Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

Hannah Rowberry Biography

Almost all of the information given here is the work of Margaret Hatton. All I have done is take all her hard work and reproduce it here.

First draft compiled by Margaret Hatton 15.04.02 Subject to revision

In 1851 Hannah Rowberry was staying at the Fountain Inn in Orcop. Her older brother James was with her. The Inn was run, possibly owned by Edward Niblet, Hannah and James's uncle by marriage. His wife Ann (Ruck) was their mother's sister. The census of 1851 states that: - Edward Niblet aged 49, born Kentchurch was a carpenter, Ann his wife age 56 and born in Orcop was a carpenters wife. James Rowberry nephew, was aged 22 and born in Much Dewchurch but no occupation is recorded for him. Hannah Rowberry, niece, aged 18 was born in Kilpeck and her occupation is given as house servant They must have been staying at the Inn for a while or they would have been listed as visitors. Possibly Hannah was working there.

Also living in Orcop at the time was the Bent family. The 1851 census lists: - Elizabeth Bent age 76 labourers widow (I did not record any of the others places of birth, except for Thomas) Henry Bent age 40 - Woodsman Thomas Bent 39 - Woodsman born Much Dewchurch Ann Symonds granddaughter Henry Clark nephew - Woodsman

Also living in Orcop were the Morris family. The 1851 census lists: - William Morris age 39 - shoemaker born Llangarren Mary Morris age 37 Mary age 19 Henry age 7 Sarah age 4 Elizabeth age 1

Their son William Morris must have been in a nearby parish working

Thomas and Hannah met and courted. On December 29th 1851 they were married in St Martins Church, Hereford. The bride gave her age as 22, the groom was 29. (Oh to lose 10 years so quickly). Neither of the pair could write their name. It is interesting that they married in Hereford and not in Orcop, it would suggest that Hannah's mother was living there probably with her third husband, but I have yet to confirm this.

In the 1861 census the couple are living in Orcop. Once again there is a discrepancy about ages. Thomas is now 40, Hannah 27 and they have three children. I have found evidence of a fourth child, their first born son whom they called James, but he died as an infant and they called a later born son James but this was after 1861. At that time they had Charles, who was 6, Sarah aged 4 and Ester Ellen who was 2. The two older children were born in Much Dewchurch but Ester Ellen was born in Orcop. Thomas was a hurdle maker.

It is about this time that the marriage begins to go wrong. Living nearby is 20 year old William Morris and a relationship begins between him and Hannah. When it became serious is difficult to determine. Two more children were born of the union with Thomas while they lived in Orcop, James and Clara.

The first child we know definitely was William Morris's was Thomas William Bent born in 1864 in Much Birch. The fact that in later life he became William Thomas Morris confirms this. Another child Julia was born in Much Birch but again was registered as Bent. Who was Hannah living with in Much Birch was it her husband or William Morris? I suspect it was William but have no reliable proof except the birth of the two children.

In 1871 Hannah was installed at Old Orchard, the place that was to be her home until her death. With her were Ester Ellen, James, Clara, Thomas, Julia and one year old Mary who was born in Orcop. The father on all their birth certificates was Thomas Bent however, he was not in Orcop, but William Morris was there as the boarder. Thomas Bent was a boarder in Madley at the house of Charles and Sarah Huggins. He gives his age as 50 and his occupation as Hurdle Maker. Maddley is a village to the north east of Orcop, not too far a walk for a fit man in those times. There is no record of Charles Bent or Sarah Bent, I have still to find them on the census.

A recent description from an estate agent describes Old Orchard as a 'two hundred year old farm house style home in about two acres of land'. Even allowing for the fact that there has been a modern extension it must have been a large house for a simple 'farm labourer' to afford. Yet afford it they did and they managed to raise a large family and move about in a pony and trap. A map of 1904 confirms the size of the plot.

In 1874 Mary Morris wife of William senior died. She was buried in Orcop Churchyard on Jan 29th aged 62. She was blind for the last years of her life.

Thomas Bent died in 1879 of prostate cancer, three months before the birth of Edwin. He died in Hereford Infirmary and the cause of death was 'enlarged prostate, retention of urine 5 days and peritonitis'. Hannah is listed as informant of the death.

In the 1881 census the family had increased drastically. William Morris age 42 was the official head, Hannah was now the boarder. At home with them were Sarah Bent age 25, William Thomas Bent 15, Julia Bent 14, Elizabeth Bent 11, Henry Bent 9, Isabella Bent 7, Blanch Bent 4, John Bent 4 (grandson born Manchester) and Edwin Bent age 2.

In 1883 William and Hannah made their union official by marrying in Orcop church. The witnesses to the marriage were James and Mary Ann Davies, Williams's aunt and uncle. From this time on the children of this union took the Morris name except for Isabella, who married as a Bent. (Why???)

The 1901 census lists the occupants of Old Orchard as: - William Morris, Hannah Morris, Henry Morris, Blanch Morris

William died on 3rd September 1901 aged 61. The cause of death was 'Concussion of the brain and shock caused by accidentally falling off a load of barley'. An inquest was held on 5th September and reported in the Hereford Times.

An elaborate stone was placed on his grave in Orcop Churchyard. It reads

Our dear father
William Morris
Sept 3rd 1901
Age 61
Of this parish
A faithful friend, a husband dear
A loving father lieth here
Short was his waining
Great his pain
I hope in heaven to meet again

Such a stone would have cost a great deal of money, more I suspect than Hannah alone could afford. James Davies was a stonemason and it is possible that he provided the stone or even the farmer for whom William was working contributed.

Hannah died on the 7th February 1912 at Old Orchard, Orcop aged 74. Cause of death was 'Senile decay and cerebral softening'. Her daughter Sarah Davies was at her side. I know Isabella attended her funeral and I expect the other children were there too. There is no headstone for her but I believe she was interred with her husband, it would have been unusual if she had not. She left a will naming Sarah Davies as her executrix and Sarah was granted probate on 24th April. Hannah's effects were valued at 12 14s 4d. I will obtain a copy of the will eventually.

If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at:

Nicky Rowberry 2012

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry