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THE HARRIS’S - MEPPERSHALL


So again we turn to a Harris family but this time following a different Harris family that of Hannah Harris who was born 26th March 1844 in Meppershall, Bedfordshire and married into my family line when she married Thomas Harris.

I have to thank the following for help with this section.

Ted Harris, who contacted me in Feb 2003,
Trevor Harris,  who contacted me in 2001.
Sandra Reed, who contacted me in Jan 2009

There is some slight confusion, which has arisen over the ancestors of Hannah. Research done by Paula Harris in Leicester indicates Hannah’s mother to be Mary Halfhead.

All of the dates and names seem to be right but on receipt of Hannah’s birth certificate it says her mothers name is Mary Heathfield. It seems before this time the family were called Heathfield. Why the name changed I do not know.

The birth certificate shows the father as Isaac Harris and the place of birth as Meppershall. The birth is registered in Biggleswade, County of Bedford.

Hannah’s father Isaac was born in Shillington, as h told every census enumerator over the years, but he was baptised in Meppershall Church  6th November 1808. Other entries in the parish registers, both before and after this date, show that people stated to be living in Shillington parish but baptising their children, or indeed burying them in Meppershall Church lived at Windmill Farm, Shillington. This farm was a very long walk from Shillington church but almost next to Meppershall Church, therefore the occupants tended to worship in Meppershall. His parents were James Harris and Susan King and they are shown the be living there in 1851. Windmill Farm like the Manor was divided up into small cottages..

James and Susan had been married on 18th November 1790 in Meppershall and apart from Isaac had two other children I am aware of. James in 1792 and John 1794. There is a big gap to when Isaac was born and I would guess there were other children. The family lived in one of the cottages at Windmill Farm, where they remained all of their life and both were buried in Meppershall Church

James Harris was born in Maulden around 1770 to parents James Harris and Elizabeth Billingham. The couple were married on 12th January 1769. (This may not be correct - checking data now)

Our Hannah's parents were Isaac Harris and Mary Halfhead. Isaac and Mary were married 25th December 1833 in Meppershall. Mary was 16 and Isaac was 25.

On the 1841 census, although married Issac was living with his wife at his parent’s house, at Windmill Hill, Shillington.

Shown there are

James Harris 75
Susannah Harris 70
Issac Harris 30
Mary Harris 25
Samuel Harris 7
Sarah Harris 4
Hannah Harris 2
Henry Harris 5 months


The children Samuel, Sarah, Hannah, and Henry are obviously children of Issac and Mary. After this and by 1844 Isaac and family were living at Manor Garden Cottage, his daughter Hannah being born there, named after Hannah above aged 2 on last census. On a map drawn two years later Isaac is positively identified as tenanting the cottage.

This cottage, at it's most crowded census return in 1851, housed Isaac, Mary and five children aged between 17 and 4. By the time of the sanitary report in 1875, the house held on four adults, Isaac and Mary, their daughter Patience and her husband. The report states that their home was a "very small cottage....which has to accommodate a second family". The 1891 census states that the cottage has only 3 rooms, and very small ones compared to todays standards.

Isaac died 8th March 1887 aged 79 and Mary passed away February 26th 1894, also aged 79

The couple eventually had 7 children in total.

Family Group Sheet

Subject* Isaac HARRIS (645)
Birth* __ ___ 1808 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 6 Nov 1808 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 25 Dec 1833 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 4 Jun 1834 Christning; Samuel HARRIS (664); Windmill Hill, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* 8 Mar 1887 Meppershall, Bedford.
Father* James HARRIS (654) (b. 1770, )
Mother* Susan KING (655) (b. 16 Jul 1769, )
_______________________________________________________________________
Spouse* Mary HALFHEAD (646)
Birth* __ ___ 1818 Haynes, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 2 Aug 1818 Haynes, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 4 Jun 1834 Christning; Samuel HARRIS (664); Windmill Hill, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* 26 Feb 1894
Father* Joseph HALFHEAD (656) (b. 1795, )
Mother* Sarah ROBBERDS (657) (b. 1797, )
_______________________________________________________________________
Seven Known Children
_______________________________________________________________________
M Samuel HARRIS (664)
Birth* __ ___ 1834 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 4 Jun 1834 Windmill Hill, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 16 Dec 1855 Emma NEWMAN (679) (b. 1835, ); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: 16 Feb 1856 Sarah Ann HARRIS (692); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Son: 24 Jun 1858 George HARRIS (693); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: 6 Mar 1861 Lucy HARRIS (694); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Son: 27 Apr 1863 Henry William HARRIS (695); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Son: 4 Apr 1865 Charles HARRIS (696); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Son: 11 Aug 1867 Cephas John HARRIS (680); Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: 18 Dec 1869 Mary HARRIS (697); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: 23 Feb 1872 Lois HARRIS (698); Campton, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: 9 Mar 1876 Emma HARRIS (699); Campton, Bedfordshire.
_______________________________________________________________________
F Sarah HARRIS (649)
Birth* __ ___ 1837 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 12 Feb 1837 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 7 May 1859 James KNIGHT (691) (b. 1837, d. 11 Nov 1897); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1865 Frederick KNIGHT (917); Dalston, London.
Daughter: __ ___ 1870 Emily KNIGHT (840); London.
Daughter: __ ___ 1873 Rhoda KNIGHT (841); Dalston, London.
Death* 11 Nov 1897
_______________________________________________________________________
F Hannah HARRIS (650)
Birth* __ ___ 1839 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 19 May 1839 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Death* 26 Jan 1844 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
_______________________________________________________________________
M Henry HARRIS (651)
Birth* __ ___ 1841 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 30 Jan 1841 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
_______________________________________________________________________
F Hannah HARRIS (192)
Birth* 26 Mar 1844 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 1 Sep 1844
Son: 7 Dec 1863 Walter William HARRIS (644); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 18 Nov 1865 Thomas HARRIS (191) (b. 12 May 1843, ), son of William HARRIS (647) and Mary SIMONS (648); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1866 Sarah HARRIS (376); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Son: circa __ ___ 1869 Fred HARRIS (553); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: circa __ ___ 1872 Harriet Geraldine HARRIS (554); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: 27 Sep 1874 Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 30 May 1875 Christning; Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1876 Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 27 Feb 1877 Christning; Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: circa __ ___ 1879 Annie HARRIS (643); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1883 Laura HARRIS (674); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1891 Rose HARRIS (675); Friern Barnet.
_______________________________________________________________________
M Jonah HARRIS (653)
Birth* 19 Aug 1846 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
_______________________________________________________________________
F Patient HARRIS (652)
Birth* __ ___ 1852 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 5 Sep 1852 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 19 Mar 1871 Absalom PAGE (848) (b. 1849, )
Daughter: __ ___ 1873 Mary PAGE (918); Gravenhurst, Bedford.
Daughter: __ ___ 1874 Sarah PAGE (919); Gravenhurst, Bedford.
_______________________________________________________________________

Some details now of what we know of the children above.

1. Samuel, born 1832, married Emma Newman on 16th December 1855,. They had 9 children, Sarah Ann born 16th Feb 1856, George born 1858, Lucy born 6th March 1861, Henry William born 27th April 1863, Charles born 1865, Cephas John born 11th August 1867, Mary born 18th December 1869, Lois born 23rd February 1872 and Emma born 1876.

The family is found on the 1881 census having moved across the county to Campton where his wife Emma is from. Below is the census.

Household:
Name Relation M Sex Age Birthplace Occupation
Samuel HARRIS Head M Male 47 Shillington, Bedford, England Plate Layer
Emma HARRIS Wife M Female 45 Campton, Bedford, England House Wife
Lucy HARRIS Daur U Female 20 Campton, Bedford, England
Henry HARRIS Son U Male 17 Campton, Bedford, England Farm Serv Ag Lab
Charles HARRIS Son U Male 15 Campton, Bedford, England Farm Serv Ag Lab
John HARRIS Son U Male 13 Campton, Bedford, England Farm Serv Ag Lab
Lois HARRIS Daur Female 9 Campton, Bedford, England Scholar
Emma HARRIS Daur Female 5 Campton, Bedford, England Scholar
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source Information:
Dwelling Pinford Holes
Census Place Campton, Bedford, England
Family History Library Film 1341390
Public Records Office Reference RG11
Piece / Folio 1630 / 75
Page Number 4


Of these children we have the descendants for Charles, Cephas, and now in November 2008 and thanks to Peter Colbridge and Margaret Colbridge nee Willingham we know about the descendants of Henry William.

Cephas married Eliza Stevens on 3rd October and died 27th July 1950. In his marriage he also had a large family, 9 children. William born 26th December 1887, Frank born 8th July 1888, Hilda May born 23rd July 1891, Elsie Winifred born 18th October 1893, Lillian Lucy born 20th November 1896, Arthur Charles born 23rd October 1898, Reginald born 4th June 1900, Doris Emily born 6th October 1905 and John Harris born 1908.

Of Cephas’s children I then know that John married Madge Merrall and they had 3 children one of them Trevor Harris, mentioned earlier, my 3rd cousin 1 time removed.

Cephas’s brother Charles married Martha Stevens 16th September 1883. Martha may well have been the sister of Eliza Stevens above. There are christening records of Martha and Eliza in Campton to parents James and Mary in 1858 and 1863 respectively. Charles and Martha had 6 children, Fred, Harry, Herbert, Ernest, Florence and Frank. I only know that Herbert married Lillian Wills, who between them had Edna May, another male (name not known) and Raymond Frank. Raymond Frank had a son Ted Harris who I mentioned earlier my 4th cousin.

Henry William was the older brother of Cephas and Charles.

Henry Williamn Harris

Henry William Harris


He married Lizzie Williamson 26th October 1885.

Lizzie Williamson


Lizzie Harris nee Williamson


They had 5 children. Arthur, Beatrice, Dorothy, Winifred Maud, and Hubert Henry.

Beatirce and Dorothy emigrated to America in the 1920's. The only details we have are for Hubert Henry. He was born 28th April 1895 in Shefford, Bedford. Hubert went from Shefford to war 1914. He was in Egypt.  He was wounded and sent to London to recuperate. He lived some time at Clapton Park Road S.W.4. and married Phylis Helen Lambert in 1922 at St. Saviour's , Brixton Hill. She was born at 41 Kildoran Road, Brixton. By 1922 Hubert was a tobacconist's window dresser.  He came to Hull, East Yorkshire in the 1930s to manage a tobacconist shop in Whitefriargate. He died 19th February 1972.

Hubert Henry Harris

Hubert Henry Harris


2. Sarah born 1837. Her future husband James Knight were christened 3 days apart. Sarah on 12th February 1837 and James on 15th. They grew up living next door to each other, James in one of the cottages into which the Manor House had been divided and Sarah in a cottage in the Manor House grounds. They married on 7th May 1858. Oringally I had records of only 3 children but thanks to Ian Skinner in Jan 2009 a 4th one has turned up. So I had children, Frederick, Emily and Rhoda, and now we can add George to that list. More information supplied by Ian Skinner is that the Harris's and Knights families lived next door to eachother on the 1851 and 1861 census. By 1861 however James and Sarah had moved to Hatfield in Essex . The census shows them both aged 24 and with son George Knight born 1860.

By the 1871 Census the family had moved again, this time to Hackney in London. The census shows James and Sarah both now 32. George is now 11 and he has now a brother Frederick who is 6 and sister Emily who is 1. Rhoda is born a couple of years later in 1873.

Thanks to Sandra Reed we now have more information relating to Emily Knight. She was born in Dalston, London and baptised in Meppershall Church on August 28, 1870. Her sister Rhoda was also born in Dalston.

On the 1881 census the 2 girls are showing as being with their Grandparents Isaac and Mary. The census is shown below, why were they not with their parents? Isaac and Mary were both receiving parish relief owing to their age.

Household Record 1881 British Census
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Household:
Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability
Isaac HARRIS Head M Male 73 Shillington, Bedford, England Parish Relief
Mary HARRIS Wife M Female 66 Hawnes, Bedford, England Parish Relief
Emily KNIGHT Grandchild U Female 11 London, Middlesex, England Scholar
Rhoda KNIGHT Grandchild U Female 8 London, Middlesex, England Scholar
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Source Information:
Dwelling Hill Close Cottage
Census Place Meppershall, Bedford, England
Family History Library Film 1341390
Public Records Office Reference RG11
Piece / Folio 1631 / 92
Page Number 33


This Dwelling of  Hill Close Cottage is in fact a cottage in the grounds of Meppershall Manor House. Emily's grandfather Francis Knight also lived in the grounds but he had a Cottage in the Manor House itself which was converted before 1841 into 3 cottages.

There are no pictures currently of Hill Close, but below are old and new photos of the Manor House itself.

Manor House old  Manor House New

I have now found father James Knight and son Frederick, lodging with Joseph Wittamore. in London. James is shown as a Widower, so it appears that Sarah has passed away between 1871 and 1881.

Household Record 1881 British Census

Name Relation Marital Status Gender Age Birthplace Occupation Disability
Joseph WITTAMORE Head M Male 27 Clophill, Bedford, England Carpenter
Rhoda M. WITTAMORE Wife M Female 29 Mippershall, Bedford, England
George W. WITTAMORE Son Male 3 Hackney, Middlesex, England
William J. WITTAMORE Son Male 2 Hackney, Middlesex, England
Frederick J. WITTAMORE Son Male 4 m Hackney, Middlesex, England
James KNIGHT Boarder W Male 43 Mippershall, Bedford, England Joiner Carpenter
Frederick KNIGHT Boarder Male 16 Dalston, Middlesex, England Joiner Carpenter
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Source Information:
Dwelling 46 Loddiges Road
Census Place London, Middlesex, England
Family History Library Film 1341065
Public Records Office Reference RG11
Piece / Folio 0301 / 102
Page Number 63


Finally to George. He can be found at 226 Holloway Road, Islington, living with Sarah's brother and his uncle Jonah (shown as Joshua on the census).

Household Record 1881 British Census

Name      Relation     Status     Gender     Age     Birthplace         Occupation
Joshua HARRIS       Head       M       Male       34       Meppershill, Bedford,    Brickmaker Lab   
Louise HARRIS       Wife       M       Female   26       Harrow, Middlesex,             
Lizzie HARRIS       Daur       U       Female      8       Harrow, Middlesex,             
George KNIGHT       Nephew       M       Male       23       Meppershill, Bedford,      Carpenter   
Charlotte KNIGHT      Neice       M       Female   25       Icklesford, Hertford,             
George KNIGHT       Grt Nephew       U       Male       7 m       Woodford, Essex,             

Source Information:
 Dwelling      226 Holloway Rd
 Census Place     London, Middlesex, England
 Family History Library Film      1341058
 Public Records Office Reference      RG11
 Piece / Folio      0268 / 9
 Page Number      11

Back now to Emily Knight who when aged 19 gave birth to an illegitimate daughter who was baptised Mabel Sarah on September 1, 1889, the father is not recorded and Mabel was never told who he was. Emily did eventually marry, on 30 March 1891 she wed Amos Carter. Amos was a main remembered for his curly hair, his father was William Carter. William appears in the Bedfordshire times on 15th May 1850 but it was nothing to be proud of. The report is as follows:

"William Carter, of Meppershall, was charged by Police Constable Allison, with being drunk and disorderly, also leaving his horse and cart unprotected. Fined 12s 6d"

Amos was known to like and drink as well and his marriage to Emily was said not to be a happy one. On the 1891 census Emily and  Amos were living with Amos's parents but Emily's daughter Mabel is with her great grandmother Mary. Isaac had died in 1887 so Mary is shown as a widow aged 76. With her is Emily's sister Rhoda, aged 18 and they are still at the Cottage in the manor house grounds. Mary is no longer receiving parish relief although Rhoda is earning, working as a plaiter.

Rhoda continued to care for Mabel whilst Emily was with the Carters. Mabel remembers climbing the church wall to collect violets and on one occasion she had to be rescued because she could not get down again. She also described the cottage to her daughter, Joan, remembering a step down to the cottage and seeing two uncles sitting each side of the fire. She also told her that when she was a toddler she let all the chickens out and her great grandma Mary Harris had to retrieve them from around the manor grounds, carrying Mabel under one arm. There was a strong bond between Mary and Mabel.

When Rhoda moved to London to marry, Mabel went with her. She recalled riding in a trap, which she really enjoyed and going to private school while living there. Rhoda would have liked to have adopted Mabel, having brought her up since a baby. However Mabel returned to Meppershall to live with Emily and Amos. This was in 1897 when her grandfather James Knight returned through illness, and Mabel insisted on coming back with him.

The return to Meppershall was not a change for the better, James passed away later the same year and Mable did not like life in the village. She felt the people spoke awful and it was so much different to London. She also returned to find out that Emily had another daughter, Eva.

Schooling was not as good either. One day Mabel remembers the teacher calling her to the front of the class for turning past the page the children were reading and accused her of not paying attention. Mable told her exactly what the story was about and the teacher expressed her surprise at Mabel's reading ability.

Mable also remembers taking uncooked cakes to Ephraim Roberts bakery to be cooked. This may have been because the oven at the cottage was not great. She recalled having to bob a curtsy to a man who rode into the village on a horse. This would have be Mr Long from Stondon Manor Farm, who also owned Bury Farm and tenanted Manor Farm in Meppershall.

Of Amos, she remembers that he peeled a turnip for her, after she had taken him a drink in the fields where he was working. Although life was not easy in he Carter household. Amos like a drink and also gambled, so when the girls were older Emily took them and left, not being able to put up with him any longer. Before this however Mable remembers a fire that destroyed the cottage tenanted by William Carter. This was reference in the Bedfordshire Express on 30th September 1899 in which an article states:

" One of the first three cottages destroyed by fire "being lath and plaster buildings with roofs of thatch... sixty yards from the farm, was tenanted by William Carter an aged paralytic"

3. Henry Harris 1841 married Ellen Osborne of Kempston on 26th May 1866.

4. Patience Harris 1852 married Absalom Page 19th March 1871. They had 4 children, Mary Ann 1873, Sarah 1874, Maud, 1881, and Rose Hannah 1885. Of these children I only know details for Sarah who married George Patrick 3rd April 1899. Sarah and George had 5 children Florence May 1899, George James 1901, Reginald Percy 1906,  Renee Constance 1908, Lilan Violet 1912.

Finally Sandra Reed provided me with this photo from a mothers meeting in Meppershall around 1908. List of names below it are kindly provided by Dr.Rich Rainbow and his mother.

Meppershall Women


Back Row:
1. Ada Millard, nee Odell. Mother of Arthur William Cecil Millard who married Amy Harris (Grandparents of Paul who lives with Ann, Richard’s aunt). Amy was the daughter of James Harris and Elizabeth Barrett (sister of Richard’s GG Gran, Minnie). James was son of Isaac Harris and Eliza Crouch. Amy ran the post office in Meppershall..
2. Mary Ansell, nee Rainbow. Married Arthur Ansell. Mary was the daughter of Charles Rainbow and Elizabeth Pettifar.
3. Mrs Harris, mother of Charlie. If this is the correct Charlie, he used to be an escort on the school bus from Meppershall to Biggleswade, this was after he retired. His son, Geoff, is a nurseryman. Charlie’s mum was Sarah Barrett (sister of Minnie and Elizabeth mentioned in 1 above) she married Frederick Harris, son of Isaac and Eliza.
4. Mrs Ansell, mother of Ginger. Sadly a lot of the Meppershall men had nicknames and we are not sure of any of her details.
5. Mrs Lawrence, mother in law of Dolly who was daughter of Ann and James Barrett.
6. Mrs Lawrence, mother of Auntie Win who ran the Sugar Loaf pub, probably first name Ellen who was married to Frederick Lawrence

Middle Row:
1. Mrs Dilley, mother of Spill, once again do not his real name!
2. Unknown
3. Mrs Pratt, Frank (Francis) and Ellen Pratt had some children baptised around the time of this photo.
4. Mrs Pettifar, not sure which one, could be Martha, nee Cakebread.
5. Mrs King, probably the mother of Philip King who married Mabel Cakebread, sister of Doris.
6. Mrs Harris, Elizabeth, nee Barrett, mother of Amy Millard, see Back Row 1
7. Mrs Taylor, family ran the Five Bells and went on to own Taylors coaches. Sally’s parents lived at the Five Bells when she was born with Kathleen and John Taylor.
8. Mrs Izzard, James and Ann Izzard were having children baptised in the 1890-1903 period. Ann, nee Crawley, was the daughter of Charles Crawley and Martha Harris.
9. Ann Barrett, Nee Harris, married to James Barrett, brother of Elizabeth, Minnie and Sarah! Ann’s parents James Harris and Susan Crouch. Ann was mother to 12 children, including May (Ashton) mother of Poppy (real name Enid)
10. Martha Peck, nee Harris, Married to Charles Peck, daughter Eliza Stapleton, Sally lived next door to her as a child. Eliza was mother to Edna, godmother to Richard’s aunts. Sally is godmother to Eliza’s great grandson, Andrew. Martha was the daughter of Isaac and Eliza Harris.

Front Row:
1. Mrs Harris, nee Esther Devereaux, wife of George Harris. Mother of Annie who ran the local shop. George was son of James Harris and Susan Crouch.
2. Mrs Todd, no details known
3. Mrs Lincoln, lived in the centre of the village, nee Sophia Tysome
4. Mrs Ansell, not sure which one, 2 or 3 possibilities
5. Mrs Long, a Mr Long owned the farm which was burnt in the great fire, there is a newspaper article about the fire and another interview from Florence Rainbow in 1984 in which she recalls the fire.
6. Emma Rainbow, nee Sebright, married to Abraham Rainbow. GGG grandmother of Richard.
7. Mrs Millard, grandmother of Maurice Simons who was the local builder and undertaker. She may be the mother in law of Ada Millard in the back row, if so she was Martha Pettifar (born c1835 which seems to match the apparent age) wife of Charles Millard. 
8. Mrs Ashton,  probably Emily (surname unknown), wife of Richard Ashton, mother of Tom (father of Poppy)
9. Mrs Beavis, Grandmother of Pauline Clayton (was Dilley)


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