For this week’s #52Ancestors I am returning to Hannah Oliver, who was last seen in April when I told the story of how her husband Richard Message was transported to Australia. Negatives - Richard Message transported - Sussex Genealogist
The theme is Wrong side of the Law but Hannah was on the right side of the Law in this instance.
Hannah remained in Sussex, she had an illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Harriet in 1822 who married John Funnell my great x3 grandfather in 1840. For the 1841 census Hannah was living at Alehouse Farm in Bodle Street Green with John Catt, an Agricultural Labourer. By the time of the 1851 census she was still living with John Catt, he was a widower, she was a widow and by the 1861 they were in Warbleton, not far from the Three Cups Inn, which was being run by John and Elizabeth Funnell. She was described as John Catt’s Housekeeper and one of her granddaughters, Caroline Funnell appeared with them.
I recently found this interesting story in a local newspaper in 1867 involving them both:
Mary Jane and John Lavender of Dallington were charged on remand, the former with stealing, the latter with receiving 12 sovereigns, 1 half sovereign, 1 sixpence, 1 box and 2 books from the house of John Catt in Warbleton on 19 May.
Mary Jane was the 8 or 9 year old daughter of John Lavender, who was out on bail. Mary Jane was brought into the court sobbing.
Hannah Message, housekeeper to John Catt, deposed that John Catt on last Sunday week had 10 sovereigns and 5 half sovereigns in a small box kept in a large chest in his bedroom. On the Monday they had gone. Mary Jane Lavender had been living at the house for some time, her father lived about a mile away and she had no mother. Her brother George Lavender had come for her at about 10 o’clock, she had been up and down stairs several times. Charles Catt, John’s son corroborated Hannah’s evidence.
Charles Catt had talked to Mary Jane Lavender and sent her to talk to Mrs Funnell (Hannah’s daughter) and after that had visited the prisoner, John Lavender who admitted the girl had given him the two books and sixpence but nothing else.
Elizabeth Harriet Funnell was called to the stand and reported that she had gone to her father’s John Catt hearing some money had been lost. Her brother had sent the little girl in to talk to her. She admitted to Elizabeth she had taken the money and had given it to Emily Crouch for a patch piece. Emily Crouch, aged 13 had admitted that Mary Jane had given her a little box for which she had given her a piece. (piece of material to patch a hole).
Various local witnesses were called who all agreed that Mary Jane had given her father a sixpence. PC John Simmons had been called to the house on the morning of Monday 20th May and had spoken to Mary Jane who admitted she had taken the money and shown him where from. The box she had given to Emily Crouch. John Lavender was questioned by the PC and only admitted to the sixpence, nothing more. He had searched the house but did not find the money. The girl was remanded for a week and the father for a fortnight on his own recognizances.
This newspaper report as you can see is gold dust to a genealogist, it mentions neighbours and their families and where they lived. It also gives some idea of the amount of money John Catt had which I have to admit is more than I would have imagined he would have. But to me this gives a clue to Hannah’s circumstances. I always had this theory that there was more to the relationship between Hannah and John Catt than master and housekeeper. They remained together for at least 3 decades to her death. All the time she presumably imagined her husband was still alive in Australia and she remained married. In this article, Elizabeth Harriet referred to John as father and to Charles Catt as brother, which suggests a closeness more than daughter of housekeeper and master. But Elizabeth’s two marriage certificates put Richard Message as father on the first, impossible as we know, he had been in Australia since 1807, and she wasn’t born until 1822, and blank on the second certificate. It most certainly is an intriguing story and Hannah remains one of my favourite ancestors. I continue to research this one!