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)

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JOHN SKUPHAM. His age when he died tells us that he was born around 1757-8. In 1782 he was a bachelor living in Spalding. The nearest baptism we have found for him is 14 miles away, in the village of Fishtoft. This is on an island in the tidal marshes of the Wash near Boston.

Baptism. St Guthlac, Fishtoft.
1759 Jan 28  John son of John and Martha Scuffham.

Scuffam is the usual spelling of the name in the Fishtoft registers, but it is occasionally Scupham.

His mother was Martha Abraham.

We would normally be hesitant about a baptism so far from where the adult John married and raised his children, but there is no evidence that John Scuffam of Fishtoft died young, married someone else or raised a family within a 20-mile radius of Fishtoft, other than the man we next find in Spalding.

We know from his daughter’s Ann’s marriage that John became a tailor.

His family remained in Fishtoft, but at some point John moved to Spalding, a town in the South Holland area of southern Lincolnshire. The River Welland flows through it, on its way to the Wash.

It was an area prone to flooding. . In 1765, the sea bank in nearby Moulton was broken by an unexpectedly high tide. It inundated the salt marsh, drowning 2092 sheep, 7 ‘beasts’ (probably cattle)  and 13 horses.[1]

The positive aspect of this flooding was that it left a rich silty soil that lent itself to market gardening

John first married a widow some 17 years older than himself. This was an unusual age difference.

The wedding took place in the bride’s parish of Cowbit, a village 3 miles south of Spalding. It is pronounced ‘Cubbit’.

Marriage. Cowbit.
1782 Mar 19  John Skupham bachelor of Spalding and Elizabeth Hurn widow of Cowbit.
Witnesses: Benjamin Gray, Ann X Couling her mark.

Her husband, William Hurn, had been buried 3 days earlier.

Elizabeth had two children, a son born in Cowbit, and a daughter born in Spalding.

The marriage was short-lived. Elizabeth died four months later.

Burial. Cowbit.
1782 Aug 8  Elizabeth wife of John Skupham aged 42 years.

Four months later, John married again.


ANN CORDLEY. Ann was a widow when she married John Skupham in 1782. She was then resident in Weston St Mary. This is a village 3 miles east of Spalding.

There are two possible marriages for her. Both are in Holbeach, 4 miles east of Weston St Mary. One is between John Johnson widower and Ann Hough spinster, both of this parish. The other between Thomas Johnson widower and Ann Cordley spinster, both of this parish.

We find Ann Cordley’s baptism in Weston St Mary in 1757. It is highly likely that after Thomas’s death, Ann would return to her home parish.

Baptism. Weston St Mary.
1757 May 8  Ann daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Cordley.

Her mother was Elizabeth Brainsby.

Her father was a weaver.

Three brothers had died before Ann was born. Ann was the fourth of the remaining children.

Her father died when Ann was ten years old.

She was 24 when she married her first husband.

Marrriages. Holbeach.
1781 May 20  Thomas Johnson widower and Ann Cordley spinster, both of this parish.
Both Thomas and Ann make their marks.
The witnesses are Ann Hare and Susan Hatson.

The marriage lasted little more than a year. Thomas Johnson was buried in Holbeach on 7 Jul 1782.

There do not appear to be any children from this marriage.

At the end of that year, Ann married John Skupham.

Marriage. Weston St Mary.
1782 Dec 16  John Skupham of Cowbit, widower, and Ann Johnson of Weston St Mary, widow.
John Skupham signs, while Ann Johnson makes her mark X.
Witnesses: Benjamin Guy. Thomas Benson.

They raised their family in Cowbit, where John’s first marriage had taken place. This village lies in the flood plain of South Holland. Beside it was then a marshy area known as Cowbit Wash.

Cowbit Wash

Baptisms. Cowbit.
1785 Jan 13  Elizabeth

Curiously, this baptism is repeated in Fleet, five months later.

Baptism, Fleet.
1785  Jun 11  Elizabeth daughter of John and Ann Scuffam of Cowbit.

This is hard to explain. It is possible that Elizabeth was not expected to live and was privately baptised, and then brought to the church in Fleet later for the baptism to be ratified, but we would normally expect a private baptism to be marked as such in the parish register. And why in Fleet, and not in Cowbit? Fleet is a village 2 miles east of Holbeach, where Ann’s first marriage took place.

The Cowbit baptisms continue.

Baptisms. St Mary, Cowbit.
1786 Jul 23  Martha
1788 Mar 9  Thomas
1789 Dec 15   Mary. Mary was buried on 21 Mar of the following year.
1791 May 6  Ann
On 19 Jan 1792 Martha was buried, aged 5. The next daughter was given the same name.
1794 Mar 11  Martha. This Martha lived only two weeks. She was buried on 26 Mar 1794.
1796 Jan 7  William
1797 Sep 27  John. John also lived for only two weeks. He was buried on 14 Oct 1797.
1798 Nov 19   Patty. Patty’s was yet another infant death. She was buried on 18 Feb 1798, aged 3 months.

Of their nine children, only four survived infancy. A high death rate often suggests that the family were impoverished. In this case, there may be a different reason.

In 1831, the Rev John Steel, curate of Cowbit wrote to the Bishop of Lincoln:[2]

My Lord,
When I had the pleasure of offering myself at Buckden for institution to the Perpetual Curacy of Cowbit, your Lordship was kind enough to say, in reference to its locality, that you would not insist upon residence if the grounds of exemption were sufficiently urgent ?? I have now resided at Cowbit upwards of three years, -regarding the duty of residence as paramount to every obstacle, which might be resolved into inclination; during the last twelve months however we have experienced so much illness in the family, that I feel called upon if not justified in making this request to your Lordship for a dispensation for nonresidence – our medical man received last year for medicine and attendance upwards of 50£ I will not say that this could have been entirely avoided elsewhere, but I feel confident that the situation has greatly augmented it.

 Evidently the marshy setting of Cowbit made it an unhealthy place to live,

The Bishop sent him instead to be curate of Dunsby. This is 9 miles west of Cowbit, but still in the Fenlands.

Until the late 19th century, malaria was prevalent in the Fens. It was known as Fenland Ague. Oliver Cromwell died from it.

It was frequently treated with opium, and this has its own ill effects on health.

A common treatment in the low-lying, fever-ridden areas of Lincolnshire was to swallow live spiders rolled in butter. These were sometimes taken with bread or breadcrumbs. Thomas Mouffet (1553-1604) prescribed ‘a spider gently bruised and wrapped up in a raisin or spread upon bread and butter to be taken three times a day’ as a preventative against agues. This may explain why his daughter Patience, the Little Miss Muffet of the nursery rhyme, was so afraid of spiders.[3]

John Skupham was buried at Cowbit on 22 Feb 1807, aged 49. We do not know whether malaria played a part in his early demise.

Two of her children married in Cowbit, so it would appear that Ann and her young children stayed there for some time. Eventually she moved back to Weston, where she was born. She was buried there on 7 Feb 1831, aged 77.



[1] Thomas Allen, The History of the County of Lincoln, 1833.
[2] https://www.chradams.co.uk/lincsfamilies/steel/cowbitletter.html. LAO COR B5/4/33/6/2
[3] http://www.cliffehistory.co.uk/the-ague-or-english-malaria.html





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