Ann Kenward Before marriage
Lewes ca. 1822-1834
Like most of the women in all of our histories we do not really know a lot about our female forbears. They had fathers who did things, they lived in a particular place, they married, had children, died. Ann Kenward is no exception to this familiar story but, as with everyone, there are a few distinctive features to her tale. I doubt that the tale will take a lot of telling though.
Jirehe’s father was a reasonably prominent member of the community and a prominent member of the Jireh Chapel - a nonconformist chapel adhering to the Countess of Huntingdon’s version of non-conformist Christianity and situated at the foot of the town. I am assuming, for the moment, that Ann is this William’s granddaughter, via his son William, and when this son died, Jireh took over the family business. I’m not sure whether girl children would have been sent out to work or not from such a family, or whether they would have just helped with the family business. The boys would certainly have had to follow a trade. As I cannot find Ann’s baptism it is possible that there were other children - and I suppose, as I cannot find the baptism, it is possible that Ann and her family actually spent their early years elsewhere. Whichever William was Ann’s father, I am sure that she was connected to the family at 26 the Cliffe because of the 1841 census record. It is all very frustrating and I can see myself clutching at straws and potentially making up stories. And who knows, she may even have lied about her parentage on the marriage certificate - although this is less likely. So if anybody knows more, please send us an email.
Leaping forward until 1837 - somehow or other Ann met Charles Richard Smith, a Londoner - maybe in Brighton - and at the tender age of fifteen (or at the most sixteen), married him. The marriage took place at St. Nicholas’ Church in Brighton on July 27, 1837, which is why I think they may have met in Brighton - this was around the Regency period after all and Brighton would have been a fashionable place to visit. There does not appear to be a baby born shortly after the marriage, so apparently not a shotgun wedding.
But she was so young. The marriage certificate states that she was of full age, but she really couldn’t have been unless she spent the rest of her life consistently lying about her age on official documents. There were no family members at the wedding so one can only assume that neither family either knew about or approved of it. Did they elope, like the couple in the picture at left? How romantic, although apparently, in such a case the woman was left with no financial entitlements. As it turned out this was not a problem. though as Charles stuck by her and provided well for her all her married life. Charles was almost ten years older - 24 - but I guess 24 is hardly a much more sensible age than 15. It must have at least been mad passionate lust, if not love - surely. I wonder if the love lasted. The marriage did - until her death - but then of course it would.
But I waffle. Whichever William was her father, Ann spent her early life in and around a harness and saddle maker’s shop. The splendid photograph at right is of a modern American workshop but I imagine it is not much different to how it would have been in the early nineteenth century. A fascinating place for a child I would think. And in the beautiful old town of Lewes too. The bridge above - which I think is at the high end of the Cliffe was painted by Turner.
Ann signed her marriage certificate so it is highly likely that she also received some sort of education, although whether this was at home or in a small school we cannot tell.
nI do not know when Ann was born exactly but census records would suggest that it was about 1822. She was fairly consistent about her age, if not her birthplace. She mostly says she was born in Lewes, occasionally in Brighton and once in London. But I haven’t been able to find her christening so far. According to her marriage certificate her father was William Kenward, harness maker and her parish was Lewes, so I assumed that he was the William Kenward who lived in Cliffe High St. for many years. However, the more I look into it the more I think that this cannot be - he is too old - or rather his wife is. He is also unfortunately a bit of a mystery - there are a few William Kenwards and more than one of them are saddlers, harness makers and collar makers. There is also the tantalising possibility that Ann is actually illegitimate - the daughter of one Mary Smith with whom one of the William Kenwards had a few children.
William Kenward's life is not the subject of this story though. I shall save them for elsewhere. However, whichever William her father was, let us assume that Ann grew up at 26 Cliffe High St. where a William Kenward carried on his business. I took the photographs above right few years ago. The house is almost next to St. Thomas a Beckett church at the end of the High Street also shown from the other end of the street in the postcard at the top. No. 26 is the last house before the church in the postcard and the first past it in the photograph. I assume this particular house, because in 1841, with her husband and child, she is staying here with the head of the household - Jireh Kenward - son of the aforesaid William.