Ann Berry Before marriage
I really know very little about Ann Berry, particularly her early life. I have a few basic facts around which I shall attempt to concoct a story, but it has to be said that even these few basic facts are marginally dicey.
Isle of Sheppey, London, Norwich
She was christened in The White Chapel, a Methodist establishment, in Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames Estuary on December 13th 1812 at the age of 25 days, so a winter, almost Christmas, baby. Something to brighten up the chill winter landscape, for this is a land of flat marshes, mists and fogs - truly Dickensian. The dominant industry was the Royal Dockyards, scattered along the Thames in a few locations - Deptford, Chatham and Sheerness itself. And indeed it looks as if her father was a shipwright too - or maybe a carpenter, most probably in the shipyards.
The picture at left is not of The White Chapel, but is of a similar establishment.
Indeed I suppose my first vagueness is whether I have the right John Berry as her father. He is definitely John, but I suspect there are a few John Berrys around the district - certainly there are several Berry families in the little town of Minster in Sheppey where, I suspect, that Ann grew up. Either way, shipwright or carpenter, both are decent trades which would have meant that the family was not at the bottom of the heap, although, also not wealthy. But she would have had a comfortable enough childhood, I would have thought, happily playing with her siblings and little friends in the village streets and fields, and along the river, Personally I find these flat, misty landscapes very arresting, although I know others think them dull.
think that Ann was the third child of John and his wife Susannah (or is it Hannah?), and there were four more children after her. At this point in time I have not investigated these children so do not know if any of them survived.
The next I know of Ann is a maybe. I cannot definitively say I know where she was in 1841, and I do have a vague memory of finding her in Norwich with her father, but if I did, I did not keep a copy of the record, and now, of course, I cannot find it. So let us assume my memory is false and that of the possible Ann Berrys in 1841, two of whom were domestic servants, the most likely is one Ann Berry living in the house of a milliner in Marylebone High Street. This Ann Berry does not have an occupation listed, but she was not born in Middlesex, and when she married, she did state her occupation as milliner. And so at some point she learnt this skill, and also at some point before 1845 she moved to Norwich. Why Norwich? Well in the previous century Norwich had been an important textile town - the second city in England, but it’s glory days were past, so I really have no idea. It’s a mystery.
She was also getting old to be single - in 1841 she was 28, which I would have thought would have been regarded as very old to be single at the time. So why I am moved to ask, on October 14th 1845 at the age of 32, did Ann marry the slightly younger, Roger James Magee an illiterate catholic labourer with a small child from his first marriage, his wife, having died along with his second child just six months before of smallpox. They were married in the Catholic Chapel of St. John Maddermarket on October 19th 1845 - the witnesses are unknown to me. There’s a touch of youthful rebellion about this, even though she was now almost middle-aged. A religion diametrically opposed to the one she was brought up in, illiterate (Ann was not), and a mere labourer with no ‘real’ trade, Roger was probably not at all what her parents would have wished for. He must have had charm or something. It doesn’t appear to be a shotgun marriage. I can no find no births of children around this time - so an impulse she may well have come to regret. Maybe she saw it as a last chance at happiness, children and marriage.