The Martin family of Upton and Blewbury

by Donald Stubbs

Donald Stubbs has been carrying out research into the history of the Martin family of Upton/Blewbury and would be willing to share information with other local historians/genealogists with related interests. He may be contacted at

Like very many others in recent years I decided to try to trace my ancestors. It was something I had tried to do years before in the 1970s but at that time the process was not only difficult but rather expensive. The availability of the Internet has made the task relatively simple. To my surprise I found that I was descended on my mother’s side from a family which had lived in Upton and Blewbury since at least the mid-sixteenth century. As already stated the Martin family are also associated with Blewbury; probably inevitable considering that the two villages are so closely situated; but all the seventeenth and eighteenth century generations are nevertheless recorded in Parish Registers as being “of Upton” even though they might have been baptized, married or buried in Blewbury!

The trouble with tracing one’s roots is that although this exercise is a fascinating even an addictive activity for the one whose ancestors are being traced, the resulting list of names, birth, marriage and burial dates have very little imaginative appeal to anyone else. One thing I did notice however was that the story of these “names without faces” as they literally were (and probably will remain) from the sixteenth to late eighteenth centuries was that their fortunes seem to have mirrored the social changes of their times and therefore by trying to incorporate the material gleaned from Parish Registers and wills into the broader pattern of local and national events, I thought that an account of their lives might have some interest to others; as being perhaps typical of the lives of the ancestors of many English people whose virtually anonymous forebears dwelled in and rarely left small rural communities up until the mid-nineteenth century.

According to this pattern Caleb Martin, 1833-1869, was the last of his (and my) particular branch of the Martin family to be associated with either Upton or Blewbury though his own and some of his his siblings’ descendents continued to live in Blewbury, and others in Reading and Tilehurst until the 1980s. The Martin family are now spread throughout Britain and indeed the world; a common dispersal pattern dictated by population growth, both economic hardship and opportunity and the increasing ease of transport and communications. At present largely unknown to one another, it is perhaps now the increasing ease of electronic communication and information retreival that might bring them together again!

Before begining an account of the Martin family I must acknowledge the very great help given to me by Mrs Audrey Long of the Blewbury Local History Society. Without Audrey’s invaluable information and hospitality I would have known virtually nothing of the following story. Thanks are also due to Mrs Lee Martin Hayes in the U.S.A. for much information and to the Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City for sending me a copy of Ezra Martin’s journal of 1883-4 completely free of charge. I also apologise for the fact that this account is necessarily written from the point of view of my own ancestry. All the surviving siblings of each generation will of course have their own descendents. Should any other Martin family researcher care to have more comprehensive details I will happily supply them, and would in return, be grateful to profit from their own knowledge.

There is mention of a John Marten in the Survey made of Blewbury in 1548. He is a “Copyholder”, and given the small size of Blewbury at that date – only 24 copyholders and 10 freeholders – is probably an early ancestor of the Upton/Blewbury Martins, possibly even the grandfather or great grandfather of the Sylvester Martin born about 1630, from whom I am descended. Copyhold tenure was a form of customary tenure by which the tenant held a copy of the entry in the rolls of the manorial court baron which recorded his or her holding on agreed terms. By the 16th century these terms, originally service, had been converted to a money payment. Certainly this was still the case for Sylvester’s direct descendent, Jonathan Martin who in 1805 was paying a fee in lieu of manorial service to Edward Humfrey as his Lord of Manor.

An inventory of possessions exists which was made at the death of another John Martin of Blewbury on the 20th November 1637, possibly the father of Sylvester. In this document John Martin is described as a “husbandman” the value of whose chattels including standing crops and livestock amounted to £13.8s.10d. Another early “Martin” document to have survived is an inventory of the possessions made of one “Agnes Martyne of Blewberie” made at her death on the 19th August 1593 to the value of £11.7s.10d. At present it is impossible to say how she might have fitted into the history of the Martin family anciently established in Upton but it is interesting to note that in both these wills possessions down to the last spoon, chicken and even growing produce in the gardens were itemised, and legacies denoted to the level of “two bushels of barley” left as the only bequest to one individual; a sure indication of the real value of everything to a near subsistence domestic economy.

A further early reference is to one Elizabeth Martin ( the daughter of Robert Martin and Elizabeth Plotte, married in Blewbury on the 14th October 1605) who was baptised at Blewbury on the 22nd December 1613. She married John Humfrey (himself baptised at Blewbury in 1608) at Blewbury on the 23rd January 1632. The Humfreys (variously spelled) were a prominent Blewbury/Upton family right into the modern era. Their family history states that this particular couple had 14 children!

The JOHN MARTIN who made his will in 1632 was probably born around 1585 and buried at Blewbury on the 24th October 1636. He married MARIE PLOTTE at Blewbury on the 30th January 1610 and may also have married one KATHERINE GREENE as his second wife on the 10th January 1619. It is evident from his will that this John Martin could not write. He signed the document drawn up in the contemporary “Secretary script” with an X. His condition is described in the document as that of “husbandman”, the old term used for a farmer below the rank of Yeoman. A husbandman usually held his land by copyhold or leasehold tenure and may be regarded as the average farmer in his locality. John, Marie and/or Katherine but more likely Marie had probably at least five children, three of whom survived to adulthood, no mean achievement for those times. One of these children was probably SYLVESTER MARTIN born around 1630 and who was the first of the Martin family to have been almost certainly born in Upton though his baptism is unrecorded in either the Upton or Blewbury registers. A child and youth during the Civil War but fortunately too young for military service, Sylvester married a local woman, FRANCES and fathered at least five children by her between 1655 and 1672.

Sylvester and Frances’ eldest son was named WILLIAM MARTIN and though always termed “of Upton” in official documents, he was nevertheless christened at Blewbury on the 16th December 1657. His first wife was named Lucy Woodroffe who was buried at Blewbury on the 5th June 1691. With what seems almost indecent haste William remarried on the 17th January 1692. His new wife was ANNE BUTLER. A legal notice in Latin exists for the administration of goods of William Martin “of Upton” dated 1728 which shows him to have died intestate. His goods are put into the hands of his son Jonathan Martin. The burial of “William Martin of Upton” took place on the 15th March 1727/8. The same Jonathan Martin features as heir in another document of 1738 drawn up when his mother Ann Martin “of Blewbury”, the wife of William also died intestate. “Ann Martin Widow of Upton” was buried at Blewbury on the 7th February 1737/8.

Interestingly a record exists in the Parish Registers of Upton for the baptism on the 5th June 1704 of a child Mary, the daughter of William Martin and Vertue Wells. It is the only reference to this couple in the Upton or Blewbury Registers leading to the possibility that this child was William’s illegitimate daughter. The necessity of legal means to establish a right to inheritance to William and Anne’s goods may indicate some kind of “claim” on their estate (perhaps by this illegitimate Mary?) or at very least indicates that their household management was chaotic. William and Anne were the parents of a legitimate daughter also confusingly named Mary who married one Gabriel Castle “both of Upton” at Blewbury on the 9th June 1722 and also of Jonathan Martin “of Upton” who was christened on the 29th November 1696 at Blewbury.

In 1721 JONATHAN MARTIN married MARY HULCUP, the daughter of one Simon Hulcup. She had been born in Upton about 1700 and was probably buried at Blewbury on the 15th September 1771. The “intestate” documents referred to above concerning Jonathan’s parents show Jonathan’s status at the time of his mother’s death as being that of “Yeoman”, and therefore indicates a rise in family fortunes from the “husbandmen” or even lower status of earlier generations. Indeed the status of Jonathan’s own father William cannot be clearly ascertained but he obviously had sufficient property to make the legal entitlement to it a necessity to establish. According to the Oxford Companion to Local and Family History at this period the term “Yeoman” as applied to Jonathan Martin referred to prosperous working farmers below the rank of Gentry. They worked their own land but did not necessarily have to be the freeholders of that land. It is virtually certain that Jonathan was not farming land he owned because he was not allotted a share in the Enclosure Award of Upton of 1759. The Upton Enclosure Award Document of that year does however mention him as having received payment from the Commissioners for “surveying admeasuring and planning”. The term “Yeoman” had no legal precision but was used informally to destinguish a farmer who was more prosperous than the average “husbandman”. The wealth that was needed for a farmer to be judged a yeoman by his neighbours varied from region to region and over time. During the 18th and 19th centuries both “yeoman” and “husbandman” were gradually abandoned in favour of the all embracing term “farmer”. At the very least the designation “Yeoman”, indicates that Jonathan enjoyed reasonable social standing and respect. This status was to last for at least the next two generations when the Martins gradually became freeholders of several Blewbury properties. Incidentally, also mentioned in the Upton Enclosure Award is one James Martin, Innholder of Ilsley who was paid for lodging and feeding the Commissioners. One speculates as to whether in the opinion of the Commissioners there was nowhere in Upton suitable for persons of their importance to stay ! At present I have not been able to discover how, if at all, this James Martin might have been connected with the Upton Martin family but it is interesting to note that he is one of the witnesses to the signing off of the whole Award agreement for the village. He seems therefore to have been trusted by the community. Although Jonathan Martin was buried at Blewbury on the 23rd February 1768, the family probably lived at Upton. In fact in the Blewbury Parish Registers Jonathan is usually described as being “of Upton”. Jonathan and Mary had seven children all of whom were baptized at Upton though usually buried at Blewbury. Of the boys only two survived to adulthood; Thomas born in 1734 and William.

WILLIAM MARTIN “of Upton” was christened at Upton on the 29th January 1723 and buried at Blewbury on the 3rd July 1796. In the Blewbury Parish Register his birth entry reads “William ye son of Jonathn. and Mary Marten of Upton” His first wife was Ann Fletcher whom he married at Upton on the 8th December 1746 and where the unfortunate woman was buried on the 2nd January 1755. William and Ann had four children together. After the death of Ann, William married MARY WYATT as his second wife at Blewbury on the 15th April 1758. They are described as being “both of Upton”, and W. Kible and Jonathan Webb were the witnesses at their marriage. At around this time the Martin family seem to become more prominent in Blewbury. One wonders, in the light of the Martin family’s lack of entitlement to land in the Upton Enclosure whether economic hardship drove them into the larger community. Certainly later in the eighteenth century many of the family have “trades” (e.g. basket and shoe making) rather than being involved directly in agriculture. Mary Martin was buried at Upton on the 23rd April 1783. The couple had six children including the Thomas Martin whom, according to local legend, was said to have erected a maypole in Blewbury Playclose which he had stolen on his horse in the night from another village (he is said to have celebrated the village’s Whitsun Sports around the pole), and JONATHAN MARTIN, my four times Great Grandfather.

JONATHAN MARTIN though described as being “of Upton” in official documents was baptized at Blewbury on the 6th May 1759 and died there in 1824. In the Blewbury Parish Register his baptismal entry reads “Jnthn. son of William and Mary Martin” making his parentage clear. On the 28th January 1781 he married ANN SHERWOOD at Blewbury. John Martin, Martha Sheard and Nathaniel Bridges were witnesses. At the enclosure of Blewbury in and after 1805 Jonathan Martin was allocated a piece of land of a freehold value of £1.1s.3d bordering the Compton and Hagbourne Road in what had been Blewbury’s East Field. The enclosure plan clearly indicating this piece of land in his name is attached, as also is the schedule for that land. A schedule of 1805 shows that Jonathan Martin paid 3 shillings to one Edward Humfrey as “quit rent” possibly indicating that Jonathan (probably not a farmer or farm labourer, possibly a craftsman and a non-conformist) owed a feudal duty to Edward Humfrey before the Enclosure as his “Lord of Manor”. The Humfrey family held the manorship of “Nottingham Fee” in Blewbury from the mid-seventeenth century. The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History defines a quit rent as : Quit Rent – A small fixed annual rent whose payment released a tenant from manorial services. Such payments were abolished in 1922. Several properties still exist in Blewbury which are associated with Jonathan Martin. Firstly “Wayside Cottage” on Westbrook Street. The local history guide to Blewbury “This Venerable Village” describes the property thus : “One of the oldest houses in the village (early 16th century) and was once a series of three small cottages. The oldest part was single storey and since the 17th century it has various additions and add ons (including Martins and Brookside). The large Martin family acquired the property before 1805, retaining the freehold until 1910, and it was used for shoe and basket making. Wayside remained a shoemaker’s shop through to the 20th century.” Secondly, Manor Cottages on Heather Way. The history says that : “These three cottages at the north end of Westbrook Street were freehold belonging to Jonathan Martin in 1805 and that is all that is known of them… They are now called (from Westbrook Street) Mockbeggars Cottage, Hidden Cottage, and Manor Cottage.” Jonathan and Ann had seven children amongst whom was Francis Martin, my three times Great Grandfather.

FRANCIS MARTIN was born at Blewbury on the 23rd January 1790 where his life story is still known to local historians. On the 30th October 1815 he married HANNAH BEESLEY at Blewbury Baptist Chapel. Hannah’s family originated in nearby Warborough where they were a family of influence. In 1844 the Beesleys were he biggest non-aristocratic landowners in that village and there are still many headstones to the Beesley family in the churchyard there. Francis’ profession in 1818 was “boot and shoemaker”. Before the factory system was established shoemakers were reputed to have a very free lifestyle, working only the hours and days convenient to them. Shoemaking was known as “the gentle craft”. In a book called “The Venerable Village” a history of Blewbury, the following passage can be found:

In 1834 Francis Martin, the shoemaker, built a chapel in Westbrook Street. This was for followers of the Particular Baptist persuasion and held 70. In 1851 there were reported to be present 15 in the morning and 30 in the evening. Francis Martin was Deacon. It is said that baptisms used to take place in a stream at the bottom of the garden .” One speculates as to whether the free time available to Francis from his being able to practice his craft at the hours of his choosing enabled him to pursue his religious vision. The chapel still exists, now converted to a private dwelling. The building was evidently still in the possession of the Martin family until the 1920s when Miss Emily Martin, Francis Martin’s granddaughter and the daughter of his son Samuel kept a fancy goods shop there. Another property in Blewbury is said to have been built by Francis Martin. This is the cottage known as “Fron Deg” on Westbrook Street. Francis Martin is said to have had it constructed in 1840. I think it likely that the small size of this building makes it likely to have been the site of Emily Martin’s shop. It is possible that as non-conformists the Martins found themselves sanctioned by not being employed in local agriculture in that this form of employment was in he hands of “establishment minded” individuals. Hence the necessity of the family becoming increasingly being occupied by crafts and striving to acquire property as security. Ezra Martin, Francis and Hannah’s twelth child, comments on the fact that the local people, including members of his own family, were compelled to go to Church and show respect to the authorities if they wanted to “eat bread”. The independence of the Martin family and other non-conformists may indicate the possibility of the Martins running a Sunday School in their Chapel/house. It is further recorded by Ezra Martin that members of the family constituted an itenerant Baptist Chapel Choir. Ezra recalls that he was a member of such a Sunday school during the 1850s. (he writes this in the 1880s saying that this education took place 30 years ago). Such a school would not only have been for young children. Ezra Martin was in his 20s during the 1850s.

Francis and Hannah Martin’s seventeen children included Silas 1830-1888 who married Ann Mayne 1854 of Reading. Audrey Long sent me information regarding a dramatic event that occured in the lives of two of Francis Martin’s young sons in the year 1838. According to Audrey in that year Abijah and Silas, or possibly Abijah and Jabez, two other of Francis and Hannah’s sons were the victims of a Highway Robbery on the road between Chilton and Blewbury. The Reading Mercury newspaper reports the incident as follows:

“Two little lads, sons of a shoemaker named Martin, at Blewbury, were sent a short time back by their father to the house of Annetts at Chilton, who is remanded on the charge of incendriarism, to collect a debt amounting to £1.3s., which sum was paid to them by Annetts. The prisoner was present at the time, and assisted in placing it securely in one of their pockets. They left the house and proceeded towards Blewbury, but had not gone far before they were stopped by the prisoner, who had disguised himself, and who took from them the money they had received. They clearly swore to his identity, and it further appeared that he at once searched the pocket in which the money was placed. The prisoner was fully committed for trial at the assizes.”

The perpetrator of this crime was in fact one Thomas Stanbrook the brother of the “Annetts” (Sarah) named in the article. In the article the incident is linked with Sarah Annetts being charged with “Rick burning” at Chilton shortly before. The Stanbrook/Annetts family seem to have been in desperate straits. One example perhaps of the general distress amongst the agricultural population during the 1830s.

Ezra, Francis and Hannah’s twelth child,1832-1912, became a Mormon after emigrating to the U.S.A. and made the trek by covered waggon in 1862 from New York to Salt Lake City in Utah. Ezra kept a journal of this terrible and eventful journey.

Samuel, Francis and Hannah’s sixteenth child lived in the old family Chapel since converted to a dwelling at Blewbury until at least Christmas 1883 when he was visited there by his brother Ezra. At that time Samuel and Rachel had “two lovely daughters”. It was one of these daughters, Emily, that kept a fancy goods and needlework shop in the village until the 1920s.

CALEB MARTIN, the thirteenth child of Francis and Hannah and my Great Great Grandfather was the last of this particular branch of the Martin family to be directly associated with either Upton or Blewbury; born at Blewbury in 1833 he married ANNE ELIZABETH NEWMAN in June 1854. The marriage took place at the Reading Public Register Office, unusual for the time but according well with the Martin family’s dissenting religious views. Caleb was a tailor being initially apprenticed to his elder brother Abijah 1827-1901.By 1861 Caleb had left the village and was living at Arthur Road Reading as a “tailor born in Wantage” (probably shorthand for Blewbury) with wife Anne; son George Caleb aged 4; daughter Lavinia Anne aged 3 and my great grandfather CHARLES ALFRED a new born baby. Caleb died in 1869 and his young family was immediately split up to be lodged and cared for by his widow’s Reading-based relatives. Some of their direct descendents were still resident in that town up until he 1980s.

There are references in Caleb’s brother Ezra’s journal to the Martin family which help to cast light on what life was like for the family during the 1880s and indeed it contains memories of their earlier family life in Blewbury. Ezra, having emigrated to the United States had been sent back to England as a Missionary of the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). Ezra begins his journal by stating that his parents were “faithful members of a Calvinist Church under that influence I was brought up”. Presumably this influence must have been the same for Caleb. Ezra reports receiving a letter sent to the U.S.A. from England in 1869 giving news of Caleb’s death to which he replied giving a frank account of his Mormon views. This would indicate that religion was still an extremely important even contentious issue in the Martin family. The following year, 1870, Ezra also reports the receipt of another letter announcing the death of his father Francis. In 1883 Ezra returned to England as a Mormon missionary and reports various visits to his family in Reading, Blewbury and villages thereabouts. He writes:

“June 27th Arrived at Reading Berks. was welcomed at my brother Abijah’s and prayed to God for favour and peace to rest upon this house and family. I soon visited others of our family who are numerous and nearly all moral and religious and following after the fashion’s false teachings and popular notions of the day and which as a mighty tide carrying along all classes of human beings who are by College made ministers”.

This is an attack I suppose on the standard religion of his relations, Anglican or Baptist, and he reports in particular being opposed by a certain Dr Tull when he tried to expound the Mormon point of view. He records a dream where he is saved from Dr Tull, transformed into the likeness of a giant hog by his “own sister Martha East and Minnie her daughter”. This dream prompted Ezra to visit “Martha and her husband James East” whos family now (1883) consisted of two sons, two daughters and four grandchildren. On July 9th 1883 Ezra reports that his

“brother Abijah with me took train for Didcot and was there when we met brothers Silas and Samuel. Walked to Blewbury and over the place of birth. Now 27 years since we had seen each other. We roamed off over the hills, talked of childhood’s day, looked over the green fields and plucked the wild flowers once more. Talked over the incidents, accidents and follies and fun of youth. Had good time, Stayed at brother Samuel’s at the old home [presumably the Chapel home Martins at Westbrook Street Blewbury] that father built. The chapel is now changed to a dwelling. July 10 visited the grave of my father there. I found a stone on which was engraved as follows: Francis Martin who departed this life sepr 26th 1870 aged 81 years. Also Hanah Beesley his wife departed July 17th 1859 age 62 years. I cleaned the stone and left it looking new, this being my birth day.when she left [i.e. his mother had died on Ezra’s birthday] caused me to have peculiar feelings and I had resolved to take their names into the Temple of God for baptism as soon as able together with many other names of dear departed ones according to the Holy order of the Gospel believing all shall come and last and end as shall please our heavenly friends.”

Headstone of Francis and Hannah Martin

I visited Blewbury Churchyard in 2011 and found Francis and Hannah Martin’s headstone though not in its original situation. Some parts of the inscription had been completely eroded but the names and main dates were still discernable. Unfortunately I think that this monument is unlikely to survive another decade. A record of the stone states that the entire inscription was as follows “In affectionate rememberance of Francis Martin who departed this life September 26th 1870, aged 81 years. Also of his beloved wife Hannah who departed this life July 17, 1859 aged 62 years. The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance”.

“July 20 visited brother Silas and family, four sons and three daughters, passed a few days around about. 19th walked to Warborough the birth place of my mother (and Caleb’s). Stood on the bridge over the River Thames, surely a desireable spot, a blessed view. Green fields all about laden with grain, sloping hills the woodlands and forest in the distance, the trains of cars gliding along, the birds singing on all sides, the grand scenery all around and all above here proclaims that God is love!. At Warborough I found the gravestones of Grandfather and Grandmother Beisley on mother’s side.”

I visited Warborough Churchyard in 2011 and although I found headstones to the Beesley family of the 19th century; amongst which possibly those of Hannah Beesley nee Martin’s siblings; all the eighteenth century stones where either completely decayed and illegible or piled against the Churchyard wall and again for the most part undecipherable.

“In the midst of those beauties of nature I found much trouble among the poor working classes; great distress. They must bow to the rich, go to Church or lose their bread. The whole county has long ago passed into the hands of the rich [a possible reference to the enclosure of these then Berkshire villages about a century earlier]. One man here can own enough land to keep one hundred familys well off, but all the farms and villages have passed from the poor. July 22 back to Moreton attended the Baptist Chapel with thirteen of the Martin family most of them singers including myself, we formed the choir but I passed through an hour of misery listening to the trash, insults to Christianity, lies and falsehoods. Yet the preacher seemed to be sincere but how dark, dark. We repaired to my brother’s house to tea where I was aroused to talk and preached an hour to a large room full. That hour will never be fogotten. Many questions were asked me on scripture all of which I could answer and converted some to the truth after much visiting and fireside preaching. I took train for Risca in Wales where I was welcomed by my sister Esther Rosser and her family a large and interesting one “.

I remember being shown as a child a letter written I think in about 1863 from one of the Reading Martin family who was staying with relatives (presumably the Rossers) in Wales. It is possible that this was a letter written by Caleb though I think it more probable to have been written by Caleb’s elder son George Caleb to his parents. After a visit to his wife’s relatives in Birmingham and Lincolnshire and a visit to Mormon headquarters at Nottingham Ezra returned to spend Christmas 1883 with the Martin family, his journal continues:

“22nd I started out for Berkshire and spent Christmas among my relatives at birth place town of Blewbury. In leaving the headquarters at Nottingham I was compelled to walk not having money to ride; so I came to Mount Sorrel to Lougborough … walked to Moreton to my brother, the roads dusty here, my feelings are peculiar. I gaze once more upon scenes of my childhood while the bells of my native village peals forth as of yore. Also I could hear the merry peals from three other villages. Walked to Britwell, found Ezra Martin a son of my brother Ezekiel. Decr. 24th met met at Blewbury at the old home, welcomed by Samuel, his wife Rachel and two lovely daughters. Now I am resting in my mother’s armchair in a room once a chapel that my father built. 25 Christmas. fifteen persons of the family met here had a good time, had a chance to testify of the Gospel as restored through Joseph Smith (the Mormon founder) whom God called. 30th at Moreton. Here again eleven of the Martins met and formed a choir for Chapel. Went to Chapel, heard errors and nonsense by the preacher. He preaches for money, prays for money. They pays their money and he leaves them to go to Heaven the best they can. Only pay money, that is all”.

In 1884 Ezra returned to the U.S.A. but visited his relations once more before beginning the return journey. He continues:

“turned in sorrow to leave my native spot facing towards Reading. I walked slowly over the hills turning to gaze upon the landscape of my birth. Oh what emotions. Father and Mother ah ! where are they? And why am I roaming here? What am I doing here? I have found the answer, I have yielded… received the Priesthood… as I left the scenes of my childhood I thanked and praised God for my calling. Faith and knowledge amen. I arrived at Reading and found a welcome with my brother A. He put a suit of clothes on me without pay for I had only a little money that my son George Eli and daughter Emma S saved and sent me from their hard earnings. Made a general visit and many friends among them a Miss Jonson now Mrs Meyer. She used to attend the Sunday School with me thirty years ago [this is probably a reference to the so-called Dissenting Academies rather than the Sunday Schools assoiated with the Anglican Church. Such Academies made working-class non-Conformists such as the Martins generally much better educated than their Church of England contemporaries]”

One visit of a rather disturbing character is now recounted by Ezra Martin. He continues:

“Visited my cousin Harriet Martin [possibly Harriet Martin Christened at Blewbury on the 3rd October 1869 the daughter of William and Ellen Martin descended from Ezra and Caleb’s uncle on their father’s side, Thomas] now Neilles who has a daughter who has been ruined by a Catholic Priest, who makes a busines of seducing young girls and married women and gives drugs to produce abortion and passions. Too dangerous. On to Reading. On entering my old home town emotions strong are in me causing me to reflect on former hopes, desires devotions. My past sorrows, joys, domestic and otherwise. My present position and business… 16th left Reading walked to Maidenhead… on to Hayes to my sister Roada. With her attended Baptist Chapel. Heard lies and stuff… Croydon, visited my nephew, my sister Esther’s son Dr. Rogers also James Rice… testified before them… back to Reading where I had a bed and board with my brother. Visited and preached much by firesides made many friends. Back to Blewbury, Newbury, Ilsley and other places in Berkshire. On to Abingdon to Brother and Sister Sears (Mormons not blood relations) found Edith a daughter of my brother Ezekiel. Martha [Ezra and Caleb’s elder sister born in1826 previously married to James East] now married to one Samuel Dunsby. On to Oxford. Here I found relations, cousins on my mother’s side among the Quelch family; here again I look out over more scenes of boyhood. I lived here with my Uncle and Aunt Stephen and Rachel Quelch. Stephen Quelch married Rachel Bisley of Warborough. Here also I found a son of my brother Ezekiel named Harold who married a Mary Ann Rowland. A good time bless them. At Oxford a large and old city I was well received among my friends and relations…….visit my boyhood place at Woolstone where I was bound Apprentice 5 years to learn a trade [probably shoemaking like his father Francis. Ezra was involved in shoe manufacturing in the U.S.A. Caleb had ben apprenticed to his brother Abijah as a tailor. Most of he 19th century Martins seem to have been craftsmen rather than farmers or farm labourers]… I press on, at evening I reachd Uffington. Found my old master Charles Hunt and wife who offered me a bed. Next day we talked over old times…..April 4th walked out to Woolaton looked over haunts of youth. Five years I lived here. April 5th walked to Farringdon and found the spot of ground where the body of my brother Ezekiel was laid in the Baptist Chapel where I offered a prayer and consecrated the ground”.

After Ezra returns to the U.S.A. he reports that “one hunderd saints, some of whom were relatives” accompanied him on the crossing. He then gives a list of the names and dates of birth of his relations in England. he only mention he gives to Caleb is “1884 Caleb has a numerous family names not complete. He married Anne Noakes of Reading”. I think that Ezra was in error concerning the surname of Caleb’s wife who was actually Anne Elizabeth Newman. Dying so young (in 1869) Caleb did not in fact, by the standards of the time, have a large family though his descendents were by that date all living in Reading. Unless they formed part of the various Martin Chapel choirs, or the family gathering for Christmas in the old family home at Blewbury, perhaps Ezra did not meet them.

It is interesting and perhaps sad to note that within two generations of Caleb all memories of Upton and Blewbury, indeed any idea of the family as having originated in these villages had disappeared. Perhaps Caleb, having died when his children were still young, and having married a Reading woman did not communicate knowledge to them of his origins, and she, after remarrying had little contact with her country kin. At all events certainly my mother had no idea of her family’s connection with Upton/Blewbury, and, until the arival of the Internet age, no more did I!

Don Stubbs
May 2011