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Rob Forsyth

I am extremely grateful to the three descendants of the Gardner and Fletcher families whose individual research has provided the bulk of the information in this and the other articles linked from it. They are:

  • Lynne Scaife - the GG Granddaughter of Mary Fletcher, wife of Robert Gardne
  • Karen Rose -  the GGG Granddaughter of Jane Fletcher, sister to Mary Fletcher
  • Lin Malt -  whose ancestor (by marriage) married Isabella, daughter of Mary Fletcher

Lynne has this to say " I have often wondered over the years what Deddington was like in the 19th Century during the course of my family history research. It seems to me that it was a den of iniquity in many respects with my own female ancestors giving birth out of wedlock and some of them bought before the bench for stealing.  They all lived on Philcote Street, Deddington.

This has raised many questions in my mind.  Firstly, why were they stealing food etc? This might sound a stupid question but rationally one must answer that they had no money, ie. not enough money to eat properly.  Given the fact that if they were caught stealing and brought before the court, the sentences could be anything between 2 weeks hard labour and transportation.  You would think that this would be the ultimate deterrent, but obviously these poor people were so desperate, the prospect of food outweighed the consequences.  Secondly, I have also wondered whether young women were enticed into having sex for money.  I don’t mean full-scale prostitution, but again, perhaps if they were literally starving, a short time of degradation may have been worth it for a square meal.  (There are 4 people classed as “paupers” in Philcote Street on the 1851 census)."

Editor's observation: Having researched my own ancestors in the Liverpool docklands in the same period - my GG Great Uncle was also sentenced to a hulk and transported the year after Robert Gardner - I echo her sentiments. Looking at the census records you can tell that Goose Green and Philcote Street were full of poorly paid agricultural labourers living with more than one family with multiple children in each small terraced cottage. It is not hard to imagine a rural version of Hogarth's cartoons.

Mary Fletcher

Following Robert's conviction and transportation she had seven children out of wedlock with Thomas Wilkins (1810-1904) who she finally married on 12 May 1865. An Act of 1604 allowed spouses abandoned for more than 7 years to remarry. The children are all registered with the Gardner surname.

  • Eleanor Gardner bapt. 24 February 1843, but sadly died 11 weeks later. She was buried 12 April 1843 in Barford St. John.
  • Her twin sister, Eliza Gardner (Lynne Scaife's great grandmother)was baptised  on the same date. There is no father’s name mentioned on the birth certificate.
Deddington Parish Register, when recording the baptism of the twins refers to Mary Gardner as a "married woman"  but that she "... confessed he was not the father of the above children. Her husband being alive but transported." She also refers to "not having seen him for 4 years" which implies he had been an absentee father from about the time his daughter Sarah had been born in 1837.
  • George Henry Gardner, bapt. 06 July 1845 Deddington.  The birth entry states Mary is a married woman and her husband had been transported six years before.  George Henry married Rebekkah Bonham of Deddington and the marriage entry says “George Henry Gardner otherwise Wilkins”.  This seems proof that he considered Thomas his father. According to Jackson's Oxford Journals he had various encounters with the law.
  • Emma Gardner bapt. 07 May 1847 in Deddington who married Thomas Bamford and later moved to Yorkshire.
  • Harriet Ann Gardner bapt. 23 September 1849 in Deddington who married James Pettit of Wakefield and lived in Wakefield, Yorks.
  • John Francis Gardner bapt. 12 October 1851. His baptism states "father transported several years ago".  He married Rebecca Wilkins.
  • Isabella Gardner, bapt 12 June 1853 which states "father transported 1839".  She married William Wyatt Callow. A relative, Fanny Callow, in 1875 married into the Gardiner family - which also has Gardner connections!

Thomas had a very chequered history committing quite a few offences.

Sarah died in 1877 and was buried on 6 October in Deddington

Jane Fletcher

Born about 1811-1820 in Chipping Norton.There is no record of baptism there.

She had two children, both born out of wedlock, that are known of:

She was involved in four offences, two of them with her married sister Sarah:

  • 15 July 1840 she was before the Oxford Assizes for concealing the birth of an infant.  The case was dropped. 
  • 1849 Deddington - Jane Fletcher and Sarah Rose, (Jane’s sister) "since bailed, charged with stealing a bushel of swede turnips value 6d, the property of John Poulton of Deddington."
  • 10 July 1849 Oxford Quarter Sessions.  Jane Fletcher and Sarah Rose were found guilty of stealing a bushel of swedes from John Poulton at Deddington.  Found guilty and imprisoned for 21 days with hard labour.
  • 7 February 1862 Deddington Petty Sessions Jackson's Oxford Journals record " Jane Fletcher and Elizabeth Finch, both of Deddington, were charged with damaging an oak table, value 5s on the 27th of Jan (1862) the property of ELIJAH PAYNE*.  From the evidence given, it appeared that a few months ago the defendant Fletcher bought the table in question at a sale, and paid for it for the complainant, and the latter agreed to pay the money back by instalments.  According to the evidence of the complainant he had paid 1s 3d towards it.  On the day named, however, both defendants, who were drunk at the time, went into Payne’s house, fetched out the table, and broke it up in the road, Fletcher asserting that the table was hers.  The Bench dismissed the case, considering it a family squabble."
    *Editor's note: This is the same Elijah who joined the family when he married Sarah Gardner (b.1837) daughter of Robert and Mary!

Sarah Jane Fletcher

In 1830 she has a son James born out of wedlock. The records of the Woodstock Workhouse include an order that "Hannah Payne and Sarah Fletcher, both of Deddington, be examined as to the respective fathers of their illegitimate children".

She married Thomas Rose (b.1841 in Adderbury), a Farrier from Stratford, in 1846. They were living in Over Worton. 

Thomas was charged on 5 April 1847 at Oxford Assizes with stealing a quantity of wood the property of Robert Kilby of Deddington. No action was taken (??)

Sarah died 25 May 1881

Useful Links

Back to the article on Robert and Joseph

Back to the article on 'Transportation'

Private Charles Fletcher WWI. died October 1914 near Ypres

The Gardiner Family - includes some Gardners