John Southgate

Wix church

Wix church

When Thomas Ham‘s grandfather wrote his will, it was John Southgate’s father who acted as a witness. Not long after Thomas Ham died, Hannah married John, a farmer who lived in Wix.

John first appears in the records on 10th May 1812, when he was baptised in Wix, the son of John and Mary Southgate. His parents had married on 7th February 1812, which implies that Mary was pregnant on their wedding day. But when John and Hannah were at the Old Bailey charging a furniture remover with fraud, under the laserlike glare of barrister William Ballantine, John claimed that he was illegitimate. This seems to be how he explained he and Hannah using the surname Welham, rather than Southgate – but was he actually illegitimate? Was he willing to say so, in order to avoid admitting that he and Hannah were using a pseudonym because her name had become infamous? They were running an eating house – who would pop by for a plate of chops and gravy if they knew that “lucky Hannah Southgate” was going to dish it up?

When John’s parents married, his mother gave her name as Mary Carter. So where does the name Welham come from? Mary was baptised in Wix on 2nd September 1787 as Mary Carter Welham, the illegitimate daughter of Mary Welham (at least, it’s spelt “Wellam” in the register). In 1789, Mary Welham had another daughter baptised at Wix, Bet Carter, “by William Carter”. The following year, Mary and William Carter married: Mary was a widow, and William was a widower. It appears that Mary’s first husband had died back in 1783, so she’d take a while to get round to marrying again. She had originally married in 1778; her maiden name, Eastee.

So when John and Hannah Southgate chose an alias, using Welham was a stroke of genius, a name which gave them several layers of disguise. It was the surname of his grandma’s first husband! But it was his mother’s maiden surname, as her parents hadn’t been married at the time of her birth. It just so happened not to be her mother’s maiden name, but that of her first husband. How confusing….

Meanwhile there was John’s father. According to the 1851 census, he was born in Battisford, Suffolk. I don’t have access to records for that area, so haven’t been able to follow that line any further back.

William Southgate

John’s only brother, William (named after his maternal grandfather, perhaps) was baptised in Wix in 1814. He was a miller, which is interesting, bearing in mind that John’s estate, which Hannah tried to sell after her husband’s death, included a mill. William’s wife, Jane Cook, was the daughter of an innkeeper from St Osyth, and they married in 1838.

William and Jane┬áhad several children in Wix, but in the mid-1850s, they emigrated to America. I wonder how much this was motivated by the notoriety of William’s sister-in-law? It’s a question worth asking, even though it’s one that’s impossible to answer.

They lived in New York State, and William died in 1893.