Saturday, 6 April 2019

The Story of Susannah Lancaster

Now for the story of my paternal Great Great Great Grandmother, Susannah Lancaster  (1813 - 1879).

Susannah was christened on the 1st of April, 1813 in the Parish of Grantham, Lincolnshire, England.  Unfortunately the record of her baptism does not provide the full name of her mother.  Her father was recorded as Charles Lancaster, but her mother's name was simply recorded as Sarah.  This is one of the brick walls I've hit in my family tree research.  I've been unable to get back further on this side of the family tree despite a number of years of research.

Old map showing Manthorpe near the Belton Estate (1856)
My 3x great grandmother Susannah's baptism record does indicate that the family was living in the village of Manthorpe, which was part of the Belton Estate, along with other nearby villages.  In the 1800s, Manthorpe was a relatively small place, mainly consisting of estate worker's cottages with a couple of farms in the village and two or three small outlying farms.
Belton House / Belton Estate

The majority of the population would have worked for the Belton Estate, either in Belton House or the surrounding estate land which covered around 500 hectares.

An interesting side note is that the trade/profession of Susannah's father is listed as 'cordwainer'.  A cordwainer was apparently a shoemaker who made brand new shoes out of new leather, in contrast to a cobbler, who mostly mended shoes!  Susannah's father's clients were most likely the family and staff of Belton House.

Further research has uncovered that there were 13 children in total born to Charles Lancaster and his wife Sarah (Susannah's parents and my 4x great grandparents).  On every single record the parents' names are recorded as Charles and Sarah Lancaster, so that has not been helpful in discovering the maiden name of Susannah's mother.

The story of my 3x great grandmother's siblings goes like this:
Hannah was born in 1797.
Sarah was born in 1799, but died just 3 days after her birth.
Another Sarah was born in 1800.  Sadly she also passed away later in 1814, aged just 14.
Charles was born in 1801.
Mary came along in 1802, but she passed away in 1817, also aged 14.
Ann was born in 1804.
Christopher was born in 1807, but he died in 1810, aged 2.
Edward was born in 1808, but died in 1809.
Another Edward was born in 1810.
Lucy was born in 1811.

My 3x great grandmother Susannah came along in 1813 and at that point, there were 7 siblings still living.

The year after Susannah was born, her older sister Sarah (the 2nd) died at the age of 14.
A third Sarah was born later that same year, in 1814.
William was the last child, born in 1818.

Susannah would have been surrounded by 8 siblings during her early childhood, but then her sister Mary died in 1817 when Susannah was 4 years old.

All the children in the family were baptised at Church of England St. Wulfram's Church in Grantham, which was the seat of the Grantham Parish.  Their home was recorded as Manthorpe, which was just over a mile by foot from the church, (which is likely to have been the mode of transport for the family back then).  There was no church in Manthorpe until much later, in 1848.

St. Wulfram's, in nearby Grantham, would have been (and still is) a very impressive looking church!

It would have been something of a grand occasion taking children to be baptised in the spectacular font inside that church.

That is something I would definitely love to see one day, now that I know so many of the Lancaster family were baptised in that very font, back in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

In 1833, Susannah, then aged 20, gave birth to a daughter named Harriett.

On Harriett's baptism record, (which was added right at the bottom of the page!), it was noted that she was illegitimate.

Harriett was baptised at the same church as her mother - St. Wulfram's.

Interestingly though,
Susannah appears to have given a false name as the mother's name was recorded as 'Harriett'.

Susannah was not married at this time, and was still living in the hamlet of Manthorpe.

I imagine life would not have been easy for an unwed mother, especially in a small village where everyone would know your business.

Two years later, in 1835, Susannah married James Exton.

 They were married in All Saint's Church in the village of Fenton, in the Grantham Parish.

This was about a 14 mile walk away from Manthorpe, and quite a way from where they lived.

It was also quite a long way from the Church in Grantham where Susannah and all her siblings had been baptised.

I do wonder why they chose to go so far away for their wedding.  Perhaps it was not considered an ideal union by their respective parents!

Parish Marriage Register - Fenton 1835.
On the marriage record, James's surname was incorrectly spelt.  It was written as Exon, instead of Exton, which may mean he was not well known by anyone associated with the parish church.

Whatever the reason for travelling so far away to be married, they started their married life together in Manthorpe.  Susannah was 22 years old when she married.  Her husband James was aged 18.  Over the next 18 years they went on to have 9 children. 

Daughter Sarah was born in 1835.
Eliza came along in 1837.
Ann (known as Annie) was born in 1839.  Susannah was now aged 26.

1841 Census for the township of Manthorpe in the Borough of Grantham, Lincolnshire
In 1841, the Census record shows that Susannah, her husband James, and their daughters Sarah, aged 6; Eliza, aged 4; and Ann, aged 2; were all living in Manthorpe, in the Parish of Grantham.  Susannah's sister Sarah, aged 20; and her first-born daughter, Hannah aged 8, were also living at the same address.

Another daughter, Emma, was born the following year in 1842.  By then, my 3x great grandmother was aged 29.  Big life changes were about to happen.

A mere two years later, in March of 1844, Susannah, her husband James, her first-born daughter Harriett, and the couple's four daughters Sarah, Eliza, Ann and Emma; all boarded the ship The Briton to sail to Australia.

The family was part of the assisted immigrant scheme and made the 162-day voyage in the hope of a new life, a better life.  I can imagine the long journey would have been very tough for Susannah, taking care of her five children in the cramped, smelly, unhealthy space in the bowels of the ship.   

Assisted Immigrant Passenger List for the 'Briton' in 1844.

The records indicate that Susannah's occupation in England had been 'farm servant', whilst her husband's occupation was listed as 'farm labourer'.  These skills were regarded as valuable in the colony of Australia.

It was noted that Susannah could read, but she could not write.  Her religion was listed as Episcopalian, and her age was recorded as 29.  She was in fact 30 years old when she boarded the ship.  Her husband had been engaged by James Kenworthy of Richmond River in New South Wales, under the Assisted Immigrants system.

The Briton landed in Sydney in June of 1844, but the family had to wait for nearly another three weeks before they could disembark.  Once they were able to leave the ship, they boarded another boat and sailed to the Richmond River, ready to start work on their employer's station.

Unfortunately, Susannah's and James's employer died in September of 1844, not long after the family had arrived.  They were left unemployed for a period, as the station had been bought and added on to a nearby property.   It seems the family moved on to Tomki station for a while, but that didn't seem to last long though, because by the end of 1844 Susannah, James and the family arrived on Runnymede Station to work for Ward Stephens. They settled into a hut besides Back Creek and began the working life of shepherds.

Northern Star (Lismore, NSW), Saturday 14 March 1925, page 9
Many years later, an article appeared in the March 1925 edition of the Northern Star newspaper that was titled "River Romance:  Story of Pioneering Days of Over 80 Years Ago".

The article was a collection of memories retold by Ann Kin in 1918 about her days living on the Richmond River.

Part of that article tells the story of the Extons arrival at the sheep station at Back Creek.
"At this time Mr. and Mrs. Exton and their family came over from Tomki, where they had been employed by Mr. Barnes, and spent some time with the King family till a house was built for them. After living in that for a few months they were sent to live at the place where Mr. King had the encounter with the blacks."
The article goes on to tell how Susannah "saved the camp".
"One day the children noticed some bushes moving about, and drew their mother's attention to them. Mrs. Exton saw at once that it was the blacks on the same hill walking towards the house with the bushes in front of them. She immediately went in and dressed herself in Mr. Exton's clothes, got the gun and paraded in front of the hut, showing the gun, until Mr. Exton and a shepherd came home." 
I think the statement made by the author of this newspaper article sums up perfectly the person of my 3x great grandmother:  "Many of the present generation little dream of the wonderful resource, pluck and energy which characterised the lives of those of the earlier days who blazed the trail of civilisation on the north Coast; nor do they think of the hardships, often terrifying, which were the almost daily experience of those hardy men and women."

Life would have been very challenging and probably terrifying at different stages.  Susannah sounds like a courageous woman, determined to care for her family and work hard to make a life for them all, alongside her husband.

Susannah and James went on to have four children after they had arrived in Australia.
William was born in 1845, the year after their arrival.
Thomas came along in 1847.
Elizabeth (known as Betsy) was born in 1849.
Lucy was born in 1851.  By this time Susannah was aged 38.

Susannah outlived her husband James.  He died in 1876 when Susannah was aged 63.  Just a few years later though, Susannah passed away as well.

In November of 1879, Susannah died at the age of 66.

The death certificate states the cause of death was debility, which she had suffered for about 9 months.

The details of her age were incorrect, as she had not yet reached the age of 70.

She had lived in New South Wales for 35 years, and she was survived by all of her children.

Susannah's first-born daughter Harriett Lancester-Exton, married English convict John Michael Jones when she was aged 14.  They had a family of nine children.  Harriett then married Englishman Henry George Brown when she was 36 years of age, and they had two children.

Susannah would have met both Harriett's husbands, and all of her grandchildren, Harriett's eleven children.

Daughter Sarah Exton married Irish convict James Hugh McGuiness when she was 23 years old.  They had a family of eight children.

Susannah would have known all these grandchildren as well.

Daughter Eliza married Irish convict Patrick Cusack when she was 15 years of age.  The had a family of eleven children, all of whom were born before Susannah passed away.

Daughter Ann (known as Annie) married Englishman William Clark when she was 14.  They had eight children.  Annie then married James Thompson when she was aged 37, and they had one son.

Susannah would have met both these sons-in-law and all these grandchildren as well.

Daughter Emma married James Dooley when she was 17.  They had a family of six.  Susannah would have only known four of these grandchildren.

Northern Star -Wednesday 22 July 1925 p7

Son William Exton never married.

He became a well-known figure in the Richmond River area.  His wrote quite a lengthy article for the Northern Star newspaper in 1925, in which he told his life story in some detail.

Son Thomas married Australian-born Eliza Silke Hughes when he was 20.  They had six children.

Thomas went on to found a business empire all his own, primarily in the timber industry.

Susannah would have only met five of these grandchildren.

Daughter Elizabeth (known as Betsy) married Francis Thomas McQuilty at the age of 16.  They had ten children.

Susannah would only have met five of these grandchildren.

Daughter Lucy married Irishman James McDonough when she was 17 years old.  They had a family of nine children.  Susannah would have known only five of these grandchildren as well.

I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.

The prompt for Week 14 of 2019 is 'Brick Wall'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52Ancestors.

Check out this FB page:  Amy Johnson Crow


  1. You have some great photos, anyway! I hope you get to St Wulfram's someday.

    1. Thanks Laura. I think the church would be something to see, if only because of the connection with my family ancestors.

  2. Congratulations! Your blog has been included in INTERESTING BLOGS at FRIDAY FOSSICKING at
    Thank you, Chris

    1. Thanks again Chris. I do appreciate you sharing my posts.

  3. I loved reading your blog on Sussanah Lancaster. Betsy Exton is one of my paternal great great great grandmas :)

    1. I'm so glad you found my post and enjoyed the read, Trina. Happy to meet another family member.

  4. I'm really enjoying my family tree research and amazed at how large our family connections are. Your blogs are written beautifully capturing a great essence of history. I'm hoping one day I'll be able to finally piece my family's story together :)


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