Sexey Beard b.1780

Sexey Beard felt appropriate to mention at the moment because of the ongoing fascination with ‘hipster beards’; a very annoying phenomenon for men like my boyfriend, who had a beard before it was ‘in’… However this particular person is actually a woman born in Somerset around 1780.

On 28 Mar 1809 in Worle, Somerset, Sexey marries a James Stabbins, and her name essentially becomes the title of one of those odd pulp fiction books from the 70’s…

d369c369c537660cd234b6b7a367420e f8e003e4eae500a937506e928f51eeea trapped              …. pulpfiction

I digress.

I have already covered the Sexey name’s connection with Somerset in a previous post – although something I found interesting when looking up this Sexey was that she was mis-named as ‘Sexa’ both on the 1851 census and again on her Burial record. This could be because the name Sexagesima was also in use at the time as a first name, presumably after Sexagesima Sunday, the second Sunday before Ash Wednesday in the Church, as well as Sex- names being used for the 6th child, although this was usually reserved for males and the name ‘Sextus’.

I could not find a definite entry for Sexey Beard’s baptism, however a simple google did find this entry from an 1831 report entitled Bristol charities: being the report of the commissioners for inquiring concerning the charities in England and Wales so far as relates to The Charitable insititutions in Bristoledited by Thomas John Manchee (I guess he wasn’t too bothered about snappy titles)

So obviously workable farmland was provided to Sexey’s parents, possibly because of some kind of connection with Samuel Poole, a previous beneficiary. I am rather intrigued as to what the ‘Swan’s Nest’ actually refers to, if anyone can enlighten me please do! This also tells us that Sexey’s Mother was Ann Poole, and as there are no Beard’s marrying Sexey’s at all, we know Sexey does not refer to her mother’s maiden name. It could perhaps be from a Grandmother or other relative, or even a close friend as has happened in my own family tree, but because the word ‘sexy’ was not in use at that time to mean what it does now, it could just be that her parents heard the name and liked it!

The next we can definitely see of Sexey in written records is her marriage, but we do have quite a lot of info about her afterwards.
In the 1841 census, (where she has been transcribed as ‘Serge Stobbins’ – le sigh) we find her and husband James living in St George’s in Banwell (in itself an interesting parish) with their daughter Ann and James’ niece, also Ann Stabbins. I also found a baptism for a Patience Stabbins born in 1811. These seem to be the only two children they have.
James is a farmer, and although Sexey is widowed by 1851, she has now taken on the management of 46 acres herself. Her address is given as west Wick now but the two places border each other so it could well be the same land. Her daughter Ann is still living with her, as well as two house servants and one farm servant. Managing 46 acres could surely not be done by one man, so I’m guessing that she got an extra house servant so she could go out onto the farm, still working hard at 68.

1861 finds our Sexey living with her daughter, now Ann Crossman, married to Robert Crossman. I realised the children’s ages, 18 and 14, did not make sense, and the 1851 census for Robert confirmed that these were a previous wife’s children. That previous wife was in fact Ann’s sister Patience!

Patience had died in 1848, very sadly within a few weeks of her father’s James’ death, which must have been very difficult for Sexey. Usually in cases such as these the sister marries her brother in law quite quickly, somewhere away from home. Although it wasn’t uncommon for unmarried sisters, who had few options to support themselves besides marriage, to step in to care for the family for convenience, it was at the time illegal. This may be why they went away to Bristol to be married, as their local priest would certainly not have sanctioned the marriage.

The Bristol Mercury & Western Co. Advertiser, Eng. Sat. 16 June 1855. Pg. 16.
MARRIED June 10, at Christchurch, Bristol, Robert, eldest son of Mr. Crossman, of Wood-spring farm, to Ann, only surviving daughter, of the late Mr. James Stabbins, of Banwell.

This sort of marriage was made illegal by The Marriage Act 1835 –  largely because of the belief in the Church that husband and wife “became one flesh,” therefore your wife’s sister was really your own sister. There was also some dubious science to back it up, claiming  married couples become blood relations through some biological consequence of sexual intercourse.  Some people also worried it would sanction husbands and their wives’ sisters lusting after each other whilst the wives were still alive, or that family trees would become too complicated and accidental incest would occur.

What ensued was six decades of petitioning to the government to overturn this rule and allow men to marry their wive’s sisters again.
It started in 1842 when a Marriage to a Deceased Wife’s Sister Bill was introduced and defeated by strong opposition, but it was fought again on the political scene almost annually.

Supporters of the act argued that prohibiting these marriages was unfair to the poor, (and perhaps in this case also the more rural folk who may have had less choice, Tom Cox has done an excellent piece on the challenges of rural dating) who could not afford to hire help and could not travel out of the country to get married.

The lengthy nature of the campaign even seeped in to popular culture –  in the Gilbert and Sullivan opera Iolanthe (1882),  the Queen of the Fairies sings “He shall prick that annual blister, marriage with deceased wife’s sister”, and Mrs Dinah Maria Craik wrote a book entitled Hannah, published in 1871, which tells the story of a man who falls in love with his deceased wife’s sister when he calls on her to care for his baby daughter (Mrs Craik had acted as chaperone to Edith Waugh when she travelled to Switzerland to marry the painter Holman Hunt after the death of his first wife, her sister Fanny).
Eventually, in 1907 The Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act  removed the prohibition (although it allowed individual clergy, if they chose, to refuse to conduct marriages which would previously have been prohibited). Interestingly it was not until 1921 that the Deceased Brother’s Widow’s Marriage Act was passed.

I realise I’ve been on a large tangent, however I’ve come across so many of these illegal sister-in-law marriages in people’s family trees I thought it worth mentioning. Not least because I’ve found that sometimes when people research their trees they concentrate on their direct lines, and often will not research a second or third wife, so will miss the connection entirely.

Back to Sexey in 1861 – now 81 and listed as a landed proprietor, so I imagine she was either receiving a small income from renting out farmland she still owned or may even have owned the farm they were all living on, as although it is not named on the sheet the front page of the census makes mention of a ‘Stabbins Farm’.
Unfortunately by the 1885 map the farm has been renamed, and in modern times the once very rural landscape is now sliced in half by the M5, with a few industrial estates built on it for good measure.

When she dies on the 10th June 1862, Ann is her sole executrix and Sexey leaves just under £200 (around £8,000 in today’s money), which is quite good for a Victorian lady who’d been a widow for some 15 years and is a testament to how hard she continued to work.


Sexey Butt – b.1803

** I  am aware from my site stats that there are many disappointed people searching for ‘Sexy Butts’ (and in one bewildering instance ‘sexey ass julry’) being directed to this post. If you are one of those people I do apologise. Also – brush up on your spelling. **

So… This is one of those names where the evolution of language really becomes quite apparent.

Think of meeting someone with this name now – someone who hadn’t changed it by deed poll for their own personal(ity) reasons – you would assume that their parents were perhaps a bit unusual to say the least.

However our Sexey Butt was born in 1803 in Somerset. She was born Sexey Pool, also her Mother’s name, and marries a Mr Thomas Butt on 02 Feb 1828 in St. James Parish, Bristol, Gloucester. However by the 1841 census she is living in Northwick with 5 sons, already a widow as Thomas sadly dies of Tuberculosis, and listing her occupation as ‘Farmeress’, which sounds rather nice, but I imagine was actually very hard work.

By 1851 she is back closer to Bristol, her place of marriage, in a house called Westfield in Hanham, now on Domestic Duties whilst her sons are farming. 1861 finds her down as a visitor to William and Nancy Ford, with occupation housekeeper, in a small village called Queen Charlton.
In 1871 she is living with her son Joseph, in Brentry cottages – not far from Blaise Castle of Austen’s Northanger Abbey fame – although she wrote it as Blaize;

“Blaize Castle!” cried Catherine. “What is that’?”

“The finest place in England–
worth going fifty miles at any time to see.”

“What, is it really a castle, an old castle?”

‘Truth is it’s not an old castle – well, it is now – but it was built in 1766 for a wealthy Bristol merchant, and remodeled in 1796, making it at most 51 years old when the Novel was published, which is of course Austen’s joke. Despite it often being referred to as a ‘Folly’, it was inhabited into the 20th century and ‘sumptuously furnished’ to boot, and John Harford, the wealthy merchant in question, was wealthy enough to build Blaise Hamlet specifically to house his servants and tenants.

Her son’s occupation is down as “Coachman and Domestic servant”  and although Blaise was seemingly the largest estate in the immediate area, there are many ‘annuitants’ in the village, meaning that as he was living in his own home he may have been coachman to more than one household. Finding out who owned Brentry cottages would make it clearer who he may have been working for.

Unfortunately Sexey dies in 1877, and although I would hope she continued to live with family, it’s a possibility she died in the Clifton workhouse, as the death is registered in Clifton, on the west side of Bristol, and as far as I know she did not have family there..

So, why ‘Sexey’?

There is  a Sexey’s School in Bruton, Somerset, named after Hugh Sexey, baptised on 18th November 1556, the son of poor parents living in the Bruton area, he rose to an important government position when in 1599 he was appointed as a Royal auditor to Elizabeth I and later James I, becoming a rich man in the process. Although the school wasn’t around until 1891, it was built on the site of ‘Sexey’s hospital’ –  Hugh Sexey established a Trust in his Will to establish a place, Almshouses, to care for impoverished elderly people.

Yet Bruton is some 30 miles from Dundry, the place Sexey gives as her birthplace and where her Mother is still living in 1841.

All I am left with is guesswork, as her Mother’s baptism doesn’t seem to be anywhere under any spelling (although as Sexey Butt is down as Lucy Bull on one census it’s not hard to imagine I may have missed it) and she is a widow in 1841, and I can’t find any of her children’s baptisms, despite one having the rather unusual name of Marmaduke, and their marriages are not available online – only the index which doesn’t give a Father’s name. This means I can’t find a marriage for Sexey Pool senior and therefore any other possible leads.

So, all things considered, I would have to hazard a guess that her Mother was named after a maternal line’s surname, perhaps a descendant of  Hugh Sexey himself! But whatever the reason, it’s not something I think many people would choose to name their children these days, no matter what their family history might be.