Stories from Suffolk Marriage Licences

Marriage licences are an amazing resource for researchers and are now searchable by name, occupation, place and date.  This is of value not only to family historians, but to local historians and researchers interested in the occupations of our Suffolk ancestors.

Unusual occupations

As we’ve been digitising the marriage licences, we’ve been noting some of the more unusual vocations we find, including: –

  • Robert Keyes, a soap boiler of Woodbridge (1766, Ref: FAA/23/20/147).  A skilled trade, the soap boiler had to understand the correct mixtures and perfumes to add.  Soap was once heavily taxed and soap boilers had to inform excise officers 24 hours before making a batch (presumably, it also stank!).
  • Henry Carr, a whitestar or whitester (1767, Ref: FAA23/21/56).  This was a bleacher of cloth.
  • Joseph Cahmberlain, a chymist of Ipswich St Mary le Tower parish (1818, Ref: FAA/23/42/152).  A chymist or alchemist practised the ancient science of chemistry/physics.
  • Samuel Garrett, a bladesmith of Woodbridge (1787, Ref: FAA/23/31/164).  A bladesmith was a specialist metalworker who made knives and swords (possibly, in this case, with a military connection, as there was a Cavalry Barracks in Woodbridge at the time).
  • Benjamin Butcher, a tow comber (Ref: FAA/23/33/31) – a tow comber removed the coarse, broken fibres of flax, hemp or jute often used as upholstery stuffing.
  • Richard Waters, a pavior of Didcot (Ref:FAA/23/24/59).  Paviors had an official position to upkeep paths.  There is still a Worshipful Company of Paviors in the City of London.
  • Tobias Searson, a horologiarium of Ipswich (Ref: FAA/23/6/183) – a clockmaker.  He was successful and a plan of his estate survives and can be found at the Essex Record Office.  Examples of his work are rare, but an exceptional 30-hour long case clock of c.1710 has survived.  He is buried in Hadleigh.
  • Two very rare instances of a woman’s occupation being mentioned – Elizabeth Robinson, shopkeeper and widow of Leiston (1763, Ref: FAA/23/19/31) and Sarah Smith (a minor), servant maid of Benhall (1766, Re: FAA23/20/194).
A rarity - a marriage licence specifying the occupation of the bride, in this case Elizabeth Robinson, a shopkeeper and widow. Dated 1763

A rarity – a marriage licence specifying the occupation of the bride, in this case Elizabeth Robinson, a shopkeeper and widow. Dated 1763

Tragedy and comedy

Marriage licences are often poignant reminders of how fragile life can be.  For example: –

  • Samuel Flick and Hannah Hall’s marriage licence affidavit dated to 1871 (Ref: FAA/23/55/180) however Samuel died just a few days later, before it could be used.

However the occasional discovery makes us smile: –

  • Charles Fisher, a comedian – most likely part of the famous Fisher Theatre Company that had 13 theatres in East Anglia, one of which was at Lowestoft (1814, Ref: FAA/23/41/115).
  • Some unusual names: –
    • a groom called “Marvellous Frond” (Ref: FAA/23/7/164)
    • a bride called “Kepen-happuch” (Ref: FAA/23/7/417) – a Herbrew word for ‘horn of antimony’ – a cosmetic used as eyeliner – and the name of Job’s third daughter born after his affliction was over (i.e. ‘child of beauty’)