Saturday, 26 January 2008

Blackmore: Caton Family History

Wendy Snowdon is a descendent of the Caton family. In April 2007 she posted an entry on the ‘Guest Book’ page of .

Entry on Message Board

Hi there. My gtx3 grandfather, William Caton and his wife, Lydia, lived at Wenlocks, Blackmore (Essex). William was born at Blackmore in c1797.

Henry Caton, brother to William, ran the butcher shop (1841 census). Gtx3 grandfather William and wife Lydia moved to Jennings Farm in Blackmore (1851 census).

The Catons (and there were plenty of them!) all seemed to have been born in Blackmore and most seemed to have died either there or Norton Mandeville.

My Gtx2.Grandfather was William Oliver Caton, he was born 1820 at Blackmore the son of William Caton and Lydia Oliver. He is shown on the 1841 census at Diggins in Willingale. He is buried in the churchyard opposite the former "Bell" public house.

My Gt.Grandfather was Robert Alfred Francis (of Willingale) and he married Clara Lydia Ann Caton (who is also buried in Willingale churchyard) in fact three Francis brothers married three Caton sisters!

Abraham Caton (1821-1897) brother of William Oliver Caton built a house at Blackmore called "The Rookery".

My ancestors are buried in St Laurence cemetery. I have visited lots of times and love the village.

I know quite a lot about my Catons but have no photos of them. Does any one out there have any? Perhaps long forgotten in an attic? Would love to see some.

My Gtx4 grandfather, Henry Caton (born 1760 died 1835) married Hester Burrell whose parents owned The Bull public house.

John Caton, nephew to William, emigrated to New Zealand in the 1800s. He staked a piece of land out there and named it "Catons Bay". He died in Australia in 1914.

Are there any Catons still living in the village?

Would love to hear from you.

Reply (April 2007)

I am always keen to help with people’s family history enquiries, if I am able, so E mailed an extract from my booklet 'Hatched Matched and Despatched'.

Bishop’s Transcripts

As we move into the nineteenth century more detail is given in the Registers [Source: Essex Record Office. D/CR 38. This is a Bishop’s transcript of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1812 – 1865.]. For example of the 170 children baptised from 1812 to 1821, over one half have fathers who were labourers. There is the nobility: Esquire, appearing on five occasions and “base born” or “single woman”, appearing on ten occasions. Various professions and trades occur as expected: surgeon, farmer, bricklayer, carpenter, sawyer, baker, blacksmith, butcher, shopkeeper and grocer. The most intriguing is recorded in 1814: “soldier 69th Rgt” (William Horshin), probably serving at that time in the Napoleonic War.

Other professions found in the baptismal transcripts for the period include an egg merchant (1826), gardener (by the name of Bush!: 1829), cow doctor (1829), church clerk (named John Sutton, 1834), schoolmaster (1836) and hay binder (1842). There is also a reference to a goldsmith (1826) but his abode was London.

In 1821 there were nine burials, but four children were from the same family: Eliza Sitch (buried 13th October, age 6), James (17th October, 14), William (23rd October, 1), and Hannah (7th November, 4). (For more information, refer to 'Sitch Family History' on this site).

Child mortality remained high. In the first ten years of Queen Victoria’s reign (1837 to 1846) there were 93 burials. Of these, 12 were described as infants and a further 24 children under the age of ten, i.e. a death rate of 39 per cent before adulthood.

In 1845, two of the longest lived, Abraham Shuttleworth, aged 80 and Richard Stones, aged 87, ended their days in the Ongar Union Workhouse (at Stanford Rivers) where the poor were sent from the parish of Blackmore. The reorganisation of poor relief from 1834 (Poor Law Amendment Act) transferred responsibility away from the parish to a Board of Guardians.

William Caton was the Overseer for Blackmore and also Churchwarden.

Another Caton, Henry, was a butcher by trade. His father, buried on 9th October 1835, age 75, is described as “Henry Caton, Senior”.

Henry Caton married Ann Clark on 9th February 1813. They had nine children:

Henry: Baptised 7th November 1813
Harriott: Baptised 2nd April 1815
James: Baptised 13th November 1817
John: Baptised 31st May 1818
Ann Elizabeth: Baptised 13th February 1820
Emma: Baptised 24th February 1822
Charles: Burial recorded as 11th September 1823, Infant.
Esther: 7th March 1824
Stephen: 16th June 1827

Although Henry lived until 1858 and Ann to 1862, their children’s marriages are not recorded at Blackmore. There are two possible reasons. Firstly, after 1836, civil marriages were permitted. Secondly, and more plausible, the offspring probably migrated from the parish.

During the nineteenth century, the number of baptisms exceeds the number of burials by a proportion of two to one. This suggests a large growth in population but census returns show the population of the parish rose from 591, in 1801, to only 619, in 1901. It seems clear that many people left Blackmore to find their fame and fortune elsewhere: perhaps London and the suburbs, which were growing at a rapid rate.

Supplementary Question (May 2007)

My Gtx2 grandfather William Oliver Caton (1820-1901) states in his will of 1901: "As to my real estate I direct my said trustees to make sale and absolutely dispose of all my copyhold lands" etc etc. He then goes on to mention "namely all that field of pasture and copyhold land held of the Manor of Fingrith Hall Blackmore and adjoining my freehold house known as the "Poplars" and situate at Blackmore aforesaid and now in the occupation of Mrs Humphries Widow". He also mentions 3 other copyhold cottages situated at Blackmore. Could you tell me if this house, Poplars still exists and if so where it is situated?

Reply (June 2007)

Poplars is not named on the 1897 six inch ordnance survey map. According to Kelly's Directory 1890, Claude Julian Croft was its resident.

I was in Chelmsford Library and found a book titled "The Tithe Place Names of Blackmore" (date: 1846) has a lot of information on Blackmore families, including the Catons. It was produced by the Essex Place Names Project in 2003 in association with the Essex Society for Archaeology and History ( and the Essex Record Office. A copy is in Chelmsford Library and may be purchased from the Essex Record Office.

Henry Caton had a house shop and premises (#9) at TL605018.

The Catons owned several premises (# 8 to #13) plus many fields. The Bottle Inn (The Leather Bottle PH) is recorded as TL604018 so these premises at TL605018 are 100 metres to the east - i.e. on the north side of The Green. There is a Poplars Cottage there today. Next door is Laurences, a much bigger house. I wonder if this was Poplars? The church dedication is Laurence but anciently was spelt either Laurence or Lawrence. Is Laurences a modern name?

William Caton was licensee of the Leather Bottle between 1836 and 1850. The pub became owned by a Chelmsford Brewery in 1836. For more details see the history of the pub inside the main bar.

Response (June 2007)

I had a look on ERO Seax and found document D/DMa/B71/12 it’s a sale catalogue and lists the land etc of my Gt.Grandfather William Oliver Caton who lived at Diggens Farm, Willingale. He died there in 1901. The last paragraph states POPLARS, formerly Lawrences, Blackmore, a residence with 4 bedrooms, outbuildings, gardens and orchard and about 1 acre of meadow land. So it looks like the Laurences that you say is still in the village is the one mentioned in my Gt.Grandfathers will. That is indeed great news and a must for me to visit, thank you so much for that I am very grateful.

I have received the booklet Tithe Place Names of Blackmore from the ERO. It’s very interesting. Many of the places I never knew about and it has opened up a whole new avenue of research for me, plus the chance to photograph the actual fields/places etc on my next visit as they very kindly included a map at the back!

John Henry Caton (brother to my Gt3 Grandfather William) was by all means a bit of a character in Australia. I am in touch with his descendant who lives out there. He was arrested in 1869 for fraud and seems to have had a colourful life out there buying land and generally keeping one step ahead of the law! I'm sure she will be interested in the information.


Wendy subsequently visited Blackmore and saw where her ancestors lived.

“I just wanted to let you know that without all the information you gave me about my Catons I would never have found any of the places to photograph. We had lunch at The Leather Bottle where William Caton was landlord in 1836 and I saw the history of the pub on the wall that you told me about. Had my photo taken outside Lawrences (Poplars) and took pictures of some of the fields that were mentioned in the booklet you told me about Tithe Place names of Blackmore. So thank you once again for all the information you have given me, the above photographs would never have been taken without it”.

Caton connections / links

The following sites may be of interest.
Ticonderoga Families

It seems that Ann Elizabeth (daughter of Henry & Ann) emigrated too. She arrived in Melbourne, Australia, aboard the "Gibson Craig" with her husband, Joseph Kirkham.

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