I am always delighted to hear from descendants of people who once lived in Great Ellingham. An email from Andrea Hunter is no exception.
Andrea kindly sent me a copy of her photograph, the subject of which is believed to be John Lincoln who was born in Great Ellingham in 1839. Andrea descends from John Lincoln’s son, William Mitson Lincoln.
John Lincoln 1839-1913. Photograph courtesy of Andrea Hunter
Who was John Lincoln?
John was born in Great Ellingham in 1839. He was the youngest of nine children of Robert and Esther Lincoln (née Reeder). In 1833, his parents had named an earlier child John. However, the child died two years later in 1835.
What was life like in Great Ellingham at that time?
Just three years before John’s birth, some 81 men, women and children left the village for a new life on the other side of the world, taking advantage of the availability of assisted passage. Some emigrants settled in Canada and others in America.
It was certainly a difficult time for many rural communities including Great Ellingham. Work was scarce and wages low. The widespread uprising by agricultural labourers of c.1830 (the Swing Riots) also affected the village.
At that time, Great Ellingham comprised 2670 acres. The majority of the land was owned by Lord Walsingham, Benjamin Barnard and William Norton. The population in 1831 was 882 but the number decreased to 838 by 1841, which is not surprising with so many villagers emigrating in 1836.
Son of Robert & Esther Lincoln
John’s parents Robert Lincoln and Esther Reeder married in the Parish Church of Great Ellingham on the 24th February, 1823. A daughter of Peter and Hannah Reeder (née Hewitt), Esther was baptised in the same church nearly twenty three years earlier on the 12th March, 1800. The Reeder family had been in Great Ellingham for many generations. Robert Lincoln was born some 20 miles away in Pulham Market.
St James’s Church Great Ellingham
The couple’s first child, a daughter named Susan (or Susannah), was baptised in St James’s Church just three months later on the 20th April, 1823.
Robert and Esther lived in Damgate Street, Wymondham, when their son, Robert, was baptised in the Parish Church at Wymondham on the 3rd April, 1825. Robert Lincoln worked as a brewer.
Seven further children were baptised in St James’s Church, Great Ellingham between 1827 and 1839: Edmund in 1827, James 1828, Elizabeth 1831, John 1833 (died 1835), Hannah 1834, Sarah 1837 and, finally, John 1839.
The census of 1841 captures Robert and Esther Lincoln with seven children (including one year old John), in Great Ellingham. Their home was likely near to the Baptist Church in Long Street. Robert Lincoln is working as an agricultural labourer. The family would have walked on very much same roads in the village as we do today.
Death of Esther Lincoln
John Lincoln was just nine years old when his mother died. 49 year old Esther Lincoln was buried in the churchyard of St James on December 12th, 1848.
The 1851 census find 52 year old widower Robert Lincoln with his daughters – 20 year old Elizabeth and Sarah 14, together with his 11 year old son John, in ‘Pen Hill’, Great Ellingham. The census gives Robert’s occupation as a farm labourer. I suspect that following the death of Esther Lincoln, Elizabeth would have taken over the the running of the house.
By 1861, John Lincoln (now 21), is living with his elder brother Robert and his wife and family in Long Street. Widower Robert Lincoln (now 62), is also with the household. Some 12 years earlier in 1849, Robert Lincoln junior married Ellen (Eleanor) Jessup in Great Ellingham.
John Lincoln marries Elizabeth Gant
On the 22nd October, 1861, John Lincoln married 18 year old Elizabeth Gant in the Parish Church at Attleborough.
Elizabeth (known to the family as Betsy) was born in Halifax, Yorkshire. Her mother died when Betsy was around the age of 3. Her father, William Gant (born in either Weeting or Brandon), sent Betsy, her 5 year old sister Maria and baby brother John, to Norfolk to be cared for. Betsy went to live with William and Susan Mitson in Attleborough, Maria with an aunt, and baby John with his grandmother.
Along with the witnesses, William Mitson and Sarah Ann Denton, Elizabeth signed her name in the church register. John Lincoln put his mark ‘X’. This suggests that John could not read and write (or, that John had limited skills in this regard). Betsy must have had great affection for her foster parents as John and Betsy’s first born son was named William Mitson Lincoln.
Attleborough Parish Church. Postcard BCV
Following their marriage, John and Betsy Lincoln made their home in Great Ellingham. Despite marrying in the Parish Church at Attleborough, the couple transferred their allegiance to the Methodist Church. I found baptisms for six of their nine children in the registers for the Attleborough Wesleyan Methodist Circuit.
Their nine children were born in Great Ellingham between 1862 and 1881: William Mitson in 1862, Maria (Polly) 1864, Harriet 1865, John 1867 (died 1868), James 1868, Susannah 1870, John 1876, Alice Louisa 1879 and Elizabeth in 1881.
The family lived in the Town Green/Long Street area of the village.
Death of Elizabeth Lincoln née Gant
The child is believed to be Lizzie (Elizabeth) Lincoln 1881-1951 with her father John Lincoln 1839-1913. Photograph taken just weeks after the death of John’s wife Elizabeth in 1882. Courtesy of Bryan Dye
When his youngest child, Elizabeth (Lizzie) was only eighteen months old, John Lincoln buried his 39 year old wife in the churchyard of St James, Great Ellingham on the 24th September, 1882. The burden of bringing up the younger members of the family and keeping house for her father, fell upon Susannah, who herself was only 12 years old when her mother died.
Death of Robert Lincoln
John Lincoln buried his 84 year old widowed father, Robert Lincoln, in the same churchyard just under a year later.
Life as a Widower
The census taken some 9 years after the death of Elizabeth Lincoln, finds 50 year old John Lincoln living in Long Street with 20 year old Susanna, John aged 14 and ten year old Elizabeth. Susanna is still keeping house for her father. John Lincoln and his son John are both working as agricultural labourers. Elizabeth is attending school.
Ten years later, John Lincoln is in Town Green. It is quite possible that John Lincoln is living in the same house as he was ten years earlier, as the extent of the area in the village known as Town Green differs from census to census. John’s married daughter, 22 year old Alice Watling, is living with her father along with her 26 year old husband James Watling and their two daughters, Hilda 3 and Sylvia 1. Like his father in law, James Watling is an agricultural labourer.
This household is still in Town Green in 1911. However, since the previous census, James and Alice Watling welcomed a son, John Stanley (aka Stanley John) in 1904.
Death of John Lincoln
A widower for some 30 years, John Lincoln died aged 76 in 1913.
Great Ellingham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 609. Also available via https://www.familysearch.org
Attleborough Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 438. Also available via https://www.familysearch.org
Wymondham Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 184. Also available via https://www.familysearch.org
1841 census HO107/781/8
1851 census HO107/1823/112, HO107/1823/76
1861 census RG9/1237/78, RG9/1237/38
1871 census RG10/1841/76
1881 census RG11/1974/80
1891 census RG12/1549/78
1901 census RG13/1867/70
1911 census RG14/11473/111
My thanks to Andrea Hunter and to Bryan Dye