The Reverend Samuel Oliver has probably received more publicity via All Things Georgian than he ever did during his life, as I have written several times before, he was the vicar who simply kept on giving.
He was not only the moral compass for Whaplode parish in rural Lincolnshire, but a great lover of the exclamation mark. Whilst for most of his parishioners he simply recorded the basic information, for some he would really go to town with more details than really necessary about them.
If a woman had a child out of wedlock, he seems to have felt the need to record the mother as a prostitute, whether this was accurate we will never know.
Today, I have inadvertently found myself revisiting his parish registers, this time it’s his comments about the baptisms of his parishioners children that I have been drawn to. He never held back in his comments, as we can see here in this first one for the baptism of Henry Wilson, the son of James, a cottager and his wife Elizabeth. The entry was on 26 November 1822, but it was not a usual baptism as noted by Rev. Oliver:
These people are stark raging ranters, who took the child (9 weeks old) to Mr Elsdale and imposed upon him with a lie!
For some reason the couple appear to have had the child baptised previously by the Rev Samuel Elsdale, master of the grammar school, in the neighbouring village of Moulton, which has obviously offended or annoyed Rev Oliver.
Next, we have the baptism of Betsey Makeman, on 9 December 1815, ‘the bastard daughter’ of Maria, the widow of William Lown. Maria was said to be living in a small house, in the low fields of Whaplode and her late husband, was a farmer.
Maria nee Copeland had married William Lown in 1799 and shortly after, the couple had a son, William in 1800 and a daughter, Maria the following year, followed by Elizabeth, Snelson, Ann and Robert. Maria’s husband William, then died, leaving Maria with 6 children to raise alone. Clearly, Maria met someone new and had a child with him. Rev. Oliver clearly did not approve of Maria’s current living arrangements i.e., living in sin as he saw it.
This woman’s moral depravity is so great, that she prefers living in a state of adultery with one, William Makeman to a state of matrimony with the same man!!!
On 22 April 1817, Maria Lown presented a second child, William, for baptism, the child having been born 29 December 1815, so not long after she had presented her daughter Betsey for baptism, which seems slightly curious as to why she didn’t have both children baptised at the same time. Rev. Oliver seems to have had plenty to say about Williams mother, Maria once again. This time his thoughts seem to have had no filter.
This abandoned woman might be married but will not! The banns of marriage have been published, but she prefers a state of prostitution! Remarking or having it remarked that she is already a whore and can be no worse. Therefore, will e’en remain as she is!!!!
Sure enough, the banns had been read for William Makeman’s marriage to Maria and even then, Rev. Oliver felt the need to record her as Maria, (the prostitute).
The couple were married by Rev. Oliver on 1 August 1817. On this occasion however, he simply stuck to the facts and there were no little asides noted about her former occupation.
Young William didn’t survive very long after his baptism dying in September 1817 and Rev. Oliver, once again saw fit to make a comment about Maria, despite her by this time being a respectable married woman, in Rev Oliver’s eyes it would appear that Maria could do nothing right.
With that, we move swiftly on to Rebecca, baptised 12 February 1816, the illegitimate daughter of Rebecca Winters. Rebecca, we are told was
bought into the parish by one, Edward Smith, a farmer’s son, as his wife, although he had another wife living at the same time, who was, shortly after delivered, in this parish of a dead child and what is more wonderful, the parish bore the expense of his wife’s confinement and suffered him to go at large, triumphing his wickedness as an affair which concerned no person!!!