Detail from Meldreth Bishop’s Transcripts, showing birth and baptismal dates for James Casbon, 1806. (Click on image to enlarge)
He was a first cousin to my third great grandfather, Thomas (b. 1803), and the nephew of Thomas’ father Isaac.
There is so much interesting information about James that I decided to break his story into more than one post. Of course, as always, I have more questions than answers.
The first record I have after his baptism is his marriage in 1827 to Ann Hitch, in Steeple Morden, a village about 6 miles west of Meldreth.
James remarried soon thereafter, on August 22, 1834, to Susanna Hayden Sanders.
This record is most interesting because of the location: the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, a famous church in Westminster, London.
“St.Martin’s Church from Charing Cross” engraved by J.Woods, published in Woods Views in London .., 1837. Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com (Click on image to enlarge)
The question I have is, what was James doing in London? The marriage record says that both he and his bride were “of this parish.” This phrase usually means the individual(s) had resided in the parish for at least three weeks. I can’t answer this question, unless it was related to James’ occupation as a carrier (more about this in the next post). His bride Susanna was not from London either, so her presence there is also unexplained.
There is another noteworthy detail from both of James’ marriage records. He did not sign with his mark, suggesting that he could read and write. This sets him apart from many if not all of the other Casbons in Meldreth.
Another logical question is, how do I know this is the right James? That will also be the topic of another post. For now, suffice it to say that there is a strong chain of evidence supporting my conclusion that the James Casbon who married Susanna Hayden Sanders in London is the same one born in Meldreth in 1806.
The next record I have of James is the 1841 census of England and Wales.
There are several interesting things to learn from this census record. First note that James’ age is reported as 34 and Susanna’s as 33. Census enumerators weren’t required to use exact ages in 1841. In fact, they were instructed to round ages between 30 and 34 down to 30. Apparently the enumerator ignored the instructions. The “yes” on the far right of each page indicates that they were born in the “same County,” in this case Cambridgeshire. In Susanna’s case, this is incorrect. I have good evidence that she was born in Hertfordshire.
We can see that by 1841, James and Susanna already had a sizeable family, including Hitch, age 12, from James’ previous marriage. The other children were: John, age 6; George, 5; Ann, 3; and Martha, 1.
What I find most interesting about this census is James’ occupation of Farmer. This term has a distinctly different meaning than Agricultural Labourer. A farmer either owned the land, or more likely was a tenant of the landowner. Farmers hired Agricultural labourers, who were paid with wages or perhaps a share of crops. A farmer had at least some security because he had certain rights to the land and its proceeds. The agricultural labourer was at the mercy of the farmer and did not have guaranteed employment.
James was clearly better off socially and financially than the other Meldreth Casbons at that time. This is supported by another detail in the 1841 census. The final name listed in James’ household is Martha Smith, age 19. The initials “F.S.” under profession, etc. stands for female servant. The fact that James could afford to have a servant puts him in a different league compared to his “Ag. Lab” Casbon cousins.
This raises yet another question: how did James acquire this status? I don’t know the answer, but I recently became aware of a clue.
The Meldreth History web site has an informative article about the enclosure of Meldreth in 1820. Enclosure (or inclosure) was a legal process by which previously open fields were closed off and allotted to individual owners. Enclosure resulted in dramatic shifts in agricultural and labor practices. The Meldreth article provides a link to a transcript of the Award Book for the Meldreth enclosure. This document details how the enclosure was to be accomplished and spells out individual land allotments, much like modern land titles.
One entry in the 1820 Award Book is a copyhold allotment to James Casbourn. The allotment is for “one acre three roods and twenty nine perches.” Copyhold is a term that goes back to the Middle Ages, and it means that the individual, or copyholder, is a tenant of the landowner, with specific rights and duties. The copyhold allotted to James Casbourn was heritable, meaning it could be passed from father to son (or other legal heir).
Who was the James Casbourn of the Award Book? According to my records, there was only one living adult named James Casbo[ur]n in the Meldreth area in 1820: James (1772-1833), the father of this post’s subject. As his only son, James, born in 1806, would almost certainly have been the heir and inheritor of the copyhold.
I don’t know this for a fact, and if correct, it still leaves the question of how and when the copyhold was granted to a member of the Casbon family. This information might be contained in the records of the (“Sheene”) manor, but I don’t have access to those records at this time.
James’ domestic life was shaken by tragedy when his second wife Susanna died in 1850. She was buried in Meldreth on March 29th of that year. The cause of her death is unrecorded. By this time, two more daughters had been born: Sarah Sanders, born about 1844; and Fanny S., born about 1846., Once again, James was a single parent.
The next post will pick up where this one left off.