Tucked away in Tyler Jacques’ family memorabilia was a yellowed Christmas card from the Isle of Wight dated 1932. The card was from Mr and Mrs H L Williams and had an embossed address of 75 Church Street, Ryde, Isle of Wight in the bottom left-hand corner but no one in the family knew who the Williams family was, why they sent a Christmas card to the family in Canada or why it had been saved for the last 85 years.
Curious, Tyler did a Google search for a Williams family living on the Isle of Wight and he found me. Although my Williams ancestors were Islanders from way back, I didn’t know who Mr and Mrs H L Williams could be but I thought I would do a little research and see what I could find. This is the story of the mysterious Christmas card from the Isle of Wight, pieced together from some social history research, a little genealogical sleuthing, and background information from Tyler.
The good news is, we now know who Mr and Mrs H L Williams are, and why they sent a Christmas card to Canada so many years ago. But in uncovering the story of the Christmas card, we’ve stumbled upon other puzzles. Maybe one of you can help to solve them.
Four Shire Stone
The story of the Christmas card begins in the parish of Chastleton during the autumn of 1863, not far from the Four Shire Stone where the historic counties of Worcestershire, Warwickshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire meet in the English Cotswolds. The parish included the small village of Chastleton, Kitebrook mansion, cottages at the Four Shire Stone, Brookend, the Grove Farm and cottage, the Hill farm and the Parsonage House.
By the end of October that year, the harvest was finished and the last cricket game of the season had been played, followed by what all agreed had been an excellent dinner at the White Hart Hotel in Moreton. The annual great Michaelmas fair had been held in Moreton-on-the-Marsh on the 13th of the month and a fat ox had been roasted on High Street for the servants attending the hiring.
On three successive Sundays in October, banns had been called in the ancient church of St. Mary in the parish of Little Compton and on Thursday, 29 October 1863, 27-year-old James Jacques, a farm worker, married 22-year-old Emma Sadler with Thomas Beal, a farm worker, and Ellen Eden, a servant and neighbour of the Sadlers, as witnesses. 1Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R3/3 They were married by the Rector, George Horatio Nutting, whose heirs would, in May 1878, sell the advowson of the rectory of Chastleton to his successor, the Reverend Gustavus Alfred Sneyd, but we are getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Having anticipated their marriage the previous winter, James and Emma were back at St. Mary’s Church to have their son, Francis Joseph baptised on 29 December 1863, only two months after their wedding. 2Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R2/1 A little over two years later, they returned to have their daughter Mary baptized on 29 May 1866. 3Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R2/1Another two years passed. On 5 August, 1868, Rector Nutting baptised their third child, a daughter, Elizabeth. 4Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R2/1 Yet another two years passed and their fourth child, a son who they named Thomas William, was baptized on 6 August 1871.
But the next year, in an unfortunate series of events, tragedy struck the Jacques family. Emma, mother of four children, all under the age of ten, one just a baby in arms, died at the summer of 1872 and was buried on 22 July 1872. 5Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R5/1 Two years later, young motherless Thomas William died before his third birthday. 6Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R5/1 James, the breadwinner of the family, was left with three young children to raise alone. He did not remarry which would have been very common, but instead, we must assume that as the oldest, Francis took charge of the family at the age of 8-years-old, perhaps with help from the other cottagers.
It was on 17 November 1873, when the Rector of Chastleton, Reverend George H Nutting, died suddenly and was buried in the church-yard the following week, aged 68 years, setting a chain of events in motion in the parish of Chastleton.
His widow, Mary Jane Nutting, inherited his meagre estate. For a time, Chastleton was without regular clergy and the baptisms, marriages and burials were performed by various officiants from the surrounding parishes but in the spring of 1878, as already mentioned, the Reverend Gustavus Alfred Sneyd purchased the advowson of the Chastleton rectory for the sum of £4200. He paid Mrs Nutting an initial £2000 and the balance of £2200 was secured by a mortgage held by the widow with an interest rate of five percent. The mortgage was due six months after Sneyd took possession of the rectory which he did in April 1879, and if the balance of £2200 was not paid at that time, further interest in half-yearly payments would be charged. Sneyd was unable to pay off the mortgage and so commenced the semi-annual interest payments as stipulated by the terms of the agreement. 7The Law Times Reports, Volume 50, 1884 He often had to borrow the money to pay the interest from friends and acquaintances and was in debt to everyone he knew.
By 1881, as Sneyd was settling into the parish, the Jacques family was living in the Four Stone Shire Cottage in Chastleton in Cottage Four. 81881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 1521; Folio: 32; Page: 8; GSU roll: 1341367 Their neighbours were working-class folk, much like them. Mary Ann Riley, the wife in Cottage One, was 37-years-old and did not work outside the home. Elizabeth Dring, the wife in Cottage Two was 24-years-old and also had no occupation although the family had a boarder. The head of household in Cottage Three was Ann Riley, a widow with three sons aged 16 to 24 and all four were working. Ann also had two daughters, aged 14-years and 9-years who were in school. It was a small community within a small town, and we can probably assume that they looked after their own.
Mary, the eldest of the Jacques children, at 15-years-old, had gone into service with the Green family in Great Wolford, about four miles from home. 91881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 3111; Folio: 90; Page: 10; GSU roll: 1341741 It is likely that she “lived in” and only returned home to the Four Stone Shire Cottages on her day off as was the usual custom for domestic servants of the time. Her younger sister, 12-year-old Elizabeth, was in school and 17-year-old Francis, or Frank as he was called, was employed as a farm worker like his father. They were, by all accounts, getting by.
A Shocking Scandal
It was early in 1882 when a shocking scandal rocked the quiet village of Chastleton. The Reverend of the parish church, Gustavus Alfred Sneyd, stood accused of immoral conduct with a young girl named Rose Elizabeth Marnes and of having fathered her child. 10Oxford Journal – Saturday 05 August 1882At a vestry meeting on the Thursday after Easter in 1882, it was decided by the attendees that the scandal simply must be brought to the attention of the Bishop.
Rose Marnes said that in September 1879, she went to work at for Mr. Hitchman at Kitebrook House as an under-housemaid. On a Sunday morning that month, she spoke to Reverend Sneyd for the first time. In passing her, he remarked that it was a beautiful morning. At the end of October or early November, she received a letter from the Reverend after he had paid a visit to Kitebrook House asking her to meet him at the Lower Drive gate near Little Compton. The letter professed his love for her and as he had instructed in the letter, she burnt it but did not meet him as asked. She did, however, encounter him accidentally the following day at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon while on her way to the farm. They were together on that occasion for ten or fifteen minutes.
Sneyd asked her to meet him again, but this time in the evening at Brook End Corner but she was not allowed out by the cook at Kitebrook House. In mid-November, he sent her another letter asking to see her that evening and she met him. They walked the footpath through a field leading from Brookend and he promised to marry her upon leaving Chastleton, which he said he would do soon and he kissed her several times but told her not to speak to her father yet about him.
The Reverend Sneyd wrote to Rose again at the end of November or beginning of December and Rose went to meet him, this time bringing Louisa Eden with her. Rose went into the field with Sneyd, while Louisa went down the main road. While in the field, the Reverend Sneyd seduced Rose.
In January of 1880, Rose met Sneyd and again had intercourse with him. After she left her employment at Kitebrook on 19 January, a letter sent by Sneyd was brought by the postman to her father’s house. In March they met near her father’s house, again having intercourse in the fields. Sneyd reassured Rose that the rumours that he was to marry Miss Harris weren’t true and that she shouldn’t worry about them. In October, Sneyd called at her father’s house, asking if her father was at home. When Rose said no, Sneyd said he wanted to talk to him about some work so she went to fetch him.
On 31 January 1881, Rose, realising she was with child, wrote to Reverend Sneyd, begging him to meet her as she was in great trouble. That the trouble concerned him as well, she did not say for she thought he might not meet her if she did. Rose went to her father’s field where she met Sneyd who was with a boy by the name of William Eden on the road. Sneyd climbed over the gate and went to her. He asked her if her friend Louisa would ever say she had seen them together, because if she did, it would ‘totally ruin him’ and he would have to deny it. He told her that he would not marry Miss Harris but instead would marry Rose. As he kissed Rose, her brother Charles came through the hedge and Sneyd bolted.
When Charles threatened to tell Rose’s father what he had seen, she begged him not to, saying Sneyd had promised to marry her. Charles agreed then to keep her secret. But on 2 March, Rose’s father found out that she was pregnant and Charles finally told him that he had seen his sister with the Reverend Sneyd. When her father pressed her, Rose admitted it was true.
As Mr Marnes considered the options, Rose wrote to Sneyd yet again.
Dear Sir. I am in great distress, as I am in the family way by you. My father has found it out, and he is in a most dreadful way. He is going to Moreton tomorrow at 11 o’clock. Will you come and see me and I will tell you all about it? Trusting you will not fail me, as I hope we can come to some arrangement without publicity.
Sneyd then came to the house while her father was gone. He kissed her and told her he was sorry and would do all he could for her. Her mother was at home and saw them together in an embrace, she later told the Bishop at the enquiry into the affair.
The following day, Sneyd again came to the house, bringing with him a letter that he asked Rose to sign. It said that Rose had never met with Sneyd between January 1880 and January 1881 so she told him she would not sign it as it wasn’t true. Her mother agreed that she should not sign it if it wasn’t true and Sneyd, thwarted in his plans, departed.
Soon after, Rose was confined and gave birth to her daughter whom she named Margaret Agnes Addison.
Afterwards, Rose’s father commenced
against Sneyd. When Sneyd’s brother and sister learned of the pending case, they contacted their family solicitor and asked him to look into the affair. Anxious to avoid a public hearing, the Sneyd siblings had their solicitor contact the solicitor for the Marnes family and make an arrangement. The Sneyd family paid one hundred guineas in return for the Marnes family signing an agreement to withdraw their claim.
Reverend Sneyd denied all knowledge of the arrangement and expressed his anger at the interference of his family in his affairs.
Even though an agreement had been reached regarding the paternity case, there was still the ecclesiastical enquiry to deal with. On Friday, 28 July 1882, an enquiry was opened at the County Hall before the Bishop of the Diocese. The Reverend Gustavus Alfred Sneyd was charged with immorality, of having had relations with Rose Elizabeth Marnes, and of having fathered her child.
Sneyd, of course, denied all of the charges.
Rose told her story but Sneyd stuck to his version, swearing that, although he had courted Miss Marnes for a period a few years prior, he had felt she wasn’t really interested in him, and he had instead begun courting Miss Christabella Harris who he now planned to marry. He swore he had not seen Rose, except at church, for over a year.
When he had received the letter from Rose telling him she had found herself in the family way, he said that of course he was concerned as he would have been about any parishioner and he had gone to the Marnes farm to see what could be done. Rose’s parents had suggested that Rose be sent to Somersetshire to have the baby and he had agreed with them that it would be best, to preserve Rose’s reputation. The parents told him it would cost £20 and Sneyd eventually provided the family with £5 towards the trip.
Sneyd admitted to returning the following day to ask Rose to sign the letter saying they had not seen each other for a year but when she refused, he said that he returned home, intending to put the whole matter before the rural dean. Before he could reach home, he said, he had been set upon by three men, one who held a gun and threatened to blow his brains out. They beat him and took his papers, leaving him in a field. When he came to his senses, he said, he was lying in a field and his pony and carriage were gone, along with his copies of Rose’s letters. Sneyd suggested that one of the men might have been Arthur, Rose’s brother.
The pony and carriage were later found in Woodford Wood, with parts of the torn letters.
Witnesses were called who testified that they had seen Rose out walking with two young men in the past year, including one named Jackson and another named Carey, indirectly suggesting that one of these might be the father of Rose’s baby.
Despite what appeared to be damning evidence, the court found that there was insufficient proof of the charges of immorality. The Bishop simply warned Sneyd that he should be more careful in his demeanour and ensure that his conduct remained above reproach in future.
The Reverend Gustavus Alfred Sneyd was acquitted of all charges.
Bankruptcy and Marriage
During the Bastardy proceedings that summer of 1882, Sneyd had let the interest payments on his mortgage fall into arrears and on 17 July 1882, Mrs Nutting, perhaps now feeling some prejudice against Sneyd after the scandal broke in the village, commenced action in the Queen’s Bench for the full amount owing, including the outstanding interest and costs. Unable to pay, Sneyd filed a liquidation petition in the Oxford County Court which stayed the proceedings against him for a time. 11The Law Times Reports, Volume 50, 1884
In the meantime, Gustavus Sneyd had married Christabella Harris on 28 August 1882, as he had no doubt planned all along. 12Upton Hellions, Devon Marriages, 1464A/PR/1/5
But on 27 January 1883, a notice of sequestration of the fruits and profits of the Rectory was affixed to the door of the Church.
The Jacques Family
While the Chastleton parish scandal was unfolding, the Jacques children were growing up in the Four Shire Stone Cottages. At the time of the 1882 enquiry, Francis was 19-years-old, Mary was 15-years-old and Elizabeth, the youngest, was 13-years-old. Francis was a farm worker, perhaps working at one of the local farms, Mary was in service with the Green family in Great Wolford, and it was likely about then that Elizabeth would have also entered into domestic service, having completed what schooling was common at the time. 131881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 3111; Folio: 90; Page: 10; GSU roll: 1341741
Mary Jacques left the Green family in Great Wolford and began working for James and Clara Harbidge at Little Compton Manor House in Moreton-in-Marsh. James Harbidge had been in failing health for some time and in about 1888, he moved his household to his wife’s family home, Uplands, in Ryde, Isle of Wight for the milder climate. Mary Jacques was their cook, assisted by another young woman from Little Compton, Lucy Margetts, who was housemaid to the Harbidge family. 141891 England Census, The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 892; Folio: 94; Page: 20; GSU roll: 6096002
At about the same time, Elizabeth Jacques fell pregnant and her son, William Harold Jacques, was born on 2 April 1889 on Moreton Road at Little Compton. She refused to name the father, and who could blame her after the humiliation that Rose Marnes had endured? 15England, Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth (long form), William Harold Jacques 1889; General Register Office, London, England. citing Chipping Norton June [quarter] vol 3a: 909. Young William was baptized on 19 May 1889 by the Reverend Gustavus Sneyd. 16Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R2/1
When Sneyd filled in the baptismal register, in the spot beside William Harold’s name where the father and mother’s first names would normally be written, he began to write Wal but then changed his mind and crossed it out, instead only writing Elizabeth. Did he know who the father was? Did he begin to write his first name?
Who, amongst the Chastleton residents around that time had a first name beginning with ‘Wal’? By 1891, when the decennial census was taken, there was only one person in the village that matched. His name was Walter Newman, and he was a stone mason and slater living in the Rectory Cottage next to the Rectory where Elizabeth worked for the Sneyd family. Walter Newman was married with four daughters.
James Jacques, father to Elizabeth, Mary and Frank, and grandfather to young Willie, died in 1894 in Chastleton at only 58-years-old and was buried in the parish cemetery on 26 January 1894. 17Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R5/1
After Willie’s birth, Elizabeth worked for none other than the Sneyd family but fell ill with rheumatism. She was placed in the Cottage Hospital in Moreton where she died of chorea gravis, a severe form of chorea resulting in dysphagia, impaired nutrition and exhaustion.
For two weeks prior to her death, Elizabeth languished in a coma, having lost consciousness due to insufficient blood flow to the brain, and on 9 February 1897, she died. 18England, Certified Copy of an Entry of Death (long form), Elizabeth Jacques, 1897; General Register Office, London, England. Shipston vol 6d: 448. She was buried by the Reverend Gustavus Sneyd on 12 February 1897 in the Chastleton parish cemetery. 19Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R5/1
Elizabeth’s Son, Willie Jacques
Orphaned, William Jacques was admitted to the Barnardo’s Home on 29 March 1897 on the recommendation of Mrs Christabella Sneyd, the rector’s wife. According to her letter, William’s Uncle Frank was 34-years-old and working as a labourer, making 12 shillings a week near Four Shire Stone in Moreton-in-Marsh and his Aunt Mary, at 30-years-old, was working as a servant at Roselands in Woveston, Southampton and making £18 a year. Neither were able to provide a home for their nephew. The boy had been living with Mrs Scarsbrook in Todenham, Gloucestershire, but the time had come to make more permanent arrangements. Willie’s Uncle Frank signed the necessary paperwork for Willie to go to Canada. 20Barnardo Case File, Jacques Family Archives
On 31 March 1898, young 9-year-old William boarded the Dominion Line’s ship, the Labrador, in Liverpool and sailed to Halifax, Canada. The party of boys from the Barnardo Homes that were destined for Toronto was supervised by Mr A B Owen and the ship arrived as scheduled in Halifax harbour on 9 April 1898. From there, young Willie was sent to a family by the name of Hessenauer in Eagle, Ontario but in May, Hessenauer wrote to the Barnardo Homes, explaining that Willie, being about the same age as his own son, would not fit in with their family but offered the name of another family in Eagle, the Murray family, who was willing to take William and sign the employment agreement. 21Barnardo Case File, Jacques Family Archives
William’s employment contract with Archie Murray expired in April 0f 1905 when he was 16-years-old, and he left the farm in 1907 to work in the Cobalt mines for a time, returning to the farm in the summer of 1909. 22Barnardo Case File, Jacques Family Archives He continued to work for Archie off and on, sometimes taking work in the lumber camps and on 11 September 1912, 23-year-old Willie Jacques married 35-year-old Mary Pollard in the village of Dutton in Elgin county, Ontario. 23Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Registrations of Marriages, 1869-1928 Their son, Douglas Arthur, was born on 4 September 1913 and their second son, Murray Gordon Jacques, was born 28 March 1915. 24Archives of Ontario; Series: MS929; Reel: 239 That summer, William started a fishing business, and made his home in the village of Eagle.
But with the world at war that year, William Harold Jacques, along with six other local men, enlisted with the 70th Battalion on 18 October 1915 in St. Thomas, Ontario. After some basic training, he sailed from Halifax aboard the Olympia on 29 June 1916, arriving in Liverpool on 5 July and finally arriving at the front in France on 21 August 1915. 25RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 4765 – 64, item 482392 He was wounded in October 1916 but recovered. 26St Thomas Journal, 3 October 1916, p8
After two years of fighting in the war to end all wars, William Harold Jacques was killed in action on 17 August 1917 in the Battle of Hill 70 on the Western Front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais, leaving Mary a widow, with two young sons to raise on her own. William’s name is listed on the West Lorne Cenotaph as one of those lost in action.
Mary Jacques married Alfred James on 22 June 1897 in Chastleton by none other than Reverend Gustavus A Sneyd. The witnesses were Francis Joseph and Sarah Jacques. 27Oxfordshire Family History Society; Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Number: PAR60/1/R3/3 They moved to Alfred’s home town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight where he had an accountancy business. They had five children between 1898 and 1909: William Alfred, Elizabeth Mary, Alice Emma, Frances Rose and James Edward. 281911 England Census, Class: RG14; Piece: 5725; Schedule Number: 148
It was Mary’s daughter, Alice Emma James, who married an accountant by the name of Harry Leonard Williams in 1931. 29Isle of Wight, December [quarter] 1931, volume 2b: 1569 In 1932, they were living on Church Street in Ryde and sent a Christmas card to their cousins, the Jacques family, in Ontario, Canada.
Frank Jacques married Sarah Marshall in Bourton on the Hill on 23 May 1896. 30Gloucestershire Archives; Gloucester, England; Gloucestershire Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Numbers: P54 IN 1/15 After seven years of marriage, Sarah Jacques died in October 1903 and was buried on 28 October in Bourton on the Hill. 31Gloucestershire Archives; Gloucester, England; Gloucestershire Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Numbers: P54 IN 1/7
Frank remarried on 24 April 1909 in Condicote to a spinster named Rose Ann Russell. 32Gloucestershire Archives; Gloucester, England; Gloucestershire Anglican Parish Registers; Reference Numbers: P100 IN 1/8 Rose Ann was the illegitimate child of Martha Russell and a reputed father named William Hickman but had gone into service at about the time that her mother married Charles Legge in Aston in October of 1875. She had been a servant to Philip Badcock, a land agent, in Paddington, London for her entire working life, about 30 years in total.
From 1910, until 1923, Frank ran the Black Bear Inn at Moreton-in Marsh, perhaps retiring at the age of 60. When Rose Ann died on 29 July 1935, she left an estate of just over £524 to Frank. 33Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. 1935 He did not remarry but instead, lived in Longborough until his death in 1950.
An Unexpected Inheritance
When Frank Jacques died on 25 August 1950 in Longborough, Gloucestershire, news of his estate was published in the Gloucestershire Echo:
Mr. Francis Joseph Jacques, of Sunnybank, Longborough, who died on August 25, left £2,384 gross, £2,809 net value. Probate has been granted to Harry L Williams of 18 Adelaide-place, Ryde, Isle of Wight and Arthur J Williams, builder, of Longborough.Gloucestershire Echo - Thursday 30 November 1950
Frank left his rather substantial estate to his surviving relatives as follows:
His residences at Sunnybank, one which he lived in up until his death and another he rented, were to be sold and the proceeds were to be divided between his nieces, two of Mary’s daughters, Alice Emma Williams and Elizabeth Mary Tagg. He left small bequests and some of his belongings and to the nieces and great-nieces of his late wife, Rose Ann. He remembered his nephews in Canada, the two sons of his late nephew William Jacques, Douglas and Murray, with £20 each. 34Will of Francis Joseph Jacques, 1950
The residue of his estate was then divided between his sister Mary and her children.
While we’ve solved the mystery of where the Christmas card came from, we now have other puzzles.
How did Frank Jacques, who was earning 20 shillings a week back at the turn of the century and who apparently worked as a farm labourer all his life, accumulate such a substantial estate?
Did he save all his life?
Could he have grown the inheritance he got from his wife Rose to such a sum?
And where did Rose get the money she left to Frank?
Did Frank inherit the rest of his money from someone else?
Did he get ‘hush money’ from the father of Elizabeth’s illegitimate child?