Thomas Mead and Mary Stearns

Thomas Mead was born (illegitimately) in 1804 in Eastwood, Essex, England to mother Lucy Mead. Lucy was aged 19 at the time of his birth.

St Laurence and All Saints Eastwood Essex

Thomas was baptised on 1 April 1804 at St Laurence and All Saints, Eastwood, with the description given in the register that he was baseborn (bastard). Unfortunately the father’s name is not given.

His mother Lucy Mead was also baptised in the same church at Eastwood on 15 September 1784 at Eastwood, the daughter of William and Mary Mead.

William Mead, born in 1760, was buried on 1 Feb 1837 at nearby St Andrews, Rochford. It is unknown when he married his wife Mary.

Holy Trinity, Rayleigh, Essex

Lucy married Matthew Sniden at Rayleigh, Essex (3 miles away from Eastwood) four years after the birth of Thomas on 5 June 1808. Perhaps Matthew was the father? I’ve been unable to find out anything else about Lucy or Matthew in the records.

Thomas Mead was a farmer in the village of Eastwood. Eastwood was a small village, 1 mile south of Rochford and 3 miles north west of Southend. In 1848 it had 596 inhabitants and 3216 acres of land.

St Mary the Virgin, Hawkwell

Thomas, aged 24 married Mary Ann Stearns on 25 September 1828 at her parish church St Mary the Virgin, Hawkwell, Essex. Both parties were literate.

Mary Ann was born in 1806  in Rochford, Essex to parents Samuel Stearns (1779-1839) and Sarah Knight (b 1784).

She was baptised in Rochford on 12 January 1806.

Samuel was recorded as a labourer and carpenter on his children’s baptism records. He married Sarah Knight on 10 March 1805 at Rochford, by banns. He was buried at Rochford on 25 November 1839.

Mary Ann was the first born of eight children born to Samuel and Sarah, all in Rochford.

Thomas and Mary Ann had six children together –

Isaiah Mead

  1. Isaiah born 1830 Hawkwell, died 1901 South Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. Married Mary Ann Ruff 1856 Southwark, London. 12 children. Immigrated to Melbourne, Aus 1857 “James Fernie”.
  2. Sarah born 1833 Hawkwell, died after 1841
  3. Emma born and died 1835 Hawkwell
  4. Louisa born 1837 Hawkwell, died 1838 Eastwood
  5. Samuel born 1840 Eastwood. Married Mary Ann Murgatroyd 1861.
  6. Mahala born 1842 Eastwood.

It appears Thomas and Mary Ann lived in the village of Hawkwell for a few years after their marriage in 1828, before their first child Isaiah was born there in 1830.

The next three children are also born in Hawkwell from 1830 to 1837, but the following year in 1838 when Louisa was buried, the family had moved three miles south to the village of  Eastwood.  On Louisa’s baptism in 1837 in the Hawkwell parish registers, Thomas’s occupation is wrongly given as a shoemaker.

On 22 June 1838, the Rochford Parish Tithe records list Thomas Mead, tenant farmer, owner Mary Bellingham, plot 166 part of house. It seems there are eight people (families) listed in the house, but looking at the tithe map, it appears it refers to a building divided into houses.

Rochford parish tithe map 1838

Close-by is Sarah Stearns, widowed mother of his wife Mary Ann in plot 170. The landowner is Michael Comport, and she is also sharing part of a house with three others.

Eastwood village sign depicting St Laurence church

Three years later Thomas can be found in the 1841 census living in Eastwood, aged 35, occupation agricultural labourer. With him are his wife Mary aged 30, and children Isaiah aged 11, Sarah aged 8 and Samuel aged 1. It is believed only three of the children survived childhood.

To help pay for the upkeep of the poor of the parish all the occupants were levied a small amount by the local parish overseer.

Thomas appears in the 1840 Assessment of Poor Rate Book for  Eastwood as an occupier of a cottage and garden, the owner given as Mr Michael Sazell. The property was near a public house.

In 1847 Thomas appeared in the Rochford County Court, in a dispute over workers wages.

Chelmsford Chronicle 4 June 1847 Essex County Court Rochford District

Thomas was again assessed for poor rates in 1848.

Poor Rates Assessment for Eastwood 1848 – occupier Thomas Mead, owner Lord Downe, cottage and garden and land. He also appears in the same assessment for April 1851.

Thomas Mead 1848 Eastwood Poor Rates Assessment

Thomas appears in the same rate assessments for 1856, 1861 and 1863.

I’ve been unable to find Thomas in the 1861 census. The only Thomas Mead in the area that can be found is one married to an Elizabeth Clements nee Thompson of Willingdon, Shropshire, with three children – Sarah 1849, Elizabeth 1852, Eliza 1855. That Thomas married Elizabeth Clements in 1839 so not the right one.

Sadly Thomas died in May 1872 at the Rochford Parish Union House (the workhouse), and was buried at the church of St Nicholas in Great Wakering, Essex, nine miles east of his birthplace in Eastwood (Essex Burial Index 1530-1994).

Rochford Union Workhouse Essex

The Rochford Union workhouse was built in 1837 on a site at the north side of West Street in Rochford.

The building cost in the region of £5,000 and accommodated 300 inmates.

By the time of the 1881 census there were 85 men, 41 women and 46 children housed in the Rochford Union Workhouse.