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18TH CENTURY RECORDS OF THE GENT FAMILY AT LEEK
On 17th September, 1694, William Gent married Rebecca Janney at Leek. William lived at a farm called Overhulme, nowadays known as Upperhulme. William was twenty four, Rebecca twenty years old. Almost a year later their first child, another William, was born. John came two years later, Thomas, in 1702, after a five-year gap, Ellen after a further two years, James in 1708, and Samuel in 1709, when his mother was thirty six. Sadly, she died soon after his birth. William himself died in 1728, when he was fifty eight.
It was the eldest son, William, who took over Overhulme. He had married at Ipstones church five years before his father's death, his bride being Mary Birtles. William, however, did not follow his father into farming, and pursued a career instead as an ironmonger, living in Leek. They had a son and three daughters. Their son, Thomas, they educated and raised as a gentleman, but sadly he died in 1755, predeceasing his parents. The farm passed to the three sisters, eventually being sold off.
William's brother John had the great good fortune to inherit another farm from his maternal grandfather, William Janney. This was the farm known as The Booths, in the parish of Ipstones, to the east of Leek. John married in 1722, a year before his older brother, when he was twenty five, and like his father he made what turned out to be an advantageous marriage. His bride was Jane, daughter of Clulow Grindy, of Middlehulme, a farm at Meerbrook, just west of Leek. John and Jane lived at The Booths, where they brought up a family of six children. Their first child was a daughter, Mary, born in 1728, a surprising five years after their marriage. A son, William, was born in 1730, followed by another boy, Joseph, in 1732. He was named after Jane's brother, Joseph Grindy. Their second daughter, Ann, was born in 1735. They had a late child, Samuel, born in 1741, when his father was forty three, but he died when only six months old. Their had been another son, called John, whose birth is not recorded, but he and his brother William do not seem to have had wives or families. We know that their sister Mary married someone surnamed Livesey, and her sister Ann married a Mr Allen, who kept the Greek's head, in Deansgate, Manchester. Surprisingly, her descendants were still in touch with their Gent cousins a hundred years later.
John Gent of The Booths, in the parish of Ipstones near Leek, but described as being of Middlehulme was buried aged 57 on 3rd September, 1753 in the churchyard at Leek, according to a tombstone my great grandfather recorded in 1904. He left no will so administration of his estate was granted to three people: his wife Jane, née Grindy, to Thomas Gent, gentleman of Leek, presumably his younger brother, and to William Gent of Leek, his older brother, described as a grocer but elsewhere as an ironmonger. His son Joseph was presumably a minor but must have reached his majority very soon afterwards
In 1755 John Grindy made his will, leaving the farm of Middlehulme to Joseph Gent, son of his niece Jane Grindy. Joseph in the normal course of things would inherit the family farm at Ipstones, also near Leek, which was known as The Booths. It was appropriate now for Joseph to marry, which he did in 1757, just two years later. His wife was Mary Turner, twenty years old, five years younger than himself, and the eldest child of the local clergyman, the Rev. Daniel Turner and his wife Elizabeth, née Potts, also a local girl--her parents farmed at Fairburrows, a farm between Leek and Rushton. They had married on 14th November, 1736. A year later the Potts' daughter Mary was born, on 10th November, 1737, and baptised at Rushton, very near to Meerbrook, and a parish also cared for by the Turners.
For over a hundred years the Turner family had a considerable influence on the Gent family, from a marriage in 1757 to a legacy in 1863, finally handed over in 1879, and we still own some of their possessions. The Gents were farmers at Middlehulme, near the village of Meerbrook, just outside Leek, from around 1750. The Turners were vicars of Meerbrook (and several other moorland parishes around Leek) throughout the period. The Turners were graduates, a necessary precondition for ordination at that time, and created their own intellectual milieu. Furthermore, they were teachers, running their own school to which people sent their sons as boarders, and also providing an education for the children of the other families in the parish. Pupils at the boarding school would proceed, when possible to the universities.It would be interesting to ascertain what became of The Booths farm at Ipstones. John had a brother James, eleven years his junior, who married Mary Fletcher at Ipstones church on May 24th, 1740. They had three sons baptised at Ipstones, at least one of whom died in infancy, and they were separated by death in 1750. After that James appears to vanish from the records. Younger sons made their fortunes as best they could. They do not appear to have inherited The Booths. The farm itself later became the site of a mine, now closed, though the route of the track remains.
Joseph Gent and his wife Mary started their own family soon after their marriage. Their daughter Ellen was born a year afterwards. There is an entry in the parish register of Leek, the mother parish of Meerbrook, recording her baptism on 5th August, 1758, and giving their residence as Middlehulme. Clearly he was already living and farming at Middlehulme, and it had not been leased it to a tenant. Given the fact that his father was recorded as living at Middlehulme at his death in 1753, it is more than likely that the Gents had already left The Booths, possibly selling it, and gone to live with John Grindy at Middlehulme before his death. In Meerbrook churchyard is a tombstone recording that John Grundy [sic] of Middlehulme died in 1758 aged 73. Strangely, John Grindy did have a daughter, not mentioned in his will. Her husband, Ralph Oakden, was executor of John Grindy's will but received nothing. Perhaps they were childless and wealthy? Perhaps his daughter had died young?
Joseph and Mary's family increased. Ellen's sister Elixabeth, named after her maternal grandmother, was born on 4th February, 1760. A son, John, named after his paternal grandfather, was born on 4th October, 1761. A second son, named after his father, Joseph, was born in 1765; a third son, Thomas was born in 1768, possibly named after his great uncle, Thomas Gent, and a daughter Mary was born in 1770, but died when four years old. There was another son James, whose birth or baptism cannot be traced. He was presumably named after his mother's grandfather, James Turner, of the parish of Bradnop. James was very much a Turner family name.
What happened to these children? Ellen married Robert Clowes, of a local family, on 24th June, 1777, when she was eighteen, or just nineteen. A year later she was buried. Probably she died in childbirth. Her sister Elizabeth married a Thomas Green and, I believe, lived in Liverpool, and they had a daughter, Mary. Elizabeth died in 1792, aged only 32. (That is the age given on her tombstone: records suggest she was 33). She was buried in the Gent family grave at Meerbrook. The inscription on her tombstone suggests a tragic story, with the blame given to her husband. The style suggests it was composed by her uncle, the Rev. James Turner, vicar of Meerbrook. Her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Turner, died in 1789 and was succeeded by his son, the Rev. James Turner.
daur of Joseph & Mary Gent of Middle-Hulme
and ill-fated Wife of Thos Green,
died Apr 9th 1792 Aged 32
By Amram's Son thus God proclaimed his Word;
'Increase & multiply'; My will concurr'd.
From that unlucky Period may be seen
How short & evil has my Journey been:
For lo! his conduct t'whom my Plight I gave
With Sorrow sent me to an early Grave.
Lieth the Body of John Grundy
of Middle-Hulme who died
the 5th of Feb. 1758 Aged 73 years
Mary daur of Joseph
And Mary Gent dy'd 5th Augt
1774 Aged 3 years
Joseph Gent of Middlehulme
Yeoman died October 27th 1811
Aged 78 years
ALSO Mary his wife died
November 5th 1815 aged  years
Blessed are the dead which
die in the Lord
Elizabeth's tombstone is replete with resentment and coded messages. We do not know when she married Thomas Green. At her early death, aged thirty two, arrangements were made for her burial by her own family, not her husband. Where was he? She is described as his 'ill-fated' wife. Was he the cause of her pain? Or was she fated in some other way--childbirth, consumption, suicide? The phrasing suggests he was the cause. And the verse makes this clear: it was his conduct that 'With Sorrow sent me to an early Grave.' What conduct? Cruelty? Desertion? Crime?
The verse must be the creation of one of her clerical uncles and cousins. The biblical allusions in the poetry and its style suggest the Rev. James Turner as author. Amram's son was the patriarch Abraham, who was told to 'go forth and multiply.' Marriage is the fulfilment of that commandment, if it leads to the creation of a family. It is possible that Elizabeth died in childbirth, but that is conjecture.
How can we find out more? Tracing Elizabeth's marriage would help. It is possible, even likely, that they were married by special licence, which would require a search of marriage Bonds at Lichfield and Cheshire. A Marriage Settlement, providing her with a dowry, would have been extremely likely, as the eldest daughter. A copy has not been found. If Thomas Green committed crimes, Quarter Sessions records at Lancaster or Stafford might throw some light. There is the possibility of an entry in a newspaper, though it is a little early in date. Finally, what happened to Thomas Green? He left a daughter, Mary, a broken heart and angry, resentful in-laws. Perhaps that was enough.
Elizabeth died on April 9th, 1792. This was just a few weeks after her brother Joseph, had married Ann Harrison, on 21st February. The marriage must have been arranged hastily, for seven months later their son Randle was born. Joseph was 26. He was also a graduate. Presumably educated by his Turner relations, he went on to university and received a degree. He lived with his family--Anne bore him a further three sons and two daughters--until his early death in 1811. He was not long survived by his father Joseph, who died on 27th October, 1811, at Middlehulme, and was buried at Meerbrook. Randle was scarcely more fortunate. After the death of his father he wrote to his uncle John, announcing the departure of his brother James for Quebec in the 'Progress', and showing concern for his grandparents: 'I hope my grandfather and grandmother are well, for they are both very old, and I am afraid the unhappy news of my father's death has hurt them very much.' There seems to have been a whole network of relations in Liverpool, for Randle mentions his cousin Mary Green, and his Aunt Clowes, presumably a relation of his late Aunt Ellen. The Turners, too, formed part of it. A James Turner, cousin to the vicar, wrote on 26th November, 1812, from Liverpool, mentioning that 'Cousin Gents here are but indifferent. I am sorry to say poor Randle gone on board a Man of War.'
Of the two younger sons of Joseph and Mary, little is known. The Thomas who was born on 17th September, 1768, is known to have married and to have left a daughter, who married someone believed to have the surname Okell. The son James, whose birth is not recorded in the parish registers, also married, and is believed to have lived in Congleton, a successful silk manufacturer, who left two daughters, Catherine, who married a Mr Hodgkinson, and Ann, who married a Mr Broadhurst. Mr Broadhurst lived at Sharston Mount, Northenden, a house I once visited in the 1970s. My great grandfather had a vivid childhood memory of Mr Broadhurst riding over to Knutsford c. 1865 to tell Dr Henry Gent that he had been ruined after standing surety for Mr Hodgkinson.
The son and heir was John, named after his grandfather, born in 1761 on October 4th and baptised on the 9th. When he was 25 he made a financially advantageous marriage to a woman ten years his senior, Sarah Booth.
John's mother, Mary, died on 5th November, 1815, and was also buried at Meerbrook. The funeral was almost certainly taken by her brother James, vicar of Meerbrook until his death in 1828. He was succeeded by his son James, who was married to Elizabeth Cruso of Leek, but who died childless in 1863, leaving legacies to his four-year old godson and namesake, my great grandfather, James Francis Turner Gent, who wrote the following notes.
"The oil painting of my godfather the Rev. James Turner, vicar of Meerbrook, near Leek, was bequeathed by him to me along with his mahogany bureau, clerical walking stick and £100, and from him and Elizabeth Turner his maiden sister I received the legacy of silver plate which was bequeathed to his father by the earl of Courtown of Co. Wexford (whose will could be seen at Somerset House) to whom his father was private chaplain. The legacy was retained by his widow from his death in 1863 to my coming of age in 1879, and I was unable to discover whether I had the whole of the original bequest handed to me, as the crest it bore, a unicorn, is not the Courtown crest.
I am descended from the Turner family who trace their descent back to the year 1200 in the Leek district of Staffordshire. My great grandfather Joseph Gent of Middlehulme having married Mary Turner daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth Turner in 1757 and she was sister to my godfather's father.
In the same generation a Miss Gent, cousin of Joseph Gent, was married to Thomas Turner (cousin of Mary Turner, my great grandmother) and their descendants are now in Hanley. He was the eldest son of the eldest male line. date of his marriage 1750 to 1758. [Mary Gent and Thomas Turner married at Leek 14th May, 1762]
Three successive generations of the Turner family held the living of Meerbrook for 120 years, from 1745 to 1863.
Daniel Turner BA D. 1789
Jacobus Turner MA D. 1828 aged 84
James Turner MA D. 1863 Vicar 37 years, age 66.
The plate is described on the next page for the instruction of my children with the place and date of manufacture and maker's names etc, and its value so that they may have every information ready got for them and value it at its proper value."
£10 Silver Cruet. 7 bottles London 1798
£3 Silver Drinking Cup. 1/2 pint London 1766
£5 or £6Silver Large Marrow Spoon. Crest unicorn erect and inverted arrow 1787
Silver large Table Spoon. Initials G. B. probably Booth 1796?
Silver 6 Table Spoons. Crest a unicorn erect and an inverted arrow. Makers Geo. Smith and Samuel Wintle 1786 m one 1796 A
Silver 1 Gravy Spoon W.S. maker W. Sumner with same crest 1788
whose crest it is I don't know
£3 Silver cream Jug Stamped initials HE 1760
Honble Society of Gray's Inn London have a wine strainer by the same maker, a celebrated manufacturer
£2 Two Silver Salt Cellars 1775
The above are what I still have of the legacy from the Revd James Turner
This poem is a satirical comment on the Turner family, all of them clergymen. It may date from about 1800.
Another mandate with imperial sway
The following poem was probably written by Mary's brother when he ceased to act as chaplain to the Earl of Courtown in Ireland.
Oft as I strive step Fortune's hill to gain
(Vicar of Meerbrook. Died 1828. Brother of Mary Gent, née Turner)
By Fear alarm'd may we receive imprest
For ever blest be this auspicious Morn
Oft as I view day's glorious Lamp descend
There is a letter from his son James to his cousin, John Gent, recording his death.
Leek August 8th 1828
After having been confined to his bed about nine weeks my dearest ever-beloved Father breathed his last yesterday afternoon, the day before he completed his 83rd year. He endured his sufferings and met his death like a bishop, and, through the merits of his Redeemer he is blessed for ever and ever. You will present my wife's and my kind regards to Mrs and Miss Gent and say we had intended to pay them a visit at Spen Green in the midsummer holidays, but my poor Father's sickness prevented it. If Miss Gent will spend a week with us here we shall be very happy to see her. Have the goodness to inform your brother James of the death of his relative and believe me to remain, dear Sir,
Very truly tours
This same James Turner was to write again thirty years later.
My dear Miss Gent,
The Þrst part of your note caused me to put on a grave countenance, and feel a little queer, and conscience began to question. I had not heard of the arrival of the young stranger, though a few days ago I met with an old neighbour of yours, Mr Minshall, with whom I had some conversation respecting your family. When you next write to Knutsford let me be very kindly remembered, give my congratulations to the parents on the birth of another son, and forget not to thank them for the compliment paid me in giving my name to that son. Supposing my namesake to be like his brother and sister I am sure he is a very nice child, and I shall be very happy to see the young gent at Meerbrook as soon as soon as circumstances permit. You and some of your family before long will, I expect, visit this neighbourhood, and Mrs Turner and I shall be happy to see you here: there is a bed for you.
With our united kind love
I remain, My dear Miss Gent,
very sincerely yours
Meerbrook, 31st March, 1859