Charles Vie Ridout – the man that nearly wasn’t.

Arthur George Ridout (1852-1939) a fellow Ridout researcher, to whose notes I sometimes refer, quite literally ‘sentenced’ this individual to death at the tender age of ten years: ‘Charles Vie bapt 1799 St Michaels Bristol buried Folke 22nd Dec. 1809 left no son.’ Over the past couple of days I have been resurrecting poor Charles who actually died aged sixty-five years and did leave a son, albeit rather an ill fated one. Piecing together Charles’ story has been, as these things usually are, an interesting genealogical adventure. Here he is then….

Charles Vie Ridout was baptised on the 2nd November 1801 at St Michael’s Church in Bristol (I could find no baptism in 1799), son of Charles Ridout and Jane (née Smith) of whom I have written before. Charles’ middle name reflected that of his paternal grandmother Jane Vie. There was a burial of a Charles Vie Ridout, in Folke, Dorset on the 22nd December 1809 but, as no parents were entered in the register I think this was more likely to have been the burial of an adult. Quite by chance I noticed the death registration for a Charles Vie Ridout during the 4th quarter of 1864 in West London; I also found an entry in a non-conformist register (RG8/46/0046: Hackney, Victoria Park) which helpfully gave his place of death as St Bartholomew’s (Bart’s) Hospital on the 18th October 1864, aged 64. Feeling fairly confident that I had already identified all the Charles Vie Ridouts of which I was aware, I came to the initial conclusion that perhaps this man may have been the same chap that Arthur had peremptorily despatched in 1809 – and that piqued my curiosity!

My first port of call was to search for Charles in the various censuses; he should, after all, have been in at least three but, after looking high and low, I only managed to corner him in 1851: he and his family were living in Furze Cottage, Brading, Christchurch (HO107-1664-425-17) which is on the Isle of Wight:

Charles Vie Ridout     51        Fund holder & proprietor of houses    City of Bristol
Clara  ”                         34        Annuitant in lands                                  Stow on the Wold
George Augustus ”    11         Scholar                                                       Belgium

Charles’ birthplace gave me some comfort in my original hypothesis and George Augustus’s birthplace might easily explain the family’s absence in the earlier census. I tried to find a marriage for Charles and Clara but didn’t succeed; perhaps they married in Belgium. I managed to trace George Augustus forward to 1861; he’d become a merchant sailor and was boarding in St Benet’s in London, very close to the river. Unfortunately, I believe that a registered death (Ticehurst, Surrey Q1 1872) pertains to him.

By far and away one of the most overlooked sources in family history is the newspaper and it was here that I found a lot of answers. Firstly, there was a legal property wrangle in the Isle of Wight during 1860 in which it seems Mr Ridout was singularly unpopular for his role in the matter. The details are complex and of little relevance here but one paragraph, printed in the Isle of Wight Observer on Saturday 27 October 1860, caught my eye. This was a letter from Charles Vie Ridout, 13, Lower Belgrave Street, Eaton Square, dated 25th October 1860, in which he wrote: “As I am stated a London lawyer, I add for the information of the Advertiser’s correspondent, that I ceased practice in the year 1844, when first went to reside in the Isle of Wight, and for yours that whilst I was in practice and about the year 1829, when your predecessor and partner, the late Mr. Cole, was my clerk…” Obviously, this statement implies that Charles had been legally trained and the proof was not hard to find; the Article of Clerkship (held by Ancestry.co.uk) was extremely useful in this and other respects:

Article

So this document, dated the 6th November 1816, confirms that indeed Charles was the son of Jane Ridout (née Smith); his father Charles had died the year before. The boy, at the age of fifteen, had started a legal apprenticeship with Richard Brickdale Ward, husband of his sister Jane. In his early years Charles appears to have at least travelled, if not lived, in Belgium but had mainly practiced in London. I checked the Law List of 1843 and he was recorded at 3 Plowden Buildings, Middle Temple (a very handsome group of listed buildings, just up from Victoria Embankment).

Going back to Charles’ death, I found a probate record dated 24th December 1864; his executrix and widow was named as Emma Wyatt Ridout of 50 St George’s Road, Pimlico. The deceased was said to be ‘late of Bayswater Villas’ but he had died at ’18 West Smithfield.’  Charles’ effects were valued at less than £300, which was surprising, given his potentially lucrative trade. However, the newspaper articles mentioned above did all allude to Mr Ridout have had ‘his fingers burnt’, by which we might take it that he had become embroiled in unsuccessful property speculation on the Isle of Wight four years earlier and had lost a deal of money. For Charles this may have been the beginning of a very tragic end, which was reported by several newspapers:

“THE EXTRAORDINARY SUICIDE OF A GENTLEMAN. Yesterday Mr. William Payne, the coroner for the City of London, held an inquiry at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital into the circumstances of the death of Mr. Charles Vie Ridout aged 65 years, who committed suicide on the premises of the West Ham Gutta Percha Company, of which he was the manager. Mr. Walter Hancock appeared to watch the case on the part of the company. William Harvey, night watchman at the Gutta Percha Works, West-street, Smithfield said that Mr. Ridout was the confidential manager of the works. Witness last saw him alive at a quarter- past eleven o’clock on Friday night. He had never been so late in the office before. He asked witness to fetch half a pint of beer, and witness went for it. The deceased had been writing all the evening -from six o’clock, when he had come to the office. Witness brought back the beer, but when passing the stable door he heard a noise, apparently from a pistol shot, followed by a groan. Witness ran into the stable and saw deceased lying on the ground with blood flowing from his bead. Witness thought he was in a fit, and called for help. He tried to lift the deceased up, and asked him what was the matter, but he did not answer. A policeman came, followed by a surgeon, who said that he had been shot. The police found a pistol in the straw. Witness found a paper of bullets, powder, and caps, and two letters (produced). Witness noticed nothing unusual about the deceased latterly, or when he directed witness to go out for the beer. Mr. Edward Broughton, clerk at the Gutta Percha Works, said that he had known the deceased for three years. Witness never observed that the deceased’s mind was disturbed in any way. The letters produced were in the deceased’s handwriting. Witness knew that the deceased was involved in pecuniary difficulties. By Mr. Hancock – the deceased was in no way wrong in his accounts with respect to the Gutta Percha Company. Parsons, 232 City Police, produced a pocket pistol which was found in the stable by the side of the deceased. It had just been discharged. Mr. Alfred Hancock, joint manager of the works with the deceased, said that he had known the deceased for three years and a half. He was latterly depressed very much. He was disappointed at not getting other employment. He was about to leave the Gutta Percha Company’s employment because he was not required any longer. His accounts were all right. He was married to a young wife, to whom he was devotedly attached, and he had two or three little children. His income from the company was £200 a year, but he had property of his own. On Friday afternoon witness saw him and he was then rather melancholy. Mr. P. Rowbottom said that latterly the deceased was dispirited, apparently at the prospect of the loss of employment. He was disappointed at not receiving certain sums of money on which he had calculated. Mr. Botolph, house surgeon, said that the deceased was brought into the hospital insensible from a bullet wound, and he died near three o’clock on Saturday morning. The bullet was found in the upper part of the brain. The Coroner said that the letters alluded to by some of the witnesses were two in number – one was written to the wife of the deceased, and the other was addressed ‘To the Coroner and the Jury.’ The letter addressed to the court was as follows:

“To the Coroner and Jury. Gentlemen,—As the law permits, or as it is customary for you to assume the right of not confining your inquiry into the mere fact of death, but extend it into the causes which led self-slaughter, and as it is possible that I may branded with the absurd stigma felo de se, which was applicable only in barbarous age, when, amongst our ancestors, men were the property of their lord, I desire to place at your disposal the best evidence – my own. Throughout my life I enjoyed uninterrupted bodily health, which I thought nothing could break; but utter helpless, hopeless insolvency has overtaken me and weighed me down. It is better for man to owe £100,000 than £100 if he is not in a position to pay the latter sum. The sum of £400 would more than make me a free man; but that is not to be got. The deceased then at great length detailed how three years ago he had borrowed a sum of £500, and how to pay interest on the loan he had sold £300 worth of property for £70, but that, nevertheless, all his efforts had left him hopelessly embarrassed and involved. He continued: It (the loan) answered its purpose at the time, but the end is that I am left without bread at sixty-live. Let no-one blame me for living beyond my means – for what were they? Two hundred a year to support wife and family. All those that knew me know whether my habits were not proper and sensible. The thought of the children and their gentle mother was the only reward I had for struggling on for years in an occupation I held and an employment I despised. So much for life – now for death. The mind of man depends so much on its manifestations, on corporeal functions. A blow on the brain with a hammer would have converted a Shakespeare or a Newton into drivelling idiots. Where then would have been their magnificent creations or grand thoughts? I do not understand ”entering into eternity.” The phrase involves a contradiction in terms. Eternity is that which has neither beginning nor end. I have thought over all this until my brain has become like that of one that hangs over a precipice! No-one has a belief other than fervent hope, earnest desire! We repeat what have learned from others like parrots. “There is more honesty in frank doubt than ill weak belief.” For my part I can only believe in what I can thoroughly comprehend. I die believing nothing but hoping all things. I write all this because there is always so much said about death being a “rash act,” a “rushing into the presence of one’s Maker without God’s permission.” I feel but an instrument in God’s hand for my own just punishment. I placed all my happiness in a home to which I had no right, for I had not the means necessary to keep up. That darling angel! If I could possibly I would still struggle for her sake. And my child’s cherub face is before me saying, ‘Papa, don’t leave us.’ What can I do? But this is going back again to life. What tricks and subterfuges in order to make this home happy! I am ashamed to make so much fuss about dying, but the thought of them overcomes me. My dying averts ruin from another, who, if I lived, would be ruined too. Pardon me this trouble, but perhaps some of you have children. Until the age of 60 I never was in difficulty. I trust you will take a charitable view all, and pardon me occupying your time. Charles Vie Ridout October 14. To face death at the cannon’s mouth in the presence of thousands, and with the Victoria Cross to encourage your spirits is an easy task; but the heart sinks when in the solitude of a chamber. Shame, remorse, despair, mock and mouth at you from the barrel of a pistol, and a little cherub cries out to you, ” Don’t papa; papa, don’t do it.” The Coroner said that it would be for the jury to consider whether the letter read would tend to show that the deceased was in unsound state of mind. If they were not of opinion that it did there could be no alternative but to return a verdict of felo de se. The jury returned a verdict of “Suicide while in a state of unsound mind.

Charles had obviously left the Isle of Wight after the property debacle and had taken a comparatively poorly paid job as a factory manager. I do not know what happened to young Emma; maybe she re-married and enjoyed a less troubled life; I hope so. I did find one piece, published many years later, in the marriages section of the London press:

HENSMAN – LE BRUN. 18th April 1889 at St Mary’s Fulham by Rev C Bradshaw MA vicar, James Thomas, eldest son of Charles HENSMAN of Watford to Amy, only daughter of the late Charles Vie Ridout, Belgrave Street, Eaton Square and widow of the late H R Le-Brun, Lille, France.

Clearly, at least one of poor Charles’ children, undoubtedly traumatised by the sudden and violent death of their beloved father, despite also having lost a husband, hopefully had better times with James. I have no idea who Charles’ other children were as, once again, I can find no baptisms; that Charles was buried as a non-conformist might explain this or maybe it’s just that some people simply evade the records. However, as tragically as Charles’ life ended, he at least enjoyed fifty-four more years of existence than Arthur George Ridout had given him!

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Sorting out the ‘Johns and Marys’ in parish records

My x5 great grandfather Christopher was baptised in Sherborne Abbey, on the 2nd April 1722, son of ‘John and Mary Ridout’. Seeing two of the most common first names together is rather depressing for a family historian, particularly when there is more than one candidate couple living in the same town:

Sherborne Abbey marriages of, and baptisms to, ‘John & Mary’ Ridout

John and Mary MORRIS married on the 2nd Oct 1715
John and Mary SYMONDS married on the 1st Jan 1718/9

John 1 bp. 15 Oct 1716 (Mon)
Elizabeth bp. 14 Dec 1719 (Mon)
John 2 bp. 22 Jan 1719/20 (Fri)
Christopher bp. 2 Apr 1722 (Mon)
Robert bp. 24 May 1722 (Thu)
James bp. 16 Jun 1724 (Tue)

In this situation, we can use logic if we make some assumptions. Can we assume that: most baptisms were carried out not long after birth1 and, if so, that siblings were baptised at least a year apart2? Also, can we assume that the children were born in wedlock3 and belonged to just these two couples4? Accepting these caveats, I tried to work out which children belonged to which of the two couples…

  • John (1) is more likely to be the son of John & Mary (née Morris) as the other couple were not married for another three years.
  • Robert is unlikely to be Christopher’s brother since they are baptised just over a month apart.
  • By the same logic, Elizabeth is unlikely to be John 2’s sister, therefore one of these children belongs to John & Mary (née Morris) and the other to John & Mary (née Symonds) and therefore either Elizabeth or John 2 is Christopher’s sibling.
  • John 2 is unlikely to be the child of John & Mary (née Morris) unless their first son John died and the burial is missing from the parish register. If this is true Elizabeth is John 1’s sister and they belong to John and Mary (née Morris), having been born in wedlock. Since John & Mary (née Symonds) married in January 1719, John 2 was probably their first born son, baptised about a year after their marriage and Christopher was their second son.
  • My x6 great grandfather John, I think, died in 1726 and therefore James might have been his son or not but, in any event, John and Mary (née Symonds) were probably my x6 great grandparents.

Footnotes

  1. One exception might be, for example, when a group of siblings were baptised together, which often occurred at Christmas, or on a Sunday, when hard working families might have a day off. None of the baptisms here were on a Sunday or at Christmas.
  2. Assumes that a child was born shortly after birth and so a year leaves a very approximate interval between sibling births.
  3. Comparing my family’s marriage dates and the baptisms of their children I’ve only found a single illegitimate birth. Generally that does seem to be quite a common observation, as far as I know.
  4. Most of my early family were ‘hatched, matched and despatched’ actually in the town of Sherborne. Assuming that the registers are complete, and they do seem to be very meticulously kept, these two couples were probably the only ‘John & Mary Ridouts’ who married and were baptising children in Sherborne within this time frame.
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