The marriage of Francis Houchen and Matilda Dey at the Church of St James Great Ellingham on 5th January 1843, joined together two long- established families of the village of Great Ellingham.
The name Houchen (also found as Howchin, Houchin) appears in the Great Ellingham parish registers from at least 1698 although no entries appear in the Baptism or Burial Registers for Houchen (and variants of the name) after *1925.
The name Dey (or Dye), appear in the parish registers from at least 1757. I have not found any Dey (or Dye) entries in the Baptism or Burial Registers after *1906
Francis Houchen and Matilda Dey
Bachelor Francis Houchen was the son of the local thatcher, Christopher Houchen, and his wife Mary. At the time of the marriage, Francis was around 23 years of age.
Matilda Dey was also single and was similar in age to Francis. Her parents were Richard and Mary Dey.
Francis and Matilda were baptised in the local church within six months of each other: Francis was baptised on March 23rd 1820 and Matilda on September 10th. They may well have known each other from childhood.
At the time of the 1851 census, Francis, Matilda and their three children, Sarah Ann (6), James (5) and Jane (3) were living in Bow Street. Francis had been living with his parents in Bow Street in 1841. By 1861, the family had moved to Long Street (North side) and the family included another son William (then aged 4).
Francis Houchen: Labourer to Thatcher to Farmer
The marriage entry for Francis and Matilda describes Francis as a labourer. Indeed, the baptism entries for three of the children also describe Francis as a labourer.
In the 1861 census, Francis describes himself as a thatcher. By the time of the census of 1871, Francis (still living in Long Street) is a farmer of 59 acres employing one labourer and two boys. Ten years later in 1881 (and still living in Long Street), Francis is farming 76 acres and now employing two labourers and one boy. Son William – then aged 34 – is living with his parents.
Death of Francis Houchen
Francis Houchen died in November 1890. A burial entry for 70 year old Francis Howchen appears in the Great Ellingham Burial Register for 27th November 1890.
Widow Matilda Houchen
After her husband’s death, Matilda lived with her son James (a carpenter) and his wife Hannah and their children in Long Street. Matilda Houchen was buried in the churchyard of St James on 14 December 1901 aged 80 years.
What became of the children of Francis and Matilda?
Sarah Ann Houchen
Eldest daughter Sarah Ann remained single and died at the age of 30 years. There is a headstone in the churchyard of St James which confirms that Sarah Ann died on October 23rd 1874.
Son James and his wife Hannah were still living in Long Street in 1911. James died at the end of December 1916 and was buried in the churchyard of St James on January 3rd 1917. The burial entry gives his age as 70 years.
Jane Houchen never married. In 1911, Jane is also living in Long Street and the census shows that Jane is living on her own means. Jane was also buried in the churchyard of St James. The inscription on her headstone reveals that Jane died on January 19th 1925.
Finally, Francis and Matilda’s youngest son William married local girl Emily Rivett (daughter of Jonathan Rivett). The census of 1901 finds William, Emily and their children living in Reymerston – a village some 6 miles from Great Ellingham. The marriage of William and Emily once again joined together two long-established families of the village – Houchen and Rivett
*Burial records checked to 1957
*Baptism records checked to 1938
Great Ellingham Parish Registers Norfolk Record Office PD/609. Also available at FamilySearch.org https://www.familysearch.org/search/image/index?owc=4J8C-CB7%3A29627201%3Fcc%3D1416598
1911 census RG14/11473/90, RG14/11473/82
1901 census RG13/1867/69, RG13/1870/12
1891 census RG12/1549/78
1881 census RG11/1974/90
1871 census RG10/1841/91
1861 census RG9/1237/78
1851 census HO107/1823/115
1841 census HO107/781/8