Charles Richard Smith Marriage
London, Lewes? and Portslade
On July 27th 1837 at the church of St. Nicholas in Brighton, Charles Richard Smith, aged 24 married Ann Kenward, who, if the records are correct, was only an alarming fifteen years old - at best sixteen. All the subsequent census records are consistent about her age, so unless she was lying from a very early age (and why would she say she was 15 and younger than she was?), then we have to believe that she was indeed just fifteen or maybe just sixteen, when she married. Nevertheless the marriage certificate states that they were both of full age and previously unmarried. I do not know whether the witnesses are ‘professionals’ or friends - they certainly aren’t family, because I only have the official marriage certificate, not the whole page or the page from the Parish register, so I cannot see if the names of the witnesses occur elsewhere on the page. And if Ann was indeed only fifteen, then it is highly likely that this was a marriage, not approved of by her family.
Did Ann lie to Charles about her age? Was she pregnant? Again I cannot say yes or no on that point. Smith is such a common name and I am not sure where they would have been living. Critical years of records for the likely parish churches are not available online - maybe one day soon. And her parents too were pretty religious nonconformists I think, and although not quite of the same class as Charles’ family, her father was a reasonably prominent citizen of Lewes. She was hardly a poverty stricken girl with loose morals and an eye for the main chance. So I tend to lean towards the young and foolish love at first sight thesis - but then I’m a romantic. Charles, himself, was hardly an old man after all. A young man of 24 is still capable of many foolish things. But then it doesn’t appear to have been a foolish thing to do for the couple went on to have at least nine children and the marriage lasted until Ann’s death in 1891.
Once again, one comes up against a central mystery in someone’s life that cannot, of course, be resolved because they lived so long ago and we have no records that could shed light on the matter. No letters, no diaries, no newspaper reports.
So let us move on to the next definite fact that I know - the 1841 census which sees Charles and Ann at 26 The Cliffe High St., where her father used to carry on his business, with their small daughter Wilhelmina, now aged 2 and a half, so born in 1839 or thereabouts. It is not their house though. The head of the household is Jireh Kenward, harness maker and there is also his apprentice. Now in spite of much investigation I have yet to decide whether Jireh is Ann’s brother or uncle. He is certainly the son of William Kenward, but he is ten years older than Ann, and not the oldest child of William’s marriage, and I have yet to find a baptism or any other kind of record of Ann’s birth. There are a confusing number of William Kenwards in the area, although I am closing in on a decision I feel. Four years ago (in 2010) I visited Lewes and took this picture of the Cliffe High Street with St. Thomas a Beckett church in the foreground and the house in which the Kenwards lived, just beyond it - the first house beyond. It is not a large house, but not a tiny one either. Ann must have been pregnant at the time of this census for at sometime later in the year their first son Frederick Sundius was born. Now later census records show that, in fact, Frederick was born in London, variously in Finsbury Square and Dalston (he is not consistent about his birthplace), so in fact Ann and Charles may just have been visiting, rather than living in Lewes. In many ways this would make more sense - it would certainly explain the occupation of merchant’s clerk which was rather more likely to be happening in London. The Finsbury Square address is tantalising too because, at about the same time there was a Thomas Smith who invented and made a fortune of, Christmas crackers, living in Finsbury Square. He was not a brother of Charles, but I guess it is remotely possible he was a relative - but then again - Smith - the most common name in England - most likely a coincidence.
Ann’s father was a saddle and harness maker from Lewes and Ann, herself was of the Parish of St Thomas in the Cliffe in Lewes, so she did not marry in her home church. Moreover I do not know why Charles was in Brighton, or how he could have met Ann. At the time of his marriage Charles described himself as a clerk in a merchant’s house. If he was in London, this would be completely understandable - he would have been working for his father. But Brighton? Was it a holiday romance? Maybe Ann was working as a servant there in a hotel or boarding house. But then again maybe Charles had had enough of London and moved away from home to the fashionable resort of Brighton. This is just after the glory days of the Regency period after all and Brighton was one of the epicentres of that society. Suffice to say I know of no other connection to Brighton. It's a mystery.
In 1861 they have moved to their final community - Portslade, now, I suppose a satellite of Brighton, but then a township in its own right. Their home is called Palatine House - was it named after his childhood home I wonder? If so, then maybe his father did live in the original Palatine House of Stoke Newington and not one of the ‘Palatine houses’, which would reinforce the thesis of a privileged childhood. But it could, of course, just be a coincidence. There are now three more children, Charles Mollett Smith, Jane Vizeille Smith and Wilhelmina Aitken Smith. It seems the trend in this family is to use surnames as middle names. Most intriguingly, of course, is the use of Mollett as a middle name. It must mean that the two families were close - most likely through Charles’ father and his daughter Caroline's future father-in-law, John Mollett. They must have been close business associates I think.
And this was the end of the childbearing. At the age of only 30 Ann had her last child. Which is intriguing is it not? Birth control in those days would have been extremely rudimentary and mostly based on abstinence I would have thought. Was this a mutual decision, does it signal a breakdown in relations, or was Ann unable to have more children for some reason? Maybe they just mutually decided that enough was enough - they now had eight children after all. There are, of course, lots of Smith births listed in the Steyning registration district in the next ten years, but none of the names stand out as likely to be from this particular Smith family, and there are certainly no more children found in the census records. So we have to assume that with Wilhelmina Aitken a line was drawn in the sand. There were always servants around to help though - two in 1861 and three in 1871. Frédéric Bazille’s 1868 family portrait shows a family of about the right kind of size and social status, if not quite the right composition with respect to sons and daughters - almost though
The final family home, and one in which the family lived for many years was Russell House in Station Road.
There is also a tantalising reference in a couple of contemporary newspapers to a Charles Richard Smith, woollen warehouseman of Basinghall Street at around the this time. Basinghall Street is pretty close to Finsbury Square Maybe he set up his own business, because another salient fact from outside is that I think that Charles’ father went bankrupt in 1841. I shall not dwell on it here - it is not Charles’s story, but it might explain Charles striking out on his own, and the later move down to the Sussex coast. For in 1851 we find them living at 55 London Road, Brighton. The photograph at left from Google’s street view is of no. 54 I think. No. 55 is now a shop, but it is likely that the house they lived in was similar to this one - quite grand - by now they had two live-in servants - a cook and a housemaid. There are other changes. Their little girl Wilhelmina must have died in the interim. She is not there and there is no further trace of her. Furthermore there is a later reference to Barbara as the second daughter, when, in fact, she would have been the third. So like many young families of the time - a sad start to motherhood. There are, however, Frederick Sundius aged 9, Richard aged 7, Caroline Margaret (my great-grandmother) aged 5, Barbara Henrietta Louisa aged 4 and Mary Ann aged 1. The enumerator actually made a few mistakes, or whoever gave the information did - a few wrong birthplaces, a few misspelt, incomplete and transposed names - including Charles dropping the Charles and being simply Richard. So Ann, at the great old age of 30 now has five children and has lost one along the way.
Another fact from which one can fabricate a story - or not - is that in the following two censuses - the last two for Ann, Ann and Charles are not in the same place. Charles is at home in Portslade, although at some point he changes from being the head of the household to just the father, and Ann is away in the houses of various children. This could, of course, just be a coincidence. Mothers of the time often visited their children and their young families. Or it could be an indication of a faltering marriage. Take from these facts what you will. There is also the enigma of Jane Myra Smith aged 25 found in the household of Mary Ann, (Charles and Ann's daughter) where Ann is a ‘relative’ and Jane Myra Smith is described as daughter. She could not possibly be Mary Ann’s daughter, but is she Ann’s?
In 1891 Ann died. Well I think she did, though it is possible she died a few years later. I do not yet have her birth certificate, as it is a little difficult to choose which is the right one. So ended an interesting marriage. Was it happy? Who knows. Ann was so very young when she married and in later years they seem to have spent some time apart, but this is really perfectly normal. even today, when a man has a busy career as Charles did. Let us hope they enjoyed a few peaceful years like the couple in the painting at left.