JANE SARAH POTTERTON
Subject Name : Jane Sarah Potterton (b 1794 – d 1882)
Researcher : Julia Browne
Jane Sarah Potterton, at 87, one of the oldest inmates of the Guildford Union Workhouse in 1881, had 16 years before been through the shocking tragedy of her husband’s suicide.
Jane Sarah Dimmonds (Dimmings) was born on 19th March 1794 and baptised a few weeks later on 13th April at St Mary’s Parish Church, Send, Surrey (1). She was the daughter of William Dimmings and Elizabeth Withall who had married at Peper Harrow, near Godalming, Surrey on 17th October 1782 (2). William himself had written his name as ‘Dimmings’ on the marriage record, so this is most likely the correct spelling.
When Jane Sarah was 12, her older sister Mary Ann married George Potterton in Shere on 7th December 1806 (3). This would certainly have led to Jane meeting her future husband Jesse Potterton, then aged about nine, who was George’s brother (4). The Potterton family came from Cranleigh, some 12 miles (20km) south of Send.
Over 18 years later, on 7th May 1825, Jane and Jesse married at the chapel of St Mary Magdalen, Ripley in the Parish of Send. Jane’s sister Mary Ann and husband George were the witnesses (5). Ripley was at that time a part of Send, only becoming a separate ecclesiastical parish in 1878 (6).
Jane was already 31, with Jesse about 28, and no records have been found of any children. The marriage records of that time did not state occupations, but in 1838, Jesse was noted to be a bricklayer when he purchased the copyhold – meaning the Manor of Woking still held ownership – to ‘2 cottages and 4a (acres)’ from Richard Platt of Hale End, Woking for the sum of £480 (7). This was a large amount of money, but it was not Jesse’s intention to live there. Instead, the 1838 Surrey Electoral Register showed Jesse to be living in Ripley, qualifying for a vote through ‘Copyhold house and land. Westfield Woking’ (8).
The 1841 Census noted them both age 45 living in Hog Lane, Send (9). Jesse was a ‘wood dealer’. It seems that he was successful as by the time of the 1851 Census, he was a timber merchant employing two men as well as a farmer of 70 acres with five labourers (10). Two years prior to the Census, Jane and Jesse had moved the short distance to Ripley Street, Ripley, renting ‘Letting no 2 of Maiden Charity land = 2 acres 2 roods’ for six years at a rate of £9 5s (£9.25) per year (11).
In 1861, the Census showed Jane and Jesse were living in Ripley Lane, Ripley (12). Both were noted as 63, with Jesse now just a timber merchant, no mention made of him being a farmer.
Jesse’s work situation may have been declining, but far worse was to come as he began to suffer from a serious health condition. Four years later, on the 18th May 1865, Jesse took his own life, age 68 (13, 14). The Surrey Advertiser reported the findings of the inquest that was held two days later, saying ‘It appears that the deceased had been suffering from a cancer in the arm for about eighteen months, which is supposed to have brought on temporary insanity’. He was buried at St John’s Church, Woking (15).
Less than three months before this tragedy, on 21st March, Jesse had written a Will (16). After his death, his probate record stated that he had less than £100 ‘effects’, so he was almost certainly not as well off as he had been. However, the Will showed that he wanted to do the best he could to provide for Jane after his passing. His first request was to bequeath ‘to my dear wife Sarah Potterton so much of my household furniture as my Executors may consider necessary for her use’, ensuring that she kept her belongings around her. Jesse further instructed his Executors, his nephew William Potterton and great nephew Jesse Potterton, to arrange for Jane to receive 10 shillings (£0.50) a week ‘during her lifetime or until the said principal and interest be expended’. This would be provided by investing in ‘good government or real securities’ the proceeds from the sale of whatever goods Jane did not want, and from his property. Ten shillings would have been a relatively modest sum, less than the average weekly wage which in 1865 was 11 shillings and 3 pence (17). Jesse’s copyhold property in Hale End purchased back in 1838, was sold a year after Jesse’s death, but only made £160, just a third of his original purchase price (18).
Following Jesse’s death, Jane remained in Ripley living alone. The 1871 Census described 77-year-old Jane as an ‘annuitant’, indicating that her husband’s Will was still providing for her (19). She was also noted as deaf.
However, it seems as though it was not long before Jane’s money ran out. An entry in the Guildford Poor Law Minute book dated 10th May 1873 showed her as ‘inmaintenance’ sic for £3 0s 0d, suggesting she was being supported by the Guildford Union to remain at home (20).
Considering her age and disability, it seems unlikely that Jane would have been able to live independently for much longer. Eight years later, the 1881 Census showed her as an inmate of the Guildford Union (21). She was described as a 90-year-old (actually 87) widowed domestic servant born in Ripley and was now blind.
Jane died in the Workhouse on 18th December 1882 from what her death certificate noted as ‘age’ (22). She was stated to be 91, again three years more than her true age of 88. The certificate also mistakenly stated her to be widow of ‘Jesse Potterton, bricklayer of Ripley’. He was not her husband but her great-nephew – one of the executors of her husband’s Will – who had died back in 1874 (23). Jane was buried at Ripley Parish Church on 21st December 1882 (24).
October 2020, updated September 2023
- Jane Sarah Dimmonds born 15 Mar 1794, baptism 13 Apr 1794 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Send, St Mary 1792-1812; reference Sen/1/7; page 4. Ancestry.co.uk.
- William Dimmings & Elizabeth Withall marriage 17 Oct 1782 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Peper Harow, St Nicholas 1754-1810; reference PEP/1/2; page 14. Ancestry.co.uk.
- Mary Ann Dimmings & George Potterton marriage 7 Dec 1806 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Shere, St James 1754-1812; reference SHER/2/1; page 75; no 299. Ancestry.co.uk.
- George Potterton baptism 13 Jun 1784 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Cranleigh, St Nicholas 1721-1811; reference CRA/1/5. Ancestry.co.uk.
Jesse Potterton baptism 16 Jul 1797 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Cranleigh, St Nicholas 1790-1812; reference CRA/1/4. Ancestry.co.uk.
- Jane Dimmings & Jesse Potterton marriage 7 May 1825 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Send, St Mary (Formerly Send with Ripley) 1813-1836; reference Sen/2/5; page 11; no 31. Ancestry.co.uk.
- The History of Send Send and Ripley History Society
Ripley, Surrey Wikipedia.org.uk
- Copy of surrender by Richard Platt and Elizabeth his wife of 2 cottages and 4a in Hale End, copyhold of the manor of Woking, and admission of Jesse Potterton and his mortgagee 19 Apr 1838. Properties in Westfield and Knaphill, Woking and Byfleet: Deeds. Surrey History Centre, Woking, reference SHC 9010/1/1.
- Jesse Potterton 1838 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Electoral Registers, Parish of Woking, page 83. Ancestry.co.uk
- Jesse, Jane Potterton 1841 England Census for Send, Surrey. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office PRO; Class HO107; Piece 1080; Enumeration District 4; Folio 30; Page 15. Ancestry.co.uk
- Jesse, Jane S Potterton 1851 England Census for Ripley, Surrey. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office PRO; Class HO107; Piece 1594; Folio 191; Page 32. Ancestry.co.uk
- Agreements between Trustees of Hayne’s Charity and various tenants: …. 37) Jesse Potterton no 2 … 29 Sep 1849 Send and Ripley Parish Records, Ann Hayne’s Charity 1634-1933 Surrey History Centre, Woking, reference SHC P41/3/35-54
- Jesse, Jane Sarah Potterton 1861 England Census for Ripley and Send, Surrey. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office PRO; Class RG 9; Piece 425; Folio 158; Page 28. Ancestry.co.uk
- Jesse Potterton 18 May 1865 England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915, Apr-May-Jun 1865, Guildford, Surrey, volume 2a, page 29. Ancestry.co.uk.
Copy of original from General Register Office GRO.gov.uk
- Suicide 27 May 1865, Surrey Advertiser, page 3, column 3. British Newspaper Archives / FindMyPast.co.u
- Jesse Potterton burial 23 May 1865 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Woking, St John 1842-1874; reference WOKJ/3/1-2; page 62, entry 491. Ancestry.co.uk.
- Jesse Potterton 22 Jun 1865 Probate at Principal Probate Registry. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations) 1858-1995. Ancestry.co.uk
Copy of original will from General Register Office GRO.gov.uk-search-will-probate
- Agricultural labourers’ wages – 1850-1914 1865 British labour statistics : historical abstract 1886-1968, Department of Employment and Productivity, 1971, page 38. Published by HMSO, 1982 blogspot.com
- Bargain and sale by the executors of Jesse Potterton to William Turner of Westfield of 3/4a and messuage thereon in Westfield, formerly part of land in (1) 23 Jul 1866 Properties in Westfield and Knaphill, Woking and Byfleet: Deeds. Surrey History Centre, Woking, reference SHC 9010/1/2.
- Jane Potterton 1871 England Census for Ripley, Surrey. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office PRO; Class RG 10; Piece 809; Folio 26; Page 4. Ancestry.co.uk
- Jane Potterton 10 May 1873 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Guildford Poor Law Minute Books 1836-1918, reference BG6/11/18, page 79.
- Jane Potterton 1881 England Census for Guildford Union Workhouse, Stoke Next Guildford, Surrey. The National Archives, Kew, Surrey, England. Public Record Office PRO; Class RG 11; Piece 778; Folio 93; Page 7. Ancestry.co.uk
- Jane Potterton 18 Dec 1882 England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1837-1915, Oct-Nov-Dec 1882, Guildford, Surrey, volume 2a, page 54. Ancestry.co.uk.
Copy of original from General Register Office GRO.gov.uk
- Jane Potterton burial 21 Dec 1882 Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey. Surrey Church of England Parish Registers; Ripley, St Mary 1813-1893; reference RIP/5/1; page 134, entry 1070. Ancestry.co.uk.