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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.

Upperhulme, formerly known as Overhulme

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 [78] 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.


Clerical Comicalities


Another mandate with imperial sway

Is sent to me--the mandate I obey.

Breathe on me, Muse, I brieþy must rehearse

Six persons' fame in quaint heroic verse.


First on the list the fam'd Pangloss appears

Renowned for folly and for length of ears/years.

In making blunders he's unrivalled still

But famed for twisting out say what you will.

One summer's morning chamber'd with his wife

(Alas the woes of matrimonial strife)

She asked, "Ah, Daniel! Whither will you go?"

But surly Daniel sourly said, "I know."

All eyes agog along the road he speeds

On horse-back galloping with title deeds.

On marriage ofta home is bought for gold

But Daniel marries and his home is sold.

He once could read with elegance and grace

But now he's lost--alas!--he's lost his place.

A coward always, but of late, oh! sad

The sight of Ishbibenob drives him mad.

His like you never will behold again.

He is a star of stars, a man of men.


Hence think of others--Yes, the rural Dean

The Vicar Metropolitan, I mean.

One day when dining with a chosen few

Maddening with rage a wild potato þew

Right at his breast across the board it went.

By thee Pangloss, by thee 'twas surely sent.

Its cours …ing Jove and fate decreed

That such a man by him should never bleed.

The whizzing ball fell harmless on the þoor.

Pangloss then picked it up and wiped it o'er.

He wished to eat it; this they all prevent

While roars of laughter round the room are spent.

From Leek to Norton Rectory repair

And see the man of learning seated there.

So passing high in lore could you suppose

That for a jug-nut he mistook a rose.

To know your age sans registration books

Your mouth he opens, at your teeth he looks.

Mistaken, once he gave in days of yore

The health of one who long had died before.

The learned Gent his speech but just begun

Abruptly closed it with "I've done, I've done."


With Norton's rector Endon's uncle dined

And then what wisdom and what folly joined.

With open arms they met, calm, mild and meek;

They hugged each other standing cheek to cheek,

With goggling eyes and long, distorted face

The reverend rector gave a close embrace

And said, "Oh! Brother oft for you I've sought;

You've come at last, I beg you'll start a thought

Not curves cycloidal (to our seats we'll go)

Those curves are brachystochronous we know.

The calendars of variation shall

Solve problems isoperimetrical.


And next avert your eyes to Meerbrook green

Indisposition's parson there is seen.

To dine with him no party can refuse.

With form he meets them in his polished shoes;

His beard is trimmed, his clothes are neatly brushed,

frivolity is checked and laughter hushed.

To take their seats the party now prepare

The aged he places in an easy chair.

Politely ceremonious with the rest

They sit in order so may please them best.

With him we'll leave them placed mild and meek

And turn our devious steps to lovely Leek.


The wily Barnes in Spout Street now is found

With wife he's honour'd and with riches crowned.

MagniÞcence in rooms and robes of state

While glittering footmen in attendance wait.

How different is this from teaching school

Say what you will but Barnes is not a fool.

Caparisoned his horses snorting stand

With groom and coachmen waiting his command.

He and his lovely consort blithe and gay

Ascend the chariot and it rolls away.

With him the Bishop lately went to dine

And then what honours, Reverend Barnes, were thine.


The following poem was probably written by Mary's brother when he ceased to act as chaplain to the Earl of Courtown in Ireland.


Lines written by the Revd James Turner MA after his return to his native country, in hopes there to end his days in peace and obscurity


Oft as I strive step Fortune's hill to gain

Which some have done God knows sans part or pain

Some slip of conduct or oppression's power;

Lies, whispers, slanders some unlucky hour,

Or what soever cause, unseen, unknown,

Still pluck'd me back, like Sisyphus's stone,

And lastly dropt me in my native clime

To teach, preach, pray, read, muse and feebly rhyme.

Thus subtle magnets reel from shoal to shoal,

But lastly trembling nod towards the Pole.

Yet grant at Heaven's decree I ne'er repine

But kiss the Rod and trust in Providence Divine

For to God's fiat all things seem to tend

Malice might Joseph into Egypt send,

And Judas' self contribute to that end.

Adieu, then Gew-gaws, Hail thou well-known spot

Pastures green and humble straw-thatched cot.

Haunts of my youth and conscious of my Toys,

O strange vicissitude of transient Joys

That actuate the breast to Man from Boys

Here then may wisdom be my first pursuit

Learning the soil may Virtue be the Fruit.

Thus may my thoughts improve the Talents given

And dress my Soul an offering fit for Heaven:

As each advance in knowledge may afford,

Proof of God's being, attribute and word.

Till all Demurs and Doubts for ever past

The Infidel convinc'd, appall'd, aghast,

The Vision beatific full displayed at last.

Thus whilst the many dup'd by fading Joys

May I like Mary whom the Text records

Bend to my Saviour's ever-during Words:

Unswayed by Martha's or by Esau's Taste,

Slighting eternals, lured by one Repast,

Oft view that Tomb which near the Lich-gate stands

Rais'd by a pious mournful Widow's hans

To him whose life a bright example shone

Who liv'd in peace and dy'd without a groan,

Like full ripe Fruit that earthly Nectar yields

Or yellow Ceres that adorns the fields

Whose dear remembrance may my zeal inspire

And prompt the son to emulate the sire

For oft as day gives way to gloomy night

The mansions of the Deadmy steps invite

Where Prayers and Praises both spontaneous rise

To Nature's God my evening sacrifice.

Now guess the Partridge to the hawk a prey

Signal that Night obtrudes retiring day;

And Grace to Birds though scorn'd by tasteless Fools,

Solemn in Voice and aspect hoot the Owls

Slow swings the Curfew-bell the Winds unseen

Through Piones and Yews improve the solemn scene

With Rosemary, apt Emblem of the dead

Which being crop't the more erects its Head.

And last the moon pale Empress of the Night

With slow majestic pace appears to sight

Whilst stars unnumbered feeble light reveal'd

Which erst the radiance of the Sun conceal'd.

Thus whilst I rov'd in this obscure retreat

Feeding my soul with meditation sweet

Near midnight's hour onviting soft repose

Job's mystic vision to my Fancy rose.

Silent and solemn all, my heart subdued

My pulse beat languid, slowly crept my blood.

My voice supprest my heir erect thro' honor stood

When lo a phantom stood before my eyes

Majestic large surpassing human size

With aspect calm he awful raised his hand;

Loose flow'd his gown and gently waved his Band

And thus with accent mild; Fond man behold

The gross delusions that attend on Gold.

Shun Syren pleasure false as Harlot's smiles,

Which tempts and stings, still poisons yet beguiles

Tho' specious Knowledge may thy wishes gain

Yet weigh, oh, weigh, the vast alloy of pain.

Here then thy Anchor fix with full assent

That Virtue only yieldeth true Content.

Thus having said, the Genius benign

Left me deep musing wrap't in thoughts Divine.

Oh may such thoughts my mortal eye engage

And serve like Balm, to sweeten Lifes's last stage.


Lines by the Rev. James Turner, senior, under the Commandments in Meerbrook Church

(Vicar of Meerbrook. Died 1828. Brother of Mary Gent, née Turner)


By Fear alarm'd may we receive imprest

These awful Mandates deep within our breast.

Whilst our rapt Souls to JESUS we resign,

Where wonder, love and gratitude combine.


Also these next the pulpit by the same.


Before Thee Lord, when prostrate I appear

In humble prayer; vouchsafe a gracious ear,

In balmy sleep, when sinks my drooping head,

Thy watchful Providence surrounds my bed.

And when this world's affairs my hours divide,

Thy Spirit, instinct-like, be then my guide.

My race thus run, may I on Seraph's wings

Soar to those Realms where bliss eternal springs.


Lines to be repeated by Children of Meerbrook Sunday School on Christmas Day.


For ever blest be this auspicious Morn

On which the Saviour of Mankind was born.

Dumb with amazement pause all human Kind,

Survey the Bliss ineffable. Design'd

For all your race. Lo, Christ your Ransom brings,

For Adam's Lapse, with Healing in His wings.

Hear the blest promise as in scripture read

The woman;s feet shall bruise the Serpent's head.

See the blest Babe in sordid flannel swath'd,

With tears of Joy his face the Mother bath'd.

Hear the Evangelist in raptures tell,

Satan like lightning shot from Heaven to Hell.

Pan's lying Oracles began to droop

Gasping, desponding lay his vanquish'd Troop.

Lo, GOD a sojourner on Earth appears,

Who from repenting Eyes wipes off the Tears.

Faith and Repentance, Christ's Benevolence

Almost outshine Man's state of Innocence.

The bright inhabitants of Heaven proclaim

Their Joys in chanting Blest Messiah's Name.

With such Ambition, Lord, our souls inspire

That we in Heaven may join that blissful choir.


Lines by the Rev. James Turner, on seeing the sun set in Meerbrook Chapel Yard, July, 1825, when 81 years old.


Oft as I view day's glorious Lamp descend

Awake my Soul, and view thy latter end,

Or , rather, entrance on an endless state

Where Bliss supreme or woe must thee await

Let me compute my days already past

And think this very day may be my last.

Weigh how much Duty every day requires

And what has been the main of my desires.

To me, O Christ, thy saving Grace impart,

That this sad thought may never rend my heart.

So one day more in Sin and Folly spent

And one day less to live the Penitent.

To banish such sad thoughts and soothe the mind,

Peruse the Scriptures, seek and though shalt find.

Draw near to Christ, who all thy troubles sees,

But bring a contrite heart and bending Knees.

To thy superiors pay all honour due,

Stoop to the meanest--Christian, Pagan, Jew.

See what abasement Christ himself sustain'd

When to redeem mankind the Saviour deign'd

Thus deference meek to all who bear the rod

Seems an appendix to our serving GOD.

These gentle hints if well observ'd my Friend

May sweeten life and bring an happy end.

For wisdom's wages are the paths of Peace

Her harvest large, Eternity her Lease.


There is a letter from his son James to his cousin, John Gent, recording his death.


Leek August 8th 1828


Dear Sir,

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

Jas Turner


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

James Turner


Meerbrook, 31st March, 1859





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