Leigh Families in the Sundridge Workhouse


Census: 1851  Sundridge District Sevenoaks Union Workhouse

Ann Bennett      pauper  U          36         General Servant             b. Leigh Kent
Louisa Miles      pauper U           20                                                         b. Leigh kent
Elizabeth Upton pauper U          21         Seamstress                               b. Leigh Kent
John West                                14                                                         b. Leigh Kent
John Bennete                            12                                                         b. Leigh Kent
Thomas Bennete                       6                                                         b. Leigh Kent
Martha Shoebridge                    11                                                         b. Leigh Kent
Sarah Bennete                           9                                                          b. Leigh Kent
Ann must have fallen on hard times – that goes without saying – people did not want to go into the Workhouse, life was hard there, it was a shame on the family.

So how did Ann end up there.  It is difficult to locate her in the 1841 census:  she was born at Leigh about 1815, her maiden name is not known.  From researching census, civil registration, and Leigh registers, one can perhaps piece together her story.  However, although the three children are given as born at Leigh, these children are not baptized “Bennett” at Leigh.   But there were several Bennett families at Leigh who could have perhaps helped her out in difficult times, but they appear themselves quite fertile!  Large families of little Bennetts lived in Leigh and the surrounding parishes.  In Leigh, several Bennett girls had illegitimate children.

Ann is given as a widow in 1851, and the automatic assumption is she married a Bennett: but this might not have been the case – people did not always marry. The scenario might have been quite different.

In 1841 the family of Arthur and Sarah Bennett are living at Leigh.  The order of ages in the 1841 census indicate that two of the children might not have been Arthur and Sarah’s, though connected, perhaps grandchildren.  And living in the same house, or next door, was Ann Woolley with her two children John and Sarah.  This family stood out because the ages of John and Sarah tallied with the 1851 census: the location with the Bennett family – was it a coincidence?

The marriage of John and Ann Woolley did not take place at Leigh – the children John and Sarah are both baptized at Leigh, although Sarah’s baptism in 1841 gives just Ann, her mother, a widow.  Her age indicates a birth in ca 1840, but it appears that John Woolley died in 1838 – that would make Sarah being his natural child problematic – if her age in the censuses is correct.  And Ann’s third child, Thomas Bennett born about 1844, is not baptized at Leigh.  His birth may be registered at Sevenoaks in 1843 or 1846.  But John’s does not appear to  be, Sarah’s possibly.

But was she our Ann Bennett?   It’s a good possibility.  There is no Ann Woolley marrying a Bennett at Leigh or elsewhere.  But let’s suppose she had an out-of-wedlock relationship with a Bennett, and that both Sarah and Thomas were illegitimate – the Bennets appear good at illegitimacy – Arthur and Sarah’s daughter Elizabeth had three illegitimate children – John b. 1823, William b. 1827 and George b. 1835; and Mary had an illegitimate son, James b. 1829 (all bapt. Leigh).

Arthur and Sarah Bennett had two sons, William b 1798 (who married Mary in the 1820s), John b 1808 (who later married Jane Boakes see below):   But in the 1841 census living with Arthur/Sarah Bennett is their son John born 1808, and also John aged 18 and William aged 14, then Jane aged 20 (remember no relationships are given in 1841 census):  The baptism records at Leigh give both John bap. Leigh 1823 and William bap Leigh 1827, sons of Elizabeth Bennett – baseborn/spinster (and even George, bap 1835!), assuming Elizabeth is the daughter of Arthur/Sarah born 1802, the grandchildren of Arthur and Sarah.

There is the possibility that Anne had a relationship with perhaps John aged 18, or William though he is given as 14 in 1841, or even the older John Bennett.  And that perhaps her daughter Sarah is really a Bennett; and also Thomas Bennett born about 1844.

Married or not she went on to use the Bennett name.  And sometime between the birth of Thomas and 1851, her Bennett affair ended – and she was left stranded with three small children, no money.  Her children’s relations were themselves poor – elderly – with their own families to feed.  Her fate was then determined and she entered the workhouse.

However, by 1861 she appears to have left the Workhouse.  Although still a widow, she is living at Speldhurst, doing laundry work – which is hard labour – with two of her children still with her John, a labourer and Sarah, who is also a laundress.  Thomas is not with her, although by 1871 he is found at Tonbridge living with Miriam (not married), the daughter of Stephen and Eliza Dale:  Eliza Dale was born Crowhurst, the daughter of John Crowhurst and Sophia Carter:  living with Stephen and Eliza is her nephew James Spittall – the son of her half-sister, Mary Ann Carter.  Which brings us to another story of the Workhouse.



1861 Sundridge District Sevenoaks Union Workhouse

M Spittles                     pauper  widow   female  35           —                    b. Leigh, Kent
M Spittles                                 daughter           14         scholar             b. Leigh, Kent
S Spittles                                  daughter           12         scholar             b. Leigh, Kent
J Spittles                                  son                   1          scholar             Sundridge, Kent
C Spittles                                  son                   1          scholar             Sundridge, Kent
Another confusing tale of relationships.   The surname in its various forms : Spittle, Spittles, Spittal, Spittall, Spittalls.

Mary Spittle was born Mary Ann Carter at Leigh in 1826.  She married Henry Spittle and agricultural labourer born Hever 1822 at Leigh 12 October 1844.  In the 1851 they have the following children Henry b. 1845, Mary b. 1847, Sophia b. 1848, William b. 1850, all born Leigh.  Later in 1853 they have Alfred.  The births of all the children appear registered at Sevenoaks, except Alfred, whose registration does not appear to have taken place.  Perhaps they did not register his birth as this would have cost money  (until fines were introduced, many births went unregistered).  Not finding Alfred in later censuses, his possible death is noted at Tonbridge Sept 1854:  Perhaps they had moved to that area, although it appears William’s death may have been registered at Sevenoaks in June 1854.   (Without obtaining Certificates, details not clear).  These two deaths would explain why both William and Alfred do not appear at Sundridge Workhouse in 1861.  Their older son, Henry, also does not appear in 1861 Workhouse when he would have been about 16 – but by then perhaps he had found work – although he has  not been located in the 1861 or 1871 censuses: several reasons, unusual surname, emigrated, died, just not there!

In 1861, at Sundridge, Mary Spittle definitely has “w” under condition, i.e. widow.  Her husband is not in the Workhouse with her, nor is he located in the census for 1861 generally.  It is possible, therefore, that he died in 1854: 1854 death entry at Sevenoaks for Henry Spittle: and there are no further children registered between 1853 and 1860.    It seems likely he died in 1854 (although another Henry Spittle is registered death in 1864 Sevenoaks – again without the Certifiate cannot be sure).

However, with his occupation being an agricultural labourer, with his death, and Mary’s widowhood with young children, it is easy to understand why she ended in the Workhouse by 1861.  In addition, the death of Henry Spittle does not explain the arrival of the two boys – J and C Spittles (born Sundridge – thus probably in the Workhouse ).   James Spittall and  Charles Spittall’s births appear registered at Sevenoaks June 1860 – their Birth Certificates might explain their illegitimacy, as would a baptismal entry somewhere: they appear to be twins:  iIf Henry had died in 1854, did Mary form a subsequent relationship?

So what next?  Mary Spittle appears to have stayed in the Workhouse.  She is there in 1871, again a widow, but working there as a hospital nurse.  Her children have all left.  And their progress can be traced to some extent.

In 1871 Charles is living at Dorking, aged 10,  the brother to a member of the household of James Rose 25, Mary Ann 23 b. Tonbridge, Ann d. 1 b. Dorking.  James Rose married Mary Ann Spittles in 1866: our Mary Ann born Leigh 1847.

Likewise, as mentioned above James Spittall is found at Tonbridge in 1871, as the nephew to Stephen Dale and Eleanor (should be Eliza) Dale, nee Crowhurst, half-sister to Mary Ann Carter, wife of Henry Spittle.



1861 Sundridge District Sevenoaks Union Workhouse

? Huntley                      pauper              female  12         scholar             b. Leigh, Kent
F Huntley                      pauper              sister    10         scholar             b. Leigh, Kent
M Huntley                     pauper              brother  8         scholar             b. Leigh, Kent
The 1861 Workhouse says that the Huntley children are born Leigh and the initials from the census were not clear.  But on researching the 1851 census, there is in Leigh a Thomas Huntley b. Hever, aged 33 with wife Elizabeth Huntley b. Leigh, aged,26 children Jane Huntley, b. Leigh, aged 1, Ann Huntley aged 3 mos, b. Leigh,  and they are living with William Virgo b. Penshurst, Mary Virgo b. Cowden  (at Leigh in 1851district 6b page 12).  Tragically from the parish registers of Leigh, we find that Mary Virgo died 1855, William 1859 (parents of Elizabeth); Thomas Huntley died 1853 and Elizabeth Huntley died 1859 – all buried at Leigh.   I can find the baptisms of George Huntley 1852 and Ann Huntley 1851, but not of Jane Huntley.   Hence their children were orphans!  Looking closely at the initials at Sundridge, the J, A and G become clear.

Today the children would have been taken into care; in 1861 it was the Workhouse.



1871 Sundridge District Sevenoaks Union Workhouse

John Bennett     inmate  widr      63         labourer            b. Leigh*
Jane Bennett                 wife      34                                 b. Sundridge*
Fanny                           dau       12         scholar             b.Leigh
Eliza                             dau       10           “                     b. Leigh
William                          son       8            “                     b. Leigh
Sarah                            dau       4            “                     b. Leigh
Mary                             dau       1            “                     b. Shibourn Kent
George                         son       3            “                     b. Shibourn Kent

We finish again with Bennetts: John Bennett, the son of Arthur and Sarah Bennett.  John Bennett was born in 1808 at Leigh.   It was obviously a late marriage for John as the age gap between he and his wife is quite large, about 25 years.  From the Sevenoaks civil registration, there is a marriage between a John Bennett and Jane Boakes in 1857: this would tie in with their elder daughter Fanny being born about 1859.  In 1861 they are living at Leigh and he is an agricultural labourer.  However, by 1871, with their large family, they must have fallen on hard times.   Things must have improved and John and Jane are later found in the 1881 and 1891 censuses, living at Hever: they did have more children!  In 1891 he has no occupation, but then he would have 83!  They would have been supported by three of their sons who were living with them.   I have not found the family in 1861 census when they would have had their daughter Fanny, and possibly Eliza.

Whether John Bennett had been married previously is not known at the moment: he is unmarried in 1851, so perhaps unlikely.  The Marriage Certificate of John and Jane would say whether John was a widower or not.



Joyce Field (November 2015)  (Further notes on the above in the Leigh Archives under WORKHOUSES)