The recent release of digital images in 2011 of parish registers for most of Dorset together with their indexation has meant that we have now been able to identify previously unknown records that take us back another four generations. Charles is now thought to be one of the surviving sons of Humphrey and Anna CHRISTOPHER and born at or close to Hazelbury Bryan in Dorset around the year 1705 when there is a conveinient gap in the otherwise regular baptisms for their children (1). More information about this family can be accessed via the link provided.
The church of St Mary and St James - Hazelbury Bryan
where Charles Christopher grew up
© Picture Copyright Trish Steel and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence.
[More pictures of the Church and Font can be accessed via this link.]
Hazelbury Bryan is situated in the Blackmore Vale and lies 12 miles north east of Dorchester as the crow flies, but today is more like 16 miles by road. Even this would have been considered easy walking distance in 17th and 18th Centuries. His father Humphrey Christopher (junior) was baptised in Hazelbury Bryan on 14th July 1665 the son of Humphrey Christopher (senior) by his wife Ann Scamell. His grandfather had settled in the parish in 1658 and died there in 1703 followed by his father in 1724. Indeed we believe that it was the death of Humphrey Christopher junior in 1724 that led to his surviving sons Charles and Joseph leaving the parish, probably in search of work. Charles came to Fordington and his brother Joseph settled at Chesselborne. The brothers familes however remained in close contact and this led to Charles son John eventually marrying and settling in Chesselborne to live in 1760. Unfortunately a lot of the burial records for Chesselborne are missing so we dont know when Joseph died but Charles son supported his widow Joan Christopher after Joseph's death and when she became very ill in 1781 he was even paid by the overseers of the poor to nurse her for 7 weeks prior to her death, but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Charles had been a young teenager when George I became King, but shortly after Charles arrival in Fordington, George I died. The ascendancy of George II to the throne in June 1727 (which he occupied for the next 34 years) would have been of little consequence to Charles who like the majority of the population worked on the land as an agricultural labourer. Dorchester was the largest market town in the area and a major crossroads for trade and he would have been hired by one of the local landowners at the annual fair there. Dorchester had a vibrant history being a center of non conformity in the 17th Century and many of its wealthy patrons directly involved in the major events of the day. Fordington, by contrast, was at that time a separate village but its parish surrounded Dorchester on three sides and its high street ran on from that of Dorchester. Although there were some wealthy people within the parish this was on a different scale from Dorchester and to a large extent the parish housed the less well off, particularly agricultural labourers who often worked in nearby Fordington Fields.
The church of St George - Fordington as it looked
when Charles Christopher & Elizabeth Allen married there on 27th Dec 1727
© Copyright Michael Russell FIPD - Picture taken prior to 1905
Fordington is shown as Charles home parish when he married Elizabeth ALLEN (1705-1792), in St Georges church on 27th December 1727, so he had been resident in Fordington long enough to obtain settlement there. Elizabeth was 22 years old at marriage and a native of Fordington having been baptised in the church on 16th July 1705, as were her later siblings. She was the daughter of James ALLEN and his wife Anne TOMMS who had also married there in 1702. St Georges had therefore been very much at the center of their lives for many years and had not changed much over that time, looking very much as it did when the above photograph was taken in 1905. The much more extensive version of the church we recognise today came about as a result of the efforts of the Rev RG Bartelot who was Vicar there from 1906 to 1936. Over the next 20 years after their marriage, Charles & Elizabeth (who was better known to family and friends as 'Betty'(2) ) raised a family of 8 children in Fordington and they remained firmly entrenched in the parish throughout their long life together.
St Georges Church Fordington
The Parish Baptism Registers show that Charles and Elizabeth had the following eight children baptised in the above font in St Georges Church Fordington by the vicar the Rev. John JACOB BCL (1690-1759) who was vicar there from 1714 until his death in 1759.
Charles CHRISTOPHER (1728-1814) named after his father was baptised on 30th June 1728. Like many others in the family when he grew to adulthood he moved around the area in search of employment and was working in nearby Broadway when he met and married Ann GAPE the eldest child of Andrew GAPE of Cerne Abbas . They married on 12 June 1755 in the tiny church of St Nicholas in a small hamlet to the west called Buckland Ripers. They raised a family of 4 children in Radipole and Kimmeridge(3) before Ann was buried on 22 Aug 1787 in St Peters church Winterbourne Came . Many of the family ended up in this parish where Charles lived until he was over 86 being buried there on 16th Feb 1814.(4)
James CHRISTOPHER (1732-1818) was baptised on 26th April 1732. In 1758 he was listed along with 75 other individuals by the parish constable as being fit for service in the Militia and a labourer living within the parish. He also married that year(5) to a lady known throughout the family as 'Holloway' and they produced a family of 9 children all baptised in Fordington between the years 1759 and 1779(6) . James, also an agricultural labourer, lived with his wife in Fordington until her death in 1794 her burial being in the graveyard at St Georges Church Fordington on 18th May that year. He acted as a witness at the wedding of his grandson John Dart in the church of St Michael in nearby Stinsford on 9th April 1810. Towards the end of his long life when he became too old to work, he moved to Upwey to live with his son James and his wife Hannah where he died, but his body was returned to Fordington for burial with his wife on 11 Nov 1818 when his age was given as 93 although in reality it was nearer to 86.
John CHRISTOPHER (1734-1804) was baptised on 7th Nov 1734. As a young man he went to live in Cheselbourne, 8 miles north-east of Dorchester, probably staying with his aunt Joan CHRISTOPHER. She already had two illegitimate children by a member of the TRASK family who lived in the village (these being William Trask Christopher bap 12 July 1741 and Jenny Christopher bap 19 May 1745). Here John met a young widow from that family called Elizabeth TRASK (c1725) whom he married in Cheselbourne on 30 Aug 1760. She was known locally as 'Betty' a colloquial form of Elizabeth and had three children by her first marriage (7) . The Trask family had been in Cheselbourne from before 1734 and Fordington prior to 1706 so it looks like the two families knew one another over a long period. Her husband John Trask had obtained work on a large estate at Milton Abbas located only a couple of miles north-east of Cheselbourne and they had the first of their 3 children, Sarah TRASK, baptised in the Abbey on 7th August 1751. The following year the estate was sold to Joseph Damar who later became Lord Milton. He set about restoring the house and Abbey and landscaping the grounds a task so extensive that it lasted many years and involved moving the existing village to a new location. It was probably John Trask that drew John Christopher into working on the estate as well. A lot of the landscaping work was done during the summer months with labourers returning to their home parishes in the winter. Although I have not located his death, John Trask must have died shortly after their last child was born in 1755 as the overseers accounts for Cheselbourne for the following year suddenly show quite large payments being made each month to his wife and children. It was in the interest of the Overseers for Elizabeth to remarry and payments to 'Betty Trask' cease in the month of her marriage to John Christopher.
Elizabeth CHRISTOPHER (1735/6-1815) named after her mother she was baptised on 21 March 1735/6. She married when she was 32 years old by licence in Winterborne Came on 20 Jun 1768 to a Francis FURBER [ Bap 25 Jul 1739 Godmanstone Dorset the eldest son of Ellis Furber and Elizabeth Caines]. They had at least 1 child Elizabeth Furber Bap Winterborne Came 4 Mar 1771. Elizabeth herself was buried in St George's churchyard Fordington by the Rev John Palmer on 5 Mar 1815 when her age was given as being 81.
Thomas CHRISTOPHER (1738/9-) baptised12 March 1738/9. No trace has been found of him after his baptism. It is possible that he may have died during one of the missing years in the registers eg. 1744/1745;1752 etc.
Joseph CHRISTOPHER (1741/2-1747/8) baptised 15th Feb 1741/2 and buried still a young boy on 19th January 1747/8.
William CHRISTOPHER (1745-1802) (10) baptised 7th July 1745 of parents legally settled there ; he lived with them until he was fifteen or sixteen and then hired out to a Mr Head at the 'Crown' in Blandford for 40 shillings, for one year; he then moved to Bridport and worked for Mr Harber at the 'Goulston Lyon' as a Chaise driver; later moving to Dorchester where he lived with a Mr Bryer(11) at the 'Kings Arms' for a quarter of a year as Chaise driver; then Blandford Forum for Mr Charles Voss for about a year.
Kings Arms Dorchester - built 1720
He married after banns had been read for three consecutive weeks in St Peters and St Paul's church in Blandford Forum on 3 Jun 1771 to a Mary KING [Born c1749 she was buried a widow in Blandford Forum on 18 Feb 1837 at the age of 88] and they raised a family of 7 children there(12). William appears to have died 9 miles away in Lydlinch and been buried in 20 Sep 1802 in the Churchyard of St Thomas a Becket
Joseph CHRISTOPHER (1748-1776) bap 14th Sep 1748 he grew up in Fordington but moved to live and work in the adjacent parish of Holy Trinity Dorchester. On 28 Jun 1772 he married in All Saints Church Dorchester to a Martha SIMMS. [also baptised Fordington, on 4 April 1743, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Simms ] They had only one child Elizabeth Christopher whom they had baptised in All Saints Church on 29 Sep 1773 but she died an infant being buried there on 8 June 1775. Joseph, still only 28 died the following year and was interred in St Georges churchyard Fordington on January 16 1776. Martha re-married on 8 May 1780 to a Robert HAYWARD in All Saints Church Dorchester.
Although only an agricultural labourer Charles managed to fully support his family from 1727 to sometime after 1764, never receiving any support from the Parish during that period. The churchwarden accounts from 1764 to 1782 are missing but by 1782 Charles CHRISTOPHER was an old man no longer able to work and he and his wife were receiving 2s 6d a week support which rose to 3 shillings in Oct 1790. In May 1789 he and his wife Elizabeth, together with all the poor of the parish, received an inoculation; this is well l before Edward Jenner (1749-1823 ) carried out his experiments in 1796.
(Info extracts from "Vaccination Jenner's Legacy" by Derrick Baxby published by the Jenner Educational Trust 1994)
Deliberate infection as a preventative measure was practiced in India and China centuries before it was introduced to Britain by Lady Mary, wife of the British Ambassador to Turkey. The process involved deliberate inoculation of smallpox material into the arm in the hope that mild smallpox would develop. The practice was called inoculation later called variolation. Lady Mary had her son variolated in Constantinople in 1717 and on her return to England she had her daughter variolated in 1721 and so introduced the practice to London Society. A successful trial on six prisoners soon followed and in 1723 two children of Caroline on Ansbach, Princess of Wales were variolated. Initially Variolation was used mainly only in populous areas and when epidemics threatened but became increasingly common in the 1760's. Dorchester and Fordington of course sat at the crossroads of major trade routes not just throughout Dorset to places like London, Oxford and Exeter but also with the continent through the nearby coastal ports as many of the merchants in Dorchester imported wine and other produce from the continent. Protection was therefore a major concern and not just for the rich.
There is no doubt that inoculated smallpox produced a less severe effect reducing mortality significantly, but there were occasional disasters such as at Blandford in 1766 when many were very ill and 13 out of 384 died. There was particular concern about the fact that those in contact with variolated individuals caught smallpox which was fully virulent and fatal and this was a major barrier to its widespread use. Individuals could be isolated but few could afford it so the practice arose for a whole village to be inoculated so that everyone was infectious at the same time.
Although Edward Jenner (1749-1823 ) is credited with the widespread introduction of vaccination using cowpox he did not carry out his first vaccination until May 1796. The use of cowpox was in use in Dorset well before that date mainly because of the work of Benjamin Jesty (1736-1816) who was using the practice some 22 years earlier. Jesty and two of his female servants, Ann Notley and Mary Reade, had been infected with cowpox. When an epidemic of smallpox came to Yetminster in 1774, Jesty decided to try to give his wife Elizabeth and two eldest sons immunity by infecting them with cowpox. He took his family to a cow at a farm in nearby Chetnole that had the disease, and using a darning needle, transferred pustular material from the cow by scratching their arms. The boys had mild local reactions and quickly recovered but his wife's arm became very inflamed and for a time her condition gave cause for concern, although she too recovered fully in time. There is a blue plaque commemorating Jesty's pioneering work at Upbury Farm at Yetminster. Jesty's experiment was met with hostility by his neighbours. He was labeled inhuman, and was "hooted at, reviled and pelted whenever he attended markets in the neighbourhood’". The introduction of an animal disease into a human body was thought disgusting and some even "feared their metamorphosis into horned beasts". But the treatment's efficacy was several times demonstrated in the years which followed, when Jesty's two elder sons, exposed to smallpox, failed to catch the disease.
Benjamin Jesty (1736-1816)
(1). So what leads us to believe that Charles was a surviving son of Humphrey and Ann Christopher from Hazelbury Bryan?.
Parentage:- His father Humphrey Christopher junior had 8 children and named his first son Charles Christopher and had him baptised at Hazelbury Bryan on 30th Apr 1701 but he died being buried there on 19th Apr 1702. The next child another son they baptised Joseph on the 12 Mar 1702/3 so we conveiniently have the two names that we have been searching for for many years together. There is then a gap of 7 years before the birth of Humphreys next child and it seems likely that they had another son that they renamed Charles during this period. We know they were likely to do this as Humphrey and Ann had three daughters they named Anne before one lived beyond infancy. So at the moment the hunt for Charles baptism possibly around 1705 somewhere in the area goes on.
Reason for the move: A baptism around 1705 would make our Charles in fordington aged 22 years at marriage to Elizabeth Allen, who was also aged 22. We know Charles arrived in Fordington before 1727, and Joseph arrived in Chesselborne prior to 1728 and the likely trigger for the break up of the family is the death of their father Humphrey in 1724 and the need to find work and establish their own families.
Continued family association: Charles brother Joseph had settlement in Chesselborne prior to his marriage to Joan Hooper in Hilton in 1728 so Chesselborne became her place of Settlement as well. After Joseph died (we think in the 1730's when Chesselborne parish records are missing) Joan had to return to Chesselborne when she needed support. In 1741 and 1743 she has 2 illegitimate children by a member of the Trask family who appear to have been established in the parish for many years. When he reached adulthood Charles son John CHRISTOPHER moved to Chesselborne where he probably lived with Joan until he married a widow Elizabeth Trask a member of the same family. John & Elizabeth name one of their daughters Joanna after Joan and when Joan falls ill John is paid by the Overseers of the poor to nurse her for 7 weeks prior to her death.
(2). Betty is a colloquial form of Elizabeth and in this case we know they used both. On more formal occasions such as baptisms they used Elizabeth but when Charles died for example the overseers refer to her as Betty.
(3). Their children were (a) Elizabeth Christopher (1755-aft 1788) bap Radipole 27 May 1755 who married James Buckler in Winterbourne Came 25 Nov 1777; (b) James Christopher (born Radipole c1757- he married 1st Martha Winzar in Fordington 19 Oct 1789 by whom he had 3 children in Fordington before Martha died. He married 2ndly Mary Bishop in Fordington on 23 Feb 1803 and moved to Winterbourne Came where another child was born; (c) Joseph Christopher born Radipole c1759 died a bachelor 12 Mar 1793 in Winterbourne Came; (d) Charles Christopher bap Kimmeridge 12 Jun 1761 died a bachelor 21 Nov 1791 in Winterbourne Came
(4). His age in the burial register of St Peters Church in Winterbourne Came is actually given as 90, but appears to be an approximation made by the priest after his death.
(5). James and Holloway Christopher had nine children baptised in St Georges Church Fordington:- Mary Christopher bap 25 June 1759 (She married James Dart in Fordington 26th Jan 1777 and raised a family of 5 children in Fordington followed by another 3 in Stinsford, she was buried at Bockhampton at the age of 74 on the 2 Sep 1833; John Christopher bap 14 Sep 1761 (buried 15 Sep 1764); Thomas Christopher bap 23 Oct 1763 (He married Ann Chalker in Cheselbourne 17 Feb 1800 and had 4 children); Elizabeth (Betty) Christopher bap 10 Nov 1765 (She married William Lucas in Fordington on 31 May 1787and had 11 children in Fordington and Puddletown where she was buried 18 Dec 1833) ; Ann Christopher bap 14 Apr 1768 (She married William Harden 13 Jan 1788 and had at least 1 child before her burial in Fordington on 16 July 1791); Sarah Christopher bap 24 June 1770 (She appears to have died young before 1779); Holloway Christopher bap 21 June 1772 (no subsequent trace); James Christopher bap 4 June 1775 (He moved to Upway and married Hannah the daughter of William & Hannah White there 18 Jan 1798. they raised a family of 10 children there before James burial 22 Sep 1848 at Broadway); Sarah Christopher bap 21 Nov 1779 she also died young being buried in Fordington 28 Aug 1781.
(6). On the baptism of all nine of their children the name of James wife is clearly given as 'Holloway' . They also name their 7th child, a girl, Holloway after her mother but I can find no other trace of her, and James wife is eventually buried under the name of Holloway Christopher in Fordington in 1794. There is some confusion however over her exact name. There is only one unallocated marriage for a James Christopher in the database covering the whole of Dorset (or on a UK basis in the IGI) and that is for a James Christopher of Fordington to an Olive Stone on 26th June 1758 in East Lulworth a small parish 9 miles east of Dorchester. We are fortunate that this marriage record has been transcribed by OPC and confirmed by the Federation of Family History society database some years ago. The entry states that James Christopher's home parish was Fordington and this can only be his marriage as he is the only James Christopher living in Fordington at or anywhere near that date. The marriage also occurred one year before the birth of their first child exactly where we would expect it to be. The IGI run by the Church of Latter Day Saints however records her name as Elizabeth Steer so the original records held at the Dorset history Center need to checked to confirm that it should be Olive Stone. The Christian name of Olive is very unusual at this date in Dorset and most families named their children after themselves and their parents. None of James & Holloway's children name any of the girls Holloway but two of them (Mary & Elizabeth) name one of their girls Olive.
(7). Elizabeth had been married to a John Trask and already had three girls (Sarah Trask bap Milton Abbas 7 Aug 1751; Mary Trask born c1754 - died unmarried in Cheselbourne 15 May 1784; and Susannah Trask bap in Cheselbourne on 29 May 1757).
(8). Mary Trask the daughter of Elizabeth by her 1st marriage had four illegitimate children in Cheselbourne the last of which was recorded under the surname Christopher. Mary who was described as a child of John Christopher (i.e. by his marriage to her mother) was buried 15th May 1784. One child was named Joanna after Joan Christopher and she died aged 7 on 1st May 1785. Another child was called William possibly after Joan's son or his father and was buried in Cheselbourne on 8th Sep 1785.
(9). Susannah Groves had married Robert Hannam in Piddletrenthide on 21st April 1772. They had 3 children (Betty Hannam bap Piddletrenthide 24 Oct 1774) (James Bap Alton Pancras 18 Nov 1776) and ( Ann bap Alton Pancras 19 Nov 1780) before Robert Hannam died and was buried in Alton Pancras 13 Dec 1780
(10). Information from a Settlement Examination transcribed on the Blandford Forum OPC web page.
(11).This is likely to be Edward Bryar and his son William who were Innholders and admitted as Freemen of Dorchester on 14th April 1755.
(12). The 7 children baptised in Blandford Forum were:- John Christopher bap 14 Aug 1774 buried 7 Jul 1782; Elizabeth Christopher bap 10 Jan 1778. (She married there on 27 Dec 1797 to Henry Stainer and had at least 3 children in Ashmore Dorset by 1805); Mary Christopher bap 3 Mar 1780 (she married there 13 June 1815 to John Clench); Susannah Christopher bap 24 Dec 1783 buried 8 Sep 1786; William Christopher bap 24 Dec 1785 buried 1 June 1791; Hannah Christopher bap 11 Aug 1787(she married in Tarrent Crawford 13 Oct 1802 to John Adams); Thomas Christopher bap 18 Feb 1791, buried 19 Nov 1791.