The Pursuit of Happiness
Copyright: Please feel free to make use of my written work, but please have the courtesy to give an acknowledgement.
Church House, Knutsford
[copyright Frank J. Gent]
It is clear from this account that my great grandfather hardly knew his own father. There is no expression of warmth or love in this account. My impression is of a morose, resentful and bitter old man prone to violent outbursts of temper.
My grandfather John Gent of Spen Green I am told was an erratic man, fond of self-indulgence, and averse to the cares and anxieties of a money-making life. He was a Captain in the Yeomanry and seems to have preferred life's pleasures to its cares.
My grandmother Sarah Gent was a tall, light-haired woman, inclined to be sandy, I believe. My Mother always told me she was an estimable, noble-natured woman. She died at ninety two with perfect faculties, excepting for loss of eyesight.
My father Henry Gent was a fine, powerful man about 5ft 10in in height and of powerful build and very light complexion in youth. Whatever his habits were in youth, he was of pale appearance as I remember him, being of very temperate habits and advanced in years. He was of choleric temper, but unassuming, unambitious, frugal in his own personal expenses, yet generous, hospitable and just, never charging patients whom he thought too poor to pay. He continued his practice till far in years after a long life of labour, he going out to Tortola, West Indies, alone at sixteen [?] years old to his brother John the surgeon, coming back to London and taking his degree in the College of Surgeons at age 21, and then going out again all over the United States and Canada. He was extremely industrious, rose at 6 AM and yet despised the accumulation of money. My Father was paralysed the last few years of his life, having several strokes, and his brain quite irresponsible.
Father's sister Mary Gent I knew as a powerful, tall and very dignified old maid who thought a lot of us. She died at eighty five in lodgings at Knutsford, in 1878, she also being blind for some years at the end.
These particulars are all I know of my Father's family. Had his brother John, the doctor in the West Indies, lived, he would have raised the family very much, as he was industrious, clever and ambitious, and massing wealth very rapidly, so had he lived and married would have supplied some wealthy relations. He died while my Father was away in the States and his property and house on Sandy Bay, Tortola, were in the hands of one Belisario who seems to have become a bankrupt, so the estate did not much benefit the family. Aunt Mary Gent had an income of £50 per annum from Middlehulme while she lived.
Mother's Father and Mother lived at Kermincham and then at Astbury, Cheshire. Her Mother Mary Lea, daughter of Joseph and Esther Lea of Withington, Cheshire (where the family appear to have lived hundreds of years) was an honest, upright, strong-minded woman of good life, independent and unbending spirit. Her Father Thomas Warburton, she told me, had black, curly hair; he led a hard, laborious life for the want of education, but was a stern, upright man. His cousin was Dr Warburton of Betley, [near Crewe, in Cheshire] who lived in big style and made five of his sons doctors, so the family must have been in superior condition in previous generations. My Mother said her Father's Father was one of the old school, in knee breeches and buckles on his shoes. I neglected to ask her much of the former history of her family during her lifetime. It is almost certain that the family were descended from a younger son of some previous generation of the Arley Warburtons in the same county.
Father and Mother married 23rd March, 1847 at St John's church, Deansgate, Manchester. Mother went by coach from Knutsford to her cousin Mrs Taylor's in Manchester (an innkeeper). Father went there and back on horseback. Mary Sarah was born 17th May, 1847. About Christmas 1849 Harriet Stanier went to service with them at their house next to the Institute in King Street. (This same servant came to visit Mother in her last illness in January, 1900. She was then a widow named Miller, and living in Cheadle). She lived with them eleven months, while John Henry was born, 15th October, 1850. Mother went with Father to the Great Exhibition in 1851. She went to live with them a second time about end of 1857, or early in 1858, and stayed four years and a half, so was there at my birth and early years. Mary Sarah and Fred were very light in complexion, and I dark brown, after infancy.
My Mother Esther Gent was of medium height, dark complexioned in my recollection, yet she said she was light in her youth; economical, intensely industrious and charitable. She kept my Father's large house in Knutsford in perfect order for twenty-six years with only one servant, preserving the fruit of a large garden, making wine, pickles and all the multitudinous duties pertaining to a large establishment, a family and a doctor's many calls.
My Father bought the large house opposite the Angel Hotel in 1857 where I was born and lived till 1873 (fifteen glorious years), childhood's golden years. We had a sale of a great quantity of furniture in 1873, and removed to Ogden Terrace, Heath Side, my Father being too old for practice. There my Father died March 27th, 1875, aged eighty, in the presence of Mother and me, about noon of the day, Saturday, on which day of the week my sister Mary Sarah had died in 1864 with one day's illness. My Father was paralysed on the left side for some years before he died and his mental faculties also were lost, so his last years were dreary. He was a true, benevolent and charitable man. Mother lived on at that house till February 21st, 1881, the Wesleyan ministers living with her part of the time. I went to Newlands School which I never liked; I loved the Grammar School (Mr Nicholson's) opposite the church in King Street (now a corn store) and learnt what I know there. The latter part of the time I was at business in Manchester, sometimes travelling back each day, and sometimes at the weekends home. Those were happy times. Then having settled in lodgings in Manchester Mother came to me in town, February 1881, and we took a small house at 18, Poynton Street, Greenheys, removing from Knutsford in blinding snow by road. I was then with my brother in the jewellery business in Gaythorn, but left him in May same year, and commenced in the Refuge in October.
On Saturday, December 3rd, 1881 we removed to 37, Mytton Street, then a pleasant, respectable district, and spent four years there. Wednesday, September 16th, 1885 we went to 70, Dudley Grove, Brooks's Bar. In three years more removed on Thursday, November 1st, 1888 to 79, Heywood Street, where I lived when I got married in 1891.
Summary of Homes
Bankford [?] Feb 21 81 Monday
left Poynton Sat Dec 3rd 81 age 55
Left Mytton Wed 16 Sept 85 age 59
that portrait Mytton St age 62
Grove Thurs Nov 1 88 to Heywood age 67
me to Rumford St Tues Sep 26 93
Mother to Sloane St Tues June 19 94 age 68
me Rumford to Sloane Wed July 11 94
me Sloane to Greenhill Tues Sep 21 97
Mother came from Dorking Fri Oct 15 97 age 71
her last house never slept away again
117 Claremont Road Wed 24 Oct 00. My Father's 106th birthday if alive.
The first house in 25 years in Manchester without Mother.
In 1873 my Father ceased to practise and then let the large house and removed to a smaller at no. 3 Gas Street, Heath Side, where he died 1875; Mother lived there till February, 1881, when she came to live in Manchester where she and I lived nineteen years till her death in 1900, also in February; and to her love, advice and guidance whatever success I have attained is due. I give thanks to God for such a mother. I thought I did my duty to her, but now regret I did not lavish far more affection upon her.
§ Some Dates and Ages
Mother 321Ú2 in December 1858
Mother 34 in 1860
Edward died June 27th, 1860
Mother's Mother died '69 Mother 43
Harriet Miller went to live with father and Mother at Xmas 1849
Joseph Henry Born soon after 27/1/1850 lived eleven months.
[John Henry born 15/10/1850, so his life may have overlapped]
Harriet left first time about May 1851
Second time say in 1856 or 7, there 41Ú2 years left end of 1860 or in 1861.
Mother had portrait taken in black with hair down in 1851 Aunt M. Ann says when in mourning for a child, Joseph Henry who died end of 1850 or early in '51.
Mother and father went to Great Exhibition summer 1851. Fred born February 12, 1852.
Uncle Tom Warburton died 1st November, 1896 at Saffron Walden, Essex, age 73.
Uncle Joseph Warburton died Liverpool, October 1894, age 53.
Harriet Stanier there when both Joseph Henry and I were born.
This is a copy of the marriage certificate made by my great grandfather. Presumably the marriage took place in Manchester so that it was, in effect, private. As the young bride was seven months pregnant, and was marrying her master, a respectable small-town doctor thirty-two years her senior, it must have been more a nightmare than a celebration of nuptials. They must have given the address of Ann Taylor, Esther's cousin, to marry in Manchester, though they could have married by licence. The Taylors were in fact very successful, and appear to have made a considerable fortune as brewers in Ancoats. Henry Gent rode to and from the wedding on horseback. My grandfather told me his grandfather completed the journey in the same day.
Page 118 Nº 236
Marriage solemnized in the Parish Church of St John, Manchester, in the County of Lancaster, in the Year 1847
Henry Gent of this Parish Bachelor and Esther Warburton of this Parish Spinster were Married in this Church by Banns this twenty third day of March in the Year One Thousand Eight Hundred and Forty Seven by me William Huntington
This Marriage was Solemnized between us, Henry Gent and Esther Warburton in the presence of William Taylor Ann Taylor
The above is a faithful extract taken this 23 day of March 1847
Peter Hewitt Parish Clerk.
The Warburtons were working class: Esther's father was a labourer. She later provided accommodation for Methodist ministers after her husband's death. These cards were presumably issued to her brother and sister.
Primitive Methodist Connexion
First Camp Meeting held May 31, 1807
First Class formed March, 1810
[ditto J. Warburton]
A peremptory and brief letter without emotion from Henry Gent, but his son had died and his wife was no doubt scarred for life. Nor did he particularly care about her recovery. Henry and Esther's marriage was singularly unhappy. Esther was a loyal, hard-working wife but belonged to a different world altogether. They shared a house, and occasionally a bed, but there was no bond of love or even, on his side, of affection. Mary Sarah was born on 17th May, 1847, and named after her two grandmothers: Mary Warburton née Lea, and Sarah Gent, née Booth. A boy was born very soon afterwards, named John Henry, after his paternal grandfather and father, but did not survive. It seems likely he was born prematurely. Another son, Joseph Henry, named after his paternal great grandfather (or uncle) and father, similarly died soon after birth, possibly just after John Henry. We have forgotten the ravages of smallpox, which not only killed this child, but must also have left Esther scarred for life.
Knutsford 27th October 1850
My Dear Mary,
Esther was confined on Tuesday the 15th on the 17th she was covered with the small pox, the infant was affected two or three days after. Esther seems as if she would recover; the child we lost to-day.
I have written to Mr William Cartledge, sexton of Astbury, to open the same grave as the other child's, and to be there to inter on Tuesday 29th October at twelve o' clock; would you see that he attends to it.
I should be glad of £5 0 0 on that day to pay expenses.
The following year Henry and Esther travelled to London for the Great Exhibition of 1851. We can guess that was mid-May, as a son, George Frederick, was born on 12th February, 1852. My grandfather told me that his grandparents slept in separate rooms, only sharing a bed when forced to do so by circumstances. A trip to London to the Great Exhibition may explain this conception.
Henry must have suffered considerable censure in Knutsford for his marriage. It is surprising to discover this cruel poem amongst his papers: it must have been sent to him anonymously. The writer must have been aware of what life was like in the Gent household: the young wife, keen to please; the bitterly resentful older husband, withdrawn and alone.
Five years had passed, and what was Henry then?
The most repining of repenting men;
With a fond, teasing, anxious wife, afraid
Of all attention to another paid;
Yet powerless she her husband to amuse,
Lives but t'entreat, implore, resent, accuse:
Jealous and tender, conscious of defects,
She merits little, and yet much expects;
She looks for love that now she cannot see,
And sighs for joy that never more can be.
On his retirements her complaints intrude,
And fond reproof endears his solitude;
While he her weakness (once her kindness) sees,
And his affections in her languor freeze,
Regret unchecked by hope, devours his mind;
He feels unhappy, and he grows unkind.
"Fool! to be taken by a rosy cheek,
And eyes that cease to sparkle or to speak;
Fool for this child my freedom to resign,
When one the glory of her sex was mine;
While from this burthen to my soul I hide,
To think what fate has dealt, and what denied.
What fiend possessed me when I tamely gave
My forced assent to be an idiot's slave?
Her beauty vanished, what for me remains?
Th'eternal clicking of the galling chains."
This is one of the letters that must have belonged to Aunt Mary Gent. No doubt it was passed to her by her cousin, one of the unmarried Booth sisters who lived on Astbury Marsh, the green in front of the church, and also cousins of Henry and Joseph Gent. Brian Gent, the other brother, died in 1844, which is why he is not mentioned. I do not know more about Thomas Leadbeater Booth. The Leadbeaters were presumably also cousins, probably on his mother's side. Thomas died in Hornsea, London in 1861 at the age of 83.
A year has passed over since we received a letter by your desire from Mr Kennerly If you had requested my cousin Mary Gent to have wrote a letter for you to give us a little information of what has occurred to your relatives and neighbours I think she would have complied with your request. If you write please to let me know if Mr William Piggot is living and well. Give our kind love to my cousins Mary, Joseph and Henry Gent. And our best respects to Mr William Booth of Congleton to the Leadbeaters and all enquiring neighbours. We desire our kind love to you both.
And I remain
Your affectionate Brother
T. L. Booth
Atwick 28th November 1853/by Sigglesthorn/Hull
Miss Booth/Astbury/by Congleton/Cheshire
PS We desire our best respects to Miss Shipplebotham
Address/Mr T. Booth/Atwick/near Sigglesthorn/by Hull
Interestingly, Esther Gent and Mary Gent were friends in adversity, the enemy in this case being Henry, husband and brother respectively. Esther confided in Mary, and did favours for her. Mary reciprocated however she could, and was especially fond of her nephews and niece. Uncle is Uncle James Gent, Mary's brother, a bachelor who lived in Congleton. The Miss Booths are Henry's cousins, who lived on Astbury Marsh, the green in front of the church. Aunt Mary also lived in Congleton at that time, quite near Esther's mother. We do not know what the serious illness was that threatened Esther's life, but exactly a year later she became pregnant again, with her last child.
March 23rd, 1857
My Dear Miss Gent,
It is with great thankfulness that I have this pleasure and opportunity of writing to you, but a short time since I thought I should have been numbered with the silent dead, and how grateful I ought to be on account of my dear children, for who can stand in a Mother's place. I hope you are very much better than when we saw you last, for we are expecting to see you in April and again towards the end of the summer if all be well. Give our kind love to Uncle. Freddy is intending to bring his spade and help him dig in the garden.
I am much obliged for your kind enquiry after me when ill. Remember us to the Miss Booths, tell them Mary Sarah is much pleased with the little books they sent a long time since. She understands the reading now, and there are some nice little anecdotes in them.
The weather is very severe here but I hope we shall soon have a change.
We have got a famous stout servant now, therefore we shall be able to make you very comfortable. The one we had is gone home ill, and was too small. I am not able to do much and can but walk short distances.
M. S. and Freddy send their love to you, Uncle and Miss Booths, and accept the same from Mr Gent and myself.
PS Miss Hindle has been here to tea. Mr Gent told her I had sent Mr Turner word she was come home, as soon as the weather is warmer I am going for the day.
Mary Sarah would be almost ten at this time, Fred (as George Frederick was always known), had just celebrated his fifth birthday.
It must have been strange for Esther to have the management of a servant, having been one herself. The 'famous stout servant' cannot have stayed long either, as later in the year Harriet Stanier came back to work in the house.
[copyright Frank J. Gent]
These documents all deal with the purchase of the large house in King Street where Frank Turner Gent was born and grew up. The £200 was a considerable sum, probably the full cost of the purchase. It is impressive that the total was paid off in less than four years. The Eden's appear to have been friends, as a Mr Eden attended Mary Sarah's funeral in 1864.
Duty Two Shillings
For Value Received I promise to pay Mr Robert Eden or order the sum of two hundred pounds of lawful British Money within three Months after the same shall be demanded together with interest for the same after the rate of four pounds ten shillings per cent per annum Witness my hand this twentieth day of June one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven.
Henry Gent George Eden Turned Over from Robert Eden to George Eden
October 17th, 1857
Received seventy pounds towards the repayment of the within named sum of two hundred pounds
July 9th, 1858
Received a year's interest £6 17 6 due 28th June, 1858
July 2nd, 1859
Received a year's interest £5 17 0 due 20th June, 1859
October 12th 1860
Received a year's interest upon £130 due the 20th day of June, 1860
July 5th 1861
Received a year's interest upon £130 due the 20th day of June 1861
November 25th 1861
Received from Mr Gent the sum of thirty pounds towards the within named sum of two hundred pounds
19th March, 1861
Received one hundred and four pounds four shillings an two pence in discharge of the balance and interest due on the within note
Paid George Eden
Although Henry Gent had bought the large new house in King Street, opposite the Angel; the former, smaller house, next to the Institute, was not sold, but let to Miss Hickson for her life. Miss Hickson was forty six at the time of the lease, and she lived in the house till she was nearly seventy five.
Henry Gent to Miss Lætitia Hickson
House in King St
£90 for life
Miss Hollins was distantly related through the Lowndes family (Sarah Booth's mother was formerly married to a Lowndes). Her sister, Fanny, was married to Robert Livingston, of Liverpool, a relation of the great African explorer. Georgiana Hollins received a visit from my great grandfather on 11th September, 1903, when she was eighty-two years old.
It is not known why Mr Gosling was paid one shilling per week.
The dismissive treatment of the birth and naming of his new son is saddening. My great grandfather was born on Christmas Day, 1858. Mary did write to the Rev. James Turner; his reply is below. But Mary and Esther also called him Francis, against his father's wishes. Henry cannot have been at the christening, or he would have objected. In fact, there were two christenings. The first took place at home, as he was a very sickly child. A punchbowl was used for the ceremony. It would be interesting to check what was entered on his birth certificate.
My Dear Mary,
A few days ago I received my bill from Mr Gosling. It was dated from January 18th, 1852 to May 1st, 1858, 326 weeks, £16 6 0.
I saw Miss Hollins to-day at Galeinmore [?], she is in good health. Mrs Livingstone and Miss Georgiana I seldom see. I hear nothing of Miss Arden.
You can write to Mr Turner if you wish and call this child just what you like (without the Francis). I received your Post Office orders for which I am much obliged. With love to all.
Knutsford 2nd January 1859
[copyright Frank J. Gent]
This is quite a small amount, and may have never been repaid, as the contents of the house were sold at Miss Hickson's death in 1887, possibly in settlement.
Knutsford 7th January 1859
On demand I promise to pay to Henry Gent Esquire or order the sum of eighteen pounds ten shillings with interest at five per cent per annum
Witness: John B. Payne [local solicitor]
My dear Miss Gent,
The first 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
Duty One Penny
Knutsford December 5th, 1859
For value received I promise to pay Mr Joseph Silvester the sum of Fifteen Pounds on demand with lawful Interest.
Received on account of this Note and interest to April 5th, 1861 £5 0 0
leaving £10 0 0 due
I believe this came off a loan agreement, possibly when the previous debt was repaid. I removed the stamp as a child, after I found the document in the bureau. E. H. P. may have been one of the Page family, local solicitors.
Inland Revenue stamp dated 15th August 1860 E. H. P.
I don't think there is a single note or gift from Henry Gent to his children. His wife appears to have had sole responsibility for their care and upbringing. There is a puritanical barb to it, though softened with obvious affection.
May 17th, 1860
Presented to M. S. Gent on her 13th birthday in hopes that it may be the means of keeping herself neater than she has hitherto done and likewise hoping it may be seen in years to come, as care is a beautiful flower and is often rewarded. I wish you many happy returns of the day.
The purchase of the big house in King Street provided a large home for the family. The house appears to have been the property of Mr Henry Wright, and upon his death had been seized by creditors and sold to settle his debts. The £227 10s paid to the court on 10th July, 1857, must represent the purchase price, £200 of which was borrowed by my great great grandfather.
19th March, 1862
Schedule of Deeds deposited by Henry Gent with Union Bank of Manchester
Security for £100
5th May, 1840 Conveyance of two houses in Knutsford Mr Thomas Wright to Mr Henry Wright
27th August, 1857 Conveyance of same F. B. Mills, Esq and others to Mr Henry Gent
16th June, 1857 Mills v. Wright. Valuation of Mrs Wright's life interest
22nd June, 1857 Office Copy Order for Payment of Purchase Money Mills v. Wright Sale to Mr Gent
10th July, 1857 Office Copy Certificate of Payment of £227 10 0 into Court Mills v. Wright Sale to Mr Gent
January 1862 Fire Insurance Policy Nº 185617 in Manchester Insurance Office on above property
These letters are a surprise, billets doux from young male friends and acquaintances, when Mary Sarah was fifteen. It is clear the young men are quite respectable, out with the hunt, brothers at Rugby school, going up to London, being commissioned in the army or, more sadly, fighting consumption.
1st [January, 1863?]
My Dear Friend,
It is too late now to wish you a merry Xmas; but all the same I hope you have had a very merry one. I have been so busy that I was unable to write to you before. There is lots of sport this time. I have been out with the foxhounds three times. James got thrown the first time he went out.
We are going to London to-morrow and I am sorry to say that I shall not be able to send you my directions, for we shall be travelling about all the time we are there.
Schofield got into one of his bad tempers and we did not speak to each other for three weeks.
We are engaged to parties every day next week.
I hope you are enjoying your holidays.
Please excuse bad writing, the art in which the wise excel. The first in rank is that of writing well.
With kind regards to Mrs Gent
Your affectionate friend
I have been staying at Mr Rileys for two or three days but have not been able to meet you anywhere. I am going to Peover to-morrow afternoon and then into Derbyshire early on Monday morning. You might as well come up to church in the morning instead of the afternoon. I think you always came in the afternoon. I am going to Cambridge to prepare for the Army on the 26th and then I hope I shall sometimes hear from you. I remember once you quoted an old song: 'Should old acquaintance be forgot.'
With kind regards to Mrs G
Your affectionate friend
Was Mary Sarah small in build, hence the nickname Tichy? Her brother Frank was described by his mother as puny.
Liverpool, January 17
Dear Mary Sarah,
I have wrote these few lines to-day. I am a great deal better. I went to see a Physician last Tuesday. He said I was very weak, but I was not in a Consumption and I should be soon well again. I have not time to write much to-day as I am going to see the Great Eastern come in to-day. If you will be sure and write by return of post and Direct as do not want anyone to know about it.
To be left at the General Post Office till called for
I shall go to the General Post on Monday see whether your letter has come.
I suppose you received the cross I sent you. I must now conclude with kind love to all and accept the same yourself.
Don't tell our people you have heard from me
[Torn off bottom of letter]
PS it will alter your future happiness n-be used at
Have you guessed the name
I know you want to know
But you will have to fish
[Left-hand half of page missing]
never trod on the
vigour of life, and it
since she was in thi
heartily as any one. S
evening was taken
after. She was beloved
a gentil and friend
everyone regrets with heart
of one so much esteem
a lesson and shows
tell how soon we may
I shall never forget you
friends, although sometimes
I expect to go to Inch
I remember frightening
very much one day. I
I met him with M. S.
like a dog. I must say.
Jack [?] But I will wr
for the likeness. Will
I remain your affectionate
I daresay you will think I have not received your letter but I did receive it but have been so much engaged with the anti-macassar for the sewing meeting that I have not had time to answer it. Last Wednesday there were 28 being an increase of ten. We hope if it is only a little bit of edging you will do us something. I must conclude hoping you and your sister are well. Ma uniting with me in love to both, and
Believe me to remain
M. S. Gent
This cannot be a letter to Joseph Gent, who died 23rd December, 1860. Who is it to, then? It could be one of the Booths. It must have been kept by Aunt Mary Gent. Once again, it is interesting to see how Esther Gent was so kind to her husband's relations, with her characteristic piety also included in the sentiments.
My Dear Sir,
I heard from home a few days ago saying how ill you had been. I sincerely hope you are better; there is a nice time of the year coming on. The weather is so fine here I am sure if you could get out it would do you good and revive both health and spirit. I was very disappointed I did not see you the last time I was in Congleton to tell you the reason I did not write about a girl, if you remember you named it to me about a servant and as I did not write there was none I could recommend and should be sorry to tell you of one you would not be comfortable with. I hope you are now suited. I often think how lonely you must be but I do trust you will receive many cheering seasons from that unchanging Friend that can be with us in the hours of midnight in sickness and in [death]. And when earthly friends can be of no service to us. Dear Sir, I have often wished to write but did not like to take the liberty; when you are better if you would like to come and see us for a change we shall be happy to do all we can to make you comfortable. Knutsford is a nice little place and I think you would enjoy the out. The children often talk about you and the little dogs; they were so amused to see how they understood what you meant by putting them out of doors.
Dear Sir, Mr Gent and the children join with me in very kind love to you hoping to remain your humble and affectionate friend
March 27th, 1864
PS We shall be glad to hear how you are if convenient
To Edwin Bullock, D[ebto]r
April 22nd Carte of child 2s 6d
Paid July 12th '64
[Bill for the photograph of me taken with a dog at 5 years old, 1863]
The death of Mary Sarah on 23rd April, 1864, was sudden and shocking. Only the previous day Esther had taken Frank to have his photograph taken, a photograph that unfortunately no longer exists. Mary Sarah's death devastated her mother in particular.
Funeral of Miss Gent 
Form of Procession
Mr Jones Corpse Mr Kelshaw
Mr Sant Mr Tunstall
Mrs Gent Dr Gent
Bro in law Bro in law
[Joseph Warburton] [Joseph Williams]
Mr Silvester Dr Wagstaffe
Mr Henry Barber Mr P. Darlington
Mr Cutter Mr Birch
Mr Hudson Mr Cauldwell
Mr Eden Mr Pollitt
Mr J. Darlington P. Newton
The same order is respectfully solicited in returning from the church.
Tombstone Knutsford Churchyard
Mary Sarah Gent
Died April 23rd 1864, aged 16 years
A little while they dwell with us,
Blest ministers of love,
Then spread the wings we had not seen,
And seek their home above.
In this next letter Henry is writing six months after Mary Sarah's death, for which he was blamed by his wife. It comes as a surprise then to see him write of 'the duty I owe to my own family.' We do not know now what Aunt Mary wrote that provoked this admonition. Certainly, £50 was not a large amount to live on, and Aunt Mary must have lived in genteel poverty throughout her long life. In Mrs Gaskell's Cranford an annual income of £150 was seen as an extremely modest income. Esther adds a characteristically softening footnote.
My Dear Mary,
At the time that we met and settled family matters at Mr Ward's and you know that it was not done in a hurry and without due consideration on your part. I agreed to give you an annuity of £50 a year and this for your convenience and comfort has been paid weekly at the rate of 20s being £2 a year more than I engaged to pay you; in addition to that, money was paid for you, for which I hold your note for £35, and how you can now write to me in the way you do I cannot understand. All I know is that your letter is a most unwarrantable reaping up of family matters which anyone but yourself believed was settled when the annuity deed was granted.
I can only express my regret and astonishment at such conduct and trust it will never be repeated.
I should be glad at any time to do anything in my power for your comfort consistent with the duty I owe to my own family.
Believe me to be
21st September, 1864
[Insert: note from Esther Gent]
My dear Miss Gent, I shall write again in a day or two for something I could not get to-day.
Letitia daughter of Robert and Betty Hickson of Mere born February 10th baptized March 8th.
Copy made 1st March, 1865
[She bought the small house in King Street from my Father for her life]
This letter is almost unbearably poignant, as Esther expresses her grief to perhaps the only person she could open her heart, united in resentment of Henry.
April 9th, 1865
Dear Miss Gent,
I hope you will forgive me for not answering your kind letter to me after dear M. S.'s death. I assure you it makes a great difference in the house one pair of hands less, and I am always so much cast down, I cannot do now like I could then, for I am so unhappy without her. I feel there is nothing but my two children that court my stay here. I feel daily as if I wanted to die, then of all people I am most miserable when I think what would come of my two boys, I feel as though I can neither live nor die. I have not been able to eat or sleep and often think I shall meet death gladly. I am more grieved when I think she had nothing done till it was too late. Mr Gent indulged his temper and gave her nothing till one o' clock when her teeth had been set two hours or more. I sent for Mr Wagstaffe at ten in the morning and told him she was dying, but he said nothing was the matter with her. She asked him if she would die; he told her, as well as me, she would soon be all right, nothing was the matter with her. She told him she had been wicked, and I told her to pray. She said, 'Ma, you pray for me.' In a few minutes she said she wanted to go to her Father, and said, 'I shall have to pass that great multitude.' She only spoke a few words after he left. He said he would give her something in a while, but it was two o' clock in the afternoon, she could take nothing then. No tongue can tell my feelings night and day. I cannot tell how Mr Gent can live to let his own child die for want, but he did it to grieve me, but I have nothing to reproach myself of, I have been a good wife but he will not know till it is too late. I have thought to write many times but it grieves me so to think of that unhappy day, it has robbed me of my only comfort.
I forget your address so I hope you will excuse it enclosed in to Mother. If you see Mr Booth please remember us kindly to him this world is a show [?] to me now. Poor Miss Turner is dead, have you heard. I will write again. The children join me in kindly love. I have not told Mr Gent I am writing.
My dear Miss Gent, if you are out of sight you are not forgot by me.
I am your affectionate friend
The bad feelings between Aunt Mary and her brother Henry did not go away; he writes surprisingly rudely of her to the solicitor. It is curious that this letter must have gone into her possession, as it was not addressed to her.
October 12th, 1867
My sister will I hope renew that note without further trouble and be good enough to write to me if she proves dishonest, and pay her no more money on my account from this date if she refuse.
If my sister has not the slightest objection to act justly so soon as her claim under the marriage settlement is justified, why did she accrue a bill of near £100 by Ward and other expenses she put me to by going to and again to Knutsford and Congleton for near twelve months, so that her excuse only seems a vile one to defraud.
Buckley has not yet come.
On our journey we walked from Congleton to Meerbrook through being too late for the train.
With kind regards, I am, Dear Sir,
T. G. Sheldon, Esq.
Two months have passed, and the tone is friendlier, though once again it is curious that this letter survives: was it too passed to Aunt Mary, or were these copies made at the time and retained. In fact, these letters were written probably by Fred, and signed by Henry, so may be copies that he sent to his sister Mary.
December 2nd, 1867
I am pleased to receive your letter because I think it will lead to an understanding that the covenants agreed on between my sister and myself have been fulfilled, except what may be due on the 12th or 13th November, and which I will enable Mr Sheldon to pay for me.
John Wilson, Esq.
A delightful letter from Esther to Aunt Mary, once again worrying about others, and filled with pious thoughts for the sick. Mrs Triner was presumably Aunt Mary's companion, as well as possibly being her landlady. Mr Booth must be the cousin William Booth of Congleton, possibly for whom Esther had once promised to help find a servant. The glimpse of my great grandfather is childhood encapsulated: school, pet rabbits and not particularly healthy.
July 28th, 1869
Dear Miss Gent,
I fear you will be running out for the powders or am happy you do not need them I was afraid Mrs Triner's would be done and thought I might spare you the trouble of writing for them. I hope you are well. Frankie is commenced school not got rid of his rabbits so he has not had time for I have liked him to have as much liberty as possible he is a little puny thing I hope Mrs Triner is no worse tell her Frankie and never forget her at bedtime we trust if it is the Lord's will to take her from amongst us it may be to that beautiful land where all is calm and joy and peace. I pray for her every time he says his prayers you would like to hear him I am sure how he prays for all we do forget Mr Booth at the same time please give our love to him and Mrs Triner Dear Miss Gent you must excuse a long letter for I have not wrote one to Mother for more than two months I think I must say goodbye for I hope to see you soon all our love Frankie best love dear Miss Gent I am yours affectionately
Please remember me kindly to Miss Turner when you see her
Dr Henry Gent was a difficult person. Esther frequently sent Aunt Mary powders, but getting them from her husband was obviously a delicate operation. Henry had become a Quaker while a young man in America, and throughout his life was an occasional attender at meetings.
Dear Miss Gent,
I am so sorry you had not the powders by return of post I asked Fred to get them of Mr Gent but it is so painful I cannot get him to do as he ought Mr Gent had been to the Quakers chapel did not get home till about 4 o' clock or after and I depend on Fred for them and if he is not asked for them in a morning or before dark he will not give them but I do hope you have not suffered much the loss of them I know I have got but little sleep our servant has had such a cough. Mr Gent goes at a quarter past eight so there is three breakfasts and a deal of things to be done so that I have not time to read it before he went and if I had he would not have staid I am sure it is quite a relief for him to be out of the house I hope you keep well Frank and Fred join me in kind love remember us to Mrs Triner dear Miss Gent I am yours affectionately
We are getting without coals only last a day or two but it must be is the last were such rubbish I shall feel obliged if you will tell Buckley.
The usual themes when Esther wrote to Aunt Mary: Mrs Triner, the powders, servants. Interestingly, she was secretly doing the washing for the gentleman. Esther was certainly unafraid of hard work. There are, of course, the usual pious thoughts.
October 17th, 1869
Dear Miss Gent,
Tis in love I write to you how sorry I was to hear Mrs Triner was so poorly but Frankie and I pray that God may give his blessing with the powders to ease the cough I have sent a few drops she can take two or three in the day or before going to bed I am sure she will find great relief I am sorry I could not come it was a great disappointment in fact it made me quite poorly the anxiety of leaving all for their comfort working so hard for several days much harder than usual sometimes I fear I shall not be able to keep up the girl I have got cannot get through as much quite as the last but I like her disposition better she is not so cunning I am not afraid of her with boys or taking anything she is also a good getter up in a morning which is a very great advantage in our house it used to do me more harm to get the other out of bed than doing the work this one is a catholick I would rather she went where I do
I am washing for this gentleman this quarter I thought it would be something at the end and he had been vised to have it dome where he came from but he will not know but I am doing it all the time the next I shall put it out the weather will be cold the days short I wrote and sent Mother the stamps and told her about the few apples I thought she would be so unhappy and she could send you word many thanks for sending them to her home I should like to have come on Saturday night I picture myself calling on you and meeting you in the fields on Sunday morning to go to church it is hope that keep me up. My motto: Onward, upward, homeward, heavenward. High, higher, looking unto Jesus.
Frankie and I all join in very kind love to you love to Mrs Triner we do not forget her when Frank goes to bed
Yours very affectionately,
I kept some powders by me for fear Mr G. was out or could not let me have them in time.
This letter was written by Frank Gent when he was ten years old, and had not long been at Newlands School. Mrs Triner was obviously chronically ill.
October 26th, 1869
I am very sorry i [sic] have not writen to you sooner, but as I have a little time I am writing a short letter. I hope you are well and I am very sorry to hear that Mrs Triner is so ill. I have only got two rabbits now and I am going to sell them so as to have the place for the 5th of November it is a large room. I am very sorry I cannot write a longer letter but the next time i [sic] will tell you more.
Your affectionate Nephew
I will write again soon. I am glad the drops do Mrs Triner good she shall have as many as she needs. Frankie's letter is badly written but he wanted to write and do all himself.
No date for the next letter, but the newsy contents tell us it is a hot autumn, there is lots of work to do managing a large household, and Fred has started work. Holidays were taken, almost certainly without Henry. That summer Esther took her sons to her brother's at Liverpool, where he worked as an assistant to a chemist. Surprisingly she mentions Jane, her husband's cousin Miss Gent, daughter of his uncle Joseph who had died in 1811.
My Dear Miss Gent
I beg you will not name [?] troubling me for I can say in truth that it is a pleasure to me if it is any comfort or benefit. I am sorry I could not send them by the first post, we had a large wash and I was very tired each week but had to stand and get fruit two or three hours but I am thankful I have it to get. I wish you could see the garden though it does not produce what it would if it was properly managed. I often feel though my lot seems hard not more than others I deserve yet God has given me more. I am writing this after bed time and shall not be able on that account to say all I wish. I am glad you did not go out yesterday it was so very hot. It was Knutsford Races Friday and Saturday. The Peover policeman died apoplexy or sunstroke, left six little children, a very nice man. I promised to tell you about our trip to Liverpool. We sailed to Birkenhead and to New Brighton, then we hired a boat and sailed an hour, it was beautiful. We had not time to look about Birkenhead or Liverpool much. I should like to have found Miss Gent. Fred's master is taking all his hands to Chatsworth so he will not return home for two nights, will stay at his master's to-morrow night and the night he returns. Fred is selling the rabbits. I am so glad. They have had, I think, four lots of young, one he almost [ ]ys me to death to get him up every morning. I wish he would use the sense he has. I will write or Frankie soon.
Best love from all to you and Mrs Triner
Having lost her daughter, it was also a severe blow five years later when Esther's mother died. She was buried at Astbury church, the parish church for Congleton, in the same grave as her husband Thomas, who had died 8th April, 1861, aged seventy four.
In Affectionate Remembrance of
Aged 69 years,
Who Died November 3, 1869,
And was interred at Astbury Church, November 6th.
This letter may have never been sent, which is why it survives. The aunt may have been Elizabeth Warburton, her father's sister. I still have the cover of a Book of Common Prayer which bears her signature.
My Dear Aunt,
I am very much grieved to tell you my dear Mother died on Wednesday at 20 minutes past one. I did not see her, could not get in time which is a great grief to me we are interring her on Saturday at 3 o' clock and should be happy to see you we live about a mile from Congleton it is two from the station but you could ride in the bus a mile anybody would tell you the way to Astbury Marsh I should have written sooner but I have had so much to do and it has been such a visitation I shall not be able to explain my dear Mother my best friend is gone I cannot write you a long letter, when I get home I fear I shall be laid up, the address to Astbury is Mrs Gent, Astbury Marsh, Near Congleton. I should like to return as soon as possible for I have left no one to manage I had to go at once there was a telegraph but what a grief she was gone when I got there I will tell you more in my next My dear Aunt we all join in best love to you.
My dear Aunt I am your affectionate niece
May the blessing of God rest on you for all your kindness to my dear father.
[copyright Frank J. Gent]
It must have been around 1872 or 1873 that Henry Gent suffered the strokes that paralysed him and led possibly to dementia, though they may have started sooner. The decision must have been made to rationalise his affairs by moving to a smaller, more manageable house and making financial arrangements for his wife. Fred was living in Manchester by then - he was twenty one - though what he did as a warehouseman we do not know, and presumably as eldest son he had power of attorney for his father's affairs, or some such similar arrangement. The second document suggests that perhaps this power was held by Henry's friend, Peter Darlington, who is described as a publican and as a brewer. Was he landlord of the Angel, opposite the house in King Street? He had attended Mary Sarah's funeral, as he was later to attend Henry's, and in 1886 Ann Darlington was to wish Frank Gent a happy birthday as his 'ever loving sister'. The annuity, however, is not at all generous: Henry's sister had benefitted from an annuity of £50 throughout her life.
Henry's will was also made around this time, as part of the arrangements. His signature was obviously made with very great difficulty. Fred was to get the farm, subject to the two annuities, Frank was to get the Knutsford properties. Esther received the annuity and the use of the contents of the house.
Memorandum of an agreement entered into this sixteenth day of August Eighteen hundred and seventy three between George Frederick Gent of Manchester, in the county of Lancaster, warehouseman, of the one part, and Esther Gent the mother of the said George Frederick Gent of the other part.
Whereas GFG to pay EG annuity £10 on 16/11, 16/2, 16/5, 16/8.
Witness: Peter Darlington, brewer, Knutsford
Memorandum of Agreement 16th August 1873 Henry Gent surgeon, Peter Darlington publican, G. F. Gent Manchester warehouseman
annuity £25 Henry to Esther
deeds of two houses in King St and three pews in parish church as security
Refers to indenture 27th August, 1857 (date of purchase)
Witness: Joseph Williams, 3, Mackworth Street, Manchester
Wednesday, September 17, 1873, King St., Knutsford.
Henry Gent, Esq., has favoured Mr Freeman, With instructions to sell at his late residence as above (without the slightest reserve,) on Wednesday Next, 17th September, Instant, Commencing at Two o'Clock in the Afternoon, prompt, the following useful Household Furniture And other items enumerated underneath.
3 mahogany four-post Bedsteads, one with brown moreen Furniture,
Invalid and stump ditto,
2 mahogany chests of drawers,
oak linen Chest,
ditto on Stand,
mahogany Dressing Table with three drawers,
2 painted ditto,
oak Night Commode,
an excellent maple Bookcase,
mahogany round Table,
oak leaf Table,
large deal Ditto,
large Ditto with four drawers,
oak Dresser with four drawers,
large hair seated bed Sofa,
14 mahogany Chairs with hair seats,
4 ditto with cane seats and cushions,
1 ditto in blue moreen,
7 painted ditto with seg seats,
miscellaneous lot of Books,
3 Wine Decanters,
4 Wine Glasses,
2 Spirit Jars,
physic and drug Bottles,
Shelves and Ottoman,
2 wire Blinds,
Pestle and Mortar,
large ditto ditto,
brass, metal and chamber Candlesticks,
Snuffers and Tray,
pair candle Lamps,
2 copper Coffee Pots,
kitchen and other Fenders,
large nursery Fire Guard,
tin Coffee Pot,
Strainer and can,
Paste Board and rolling pin,
copper Coal Scuttle,
2 Bird Cages,
Boot Trees and Bootjack,
stone Garden Roller,
stone Pig Trough,
Saddle and sundry Harness,
Head Collar and Sieve,
iron Carriage Jack,
Scythe and Barrow wheel,
2 rain Water Tubs,
On view the morning of sale.
This is the last will and testament of me Henry Gent of Nether Knutsford in the county of Chester surgeon I direct that all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses be duly paid and satisfied by my executors as soon as conveniently may be after my decease I give devise and bequeath unto my wife esther Gent during the term of her natural life the annuity or yearly sum of twenty five pounds per annum to be paid in equal half yearly instalments the first payment to become due six calendar months after my decease I give devise and bequeath unto my son George Frederick Gent my estates within the township of Leek Frith in the county of Stafford called Middlehulme and Acre Head subject to the above mentioned annuity of twenty five pounds bequeathed to my wife esther Gent and also subject to an annuity of fifty pounds already payable to my sister Mary Gent during the term of her natural life I give devise and bequeath unto Joseph Williams of 3, Mackworth Street Hulme Manchester in the county of Lancaster joiner and unto George Frederick Gent my son my property situate in King Street Knutsford in the county of Chester consisting of two messuages or dwellinghouses with gardens outbuildings and appurtenances upon trust for my son James Francis Turner Gent to be transferred to him on his attaining the age of twenty one years to apply the whole or part of the rents or annual products arising therefrom to the maintenance and education or advancement in life of my said son James Francis Turner Gent until he shall attain the said age of twenty one years I give and bequeath unto my wife Esther Gent my household furniture linen and wearing apparel for her use during her life and at her decease to my sons George Frederick Gent and James Francis Turner Gent in equal shares or to the survivor of them. If either of my sons die without issue and unmarried before my decease I give devise and bequeath his share as hereinbefore contained to the survivor And I appoint my said trustees the above mentioned Joseph Williams and George Frederick Gent to be executors of this my will hereby revoking all former wills In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twentieth day of December one thousand eight hundred and seventy three
George Watson Wesleyan Minister Knutsford
Anne Newhall Heath Side Knutsford
Proved at Chester the 16th day of July 1875 by George Frederick Gent the son one of the executors power being reserved to Joseph Williams the other executor
Effects sworn under £100
Testator died 27th March 1875
We know next to nothing of Fred's early life, but he married his cousin Sarah Warburton, daughter of his mother's brother Thomas. Thomas Warburton was thrice-married; his first wife was Ellen Shaw of Astbury. There was only one daughter, Sarah, who married Fred on 4th July, 1877. Thomas's second wife was Elizabeth Snelson of Congleton. There were no children of this marriage. His third wife was Lydia Longden of Ashdon near Saffron Walden in Essex. Their daughter Priscilla reappears later as servant to Esther Gent. There were also two sons, Fred and Osbert. I believe Thomas worked for a railway company, hence his move away from Cheshire, living at Cambridge, dying at Saffron Walden in 1896. Joseph Henry was the son of Esther's sister Mary Ann, who was married to Joseph Williams of Manchester, but who moved to Dorking and lived at the Quaker Meeting House.
Ogden Terrace was in Gas Street, a new development in Knutsford, with, of course, the convenience of gas for lighting. Esther was by now nursing Henry Gent in his dotage, and having trouble, as almost always, with the servant. Fred was living and working in Manchester, and soon to be married.
April 9th, 1874
I got yours this morning Thursday was glad to hear you are likely to be comfortable I scarcely think Martha will suit for she has been crying all morning and would not do as she was told but I was cross but pretended I did not see it this afternoon I ran to Barlowes to order some potatoes for they have raised them at the old place from 1s to 1s 2d when I came back Martha had broke the water bottle they are 2s 6d here I thought you might get one for a shilling or a little more if so bring one Miss N does not seem as if she wants any price to come but it is as I have thought before and told you she has not seen her this week but going down to-night Mrs N has been sent for to where Agnes is staying going on Friday to Miss N could not come she says and Anny is not like Miss G she says we could not amuse her but when she has been down then I will tell you later on this afternoon I was surprised to find my gas bill is one pound 5 and 3d, 3s 3d of for water your Pa is in a nasty youmer he shouted at me till I left the room Miss N said if I would be advised by her I should not ask her this paper is such rubbish I can scarcely write Miss Cauldwell is a little better I am happy to say Miss W is returning to-night M wondered how it was you had not been down you promised Miss N has just been in and says we must ask her another time they are expecting Miss Othersal for the weeks end so you need not bring any things this time.
With kind love
I am your affectionate Ma
In Affectionate Remembrance of the late
Who Died March 27th, Aged 80 Years,
And was Interred at the Parish Church, Knutsford,
March 31st, 1875
The Reverend George Watson was the Wesleyan minister who witnessed Henry's will.
Funeral of Dr Henry Gent, 31st March, 1875
from Ogden Terrace, Heath Side, Knutsford.
Rev. Mr Watson Dr Wagstaffe
Mr Thomas Kelshaw Walton Kelsall P. Jones
Geo. F. Gent J.F.T. Gent Mr P. Darlington Mr R. Hulme
Mr A. Cutter Mr H. Newhall Mr R. Toft
Knutsford Parish Church
Fees Funeral of the late Henry Gent
31st March 1875
Tombstone Knutsford Churchyard
Henry Gent, Surgeon, died March 27th, 1875, aged 80 years.