Betrayed: Sarah Mannering

On a bitterly cold February day in 1786, a carter drove into Hythe with a passenger, a ‘near perished’ young woman, heavily pregnant, whom, he said, he had found in a miserable state on the road from Dymchurch.

He took her to the home of the mayor, Henry Mercer.  She had only a few shillings on her and knew no-one in the town. Shocked, he called in the Overseers of the Poor, who arranged accommodation at the Duke’s Head inn for the woman, who gave her name as Sarah Mannering.  It would be weeks before she could tell them anything else, as she soon became ill with a fever which lasted twelve weeks, during which time her child was delivered stillborn.

The Duke’s Head, Hythe, closed now for some years

Finally, on 31 May, she told her story. She had been born Sarah Monk, in Essex. On 4 July 1784, in Romford, she married William Mannering. At that time, she was living in Purleigh and he in Upminster.

On 21 January 1786 he left her ‘to shift for herself’.  She kept the letter he sent soon afterwards, to show to the Overseers of the Poor. It reads:

To Sarah Mannering, Romford, Essex- Loving wife and child I write you this to let you know that I am Determined to go to the East Indies Immediately so I would have you Never think to see me no more. I would have you go to the Overseer and make him Carry you home. I am tired of my life in England and Therefore By God I will go to the East Indies Directly. I shall [en]list in the morning. May God attend you which shall be the Constant Prayer of your Disturbed husband which is ruined Forever. If I shall live to return again I will come to see you. Pray God Bless you and my Child forever.

From yours, William Mannering.

Presumably, since he was going to enlist and go to the ‘East Indies’, he was intending to join the army of the East India Company, which effectively governed the sub-continent. Whether he did or not, or just went away and changed his name, we cannot know, or why he considered himself to be ‘ruined’.

William seems confident that the Overseers will take Sarah ‘home’ – perhaps to Purleigh – but he was ignorant in this respect of the Poor Law. When Sarah married him, his place of settlement became hers, too, even if she had never set foot there.

The 1662 Act of Settlement had established the tenet that everyone had a place of settlement where you could legally obtain Poor Law relief.  Further legislation in the 1690s said that you could gain a settlement through, birth, marriage, apprenticeship, regular employment for a period of a year, renting a house worth £10 per annum, paying parochial taxes, or serving as a parish office.  William had told Sarah that his place of settlement was Lydd on the Romney Marsh, though she did not know why.  Records do not show that he was born there, so presumably he must have have claimed to have been apprenticed there or worked there for a year. It is an unusual place for an Essex man to be sttled. 

Sarah evidently could not shift for herself, and two weeks later she was arrested while begging and taken before a magistrate. She told them that her husband’s place was at Lydd. The magistrate, a man called Bynion, issued a vagrant pass and she was sent to Lydd, some eighty miles distant and a three- or four-day journey, depending on the state of the roads in early February.  The Romford authorities arranged her transport to Rainham in Kent and then found a man called Arnold at a public house there to take her on the second leg of the journey in his cart.

The Ship Inn, Lydd

Lydd is now a small town and was then even smaller, most of its population officially engaged in fishing and unofficially in smuggling. On arrival, Arnold headed for the Ship inn, where he made enquiries and was told he should speak to Mr Gilbert, the Deputy Overseer of the Poor.  Gilbert made his own enquiries and told Sarah the next day that her husband did not have settlement in Lydd and that she could not stay. He gave her another vagrant pass and ten shillings and sixpence and told her to leave the town.  Since she is described as being visibly pregnant, ‘big with child,’ knew no-one locally and the weather was then freezing, this seems incredibly callous.  

Gilbert sent a passing small boy with Sarah to show her the road to Romney.  She walked to Romney and then on to Dymchurch, a distance of about eight miles. There she spent a night at the Ship inn and the next day she tried to walk on to Hythe, but was found on the road by a Good Samaritan in ‘a pitiable state’. The man got her into his cart and took her to Hythe.

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The Ship Inn, Dymchurch, still open in the 21st century

Sarah was by then in Hythe poorhouse where she remained until she persuaded the Hythe overseers in 1787 to give her four shillings to help her go to Purleigh.  She had been betrayed by her husband, by the Poor Law system and by most of the men who administered it. Now she wanted to go home. Whether or not she reached her destination, we don’t know.  A short detour along the way would have taken her into London, a magnet for the poor and dispossessed. Whatever the case, Sarah disappears from history. We can only wish her well.  

The Tragedies of a Hythe Cricketing Family

This one gravestone commemorates five members and three generations of the same family.

 

Munds and Bass2

Inscription In/loving memory/of a dear one/Edgar Munds/who was drowned while/skating on the canal/Dec 3rd 1890 in his 15th year/loved by all who knew him

Jesus wept

A light from our household is gone/a voice we loved is still/a place is vacant in our home/which never will be filled

Also/Percy Charles Munds/died Sep 28th 1886/Aged 6 months and 3 weeks/who was interred at Lydd

In/memory of/Cpl. W.E.E. Bass R.G.A./the dearly loved grandson of Edward and Susan Munds/who died of wounds April 3rd 1917/aged 23 years/interred in military cemetery/Arras France

And of/Susan Hewitt/the beloved wife of/Edward Munds/who died October 5th 1920/in her 76th year

Also of/Edward/the devoted husband of the above/who died April 15th 1929/aged 82 years

 

Munds and Bass 1

To start at the beginning:  Susan Baker, a young woman from Lydd, Kent, who was in service with the local schoolmaster, got married to Edward Munds in 1869, when she was about 24 years old. Edward was also born in Lydd, the eldest son of James Munds, a tailor, and Ann, his wife. By the age of fourteen he was working as an agricultural labourer.  A year after their marriage, the Munds had a son, and thereafter babies appeared every two years or so. There were eight eventually.  Percy Charles, who is mentioned here but buried in Lydd, was the first to die at only six months old.

In the late 1880s, Edward moved his family to Hythe, about thirteen miles away and took on the license of the Sportsman public house at 111 High Street, where he remained until about 1903 (the inn burnt down in 1907).

During these years, Edward and his sons developed their keen interest in cricket. Edward, as well as keeping the pub, worked as grounsdman for Hythe Cricket Club.  Two of his sons, Arthur and Raymond, were good enough to play for Kent, and the newspaper obituary for their brother Edgar described him as a promising cricketer, too. However, in the winter of 1890, when he was fourteen, Edgar was drowned in the Royal Military Canal at Hythe. It was not unusual for the canal to freeze solid in winter and to be used as a temporary skating rink, and on the day he died there were a lot of people, young and old skating.  Edgar had gone there with a group of his friends, including one of his older brothers, who told him to avoid the area under Scanlon’s Bridge (a road bridge), as the ice was thin there. Edgar disregarded his advice, the ice was indeed thin and gave way under his weight. He tried to save himself, but was unable to get a grip on the ice and sank. The water here was about fifteen feet deep, and it took nearly half-an-hour before he could be rescued.

Dr Arthur Randall Davies, a local physician (who is also buried in St Leonard’s churchyard) had  been skating himself and was called to the scene. He waited for Edgar to be brought ashore and took the boy to the School of Musketry, just across the road. He tried everything he could to save him, but it was too late.

Edgar’s sister, the eldest daughter of Edward and Susan Munds, was Georgiana. In 1894 she married Walter Bass, a soldier, and their son Walter Edward Edgar Bass was born in January the next year. Georgiana followed her husband to his posting in Ireland, but died there in April.  Walter Bass senior had no option but to send his infant son back to Hythe to his grandparents, while he was sent off to fight in the Boer war. Edward and Susan brought up the boy, whom they called simply ‘Edgar.’ He, too, became a keen cricketer.

By the age of sixteen, the lad was working as a Telegraph boy in Hythe. He later took employment with Mr Pinto, a Hythe electrician, but then became a professional cricketer. In 1914 he had moved to Lincolnshire and was described when playing at Woodhall Spa as having hopes of joining the Lincolnshire county side. He joined up in 1915, and was awarded the Military Medal and bar for bravery in the field. His Captain wrote to his grandparents that a shell burst over his position, and struck him in the chest. He died the next day without regaining consciousness.

He is buried at Ecoivres military cemetery in Mont-Saint-Eloi.

Bass WEE

 

Edward, now retired as a publican, moved to Theatre Street and devoted himself to his groundsman’s duties, with a horse stabled at the eastern edge of the field to pull the mower and roller and rake up the grass. When he retired in 1919, his son Raymond followed him into the job. Raymond was himself a professional cricketer who played in seven first-class matches for Kent. His brother Arthur also played for Kent. Susan Munds, having lost three of her children and the grandson she had raised, died in 1920. Edward devoted himself to Hythe Cricket Club until his death, never missing a match.