On 5 May 1790, James and Elizabeth Rodway attended the burial of their first-born child, who three days earlier had been christened and given the name Ann. Twenty years, four sons and three daughters later, Elizabeth gave birth to her ninth and last child, another daughter, who was named Ann in memory of the girl her parents had lost two decades earlier.
The girl grew up in the Wyche, a narrow pass that even today separates -and connects- the counties of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. At one foot of the hills was the fashionable spa resort of Malvern, while on the other side was the sleepy village of Colwall, with its old church dedicated to Saint James dominating the rural skyline.
As she became a young woman, Ann remained at home while her siblings left to marry and started families of their own. In 1835 it became Ann’s turn to marry, which she did in the parish of Claines, Worcestershire – where she may have gone into service, albeit very briefly. Her husband was Edward Allen, a local farmer from Colwall whom she had probably known for a considerable amount of time. The family, wishing to be close to Ann’s parents, remained living in Upper Colwall near the Wyche. It was there, two years later, that Ann’s mother died at the age of 71, leaving her youngest daughter to take care of her ailing father.
In 1838, at the age of twenty-eight, Ann gave birth to her first daughter, who was given the same name as her mother. Four years later the Allens welcomed their first son, my great-great-grandfather John, who would lead a long life and who died the same year his granddaughter (my grandmother) was born.
But their happiness was not to last. In May 1843 Ann registered the death of her father in the local registry office; he had died “of old age” just weeks after his seventy-eighth birthday. Worse was to come only months later when Edward and Ann’s eldest child, five year-old Ann, succumbed to scarlet fever, an illness which miraculously spared their infant son John.
In 1845 Edward and Ann had another son, William, followed by a daughter, Clara, four years later. The gaps between the births of Edward and Ann’s children could well imply other pregnancies and miscarriages in between. The fact that it was Ann, and not Edward who registered their daughter’s untimely death in 1843, could also suggest that Edward spent parts of the year away from the family home, possibly working on other people’s land.
The Allens were not poor. They had come into some property when Ann’s father had died in 1843, and it was they who would build the cottages and houses along Beacon Road, in Upper Colwall. Ann supplemented their wages, which could not have been high, by working as an upholsterer, as confirmed in the 1861 census (you may well imagine my pride at having a female ancestor who could claim to have a paid job as far back as the 1860’s!).
Alas, Ann’s life was not to be as long as that of her parents’. In July 1867 her son John married my great-great-grandmother Jane Davies. It must have been a happy day for the couple; little did the groom know that his happiness was to be short-lived, as only three days later his mother Ann died of apoplexy (what today we would call a stroke) aged just fifty-seven. Her widowed husband mourned her death and survived her for a further twenty-two years, while her three surviving children would go on to marry and have families of their own (her son John’s first-born daughter would be given the name Ann in memory of her grandmother).