Alan March’s Family History
This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)(1)
WILLIAM BREWER and ANN WITHAM (7)
WILLIAM BREWER. John Brewer was baptised in the Essex village of Chignall St James in 1816. He was the son of William and Ann Brewer.
In the previous centuries there had been only two isolated records of the Brewer surname in Chignall St James. This is the first evidence we have of a settled Brewer family. In the 1841 census, the difference between John’s age and his mother’s suggests that there may have been older children born elsewhere.
The question is, where did these Brewers come from?
In the following years we have the marriages in Chignall of two Brewer women, Hannah and Mary. In the absence of an extended family, it is likely that they came to Chignall with William and Ann.
The censuses show that both were born in the village of High Easter, 5 miles to the north-west. Their ages link to baptisms showing that Hannah’s parents were William and Joanna Brewer, and Mary’s William and Ann Brewer.
We can safely assume that Mary’s parents were the same William and Ann Brewer who came to Chignall about the same time that she did.
William Brewer married Ann Witham in High Easter in 1806. Both were of this parish.
This date leads us to just one possible baptism for William in High Easter.
This means that Mary was William’s daughter and Hannah his younger sister.
William was the oldest of ten children.
We are not told his father’s occupation, but William was a farm labourer and it is likely that his father was too.
High Easter is a village in Essex 7 miles NW of the county town of Chelmsford. Despite its name, it is only 250 ft above sea level, but higher than neighbouring Good Easter at 185 ft.
The clay soil grew chiefly wheat, beans and barley. It was probably this kind of farm work that William did.
A number of the houses are timber-framed and plastered.
ANN WITHAM was of High Easter when she married, and it is here that we find her baptism.
Baptism. High Easter.
1780 Mar 6 Ann daughter of John and Hannah Witham.
Her mother was Hannah Horwood/Harwood.
She was the fifth of nine children.
Her father died when Ann was thirteen.
Marriage. St Mary the Virgin, High Easter.
1806 Nov 21/28 William Brewer, bachelor, and Ann Witham, spinster, both of this parish.
In April 1808 William’s mother died following the birth of his youngest sister. This left a number of young siblings needing to be cared for. William and Ann took in Hannah, who was then five.
Three months later, they had their first child, followed later by a son.
Baptisms. High Easter.
1808 Jul 24 Mary
1811 Mar 10 William. William was buried on 31 May 1813 aged 2.
The High Easter baptisms for William and Ann end here. At some point between 1813 and 1816 the young family moved to Chignall St James, five miles to the south-east, taking Hannah with them. She later married a local shoemaker..
The gap between 1811 and 1816 means that more children may have been born elsewhere, though we have not found evidence of this.
Three more children were born in Chignall St James. At the first baptism, William’s occupation is given as husbandman. This had previously meant someone who farmed a small amount of land, but had come to be used for a farm labourer. In the next two he is indeed said to be a labourer.
Baptisms. Chignall St James.
1816 Jul 5 John son of William and Ann Brewer. Husbandman.
This was the year after the Battle of Waterloo.
1819 Mar 14 William. Labourer.
1823 Jan 5 Ann. Labourer.
William does not appear in the 1841 census. We have not found his burial in Chignall St James, but there is one back in High Easter that matches his age.
Burial. High Easter.
1831 Feb 9 William Brewer, aged 48.
He may have wanted to be buried back in his home parish with his forebears and his infant son.
Following William’s death, 14-year-old John, also a farm labourer, was left as the principal breadwinner, though is likely that Ann found work too.
Mary married at the end of that year.
Six years later, Queen Victoria came to the throne.
In the 1841 census, we find Ann, a widow, living with her two sons.
1841 Census. Green, Chignall St James.
Ann Brewer 60 Y
John Brewer 25 Ag lab Y
William Brewer 20 Ag lab Y
We have not found Ann in the 1851 census, nor have we found a burial for her in Chignall St James. As with William, there is a burial in High Easter that fits her age.
Burial. High Easter.
1852 Nov 17 Ann Brewer, aged 72.
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