Subject Name: Edward Faggetter  (b 1833 – d 1884)

Researcher: Julie Cameron

The life of Edward Faggetter, blighted for years by disability and poverty, descended into
shocking domestic violence which saw his wife fortunate to escape with her life.  

Born in 1833 in Pirbright, Surrey, Edward, the second son of victualler Henry Faggetter and his
wife Mary, was baptised in March of that year at the parish church.  Edward’s father was already nearly 50 and his mother Mary in her late 30s, both being widowed when they married in 1831.  Henry passed away in 1838 age 54, so in 1841, the Census showed that Mary, age 47, was living at Lower Mill, Pirbright with Edward, age 8 and his siblings Samuel age 9 and Sarah age 5.  Also there was their 15 year old half-sister Elizabeth Hammersley, and Jane Faggetter age 16, a cousin.

Edward was still living in Pirbright at the time of the 1851 Census with his 55-year-old mother
who was working as a laundress, sister Sarah age 15 and half-sister Elizabeth, 24.  Although Edward was now 18, no occupation was noted for him.

In 1854, Edward married 20-year-old spinster Phoebe Fry, also from Pirbright, daughter of Mary Fry and carpenter William.

The 1861 Census showed Edward, a 28-year-old farm labourer, living at 2 Gander Hill, Pirbright, with Phoebe, 26, their son William, 3, and 5-month-old daughter Mary. Their
first child Alice, 5, was with her grandmother Mary Faggetter on the day of the Census.  

What the 1861 Census didn’t say was that Edward was suffering from a “diseased hip”, a fact clearly stated in the 1871 Census which indicated it had been troubling him since 1857 when he would have been just 24.

Edward’s misfortune was made clear in the Guildford Board of Guardians Poor Relief accounts for 1864-71, which noted that he was receiving regular monies throughout that time for his children as he was “wholly disabled”, “partly disabled” or a “cripple”.

The local authorities, apart from providing Edward with financial support, also tried
unsuccessfully to provide him with physical support.  After Edward briefly entered the Guildford Union Workhouse in the early part of 1870, the Surrey Advertiser for 4 June 1870 reported that an appliance was commissioned by the Guildford Union for Edward “to enable the man to work”, but Faggetter was reported as saying that it “did not fit him” and that he “would not wear the instrument under any circumstances”.

The minutes from the Guildford Union Board meeting a week later showed that Edward would not be forced to wear the appliance despite the money that had been spent on it. The minutes also stated that an application for £3 3s (£3.15) to fund a hip operation for Edward had been turned down.

Edward’s family was still growing, nevertheless. The 1871 Census showed the 37-year-old “formerly ag lab” with “hip disease for 14 years” living with wife Phoebe at Apple Tree Cottage, Pirbright, and five children – Mary Ann age 10, Margaret 8, Ruth 6, Bertha 4 and Jesse 2.

Their oldest child Alice was working as a housemaid in Thames Ditton while their second child William had died in 1861.  Phoebe was working as a charwoman, presumably to put bread on the table for the family.

Another son, Francis Edward, arrived in 1873 followed by William in 1875.  It was common at that time to use the same name as that of a previously deceased child, but sadly, this William did not survive either, only living for 18 days.

The family’s lives must have become increasingly difficult to sustain with income limited to
what monies they received from the Union along with Phoebe’s meagre earnings from washing and ironing.  All turned tragically far worse shortly after the birth on 9 February 1877 of their tenth child, Ephraim James, when Edward savagely attacked his wife Phoebe in which
she was fortunate to escape with her life.

The Surrey Advertiser for 7 April 1877, reporting on Edward’s trial, said that he was age 45 and a “cripple”, and on 12 March had hit Phoebe on the arm with a stick after she had been unable to find the money so that one of their sons could attend school.  The stick broke, such was the force of the blow, but much worse followed as Edward struck Phoebe repeatedly
about the head with a hammer and a flat-iron.  Phoebe managed to break free and escaped to a neighbour’s house where she was treated by a surgeon, TJ Sells.  The surgeon knew the family as he had been involved in the failed attempt to provide help for Edward’s hip condition seven years earlier, and at the trial, he said that Edward was “naturally of a morose condition of mind”.

Sells added that Edward had believed that Phoebe had been unfaithful, and that the day before the attack, Edward had requested that the local clergyman should not perform a
post-natal blessing known as “churching” on Phoebe as she was “morally unfit” for such a ceremony.

Edward pleaded guilty to the assault charges and was sentenced to 12 months in Wandsworth
Prison.  The Chairman of the trial said that he had taken into account Edward’s circumstances regarding his health, but warned him that he needed to learn to “govern his temper”.

Edward’s Wandsworth Prison admission record gave a description of his appearance, saying
he was 5 feet 8.5 inches tall (1.74 metres), thin, whiskered, that he had a diseased hip and was a “cripple” in his left leg.

After his release from prison in April 1878, Edward clearly had not taken the advice of the trial Chairman, as in July he was back in court again after throwing a large stone bottle at Phoebe, which fortunately missed her.  The attack came on 18 July, a doubly tragic time for the family. Their nine-year-old son Jesse was terminally ill from tubercular meningitis, passing away just five days later.

The trial revealed that Edward had frequently assaulted Phoebe, but The Bench refused to
grant her a separation of maintenance which would have enabled Phoebe to live apart from him.  Edward was unable to pay the fine so he was again imprisoned.

Records are not available to show how long Edward was under lock and key and also the
circumstances that led to Edward and Phoebe eventually living separately.  The first record of them since the death of their son Jesse in 1878 is the 1881 Census which noted Edward, 47, to be an inmate of the Guildford Union Workhouse along with their son Francis, age 7.  Phoebe, 46, had moved a few miles away from Pirbright to live in Knaphill with her widowed mother, still working as a laundress.  Her youngest child James, 4, was with her.

With no Guildford Union Workhouse admission or departure records existing, it is not known how long Edward and Francis remained there after the 1881 Census.  However, by early 1884, Edward was critically ill with kidney disease and was in the care of his unmarried daughter Margaret at The Elms’ Cottage, Woodbridge Road, Guildford.  He passed away there on 6 January 1884, age 49, and was buried at St John the Evangelist Church, Stoke-next-Guildford, six days later.


December 2019 / updated March 2022

A full biography of Edward Faggetter’s son, Francis, can be found here

Sources :         Surrey History Centre




                           Guildford Register Office
                           General Register Office gro.gov.uk

                           Full references available here.