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:              Mary Anne was born in Haverhill in 1865(2), but  she was baptised as an adult in 1880. In later life she was more often known as Annie. On the 1871 census she is aged 5, 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 connected with the Rope works where Annie's sons worked.

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.

It seems that Annie and William Farrant separated after he was found guilty of assaulting a family member and sent to prison in 1886 (12). It is understandable that Annie would have wanted to distance herself from William, and she entered into a long-term relationship with Frederick Sier after this even though she was still technically married to William Farrant. 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 recorded as living at 116 Burton End in the first half of the 1890's and at 3 Parsons Yards in the second half. However, that William Farrant is on neither the 1891 or 1901 census. Not sure what became of William Farrant, but I suspect he may have made himself scarce and possibly left Haverhill for good.

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. No record has been found of the marriage of Annie and Frederick, so it is likely that there relationship was an unofficial arrangement.

When they decided to move away from Haverhill there was no reason why Annie and Frederick couldn't present themselves as a married couple. 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.

On the 1921 census, Annie is  shown, aged 56, and a widow, living at 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh. She was said to be a forewoman machinist (currently out of work) at Messrs Price & Co., cloth rug manufacturers. She was living with her daughters Ivy Farrant, 21, single, a tailoress for Fred Willis Tailors, Bessie Farrant, 19, single, a machinist for Price & Co., and so Philip Farrant, 19, single, a waiter (currently out of work) at the Ritz Hotel, London. Youngest son Fred Farrant, 15, was a mat-maker for Messrs Cook of Hadleigh (13).

Annie Farrant died on the 9th June 1926 (8). 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.

Judy Stratford came a report in the Suffolk & Essex Press (dated 27th June 1926) on the funeral of Annie and it is a glowing testimony to how well-liked she was:
"FUNERAL OF MRS FARRANT. - By the death of Mrs. Farrant, the community in which she lived has lost a friend whose kind heart and sympathetic spirit ever went out to those in difficulty and trouble. Never weary of well doing, she made here sphere of life brighter and better for having lived in it. Quiet and gentle by nature, yet of resolute will when occasion required, charitable in her judgements and expression of her opinions, she excercised an influence for good among her fellows. Testimony of the esteem and respect entertained for her, and sympathy for the bereaved was evinced at the funeral on Saturday afternoon. The burial service, both at the parish church and cemetery, was taken by the Rev. F. A. Trengrove. A number of friends assembled at the graveside. The mourners were: Mr H Farrant and Mr F Farrant (sons), Mrs Beatrice Goody, Mrs Hilda Carter, Mrs Nellie Aubert and Miss Bessie Farrant (daughters) Mr A Goody, Mr H Carter, Mr A Aubert (sons-in-law), Mr Whiting, Mr J Martyn, Miss Quick and Mrs Ernest Norford. Miss Ivy Farrant was unable to attend her mother's funeral. The breastplate of the coffin bore the following inscription: 'Annie Farrant, died June 9th 1926, aged 61 years."

So there we have it. Although Annie lived with Frederick Sier, we can confirm they never married as she was buried as a Farrant.


(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
(12) William Farrant, 10 Jul 1886, Imprisonment, England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892.  TNA. Class: HO 27; Piece: 205; Page: 96. Ancestry.
(13) 1921 Census. 41 Angel Street, Hadleigh. RG 15; ED: 4, RD: 206. Findmypast.