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Browness Family

John Browness of Ampney Crucis (1784-1824)

Drummer, 36th Herefordshire Regiment of Foot during the Napoleonic Wars

Part 4 – John’s Remaining Years

The reason for John’s discharge was ‘in consequence of being afflicted with Visceral Disease contracted in the Service from repeated Attacks of intermittent fever to which he is still subject and has been ever since he was at Walcheren.’

John’s first action on discharge was to take his Discharge Certificate to The Royal Hospital in Chelsea and register as an Outpatient whereby he was awarded an Army Pension of 9d per day. When he arrived back in Ampney Crucis, he would have sought whatever work was available. Army pensions were paid by Tax Collectors and this would mean that John would have to walk to his nearest large town, Cirencester, to claim it.

He would, of course, continue to suffer from his chronic illness and this would affect his availability for work. His wife and children, despite their ages, would also seek work to supplement John’s pension. Given the seasonal nature of the availability of agricultural work, there can be little doubt that this family, at least periodically, lived in varying levels of poverty. John’s Army pension of 9d per day equates to 5s 3d per week. This compares with an average weekly wage for agricultural labourers in Gloucestershire in 1833 of 10s.6

Save for some Census records from a good number of years after John’s death, there is no way of knowing where in Ampney Crucis that the family lived but given the above, they did not live in any degree of comfort. Such penury no doubt had negative consequences for their health and longevity and the following parish records chronicle the passing of the various members.

There appear to be no records of Maria having lived in Ampney Crucis. Her sister, Susan (recorded in her burial record at Ampney Crucis as ‘Susannah’) survived the family’s arrival in this village by a matter of 6 months – hardly an auspicious start:

John Browness survived for 7 years after his return to Ampney Crucis:

He is shown as 44 years old but we know from his birth record that he was only 40.

The most tragic of the family’s losses was that of John and Margaret’s son, James. At the age of circa 13 he was accidentally killed by an overturned cart. Below is his burial record followed by a newspaper report of the inquest into his death:

It could be said that it was fortunate that John would not live to know of this tragedy but, very sadly, the same cannot be said of the boy’s mother, Margaret.

Under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1836, civil registration was introduced in Great Britain. This centralised records in the General Register Office and required that much more information was provided on birth, marriage and death certificates. In the case of the latter, we now see the status of the deceased and the cause of death.

Margaret would live on for a further 19 years, dying in 1845 of Typhus Fever and with the status of a ‘Pauper’:

The last surviving member of John’s Ampney Crucis family was George who was born in Maidstone Military Barracks in 1814:

As George was the only child of John and Margaret to reach adulthood, it is worth examining the main features of his life if for no other reason than that it was through him that the Browness name survives to this day.

It was stated earlier that there was no way of knowing where John and his family lived in Ampney Crucis. However, from 1841, various Census records show exactly where George lived in each census year. Here in June 1841, when individuals’ ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 or 10, he is shown – together with his mother – as being in the ‘Crown Inn’:

In March 1851, he is staying at Ford Villa which was a farm on which he was working:

Three years later, George is working in London and marries Mary Ann Foster, the daughter of a Mechanic otherwise referred to as a ‘Scale pan maker’ i.e. a maker of weighing scales. George was an itinerant labourer, sometimes working in London, at others nearer his home, Ampney Crucis.

In the 1861 Census, George is shown as the Head of his family and living in Paddington, Middlesex with his wife, Mary, and their children: Jane Emma (step child) born 21st October 1848; George Robert, born 11th November 1854; Ann Amelia, born 12th August 1856; and Amy Maria, born 28th February 1860.

George and Mary were to have one further child, Arthur Edwin (born 28th December 1861 in Kensal New Town. It is interesting to note that George took his son to Ampney Crucis to have him baptised on 3rd August 1862, having already had him baptised on 8th February at St. Mary’s, Paddington. All George and Mary’s other children were baptised in Kensal Green, Chelsea.

George’s wife, Mary, died aged 42 on 7th December 1871 of a ‘perforating ulcer of stomach peritonitis’.

In 1872 George was back in Gloucestershire and was admitted to the Workhouse in Cirencester where he died on 28th March of ‘Asthma – Chronic Disease of the heart’.

George’s body was taken to Ampney Crucis where it was buried in an unmarked grave in the graveyard of the Church of the Holy Rood, as were those of John, Margaret, Susan and James. George’s burial was on 3rd April 1872. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) the following day his son George Robert Browness enlisted at Woolwich in the 2nd Battalion of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers. But that is a story for another day…except to say that, from the above documents it can be seen that once John had been discharged from the army, the family name reverts to a number of iterations of spelling. Once George Robert joins the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers it is consistently recorded as ‘Browness’ and remains so to this day.

6 KDM Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor – Social Change and Agrarian England 1660-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 1985) p. 130