A while back I found a hint on Ancestry about John Cowley, the ancestor of Ellen, who married Tom Dennis, long time publican of the Railway Inn / Tavern, in Ogley Hay, then in Staffordshire. Previous episodes in this strand can be found at: Excavating the Cowley branch, Cowley’s the Name, and Navvy army. These are not direct ancestors, but I have found their story intriguing.
As usual the hints offered were not all relevant, and some were misleading, but it did allow me to tidy this bit of the tree a bit. I had traced Ellen’s grandfather to Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, now famous for Slimbridge Wetland Centre, set up by the naturalist Sir Peter Scott. In the 1841 census, John Cowley was recorded aged 80, but this could have been rounded down. The hint led me to a burial in 1843, aged 86, suggesting birth in about 1756 / 57. Although the parish records for Slimbridge online seem complete, there was no matching baptism, but futher searching found:
a baptism in late 1756 at Stone, only a few miles south of Slimbridge.
If this connection is true, there is a marriage to fit:
License, with parents’ consent? Presumably, one or the other was under 21? Mary was pregnant, or said she was (do the arithmetic), therefore a “shotgun wedding”? Note: Robert was able to sign his name, but Mary was unable (or unwilling).
I had previously concluded that John Cowley married Mary Bick, but only had the Pallot’s Index for 1798 to go on (Pallot’s Marriage Index for England: 1780 – 1837, Glouc. Mar. Vol 1), with the bonus of a William Bick Cowley being baptised in 1798 with the right parents’ names. That was at Slimbridge, where Mary was baptised in 1776, which would make her just under 21 at the time of their wedding, hence the need for a license. The 20 year gap in age is corroborated by the 1841 census for Slimbridge, where John Cowley was and “Ag Lab” aged 80, with wife Mary aged 60 (both ages rounded down, as was the custom).
This was confirmed by baptism of Mary daughter of Joseph & Mary Bick on 22 Dec 1776 at Slimbridge. (Gloucestershire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1813.)
Another tree on Ancestry (Brown-Birkinshaw) has attached parents to Mary Bick and found a marriage: Joseph Bick and Margaret Grafton, both of Slimbridge. From my research into first name frequency, in 1760-1799, Joseph made up only about 5% of males, and Margaret was not in the top ten female names, so that combination would be relatively rare in any place at that time. In other words, the chances of there being another couple named Joseph Cowley and Margaret are slim.
So this part of the tree looks like this:
Working on the cut
In the 1841 census, sons John and William are recorded as “Lab. on Canal”. This would have been the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal, completed in 1827.
The family lived on Slimbridge Street, which appears to be Ryall’s Lane today. The census enumeration district (10), included only the north side of the street, and the Cowley record is bewteen Slimbridge Street Farm and New House Farm, which appears to narrow down the possibilities.