The many parents of Matilda Stoaling

I came across Matilda Stoaling in my Rowe family searches around her mother-in-law Catharine Rowe. Normally when sketching out the story of a distant-in-law I would just make a note of their or their parents’ professions and location and return to the person featured in the blog post, but the myriad of step-parents involved here – and the hardships some of them must have endured – made me want to commemorate them this way.


Parish Church of St Andrew, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

So, to start with Matilda.  She was born c1866 in the old Saxon town of Wiveliscombe, Somerset where her family had lived for at least 2 generations. Wiveliscombe was a market town and when Matilda was growing up there were 3,000 people living there. The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) reported “The town is lighted with gas, and contains a town hall, police station, dispensary, reading-rooms, and branch bank. Here is situated the largest brewery in the W. of England.” and in 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described a weekly market on Tuesday, great markets on the last Tuesday of Feb. and July, and fairs on 12 May and 25 Sept.”

Her father John Stoaling had grown up a pauper – his mother was recorded as a pauper in both the 1841 and 1851 censuses – but by March 1851 he had found employment as an agricultural labourer. In late 1851 he married a widow called Maria.

Maria’s background:

Maria Hall was the daughter of an agricultural labourer called John Hall and was born in Wiveliscombe. She had married Henry Milford in summer 1845, he aged 23 and she 28.  Together they had two daughters, Mary Ann and Sarah Jane, within four years before he died: she was widowed by the March 1851 census.  It appears Sarah Jane was born deaf and dumb, in later life she was referred to as an imbecile.

Maria married John c November 1851. I think that young Mary Ann must have died in childhood; her daughter Sarah lived with them. Maria and John had at least four children together before the 1861 census: Frank, Maria, Mary and Henry.

In April 1861 the family was living next to the Mason’s Arms in Wiveliscombe, and John was working as a brewer’s labourer, maybe in Wiveliscombe’s large brewery. Maria’s 80-year-old agricultural labourer ‘idiotic’ father was living with them, as was her daughter Sarah. In 1866 Maria gave birth to their final known child and my link to this family, Matilda.


Wiveliscombe Primary by Risto Silaste on Flickr, Creative Commons

In April 1871 they were still in the same street, and by then John was working as a travelling hawker. Deaf-and-dumb Sarah Milford was still living with them and working as a charwoman, and they had taken in a couple of lodgers.

Maria died in 1875 when John was 50 years old and young Matilda was just 9.  She was without a mother figure for a couple of years until her father re-married in 1877.

Matilda’s new step-mother was called Eliza and was a widow in her mid-30s with a young daughter of her own when she married John Stoaling.

Eliza’s background

Eliza Heyward had been born in the amazingly-named Huish Champflower in Somerset, England, in autumn 1839. The name of this ancient village comes from a combination of ‘hiwisc’, the Saxon word for homestead, and the name of Thomas de Champflower, a 12C Norman lord of the manor.  It was just under 3 miles from Wivelscombe and stood on the River Tone in an area with many mines owned by the Ebbw Vale Iron Company.

She had an older brother and two sisters, but her agricultural labourer mother Elizabeth was widowed before Eliza was two years old.

Eliza married at the age of 20, in 1860.  Her first husband, John Weech, was a 49-year-old farmer of 8 acres and they lived together in the hamlet of Langley Marsh, a mile north of Wiveliscombe, Somerset where the Norman church was dedicated to St Andrew and the local pub was the Three Horseshoes. John’s 86-year-0ld widowed father Robert Weech, who’d also been a farmer, lived with them. John and Robert had been farming in Langley 20 years before, before John’s mother died, and they’d had then a female servant then called Fanny Reidland.

There was no servant recorded in 1861.  Probably times were hard; after John died in 1969 poor Eliza must have been extremely down on her luck as the 1871 census finds her in Wellington workhouse. Within a few months she became pregnant and had a daughter in spring 1872 whom she named Mary Ellen Weech.

However a few years later at the age of 35 she met John Stoaling and they married in summer 1877.  He too was older than her although records are inconsistent, I think he would have been approx 54 when they married.

John and Eliza’s first child together, a son called Frank, was born in 1879.

Sarah’s story

Deaf-and-dumb Sarah, Matilda’s half sister, had moved out from her stepfather John’s home at some point before the 1881 census.  In that year she was living alone in Wiveliscombe and still working as a charwoman.  By April 1891 she was the general servant of a local woman of independent means called Helen Lutley, a spirit-merchant’s daughter, who also had a long-time servant/cook called Betsy living in the household.

However by March 1901 her circumstances had worsened and I found her living in the Somerset and Bath Asylum where she was recorded as ‘lunatic’.  I can’t help thinking of the difference in the various perceptions of her condition over the years: while some of her more protective family census entries didn’t mention that or her deafness at all, but when she was perhaps more unsettled, for example in the Asylum, she was thought of as a lunatic.  I could not find Sarah in the 1911 census.


Wiveliscombe Church Interior by Robert Cutts on Flickr, Creative Commons

In 1881 John and Eliza were living in Gullet Hill, Wiveliscombe, with John working as a general labourer. John’s daughter Matilda was still living at home, working as a general servant, and Eliza’s scholar daughter Mary Ellen Weech was living there also. John and Eliza’s two-year-old Frank completed the household.  Frank’s younger sister Ada was born c 1882.

In April 1891 Frank and Ada were still living with their parents, now in Church Street in Wiveliscombe, and Matilda, now married was back living with them with her two-year-old son George.

Matilda had married c 1888. Her husband was called George John Miller, the oldest son of my distant cousin Catharine Rowe whom I mentioned at the beginning of this post and Catharine’s husband, a Cornish carpenter also called George John Miller.

John and Eliza had had almost 20 years together by the time John died c early 1895. After his death Eliza went to live with her daughter Mary from her first marriage (1901). Mary had married a domestic coachman called Frederick Bartlett from Chelsea, London, and were living locally with four children: Amy, Frederick and twin boys Henry and Edward.   Mary and Frederick went on to have four more by 1911 – William, Leonard, Ada and Violet, although oldest son Frederick died before the 1911 census.  Eliza died in spring 1904, still within the same registration district [Wellington] in Somerset.

I don’t know where Matilda and George would have met or where they married, but his parents had been working in Glamorgan, South Wales. They were living in the Cardiff area in April 1891 but by November 1891 had moved to Newport, Monmouthshire; they were both still living in Newport in 1939.

Together Matilda and George had 13 children, grimly by 1911 they had lost six of those 13.  The seven I have found were George (1889), Agnes (1891), Alice/May (1896), Catharine (1898), Albert Henry (1902), Hilda Elizabeth (1904) and Frank (1906).

Matilda died in early 1945 at the grand old age of 79, good I think for a woman of such an impoverished upbringing.  George died ten years later in 1955, aged 88.

Text © Lynne Black, 7 February 2016
First published:

Sources: Ancestry, FindMyPast; Genuki; Huish Champflower on Genuki, Vision of Britain and Wikipedia; Wiveliscombe on Genuki, Vision of Britain, Ancestral Histories and Wikipedia.  All accessed 6 February 2016.

9 thoughts on “The many parents of Matilda Stoaling

  1. Pingback: Catharine A S Rowe b1843, mason’s daughter, carpenter’s wife | starryblackness

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s