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Thursday, 17 December 2015

Clandestine Marriages at Fleet Prison.

A thread on the ENG-Kent-NWKFHS Roots-web message board has turned out to be two fleet marriages (Clandestine marriages). It started with a found marriage in 1744 for the Non-Conformist listings (Fleet) and the groom’s occupation as a labourer in what looks like ‘Ye K Yards’ from Welling.  The same man was married in 1738, again at the Fleet, and described as a Husbandman.  The suspicion is that the later marriage may have been bigamous because a woman of the first wife’s name did not die until the mid-1745.

The enquirer asked for help with these occupations and confirmation that divorces were not available at that time.

Our first thoughts were it was unclear if the Fleet mentioned was a Fleet prison Clandestine Marriage or a parish in Hampshire, Kent or Lincolnshire. The suggestion was some marriages in the Fleet Prison occurred because they were underage, disapproved relationships or as possible in this case bigamous.

 Ancestry has a second series of clandestine marriages online and both sets need to be checked to see if these parallel records have the same details.

 Divorces were not available at this time, unless one had money and could afford an act of parliament or church courts to confirm it (see TNA leaflet on divorce law). For poor people it was cheaper to sell the wife.

 Occupation 'Husbandman' can be found in most occupation dictionaries, which applies to farming, but Labourer in 'Ye K Yards' could be anything from Brick Yard, Ship Yard or Timber Yard so a look at the original image was essential.

The image confirmed it was a Fleet Prison marriage, not a parish called ‘Fleet’.  It is important to be clear on locations. The record actually said ‘Wickham’. The query is ‘East’ or ‘West’, but with a Welling, Kent connection and other records, it was East Wickham.

 The groom was Hercules Manning who married Anne Knight on 3 October 1744.

Searching for him in other marriage records turn up an earlier Fleet marriage on 7 Oct 1838 to Mary Layton. She, possibly, features in the St Michaels, East Wickham burials in May 1745, after he married Anne.  Alternatively, was this a child of that name? In both of these marriages, he is described as a widower although an earlier marriage for him in Kent has not been found.    

 There is a record of a marriage between Hercules Manning and Eleanor Mead in 1727 in Buckland St Mary, Somerset. Could this be the same person? There does not seem to be any record of the death of Eleanor and this raises the query did he clear off, coming to Kent to start again.  Was he a double bigamist?

 There is a burial record of a Hercules Manning at East Wickham in 1780, aged 79 but without finding a record of his baptism in Kent. Somerset record office said the register covering baptisms 1642-1706 for Buckland St Mary is missing.

The Fleet marriage image shows it is an 'R' rather than a 'K' so we have labourer in 'Ye R Yard that we suspect is ‘Ye Rick Yard’. Work associated with farming but not as ‘Husbandman’, which is more a farmer than a labourer.

A sweep of the East Wickham area shows there are a few references to Hercules Mannings from the mid-1700s to the 19th century. The family lived and worked in an area that is contiguous to Welling, Bexley and Plumstead. These Hercules may be him or his descendants.

A check for any Settlement examinations might prove his birthplace.  These started in 1697; they are usually in the Archives, in this case a check on London Borough of Bexley, London metropolitan Archives and the KCC archives is needed. Gillian Rickards wrote 'Kent Settlement (Poor Law) Records: A Guide and Catalogue: Part 2: West Kent (Diocese of Rochester), published in 1994 (NWKFHS Library ref QGR0014), which may help the search.

The Burial of Hercules Manning in1780 age 79 at East Wickham may be him. His wives are from Greenwich and Woolwich, which confirmed the need to look in the East Wickham contiguous parishes for their burials and baptisms of their children. There is a Hercules Manning, son of Hercules Manning (no wife's name given) baptised 15 June 1748 at East Wickham and Elizabeth Manning baptised 18 October 1745 daughter of Hercules and Ann Manning. East Wickham registers start in 1730 so one needs to look at the contiguous parishes for earlier records.

A Will for Hercules has yet to be sought.

We hope this summary of the thread on this NWKFHS blog might generate ideas from others' as well as on message board. If you have any ideas please comment below.

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