Unexpected Find: “Visitations of Providence”

I have recently been on a bit of a mission (prompted by a friend) to complete my collection of certificates for all my ancestors. As half of my ancestry is, as I have mentioned before, American, my immediate focus is on the UK half. (That’s not to say that certificates for my American ancestors are impossible to come by, it’s just that it will take a bit more thought – and perhaps the judicious use of my American relations and international money transfers!)

The death certificate for my 4 x great-grandmother Maria Holborow (nee Haynes) was a bit of a puzzler and the search for it was the root of this post: an unexpected find.

I have a burial for Maria, clear as day, on 29 August 1860 in Oldbury on the Hill. Her age at death matches the birth year I have for her, so I was happy. In the spirit of an open and honest discourse, I had somehow managed to think her burial was in January 1860. Therefore the death entry I could find on the GRO index in Q3 1860 had me flummoxed (I had also missed that her place of residence on the burial was Walcot, Bath, which matched with the death entry being in Bath District – so let that be another lesson to you, dear reader: open your bloody eyes! And it turns out that she died at the residence of her daughter, Amelia).

Maria Holborow, burial recorded in Oldbury on the Hill PRs via Ancestry.com

Anyway, I mentioned this to a friend (conveniently the same friend mentioned in my opener) who responded to ask if I’d thought about inquests. I hadn’t, but turned to the BNA for any help. Finding nothing for her by name, I thought maybe she’d been reported as “Mrs Holborow” so tried just the surname and the years 1859 and 1860. Nothing for Maria (as there wouldn’t be …) but I did find a rather sad story; a pair of burials, husband and wife, who were buried on the same day…

Article from Gloucestershire Chronicle, Saturday 17 November 1860 via BNA

The article tells us a few things of interest. One being that Daniel and his (unnamed) wife were living at Lordswood Farm near Sherston, Wiltshire, but were buried in Tresham (in Gloucestershire, about 8 miles to the north-west). The burials took place on the Monday prior, so 11 November, with Mrs Holborow dying on Wednesday 8 November after a long illness, and Daniel dying on the Friday. I have consulted a calendar and apparently 8 November in 1860 was a Thursday, and the Friday was then 9 November (ie the next day, not “a few days’ illness”). Not the only oddity. The burial register records the following:

Tresham burial register, via Ancestry.com

Daniel and Catherine are recorded as being buried on 12 November. The next thing I noticed was that Daniel had left a will. The probate entry states that Daniel died on 8 November. So here we have two “official” records conflicting with the newspaper article.

Their death certificates confirm that Catherine died on 6 November and Daniel on 8 November. Catherine’s cause of death is listed as gastric fever 5 weeks (aka typhoid), obscure disease of the bowels 17 weeks. As there is no mention of a typhoid outbreak in Tresham or Sherston at this time, I imagine that the bowel disease provided the route. Daniel died from erysipelas 3 days (a bacterial skin infection) and mortification 5 days. Mortification here meaning gangrene of some form. I can’t imagine either of them had a pleasant end to their lives, especially knowing they were leaving their children. Interestingly, the informant in both cases was Mary Chappell of Sherston Magna who was present at their deaths. There is a likely Mary Chappell living in the nearby place of Easton Town (in the parish of Sherston) in the 1861 census. Although given no occupation in the census, perhaps she was known to have strong nursing skills, or was in some way considered “good” with palliative care. She certainly had no education as she signed her name with an X on the certificates. Chappell also appears in my tree in its own right, with 2 Chappell ladies marrying distant Holborow cousins (that is, distant cousins to me, not to them) and one into the Neal family – an Ethelbert Neal no less (who also had a son, Ethelbert).

So, naturally, I wanted to know more about this pair and their orphaned children. The most likely marriage was a Daniel Holborow marrying Catherine Beak in late 1852 in the Wiltshire village of Castle Combe, near Chippenham (now mostly famous for its proximity to the famous racing circuit – the eponymous castle having been demolished before the reign of Henry IV).

Marriage certificate of Daniel Holborow and Catherine Beak

Daniel was a great-grandson of my 6 x great-grandfather, via Joseph’s son Daniel (I told you, it’s always a Daniel), whereas I’m descended from Joseph’s son William. In 1851 he is living with his siblings Henry and Ann, in Hawkesbury. Henry is listed as farming 400 acres and employing 20 men. Daniel has no occupation listed, and Ann is an annuitant. Presumably Daniel worked on the farm alongside Henry.

Two years after the marriage, their first child was born, followed by the remaining four, as matches the information in the article. All except Catherine are baptised in Sherston with Daniel listed as a farmer and resident of Lordswood. I can’t find Catherine in Sherston, back in Tresham, nor even in Catherine’s home parish of Castle Combe as sometimes happens.

  • Catherine, 1854
  • Henry, 1855
  • Mary Ann, 1856
  • Ann Deborah, 1857
  • Daniel Edwin, 1859

In 1861, with the census being taken mere months after their parents’ deaths, the five children are no longer living together. The two eldest, Catherine and Henry, are living with their uncle and aunt, Henry and Ann Holborow, and cousins (in fact, they were double cousins as brothers Henry and Daniel Holborow had married sisters Ann and Catherine Beak – on the same day) at Burden Court, Hawkesbury.

The youngest three were living with Thomas and Jane Allsop in Ladies Wood Cottage, which is round the corner from Lordswood Farm,but about 7 miles from Burden Court, and Jane was born (Eliza) Jane Purnell and in 1851 was a “general servant” to Henry Holborow. Presumably it made better sense for the youngest to stay with a female figure who was more known to them.

But I do imagine the elder two drawing up to Burden Court Farm (below, and cover image, above) with a sense of wonderment on their faces and – perhaps – a degree of trepidation.

I had – somewhat fancifully – thought that maybe Daniel had decreed in his will that his brother take care of his kids, knowing perhaps that he and his wife were both seriously ill. The will is dated just two days before his death. In it, Daniel asks his executors (his brother Henry, wife’s brother-in-law Benjamin Blake and his sister Ann’s husband, Robert Iles) to hold his cottage and gardens located on Bo[u]lton Lane in the parish of Dursley in trust for his eldest child, Henry, to be passed to him when he attained his majority at age 21. The other children aren’t mentioned by name. He also asks that his executors “convert all [his] residurary real and personal estate into money” and that this be invested in Government real “or other sufficient security” and the interest from these be paid at regular intervals to Catherine, for her use and to be separate from any subsequent husband she may take (quite a bold and unique stance to take at this time!), or to her children after her decease to “share and share alike” once they reach majority age at 21 – or once his daughters get married.

Daniel also instructs his executors be “jointly with my wife Catherine Guardians of my children”. By this time, Ann and Daniel Iles had 5 children of their own and Benjamin and his wife, Deborah, had 2. Although Henry and Ann already had 3 children, perhaps the larger confines of Burden Court were a better fit for the 2 eldest orphans.

In the 1861 census there is nobody obviously related living in Bolton Lane, but there is one uninhabited property. Could that be Daniel’s cottage?

Page from 1861 England Census of Dursley, Gloucestershire, showing 1 uninhabited property on Bolton Lane

Unfortunately, young Henry passed away in October 1864 aged 9 of “gastric fever, 1 month” so did not inherit the cottage in Dursley. Perhaps this was then sold to increase the seed fund for the purchase of the security investments.

By 1871 all 3 girls have been placed in a boarding school for girls in Clevedon, Somerset. I believe that it is St Brandon’s, but the census simply says “Penarth House, Victoria Road”. Daniel is at grammar school in Tetbury, and has already gleaned a brief mention as 2 distant Holborow cousins are also pupils. I presume that this education was paid for out of the investments made following Daniel’s death as per his will.

One reason for the change of circumstance might be explained by another article from early in 1865:

Article from Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, Saturday 21 January 1865

Catherine later returned to Tresham where she married her 4th cousin, Francis Holborow (a sister of Francis, Anne Elizabeth, would marry one of the above Henry’s sons a few years later). Francis and Anne’s parents, Francis and Mary were themselves 5th cousins. She died aged 70 and is buried in Tresham.

Mary Ann also married – outside the family! – and died aged 90 in Gloucester.

Ann Deborah married twice. Her first husband, Robert Thomas Worlock was her first cousin once removed (Ann’s paternal grandmother was Robert’s father’s cousin). Her second, Isaac Holborow, was a 4th cousin. She died in 1937 and is also buried in Tresham.

Article from Western Daily Press, Saturday 08 May 1937 via BNA

Daniel Edwin married his second cousin, Catherine Frances Beak (his mother, Catherine, was his wife’s father’s cousin). Daniel died in Ampney St Mary, close to Cirencester in 1926, aged 67.

Article from North Wilts Herald, Friday 19 November 1926

I have been intrigued by these lives for some time now, and its fascinating what can be found when you aren’t really looking. Our family histories are more than just our direct ancestors – its all the myriad lives weaving together throughout both time and space. There are various Holborow families in Tresham, Sherston and the surrounding villages and I can’t imagine that they weren’t aware they were connected (after all, Holborow is not and never has been a common surname, even if the areas it was concentrated). And if it weren’t for me misreading a record and getting confused, I never would have found that Daniel and Catherine and their family were there to be remembered.

Happy hunting!

Sherston High Street c.1890 from Sherston Village website


  1. I don’t know how you keep track of all these cousins! I started to try to untangle the myriad of Kucks and Brandt connections in my line, but decided I just didn’t have the energy. It’s on my bucket list, though, for “some day.” I’m loving your Holborow saga(s).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha it’s been a labour of love over many, many years collecting references to them. My original goal was to start a one name study. Which I have now registered. Thankfully the Holborows have a lot to say about a lot of things! I’m glad that you’re enjoying my posts! Good to know I’m not yelling into the void!!


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