Martha Argent 1822-1895

Parents: Elizabeth Argent, father unknown.(1)
Born: 7th April 1822 in Beggars Row, Haverhill. (1)
Baptised: 19th May 1822 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill.
Married (1): Stephen Backler, bachelor, groom, of Adam and Eve Row, Cambridge, son of Stephen Backler, Farmer, on 22nd October 1843, at St Andrew the Less Church, Cambridge. Witnessed by Abraham Loker and Charlotte Kemp.(2,12)
Children: Charles Backler b.1843 died in infancy, George Backler b.1846, Sarah Backler b.1848, Caroline Backler b.1853, James Backler b.1855 died in infancy, Charles Backler b.1856, twins b.1858 died in infancy, Mary Ann Backler b.1860, Elizabeth Backler b.1863 and Harriet Backler b.1865.
Married (2): John Whiting, widower of Haverhill, labourer, son of Joseph Whiting, labourer, on 9th November 1869 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by John ? and Emma Williams.(3,4)
Children: None.
Died: 1895 at 9 Eden Road in Haverhill. Buried on 21st March 1895 at Haverhill Cemetery.(6,7)

Bio: Martha's mother was Elizabeth Argent, and she was her illegitimate daughter. She appears on the 1841 census living with her grandparents Isaac and Susan Argent, 65, in Haverhill Hamlet. Both Isaac Argent, of Great Wratting, and Susan Hale/Halls of Shudy Camps, had marriage banns read in Shudy Camps church on 30th October 1796(11) and went on to live in Great Wratting where Martha's mother Elizabeth had been baptised on 4th November 1804.(10)

Martha married Stephen Backler, originally of Withersfield, at St Andrew the Less, Cambridge, on 22nd October 1843. He was working as a groom at Adam and Eve Row, in the city of Cambridge. Martha was working as a servant in this same street, so probably she had moved to the city to find work some while before.

What is interesting is that Martha gives Isaac as her father, although he was really her grandfather. It could be that her grandparents were largely responsible for her upbringing.

Stephen was the son of Stephen Backler and Sarah Himus, who had married at Horseheath on 31st July 1806.(11) Stephen junior had been baptised at Withersfield church on 16th Jan 1814.(1) On the marriage entry, his father was listed as a farmer whilst the baptism entry reveals him to have previously been a turnpike keeper.

Stephen Backler junior was in the habit of getting on the wrong side of the law, and under the alias 'Samuel' had served two months in prison along with Joseph Moore and James Teverson for breaking the game laws at Withersfield in January 1833.(19) He then served nine months in Gaol for felony in 1840. He had been using the alias 'Samuel' again, and was convicted of stealing six ducks, the property of George Sizer of Withersfield, at the Bury Quarter Sessions on 7th January 1840.(13,14) Presumably he had moved to Cambridge to make a fresh start, he may well have become persona non grata around Withersfield!

The first child of Martha and Stephen, Charles, was born in Haverhill Hamlet on 22nd December 1843.(1) They had returned to Martha's town of birth, but it seems Stephen may have got restless again, because around 1844 he took Martha and his growing family to Glamorganshire, Wales, where he worked as a gardener. The Backlers appear in Treforest on the 1851 census. They have two children, George and Sarah, who were both born in Wales. Staying with them as a visitor is one John Suttle, 40, of Withersfield, also a gardener.

Martha and Stephen came back from Wales before 1853, because they have a daughter, Caroline, who was baptised in Haverhill at this time. Withersfield seemed to have a particular effect on Stephen, because it was here that his light-fingered touch got him into trouble with the law once more.

At the Bury Sessions on the 15th March 1853 he was convicted of stealing two sovereigns from a dwelling-house in Withersfield and sentence to three months hard labour.(15,16)

Probably wishing to start afresh yet again, the Backler family moved on to Chigwell, Essex and here they had two more children, Charles and Mary Ann.

They are present here on the 1861 census. Stephen is an agricultural labourer. Children George, 15, Caroline, 8, Charles, 4, and Mary Ann, 1, are living with them.

Stephen escaped trouble at the Essex Quarter Sessions on 18th October 1864 where he was found 'not guilty' of a charge of theft.(18)

It seems they did return to the Haverhill area, for Stephen died in 1866, and was buried on 29th September at St Mary's, Haverhill.(5,17)

Martha Elizabeth Backler remarried three years later to John Whiting in Haverhill. On the 1871 census she he is living in Burton End with an extended family of three children from his John's first marriage, Walter, Mary Ann and Emily and four of Martha's children, Charles, Elizabeth, Harriet and another Mary Ann.

Whether this arrangement proved too much for John is hard to tell, but on the 1881 census we find him living as a boarder with his daughter Amelia and her husband William Beavis in Chauntry Croft, whilst Martha is living with her daughters from her first marriage Elizabeth and Harriet in Eden Road working as a factory hand jacket maker.

John was still living at 3 Chauntry Croft, with his daughter and stepson at the time of the 1891 census, and it seems that maybe the marriage didn't really work out because Martha can be found at 9 Eden Road and her surname is listed as Backler. Strangely, she is calling herself a widow, almost as if she is not acknowledging her marriage to John. He was still alive at this point. Living with her are her daughter Mary Ann, who had married Charles Wolsey in 1877, and her grandchildren Sarah and Charles Wolsey. Also present is Elizabeth Whiting, no relation to John, but the offspring of her daughter Sarah who had married Frederick Whiting.

John Whiting died the next year, and was buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 14th January 1892. Martha is listed as being buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 21st March 1895. Her age is given as 62, which seems about 10 years out.

I located the gravestone of Martha Backler Whiting in Haverhill Cemetery, but unfortunately due to erosion it is impossible to make out the year she died. Vaguely discernable is an age which looks like 72, which would be right. Maybe the age on the burial entry is a mistake. Also buried with her is Harriet Brown, her youngest daughter from her first marriage. It appears Harriet married William Brown in 1885(8), but died the year after.(9)


(1) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(2) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1843, Cambridge District, Volume 14 Page 4
(3) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p27 of 37
(4) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1869, Risbridge district, Volume 4a Page 773
(5) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1866, Risbridge District, Volume 12 Page 255
(6) Haverhill Cemetery, Ref.2191.
(7) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1895, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 488
(8) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1885, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 811
(9) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1886, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 335
(10) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1754-1812
(11) CFHS, Camps Parish Registers, 1553-1950
(12) transcription from register of St Andrew the Less, Cambridge. Thanks to, 'look ups'.
(13) Ipswich Journal, Sat 11th January 1840, issue 5259. C19th British Library Newspapers.
(14) National Archives, Criminal Registers, HO27, piece 62, page 170.
(15) Ipswich Journal, Sat 19th March 1853, issue 5941. C19th British Library Newspapers.
(16) National Archives, Criminal Registers, HO27, piece 106, page 132.
(17) Suffolk Burial Index, SFHS
(18) National Archives, Criminal Registers, HO27, piece 137, page 184.
(19) Bury and Norwich Post, Wed 16th January 1833, issue 2638. C19th British Library Newspapers.