Sarah Backler 1848-1928

Parents: Stephen Backler(1) and Martha Argent(9)
Born: 1848 in Treforest, Glamorganshire, Wales.(6)
Baptised: ?
Married: Frederick Whiting, 21, batchelor, weaver, of Haverhill, son of David Whiting, labourer, on 24th November 1866 at St Mary's Parish Church, Haverhill. Witnessed by George Backler and Rebecca Berger(1,2) Children: Stephen Arthur Whiting b.1867, Caroline Rebecca Whiting b.1869, Frederick Charles Whiting b.1871 died in infancy, Charles Backler Whiting b.1873 died in infancy, Martha Elizabeth Whiting b.1874, George James Whiting b.1877, Margaret Annie Whiting b.1880, Charles William Whiting b.1882, Esther Harriet Whiting b.1885, Ernest Albert Whiting b.1886, David Spencer Whiting b.1892 and Florence Edith Whiting b.1895 died in infancy.
Died: 1928 in Haverhill. Buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 20th October 1928.(7,8)

Bio: Sarah is one of a tiny band of Haverhill Whiting brides who were born a great distance from the town. On censuses she is referred to as being born in Glamorgan, Wales. Her father on her marriage entry is given as Stephen Backler, gardener. Backler is a local name, so the puzzle is how did the Welsh connection come about?

An 1861 census entry sheds some light (or perhaps adds) to the mystery - in Chigwell, we find a Stephen Backler, agricultural labourer living with his wife Martha. He was born in Withersfield, and his wife in Haverhill. They have four children, George, Caroline, Charles and Mary Ann. Caroline was born in Haverhill, Charles and Mary Ann in Chigwell, and the eldest George was in born in around 1846 in (wait for it!) Wales. His town of birth is hard to decipher, but written next to it is 'Glamorgan'. My immediate feeling when I saw this was that this had to be Sarah's family, and most likely the George Backler born in Wales was a witness at Sarah's wedding to Frederick Whiting.

But where was Sarah on the 1861 census, and indeed, on the previous two? I've not been able to find her on the 1861 census, but a search on the 1851 census revealed not only the whereabouts of Sarah, but her family too, and the link with Wales.

The Backlers were living in Odd Fellows Row, in the village of Treforest in the district of Llantwit Fardre, Glamorganshire. Stephen was a gardener, Martha was not working, and the census confirms that George, 6, was born in Glamorgan, Wales and Sarah was born in Treforest. Also in the household, as a visitor, is another gardener, John Suttle, 40, of Withersfield.

Judging by the reference to George's birthplace It looks like the Backlers had been in Wales since around 1845. But why did they move there?

There is a mention of a marriage of a Stephen Backler and Martha Argent in the Cambridge district in late 1843.(9) It turns out that they had both been living in the city of Cambridge at this time. (see Martha's page)

Maybe Stephen Backler liked to move around, travelling where work took him. He met Martha, moved back to the Haverhill area (there is a Charles Backler born to Stephen and Martha in Haverhill around Christmas 1843(3) - it seems she was with child when they married, and that Charles died in infancy as the Charles on the 1861 census mentioned earlier is a lot younger.), then off to Wales. I still can't explain this move, particularly as there appears to be no previous Welsh connection. Would you really go all the way there for gardeners work?

There is something in his past, however, that provides possible clues as to why he'd want to make a fresh start elsewhere. Stephen Backler, 26, was found guilty of larceny at the Epiphany Sessions at Bury St Edmunds on 7th January 1840 and sentenced to 9 months imprisonment.(10) Stephen obviously went to the Cambridge area after serving his sentence, but maybe his reputation proved too hard to live down closer to home.

So, after several years in Wales the Backlers returned to East Anglia - and were in Haverhill where Caroline was baptised in 1853.(3) Then on to Chigwell.

And when Stephen Backler died, which happened in 1866 back in Haverhill,(4) Martha remarried to John Whiting, also a widower, but who is not as it turns out a close relative of Frederick Whiting.

Of Sarah's life after marriage, Frederick's page gives a good account. The obituary of Frederick in the South West Suffolk Echo mentions that she died in late 1928, after which point Frederick moved in November of that year to live with his daughter in Barking. There is a Sarah Jane Whiting of the right age who died in Haverhill in 1928 and is buried in Haverhill Cemetery.(7,8) She is listed as a widow, but this is not true as we know Frederick died the next year.

Also, she is referred to as Sarah Charlotte Backler on her marriage entry. I do know, however, that Sarah Jane Whiting is buried in the same plot as Frederick Whiting(5) so it is looking increasingly likely that the middle name on the marriage register and the reference to 'widow' are mistakes.

Another piece of evidence in favour of 'Jane' as Sarah's middle name is the birth register entry which documents Sarah Jane Backler being born in the Cardiff (comes under the county of Glamorgan) district in the 2nd quarter of 1848.(6)


(1) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1866, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 825
(2) Suffolk Records Office, Bury St Edmunds, Parish Registers of St Mary's Church, Haverhill. Fiche 578/4/p26 of 37
(3) Suffolk Baptism Index, SFHS, Clare Deanery 1812-1900
(4) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1866, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 244
(5) ref: Sue MacDonald, Cemeteries Registrar at St Edmundsbury borough council
(6) Birth Register. 2nd Quarter 1848, Cardiff District, Volume 26 Page 395
(7) Death Register. 4th Quarter 1928, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 877
(8) Haverhill Cemetery, Ref.4613.
(9) Marriage Register. 4th Quarter 1843, Cambridge District, Volume 14 Page 4
(10) England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892, Source Citation: Class: HO 27; Piece: 62; Page: 170