Edward Risdon

As already stated, Edward Risdon was my great great grandfather, and he was born in Exeter, Devon, some time in April 1831. You might have observed the shortness of his life, from the dates given in the heading on the Notable Risdons page, and that is due, in no small part, to the fact that his life appears to have been something of a troubled one, for reasons that are difficult to fathom; perhaps it was inherent in his character: there is no evidence to show that this was the result of a bad upbringing although, to be frank, such specific evidence from that period is not easy to come by. Some of the evidence I do have is anecdotal, as will be the case with a lot of family histories, so it must inevitably be treated with some circumspection (obviously, as soon as corroborative information comes to light, speculative assertions will be updated as appropriate).

From the little we know about his background, which is, nevertheless, informative, it appears that his father, Thomas (a name we have encountered before on several occasions), was a man of many parts, as the saying goes; he was baptised on the 13th of March 1803, at St. Peter’s Cathedral Exeter (IGI), and it would seem (although this has yet to be conclusively confirmed) that the family had already become established in Exeter for several generations, but the first of the line to live there is still a mystery.1 He also had a twin brother John, according to the baptism register (from which we also learn that his mother’s name was Rachel), and a younger brother George, baptised on the 20th of May the following year, 1804 (shown on the same page as his siblings, and therefore confirmed by, the baptism register). Thomas appears to have married an Elizabeth Brice on the 20th of June 1825, in the large parish of Exeter St. Leonard, which is on the south east periphery of the modern city, so back then, it could have been still a country area; the church in which the wedding took place is not specified in the transcription from the marriages index.2 Elizabeth Brice might have been born in 1807. Thomas has been variously described as a cordwainer or boot and shoe maker (hence a possible connection with later generations), broker, general dealer and coffee house keeper; so, possibly not a yeoman (although that term might have already fallen out of use by then), but probably of the merchant class, or what we would today call ‘middle class’. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died within a few years; it was probably before the beginning of civil registration in 1837, because a scan of the deaths indexes did not produce a result: however, a result was found for Thomas’s second marriage to Sarah Morgan at Exeter (no parish specified) in the second quarter of 1839.

The 1841 census, the first of its kind in Britain, shows Edward’s family living at Market Street, in the parish of St. Mary Major, which is adjacent to the parish of Exeter cathedral, where his father was baptised. It shows Edward, age 10, his older brother Thomas, age 11, his father Thomas, occupation boot & shoe maker, and Thomas’s second wife Sarah, née Morgan, also aged 35; she is described as a laundress. The next census, ten years later, shows Thomas senior living at St. Mary Arches, not far from his earlier address, but by this time, both Edward and Thomas junior have moved on.3 Edward had an older sister, Elizabeth, who was baptised in the parish of St. Mary Arches Exeter, on the 18th of December 1825, which is somewhat less than nine months after her parents’ marriage, but she is not shown living with her parents in 1841, so she might have already moved out to find employment. The next thing we might know about her, although it is somewhat tenuous, is that she was working as a servant in September 1852 (so 26 years of age) for a famer named Ellacotts in the parish of St. Giles in the Wood: if this is true, it could be a definite link to ‘The House of Bableigh’; or a huge coincidence; or, it could be an Elizabeth from a different family4 — unfortunately, this is difficult to confirm, because the Vivian lineage charts go no further than the early 18th century.5 As for whether Elizabeth married, there is a veritable plethora of choices, but the most promising would appear to be one of 2 marriages registered for the fourth quarter of 1853 in Exeter,6 which would be convenient, because the incident detailed in note 4 occurred in September 1852, so Elizabeth might have chosen to leave her employment thereafter and return to Exeter; or, alternatively, been sacked (unfairly, one would have to say) with the same result. The other possibility is that Elizabeth remained unmarried (albeit with a daughter: see below), and died in 1892 in Tiverton.7

Edward’s chosen career was jeweller, which is corroborated by certain records, but as to why he might have made this choice, we can only guess. His father was obviously a craftsman, having been at various times a leather-worker, but the two areas of expertise are very different, the only common element being that the materials were predominantly then worked by hand, so the aspiration to follow in the family tradition would not seem to apply here. The 1851 census shows Edward lodging with a widow by the name of Amelia Phillips, and her twelve-year old daughter, at no. 3 South Street Exeter, in the parish of St. Mary Major, the same as that of his father ten years previously; Edward is described as a jeweller,8 but whether he completed an apprenticeship to qualify for this is unknown. There is no reason to suppose that his accommodation was not a purely business arrangement: his landlady is described as a shoe binder, so it is most likely that she will have known Edward’s father Thomas through his line of work; also, Edward’s future wife’s father had a business on South Street, so although we do not have any information to support the theory that Edward worked for his prospective father-in-law, it is highly likely that they will have met in the course of their business activities, given that George Fouracres was a cutler, who might well have sold locally produced silverware. How the future couple met is unknown, but by March 1853, they were well enough acquainted (and, one would think, enamoured) for marriage to be considered: the banns were read at St. Peter’s cathedral on the 13th, 20th and 27th for Edward Risdon and Ellen Maria Fouracres — their rerspective residences were described in the banns register as “Close” (all but one of the other couples on the same page were similarly described).

George Fouracres was born in Exeter in 1791, and had a cutlery business at no. 2 South Street, Exeter, which he opened in April 1812, so it was already very well established when Edward appeared on the scene; George’s son Edwin George (the only son among 5 daughters), born 1819, also worked in the family business. George died in 1842 (sadly, the result of “a lingering illness”, as reported in one of the local newspapers: he was “universally esteemed”, and his death was “regretted”), so it is very possible that Edward never met him before he knew his future wife, although this cannot be ruled out entirely. Ellen Maria was born in 1823, so she was actually around 8 years older than Edward, which might go some way toward explaining (although not mitigating) the problems they appear to have had in their marriage surprisingly quickly. They were married in Exeter Cathedral on April 2nd 1853; at this stage, Edward’s father is described on the marriage certificate as a broker; the couple’s residence at the time of the marriage is given as Bear Street, and it is literally ‘within a stone’s throw’ of the cathedral; it also runs perpendicular to South Street, so if Edward was doing any amount of work for his brother-in-law, either in an employed or a journeyman capacity, he would not have had far to walk to work. It is pure speculation of course, but it seems very likely that Edward had something of a mercurial nature,9 because within less than a year after their marriage, Edward was brought up before the court on a charge of ill-treating his wife, which sounds surprisingly enlightened for the time. There are reports in two local newspapers,10 both of which tell essentially the same story, without actually divulging any details of the ill-treatment, although in one of them, the magistrate, Mr. H. Hooper, “remarked that it was one of the worst cases he had heard of for some time, and if the matter had been gone into, there was no doubt the defendant would have had the fullest punishment allowed by the new law.”

Understandably, this will have been a painful issue for all concerned, not only because of whatever physical pain Edward might have caused his new wife, but because of the shame and social opprobrium that would inevitably ensue. It will be a given that Edward would have wanted the absolute minimum of publicity, but Ellen also seemed somewhat diffident about the whole affair, although the determination of her friends that Edward should not escape justice was noted by one of the local newspapers.11 Edward did not appear in court, so his attorney, Mr. Laidman, “assured the Magistrates that his client was exceedingly sorry for the misconduct he had been guilty of, and expressed his determination never to repeat it. … After some consideration the Bench consented to the proposed arrangement, and the defendant was dismissed on his own recognisances … in the sum of £20, to keep the peace for six months.” Interestingly, Edward’s address was given as “Fore-street” (or “Fore-street-hill”; Fore Street is a very common name for one of the main thoroughfares in west country towns & cities), which runs perpendicular to the north west end of South Street, but as to whether this was Edward’s business premises, or a temporary residential address, one can only speculate. After this unfortunate incident, very little is heard of Edward, as far as the local Press is concerned, so we have to fall back on anecdotal evidence; however, Edward and Ellen must have reconciled themselves sufficiently to be able to produce four children over the next six years.

Not long after the court case, on the eighth of January 1856 in fact, Edward’s father Thomas died. He must have considered that he was well enough endowed materially to warrant making a will, which was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of Exeter on the “10th day of June 1856”, but the “Effects [were] sworn under £100”; he was described as “late of the parish of Saint Mary Arches in the City of Exeter, Coffee House Keeper deceased”. The paperwork is minimal: apart from the cover-sheet, there is the probate affidavit, sworn by Thomas’s widow Sarah, who was sole executrix, on which she made her mark (a wonky cross) to confirm the approximate value of the estate; and the will itself, hand-written as was customary — unfortunately, in addition to a few underlinings, there are a couple of crossings-out which obscures some of the wording. The will was dated the fourth of October 1853, and it is interesting to speculate on the coincidence of this year and the month in connection with the above reported court case. It is clear that there was some level of disharmony between father and son, because that section of the bequest reads as follows: “To my son Edward in consideration of what he has already received of me in my life time in Money and Goods and which was to have been repaid if I had lived I now order all such debt to be cancelled and forgiven and I give and bequeath to him in Addition My Silver Watch and Guard the whole of my Wearing apparel and the sum of Five Pounds in money to be paid with the other Legacies within six weeks of my Funeral or earlier if my Stock in Goods can be conveniently sold”, so he was prepared to be magnanimous, even after Edward’s poor behaviour toward him.

The will is also very useful, in that it confirms the existence of the elusive daughter Elizabeth, to whom Thomas bequeathed twelve pounds “for her use and Benefit”, plus the possibility of an equal share of another legacy under certain circumstances: Thomas left ten pounds to “my Grandchild Sarah, my daughter’s Child” (which also suggests significant doubt as to whether Elizabeth married, because of the family name of her daughter: it is also possible that she could have reverted to her maiden name subsequent to her marriage, for a variety of reasons), “to be invested in Trust for the said Sarah Risdon for her sole use and Benefit at such time as she shall attain the age of Twenty one years, with such interest as may be due thereon but in the event of her dying previous to attaining that age after the expence of her funeral shall be paid the residue shall be the property of my Wife Sarah and my Daughter Elizabeth in equal proportions or either of them surviving the other.” The legacy to wife Sarah was specified in some detail, but not in amount: “And to my beloved Wife I give and Bequeath the Residue of all and every my Goods and Chattels [and] Cash in hand, Funeral monies and all debts due to me after She has paid the aforementioned Legacies and all my just Debts and appoint her sole Executrix of this my Will.” There was also an intriguing mention of an unrelated person: “I also hereby ask as a last favor my truly respected friend Henry Pitts Taylor to act as Trustee for my Wife and Grandchild to see that the Provisions of this my Will shall be duly carried out on their behalf and I hereby appoint him as such Trustee.” The two witnesses who are mentioned at the end of the will, James Squires and Robert Greenslade, were probably (although not inevitably) clerks at the Attorney's office or chambers.

It is not known whether Edward kept in touch with his stepmother after his father died, but his first child, Georgina, was born in Exeter during the first quarter of 1854, so her mother must have been noticeably pregnant when she was assaulted by Edward towards the end of the previous year. It would appear that at some stage during her life, certainly before her marriage in 1876, Georgina acquired an additional given name, Jessie;12 she married a Henry West, during the third quarter of 1876, in the registration district of St. Thomas, Devon. Unfortunately, it is not possible to be specific about the church (or register office), or even the parish where this took place, because St. Thomas encompassed many different civil parishes, including some in Exeter, before it was abolished in 1936.13Aunt Em” (see notes 9 & 12) related that the lady she referred to as Aunt Jay had a daughter (so Aunt Em’s cousin), Nell Buchan.14 Over the next few years, Edward presumably carried on his trade as a jeweller, in various locations in the south west of England; it would be very gratifying to be able to state categorically where those locations were, and when, but at the time of writing, this can’t be done — a reasonable guess can be made using the places of birth of his children — but a more reliable indicator would be the trade directory for the particular place and year: the main problem is that only a small number are hitherto available online.15

After (Jessie) Georgina came Edward George Fouracres, my great grandfather; he was born at 07:45 a.m. on the 11th of April 1855,16 at number 4 Morice Street, in the parish of Stoke Damerel, registration district of Morice Town, which is more commonly known as Devonport, the shipbuilding and -repairing district of Plymouth. Edward’s occupation was journeyman jeweller, and the informant Ellen Maria’s address was “Tenement to 22, Granby Street, Devonport”.17 It has to remain unknown whether Edward was currently living at the same address, given the nature of his trade (and his known volatility). Why Edward should have uprooted his burgeoning family and moved 60km south west to the border with Cornwall is unknown, although the most obvious and sensible suggestion would be work, either paid employment or the possibility of reasonable sales of his own creations; however, the area to which they moved would appear not to have offered much in the way of the latter, but it could have offered low-cost living quarters while allowing access to the well-heeled a comfortable 3km away in the city centre; also, if he was able to fraternise with navy personnel at the nearby dockyard, he might have found a market with the naval officers and (perhaps more lucratively) their ladies. That might or might not have been the case, but within three years, the family had moved into the Plymouth registration district, because his second son, Ralph Alexander, was born there in the December quarter of 1857 (volume 5b, page 215).18

Almost exactly two years later, in the December quarter of 1859, Edward’s last child, Charles Holmes, was born, but therein lies a mystery, and it is twofold: firstly, why the second given name, Holmes; and secondly, why was the child born in Bath (volume 5c, page 215)? Sherlock Holmes did not come into existence until 1887,19 so that surely cannot have been the reason; this name is not known (by me, at any rate) as part of my extended family, so possibly this was a statement of respect for an honoured friend, or godparent? Secondly, the move to Bath could be explained in terms of a more ‘up-market’ clientele, but there could also be another, less salubrious factor involved. Here I must fall back on the anecdotal evidence. As referenced in note 9, ‘aunt Em’ wrote that Edward “was … a compulsive gambler, … he gambled his own fortune, his wife’s fortune & his children’s fortune”; suggesting that there were three individual fortunes (at least) could just be hyperbole, but it does seem to support aunt Em’s assertion that Edward was “a very wealthy man”, which we have to assume was predominantly (although gamblers can also occasionally win) the result of his trade, which does imply that he must have had some business acumen. We are given no details about the gambling habit, but aunt Em does mention horse racing in the next few lines, so perhaps Bath also gave Edward access to a good choice of west country race courses? Undoubtedly prestigious because of its connection with Royalty, Bath racecourse was probably the first choice, but there were also Salisbury, Taunton (Bridgwater), and possibly Exeter racecourses to choose from as well.

This brings me to one of several aspects of this biography that I have, so far, been conclusively unable to corroborate. Aunt Em writes that “Lady Mountedgecombe [sic] gave him an order to make her a diamond tiara which he did & hoping to recover some of his losses, when he was paid he put that on a horse he was sure would win the race, but it didn’t …”; here I must, with ineffectual apologies, interrupt the good lady’s story, because she proceeds to jump forward in time, possibly at least two years (from what I have discovered in the course of my research), missing out a very significant part of the story, which seems rather curious. To return to the tiara, for want of a biography or tangential reference, I have to accept that the story could be true, looking at the evidence of the titled lady’s life: she certainly moved in elevated circles,20 and there must surely have been no shortage of money. Although she was born in Weymouth, Dorset (thereby revealing another peripheral connection, albeit tenuous, with my own family), after her marriage to the third Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, Ernest Augustus Edgcumbe, she lived on the border of Devon and Cornwall, at the Edgcumbe family “seat”, Mount Edgcumbe House on the Rame peninsula, overlooking Plymouth sound;21 according to one source, after Ernest’s death in 1861 she retired to live at Cothele,22 near the village of Calstock, about 16km due north of Cremyll (the village in which the entrance to Mount Edgcumbe Country Park can be found).

As to how Edward Risdon might have been selected for this commission, I have to resort to speculation. As mentioned above, by 1857 the family was living in possibly better accommodation in Plymouth than that presumed in Devonport in 1855, so it would not be unreasonable to think that Edward might have been hobnobbing with the aristocracy (and his in-laws in Exeter, the Fouracreses were also possibly quite well connected); Caroline Augusta Edgcumbe was the daughter of Rear Admiral Charles Feilding, who only attained his eventual rank in the year of his death, 1837, so it is improbable that Edward would have known him, but he could possibly have been recommended to Lady Caroline by another of Edward’s naval contacts from Devonport. It seems reasonable to presume that the tiara made by Edward Risdon would have an established provenance, so that, even if it should no longer be owned by the Edgcumbe family, its whereabouts could be traced: unfortunately, despite approaches to the Edgcumbe family and a gentleman who (in 1996) administered a magazine about the Edgcumbe family genealogy and history, no evidence of a diamond tiara has so far been discovered.23 All this notwithstanding, we have to take the penultimate part of the story, that Edward gambled away the proceeds from the tiara, and lost, at face value, which brings us to the tragic dénouement, although it is preceded by an aspect of the story that aunt Em omitted, either deliberately, or as a result of faulty memory, although it seems hard to believe that such a significant event could have simply been forgotten.

In 1860, Edward Risdon joined the army, specifically the second battalion of the seventh regiment of foot;24 as for why he should have joined that particular regiment and, indeed, why the army in preference to the navy, given the prevalence of the latter in Devon, is a difficult question to answer, with no evidence to provide guidance. One possible answer (notwithstanding the possibility that he might have applied to join the navy, and been rejected for some reason; knowing what little I do, perhaps the anticipated rigours of naval service would have been a disincentive, if a non-combatant rôle were not available?) is that the contemporary Earl of Mount Edgcumbe had been an officer in the 1st regiment of Foot Guards and, on the basis that he had no reason to be badly disposed towards Edward, who had fulfilled his side of the contract to supply the tiara, and perhaps sympathised with Edward’s plight (he might conceivably also have been a gambler himself) had suggested the Royal Fusiliers, which had established a connection with Plymouth at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when two additional companies were mustered there in 1705 (see note 23 for the link to the regimental history). There seems to have been a long-standing association with the west country: in 1708, the recruiting headquarters were in Taunton Deane, and companies were placed there (4), Bridgwater (2), and one each at Wiveliscombe, Wellington, Tiverton, Cullompton, Honiton and Chard (page 53 of the regimental history).

Up until 1795, there had only been one battalion in the regiment, even right the way through the war of independence with the American colonies, but in September 1795, a “strong draft of recruits arrived at Halifax [Nova Scotia] from England, whereupon a second battalion was formed”, but this new battalion was short-lived (which does seem consistent with the history of the regiment), being disbanded only seven months later. However, this was reversed in July 1804, with the passing of the Additional Forces Act, a direct consequence of the declaration of war against France in May 1803, as a result of “Napoleon Bonaparte’s contemptuous treatment of the British Ambassador, and his vast preparations to invade England” (page 101): under the provisions of the Act, a 2nd battalion was ordered to be added to the establishment of the Royal Fusiliers, and it was stationed at Weymouth, via Chelmsford and Winchester, after its initial formation at Wakefield, West Yorkshire. For the first five years of its existence, the 2nd battalion appears to have acted as a “feeder” to the ‘parent’ battalion. Its existence appears to have been consistently transient, as it was again disbanded in December 1815 with the reduction of Britain’s military establishment after the victory at Waterloo and the exile of Napoleon Buonaparte.

After the end of the Crimean war in 1856, the Fusiliers had been home for barely a year, when their services were again required abroad with the outbreak of the so-called India Mutiny. By the middle of December 1857, the whole of the 1st battalion was in India, but the renewed raising of a second battalion was authorised in the September of that year (page 201). During the autumn of 1857, recruits for for this new battalion were mostly found in the counties of Surrey, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Lancashire and Durham. In February of the following year, the battalion moved from Preston to Aldershot, and by the end of June, the whole battalion was on Gibraltar, where it remained in garrison until the autumn of 1863 (when it embarked for Malta; page 205). Unfortunately, no mention is made of Deal, Kent, where it transpired that Edward was posted: this rather implies that he joined the regiment after June 1858, which is quite plausible. Only one mention of Deal as a garrison can be found prior to this: in October 1806, the ‘right wing’ of the 1st battalion marched to Deal, where it was joined by the ‘left wing’ from the Bahamas; prior to this, the 1st battalion had been supplemented by men from the 2nd battalion, then garrisoned at Weymouth. On the 30th of November, the 1st battalion embarked at Liverpool for Dublin (page 102), so it must be assumed that it had marched from Deal to Liverpool at some stage between those dates. No further mention is made of Deal as a garrison or depôt, but in 1811, there was a depôt at Maidstone (page 152), so again, it is quite plausible that there should have been a depôt at Deal subsequent to this, either transferred from Maidstone, or a supplementary one, perhaps also with a supplementary garrison;25 the reason for this supposition is that Edward is known to have worked as a clerk in the pay office, with the rank of lance corporal — perhaps that was standard for non-combatant grades?

The reason for joining the army in the first place, which, from the information contained in a surprisingly comprehensive newspaper report from 1862, must have happened around February/March of 1860, can only be guessed at, but escape from his creditors, or the ensuing social opprobrium (and the understandable distress of his wife), or both, has/have to be a strong contender/s. The news story, Shocking Suicide, is sufficiently detailed to warrant its own page, but it is appropriate to give some information therein contained here. It is altogether possible that Edward’s change of career might have proved to be an effective method of solving his undoubtedly oppressive money and marital troubles; at least for a year or so; but by May 1862, to use the official terminology, the balance of his mind had become disturbed. Luckily (assuming that it can be taken as a true version of events: which, for want of information to the contrary, we have to do), we have the testimony of an erstwhile work colleague to provide background details. James Letherbarrow claimed to be Edward’s “intimate confidant, [who] told me all his affairs.” That being the case, it is curious, even suspiciously so, that he would say at the inquest into Edward’s death, that he could not remember the reason for Edward joining the army, which Letherbarrow freely admitted Edward had told him: the charitable interpretation of this is that Letherbarrow did not want to sully the memory of his erstwhile colleague, which could have been the result of his divulging the truth. He was, however, relatively free with information about what contributed to Edward’s mental imbalance.

Evidently, Edward’s business, whatever form that might have taken, had failed; also, he considered, rightly or wrongly, that he was being slandered, and his reputation being imputed, back home in Devon, in part at least, by another member of the regiment, and this had been conveyed to him in letters by friends in Exeter; one of his sons (sadly not identified, although it most likely to have been the 7-year old Edward, my great grandfather) had written to him “about Easter, but which [letter] contained nothing to affect his mind.” It was a letter from Ellen, although before his son’s, somewhat counter-intuitively, that appears to have tipped Edward over the edge (it isn’t clear from Letherbarrow’s testimony whether there was one or two letters from home, but that notwithstanding, the cumulative effect was the same): “she complained of her circumstances, and made mention of his bad behaviour; at the same time threatening to write to his commanding officer. I believe the letter was written, but cannot say positively. … he received one [letter] from his wife, in which she signed herself as his broken-hearted wife which seemed to have a bad effect on him.” As intimated above, Ellen was living back in Exeter with her children, as the 1861 census confirms: with the customary debatable accuracy, Helen [sic] Risdon was registered as living at number 27 Waterbeer Street, St. Kerians (not far from the Cathedral in the city centre, adjoining Goldsmith Street, ironically) with Georgina, 7, Edward, 5 [sic: 6], Ralph, 3, and Charles, 1 month [sic: badly wrong! see above]. Ellen’s occupation is given as seamstress, which was by no means dishonourable, but cannot have brought a huge amount of money into the household; she could possibly have been helped in this enterprise by Edward’s uncle George, who had a draper’s shop on the High Street in Exeter, minutes away from Ellen’s address.

On the evening of Sunday May 4th 1862, Edward went to Letherbarrow’s married quarters and “asked [his] wife for something to eat [which he was, presumably, given]. He was then partially intoxicated.” The following day, he went absent without leave, in uniform, “and would doubtless have been reprimanded had he returned; but not punished, it being his first offence. He left barracks between 7 and 8 o’clock in the morning.” What he did for the intervening hours is unknown: possibly imbibed more drink to summon up the courage for what he intended, or to take his mind off it (although there is some doubt about this in the testimony of one of the inquest witnesses); the facts are that at the second attempt, having previously been ordered off the line an hour earlier, he waited until the four o’clock train was approaching the North Wall level crossing, on the northern outskirts of Deal, then crept out of the concealment of the embankment grass on the town side of the crossing and laid his neck on the land side rail. He was obviously determined to go through with it, because he looked up toward the train twice, then laid his head back down. Despite the best efforts of the driver, the train ran over Edward, although the end was not quite as clean as he had intended: notwithstanding, he was killed outright. The inquest took place the following day at the Town Hall, and reported upon by the Deal, Walmer and Sandwich Telegram, on Saturday May 10th; tragically, even in death his name was misspelled (Risden), although this assumes that he had insisted upon the correct spelling in his enlistment papers. Unsurprisingly, although it required “some considerable discussion” on the part of the jury, they “returned a verdict to the effect that deceased committed suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind, and that in their opinion no blame whatever could be attached to the driver of the engine.”26

To date, it has not been possible to ascertain where Edward was buried; it seems unlikely that Ellen would have requested that the body should be returned to Exeter for burial; unfortunately, no suggestion in this direction is contained in the newspaper article. The most likely possibility is that poor Edward’s body was consigned to oblivion in an unmarked pauper’s grave on the north side of the nearest accommodating churchyard, as was customary. I doubt whether the surviving records of the 7th Regiment would show anything informative, as it was generally only the exploits of the officers that were thought worthy of note. It is unlikely that Edward left a will and, indeed, a search has proved fruitless. For Ellen, Edward’s death was possibky a blessing in disguise, although the older children might have found the event distressing, depending on what Ellen told them; for details about how it affected my great grandfather, see the EGF Risdon page. Given the likelihood that Edward had not been supporting Ellen materially latterly, his death will not have affected her financial situation appreciably (and it is to be hoped that there was no financial liability incumbent upon her from the army, for whatever reason). Referring again to aunt Em’s mine of anecdotal information, it would appear that Ellen married a man of whom her family did not approve, because of his apparently mercenary aspirations, and he evidently took out his frustration at not having access to the material largesse he was expecting on his stepchildren.

The 1871 census shows Ellen, now with the family name West, living at Smythen Street, St. George, Exeter, which is a couple of hundred meters south of her previous address; Georgina, mentioned in some detail above, who would have been 17 years of age, had moved on, possibly working in service, but the three sons were still living at home. Curiously, her new husband is not shown on the census return; that could be because they were not, at that point, actually married, but there is a slight mismatch in the records. A Helen Risdon is shown in the index for the June quarter marriages of 1871, volume 6a, page 55 (no Ellen to be found); the marriage of a William West is registered with the same volume and page references, but it is included in the March quarter: this mismatch is very plausibly a simple clerical error (there was also a marriage registered in the September quarter, for a Samuel West, but the page number was 56, so probably not the right marriage). The question also arises of why Bristol? It could be that Mr West lived there, so how (and when) did they meet? It could be that it was chosen as a location far enough away from Ellen’s surviving family to be free of interference or adverse comment; also, having lived in Bath previously, when her third son was born, she might have retained some contacts in that part of the country. This brings us back to the invaluable aunt Em again: in her aforementioned and much-referenced letter, she says that “father’s mother’s family … were quite a wealthy family in [the] wholesale business in Devonshire, they were quakers & grandmother displeased them by marrying again a man of whom they didn’t approve & so they cut her & her family out of their lives, her second husband was a very bad man …”, so it is only natural that Ellen would want to remarry somewhere away from the prying eyes and wagging tongues, however well-intentioned the family might have been.

I have tried, without success, to corroborate the assertion about the Fouracres family being Quakers: it could just be that they were religious nonconformists, and quakerism came closest to their spiritual convictions, but they didn’t feel the need to join a particular congregation; also, I had assumed that the cutlery business was solely retail, but there could have been a wholesale aspect to it, or the wholesale business could have dealt with another sort of commodity completely. There is also the coincidence of Ellen marrying a West, after Georg(e)ina had (see above), although perhaps it was not such a coincidence: without researching the West family, this could be sheer speculation, but it is not implausible for Ellen to have become enamoured of a relative of Georgina’s husband. Finally, there is the question of where and when Ellen died. A perusal of the indexes between 1871 and 1900, which helpfully includes age at death, brings up the most likely contender of an Ellen West at Wilton (adjacent to the larger city of Salisbury, into which and Warminster it was absorbed in 1936) in the December quarter of 1892, aged 70; she was actually a couple of months short of 70, but people’s ages are invariably imprecise. What might have taken her to Wilton will remain, for want of a lucky break, unknown, but it is perfectly plausible. Her death brought to an end two ill-fated relationships, but it wasn’t the end of the familial line spawned by her first husband, and this will be continued in the story of EGF Risdon.