Muddles Green 1841 – A Census Snapshot of a Special Family Moment. (#52 Ancestors Week 5 – In The Census)


CC Commons 0 – From PixaBay

It’s a baby girl!

Once in a while, a census entry captures something more than just names.  Sometimes we get an actual glimpse into the lives of our ancestors, as happened with this particular census entry.

One domestic household in Muddles Green was buzzing with activity on census night, 6th June 1841.  The wheelwright’s wife was in labour and the family was primed for action.

Mrs Frances Guy was clearly at her time.  The wheelwright’s mother and sister had both come to stay, most certainly in readiness for this night.  The wheelwright was Silas Guy and this was their eighth child, about to enter the world.


Muddles Green in summer

The hamlet of Muddles Green in the English county of Sussex was a very small place filled with the remnants of grandeur from a bygone glorious age.  The industrial age churned into motion elsewhere in England but this tiny collection of cottages was not impacted one bit.  It was a forgotten pocket of 18th century gentility in a world of coal dust and economic upheaval, populated by locals whose families had been there pretty well forever.

Life was definitely slow here in Muddles Green. The houses were old and sturdy, the industry was agricultural.  It was half a mile from Chiddingly, which was five miles from Hailsham, which in turn was ten miles from Eastbourne.

It was the home of one branch of my ancestors for a couple of centuries.


Muddles Green near Chiddingly

My 5x great grandmother was Mary Guy.  She was born in Chiddingly as Mary Funnell, daughter of Thomas Funnell and Mary Hoad.

Mary grew up at ‘The Park’ in Chiddingly, a small manor reputed to once have been the home of the Sackville family (attached to British royalty).   The Funnells were a yeoman family, still important in their little community but no longer holding the wealth they once had known.

The Guy family of Muddles Green, on the other hand, were very wealthy and leased most of the land around, plus living in some of the remaining manor houses.

Thomas Guy of Muddles Green married Mary Funnell of Chiddingly on 27 July 1779 and they settled at Muddles Green. Their marriage united a respectable family with money (the Guy family) with a respectable family of antiquity and local repute.  You couldn’t ask for a more advantageous circumstance. The children were baptised in Chiddingly, including Mary (born 1779), Philadelphia (born 1783) and Silas (born 1803).

Mary Guy's census

The Guy family in 1841 – Muddles Green in the Hundred of Shiplake, civil parish of Chiddingly, Sussex, England.

The children grew up.  My 4x great grandmother Philadelphia married and moved away.  Her sister Mary married Thomas Newnham.  Her brother Silas married Frances Eyles.  There were seven other children who by 1841 had married and moved on.

My 5x great grandmother Mary Guy was eighty one years old when her youngest granddaughter was born on census night.  Her eldest daughter was sixty.  Mary Newnham was probably the real help here.  I can imagine her rushing about with young Miriam Deacon, the 15-year-old servant girl listed in this census, boiling water, folding blankets, soothing her labouring sister-in-law.  Grandma Mary perhaps was watching the other children, assisted by twelve year old Granddaughter Mary.

Three Mary’s in one household!  It must have been confusing.

Being the eighth child, I’m sure the whole business was dealt with quickly and as calmly as could be.  The newborn most likely made her way into the world, took her first shaky breaths, gave her first tremulous cry and was swaddled warmly in a blanket and passed to the waiting arms of her exhausted mother.  I imagine it went that way.  Miriam the servant girl would have gone to make a pot of tea while the children came to see their new little sister.

Finally, within an hour of the little one’s arrival, someone sat down to write up the census record.

Christian Ladies Magazine 1851

Image of motherhood from Christian Ladies Magazine 1851. Unsigned, no attribution. Publication by the Religious Tract Society, London.

The census records the new baby as being a daughter of no name, aged one hour.

From my vantage point in the future, I know that she will be named Clara Jane Guy.  I also know that she will grow up, get married, and become a mother to her own little ones.  But that is all in the future for census night of 1841.


Stock photo from Pexels



Census record: Class: HO107; Piece: 1118; Book: 5; Civil Parish: Chiddingly; County: Sussex; Enumeration District: 4; Folio: 21; Page: 4; Line: 16; GSU roll: 464163