Category Archives: Lapley, England

Researching Great-Grandfather Benjamin

Have you seen those ads for Ancestry reminding you that you may be like your ancestors? Logical, isn’t it? My 2X great-grandfather, Benjamin Knight and I have something in common. We did not move very far. Benjamin never strayed further than 20 miles from where he was born, just like me.

Benjamin Knight was born in Lapley, Staffordshire, England in 1835. In 1851, 251 people lived in Lapley. The village included 47 houses.1 In the same year, Benjamin,16, still lived in Lapley, working as a servant at the vicarage, the home of John Rate and his wife. This made me wonder how a vicar could afford a servant. Research tells me that vicars in the 1800s in England were relatively well off. They became vicars by being appointed by a patron and the vicar’s housing was provided by the patron. They also had a “living,” an income for life. This income, although usually not remunerative, was assured and steady. The term describing the right to appoint a clergyman to a living was called an advowson and considered a form of property to be bought, sold, and inherited. In addition to his living and free lodging, the vicar could also increase his income through tithes, teaching or cultivating gardens or the glebe (acreage provided by the parish). Parishioner also paid the vicar for ceremonies such as baptisms, marriages, and burials.2

John Rate’s patron was a member of the Swinfen family that owned Lapley Hall, the manor in the village.3 It is also no surprise that the vicar and his wife would have needed servants as the vicar would have been very active in the community.

Lapley Hall, National Heritage List for England, Listing no. 1178246

The vicarage was attached to the Church of England’s All Saints Church, which has an interesting history. Benedictines established and founded Lapley Priory on the site of the current church at the very end of the Anglo-Saxon period, as a satellite house of their Abbey of Saint-Remi or Saint-Rémy at Reims, France. King Henry V put an end to the priory in 1415.4 It is believed that the current church building in Lapley probably dates from the late 11th or 12th century.5

Church of All Saints, Lapley, National Heritage List for England, Listing no. 1374057

The 1851 census not only shows Benjamin as working as a servant at the vicarage; his future wife also worked there, as a house servant.6 Surprisingly, they only married nine years later, in 1860 and at that time, Jane was 40 and Benjamin was 25.7 Vicar John Rate officiated at the ceremony. Sadly, they were married a little over a year when Jane died on October 31, 1861. Jane’s death certificate states that the cause of death was unknown.8 Surprising, on the registration of her burial in the Parish of Lapley, the vicar writes that the cause of death was an accumulation of fat around the heart. This is the first time I have ever seen a cause of death in a church’s registration of burial but it seems that Vicar John Rate took the time to enter in all causes of death in the parish register. For example, the parishioner who was buried a few days before Jane died of English cholera. Oddly, no one else seemed to die of cholera in the village at that time.

Benjamin recovered quickly from the death of his wife and went on to marry Jane Everall on June 10, 1862 in Wolverhampton, where Jane lived.9 A little twist to the story: Jane Everall was a witness to Benjamin and Jane Watson’s wedding two years earlier.10 Benjamin and Jane Watson had no children but Benjamin and Jane Everall had eleven, one of which was my great-grandmother, Alice Mary Knight, born in 1876.11 Both of Benjamin’s wives were named Jane and they became Jane Knight in the records, adding a layer of complexity to the research.

Great Grandfather Benjamin worked in service all his life. He worked as a servant, a groom, and a gardener. After their marriage, Benjamin and Jane, his second wife, moved to Wolverhampton, about eleven miles away from Lapley.12 Later on they moved to West Bromwich, another 10 miles away, but the birth place of Jane. I assume that family living in this village was a factor in their decision to move.

Jane Everall also predeceased Benjamin in 1902.13 Benjamin died in 1908 in the Union Workhouse of West Bromwich.14 People ended up in a workhouse because they were too poor and too ill to take care of themselves and no one from the family would take care of them. Benjamin died of senile decay so he was certainly too ill and probably too weak to live alone. Still, it is surprising that he died in a workhouse as he had eleven children. Benjamin’s youngest son, Benjamin, was present at his death.15

  1. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Lapley in South Staffordshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/8383, accessed 19 July 2022.
  2. Grace, Maria, Random Bits of Fascination, https://randombitsoffascination.com/, accessed 19 July 2022.
  3. Genuki, John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales – 1870-2, Lapley in 1872, https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/STS/Lapley/Gaz1872, accessed 20 July 2022.
  4. Wikipedia, Priory of Lapley, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapley_Priory, accessed 20 July 2022.
  5. Wikipedia, Lapley, England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapley, accessed 20 July 2022.
  6. Findmypast, Census, Lands & Substitutes, 1851 Census of England and Wales, Benjamin Knight, accessed 3 July 2022.
  7. Findmypast, Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers), Registration of marriage of Benjamin Knight and Jane Watson, 28 June 1860, accessed 07 July 2022.
  8. Registration of the death of Jane Watson, Superintendent Registrar’s District of Penkridge, Registrar’s District of Brewood, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 18 July 2022.
  9. Family Search, England, Staffordshire, Church Records, 1538-1944″, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:2:QPSL-KHBC : 8 July 2020), Entry for Jane Everall and Benjamin Knight, 1862, accessed 21 July 2022.
  10. Findmypast, Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers), Registration of marriage of Benjamin Knight and Jane Watson, 28 June 1860, accessed 07 July 2022.
  11. Certificate of birth registration, Alice Mary Knight, Registration District of West Bromwich, Sub-district of West Bromwich North-East, County of Stafford, 04 May 2021.
  12. Registration of birth of Harry Knight (first born in 1863), Superintendent Registrar’s District of Wolverhampton, Registrar’s District of Wolverhampton West, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 07 July 2021.
  13. Assumed from other family trees, Ancestry.
  14. Registration of death Benjamin Knight, Registrar’s District of West Bromich, Registrar’s Sub-district of West Bromwich North East, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 15 May 2021.
  15. Ibid.