William Fowles was born on the 20th September 1805 in Croydon, Surrey, England to William & Ann Fowles. He was baptised on the 20th October like all of his siblings at the nearby St John the Baptist Church.
Around about the age of 18 William met and married Mary Ann Gatton (or Gatten also born 1805). Mary Ann hailed from Sussex so some distance from London in those days. During the September of 1823 the banns had been read out at their parish church (St George the Martyr) for three weeks in a row to advise all of the pending marriage of William and Mary Ann Gatton. Their witnesses were Richard Hirst and Mary Whelan.
They were married at St George the Martyr in Southwark, Surrey on the 30th November 1823. Mary Ann recorded her name as Ann on her wedding certificate. Mary Ann went by quite a few different variations of her name, she can be found as Mary Ann, Mary or Ann.
Finding information about Mary Ann’s family has not been easy as both she and William were born before standard registration became mandatory in 1837. So it is a search of parish records I’m afraid.
Mary Ann stated when she filled out the census; that she was born in Lewes in Sussex.
To put into context what was happening in England when William and Mary Ann were married. The Prime Minister Robert Peel had successfully seen five acts of parliament through abolishing the death penalty for over one hundred summary offences that were then seen as archaic and uncivilised. The unpopular and spendthrift King George IV was on the throne. Wildly out of touch with the common people he did little to improve their lot and was widely lampooned by his people throughout his life and beyond.
British society had come to the end of the Regency period. Napoleon Bonaparte and Daniel Boone had both died a few years before. Daniel O’ Connell was agitating in Ireland for emancipation for the Irish people. And at least for the next ten years until 1833, it was still perfectly legal for an English man to keep and maintain slaves. Particularly in the Indies and the Carribbean!
William and Mary Ann lived their adult lives in southern London in what were working-class places such as Clapham, Croydon, Brixton and Lambeth. They would have several children. Sarah Ann, William, Elizabeth Ellen, Alice, Henry, John and Frederick.
In 1830 they moved to Brixon with their children Sarah Ann b. 1824, William b. 1826, Elizabeth Ellen b.1834, Alice b.1835, John b.1844 and Frederick b. 1848. The 1841 census records the family as living in Clapham with William aged 35 occupied as a Labourer. Mary Ann also aged 35 the mother of William aged 15, Elizabeth Ellen aged 8, Alice aged 6 and Henry aged 1. Daughters Sarah and Mary Ann are not recorded as living with them.
It is likely that Sarah had ‘gone into service’ likely as a domestic and was living away from home. She would go on to marry a shoemaker, Charles Clapp aged 19 on the 4th February 1844 at St Lukes in West Norwood. West Norwood being only 4 miles from her families home in Clapham. Her father William appears in the register having signed himself as a witness to the marriage. At the time William still records himself as a labourer as was Charles Clapp’s father Abraham Clapp. Transcription records record Sarah’s surname as Fowler (a common error I find, when it was indeed Fowles). Sarah and Charles would go onto have what I would think a comfortable life as he became a builder. Sarah died as an old woman for the times, at 74.
Elizabeth Ellen would marry a Mr C. Blunden and like her brother William, a few years later the Blunden family would emigrate from England to Australia. Alice would marry a Mr. J. Luetchford/Lutchford a local man whose family resided reasonably near hers and they would live their lives in the London area raising their family. Henry would die aged 8 in 1848 whilst the family were living in Lambeth. Rather later in life William and Mary Ann had two more sons. John born when they were 38 and Frederick when they were 43.
The 1851 census found William and ‘Mary’ living at Pleasant Retreat, 3 Nelsons Place Lambeth, Brixton. William was then aged 45 and must have moved up in the world as he was listed as a car-man and shopkeeper. A car-man was the driver of any vehicle on the roadways. William’s wife Mary Ann and daughter Alice were working as assistants in the shop. John aged seven was a scholar and Frederick aged two was also recorded on the census.
For the Fowles family this must have been a period of some considerable comfort as shopkeepers they would have had a good income and likely a solid and safe home. At this time Lambeth was still a quiet semi-rural part of London with large tracts given to farming and agricultural works. In 1858 whilst living at Nelson’s Place William contracted bronchitis and sadly died as a result. For Mary Ann this must have been exceedingly hard she was only 52 years of age and still had children to provide for.
William was buried on the 9th May 1858 and the burial certificate was issued from the parish of St Matthew’s Brixton. This burial ground was built over by a garden some years later so I doubt there is any visible evidence of his grave these days.
By 1861 Mary Ann’s living circumstances had changed. Mary Ann was now living with her sons Frederick and John at 2 Kendles Cottage, Water Lane, Brixton. She no longer had a shop and her occupation was given as housekeeper. At the time that their father died in 1858 John was 15 and Frederick only 10. In the 1861 census John gave his employment as a wheelwright and Frederick was still a scholar (student). I pretty much lost track of John from this point on and wonder did he leave London or emigrate?
By 1871 Mary Ann was living with her son Frederick and his wife Mary Ann and their 6 month old infant daughter Miriam at 5 Archbishop Place, Brixton. Mary Ann was recorded as an Annuit meaning that she was getting money each year for the remainder of her life to support her upkeep. The 1881 census does not yield much (that I’m able to conclusively find anyway) about Frederick or his wife Mary Ann or their daughter Miriam.
The 1891 census turns up a Marian Fowles daughter of Mary Ann born in Brixton Surrey and living in nearby Wandsworth. The transcription could be wrong and it could actually be Miriam. Miriam was 20 (which is about right) and her widowed mother 46 which is also about right. She had two brother’s Frederick John aged 16 and Ernest Edward aged 12. It appears that Miriam was the main bread-winner in the home as her mother is recorded as being sick. Miriam was a mantle-maker (item of fashion worn by ladies of the time) for employment. Her 16 year old brother Frederick was a messenger and 12 year old Ernest still a scholar. Ten years later a 26 year old Frederick John Fowles born in Brixton turns up in the 1901 census married with a 5 1/2 month old and is a Bookkeeper in Wandsworth. I don’t know for sure but I suspect these are our people.
Mary Ann Gatton Fowles died in Lambeth in 1876 at the age of 76 having seen her children grown and reasonably prosperous both near to her further flung in Australia.
For a more comprehensive biography of William and Mary Ann’s life in England, Ann Hurley’s page is a must read. http://www.hurleyskidmorehistory.com.au/hurley-and-box-families/brixton-shopkeepers-william.html