JOB and SARAH LIGHT
Subject Names: Job Light (ca1814-1891)
Sarah Mayo Light née Whitehorn (1794-1881)
Researcher : Viv Bennett
Job Light and Sarah Whitehorn were born into travelling families, continuing that way of life into adulthood. After raising their own children ‘on the road’, they met in later life before marrying and settling in Godalming.
Job’s birthplace is recorded as Godalming in the 1881 Census, but other census records note his birthplace as the small village of Iping, situated between Petersfield and Petworth in the Chichester district of West Sussex. He is therefore most probably the Job Light baptised at Iping on 6th March 1814, the son of Jacob Light, an ‘itinerant’, and Charlotte. However, he may have been born quite some time before his baptism, as later references to his age vary considerably.
No record has been found for Job in the 1841 and 1851 Censuses, but in the 1841 Census, many traveller families were excluded as enumerators had been instructed to include only people living in dwellings. Further confirmation that Job was living an itinerant lifestyle is borne out by the baptism and birth records for children he fathered with Jane Ballard between 1839 and 1848, all four of whom were born in different locations across southern England. No marriage record has been traced for Job and Jane.
Sarah was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire on 8th June 1794 to Daniel and Hannah Whitehorn, being baptised as Sally Whitehorn on 11th June at St Mary’s Church. Like Job, no record has been found of Sarah previously marrying. She also had her own family, producing at least nine children with hawker John Mayo between 1817 and 1837. They were all baptised in Sussex, although some of the baptism records show they had travelled as far north as St Luke’s, Islington, London.
The 1841 Census indicated that Sarah Mayo, age 44, was living with John Mayo, a ‘dealer’, 45, and children John, Sarah, George and James in a ‘cart’ at Rudgwick, Sussex. Interestingly, the Census entries for all the ‘travellers’ living in Rudgwick were crossed out but still legible, so it seems the enumerator there initially missed the instruction about not recording the lives of travellers!
John Mayo senior, a ‘travelling hawker’, passed away in Chichester Infirmary, Sussex, in April 1850, age 57. A year later, the 1851 census showed Sarah, 56, living alone in a ‘tramp cart’ in Meadrow, Godalming. Her daughter Maria was in the adjacent ‘tramp cart’ with her husband and their two young daughters. Daughter Caroline and family were also nearby. Indeed, over the following years, other children of Sarah found their way to Godalming, some in houses, others in caravans.
It was probably in Godalming that Job and Sarah struck up a relationship. Although they could have been up to 20 years apart in age, they had a lot in common. Job and Jane had separated, so both he and Sarah had lost their long-time partners. Both had been travellers but were now perhaps at an age where a more established lifestyle would appeal to them. Whatever their reasoning, Job and Sarah married at St John’s Church, Farncombe on 3rd September 1855. The marriage certificate stated that Job was a 49-year-old bachelor living at Meadrow, Godalming, occupation ‘hawker’. His father, Jacob, had also been a hawker. Sarah was a 58-year-old widow with no occupation, also living in Meadrow. Her father was Daniel Whitehorn, another ‘hawker’. Neither Job nor Sarah could write, both marking their name with an ‘X’ on the certificate.
What is not known is whether Job’s three surviving children – Amy, Job and Samson – were living with their father and his new wife at the time of the marriage. Amy had married in 1857 and on the 1861 Census, Job and Samson were in a caravan in Shipley, Sussex, with their mother Jane, her new ‘husband’ Henry Carter, and their two children Jane, 9, and Henry, 6.
By 1861, Job and Sarah had moved around the corner from Meadrow to Manor Road, Farncombe, now part of Godalming. Job, 49, and Sarah, 65, were both noted as hawkers. Although their days of travelling long distances were over, they were still using a cart to hawk their wares in the surrounding villages. An article in the Surrey Advertiser on 17th June 1865 showed that their way of life was not always appreciated by everyone, relating that a beer-house keeper’s 16-year-old daughter maliciously damaged goods on Job’s cart by throwing ‘brickbats’ (missiles) from an upstairs window.
At the time the 1871 Census was taken, Job and Sarah were in Marshall Road, Farncombe. At some point in time after that Census, they were admitted to the Guildford Union Workhouse. There are no records to show when this happened, but the 1881 Census confirmed Job, a ‘hawker and umbrella maker’ and Sarah ‘wife of hawker’ as ‘inmates’, age 75 and 84 respectively. Although Job’s age could have been almost ten years younger than that, it seems unlikely that either of them were still active as hawkers.
The workhouse would have been a last resort for them. They would almost certainly have been separated on admission, with Job going into the male ward and Sarah into the female ward, although given their ages they could have requested the Board of Guardians to allow them to live together (see Peter and Sarah Percy). It was not until 1906 that the Guildford Union Workhouse built married quarters in a separate building.
Sarah passed away six months later in the Guildford Union Workhouse age 86 and was buried on 20th October 1881 at St John’s, Farncombe.
Job was again recorded in the Guildford Workhouse in the 1891 Census and given his quoted age to be 82, and status as a ‘pauper’, it seems probable that he had remained there since the last census. He was noted, probably incorrectly, as an agricultural labourer. He died on 14th November that year, age 83, and was buried at the Nightingale Cemetery, Godalming, five days later.
January 2022, updated April 2023
FindMyPast.co.uk / British Newspaper Archive
General Register Office GRO.gov.uk
Surrey History Centre Surreycc.gov.uk
The Charlotteville Jubilee Trust, Guildford
The Spike Guildford Union Workhouse Museum & Heritage Centre
For a full list of references click here