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FIVE: Manfield and Letitia Lee

Eric Trudgill    -    6 October 2013

Tracing Gypsy Families Back Despite The Lack Of Records

FIVE: Manfield and Letitia Lee

Manfield was baptised as Mandfill Lee in Ospringe, Kent in 1760 son of Lescia and Hannah, and buried in Hendon, Mdx in 1835 aged 83. He and his wife, Letitia, christened the following children: Manfield junior in Walthamstow, Essex in 1783; Duke in Shoreditch, Mdx in 1785, who married Duanna Lee in Ealing, Mdx in 1801, christened Unity in Enfield, Mdx in 1803 (who married John Lovell in Finchley, Mdx in 1819), and died soon after; George in Walthamstow in 1789; and Joseph in Hawkhurst, Kent in 1790, the child having been born in Hendon, Mdx.

To these documented children we can add, I think, Zachariah and Matilda Lee. A Zachariah Lee was recorded in a gypsiological book published in 1816 as having been seen with Manfield junior (both married but childless) and Duke’s widow, “Diana” (of Shoreditch and with one child); this, I think, is probably the Zachariah Lee born about 1781, said to be 20 and from Chatham, Kent when given six months imprisonment and a whipping in Middlesex in February 1801. Similarly the Matilda Lee who married Benjamin Lee in Waltham Holy Cross, Herts in 1816, with Manfield and Eunice Lee as witnesses, looks very much like another of Manfield and Letitia’s children.

Manfield was clearly close kin to Joseph Lee, christened in Faversham, Kent in 1762 son of Duke, since he named sons Joseph and Duke. This earlier Duke Lee christened, besides Joseph, a James, in Strood, Kent in 1758, who married, widower from the parish of Stroud, Glos (!), Letitia Draper in 1787, and christened in 1799 their son, Benjamin, who married the aforesaid Matilda Lee; he also christened a Solomon in Herne, Kent in 1765, who married a Keziah. This earlier Duke was baptised in Herne himself in 1734 son of Elisha and Phyllis, and was hanged for sheep stealing in Maidstone, Kent in 1766 (with his wife seemingly transported to Australia the following year), which suggests Manfield’s father, Lescia/Elisha, whose baptism has yet to be found, was Duke’s brother, named after their father, and something of a father-substitute to Duke’s children after 1766.

So far we’ve been able to work round gaps in the records for Manfield’s family fairly unproblematically, but establishing possible siblings for him is far more difficult. One possibility is Fenimore Lee, baptised “a gypsy child”, parents unnamed, in Herne, Kent three months after Duke’s son, Solomon, was christened there in 1765: Fenimore married a Florence, and had a Thomas christened in Whitfield, Kent in 1780 (of the parish of Hearn) and an Elizabeth christened in Beakesbourne, Kent in 1782, on the day he himself was buried there, which doesn’t give us enough to indicate his parents.

Another possibility is David Lee, husband of Sophia Stanley, who in 1811 christened a child in Enfield, Mdx, where Manfield’s granddaughter, Unity, had been christened in 1803, and who in 1816 christened children in Walthamstow, Essex, where Manfield had christened sons in 1783 and 1789 (it’s just possible too that David’s Stanley wife was descended from his grandmother, since Elisha and Phyllis Lee had christened an Excellent, a very unusual name, in Boxley, Kent in 1737 six years after an Excellent Stanley was buried in Ashe, Hants). If David was Manfield’s brother, there are two more possibilities: the Mooney Lee or his wife, Maria, if she was a Lee, who christened a child in Bengeo, Herts shortly before David christened two there; and Silvester Lee or his wife, Florina, if she was a Lee, who in Rye, Sussex in 1808 christened the Rosetta who was to marry David’s son, Zachariah.

Yet another possibility is the Zachariah Lee who married a Demona and christened a Samuel in Otford, Kent in 1792, or (unless he was the same man) the Zachariah Lee who married a Phyllis, and had, it seems, the Henry, born about 1804, who married Ruth Powell (see the baptism of their Richenderin Tuddenham, Suffolk in 1835); the Zachariah, born about 1807, who married Lettice Powell (Ruth’s sister?) and then Charlotte Hammond, and claimed he was of Romford, when christening a child in 1830, two years after Henry, husband of Ruth, had done exactly the same; and the Major Lee, transported with this Zachariah to Australia in 1835 aged 19, and christened in Lowestoft, Suffolk in 1816 son of Zachariah and Phyllis.

The gypsiologists, for what it’s worth (their knowledge of these Lees was very sketchy) thought the Zachariah who married Lettice was first cousin to the Zachariah (David’s son) who married Rosetta, and this is perfectly plausible given that Henry, husband of Ruth, and David’s sons, William and Zachariah, christened children jointly in 1828. It’s very frustrating trying to do a jigsaw puzzle with so many pieces missing, but over the years I’ve made a little progress.

Copyright © 2013 Eric Trudgill