was accordingly held and it was agreed by vestry that;
legal proceedings should be taken against the parish of Sudeley for a conspiracy against this parish in the illegally marrying Jarbeth Griffin and Jane Holbrow and it was agreed that Mr. Trenfield shall be the professional person employed and that the churchwardens and overseers shall be empowered to consult on the business with a committee of the five following persons; Mr. W. Townshend, Mr. Stephen Lacey, Mr. Wm. Slaite, Mr. Chas. Kendrick, Mr. Wm. Trotman as witness our hands this 2nd day of May 1835. It was agreed on likewise at this meeting that; Mr. Ned Mason shall give up the office of assistant overseer for either Winchcombe or Sudeley and he have agreed to give up his office at Sudeley and continue it at Winchcombe.
It is not known what the 'Illegality' was about Jane’s second marriage but it appears to concern the intervention of Sudeley Parish, rather than being a question about the validity of the marriage itself.
Winchcombe Parish must have won its case because in 1836 it was noted in the vestry minutes;
“that a sum of £50 now remaining in the hands of the committee appointed to conduct proceedings against the parish officers of Sudeley for unlawfully procuring a Marriage of Paupers as received from the defendants be appropriated towards repairing the Lady Dorothy Chaundos Almshouses - or so much thereof as may be necessary for that purpose.”
In 1834 the Poor Laws had changed for the worse. A year after the marriage Winchcombe and Sudeley’s new Workhouse was built - Jane had a lucky escape! Life in the Workhouse would have been very harsh with mother and children separated and the stigma hanging around the children for the rest of their life.
Japheth Griffin already had five children by his previous marriage, aged between 22 and 11 at the time of his second marriage. But this cannot have been a very happy marriage as when Jane gave birth in March 1839 in Winchcombe to twin daughters, Fanny and Lucy, an entry is made in the Bishops Transcripts (copies of the Parish Registers made each year for the diocese) stating that she was 'living apart from her husband'. Sadly Frances died at 21 weeks and Lucy at 47 weeks.
She was living at Footbridge in 1841 at the time of that census with two of her children from her marriage to Thomas as well as John and George. Her husband was not there and she was recorded as being the head of the house. She was working in the fields to support herself as an Agricultural Labourer.
1841 Census Winchcombe - Footbridge (n.b. adult ages were ‘rounded’ in this census)
- Jane Griffin - 40 - Ag. Lab
- Sarah Holbrow - 20
- Ann Holbrow - 15
- John Holbrow - 10
- George Holbrow - 7
An account of a farm labourers spending in 1834 gives an idea of their lifestyle;
“We pay 4s a week for bread: this will buy a little more than eight quarter loaves. We pay 1s,9d. more for bacon, and the remaining 15d. is laid out in soap, candles, , thread and worsted, and such necessaries. We have nothing left. We have no money remaining to buy clothing or fuel, or to pay for our rent, which may be taken on the average at 60s. a year. We must depend on accident for these supplies, and of course, therefore, we generally go without them. If we manage to save a guinea out of our earnings in harvest, it is nearly all expended in paying for our shoes, which cost 15s. or 16s. a pair. “
Japheth Griffin died a year later in 1842. Jane was officially a widow again.
Her Third Marriage
She married for a third time in 1848 to William Tarrant aged 39. On the marriage certificate Jane is shown as Jane Griffin aged 47 a widow. He too was a labourer but had served four months with hard labour in prison in 1836 for his part in a drunken riot at Winchcombe Fair.
WILLIAM TARRAN - Gloucester Gaol CalendarsDate of Admission: 14 April 1836Number in Index: 17Late Residence: WinchcombReading and Writing: ImpTrade: labourer, Age: 27, Height: 5' 8.25", Hair: brown, Eyes: grey, Visage: common, Complexion: dark, Other marks: cut on the left arm, a scar on the second finger right hand, scar on the backCause of Commitment: Charged with an assault on a Constable in the execution of his dutyBy whom committed: Surrendered in CourtBy what court to be tried and when: Easter Session April 12 1836Sentence passed: 4 calendar months at Lawford's GateWhen discharged or removed: 15 April 1836Conduct in prison: Orderly
16 Apr 1836 Gloucestershire Chronicle
Gloucestershire Easter Sessions - Assault and Rescue
William Tarrant, William Hughes, William Hall, George Lank and John Jones were charged with a violent assault upon George Hawkes and William Kitchen, two constables at Winchcombe on the 26th march Last. The day in question being Winchcombe Fair, three turbulent men of the familiar name of Smith were 'kicking up' a disturbance near Mr. Yeens house when Kitchen, the constable, being sent for, found it necessary for the public tranquility to take the Smiths into custody; having procured some extra assistance the Smiths were taken but on their way to be locked up at the Booth Hall the 5 prisoners came to their rescue. They made an attack upon the constables, pulled the prisoners from them, violently beat them and threw stones at the officers, a mob of about 200 being collected; but the Smiths were ultimately locked up in 'durance vile'. The next morning however information was given to Hawkes, one of the constables, that some Smiths had been at work upon the outside of the Booth Hall and the Smiths had disappeared from the inside, the doors being opened by picklock keys, they were residents of Winchcombe and have not since been discovered.
The defendants being called upon to answer the charge Tarrant said, "I got to say as this, Maister Hawkes is the falsest man in the court - I never struck at him, but meant to knock down John Smith", the other defendants made some bungling excuses and charged Hawkes with being drunk at one of the 'bush houses' of their company. Two witnesses were called for the defence, one of whom described a part of the 'row' but the other when he arrived at the witness box turned his head round and declined to tell his story.
The jury found all the defendants guilty. Tarrant was sentenced to 4 months hard labour at Lawfords Gate; Hughes 4 months; the others (being less blameable than the two first) to be imprisoned 2 months to hard labour.
Gloucester Journal Saturday April 16, 1836
Quarter Sessions Thursday - Before Charles Bathurst, Esq
ASSAULTS - Wm Tarrant, Wm Hughes, Wm Hall, George Lank, and John Jones, were charged with assaulting William Kitchen and George Hawkes, constables, in the execution of their duty, It appeared that Kitchen, in attempting to put a stop to a disturbance in which three men named Smith were engaged, at Winchcomb fair, on 26th March, was assaulted by those persons, whom he took into custody; and while he, in conjunction with Hawkes, were removing the Smiths to the lock-up house, the prisoners interrupted them with the design of effecting a rescue; several stones were thrown, and the constables received blows from them, but it did not appear that the stones were thrown by any of the prisoners. The Smiths were locked up, but were liberated by their friends during the night, and had not since been retaken. On being called on for their defence, Tarrant said that he had nothing else to say than that "Master Hawkes was the falsest fellow in Court." Hughes said that so far from assaulting the constables, he was only desirous of having a few blows with one of the Smiths. Hall said, "Master Hawkes had been drinking with a woman on the fair night;" which charge Master Hawkes explained away. Hall further stated that he only came up and asked what was the matter when Hawkes nearly knocked him down with his staff. Lank said he only interfered because he was called on by one of the constables to aid and assist, which he was doing, when the other constable hit him with his staff. Jones declined to say anything in his defence. One witness was examined in corroboration of Hall's statement. Another witness was called by Hughes, but he came forward with quite ludicrous reluctance, and when he got into the witness-box, he turned back and declined to be examined; and his example was so far contagious as to be imitated by several others, who had apparently come for the express purpose of giving evidence in favour of the prisoners. The jury returned a general verdict of guilty. Tarrant and Hughes were sentenced to four months', and the three other defendants to two months' imprisonment and hard labour, at Lawford's Gate
At the 1851 Census Jane was living back in Winchcombe in Gloucester Street; with her new husband and her two illegitimate sons, John and George. She was still in Gloucester Street by the time of the 1861 Census of Winchcombe but by now her children had left home.
She died and was buried in Winchcombe as Jane Tarrant on the 21st of May 1864.
Her third husband William Tarrant died in the Winchcombe Workhouse on 1st March 1890, aged 81;