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Rural Beginnings

John’s story starts in the old Oxfordshire village of Sibford Gower, which is a village 6.5 miles west of Banbury. 

John was born in 1825 to parents Thomas Hunt, himself born in Sibford Gower in 1803, and Maria Alexander. They married on the 2 August 1824 in the neighbouring parish of Swalcliffe, both it is stated are from the village of Swalcliffe. However, I have not been able to find any definite leads for Maria’s baptism or family. 

John was their first born and he was baptised in the neighbouring village of Epwell. 1 mile north of Sibford Gower on 20 March 1825. His father’s occupation is that of a labourer.

Thomas and Maria went on the have two further children, Emma born in 1829 who was baptised in Swalcliffe on 11 October 1829 and George who was born in 1831.

George was baptised on 3 July 1831 in Swalcliffe and sadly his burial record is found only 3 months later on 27 October 1831. 

I am unable to find any more records relating to Maria who I believe may have died in childbirth or complications after George’s birth, in 1831. John would have been only 6 years old at the time. Thomas Hunt described as a widower remarried on 20 August 1832 in Swalcliffe to a Susannah Hope who was 10 years his junior having been born approximately in 1811. 


In the 1841 census we find Thomas now aged 38 an Agricultural labourer with Susannah his wife aged 28 still living in Sibford Gower, with Emma aged 11 and two younger children from their marriage, Ephraim aged 7 and Eliza aged 3.

John himself is not living with them but there is a possible record of a John Hunt aged 15 a male servant on farm land, in the village of Hook Norton 3.6 miles from Sibford Gower.

During this decade John has a further two half siblings arrive. Thomas born in 1845 and Andrew born in 1848 but it’s difficult to know how much contact he would have had with them.


On 1 October 1845 at St Thomas church in Birmingham, John married Diana Newman. Baptised Dinah in 1819 in Todenham, Gloucestershire. Daughter of Robert Newman a Labourer and Martha Greening.  They are both of full age.  John was resident in Great Colmore Street, Birmingham which is described by Birmingham History Forum as a quiet street at that time.  Diana came from Deritend  which was a highly industrialised urban area, an historic part of Birmingham. Witnesses were Daniel Boiles and his wife Selina. Daniel is a cabinet maker born in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire. This could be a link to the 1841 census I found for John. Although Daniel was residing in Birmingham by 1841, his family were still in Hook Norton.  Is this how John found himself in the busy industrial city?

Both John and Diana have signed the register although Diana’s signature is quite hard to read


By the time of the 1851 Census John aged 26 and Diana aged 30, have moved back to Sibford Gower and are living next door to his father and the family. John has no occupation listed. 

During this year Thomas and Susannah Hunt have another daughter Ann Marie who was baptised on 7 December 1851. Another half sibling for John. Sadly, she died and was buried on the 7 April 1853 under 2 years old. This was rapidly followed by the death of John’s other half-sister Eliza who died in June 1852 aged 15.


In the 1861 census John aged 36 and Diana aged 41 have moved to London most likely to find work. John is now a Sawyer in general. Living at 12 Paul Street, Shoreditch. Along with 3 other families.  The building no longer exists. 

 Back in rural Oxfordshire in March 1867 sadly John’s father Thomas dies, aged 64


The 1871 census finds John aged 46 and Diana aged 51 have relocated and living on their own at 8 Crooked Lane, St Michael’s, City of London. John is a Sawyer. This old part of London no longer exists having been replaced by tall storey buildings. 


By the time of the 1881 census, John aged 56 is still working as a Sawyer and Diana aged 62, have moved again, now back in the Shoreditch area at 17 Brunswick Street sharing the accommodation is a family plus a widow and her son. 


Still in the Shoreditch area, we now find in the 1891 census, John aged 66 a wood Sawyer and Diana aged 72, living with another couple of similar age and a younger single female lodger at 3 Dysart Street.

In July 1899 in St Saviour, sadly we find the death record of Diana. Aged 80, This agrees with her baptism date of 1819.So poor John is now on his own after 54 years of marriage.


By the time of the 1901 census John aged 76, now a widower, still working as a wood Sawyer, is now boarding with a young family. Richard Cutbell aged 30, a stone mason’s labourer and his wife Martha aged 29 a laundress and their two children at 10 Lemon Street, All Hallows, Southwark.  This seems to be a poor area according to Booth’s Maps.

Decline in health.

On 9 December 1904 aged 79 John is admitted to Southwark Workhouse and on 13 December he is transferred to Newington possibly infirmary ward 9. On the 23 December he was examined and the decision was made to be discharged from the care of Southwark Workhouse to Horton Asylum.

The Workhouse records show these known relatives.

His reception order was completed by William Gibson Bott.

His family contact was named as his niece Eliza Ellen Williams of 33 Chase Road, Brentwood. Eliza being the daughter of John’s half-brother, Ephriam.

The medical examination by John Frederick Williams which is dated 22 December 1904 took place at Newington Workhouse. Walworth. He was examined and found to be a person of unsound mind


‘He is noisy and troublesome; he runs about the ward at night and disturbs the other patients. He drinks the urine out of the chambers and does all sorts of stupid things. He requires special supervision as well as nursing.’

John was to remain in Horton Asylum until his death on 1 January 1909 aged 84. He was buried at Horton Cemetery in grave number 277a.

Extended Family.

Susannah Hunt John’s Stepmother died in 1896 in Oxfordshire.

His full sister Emma married a William Clark and had a family. The family lived in Birmingham. She was a widow by 1881 and died about 1896 according to online family trees. 

Half siblings

Ephraim 1834, married and had a family. He moved to London 1881 census show him as a night watchman for Kensington Workhouse and 1891 he is an officer at Kensington Workhouse, he died in 1900. 

Eliza 1837, died in 1852 Oxfordshire

Thomas 1845, no further information found.

Andrew 1848, married and died in Banbury in 1926.

Ann Marie 1851-1853.  

Author’s thoughts. 

I find it so sad that John, after being a hard-working man for all his life, would end his days this way.  It was just him and Diana as a family, he must have been devastated and lonely when Diana died after 54 years of marriage. I haven’t found any children recorded in the GRO index.

I am assuming that John may have been suffering from what we now know as Alzheimer’s disease / Dementia and of course old age. 

It may look as if John had an uneventful life but he comes across as a steady man of his time and doesn’t deserve to be in an unforgotten grave, instead of being laid beside his Diana.

Sibford Gower, Oxfordshire.

The village is mentioned in the 1068 Doomsday Book records as having two Norman Manors; a new Manor house was built in the 17th century. 

In the 12 and 13th centuries, lands in Sibford Gower and Sibford Ferris were granted to the Knights Templar until 1314 when the last Knights Templar in England were suppressed.

Situated approximately 7 miles west of Banbury and north of the Sib Valley, Sibford Gower sits in the parish of Swalcliffe, 40 miles south of Birmingham. The parish had a Church of England church, a Baptist Chapel, and a Quaker meeting room. From the 17th century the village itself was associated with the history of Clockmakers. The Quaker Thomas Gilkes born 1665 in Sibford Gower pioneered clockmaking in north Oxfordshire. 

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