Netheravon, Wiltshire, Mary Ann's birthplace

Mary Ann Staples (1829-1912)

Line of Descent
Helen Glenmire Davidson

Mary Ann Staples

  Hannah Brown

Isabella Jane Martin

Helen Glenmire Davidson

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1829, Netheravon, Wiltshire

Hannah Staples

James Brown

12 June, 1912, Keymer, Sussex

Jane (b. 1850, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex)
Mary (b .1853, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex)
Hannah (b. 1856, Clayton, Sussex m.
       William Martin
, 1890, East Grinstead, Sussex)
Sarah (b. 1859 Clayton, Sussex)
Joseph William (b. 1861 Clayton, Sussex)
Susan (b. 1867 Clayton, Sussex)

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

Mary Ann lived for another 32 years after James' death in 1879.  In 1891, in the UK Census, she is recorded as living with her daughter Hannah and her new husband William Martin, at Homestall Farm at Ashurst Wood. Later, she moved in with her daughter Susan and her family, in Norlington Cottages in Church road, Keymer/Burgess Hill, six kilometres from Hurstpierpoint.. These cottages no longer exist - Church road, Burgess Hill is, in the 21st century, a commercial/retail precinct.  The relationship between Mary Ann and her daughter may not have been totally harmonious- one family story has it that Susan didn't like her mother very much, but that she had, on the other hand, adored her long dead father James.  So the atmosphere in the cottage at Burgess Hill may well have been very tense at times.

The details of the household were given in the 1911 census, where for the first time, Mary Ann was described an an "old-age pensioner".  The UK government had brought in the aged pension only two years previously, and no doubt, it was gladly received by her daughter's family. This census was quite a detailed one, giving a good description of the household which occupied the premises.

If her relationship with Susan was a problem, it's a little bit of a puzzle as to why Mary Ann didn't live with one of her other daughters, Hannah, who by this time was living on her own in nearby Hurstpierpoint, in a four-roomed house .  In the 1890s Mary Ann had lived with Hannah, but perhaps that arrangement was also not too comfortable..

Mary died a year after that census in the summer of 1912, from bronchitis, which she'd suffered from for two years......

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