Rebecca Illes and Arthur Percy Beck married at Buckland Newton Church, in Dorset on Wednesday 26th August 1896. Grandad Beck’s father Eli and his sister Olive signed the church register. I don’t have any early photographs of Rebecca, the ones below were taken in the early 1900s.
The banns of marriage
The marriage banns were read for Grandad Beck at The Holy Trinity Church, Stourpaine, Dorset and Rebecca at Holy Rood Church, Buckland Newton but this doesn’t tell us the whole story. From the Police Duties Book, Dorset Constabulary we know that Grandad Beck started at Lyme Regis on 8th August, which suggests he wasn’t at Stourpaine for his banns to be called. I am assuming that he spent the two weeks before his wedding at Lyme Regis. A police constable, at this time, only got one weeks holiday per year. It is likely that he had to work the first year before he could take any holiday, as was usual up until the 1970s. Therefore the timing of the wedding nearly 18 months after Grandad Beck joined the police suggest this could have been his first time off work.
As the banns for Rebecca were read at Buckland Newton, I thought this may have been were she was working and they met. Rebecca had spent her adult working as a servant in various houses. From the censuses we can get a glimpse of Rebecca’s working life.
In 1871 nine-year-old Rebecca was living with her parents and 4 siblings at Sydenham Farm near Broadwell in Gloucestershire. Her father, John, farmed 116 acres, he employed 3 Men and 2 Boy. One of these boys could have been his son Jacob who was 14 years old. On 18th October 1877 Rebecca’s father died. The family were in financial difficulty and had to sell a hay rick due to being behind with the farm rent. This was in August, 2 months before John Illes died, suggesting that he may have been ill for a while or perhaps the financial problems contributed to his death.
10 years later, Rebecca’s mother Elizabeth was living in Broadwell on her own. In his will, John had left his wife his property and money which she continued to live off of this for the rest of her life. In the Index of Wills and Probate his effects were under £800, this must have been a considerable sum in 1877. I can’t find any further trace of Rebecca’s brother, Jacob Jackson Illes. Jacob middle name Jackson, was his mother’s maiden name. Rebecca went into service sometime between the two censuses and in 1881 was working at Ormerod House, Cliviger, Lancashire as an agricultural dairymaid. A skill she may have learnt on her father’s farm.
In the 1891 census Rebecca, now 29 years old, had moved into a larger house. Pierrepont House, Frensham, Surrey and was working in the kitchens as a dairymaid. Between 1891 and 1895 when she married, Rebecca was to met Grandad Beck but how and where was the question that intrigued the family. In 1894 Rebecca’s mother, Elizabeth, died at Broadwell, Gloucestershire. Elizabeth didn’t leave a will but Rebecca was the daughter that sorted out her affairs and named on the Letters of Administration. This was fortunate for me because it gave an address for Rebecca.
In the 1891 census Grandad Beck was working as a gardener at Herringston House near Dorchester. Herringston is the address that Rebecca gave on the form, therefore it is likely that this is where they met and fell in love. When Grandad Beck joined the police, he was 20 years old, Rebecca was 34 years old. While a 14 year gap is not unusual where the bride is younger than the groom, I am sure the age gap between these two caused some comment. Especially as Grandad Beck was under 21 years. For the 18 months until they married Rebecca and Grandad Beck must have corresponded by letter. It is possible that Grandad Beck may have visited Dorchester police station and they managed to meet but he is unlikely to have had any officially time off.
I have no idea what position Rebecca held at Herringston. Herringston House is the only premises that employed more than one servant, so it is unlikely that she worked anywhere else. I did find one possibility in July 1892 Mrs William’s advertised in the Western Gazette for a Cook, was this the job that Rebecca applied for? Family legend says that she was a housekeeper. The senior female servant at Herringston House in the 1891 census was a housekeeper and there was no cook listed. While there was a cook but no housekeeper in the 1901 census, it is possible that the job was a combination of the two. My only issue with this is to go from being a Dairymaid to Cook in 1 year is a big step up but I don’t think impossible.
I think it is likely that Rebecca left Herringston shortly before the wedding, so that her banns could be called at Buckland Newton. Probably staying in Grandad Beck’s old home with his family. I am sure that Grandad Beck’s parents, Eli and Frances, would have been pleased to see their son married in their local church. Eli worked as a gardener for Canon Henry Ravenhill, who was the rector of Holy Rood, Buckland Newton. Canon Ravenhill had baptised Grandad Beck and is likely to have known the whole family well. I am not so sure that family and friends approved of Grandad Beck’s choice of bride but from the family photographs, I think the immediate family got on well. I believe the bride and groom were in love and they were to remain happily married for 31 years.
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Oxford Journal – Saturday 04 August 1877 p4 col1
Western Gazette – Friday 15 July 1892 p4 col1