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)
JAMES TOWES and ELIZABETH BEST (8)
JAMES TOWSE. At the time of his marriage in 1777 James was said to be 24 and born in Horsted Keynes, giving him a birth date of 1753-4. He was actually baptised in 1752.
Baptism. Horsted Keynes.
1752 Oct 29 James son of William and Frances Towse.
No marriage has been found for his parents.
He appears to be an only child.
Horsted Keynes is a village 6 m south of East Grinstead and 3 m from West Hoathly.
James became a husbandman, which formerly meant someone farming a small amount of land, but had come to be used for a farm labourer.
In 1777 he went to work for the farmer Richard Weston in West Hoathly.
ELIZABETH BEST. We know from the age given at her burial that Elizabeth was born around 1756-7. That matches the following baptism in Fletching, 3 m from James’s birthplace of Horsted Keynes.
Baptism. Fletching, Sussex.
1757 Oct 2 Elizabeth daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Best.
She appears to be an only child, unless this is the same couple who were raising children in Edenbridge, 11 m north, from 1743 to 1755.
In 1246 Simon de Montfort and his barons held a prayer vigil in Fletching church before the Battle of Lewes, in which they defeated Henry III. It is said that a number of those barons are buried beneath the church in full armour.
At some point, alone or with her family, Elizabeth must have moved to the larger town of East Grinstead, since weddings usually took place in the bride’s parish.
Marriage. East Grinstead.
1778 Apr 1 James Towze and Elizabeth Best.
On the day of their marriage James was served with a removal order by the Overseers of the Poor in East Grinstead. It required him to move from East Grinstead to West Hoathly. 
Since the order was not served until he was married, this suggests that he was sufficiently poor that the Overseers feared he would not be able to raise a family without becoming a burden on the parish and wished to shift the burden elsewhere.
In the 18th century everyone had a parish of settlement, which was responsible for them if they fell on hard times. Initially this would be the parish where they were born, but if they were employed for a year or more elsewhere, this became their parish of settlement.
Though James was born in Horsted Keynes, his employment by Richard Weston in West Hoathly meant that this had now become his parish of settlement.
It is from the settlement examination accompanying this order that we learn that James was aged 24, (though he was actually 25), that he was a husbandman, married to Elizabeth, born in Horsted Keynes, hired by Richard Weston, farmer, of West Hoathly from 1777, and married in East Grinstead church.
Someone may have been waiting outside the church to serve the removal order as the newly-weds emerged.
St Swithun’s, East Grinstead
As required, they returned to West Hoathly and raised their family there.
Baptisms. West Hoathly.
1778 Aug 16 James
1780 Mar 5 Jane
1781 Aug 12 Sarah
1783 Jan 26 William
1786 May John
1793 Jul 8 Richard
1797 Feb 5 Charlotte
If James was in difficulties at the start of his marriage, worse was to come. At the beginning of the 19th century, agricultural labourers’ conditions deteriorated, with an increasing number of them becoming unemployed, while those still working faced their wages being forced down. Some even died of starvation.
James died in West Hoathly in 1825
Burial. West Hoathly.
1825 Nov 19 James Towse age 73.
Elizabeth survived him by eight years
Burial. West Hoathly.
1834 Jun 9 Elizabeth Towse aged 77.
NEXT GENERATION: 7. TOWSE