Updated 24 Oct 2007

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Knobstick Wedding

    A Jones sent this remarkable story, recorded in "The Times" 6 Oct 1829. He says he's "wondered about the outcome - if and when it came to court".

    A Knobstick Wedding is the wedding of a pregnant single woman to the putative father-to-be, under pressure from the parish vestry. The churchwardens attended to see that the ceremony was performed, and the name is derived from their staves of office."

    Have you heard the remarkable story behind the Saxton-Brooks wedding, recorded in "The Times", 6 Oct 1829? I've wondered about the outcome - if and when it came to court.

    Marriage entry from Wirksworth Parish Register:
    M 1829aug22 SAXTON William(Sheffield YKS)/BROOKES Lydia Witnesses: Edward CLOUGH,Samuel HANSON

    "One of those illegal celebrations of matrimony which are termed by the peasantry 'knobstick weddings', lately took place at Wirksworth. The parties forced into the blessed state are William Saxton, a slender-witted man, 24 years of age, and Lydia Brooks, some 15 years older, who has a wooden leg, both of them paupers - the man chargeable to Sheffield, the woman to Middleton, near Matlock". [i.e. the woman had just been removed from Sheffield to Middleton as her legal place of settlement.]

    The husband explained to the parish overseers that Liddie Brooks "whom I never know'd, sweared a child on me as soon as she'd gotten to Middleton, where you sent her. So when she'd swear'd it, they sent o'er for me to filiate it; first of all they took me to Derby, and then, only because I kno'd nothing about it, they remanded me to Wirksworth gaol. When I had lied in gaol some time, the gentlemen I telled you of comes to me, and says they: 'Why, man, you mun marry this lass'."

    "Ay", says I: "I mun as well, sin you mak me father o' her bairns". Then says they again: "If you don't you know you'll lie in gaol for a twelvemonth, and happen be hanged after all. ... They gied me some liquor, and I being scared, gied 'em my promise".

    "In this state of drunkenness, without hat or shoes, handcuffed, the pauper was taken from goal to Matlock, where a licence of marriage was procured and paid for by the overseers. ... In the morning the overseers appeared before the prison doors, and summoned the captive. To prevent mistakes, it was thought proper that a pair of steel ruffles (handcuffs) should unite the impatient groom to one of the overseers, and in this state, by a circuitous route, the party reached the church of Wirksworth. Here, equally under the influence of the parish guides, stood the wooden-legged bride; and here poor Saxton, who had been frightened into a belief that no choice existed between hanging and marrying, submitted to take for better of worse Lydia Brooks."

    Apparently the responsible overseers of the poor were afterwards summoned before a magistrate ... "but being unable to give any explanation of their conduct, they were held to bail to appear at the Derby sessions, to answer a prosecution for fraudulently procuring the marriage of William Saxton with Lydia Brooks, with the intent to defraud the township of Sheffield, who had been removed from Sheffield to Middleton."


    Jean Durbin writes:
    There is a good report in the Times newspaper:

    Philip BATEMAN & David WALKER were parish officers in Middleton & effected to procure a marriage between William Saxon & Lydia Brooks. William said he saw Lydia for the first time on 2nd Aug and was pressured to marry her on the 13 Aug by the 2 defendants. He was promised money & threatened with imprisonment. He was taken by gig to Chesterfield then taken back to Wirksworth to be taken before the magistrate there. Presumably the magistrates in Chesterfield wouldn't come to the party ! He was put in gaol for 3 days then taken to Matlock Bath where David Walker paid for a marriage licence from a Rev Ward there. William then taken to Wirksworth church and married to Lydia. Two days later William left Lydia. David Walker was said to have a public house in Middleton. Both defendants were acquitted.

    Best wishes Jean

Emails on the subject

    Stuart Flint writes:
    Hello again John

    I offer the following information for as soon as I saw the names Bateman and Walker I knew I had them on my family records somewhere

    David Walker one of the Parish representatives for The Board of Guardians as I believe was his title was a Publican at The Rising Sun Inn Rise End Middleton he married Mabel Spencer of Middleton daughter of Francis Spencer..David Walker was the son of Phillip and Sarah Walker nee Moore of MIddleton Phillip and Sarah's witnesses being John Bateman and Daniel Higton

    Phillip Bateman also a Parish officer re Board of Guardians was born 1792 to John and Elizabeth Bateman nee Higton He was a School Master at Middleton (I never knew that Middleton had its own school as early as the 1820s). Phillip Bateman married Mary Clayton daughter of Benjamin Clayton Miner of Middleton. Claytons are of my / my wife's distant kin via Birleys of Heage and Middleton Quarry owners at Middleton / Monumental Masons at Heage / Buckland Hollow late 1870s - early 1900s

    I have the Clayton family pedigree as they mined at Goodluck Mine Via Gellia where my kinsman Caleb Hall nephew of Ebenezer Hall was a miner along with others of my family some of my allied kin ie William Jones and his son in law Arthur Kinder worked Goodluck Mine up to the 1940s when they produced Barytes

    One of my neighbours is of the Higton family today who in his earlier years worked down Golconda Lead Mine 1940/50 Golconda sold to George Henry Key in 1915 by my Gr Gr Uncle Samuel Joseph Sheldon who purchased the mine and the freehold from Edward Miller Wass owner of Mill Close Mine (I have the indenture and the conveyance records in my files plus recently aquired personal diaries and the like owned by S.J.Sheldon who was Deputy Barmaster on behalf of Wirksworth Barmote Court for Crich Liberty and for other areas around Wirksworth )

    John Bateman Grandfather of Phillip Bateman married Anne Else of Cromford dau of Thomas Else Thomas's other dau Dorothy married John Eaton of Cromford whose daughter Silence Eaton married my wifes 5XGrandfather Henry Evans.. My wifes 2nd cousin is an heir of this Bateman family today

    Footnote S J Sheldon was a member of the Board of Guardians Ashbourne Union..I have access to the Parish Relief book kept by S.J.Sheldon which has recently come into my possession My father then became a Representative on the Board of Guardians he being Liberal Councillor for Middleton Ward from 1928 - 1948. I have a photograph of all 61 Representatives 1930 including my father and our allied kinsmen Daniel Slack who was representative for The General and Municipal Workers Union Mines and Quarries also a Board member at Wirksworth Cottage Hospital one time Treasurer and Alfred Axe Building Contractor Representative for Bonsall Parish. Samuel J Sheldon was also Secretary to Middleton Friendly Society I have some of his record books

    Regards Stuart Flint
    Sandra writes:
    Well, John, I can't resist a challenge.

    If this was the right couple they stayed together:

    1841 Census - Radford Row, Sheffield. There was a William Saxton, 35, labourer, born in Yorkshire and Lydia Saxton (aged 35!!!!) NOT born in the county.

    1851 Census - No 5 at back of Radford Row, Sheffield William Saxton, 46, widower, Parish Relief Labourer, born Masbro YKS, was a lodger

    However, I couldn't find a death before 1851 for Lydia on FreeBMD.

    Over to someone else.....

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