Subject Name: Mary Marshall (b abt 1804 – d 1881)

Researcher:  Catherine Davy

Mary Marshall was a 76-year-old widow living out her final days in the Guildford Union Workhouse at the time of the 1881 Census.  She had originally come from New Fishbourne, near Chichester, West Sussex, before moving to Guildford after her second marriage, to cordwainer Thomas Marshall in 1858.

Her previous marriage was to James Smith, and they had been living in Bosham, also near Chichester, at the time of the 1841 and 1851 censuses. These censuses show that James, a labourer, was some 20 years older than Mary.  It has not been possible to identify their marriage, so we are unable to establish more about Mary’s birth name and parentage.  It does not appear that she had any children from her marriage to James and there are no records to show that James had any children of his own either.

Mary’s life with James was clearly tough at times, as she charged him with assault in 1847. At a County Magistrates’ hearing in Chichester on 19th June, James was fined 2s 6d (12.5p) with costs of 11s 6d (57.5p), and sent to prison for 14 days after defaulting.

By the time of the 1851 Census, 47-year-old Mary was working as a laundress, probably to supplement their income, as James, although noted as a labourer, was now 66. He passed away in April 1856 age 71 in Bosham

Two years later, on 10th July 1858, Mary, aged about 52, married widower Thomas Marshall, probably seven years her senior, in her home village of New Fishbourne, situated next to Bosham.  The marriage certificate does not name a father for either of them.  Thomas was living at St Nicholas, Guildford over 35 miles (56km) away, but had resided for many years at Sidlesham, very close to New Fishbourne, during his first marriage to Elizabeth Pearce before she passed away in May 1848.   He was a cordwainer, a specialist in making new shoes.  Mary had no occupation noted.  

The 1861 census shows that Mary, 55, and her husband were in Guildford living at 30 South Street where 61-year-old Thomas continued as a cordwainer.

Thomas passed away in July 1869 age 70. The Guildford Union Half Yearly Accounts noted that Thomas’s final days and passing had been taken care of, as money and payment in kind had been given for “illness, coffin & funeral service.  Thomas was buried at Saint Mary’s Church, Guildford on 15th July.

The following year, Mary received a small amount of outdoor relief for being “partly disabled”, but by the 1871 census, now 65, she was working as a resident ”monthly nurse.  She was lodging with Robert Symonds, a railway signaller, along with his wife and seven children at 2 North Street, Swan Lane, Guildford.   A monthly nurse in Victorian times was a woman who was paid to look after a mother and baby before and after the birth of a child. Robert’s wife Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter some three months or so after the date of the census (2 April 1871).  Having a relatively well-paid job, and seven children age 14 and under already, it would seem that Robert had employed Mary, who was also living in Swan Lane at the time of her husband’s death, or perhaps he just provided board and lodgings to her to look after his wife and the family through her latest confinement.

Whether Mary was retained by the family for the birth of their ninth child Harry in early 1873 is not recorded, but at some stage Mary entered the Guildford Union Workhouse as she is noted in the 1881 Census as an inmate.  Mary passed away there just a month later and was buried near her second husband Thomas at Saint Mary’s Church, Guildford on 9th May age 77.

January 2020, updated May 2022

Sources :
         / British Newspaper Archives
                  General Register Office
                  Surrey History Centre, Woking

                  Full references available here.