Mary Ann Whiting 1865-1926
Parents: Jesse Whiting and Ellen Smith
Born: 1865 in Haverhill (2)
Baptised: 9th May 1880 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill (1)
Married: William Farrant, 21, batchelor, labourer of Crowland, Haverhill, son of Samuel Farrant, silk weaver, on 25th December 1883 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by Daniel Whiting and Samuel Farrant.(3,4)
Children: Herbert Farrant b.1885, Beatrice Farrant b.1889, Hilda Farrant b.1893, Nelson Farrant b.1895, Ellen Farrant b.1897, Alice Farrant b.1898, Ivy Farrant b.1900, Bessie Farrant b.1901, Philip Farrant b.1903 and Frederick Farrant b.1907
Died: 9th June 1926 at 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh.(8) Buried at Hadleigh Cemetery, Priory Lane, on 12th June 1926. Grave Section 1:40, plot 14.(9)
Bio: It is hard to be certain exactly when Mary Anne was born because she was baptised as an adult in 1880. The first census she appears on gives her age as 5 whereas her marriage entry suggests she was born several years earlier. Also, she seems to be referred to as Anne or Annie at times in later life, although I am certain she was born Mary Ann. It is likely she was born in 1865(2), as the other Mary Ann Whiting born around this time in 1863(1) was the daughter of Charles and Eliza Whiting.
On the 1871 census she is called Mary Annie and she's living as a child in Burton End with her parents and siblings and is attending school.
The next census in 1881 sees her still in Burton End with her family, but now working as a trousers machinist. Here she is known as Annie.
Two years later, 'Anne' as she was known, is married to William Farrant, a labourer living in Crowland, Haverhill.
On the 1891 census we see Annie living at 74 Burton End. She is a factory hand who is listed as married, but William is not present in the household. She has two children, Herbert and Beatrice. Her age is given as 24, which would make her birth year 1867 - about four years off my original estimate.
It would be reasonable at this point to question whether this actually was Mary Ann Whiting. It is only when we look at the next census that things become clearer, yet at the same time more puzzling.
The 1901 census shows Annie Farrant living at 'The Rope Walk', Haverhill, again with children Herbert and Beatrice, but with new additions Hilda, Nelson, Ellen, Alice and Ivy. At this point we can confirm that her husband was William Farrant from the baptismal records for Ellen, Hilda, Nelson and Alice.(5) Annie's age here is given as 37, which brings her closer to the estimate we orginally have for her birth year. She is working as a machinist for an army bag manufacturer, and her eldest Herbert is a rope worker.
'The Rope Walk' where they lived was, i believe, connected with the Rope works and this would seem to be confirmed by the nature of Annie's sons job.
So although it now appears we can confirm the Annie of the censuses as Mary Ann, the strange part is this; Annie is listed as single. Again, William is not present, and the head of the household is Frederick Sier, widower, and rope spinner. Annie's relationship to him is 'housekeeper'.
Frederick was born in 1845 in Bury St Edmunds(10), the son of John Sier, a labourer and his wife Ann. He joined the Royal Marines, Chatham division, as a Private in 1864 after being in the West Suffolk Militia. He served for 7 years and was discharged by purchase in 1872.(11) We see him on the 1871 census at HMS Pembroke, the Royal Marines shore barracks at Sheerness. After this he became a rope maker, travelling around where work took him. He is an unmarried man living in Hadleigh high street on the 1881 census, then appears as a widower and boarder at the Carriers Arms pub in Little Shelford on the 1891 census. I have not been able to trace who he was married to in the intervening period.
Was Annie really single as the 1901 census suggested? If William had died, why isn't she listed as a widow? There is no record of a William Farrant of the correct age dying in the Risbridge district around this time, and the baptismal record of Alice Farrant on 27th September 1898(5) shows William as being still alive, and working as a labourer.
It seems from the baptism records that Annie and William were living at 116 Burton End in the first half of the 1890's and at 3 Parsons Yards in the second half. Strange, however, that William Farrant is on neither the 1891 or 1901 census.
Locating Annie on the 1911 census would surely help clear up some of the questions surrounding her marital status and indeed the whereabouts of William. It proved not to be a particularly easy task. This is because she is neither going under the surname 'Farrant' nor is she living in Haverhill, or even close by. Once found, her census entry again poses as many questions as it answers.
According to the 1911 census Annie is now married to Frederick Sier, the ropemaker whose household she had been keeping on the previous census, and she is living with him at 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh, Suffolk.(6) The census states they have been married for three years. Along with them are seven Farrant children, the youngest of which was born in 1907. They were all born in Haverhill. So why can we find no trace of the marriage of Frederick and Annie, a divorce, or of William Farrant's death?
My hunch is that William and Annie were both living seperate lives yet had never officially ended their marriage. At this time instances of divorce were scarce because of the social stigma attached, and because the cost of such an undertaking would be beyond the reach of a working class couple - also there was an imbalance that meant that adultery alone was enough grounds for a husband to divorce his wife, but not vice versa. This would have made it even harder for a woman to escape a marriage that had failed.
A covert separation would explain William's census absences and Annie and her children keeping the Farrant name at first. Maybe some of them were not actually William's. Other explanations for William's absence would be a prison sentence or military service, but I can find no trace of these.
Annie had obviously come to know Frederick Sier well, and when they decided to move away from Haverhill there was no reason why they couldn't present themselves as a married couple. The 1911 census says they are married, but one further mention of Annie after this date makes us wonder if this was actually the case. When her son Nelson was killed in action in 1916 during the First World War whilst serving as a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment, he was mentioned as being the son of Annie Farrant, of 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh.(7) No mention is made of a father, or indeed of the surname Sier in connection with Annie.
Sue Munson at Hadleigh Council was able to confirm that Annie Farrant of the correct age of 61 was buried at Hadleigh Cemetery on 12th June 1926 in Grave 1:40, plot 14. She was recorded as still living at 41 Angel Street at the time.(9) A recent trip to Hadleigh cemetery suggests that she does not have a headstone, but I hope to confirm this for certain in the future.
So there we have it. Although Annie lived with Frederick Sier, we can confirm they never married as she was buried as a Farrant.
The circumstances surrounding the relationship of Annie Whiting and William Farrant point to something unusual going on and maybe further research will uncover more about what actually happened and perhaps where the absent William Farrant was during all of this.
(1) Birth Register. 3rd Quarter 1863, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 371
(2) Birth Register. 3rd Quarter 1865, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 378
(3) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1883, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 945
(4) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p28 of 37
(5) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(6) 1911 Census, RG 14, Piece: 10586, Registration District: Cosford, Sub district: Hadleigh, Enumeration district: 4.
(8) Death Register. 2nd Quarter 1926, Cosford District, Volume 4a Page 820.
(9) Sue Munson, Hadleigh Council. Hadleigh Cemetery Burial registry. Annie Farrant, widow, aged 61, of 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh, buried on 12th June 1926 in Grave 1:40, plot 14.
(10) Birth Register. 1st Quarter 1845, Bury St Edmunds District, Volume 13 Page 426
(11) Records of the Royal Marines, National Archives, Attestation Papers, ADM 157/1328/27-31 and ADM 157/115/226