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 MARCH and HANNAH LILLIOTT (7)
WILLIAM MARCH. In the 1851 census, the birthplace of James March, former post boy of Croydon, appears as “Fakeham, Sussex”. There is no Fakeham in that county. The enumerator almost certainly mistook James’s reply of “Thakeham”.
James’s age of 49 give him a birth date of 1781-2.
We have not found his baptism, but there was a William March and his wife Hannah raising a family in Thakeham at this time. At present, our information about their children comes from indices of Sussex baptisms. We do not yet have online access to the parish registers. The indices show no son James, but there is a gap of five years between Mary in 1780 and Peter in 1785. This covers the time when James was born. Until we have access to the Thakeham parish registers we cannot confirm this, or see whether there were damaged or missing pages for that time. There were no other Marches having children in Thakeham in the late 18th century, so we can be fairly confident that these are James’s parents.
March is the most usual spelling of the name, but it sometimes occurs as Marsh.
William and Hannah married in 1770. This leads us to expect that William was born in the 1740s, if this was his first marriage.
The nearest plausible baptism we can find is in the small town of Billingshurst, five miles north of Thakeham. . Billingshurst has the greatest concentration of March names in this part of Sussex.
The town is known for its large number of timber-framed buildings.
1741 Jul 5 William son of William and Sara March.
The fact that William and Hannah named their second daughter Sarah goes some way to support this parentage.
There is no evidence of this William March raising a family in Billingshurst, so he could well have moved to Henfield and Thakeham, where his children were born.
If this is the right identification, then William’s parents were William March and Sara Greenfield.
A birth date of 1741 would make William just over 30 at his marriage, which is a little older than normal, but not too unusual. There may be other possible baptisms not yet available online
William was the second of twelve children. We do not know how many of them died in infancy.
We next meet William nearly eight years later. On 15 May 1749, William March of Billingshurst was apprenticed to Daniel Comper, master.
The abstract on the National Archives website does not tell us what trade William was apprenticed to, but it was arranged by the Overseers of the Poor, who made such apprenticeships for the children of poorer families. Householders who had the capacity to do so were required to take an apprentice. The hope was that teaching children a trade would prevent them from becoming a burden on the parish in later life. Sadly, in William’s case, this turned out not to be true.
Most boys indentured by the Overseers of the Poor were apprenticed for ‘husbandry’, in other words, farming. William was almost certainly destined to become an agricultural labourer.
The implication is that William’s parents were poor. It is highly likely that William senior was also a farm labourer. In the 1841 census, a century later, most men named March in the Billingshurst-Thakeham area were agricultural labourers or farmers. Two were publicans.
Seven-year-old William left home. From now on, his master, Daniel Comper, would have been responsible for William’s food, clothing, and accommodation, as well as teaching him farming skills, until he reached the age of twenty-one. It is quite probable that William slept in the hay loft.
HANNAH LILLIOTT. We know from an order below relating to poor relief that the maiden name of William’s wife was Hannah Lilliott. She was baptised in Henfield in 1746.
1745/6 Mar 10 Hannah daughter of John Lilliott and Mary Hoad.
She was the thirteenth and last child baptised in Henfield. The frequent repetition of names implies that a number of these children died in infancy. Hannah’s was probably among the poorest families in the parish.
The sequence of baptisms for children of John and Mary Lelliott/Lilliott continues in the nearby town of Hurstpierpoint with another six baptisms. We have found no other marriage for a couple with these names, so it is probably the same family who moved here. Again, there are repeated names.
William March and Hannah Lilliott were married in 1770 in the village of Ashurst, two miles west of Henfield. Either the Lilliott family had moved there from Hurstpierpoint, or Hannah had found work there on her own.
The same court order tells us that they had a son named John, who was aged 8 in April 1780. That means he was born in 1771-2. We have not found his baptism. The court order also suggests that William and Hannah had lived in the town of Steyning, further south, some time before they moved to Thakeham. This maybe where John was born.
William and Hannah continued their married life in Hannah’s birthplace of Henfield.
Henfield is a market town on a ridge overlooking the River Adur and the South Downs. The western and eastern branches of the river meet to the west of the town at Betley Bridge. Today the town still preserves some of its narrow cobbled streets.
Two more children were born here, named after their parents.
1773 May 30 Hannah Marsh d of William and Hannah
1775 Jan 22 William March s of William and Hannah
During this time, Britain was at war with its North American colonies, following the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The States declared independence in 1776.
After these first three children were born, the young family moved six miles west to the village of Thakeham. Thakeham means “thatched homestead”. It has one main street with the church and a pub.
Blue Idol Quaker Meeting House, Thakeham 
A century earlier, a group of Quakers, including William Penn, after whom Pennsylvania is named, founded a Friends Meeting in Thakeham, to serve both the village and the surrounding area. They built the half-timbered Blue Idol Meeting House.
The March family were Anglicans, having their children baptised at the parish church of St Mary, rather than recording their births at the Friends Meeting House.
Three more children were baptised here.
1777 Apr 6 Sarah Marsh d of William and Hannah of West Thorney, Thakeham.
1778 Mar Sarah Marsh d of William and Hannah
1780 Feb 27 Mary March d of William and Hanah of West Thorney, Thakeham.
We assume that the first Sarah died.
In two of these baptisms, and in several later ones, their residence is given as West Thorney. This is true of some other families having children baptised in Thakeham. It cannot be the West Thorney on Chichester Harbour 16 miles away. It must be a location in Thakeham parish, though present-day residents have no knowledge of it and it does not show up on internet searches.
In 1780 the family fell on hard times. William applied to the Overseers of the Poor for parish relief. The Thakeham Justices of the Peace tried to pass the buck by claiming that this was not his parish of settlement, but that the responsibility for supporting him and his family lay with Steyning, where presumably the March family had lived earlier. They issued an order that the family should be expelled from Thakeham and sent there. The Steyning authorities denied responsibility. The case went to the Chichester Sessions.
On 3 April 1780 the court reviewed the order that William March, his wife Hannah; John 8, Hannah 6, William 5, Sarah 3 and an infant female age about a fortnight, should be removed from Thakeham to Steyning. The order was quashed and Thakeham had to pay costs of two guineas.
The order also tells that Hannah’s maiden name was Lilliott and that the couple had married in Ashurst in 1770.
Three more children were born to William and Hannah in Thakeham.
1785 May 1/3 Peter Martch/Marrch s of William and Hannah of West Thorney, Thakeham.
1787 May 13 Elizabeth March d of Wm and Hannah of West Thorney, Thakeham.
1791 Jul 24 Maria March d of Willm and Hannah of West Thorney, Thakeham.
We would have expected another child to be have been born in the gap between Mary in 1780 and Peter in 1785. This is when we believe James to have been born. Both William and Hannah had brothers named James.
The Sussex records currently available online are short on burials. There is a burial for William March in Pulborough, west of Thakeham, on 16 Aug 1797, but we cannot be sure that this is Hannah’s husband.
Nor have we been able to identify Hannah’s burial.
There are burials in the early 19th century for an elderly William and Hannah March in Croydon, where their son James moved, but their ages do not correspond with the births of the William and Hannah March who lived in Thakeham.
 National Archives website:Billingshurst Apprentice List: William March. Par/21/33/3. West Sussex Record Office.
 Chichester Sessions. ESRO reference:QO/26/1780-04-03
 Chichester Sessions. ESRO reference:QO/26/1780-04-03
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