In the years that I have been studying my family history, I have come to ‘know’ some members in the same way that when one reads a book, one imagines what the characters might look and sound like. I have favourites. Like my x3 great grandfather John Ridout – I know so much about him, I think I could easily pick him out from a crowd, even though he died in 1855! Still, as a family historian it is in the nature of things that I chronicle the little that I know of all my ancestors and their families, even though for some this may only amount to a few dates and places. For completeness then, these are some of John’s children, who feel a little bit like strangers sometimes. I know so little about these folk that this epistle has no images to spice it up, for which apologies!
Henry Ridout, son of John and Sarah was baptised on the 17th December 1816 and was probably born in his parent’s new home at Kirkham’s Building in Bathwick. Possibly through some complication of childbirth, Sarah died just five days after the baptismal ceremony. One can only imagine John’s situation – he was suddenly in sole charge of a very young baby and a little boy of five whilst still having to make enough money to feed and clothe everyone. I hope he had some help.
The boys John and Henry would have been cared for by Martha, John’s second wife. Unfortunately, Henry appeared only twice in written records – his baptism and his death. Oddly, when he died on the 4th March 1839 his age was recorded by the registrar as nineteen, whereas he should have been twenty-three! Implying the existence of two Henrys, I searched for an earlier burial and a later birth or baptism but found neither. It does seem unlikely though that John, who was present at Henry’s death, would not have known his own son’s age and so the discrepancy is rather odd. Henry had apparently been learning his father’s trade as a carpenter but had been overwhelmed by dropsy, an archaic word for the accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluid due to kidney disease or congestive heart failure.
John’s second family with Martha comprised a girl Eliza and five boys William, George, Charles, Edwin and Joseph. The youngest, Joseph, was born on the 23rd September 1837 – the only one of John’s children to appear in the new civil registration system, which started on the 1st July that year. Sadly, Joseph was also the second member in John’s family whose death was officially registered since he died of typhus fever when just two years and two months old.
George was born on the 9th November 1826. Maybe it’s his name but I have always felt that George was a solid, dependable sort of a chap. He started work as a turner at least as young as fourteen, according to the 1841 census and was recorded as such on his death certificate sixty-six years later. Rather ironically, the state pension system was not introduced until 1908 so George probably worked until he died of ‘senile decay’, poor fellow. He was baptised, like his siblings, in the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel (Methodist) and for a while remained a non-conformist, at least in the early part of his life since his first marriage in January 1852 was at the Argyle Independent Chapel in Grove Street, witnessed by his younger brother Charles. His bride, Charlotte CLACK was a daughter of Samuel Clack and his wife Mary (née CHESTERMAN). Samuel was a butcher from a family of Bath butchers and he had a shop in St James’s Parade in Bath.
George and Charlotte had four children: George Albert (b. 1852, marr. Amy MATTHEWS), Sydney William (b. 1855, marr. Lavinia PARRISH), Florence (b. 1856, died unmarried as far as I know, was a servant and went blind at some point) and Walter (b. and d. 1858). Charlotte died at the age of thirty-three in 1860 and George then married Mary Hannah HARRISON. This ceremony was performed by a Church of England vicar, James W Sproule at St Mark’s in Lyncombe, with no suggestion of non-conformity. Mary was a thirty year old tailoress when she married George. They appeared not to have children of their own but stayed together for forty-two years, until George’s death. Their last few years were spent living in the centre of town at no. 6 Bath Street, a pleasant colonnaded thoroughfare opposite the Roman Baths.
Eliza was, as far as I know, the only daughter of John’s to survive to adulthood. His girls by Sarah Hodges had all died young (Alice, Jane and Susan) but, in the 1841 census, there was Eliza, a child of twelve and a scholar to boot. I searched high and low for Eliza in the 1851 census and, for a while, married her up to a nice cabinet maker called Charles Davis, until I realised that his Eliza had her own pedigree elsewhere! Back to the drawing board and one candidate finally appeared: an Eliza Ridout had died in the fourth quarter of 1849 in Bristol. I ordered the certificate and, sadly, I’m pretty sure I have found the right Eliza this time. The place of death was written as simply ‘Long Ashton’ – a bit enigmatic I thought. The person present at the death was Louisa Douglas and an examination of the 1851 census showed that she was the Matron at Longwood House Lunatic Asylum, Long Ashton. So Eliza was most likely to have been a patient. The cause of her death has been a source of much discussion on the genealogical boards: ‘conbritis’ – no-one in the world seems to know what this might mean but most have agreed on ‘cerebritis’, an inflammation of the brain that may have manifested itself in the kind of behaviour which may have brought about a sufferer’s institutionalisation.
Charles Ridout, John and Martha’s fourth son, was born on the 2nd May 1831. He was the second so named child – an earlier boy of theirs had been baptised in 1824 but died less than three years later. Counting the other unlucky Charles, born to John and Sarah, this is definitely a case of ‘third time lucky’ but Charles made it through his childhood. By the time he was twenty, now a wood turner, he had flown the nest and was lodging with another artisan in Walcot. Despite strenuous efforts over time, I failed to find Charles in the 1861 census but by 1871 he was living in Swansea, a widower, being visited by his future wife, widow Mary Ann SYMONS. Very little work was required to find Charles’ first marriage, in August 1862, to Elizabeth ROWE at the Swansea Register Office. The only registered death of an Elizabeth Ridout in Swansea was in the fourth quarter of 1868. Charles married Mary Ann in March 1874 but she died in 1879. His third marriage was to Emma WILLIAMS in 1890 by which time he was a grand old man of sixty with a wife fifteen years his junior. Charles worked as a carpenter and French polisher all his life and he also stayed in Swansea where he died from asthma and cardiac syncope in May 1899. As far as I can tell, despite having married three times, he died childless.
So, this was a brief resume of some of John Ridout’s children – the ones of whom I know very little of substance. Perhaps someone out there can fill in some details or (I can dream) show me some photographs? Next time I can present William, a man of flamboyant character and Edwin, my rather good looking great great grandfather, the two remaining sons of John Ridout.