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 JOANNA BREWER (8)
WILLIAM BREWER. Both William and Joanna were of High Easter when they married there in 1782. That does not guarantee that they were born there, but it is a likely possibility.
William’s age at his burial gives him a birth date of 1753-4. We have not found a christening for him in High Easter, but that may be because the early parish registers have not yet been transcribed. We have few transcriptions before 1780. We do not yet have scans of the parish registers.
The date does match the following entry in nearby Great Waltham, but we should be cautious about assuming this is the right one.
Baptism. Great Waltham.
1753 Nov 25 William son of John and Mary Bruer.
We are not told William’s occupation, but his sons were farm labourers and it is very likely that William was too. Back in the 17th century, there was a Philemon Brewer in the village who was a yeoman. Younger sons tend to slip down the social scale, so William may be descended from him.
JOANNA BREWER. We have a similar difficulty in identifying Joanna’s baptism, or finding about her family.
The nearest we have found is in the neighbouring parish of Good Easter.
Baptism. Good Easter.
1763 Aug 14 Joanna daughter of Hellen Brewer.
This indicates that she was born out of wedlock.
As with William’s baptism, this remain a possibility, but it may be that her true baptism is in High Easter, in a record not yet transcribed.
These were hard times for poorer people because of the high price of corn. Food riots occurred. One of these was in nearby Chelmsford in April 1782, a month before William and Joanna’s wedding. A mob armed with cudgels attacked corn mills at night, taking away large quantities of flour and meal. These they took under guard to the market place, where they sold it at what they deemed a fair price. Eventually the army was sent to quell the riot.
Labouring families like the Brewers would often have gone hungry with high food prices.
The couple married in May at St Mary the Virgin, High Easter, when William, and probably Joanna, were in their twenties.
Marriage. St Mary the Virgin, High Easter.
1782 May 27 William Brewer, bachelor, and Joanna Brewer, spinster, both of this parish.
High Easter is a village in Essex, 7 miles NW of Chelmsford and 10 miles NE of Harlow.
The name ‘Easter’ does not refer to the Christian festival, but to an Anglo-Saxon word meaning ‘sheepfold’. ‘High’ distinguishes it from the neighbouring parish of Good Easter.
The Church of St Mary the Virgin has an octagonal font, showing angels with shields, alternating with symbols of the evangelists – a winged ox for Luke, an eagle for John, a winged lion for Mark, and a winged man for Matthew.
It is here that the Brewer children were baptised.
We have records of eleven children of William and Joanna baptised here.
Their long period of child-raising took them through the wars with America and France until three years after the Battle of Trafalgar.
Baptisms. High Easter.
1782 Sep 18 William. William was born only four months after the wedding.
1785 Aug 28 Sarah
1787 Sep 30 Mary
1789 Apr 6 John
1791 May 15 Ann
1793 Dec 15 Elizabeth
1796 Aug 28 Robert
1799 Oct 20 Thomas
1802 Sep 19 Hannah
1805 Sep 1 Lucy
1808 Apr 10 Helen
Joanna died after giving birth to Helen.
Burial. High Easter.
1808 Apr 13 Joanna Brewer
This left several children still young enough to need caring for. Older members of the family helped out. William junior and his wife Ann took in five-year-old Hannah.
William senior lived another 33 years, into the reign of Queen Victoria. In his later years, he fell into poverty. This was a common fate for those who had become too old and infirm to work.
The fact that several residents of High Easter lived to what was then deemed an advanced age prompted a story in the local newspaper, which was then reprinted in other papers.
Chelmsford Chronicle. 9 April 1841
“Several instances of longevity have occurred recently in the parish of High Easter. On Saturday morning a pauper, William Brewer, aged 87, was found dead in his bed by his grandson, who had been sleeping with him.”
We are not told which of William’s family were taking care of him. In the 1841 census for High Easter, none of his sons had an independent household there, so it must have been one of his married daughters.
Burial. High Easter.
1841 Apr 8 William Brewer. Aged 87.
He outlived several of his children.
 Essex Views.
NEXT GENERATION: 7. BREWER-WITHAM