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Gentillia

Anne-Marie Ford    -    30 September 2018

In the summer of 1807, in the parish of Winfrith Newburgh, Dorset, the banns were read on three consecutive Sundays for the union of Charles Hooper, a shoemaker, and Gentillia Fletcher, a Gypsy, the daughter of Selbea Stanley and William Fletcher.  The cleric noted that there were no impediments, but the marriage of Charles and Gentillia did not take place.

A year after this broken engagement Gentillia’s name appears in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal of 8th August 1808, where she is charged at the Summer Assizes held at Dorchester with stealing a silver spoon; found guilty, Gentillia was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment with hard labour.  On 2nd May 1809 she was the subject of a pardon:

Whereas Gentillia Fletcher was, at the last Summer Assizes held at Dorchester, tried and convicted of grand larceny and was sentenced to be imprisoned and kept to hard labour for twelve calendar months; we, in consideration of some favourable circumstances humbly represented unto us on her behalf, are graciously pleased to extend our grace and mercy unto her and to remit unto her such part of her said sentence as remains unto her, yet to be undergone and performed.  Our will and pleasure is that you cause her the said acquitted Gentillia Fletcher to be forthwith discharged out of custody and for so doing this shall be your warrant.

By 1812 there is considerable improvement, it seems, in both Gentillia’s and Charles’s lives, for Charles Hooper married a local girl, Elizabeth Hall, in January, and Gentillia had formed a union with one of her own people, a Traveller named (George Henry) Thomas Wallis, and is expecting their first child.  Their son, Stephen, was baptised in October 1812 at Shillingstone, Dorset, a village where Gentillia’s parents had baptised her younger sister, Jane, 21 years previously.

Gentillia and Thomas Wallis married in 1819 at Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he is described as a hawker and pedlar; by this time they had another child, a daughter named Elizabeth, who was baptised in May 1817 at Wickham, Hampshire.  Back in Dorset a son, William, named after Gentillia’s father, was baptised at Blandford Forum in May 1822; their last two children, Henrietta, baptised in January 1824, and Charles, baptised in January 1828, both at Poole, in Dorset, indicate that they couple had, at least partially settled.

The 1841 census finds Gentillia, together with Henrietta and Charles, living at Longfleet, Canford Magna, Poole, in Dorset; Thomas is not present, but is probably travelling a circuit, hawking goods.  By 1846, however, Thomas Wallis’s death is recorded in the registration district of Poole.  1851 finds Gentillia in the same area of Canford Magna, described as a widow and a pauper, and living alone.  Her place of birth is correctly recorded as Medstead, Hampshire, where her parents had baptised her in August 1784.  She is 67 years of age.  After this the records are silent on Gentillia, who seems to have died before the 1861 census, sometime in her seventies. What remains unanswered is why, after three weeks of calling the banns, and with no impediments, did Gentillia and Charles Hooper not marry?

Copyright © 2018 Anne-Marie Ford