Caught by surprise in Little Bromley

Swaddled Tudor baby.
Swaddled Tudor baby.

As you might have noticed, notes in parish registers fascinate me. One I came across the other day seemed to pack quite a story into just one sentence.

In the earliest register for Little Bromley in Essex, there’s a baptism on 8th April 1593 for a child called Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Myller “of Bryghtwell in Suffolk, mattmaker, borne in Staceys? grounds as his wyf travayld from Manytry towards Wevenho.”

So what do we make of this? Mrs Myller’s first name doesn’t appear with the baptism entry; we might think she was alone at the baptism of the child and gave her husband’s name if he was still in Brightwell. This is a village to the east of Ipswich, and is about 18 miles from Little Bromley. Was she originally from Wivenhoe, and was making the journey from her husband’s village back home for her child’s birth? It is possible that she crossed the River Stour at Manningtree, hence ‘from Manytry towards Wevenho.’ The word ‘travayld’, which in the context of the sentence presumably means ‘travelled’ is interesting as ‘travail’, quite an archaic English word, sometimes pops up in parish registers meaning childbirth. Usually as in, a woman who died ‘in her travail’. Perhaps the vicar is having a joke with himself….

But she didn’t make it to Wivenhoe in time – Baby Elizabeth decided to make an early appearance, and poor Mrs Myller had no choice but to let nature take its course. She gave birth in Stacey’s grounds. At least, it looks like ‘Staceys’; it’s a bit hard to read.

What became of Elizabeth and her mum? Did they continue the interrupted journey to Wivenhoe, or return after a little rest to Brightwell?