John RIDOUT was a direct ancestor of mine who was born in Sherborne, Dorset in 1785. His three score years and ten spanned a very interesting period of history. Probably, as a youngster, John was told about the ongoing war with France but, when Napoleon finally met his Waterloo, I wonder if the boy knew that a distant relation of his was in charge of guarding the defeated general on St Helena. When John died in 1855, Britain was once more involved in war, this time in the Crimean peninsula. My x3 great grandfather outlived his parents, his siblings, his wives and nine out of thirteen of his children. I imagine him somehow as a quiet, sober, hard working, perhaps religious man but of course I’ll never know.
And so to Bath…
By 1807 slavery had been formally abolished in Great Britain and the Napoleonic Wars were in full swing. Admiral Lord Nelson had met his end at the battle of Trafalgar, William Pitt the Younger had expired, perhaps from an excess of fine port and ‘Farmer’ George III was still on the throne. According to the Bath newspaper dated May 6th, Jane Austen had ‘escaped’ the city to the fresh air of Clifton Downs. Lilac and apple blossom were the season’s colours for young ladies of fashion. Free smallpox inoculations were being advertised at the City Dispensary and Dr Soloman’s Cordial Balm of Gilead laid extravagant claims to curing just about every ailment under the sun.
Meanwhile, John Ridout, a twenty-two year old cabinet-maker, married Sarah Hodges at St James’ church in the Southgate, Bath. Although there is no evidence of this, I’ve speculated that John may have married his apprentice master’s daughter. If he had started a seven year cabinet maker’s apprenticeship with Mr Hodges when he was fourteen then that may have been the point at which John first went to live in Bath and he would have finished serving his indentures by 1807. Sarah’s father’s name may have been William and there were several men named William Hodges in Bath directories of the time, including more than one cabinet maker. However, this relationship is pure speculation. Maybe John didn’t move to Bath until his marriage but what is clear is that at some point he moved away from Sherborne in Dorset to the still fashionable Somerset city where no doubt the market for fine furniture, although waning, exceeded that in his small, rural home town.
I’ve followed John all around Bath, in and out of various addresses. Over time, his history will appear on this site along with that of his many descendents.