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‘An Unhappy Family’

Borough Road, Southwark
11 Clifton Street, Swansea
13 Beach Street, Deal
12 Water Street, Deal,
10 Seldon Terrace, Hougham nr. Dover

Mary Jane and Edward

Mary Jane Lawrence Gillman was born in Dolphin Street, Deal, in 1843. She was the eldest daughter of Cinque Ports Pilot Charles Brown Gillman and his wife Sarah nee Hart. The family may have lived in Sandwich for a short while as a son was baptised there in 1846 but they soon moved into Dover living at 61 Bulwark Street and right next door, at number 60, was the family of the future husband of Mary Jane, Edward James Blown. 

Was and Now maps showing Bulwark Street circa 1870 & the present day. Note the reusing of Bulwark and Haweksbury but reversed.

The Gillman family had moved back to Deal by 1857 the year in which their last child was born and is where Charles continued to ply his trade as a Pilot. look for ships that called into or started their voyages from the country’s many Docks including those in London. So it was no surprise to find that Mary Jane and Edward married in Southwark, which sits within London’s Docklands. 

Mary Jane may have taken up lodgings or simply moved in with Edward on Borough Road, to enable them to marry by Banns in the parish church of St. George the Martyr on July 21 1866

Swansea and the Anne Duncan

The Collier Brig ‘Mary’, by John Scott Signedː J. Scott 1855.

Edward gained employment with a ship owner that often took him to Swansea and it was here that the young couple moved to and where their first two children, sons Charles and Sydney, were baptised. In 1868 Edward qualified as a Master Mariner and it is from his Master Mariner documents that we know that the family lived in 11 Clifton Street (now Clifton Hill), Swansea.

Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The Anne Duncan was a wood built, two masted Brig and in November 1869 she was lying in Greenland Dock, one of Rotherhithe’s Commercial Docks, and an area that Edward would have known well. Anne Duncan’s owners, having taken out a Bottomry loan or Bond against the vessel, its fittings and cargo seem to have been in breach of the contract and in late 1869 they were issued with a warrant causing the vessel to eventually be sold. Edward was then employed by the new owner, Thomas W Sweet, to take the vessel to Swansea. It is through Lloyds Register and the Shipping & Mercantile Gazettes that we were able to trace Edward as Master of the Anne Duncan sailing from Swansea to such places as, St. Kitts, Lisbon and Marbella between 1869 and his last recorded sailing as her Master.This took place on 31 July 1871 from the Clyde with a cargo of coal for Bordeaux. Though as you will soon read, he may not have actually made this voyage. Swansea at this time was one of the busiests ports in the country.

Map showing Borough Road, where Edward & Mary Jane lived and the Docks that Edward would have known and frequented

The young family continued to live in the Swansea area until at least January 1870 when Edward appeared in the Cambria Daily Leader in a court report, where it is written he gave evidence against William Bruce who had stolen some rope from him, when he was the Master of Anne Duncan. They moved back to Deal at around the time of the stolen rope incident, or at least Mary Jane did with her two sons who were, in September 1870, joined by a sister, Eugenie Maud.
Like many women of her time Mary Jane went on to have a large family; she bore nine children in thirteen years but sadly, married life for her was to be far from easy. 

An Unhappy Family

From 1871 the couple regularly appeared in the local press and the Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury described them as an “Unhappy Family”. With this statement in mind, trouble in the marriage may have set in before this as the local newspaper carried a report that a ‘Mrs Blown’ had appeared before the magistrates, in January 1870, complaining that some young men were annoying her in the public streets.  Why they were doing this is not stated and indeed this may well not have been Mary Jane at all but, could Mary Jane have actually left her husband and word got out or was she being mixed up with another young woman of a similar name who was making her living as a prostitute  in the town  resulting in the ‘annoying’ by these men? Whatever the case the complaint was taken seriously and the Mayor, sitting as the Magistrate, threatened to inflict a term of imprisonment on anyone convicted of “…unruly conduct towards Mrs Blown…”

Summoned for Assault

The court reporter, who had titled his report ‘An Unhappy Family’ went into great detail telling of the events which led to Edward being summoned, by his mother-in-law to face charges of unlawfully assaulting and beating her. Piecing together the evidence that the reporter recorded it appears that Edward was at times violent towards Mary Jane and had even, on other unrecorded occasions, assaulted his mother-in-law, so she for one quite understandably wanted him punished.

We don’t know how the couple got along in Swansea but since their return, according to the evidence given in court, the marriage was indeed in trouble and Mary Jane, from time to time had told her husband that if he did not alter his behaviour then she would want a separation. Some two nights before the assault Edward, she said, had left the marital bed making one for himself in the parlour, and then went around telling her friends how she had refused to sleep with him. 

We are told that on the morning of the 15th August 1871, so just one month after his last known sailing on the Anne Duncan, Edward went out leaving Mary Jane, who was feeling a little unwell, at home with the children. At about three in the afternoon he returned, asking her if she was still in the “…same mind as you have been to have a separation…”  replying that she was, Edward urged her to change and go to the solicitors there then. Still feeling unwell she refused so he said she should go and discuss the situation with her father. Agreeing to this she got herself and the children ready, saying she would go and take tea with her parents, Charles and Sarah Gillman. When she got there she told her father that Edward wished for her to consult him about their separation. It was not for him to settle their affairs, he said, but agreed that she should go and see a solicitor. At about seven o’clock Edward arrived and Charles repeated what he had told his daughter. When Edward got up to leave he asked Mary Jane what time she would be home. When she didn’t get a reply to her request for help with the children she asked him to leave the key and a candle with matches in the back room window. He nastily replied if it “… would burn you alive…” then he would. 

The houses on the beach side of Beach Street from Silver Street to Exchange Street were all purchased by the Borough by 1920 and demolished to build the promenade we see today.

After having tea and discussing the situation and it being late, Sarah helped her daughter, with the three children, to walk back to their then home at 13 Beach Street. By then it was eleven o’clock and Edward was in bed in the parlour and, on hearing the women entering the room he immediately complained to his wife about her lateness. She reminded him of where she had been so he called out “Are you here Ma?” it being dark he had not seen her behind his wife. Mary Jane then gave baby Eugenie to her mother, asking her to carry her upstairs to bed, she then followed with the two small boys. Afraid of her husband she asked her mother to stay the night and Sarah readily agreed. As soon as everyone was settled Edward made an appearance.  “How dare you be here” he shouted at Sarah “…I will get up and go if you wish it…”  she replied, Edward continued to abuse the women blasting and swearing about the lighted candle, calling Mr. Gillman a perfect fool, and how they all should be burnt alive and going on in a ”…most dreadful manner …”  He then went back downstairs, a little later though he returned shouting at Mary Jane “…I will have my just desserts of you, I will have you out and do for you…” he then grabbed hold of her. Sarah got up, she said, “…to defend my child…” grabbing him by the shirt which in the struggle was torn. 

Edward’s version of events describes the shirt as being “…torn to ribbons…” and how Sarah had “…scratched his face…”  and threatened to “…knock his brains out with a poker…” When questioned in court she said she knew  “…what the brut was – I knew who I had to deal with…” but she didn’t know if she’d scratched his face  ”… I would have done if I could have done so…” she said and admitted to tearing his shirt, but not to threatening him with a poker.

Mary Jane’s account describes how Edward had grabbed Sarah by the shoulders and flung her across the room where she landed on the bed, he then knelt on her and hit her in the face causing her to bleed badly. Mary Jane tried to separate them. Seeing his mother in law covered in blood must have sobered him a little as he, grabbing a cloth from the stand, tried to stem the bleeding. Sarah told her daughter to leave and go to her father but as Edward, while rubbing Sarah’s face harshly, said that he would murder her mother, she did not want to leave them alone. Things must have calmed down after a while and Edward left the women alone so, as soon as they could, the women left the house but Edward gave chase. It was then two thirty in the morning; Edward caught hold of Mary Jane in Griffin Street begging them to come back. We are not told if she did but as the children were in the house alone we assume that she agreed.

Mary Jane ended her testimony by telling the court that she had fully made up her mind to separate from her husband and that she would like to publicly state that it was her who wanted this, and not as Edward had put about the town, that it was him. She went on “… He has ill-treated me for a long time. Before my last baby was born he threw me down the stairs and from time to time threatened my life…”

The Court was then informed that on the 16th, the day after the assault, Edward took out a summons against Sarah for assaulting him. On that same day Mary Jane, with one of her brothers visited Mr. Thomas Cave Hall, the solicitor at the County Court Offices at 5 Park Street, in regards to the separation. Once the Agreement of Separation was signed Edward decided to withdraw the summons. However a dispute arose over the furniture as Edward wanted to sell it but Charles, having bought the furniture in question, was set against this.

Addressing the Bench with his closing statement Edward’s solicitor, Mr. Minter stated it was Edward who had been assaulted and that the assault on his mother-in-law was purely self defence and that matters in this case had been settled. The Courtroom was then cleared while the Magistrates deliberated the case. Having done so, and before the public were allowed back in, the Clerk spoke to Mr. Minter saying that the Magistrate felt that as this case had arisen out of family matters and as agreements were in progress would they be prepared for the case to be settled by Edward paying the 15s cost of the hearing. Mr. Minter consented to this and said he would recommend to his client not to apply for fresh summonses against members of the family who had been threatening him. Charles acquiesced and an agreement was drawn up and signed by both parties saying    

‘We agree to this case and all other matters connected with it being settled and no further proceedings on either side taken
on the costs of this case
being paid by the defendant, Edward James Blown’

Sadly a month later Mary Jane and Edward were back before the magistrates. Edward, correctly described as a Master Mariner, was summoned on the information of the assistant overseer, Mr. A.C. Woodruff, who stated that Edward was employed and so able to to support his wife and children but had not done so Mary Jane therefore, had applied for assistance and Mr. Woodruff produced evidence to show that Mary Jane had applied for and received relief for herself  and her sons, Charles and Sydney, from September 20th 1871. Eugenie though was not mentioned! 

On being sworn in Mary Jane stated that her husband had not left her any money and she could not get credit and was therefore destitute. Edward it seems had not left her the  “…22s a week to keep myself two children and a servant…” This must have been part of the separation agreement. Failing to do this meant that by the time he had come home from his last voyage Mary Jane was already £17 in debt! She went on to explain that her father had given her the furniture in their house which enabled her to take in a lodger. The furniture being that which caused the dispute in August. However Edward went ahead and sold, she said, all the furniture.
To make matters worse he had placed a notice in the Mercury advertising that he would not be responsible for her wife’s debts. This appeared in the very same edition as the ‘Unhappy Family’ report. In a time where families often had accounts that were settled when the breadwinner was paid, this effectively closed all traders’ doors to Mary Jane. 

Was Mary Jane running up unnecessary debts or was Edward just being malicious? By selling the furniture that would prevent an income from a lodger and they being separated suggests, to us, the latter. As the story of this couple’s unhappy relationship was laid out before successive Magistrates and the facts captured by the court reporters of the day, the answers to this question unfortunately don’t ever make themselves clear. 

What is clear though, is that Edward felt that he was the victim. In this case, he said that he had never refused to support his wife. He told the court that just as he was about to leave on his last voyage, from the Clyde to Bordeaux as Master of Anne Duncan,  he had received a telegram from Mary Jane’s father, saying she was dangerously ill. So, on advising the ship owners to send another captain he dutifully left for Deal where, much to his surprise, the first person to meet him there was his wife! He went on to tell the court that Mr. Gillman had put it about that he had been discharged from the ship due to misconduct. There is no mention of the telegram sent to Edward being produced in court as evidence but, though its contents were not recorded, the Bench were read a statement of character from Edwards ‘late employer.’ This was probably Thomas W Sweet, the owner of the Anne Duncan. 

Edward now clearly blamed his father-in-law for him now being in a position where he could not find employment and “...for not having farthing to his name…”  and now living with his father in Dover. The sale of the furniture he said had raised £44 16s 6d from which he had paid £23 5s 10d on expenses and lawyers fees, the money owed by his wife and travel expenses to Swansea in search of employment had eaten up the rest. Edward then referred to an agreement signed by himself and Mary Jane in the presence of the solicitor, Mr. C. Hall, in which he promised to allow her half his earnings when he found employment.
It was not true, he said, that he had sold everything as he had left two rooms furnished, that far from being destitute Mary Jane still had the jewellery that he had given her, although he did say that he had heard his mother in law had pawned that in Canterbury! He was quite willing, he said, to support his wife and “…was sure that the agreement would prove this…” and he should also like to mention that he was  “.. obliged to leave Deal as Mr Gillman’s sons had been going about with daggers which they threatened to run him in and a large reward had also been offered to mob him…”

As the Magistrates thought that ‘the agreement’ referred to might offer some light on the situation and as neither Mary Jane nor her father had any objections to it being produced, it was agreed that the case be adjourned until the following week. Edward then states that he had applied for the said document but that Mr. Hall was away in London and it was not known when he would return! Nevertheless the case was adjourned until the following week. At which point the story continued. 

The agreement was duly obtained and produced from the offices of Mr. Hall.  It stated that Edward was to sell the furniture and give half the money to his father-in-law for Mary Jane’s use and the other half to pay the bills. Mary Jane and Edward were then to officially separate and Edward was in future to give her half his earnings. This being read out in court Edward then had to admit that he had not given the agreed money, from the sale of the furniture, to his wife nor had he paid all the bills as he had specified. That being so the Magistrate said he had little alternative but to commit him to three weeks in prison. However, after consideration, he felt that if Edward and the Overseer could come to an arrangement then Edward could go free. Adjourning to another room the two met and Edward undertook to pay all charges and expenses and was allowed his freedom.
So it appears from this episode at least that Edward was, at best, a chancer!!

Throughout all this Mary Jane was heavily pregnant and on 3rd October, at her parents house, she gave birth to her fourth child, Sarah Lavinia.
Edward, it seems, did find employment as at the end of January 1872 he was on a voyage to Lisbon when, in that month, Mary Jane with her now four children, again applied for relief from the Eastry Union. As Edward was away it was his father, Mr. Thomas Blown who lived in Dover, was the person the court turned to take responsibility, at least, for the upkeep of the children. Mr. Blown though did not agree. He felt that Mary Jane’s father was in a better position to do so.
He had not interfered in his son’s business, he told the court, but knew that his son was near insolvency and that he had been thrown out of his position as Master, due to Mr. Gillman, so he had to take a berth as a boatswain. He had already lent large sums of money to Edward, and to his other sons, and if he were now to take responsibility for Edward’s children he would become bankrupt himself. He went on to explain that he would soon be Superannuated upon £44 a year– He said he had “…26 grandchildren in all. And it would be a pretty fine thing if he had to support them all…” After further discussion Mr Blown agreed to pay 6s a week to Mr. Mercer in Deal who would arrange for the money to be paid monthly to the overseer Mr. Woodruff. 

If Edward paid his father back or attended his daughter, Sarah Lavinia’s, baptism in April 1872 in St. George’s Church, we don’t know. But some sort of reconciliation must have taken place between her parents as by the beginning of 1874 a fifth child, Bertha Cecilia followed by a brother Francis Edward, in July 1875.
1874 was also the year in which Edward gained his Trinity Pilot licence. It seems then, that if his father-in-law’s intention was to ruin his livelihood and career as a Master Mariner then Edward had worked hard to rise above this. The couple with their growing family had by then moved to Hougham where perhaps they continued to settle some of their marital differences and give their children some stability. But Edward soon brought trouble to their door, trouble that, this time at least, could not be blamed on Mary Jane.

The Ardenconnel

The ‘Ardenconnel’ on a slip in an unidentified port

On Friday 12 November 1875 Edward went out to meet the sailing ship Ardenconnel, bound for Adelaide, waiting in the Downes. Once on deck seeing a tooth nailed to the forecastle door, under which was written “…This is the Boatswain’s war tooth…” , he determinedly refused to proceed to sea and the voyage he’d signed up for. The court reporter stated that Edward then made unfounded accusations against the crew, and said there were too many Dutchmen on board.
Edward may have been superstitiously reacting to the tooth, as suggested in ‘The Last of our Luggers’. He may also have heard adverse things about the ship and on seeing the tooth overreacted and being hot headed, spoke his mind before he thought things through.
He wasn’t the only one though, to break his Contract of Articles with this vessel as he, with eight others were eventually sentenced to five weeks hard labour in Sandwich Gaol. Were things really so bad on the Ardenconnel? Perhaps they were, as just after he was sentenced he filed for bankruptcy. By December his father-in-law, the man he argued with and blamed for not being able to get work, was appointed as his trustee. By March the following year Edward’s assets were all liquidated.  

Refractory Seamen

By refusing to sail, Edward joined the ranks of what was then known as a Refractory seaman. These men put a strain on the local economy as the cost of sending and keeping them in gaol was a charge made on the town where their sentencing took place. At one point in 1874 there were a reported 111 seamen held in Sandwich Gaol at a cost of 10s 6d a week paid for by Deal’s ratepayers a cost that was twice the amount required for the destitute in Eastry Union. The biggest complaint though was that all but a few of these Seamen actually came from Deal, many of them had signed up on long voyages and were on vessels that having been well provisioned in their port or origin did not bring any trade or benefits to the town so why should the Borough pay for their incarceration?

Hard Labour – Treadmill in Jersey Museum

The usual reason for refusing to sail was due to supposed unseaworthiness of the vessel or not enough experienced crew. For others it was the food and for John Currie, who was sentenced with Edward it was a vision that the ship was ‘crooked’, though later he admitted to having been under the influence of drink at the time!
As was usual in these cases the evidence of the Master of the ship was believed rather than the ‘Refractory Seamen’ Even so The Board of Trade Surveyor deemed the Ardenconnel fit to sail.
Quite when the Ardenconnel’ left the Downs is not clear but it arrived in Adelaide in February 1876. A month later all of Edwards assets were liquidated; he was a bankrupt with a wife and six children to support. Presumably then, once out of gaol he continued to ply his trade as a Trinity Pilot finding other sailing opportunities when he could.
The family found a way to survive the losses and at some point moved into 12 Water Street from there four of their children were baptised, including the now seven year old Eugenie. Oddly, Francis Edward’s baptism appears twice, once in February and again when his baby sister, Minnie Laura, was baptised in October! 

Wellington Terrace

Two years later the family were living in Wellington Terrace (Now 2 Mill Road) One evening, walking home with her children, Mary Jane “…accidentally walked over the end…” of Victoria Esplanade. Not afraid of solicitors, she soon used the services of Mr. Hall, the man who helped with her separation case, and claimed compensation from the Deal Town Council. However the council, while expressing their regret over the accident, stated that they did not admit liability in the matter. Was she looking, given the seemingly continuing financial problems she found herself in, for a way to gain some extra funds so intentionally fell, though not meaning to cause so much damage to herself or, was it actually an accident waiting to happen? A year earlier a visitor wrote to the editor of the DWS Mercury praising the improvements to the town since his last visit saying great things have been done but more remains to be done to Victoria Esplanade including a “…  A nice fence on both sides of the pathway should be provided and also steps leading down to the beach…” Whether Mary Jane took this any further or if the Council eventually paid anything out we have not been able to find.

Furniture for Sale

Although Edward was gainfully employed as a Pilot in 1881 and can be found on that year’s Census onboard the Pilot Cutter Granville in Dover’s Granville Dock. He was in financial straits again.

Come October 1882 their ‘Household Furniture and Effects’ were seized and put up for auction under a Bill if Sale. It seems that either Edward or Mary Jane had taken on another loan using their furniture as security. So with the loan not being paid back, the unknown lender claimed what was now his property to recoup his losses. 

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury – Saturday 14 October 1882

None Payment of Rates

In May 1880 the Liberal MP Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen was elevated to the peerage and as such could no longer sit as an MP in the House of Commons. This generated a bi-election with the two political parties, the Liberals and the Tories spending vast amounts of money buying votes. Such was the fraud committed that in 1882 a Select Committee Inquiry was ordered in which almost all the adult male population of the town were, having taken bribes, called to give evidence. Edward was one of the few men who did not participate or, at least he was not recorded as taking a bribe. A Parliamentary Select Committee was set up to look into this massive fraud case and two men including a local solicitor James Edward Barber was sent to prison. The following year the Collector of the poor rates issued summonses to those who refused to pay the rate in connection with the expenses of the Bribery Commission. Edward’s solicitor appeared on his behalf when he was summoned and asked for an adjournment in consequence of him being away at sea. We assume that he did pay on his return but for those who did not an order was made to seize their goods to the value of what was owed. 

School non Attendance

The following year Edward is yet again in front of the magistrates. This time for not sending three of his children to school. His case was dismissed after he told the court that until a short time ago he had employed a schoolmistress but since then “… he and his wife, who had been a schoolmistress, had educated them…” However he had “…now made arrangements to send them to a private school next week…” Was this the case or not – we can find no evidence to say either way? Was Edward taking chances again?

Summonses for non payments

More loans were taken out, and monthly payments not met so Edward was summoned to court, yet again. This time owing money to E Terry, this is probably actually Samuel Terry, the Beer Retailer and market Gardener running the Yew Tree on Mill Hill; Henry Elliot a Grocer on Broad Street; George Thomas Ovenden a Cinque Ports Pilot. Edward appealed to the judge stating that he had nine children and a wife to support and that the payments as ordered were more than he earned. The Judge asked him what he could offer by way of payment to which Edward replied he could pay one half. Mr. Ovenden was not happy with this saying “…you didn’t tell me this when you had my money. You have paid £4 10s in four months…” Edward responded “…I have done what I could…”. The Judge though sided with Edward and felt his offer was fair knowing it was “…no use ordering more than could be obtained…” So a new order was made so that the monthly payments to Mr. Ovenden was 30s, Mr Ellott was £1, and Mr Terry 10s.

Mr. Ovenden still was not happy so he threw the paper across the table and refused to pay the Hearing Fee. The Judge though gave him time to cool off thinking “… a seafaring man should have an hour to recover his temper. If he does not pay within that time strike out his summons…” Which perhaps means that Mr Ovenden’s case for this summons would be cancelled

The following year Edward was again summoned this time by A. C. Woodruff, agent for George William Chitty the flour mill owner, for non repayment. Chitty’s mill and house were just up the road from Edward. He said he knew that Edward earned between two or three hundred pounds a year so was in a position to pay. Edward may have avoided being sent to gaol as he was given 21 days to pay.

By June 1884 it appears things had not improved and yet again Edward was summoned for three more judgements of non-payment made against him. He owed Mr Baker £3.10s, it’s not clear though who Mr. Baker was but he could have been Richard Baker the Bootmaker,  to draper John Pittock he owed £1. 9s and he still owed George Ovenden £14 16s. Obviously George Ovenden was not happy and in court stated that Edwards earnings were much the same as his, which was about £25 a month, so he knew Edward could pay his monthly instalments. The judge ruled that if the instalments were not paid then Edward was to receive 28 days for each instalment not paid. He was though given a fortnight in which to pay the first instalment. The repayments for George Ovendens was set at £3 every 28 days.

On this very same day Edward was being sued for one year’s rent and damages to 7 Wellington Terrace where the family had lived for eight years. The Deal and Dover Railway Company, who had recently purchased the property, which was in a poor state of repair, made an agreement with Edward, as the sitting tenant, to repair the property forwarding him £16. In April, when Edward and his family left the property Mr. Usher the Borough Surveyor and auctioneer ordered a survey to be made which showed the property was in a very poor state “…and was in fact a perfect wreck…”  Edward thought the house ”… was in no worse state than could be expected from fair wear and tear especially from children…”  At which point Edward asked for an adjournment so he could provide evidence to prove the repair work he had done. The judge refused and ordered that Edward pay the £32 13s 6d at £1 a week for the £25 rent and the damage caused. 

In March 1885 John Pittock was still trying to retrieve his money from Edward. A default of non payment to one of his instalments must have been made as when Mr Pittock applied for a judgement to be made against Edward he was at that time in gaol, probably in Canterbury. Edward now being at liberty meant Mr Pittock, having not received his money wanted Edward recommitted, as he knew that on top of his usual earnings he’d recently earnt £20 so could pay his instalment. Edward was duly committed for fourteen days, though if he served we don’t know as he was given a fortnight to pay.

‘Subject to Illusage’

Perhaps being chased for his debts, regularly being summoned to court and being sent to gaol, took its toll on Edward who in turn took it out on Mary Jane. So much so that also in March 1885 he was summoned for beating her; he of course pleaded not guilty. Mr. Taylor, of Hall and Taylor solicitors, referred to two recent assaults, the first in February when Edward had threatened to murder his wife, the other when he hit her with a boot. The previous month a summons had been taken out but it had not been issued as it appears that Edward persuaded her against it and gave promises of good conduct to the court which he then failed to comply with. Mr. Taylor stated that the couple had lived together for twenty years during which time Mary Jane had been “…subject to illusage…” which they had tried to keep from the public notice for the  sake of the children. However Edward’s conduct was well known in the town so Mary Jane was now, yet again, applying for an order of separation for which Edward was “…only too pleased to do so…” and agreed to pay Mary Jane 35s a week for the maintenance of her and the children.

Edward’s money problems continued. By October a Petition was again filed at Canterbury’s Court of Bankruptcy and the first meeting to discuss his case was held soon after, followed by an order for Edward to attend a Public Examination on November 13th 1885. 

Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers’ Gazette – Saturday 09 January 1886

In January Edward was in court to hear what judgement would be made against him and where yet again he blamed Mary Jane for his problems. He was by then £105. 15s 3d in debt but with £38 worth of assets to his name he obviously couldn’t repay what he owed. He went on to say that Mary Jane had run up a further debt of £5 and had sold all her furniture while he was at sea. The judge weighing up all the evidence declared he had passed the examination and was now a bankrupt.

A Sad Ending

He was by now an ill man; he had, prior to this court appearance, been in hospital for five weeks.

What this last separation order entailed we don’t know but it seems that Edward was to hand over the maintenance money directly to Mary Jane. Maybe for cheaper lodgings or simply to get some space away from Edward  Mary Jane left Deal with her children and settled in Ripple. From March, when the separation order was given, Edward was to have paid 35s a week but when he fell on hard times Mary Jane agreed for a temporary reduction and since July he had paid her 30s a week. With the balance still owing.

Attacked in Ripple

Perhaps with their parents being in the newspapers so often, and at continuous odds with each other, the children became a target for other children as in June 1886 the Blown children are in the newspapers. We know that Mary Jane and her children continued to live in Ripple and the older children went to school though which school we don’t know. On returning home from school Lavinia, aged about fourteen, and Bertha, aged twelve, were attacked and beaten by a young man named Thomas Atkins. Thomas, apparently standing in the middle of the road, refused to let them pass so pushed Bertha to the ground and attacked Lydia. Eleven year old Francis was with them so he ran to the nearby farm for help. On returning, with the requested help, Thomas ran away. Mary Jane asked for a summons against Thomas who was ordered to pay 15s and 6s costs.

One evening in early November, after being at sea for ten days, Edward arranged to meet Mary Jane at the station to hand over the maintenance. However he only gave her a sovereign but requested her to go to his lodgings the next day at 12. This she did but arrived at 2. On entering his lodgings he asked her to take off her bonnet and sit down which she said she did not want to do. On asking for the remaining sum Edward said if  she gave him a receipt he would give her the owing £3. Mary Jane refused. Edward responded saying he would not give her a half penny until she did so. At which point, he says, she struck him, hitting him just above his eye.  Mary Jane’s version is that he pushed her violently, slamming her several times against the wall, saying he would not give her a farthing! Perhaps his anger had gradually simmered and boiled over when she arrived two hours late, especially as he had prepared and laid out what he described as a “…substantial dinner…” for her and the children.

After being hit by Mary Jane, Edward went to find Sergeant Annal he said to “…prevent a breach of the peace…”  By the time the two men returned to the lodgings Mary Jane and the children had gone.
That evening though Edward it seems did send the £3 to Mary Jane who still refused to give him a receipt. Then on that same evening Mary Jane turned up at his lodgings to ask if he could loan her an overcoat. Edward was not at home but a young, unnamed boy gave her one. She left a message that she had taken out a summons so that in future he was to pay her by a third party. Sergeant Annal, when called to give his evidence, corroborated all he saw and heard but the court, though sorry about the incident, decided to dismiss the case.

 A Sad End

At 186 Middle Street, the home of fellow pilot and perhaps friend, Alexander Riley and his wife Elizabeth, Edward died suddenly. The cause of his death was Epilepsy and Pulmonary Congestion. What had caused the epilepsy which probably led to the congestion and so his death is not known. 

186 Middle Street no longer exists and is part of the Middle Street Car Park

Edward’s appearances in the newspapers did not end though, with his death being announced. It ended in a slightly farcical way. The newspaper reporter said he died suddenly.  Then on Thursday 10th the clergyman having arrived at Hamilton Road Cemetery to perform the funeral found that no grave had been dug! He quickly went to intercept the funeral party. What their reaction was to this news we don’t know but it appears they were happy for the service to go ahead and for the burial, once the grave had been dug, to be carried out in the presence of the clergyman. It seems that instruction to dig the grave had not been delivered to the Sexton, Mr Denne,  but mistakenly to the clergyman’s house instead.
Edward was finally laid to rest the next day on Friday 11 October. He was just 47 years old.
His death left Mary Jane with no means of support for herself and her children, the youngest of whom was just eight years old. So she found herself in Ashford working as the housekeeper for widower Gibson Constant. At the time the 1891 census was taken, her sixteen year old son Francis was also with her.
Sadly though she too was ill. At some point she left her employers house and moved to a lodging house run by widow Jane Howland. Whether the women knew each other is not known but Jane at one time lived with her parents on Beach Street, Deal where her father was a Brazier and Tin-man. Jane then married another Brazier and Tinman, Charles Howland in 1844 before the couple moved to Ashford. When Charles died Jane opened up a lodging house at 25 Queen Street about ten minutes away from Mary Jane’s employer, Gibson Constant, in East Street.Gibson was also a Tinman by trade.
Mary Jane died of cancer on January 21 1892 at 25 Queen Street she was 48 years old. 

What Happened to her children?

Charles Edward Gillman Blown who was born in Dover in 1867 and baptised in Swansea in September 1867 possibly soon after his parents moved there, married Elizabeth Watt in 1905 in Hartlepool. Two years later their only child, Charles Edward Oliver, was born. Tragedy first struck this Blown family in 1923 when Elizabeth died. Then again in 1927 when Charles Edward himself was drowned after he was washed overboard the Steamship, Port Curno, on which he was sailing as Chief Steward. The ship was sailing back from Mexico when the sad incident occurred. We feel this was an isolated accident as no other losses were reported. 

Sydney Arthur Blown was born in Swansea in 1868 and later married Florence Jane Packman in Whitstable in 1895. Sydney, like his brother and forefathers, was also a mariner, sailing as far as New South Wales, Australia. However in 1901 he fell ill and died of Enteric Fever and exhaustion in Deneside Hospital Great Yarmouth, leaving Florence with two sons under five years old to care for.

Eugenie Maud Blown, who was the babe in arms with her two elder brothers who would have witnessed, but thankfully too young to remember their fathers attack on their Grandmother in 1871. In 1891 she dropped her given name of Eugenie, replacing it with Maud and was to be found living with her ‘husband’ Frederick Champion and their baby daughter Florence, in Cheriton. Frederick was a Fish Salesman. To make ends meet they had taken in lodgers and also Maud’s younger fourteen year old sister, Minnie. By 1911 the couple, still in Cheriton where Frederick is now a Greengrocer, had seven children living with them. Maud continues to live in the area but Fredrick disappears from the records until in 1951 the couple, both in their eighties, actually marry! Frederick died in 1955 aged ninety-two and Maud aged in 1959 eighty-nine.

Sarah Lavinia Blown, the child born after the ‘Unhappy Family’ court case, had, after her father’s death, found employment in Croydon as a Nursemaid. In 1892 she married an Ashford, Railway Porter William John Eady. By 1901 the couple with his children from his first marriage were living in Southwark But then Sarah, or Lavinia as she was also known, disappears from the records and her husband appears to marry again in 1903!! But what happened to Sarah Lavinia?

Bertha Cecilia Blown, aged about fourteen when her father died, went to live with her mother’s brother, James William Gillman, and his family in Hougham. Sometime before 1900 she had met and married German born Adolph Hoffman, a Barber’s assistant. Her address at marriage was 42 Sloan Street, Chelsea which was the residence of Dressmakers Mr & Mrs Goy. So it seems she may have found a position perhaps as a housemaid or even as a dressmaker’s assistant. Her sister Lavinia and brother-in-law William Eady were both witnesses to the marriage. The couple then moved to Vauxhall Bridge Road. By 1904 Bertha had had three daughters and with Adolph nowhere to be seen she found herself in Hackney Workhouse. She gave her occupation as a nurse so at some point she may have had employment. How long Bertha and the girls remained in the Workhouse we don’t know, nor do we know what happened to them once they were discharged. What is clear though is that Adolph had at some point before his family’s admittance to the workhouse he had left to emigrate to Australia. We also know that Bertha and her daughters in 1910 followed him out there. The earliest records we have for them being a family again is in the 1914 electoral registers for Kingaroy Queensland.
Sadly this was not a happy ending or even beginning for the family. In 1916 Adolph was accused of ‘unlawfully killing’ the editor of the Kingaroy Herald. The newspaper had hinted at Adolph handing out anti-conscription literature. They met and came to blows which led to the death of the editor and Adolph’s arrest. Though he was later acquitted. Ten years later though he is in trouble again. This time he appears in the Police Gazette accused of abducting a fourteen year old girl, named Mable; he was then fifty years old!! In 1927, the couple had a daughter; two years later they married. Adolph died in 1932.
Quite when Bertha  and Adolph separated and divorced is not clear but by 1929 she too had remarried to William Deane. Bertha died in June 1957 in Sydney hopefully after leading a much happier life.

Francis Edward Blown was visiting his mother in 1891 just before her death. By 1898 he had moved to Hartlepool where he met and married his wife Sarah Mead. When the 1901 census was taken he appears to be at sea and in 1911 he says he was a Fish Dealer. The following year he found himself onboard the Steamship Florence as a Chief Steward sailing to Canada. On the return journey, laden with apples and lumber, Florence encountered a blizzard and a storm described as a hurricane. This pushed the vessel on to the rockbound coast of Newfoundland. This area of coast was uninhabited and many of the crew lashed themselves to the rigging or tried to climb the sheer cliffs. Sadly Francis was one of the twenty two who lost their lives that day, December 20 1912. News would have eventually reached Sarah and a year later she put a memorial i the newspaper to ‘Frank’ her husband.

Minnie Laura Blown, as we have said, went to live with her sister, Eugenie Maud, and her family when their father died. There she met Peter Hannan, a Groom; they married in 1898 and set up home in Cheriton. Interestingly she did not name Edward James as her father on the marriage register but her brother Charles Edward!! Whether they knew at the time that Minnie had a heart condition or not we don’t know, but on 24 June 1901 she died of heart failure. She was just twenty-three years old.

Hilda Annie  was the only child of Mary Jane and Edward who did not survive to adulthood. While living at 7 Wellington Terrace on November 19 1880, aged two years old, she died of Effusion on the Brain and Bronchitis.

Oliver Cromton Blown, aged just eight when his father died, was sent to the Merchant Seaman’s Orphans Asylum in West Ham. Imagine how he must have felt on seeing and entering for the first time this vast building with its approximate two hundred boys and girls. Deal, and especially Ripple, were small places where the largest buildings he would have seen were perhaps the local churches or Manor houses. What must he have felt first losing his father then leaving behind his family and all he had known, then to lose his mother too!
In 1895 Oliver left the asylum and was apprenticed to the Merchant Navy for four years. This was to be the start of a long and successful career in the Merchant Navy.  When the 1901 census was taken he was serving, as a Mate, onboard the sailing ship William Cundall in Dover’s Wellington Dock. He was to sail on many other vessels to the USA, Canada, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Australia. It was in China or Hong Kong that he met his wife Helen Barbara Sweetingham, nee Somme, marrying on June 5 1918 in Hong Kong. Oliver, like his sister Minnie, did not name Edward James as his father on his marriage certificate but Charles Edward! Although Helen wasn’t actually widowed until April 1918 she and Oliver appear to have one if not two sons Philip and Geoffrey who were both born in China and as such this relationship was known to Helen’s husband, Arthur William Sweetingham.

The Sydney Morning Herald – Aug 8, 1954

Oliver continued his career in the Merchant Navy retiring in around 1950 when the couple moved to Chatswood in New South Wales, Australia. By now Philip, who had taken his father’s ‘Blown’ surname, was a sky pilot captaining British Skymaster airliners between Hong Kong and Singapore. In July 1954 while on a routine flight his aircraft was shot down by two unidentified aircraft; later it was reported they were from Communist China. Philip survived and his photo was printed alongside the newspaper report into the incident.

A Happier Ending
Bertha read of this but her attention was really caught by seeing her maiden name in print and the remarkable family likeness.  With the help of a friend she managed to contact Philip who told her that his father was Oliver Crompton Blown and that he was living just across the bay from her in Chatsworth. A few days later brother and sister met for the first time in over sixty years.
Bertha had by then been widowed for fifteen years and had lost touch with the rest of the Blown family. On their first meeting they shed some tears, at least after all the ‘unhappiness’ this family had gone though they were tears of joy.

As we have already said Bertha died in 1957; Oliver may have attended her funeral but he departed Australia, leaving his wife in Chatsworth, sailing for England in November that year. He was not to return; he died aged eighty one in the Bridge registration district of Kent in 1961.

Name Born Baptised Married Died Buried
Mary Jane Lawrence Gillman April 20 1843
Dolphin Street, Deal
May 25 1843
St. Leonard’s Church
Edward James Blown
July 21 1866
St. George the Martyr’s Church, LondonBorn 1842
Died 1888
January 25 1892
29 Queen Street, Ashford


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1871 20 Water Street, Deal Charles Brown Gillman Head Cinque Ports Pilot
Sarah Wife
Arthur J Son Scholar
Mary Jane Daughter
Charles Edward Grandson
Sydney Arthur Grandson
Eugenie Maud Grand daughter


Edward James aboard the Pilot Cutter Granville, Granville Dock, Dover.

Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1881 7 Wellington Terrace, Deal Mary Jane Head Trinity Pilot’s Wife
Edward Charles Son Scholar
Sydney Arthur Son Scholar
Eugenie Maud Daughter Scholar
Lavinia Sarah Daughter Scholar
Bertha Cecilia Daughter Scholar
Francis Edward Son Scholar
Minnie Laura Daughter Scholar
Oliver Crompton Son
Harriet Wilson Servant General Domestic Servant


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1891 18 West Street, Ashford, Kent Gibson Constant Head Tinman
Louisa Daughter Scholar
Ellen Gertrude Danghter Scholar
Mary Jane Blown Visitor Housekeeper
Francis Blown Visitor
Sources and further reading:
Misdemeanours in the Downs by Andrew Sargent
A History of Deal by John Laker
The Last of the Luggers and the men who Sailed in Them by EC Pain
Trinity Pilots chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/
Encyclopaedia Britannica
OS map 1871
Newspaper image © The British Library Board. All rights reserved. With thanks to The British Newspaper Archive (