Hephzibah Whiting 1795-1809

Parents: James Whiting and Catherine Hilsdon(1)
Born: 5th June 1795 in Haverhill (1,2)
Baptised: 2nd April 1796 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.
Married: Not married
Children: None
Died: 24th August 1809 in Blackland Lane, Haverhill.(3) Buried on 29th August 1809 in St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.(4)

Bio: Hephzibah, unfortunately, is mostly notable for her untimely death. On The Parish register it is listed as 'kill'd by a waggon. Coroner - unjust accidental death'. Barnabas Webb also refers to it in his diary - 'Hephzibah Whiting killed instantaneously in Blackland lane, by the full force (fore-horse?*) of a waggon falling upon her in a ditch (on) August 24th'.(3) * wording is unclear at this point - on further examination, 'force' looks more like 'horse'.

Barnabas comments elsewhere on how Hephzibah was one of a number of employees of Haverhill farmer Stephen Piper who met accidental deaths:

' [William] Rowlinson belonging to Horseheath was killed August 2nd [1810] by an empty wagon, going over his breast at Thackstead (sic) - this is the sixth person that have lost their lives by accidents & sudden deaths, who have been in the employ of Stephen Piper viz., Jn Scott, J Cock, Will Bayley, Phillip Miller, Hephzibah Whiting and Rowlinson.'(9) This accident is mentioned briefly in the Bury and Norwich Post: 'A few days ago, Wm. Rawlinson, servant to Mrs Piper, of Haverhill, fell off the shafts of a waggon, on which he was imprudently riding, at Boyton End, in Thaxted, and wheels passing over him, he was killed on the spot.'(10)

Curiously, she is also immortalized in Barnabas' brother John Webb's - 'Haverhill - the market town & other poems', first published in 1810.

'Poor Hephzibah! Thy sad, disastrous fate!-

Poor cottage girl! Upon one fatal morn

She left her home, as playful as the fawn;

Pursued her walk to gain yon upland farm,

Thoughtless and gay, nor fearing impending harm;

Till, by an awful, instantaneous stroke,

Her frame was crushed, and all life's springs were broke!'(6)

John Webb's book of poems was quite well received at the time, though perhaps not viewed as being comparable with contemporaries Keats, Byron and Shelley. Having said that, apparently Wordsworth commented favourably on Webb's work and remarked that he had never been paid as much for his!(8)

A 'review of new publications' in The Gentleman's Magazine: and historical chronicle, says of the work: 'Mr.Webb adds another name to the respectable list of Poets who have not been indebted to education...Mr Webb appears in the character of a good poet, and a good man; one who has had the wisdom to employ his talents without the extravagant aberrations which would interrupt the business of life and honest industry.'(7)

The baptism record of Hephzibah is hard to read - it appears to say 'Absaba', but I believe this is a transcription error at the time and a corruption of Hephzibah (try saying 'Hephzibah' with a Suffolk accent. See what I mean? !) as her parents are confirmed as James and Catherine at her burial, and her age at the time of her death is given as 14 which matches well.

The Suffolk Baptism Index(5) quotes her mother Catherine as 'Late Iron' which means her surname before marriage was Iron, although I don't remember seeing this when looking at the records on microfiche myself. This throws a spanner in the works as the Catherine we are attributing as her mother bore the widowed name Hilsdon before becoming a Whiting, and as far as I know Maskell was her maiden name. There is some confusion here, perhaps arising from an case of mistaken identity involving her two marriages, or a transcription error.


(1,2) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/?
(3) Barnabas Webb’s pocket-book, Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds. HA553/1
(4) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. FL578
(5) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1754-1812
(6) Haverhill, the market town, and other poems, John Webb, 1810, pp15-16, Reprinted by Bibliolife.
(7) The Gentleman's Magazine: and historical chronicle, Jan.1736-Dec.1833, pp.546-548
(8) http://stedmundsburychronicle.com/Chronicle/Havto1899.htm
(9) Barnabas Webb's pocket-book, Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds. HA553/1, p259 - William Rowlingson, 18, referred to in the extract, was the son of John and Mary and was buried at Horseheath Church, 5th August 1810.(Camps registers, CFHS)
(10) The Bury and Norwich Post, Wednesday, August 8th 1810, Issue 1467. C19th British Library Newspapers.