Netheravon, Wiltshire, Mary Ann's birthplace
Unlike the records on her husband James Brown, we have a reasonable amount of information on Mary. ...
The birth certificates of some of her children give her maiden name as 'Staples" - and indeed, a baptism of a Mary Ann Staples can be found at Netheravon, in Wiltshire in 1829. .Netheravon is the village Mary Ann always listed as her birthplace, so we can be confident that we have found the correct birth record for her. The details given in the church register indicate that Mary Ann was the 'base-born' (illegitimate) daughter of Hannah Staples, described as a 'pauper'. One family story alleges that Mary Ann was a gypsy, and was beautiful - but no photograph of her has survived, if indeed one was ever taken.
So far (Dec 2019) we've been unable to find a marriage record for James and Mary. However, by 1850 the couple were living together in Sussex, where they started their family with the birth of their first child, Jane, in 1950 at Hurstpierpoint, just north of Brighton.
James was probably a jack-of-all- trades - on one of Mary's documents, he was described as a gardener, and in another document (the marriage certificate of his daughter Jane in 1877), he is recorded as a "toy dealer", an occupation which was also noted for Mary Ann a short time later in the 1881 census
Mary Ann and her family lived in various villages and hamlets in Sussex, a fair distance away from Mary's home town of Netheravon. In Sussex, their lodgings would almost certainly have been conditional on their working arrangements. The Brown family moved around over the years, but always close to Hurstpierpoint and the larger town of East Grinstead. They had six children, but only five survived childhood. Their fourth daughter Sarah, born in 1859, died within a month of her birth in 1859.
Of their six children, only one, a son Joseph, was given the distinction of having a second name, William - all the girls had to make do with only a single Christian name.
Work for James was probably mainly on the farms around
Hurstpierpoint or East Grinstead - the births of the youngest four
children were registered in the tiny village of Clayton, Clayton has
a church of some note, dating back to the Domesday Book.
(right): Clayton village, a photo
from the Francis Frith Collection