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Author Colin Ridgers                                    Copyright 2002

Research                                                            Colin & Heather Ridgers

 

A HISTORY OF THE RIDGERS FAMILY 1800 - 1987

 

Are you sitting comfortably ? - then let us begin.

 

 

To put the beginning of this narrative into perspective consider the year 1800.  I realise that you cannot remember that far back, but try and imagine the turmoil on both sides of the English Channel after the French revolution, as this part of the history commences only eight years after the fall of the Bastille.  Lord Nelson was but a newly promoted admiral and still five years away from his fatal appointment at Cape Trafalgar - and mad George III sat on the throne of England.

 

Into this scene was born in 1801 a JOHN RIDGERS (J1), the son of GEORGE BUDD (see page 3).  The complete records of his birth still remain a mystery, some records indicate that he was born in Hampshire whilst others indicate that he was born in another county, probably Berkshire.  What is known, however is that in 1824 he married HANNAH ETHERINGTON at the small parish church of Yateley in northern Hampshire.  Considering the times the young couple showed considerable restraint as their first child, HANNAH (Hl) was not born until 1827.  There were no known children before this date and even the birth of HANNAH has something of a mystery about it.  The census of 1841 (Page 8) shows that both HANNAH the mother and HANNAH the daughter were born outside the county of Hampshire, maybe HANNAH went back to her parents to have her first child, only further research will reveal that answer.

 

The next addition to the family was that of WILLIAM (W1), born 1829 and baptized at Yateley on 22 March 1829, when JOHN'S (Jl) occupation was listed as that of a "Labourer".  Unfortunately, no address was recorded at the time of the baptism.

 

Now that four members of the family have been established and before any more characters appear to spread the name even wider, a mention of the area of northern Hampshire which saw the arrival and departure, of many of our forebears.

 

Situated only five miles west of Camberley and facing Sandhurst across the Blackwater River, which forms the natural boundary between Berkshire and Hampshire, Yateley is neatly bisected by what is now the A327 (see page 4).  However, looking at the a map of 1850 (see page 5) the view that JOHN and his family had of the area and its surroundings was very different to that of today.

 

The origins of the area go back to earlier than even the Doomsday Book, as recorded in that historic volume concerning Yateley are "14 farms, a mill and a church".  Most of the farms can still be traced and later during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) he of the battle of Crecy fare, Yateley formed part of the Royal Forest of Eversley which extended to Windsor park and south to Hackwood park.

 

The family too as well as the area have merited a mention and the name appears in several documents.  In 1568 a RIDGES (sic) was present in Yateley, according the "A History of Crondall and Yateley" by the Reverend Charles Drummond Stocks.  The Reverend quotes Yateley as a parish of farmers and mentions another RIDGERS in 1740; he also talks of a “JP STILLWELL Esq” who was a benefactor of the Yateley Church, the origins of which date back to Saxon times. Maybe the spirit of this deceased benefactor was watching on the morning of 5 May 1979 when the church was badly burnt - but more of JP STILLWELL Esq later.  Given JOHN's background and his employment as a farm labourer he was probably totally unaware of the history that surrounded him.

 

Returning to our ancestors though, JOHN and HANNAH were blessed with another offspring in 1831, named ELIZABETH (E1) but known later as BETSY.  She was baptized on 10 April 1831 when JOHN's occupation was still shown as a "Labourer".

 

From 1 July 1837 all births, deaths and marriages were supposed to be registered and thus now available from St Catherine's House in London.  The 1841 census, the first for which records are available, lists the householders name, his dependents - but the actual relationships are not shown.  The exact address is rarely ,given - only the name of the street.  Ages exact for children up to 14, thereafter in five year groups, eg 15=15-19, 20=20-25 etc.  The occupation if given, but not the exact place of birth, only "whether or not born in the same county", indicated by a "Y" or “N”.

 

Bearing in mind that children left home at a far younger age in these times WILLIAM (W1), the eldest son, was no exception.  He was 12 years old in 1841, but his name does not appear on the records for either 1841 or 1351.  That is to say the records as far as Yateley are concerned, no doubt he features somewhere amongst

 

the census returns.  The great cholera epidemic of 1832 that killed thousands throughout the country passed JOHN and his family without stopping, or this story may never have cause to be written.

 

The birth of GEORGE (G1)  in 1833 was testimony to the fact that JOHN and HANNAH had settled down, at least for the time being. GEORGE was born in Yateley and at the baptism JOHN's occupation was still that of 'Labourer’.  But by the time 1836 had arrived the couple had moved across into the county of Berkshire as on 29 February of that year a daughter, ALICE (A1) was born. The 1841 census (see page 8) shows her birth place as Sandhurst and she was also baptized there on 27 March the same year.

 

It in interesting to note how the surname and one Christian name, that of ALICE, have been misspelt in the census return of 1841. The enumerators of that time were under great pressure to complete the returns in the shortest time possible. As the detail of each house had to be hand written, and not in biro either the enumerator can be forgiven for making the small errors that he did.  Those errors that have emerged were more likely the result of JOHN's inaccurate information than the enumerator. The return does illustrate however, how a surname can be recorder incorrectly on even the most official of forms.

 

At some time during the next two years after the birth of ALICE (A1) the now enlarged family returned to Yateley as in 1838 another son, JAMES (J1) was born.  He was baptized on 15 July 1838. A further son, ISAAC (I1) was born on 2 September 1840 and baptized on 10 September that year (see page 9).  HANNAH had obviously not mastered the art of writing but JOHN had now become an "Agricultural Labourer".  Regretfully, little ISAAC did not survive and died later that month.

 

The last child born to JOHN and HANNAH named CHARLES (C1) was born in Yateley and "privately received" into the Church, so the baptismal register shows on 18 June 1842.

 

By the time that I had reached this point in my research each individual was beginning to take on a personage of his or her own and was ceasing to be just a name on a piece of paper.  The image that I have of JOHN is of a well-built, ruddy faced man, some 5 feet 7 inches (1.7 metres) tall and possessed of a good appetite.  You might well consider that my imagination has become somewhat overtaxed and that my mental picture of JOHN is purely fictional.  Later I will prove otherwise.

 

Nothing more is known, at present, of JOHN, HANNAH and the family until 1848, when on 2 August tragedy struck when HANNAH died (see page 10). She was 45 years old, had born eight children and had finally succumbed to "Phtisis pnmocosis” - tuberculosis.  ELIZABETH, now known as BETSY reported her mother's death and left her mark on the actual death entry.  Not an unusual occurrence for a person not to be able to write his or her name in those days, despite the fact that Yateley had its own school, built in 1834 for the monumental sum of Ł247.  Having its own school could well be an indication of the status of Yateley and the fact that there must have been sufficient children of an educational age in the surrounding area to warrant the cost of the school.

 

JOHN was now faced with a problem that his son GEORGE (G1) was also to encounter several years later - a motherless family.  JOHN solved the matter by the simple expedient of marrying again (see page 3).  In June 1849 he married MARY WHITE. A widow herself MARY was born in 1807 and had three children of her own; Jane, born 1841 ; Thomas, born in 1845 and Eliza, born in 1846.  Naturally MARY changed her surname when she married, but as the 1851 census (see page 2) shows her children retained the own surname.  It is the marriage certificate on page 3 that gives the clue to JOHN's parentage.  His father is shown as one "GEORGE BUDD" Labourer - but the precise details of his birth still await discovery.

 

The 1851 census also sheds a little more light on JOHN himself.  According to this census he was still not too sure of either where he was born or how old he was.  ELIZABETH had now left home and JOHN himself was still shown as an "Agricultural Labourer" and living at Cricket Hill.  Although not marked on the map of 1850 (see page 5) it is marked on the modern map (see page 4)GEORGE (G1), JOHN's eldest son is now 18 years old although not living with the family was working in Cricket Hill so not far away.

 

The year of 1851 was marked in history by the Great Exhibition, the brain child of Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria.  Some historians consider that 1851 marked the end of the early Victorian age, an age that had already seen the beginning of a great urban migration to the growing industrial centres, especially in the north of England.  The population of London was increasing at an alarming rate and by 1901 would have more than doubled its 1841 figure of 2 million.  The old London, now rapidly becoming encircled with ring after ring of suburbs, now depended upon the commuter services provided by horse-buses, trams and the railway.

 

One facet of this mid Victorian era that had a very wide ranging effect on both the natural resources and the population itself was an increased life expectation.  Such life expectancy having a slightly cruel twist to the last few years of JOHN's life, as will be seen later.

 

A further decade passed in the household.  At the time of the 1861 census JOHN was 57 years old (see page 13), but his occupation was now that of "Butcher" and living in Mill Lane in Yateley.  CHARLES, the youngest son was employed as a servant to one Charles Ellis of Yateley Green.  GEORGE had by this time left home and was living in Sussex, but more of him later.

 

JOHN and MARY had by now the twilight of their years before them.  Their respective children were virtually grown up and on the verge of leaving home.  The two elderly Victorians could now enjoy their life, such as it was.  Fate however, was not to give either the time to contemplate the evening of their lives, as in the autumn of 1869 MARY died.

 

Some time during the period between MARY's death and the recording of the 1871 census JOHN moved to Lindrage Warren in Eversley, a small village not far from Yateley.  At the time of the 1871 census, ALICE, still unmarried and CHARLES, also unmarried had both moved back with their father.  CHARLES had left his former employ with Charles Ellis and returned to the land.  But another generation had by now appeared on the scene, in the shape of

 

 

ELIZA (E2), aged three and born in Sussex - but  more of that generation later.

 

At the time of the 1871 census JOHN was 70 years of age (see page 15), a respectable age for the Victorian era, but not so old though as he married again in 1872 (?) and actually sired another child in 1873 (?), although I know nothing more about the child than it did exist, not even its sex.  MARTHA (M2) was the name of his third wife, but again I know no more about her than her name.

 

JOHN's state of mind was now degenerating rapidly, to such an extent that by the autumn of 1877 he was not able to remain at home any longer.  He was committed to Fareham Lunatic Asylum, now known as Knowle Hospital, north of Fareham in Hampshire.

 

MAIN ENTRANCE OF KNOWLE HOSPITAL  <pic>

 

 

 

The worthy citizen of Yateley who finally caused JOHN to be sent to the asylum was none other than JP -Stillwell Esq, the former benefactor of Yateley Church, who found our elderly ancestor wandering near his lodge gate, (see pages 16 & 17).  The details on JOHN's admission sheet to the asylum provided me with my mental picture of him, which is the nearest we can ever get to an actual photograph.  It is somewhat reassuring to read the final comment of the admission sheet - "No insanity in the family".

 

Knowle Hospital lies amidst the rolling fields and downs of southern Hampshire in very pleasant surroundings.  A typical Victorian hospital whose imposing brick towers, built by Russian prisoners during the Crimean War, survey the surrounding fields.

 

JOHN's stay in the hospital was fated not to last.  He died on 23 December 1877 of "General debility and old age” and was buried in plot 1086 in the small cemetery on 30 December 1877.  His final resting place, alongside both staff and inmates is now covered in grass and brambles. The cemetery was used until the 1960s after

which the vegetation began its invasion of the last resting place of both the sane and insane.

 

So passed (see page 18) a character of the Victorian age who in his day certainly helped the Ridgers family to widen its horizon by the simple expedient of being the father of so many offspring.

 

ABSTRACT OF AN ENTRY INTO THE COUNTY ASYLUM,- FAREHAM HAMPSHIRE

No. in Register 4040 Date of Admission into Asylum September 5th 1877

Name of Patient............................................................. JOHN RIDGERS

Sex and Age .................................................................  Male    76

Parish to which the Lunatic is chargeable.................... Hartley Wintney Union, Parish of Eversley

Nearest Relative ...........................................................  Martha Ridgers, his wife, Eversley,

                                                                                          Winchfield, Hants

 

Married, Single or Widowed ........................................  Married

 

Occupation (if any)  ......................................................  Labourer and Pig Butcher

Religious Persuasion ...................................................  Church of England

Previous Place of Abode .............................................  Eversley

Whether first attack ......................................................  Yes

Age on first attack  ........................................................  76

 

When and where previously under care and treatment          Not

Duration of existing attack  ...........................................  Three months

Supposed cause  .........................................................  Unknown

 

Whether subject to Epilepsy  ......................................  No

Whether Suicidal ..........................................................  Doubtful

Whether dangerous to others  .....................................  No

 

 

Facts indicating insanity observed by Medical man certifying:-

 

"Loss of memory.  On being asked to state his age, he declared that his age was 46, when properly speaking he is 76 years of age.  He at times has a vacant fidgety manner, as if he did act know quite where he was".

T.J. BIDDLE MRCS LSA

 

 

Other facts indication insanity communicated to him by others:-

"He has lately taken to wandering from home, not knowing where he is going to, Mr STILLWELL of Yateley found him at his Lodge gate where he had been for two days I am told when asked what he was doing there he said he was mending the gate by order.  He was four miles from his own home.  He is not fit to be left alone.  Names of Informants - JP STILLWELL Esq Yateley through the Sergeant of Police

 

State of Patient of Admission                        

Head ...................................  Cool

Expression .........................  Vacant

Motion  ...............................  Rather feeble

Propensities ...................... )

Conduct  ............................ ) Harmless

Form of Mental disorder ...  Dementia (Fatuity) 

Probable cause ................. Old age

Percussion .........................  Height 5ft 7 ins

 

General Health           Feeble

Tongue ...............................  Red, moist

Pulse  .................................  84

Appetite .............................  Good

Secretions  ........................ Regular

 

Has been gradually getting more lost in his mind for the last three months and is unable to tell his own age. Says he is 37 and that his wife is the same, his youngest child being 3 years and 1 month the real ages being respectively 76, 46 and 4 years. He wanders away from home. No insanity in the family.