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It’s a miserable start to August this year. It has done nothing but rain. 151 years ago, the weather seems to have been pretty much the same; strong winds and rain at times.[footnote] Source: https://digital.nmla.metoffice.gov.uk/file/sdb%3AdigitalFile|3c6c5fc2-b900-47b4-a1ad-9ad4750c0959/[/footnote]
The weather would have fit the mood of the family of Robert BRUCE. The funeral of the 78-year-old labourer from Hulcote took place on 1st August 1865 in St Mary’s Church in the parish of Easton Neston.[footnote] Source: http://bethdavidson.co.uk/familytree/getperson.php?personID=I481&tree=OFT1#cite2 [/footnote] There may have been just a handful of mourners, with both of his wives having died before him, and only 3 surviving children and 1 surviving brother.
Robert’s life began in the very same place it ended, the village of Hulcote, in the parish of Easton Neston in the county of Northamptonshire.[footnote]Hulcote is the estate village attached to Easton Neston. Tucked away a quiet no-through-road and containing eight cottages on two sides of a large green. http://englishbuildings.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/hulcote-northamptonshire.html [/footnote] The parish church of Easton Neston, St Mary, had close associations with the Fermor-Hesketh family of the big house and their employees.
Robert’s parents, William BRUCE and Rosamund GARDINER were married in St Mary’s on 22 Sep 1785, both of them belonged to the Easton Neston parish. Four and a half months later, Robert’s older brother, John, was baptized [footnote]2 Feb 1786[/footnote].
Robert’s baptism took place on a late Autumn day in 1787 [footnote]28 Oct 1787[/footnote]. The baptism would have been included with the regular Sunday service and all members of the parish watched Robert being accepted into Church. His family and neighbours were dressed in their Sunday best and for that one day work was forgotten. Baptisms in the 18th century were less (if at all) about the big party and get together that we see today. Baptisms were about being accepted into God’s family.
Robert and his brothers, John and Joseph [footnote]baptized 30 Aug 1789[/footnote], would have spent the early years of their lives enjoying the freedom of the estate they lived on, before working the land, alongside their father.
When Robert was 5, the family suffered the loss of William [footnote]William was baptized on 29 Dec 1792 and buried on 25 Jan 1793[/footnote].
I can only assume that William and Rosamund lost a few babies between 1792 and 1798, as there are no obvious additions into the family until the 28 Feb 1798, when the baptism of another William took place, 3 days later, this second William was buried. [footnote]As huge as this tragedy seems today, infant mortality rates were high, with as much as 25% of children dying before their fifth birthday and as many as 40% of young people before the age of 16. That’s not to say the family weren’t upset but it was extremely common.[/footnote].
Another tragedy struck the family a little over 12 months later. Robert, John and Joseph’s mother, Rosamund, died. She was just 41 years old.
7 days after Rosamund’s burial, another child was baptized, Jane. It can only be assumed that Rosamund passed away due to complications from childbirth, the baby, however, survived.
William was now left with 4 children, Robert, John, Joseph and the baby, Jane, to raise alone. Family and neighbours would have helped and the close knit community would have pulled together. However, 18 months after his wife’s death, William remarried. His new wife, Mary CROSS, was 7 years older than Rosamund but would have risen to the challenge of raising the children and keeping the home.
10 years later, while seemingly living in Brington, the 23-year-old Robert married Frances PENN, in St Mary the Virgin, Roade, Northamptonshire [footnote]5 Jun 1810[/footnote]. Frances, 4 years his senior, was born in Ashton in 1783.
Frances must have been either very heavily pregnant or recently given birth at the time of the marriage, because just 10 days later their daughter, Mary, was baptized in Robert’s home parish.
Robert and his new wife set up home in Hulcote, like his parents before him. The family may have lived in the same cottage in the village until his father’s death the following April.
Robert and Frances continued to grow their family, with William (29 Jun 1812), Charlotte (11 Dec 1814), James (5 Jan 1817) and Joseph (19 Jun 1819). Three days after his baptism, Joseph was buried in Easton Neston.
Two years after losing his youngest son, Robert was a widower at the age of 34. The family buried Frances in Easton Neston on 10 Jun 1821. Like his father, he was left to earn the crust and bring up his four young children who were 11, 9, 7 and 4.
2 months after Frances’ death, Robert and his youngest son, James were admitted into Northampton Hospital. I don’t know anything further on this topic. There were no major epidemics around this time in Northamptonshire that can explain this admission.
At the age of 36, after being a widower for two years, Robert married Jane NEWTON, a 41 year old spinster from Easton Neston [footnote]5 May 1823[/footnote]. Jane would have taken on all the household and child-rearing responsibilities. Although, the marriage lasted just 7 years, Jane was buried on 11 Jun 1830.
Robert still had some family around in Hulcote, but took another tragic hit 2.5 years later, when his 22 year old daughter died.
His three living children, William, James and Jane each married in 1835 (Long Buckby), 1842 (Great Brington) and 1844 (London) respectively. William and James remained in Hulcote with their father.
In fact, in 1841, 1851 and 1861, Robert is living in the same household as his son, William and his wife and children while James lives close by.
Despite being aged 54, 64 and 74 at the time of the census, Robert is still working as an agricultural labourer. The labourer’s living in Hulcote would have all worked the land of the Easton Neston House Estate. There were no pensions in those days so most men worked until they were infirm or died.
4 years after the 1861 census, Robert died. He left no will that I have located which means there probably wasn’t an estate to settle. He left a greater legacy though, in that of his children.
Relationship to me
- Robert BRUCE is the father of
- James BRUCE, who is the father of
- Joseph BRUCE, who is the father of
- Maude BRUCE, who is the mother of
- Ivor EVANS, who is the father of
- Living EVANS, who is the father of
Most of my sources can be viewed over on Robert BRUCE’s family tree. If there is no source there, then I’m in the process of adding it in.
Other events in my family tree on this day:
1719 – Baptism of Oliver and Mary PENDER in St Buryan, Cornwall
1739 – Baptism of Pasche WEEKS in Stowey, Somerset