Thomas Ham

Ham graves in Wix

Ham graves in Wix

We know Thomas Ham, first husband of Hannah Southgate, was a blacksmith; we also know his father, William, was one too. I found a baptism in Wix on 18 June 1817 for Thomas, son of William Ham, blacksmith, and his wife Mary. So I knew I’d found the right person, even though the baptism doesn’t match up exactly with his age given in the burial register, because when Thomas and Hannah married, Thomas’ father’s name was given as William. This was 28 in May 1847, so if he’d been born in June 1817, it was slightly out by a year. But this isn’t entirely unusual.

I found three other children, all baptised in Wix: Mary in 1813, Phoebe in 1814, and John in 1819. John was mentioned at the inquest – it had been suggested that Thomas had been suicidal and poisoned himself, and his brother’s suicide had been put forward. I found John’s burial in the Wix register, on 3 Apr 1832, when he was aged 13. At this point in the register, the vicar had taken to entering parents’ names, which was helpful. There was no note in the register to say that he had killed himself, but a newspaper report in the Essex Standard explained the circumstances surrounding John’s suicide. Another look through the burial register showed that Phoebe had died, aged 2. So Thomas’s family hadn’t had much luck.

His sister Mary married Thomas Forsdick in 1837; interestingly, one of the witnesses was called Mary Angier – you just can’t escape that surname in the Tendring Hundred! By the early 1840s, she and Thomas had moved to Paglesham, near the River Crouch in the south-east of Essex, where he worked as a brickmaker.

I traced Thomas Ham’s family back further. His parents had married in Beaumont-cum-Moze in 1809, his mother’s maiden name being Rowling. As his parents both appear on the 1851 census, the first to give birthplaces, I knew she had been born in Tendring, but unfortunately two Mary Ann Rowlings were baptised in Tendring in 1790 (she was born in about 1787 – 1790 is the closest to any Mary/Mary Ann Rowlings being baptised in Tendring), so I couldn’t narrow it down far enough to pursue without supplementary evidence such as wills. However, Thomas’s father was easier to research.

Although his abode was Wix when he married Mary Rowling, William Ham, as we can see from his place of birth on the 1851 census, was born in Great Holland. We can see him in the Great Holland baptisms, the son of John and Abigail, baptised on 25 Sep 1785. John and Abigail had five other children. Two sons called Thomas (one died in infancy), Robert, John, and Sarah. They had married in Wix in 1768, and one of the witnesses was… Cornelius Angier! Cornelius appears to have been the parish clerk as he witnessed quite a few weddings in Wix. That or he liked confetti.((I know, I know, they didn’t have confetti in those days.)) The marriage register unusually tells us John’s occupation – he was a blacksmith, a trade which was carried on down the generations of his family.

John died on 5 February 1825 – we know this from his will. It tells us he was a yeoman, so he had perhaps passed on his blacksmith business to his son William and had moved onto farming. It says he is “of Wix, late of Bradfield”, showing that he’s moved about somewhat. He owned cottages, a house and gardens, land and a farm around Wix, which he left to his children, Robert, William and Sarah. To John, he left some money. His executors were his son Robert, and his friends Nathaniel Sorrel of Wix (a relative of mine), and local schoolmaster John Southgate: irony-of-ironies, the father of Hannah’s second husband. John Ham certainly owned a lot of land, but it was mortgaged, so he wasn’t as wealthy as it might otherwise appear. He had benefited from the will of his brother Thomas, who had died in 1784, and left him with cottages in Wix, and his rest and residue. John’s son Thomas was left his uncle’s blacksmith shop in Wix.

There are two small headstones by the entrance to the church in Wix, which Hannah Southgate and Mary May both walked passed, as well as Reverend Wilkins and Inspector Raison. They are both headstones with the surname Ham on them. They are very green now, and hard to read, but they both belong to men called Thomas Ham and I think they must be the headstones of ancestors of Hannah’s first husband.