Skip to main content

Deaths of Four of Edward Marshall’s children in Wickhamford in April 1704

Edward Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth, lived in Wickhamford in the late 17th century and early 18th century.  The date and place of their marriage is unknown but they were living in the village by 1691. He was one of the tenants who participated in the Manorial Court homage in 1698 and 1699.

The Marshall children

A daughter, Elizabeth Marshal was baptised in the Church of St John the Baptist on 28th September 1691.  As she was given the same name as her mother, it is likely that she was the eldest daughter.  Her sister, Hannah, was baptised on 19th February 1692; this was at the time that the Julian Calendar was being used, so the year would be 1693 in the present Georgian Calendar.  More baptisms followed at regular intervals – Samuel on 8th September 1695, Mary on 3rd October 1697 and Anne on 31st December 1699.   Robert Marshall was baptised on 17th February 1701/02 and their seventh and last child, Katherine, on 10th December 1704.  

Edward Marshall died shortly before the birth of his last child and was buried in Wickhamford on 3rd November 1704.   Elizabeth Marshall later had another child, whom she had baptised with her late husband’s name, Edward, on 25th May 1707.  The Baptism Register records that this was an illegitimate child.  He did not live very long and died at about two months of age, being buried in July 1707.  The lives of Edward and Elizabeth Marshall appear to be unextraordinary for the period; numerous children, probably an early death of the father, a case of illegitimacy and the death of a young baby.  What is strange are the events of April 1704.

The Events of April 1704

According to National records, there were no pandemics in the early 18th Century and the Burial Registers for Wickhamford and for Badsey do not show any untoward numbers of burials in the period 1702-1706.  What is of interest is the fact that, in April 1704, four of the Marshall children were buried in the churchyard.  Anne Marshall was buried on 1st April, when she was aged 4 years and then Mary Marshall, was buried on the 4th of that month and was aged 6 years.  On 6th April, Hannah Marshall was buried and she was twelve years old.  The following day, 7th April, Richard Marshall was buried, aged three years. 

Of the three surviving children, information only exists concerning Samuel Marshall who later became an apprentice to a weaver, Thomas Gilkes of Murcott, in 1715.  There are no further records concerning the eldest daughter, Elizabeth or the youngest, Katherine, so they presumably moved away from the area. At the time of her siblings’ deaths Elizabeth would have been aged 15.  Her mother would probably not have known she was expecting another baby, the future Katherine, later in the year.  

Possible causes of the Marshall deaths

Disease is one possible cause of the deaths of four children in a family of nine.  If this was caused a water-borne disease, such as typhoid, it might be expected that other households would have been affected, but none seems to have been.  The fact that the four children’s burials took place over a period of a week indicates that they did not all died together.   If a family cottage had caught fire, it would seem more likely that a number of inhabitants would have perished together, unless smoke inhalation affected the children and they slowly succumbed. One further possibility is food poisoning.

If the children had died as a result of violence towards them, it would have resulted in the matter being dealt with at the Manorial Court, but no such proceedings have been found.  It is unlikely that the reason for the deaths of the four children will ever be discovered.

The fact that Edward Marshall died later in the year, seven months after the deaths of four of his children, could be down to his being grief-stricken.  If he had taken his own life, he would not have been buried in consecrated ground.

Elizabeth Marshall died in 1714 and her estate went into Administration at Worcester.  She was buried in Wickhamford on 25th April 1714.


Where did the Marshall family live?  Although a family of nine may have been living in a small cottage, a number of facts seem to indicate that they were in a larger property.  At that time, the Sandys family owned all of the land and property in Wickhamford, apart perhaps from a vicarage.  There were five possible properties the Marshall’s may have occupied as tenants – Wickhamford Manor and its associated farmland; The Elms (now Elm Farm) and Pitchers Hill Farm (now Wickham Farm), both in Manor Road; Field Farm to the south of Longdon Hill and Wickhamford Mill.  There is no evidence of Will or Administration following the death of Edward Marshall in 1704, so it would seem that any tenancy passed to his widow. When she died in 1714, matters then went to Administration.  

The Manor was in the care of Sir James Rushout from 1694 onwards under a Marriage Settlement with the Sandys family.  The Elms tenant, up until his death in 1699, was William White.  There is no information on tenants of the other three properties at this time.

At the Manor Court of 18th October 1699, Martin Sandys presiding, Edward Marshall was one of four named ‘customary tenants’ who were liable to attendance at the Courts.  Non-attendance was penalised with a fine of 6d.  At the Court of 2nd January 1705 (=1706 in the Gregorian Calendar) it was recorded that Edward Marshall had died and his widow, Elizabeth Marshall, ‘claims freebench and is admitted’.

One other interesting occurrence in 1705 was that the churchwardens in Wickhamford complained to the Bishop of Worcester about their vicar.  He was Rev’d Charles Nixon, who was also Vicar of Badsey.  The complaint was that he neglected his services in Wickhamford and there was a ‘void of a vicar to supply the place’. Nixon left the parish later the same year.  Could his lack of interest in the parish have been brought to a head over the deaths and burials of the four Marshall children, and their father, in 1704?

Finally, there was a marriage in Wickhamford on 22nd April 1697 of Thomas Marshall and Anne White; she was daughter of William White of The Elms.  In the Register, his home parish was Abbots Salford, in Warwickshire.  This may be a clue as to where Edward and Elizabeth Marshall came from prior to their move to Wickhamford in about 1690.

Tom Locke – March 2022