Young Lovers in Alton
A brief paragraph in the 15th of February 1873 issue of the Hampshire Telegraph announced the death of Ellen FOWLER in Alton, the wife of George who was a millwright’s apprentice. On the face of it this was nothing unusual except that the report gave the ages of the couple; Ellen was only 15 years old and her husband was only aged 16. Thinking that this may have been a misprint or a misrepresentation of the facts I decided to do a bit more investigating to see what could be found.
Unfortunately the HGS marriage and burial indexes do not extend as far as 1873 so it was a case of looking for other sources. A check on the GRO did in fact reveal that George FOWLER did marry Ellen CASSELL, this being registered in the fourth quarter 1872 in Alton district. This obviously did not reveal the couples ages but with both of the surnames now known the 1871 census did reveal more details. Both were living in Alton at the time of the census with George, aged 15 and born in Bristol in 1856, living with his parents George and Caroline in Turk Street. His father was a millwright in a paper factory and all the family apart from two children were born in Bristol. Henry was born in Wells in 1867 and Lydia was baptized in Alton on 25th April 1869.
In the 1871 census Ellen CASSELL was born in 1857 and was aged 14, she was living with her uncle and aunt, Moses Partridge and Emma STOODLEY. Moses was a watchmaker living in Market Street and was born in Hazelbury in Somerset whilst Emma was baptized in Alton on 16th October 1842. Moses had married Emma CASSELL in 1868. Emma’s parents were James and Jane and it must have been one of their three other children who was the parent of Ellen. Although her birth was registered in the first quarter of 1857 in Alton there appears to be no baptism recorded for her.
A possible solution may be that on 1st December 1859 Ann CASSELL married Samuel KNOWLER in Alton and in 1861 Samuel and Ann were living in Market Street with their daughter Ellen KNOWLER who was born in 1857. To add to the story the couple had two daughters, Ellen and Kate, baptized in Alton on 7th August 1861. So could Ellen have been an illegitimate daughter of Ann who was later baptized alongside her sister in 1861? This would mean that she was given her mother’s married name although for some reason she had reverted back to her original surname by the time the 1871 census was taken. In 1871 Ann KNOWLER with her daughter Elizabeth aged 1 were inmates in Wandsworth and Clapham Union Workhouse. Ann was still married and was born in Alton circa 1833 whilst Elizabeth was born in Battersea. So it appears that Samuel and Ann had moved to London before 1870, possibly leaving Ellen behind in Alton with her aunt.