Elizabeth Hardwick (Bess) was an important figure in history and in reality outside of Derbyshire she’s probably not as well know as she should be so let me give you an insight into the strong woman.
Bess was born to John Hardwick and his wife Elizabeth Leeke in around 1527 in Hardwick, Derbyshire. She was first married when she was 13 in the early 1540’s to Robert Barlow. They were married for one year before he died aged 14. If Robert had not died Bess may have had a very different life from the one that was to come.
On the 20th August 1547 Bess married the twice widowed Sir William Cavendish who was high up at the court of King Edward VI. Bess and William had 8 children:
Frances Cavendish born 1548, Temperence Cavendish born 1549, Henry Cavendish born 1550 who was god son of the then Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth), William Cavendish born 1552 ,Charles Cavendish born 1553 who was god son of Queen Mary, Elizabeth Cavendish born 1555, Mary Cavendish born 1556 and Lucrece Cavendish born 1556.
After William Cavendish died Bess married Sir William St Loe in 1559. Sir William was a very wealthy man and Bess was in financial difficulties so the marriage proved very beneficial especially since Sir William died after only 6 years of marriage. Upon his death he left everything to Bess and she thus became one of the riches women in the country.
Bess’s 4th marriage was most probably a political one to George Talbot the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. The couple fought regularly and quiet often lived apart. It was during her marriage to the Earl that Bess became the keeper of Mary Queen of Scots. For 15 years the couple kept her at their Derbyshire properties and Bess and Mary spent much time together particularly at the properties of Chatsworth House, Tutbury Castle and Sheffield Manor. While at Chatsworth Bess and Mary spent much time creating tapestries together.
Bess was quite often in trouble with the crown and spent time on 2 occasions as a guest in the Tower of London.
The first stay was in 1561. Bess was a close friend of Frances Grey, nee Brandon who was the mother of Lady Jane Grey the 9 day Queen. Frances second daughter was Lady Catherine Grey. In 1561 and in desperate need of help Catherine informed her mother’s friend that she had secretly married the Earl of Hertford, Edward Seymour (the nephew of Jane Seymour the 3rd wife of King Henry VIII) and that she was pregnant. For a lady such as Catherine who had a claim to the throne through her grandmother Mary Tudor, the sister of King Henry VIII, it was against protocol to marry without the Queen’s consent. When Queen Elizabeth found out she was not best pleased and when she found out one of her ladies of the bedchamber Bess knew she had her imprisoned for 7 months.
Bess spent a second stay in the tower in 1574 (or may have she may have been under house arrest at her manor in Chelsea). While staying at Rufford Abbey in Nottinghamshire (one of her many estates) with Lady Margaret Stuart (the daughter of Margaret Tudor, the sister of King Henry VIII), Bess’ daughter Elizabeth and Margaret’s son Charles met and fell in love. The mother’s decided to let their children marry. Bess hadn’t learnt from her previous visit to the tower and the Queens permission was not asked for. This was needed as Margaret Stuart was of Royal blood and her eldest son Lord Darnley was married to Mary Queen of Scots until his death. The Queen went nuts and had the mother’s imprisoned. Elizabeth and Charles had one daughter Arbella Stuart who Queen Elizabeth was convinced was trying to over throw her.
Some feel Bess thought herself to be above the queen and there is some evidence for this. At the hall she built herself at Hardwick her coat of arms and emblems are everywhere. Even the outside of the building has her initials carved into the roof line that can clearly be seen from the M1 motorway today. This could have been seen as she felt herself at a level or even above the Queen.
Bess owned much land and many manors in Derbyshire. She owned Chatsworth House, Hardwick Hall (she built the new hall which still stands today), Wingfield Manor, Bolsover Castle, Heath Manor, Stainsby Manor and Owlcoates Manor in her own right. She had coal mines in Bolsover, Hardstoft and Tibshelf and owned land in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Yorkshire. She also through her marriages had the use of Rufford Abbey, Tutbury Castle, Sheffield Manor, Chelsea Manor and many others.
During her life she was Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, Lady Elizabeth St Loe and the Countess of Shrewsbury. Her ancestors went on to become the Earls Manvers, the Earls/Dukes of Rutland, the Earls/Dukes of Devonshire and the Dukes of Newcastle. Bess’ most abiding legacy is through her houses of Hardwick Hall and Chatsworth House. Bess was instrumental in the building of these properties and used her substantial wealth to do it.
Bess died in December 1608 and she was buried in the parish church of Derby, All Saints. The church was later rebuilt and became Derby cathedral but Bess’ memorial can still be seen there.
Bess may have been fortunate through marriage and gaining much wealth but she was a feisty woman who went after what she wanted. She may have gotten herself in to trouble on occasion but in the end she was still the second most powerful woman in the country after the Queen and a Derbyshire woman through and through.
If you’ve read this and what to know more about Bess I recommend the novel about her by Georgina Lee – Bess a Novel. It’s a really good read.
I want to discuss how asking other genealogist for help may assist you in breaking down your brick walls.
I am a member of the Norfolk Family History Society (NFHS) and it was through them that I managed to breakdown a wall. The Society produces a magazine 4 times a year and members can place articles asking for help. So I decided to ask my fellow members for help.
The search all began in Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk. I knew my 4 times great granddad William Weeds was born in the village in November 1786 to John Weeds and Mary Thurgate. On the 1841 census he was living with his wife Sarah in Thorpe St Andrew. So I started looking for William and Sarah’s marriage. The oldest child of William I had found was born in 1811 so I started looking in 1810 in the village. I couldn’t find anything so I extended my search to the whole of Norfolk as I knew from the census they were both born in the county. Still I found nothing. I could find no marriage around this time.
So I decided to put an article in the NFHS magazine The Norfolk Ancestor. I asked out to my fellow member for help in finding William and Sarah’s marriage. I soon got several replies and the consensus was that William Weeds marriage Sarah Tinker in Norwich in 1815.
At first I was sceptical until one of the replies mentioned William was a widower. This was the aha! moment and tied in with what I already knew. This explained why there was a gap in the children’s birth years as this could be due to the death of a first wife and the gap between remarrying.
So backwards searching again I went and found the marriage of William Weeds and Mary Burton in 1810 in Thorpe St Andrew. Bingo. The marriage date was consistent with the birth of the first of William’s children in 1811. So would this marriage link in with William’s life. I searched for the death of a Mary Weeds between 1810 and 1815 and found the burial of Mary Weeds aged 37 in Thorpe St Andrew in October 1814. This would mean William remarried 7 months after Mary’s death, which wasn’t uncommon then.
So back I went again and looked for the children born to William and Mary and found 3 born between 1811 and 1814. The youngest Frederick was buried just 6 days after his mum aged 6 months.
So everything was now making sense. William was married twice. The birth locations of all the children and the occupation of William on all the baptism records of carpenter all matched up. So I concluded that the marriage to Sarah Tinker was the correct one.
So let me tell you everything I know about William Weeds.
William was born on the 27th November 1786 in Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk to John Weeds and Mary Thurgate. He was baptised on the 4th December 1786 at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew. He married Mary Burton at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew on the 26th December 1810 when he was 24 years old. The couple had 3 children, Mary Elizabeth, William Henry and Frederick. Mary died in October 1814 in Thorpe St Andrew. William remarried aged 29 on the 18th May 1815 at St Michael at Plea, Norwich. His bride was 24 year old Sarah Tinker. The couple had 7 children, Frederick, Amelia, Emma, Edward, Louisa Morgan, Julia, Jesse. In 1841 William and Sarah were living on Turnpike Road in Thorpe St Andrew. William died on the 19th February 1848 in Thorpe St Andrew. William was 61 years old and a carpenter. He died from inflammation of the lung. He was buried at St Andrew’s church, Thorpe St Andrew on the 23rd February 1848.
So without the help of my fellow NFHS member I may never have found the marriage of William and Sarah. If I hadn’t found the marriage it would not have stopped my research back through my Weeds line but I may never have found the Tinker line to research.
So don’t be afraid to ask for help from fellow genealogists through magazines and websites. You might find they have the answers your looking for.
You may remember a few weeks ago I considered that even if you don’t have an interest in the monarch the history of the Kings and Queens will give you an insight into the lives of your ancestors. I looked at the Monarchs of England and Scotland from 1066 until 1603 and now I’m going to look from 1603 to the present day with the monarchs of Great Britain which began after the death of Elizabeth I.
James I of England VI of Scotland. Reigned 24th March 1603 – 27th March 1625. Successor: Charles I, son of James I.
Charles I. Reigned 27th March 1625 – 30 January 1649 (executed for treason). Successor: Oliver Cromwell and the commonwealth.
Charles II. Reigned 29th May 1660 – 6th February 1685. Successor: James II, son of Charles I.
James II. Reigned 6th February 1685 – 23rd December 1688. Successor: William III, grandson of Charles II and Mary II, daughter of James II.
William III and Mary II
William III. Reigned 23rd December 1688 – 8th March 1702. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Mary II. Reigned 23rd December 1688 –28th December 1694. Successor: Anne, daughter of James II.
Anne. Reigned 8th March 1702 – 1st August 1714. Successor: George I, great grandson of James I.
George I. Reigned 1st August 1714 – 11th June 1727. Successor: George II, son of George I.
George II. Reigned 11th June 1727 – 25th October 1760. Successor: George III, grandson of George II.
George III. Reigned 25th October 1760 – 29th January 1820. Successor: George IV, son of George III.
George IV. Reigned 29th January 1820 – 26th June 1830. Successor: William IV, son of George III.
William IV. Reigned 26th June 1830 – 20th June 1837. Successor: Victoria, granddaughter of George III.
Victoria. Reigned 20th June 1837 – 22 January 1901. Successor: Edward VII, son of Victoria.
Edward VII. Reigned 22 January 1901 – 6th May 1910. Successor: George V, son of Edward VII.
George V. Reigned 6th May 1910 – 20th January 1936. Successor: Edward VIII, son of George V.
Edward VIII. Reigned 20th January 1836 – 11th December 1836 (abdicated). Successor: George VI, son of George V.
George VI. Reigned 11th December 1836 – 6th February 1952. Successor: Elizabeth II, daughter of George VI.
Elizabeth II. Reign 6th February 1952 to present.
So now you have a comprehensive list of the monarchs from 1066 until the present. You can now use this information to gather more information about your ancestors.
So for example if your ancestor was alive in 1703 you now know Queen Anne was on the throne. From here you can find out more about the country they lived in. In 1703 England was struck by a storm which caused 100’s of boat to wash ashore on the south coast and 1000’s of sailors died, 1000’s of homes were damaged and many areas were severely flooded including parts of the West Midlands. From here if you know your ancestor was a sailor on the south coast you may find they were affected by the storm. They may have lost their boat or the boat they sailed on may have been lost. They may also have lost their relatives if they were at sea at the time of the storm. They could have lost fathers, brothers, husbands or sons. Entire male lines of families may have been wiped out as a family boat could have been lost. This could have left the women of the family destitute. It could also help you to understand why you can’t find the grave of a family member. They may have been lost at sea in the storm and their body was never found for burial. It could also mean you may be able to discover the grave for a female family member you couldn’t find. If a woman lost her husband in the storm she may have remarried and thus be buried under the name of her second husband.
Hopefully this will relationship between the knowledge of when the monarchs were on the throne and what was going on in the country while your ancestors were alive.
We’ve all heard of the Jack the Ripper and his reign of terror in London in 1888 but still to this day we have no idea who he was or why he did what he did. It’s though he killed 5 women but many believe he was responsible for many more deaths.
The killings attributed to Jack began in August 1888 when he killed his first victim. She was Mary Ann Nichols, nee Walker. She was found on the 31 August 1888 in Buck’s Row (now Durwand Street) in London. Mary was born in 1845 and was the estranged wife of William Nichols and the mother of 3 children.
Jack’s second victim was Annie Chapman who was born Eliza Ann Smith. She was born in 1841 and was the estranged wife of John Chapman and the mother of 3 children. On the night of the 8 September 1888 she was found dead at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.
Victim three was Elizabeth Stride nee Gustafsdoffer. She was born in Sweden in 1843 where her career as a prostitute was thought to have begun. She was the widow of John Stride. She was found on the night of the 30th September 1888 on Berner Street (now Henriques Street), Whitechapel.
The fourth victim was Catherine Eddowes. She was the common law wife of Thomas Conway and the mother of 3 children. She was born in Wolverhampton in 1842. Her body was found on the 30 September 1888, the same night as Elizabeth Stride, in Mitre Square, Whitechapel.
The final confirmed victim of Jack was Mary Jane Kelly who was killed on the 9th November 1888 in Miller’s Court, Spitalfield.
All the murders had much in common. All were gruesome and involved the removal of organs. The attacks must have been brutal and terrifying for the women. They were investigated at the time by the Whitechapel division of the Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard. The lead investigators were:
Detective Inspector Edmund Reid from Whitechapel
Detective Inspector Frederick Abberline from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Henry Moore from Scotland Yard
Detective Inspector Walter Andrews from Scotland Yard
Now I personally have an interest in the murders as I believe they may have impacted upon my Ancestors. My great, great Grandfather was George Dow who was born in Pollockshaw, Glasgow in 1842. He moved to Sunderland to work in the ship yards and it was here in 1867 that he married Eleanor Easton (born in 1844) the daughter of a local blacksmith. The couple had four children including my great Grandma Elizabeth Dow. To this day we don’t know why but between 1878 and 1880 the family moved to the Whitechapel area of London and started using the surname Smith. I know this as in 1880 the couple had another child named George Smith and my great Grandma was born in 1878. On the 1881 census the family was living on Sander Street in Whitechapel, which if you look at the map above you will see linked to Henriques Street where Elizabeth Stride was killed. We know that by 1891 the family was living in Walthamstow in Essex. The question is did they move because of the murders or had they already decided to move on? If they were still living in Whitechapel then the murders would have been a good enough incentive to move especially since Eleanor was of a similar age to the victims. It would have been no place to raise the 3 surviving of their 4 children.
When I started researching my family tree I knew nothing about this. I knew Elizabeth was born in Sunderland and raised in Woodford but I had no idea about the Whitechapel link. I have had an interest in the Ripper murders since I saw at TV drama called Jack the Ripper starring Michael Caine and Lewis Collins, also on the Two Ronnies Show they did a sketch called the Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town which was a skit on the ripper case in which a raspberry was blow and the victim died. These both lead to an interest which was only boosted by my family connection.
So who was the Ripper? Several names have been connected to the case but there seems to be no chance of the Ripper being identified. So the mystery many never be revealed, but in my case the interest continues due to my own family’s connection.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!