Mussetts in West Bergholt and Wivenhoe: Thomas and William

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In 1740, Thomas Mussett and his family arrived in Wivenhoe. His place of legal settlement was West Bergholt, all of which was recorded in Wivenhoe’s Poor Law records. Two year earlier, on 9 May 1738, he had married Alice Payne of Wormingford, his abode given as West Bergholt. Once in Wivenhoe, the couple had two children: William in 1742 and Alice in 1744.[1]The baptism for Alice gives her father’s forename as James, but this seems to be in error as the mother’s name for both baptisms is given as Alice. Thomas died in 1745, and was buried in Wivenhoe, leaving Alice a widow.

In 1747, the widowed Alice had a daughter called Rachel, who was a base born child. Then in 1750, Alice married again, to John Rouse a widower. On her married, Alice’s parish of settlement became that of her new husband.

Thomas and Alice’s daughter, Alice, married John Ladkin in Wivenhoe 14 Aug 1763. He lived in West Mersea, and I do wonder if this provided the connection that led to John Barr of Wivenhoe marrying the sisters Hannah and Susannah Mussett of West Mersea forty years later.

Thomas and Alice’s son William remained in Wivenhoe. In 1766, he married Ann Salter in Wivenhoe, and the couple had ten children:

  • William, born 23 Dec 1766, baptised 30 Jan 1767, buried 9 Feb 1773
  • Elizabeth, born 15 Nov 1767, baptised 8 Jan 1768
  • James, born 11 Apr 1769, baptised 16 Apr 1769
  • Sarah, born 11 Apr 1769, baptised 16 Apr 1769, buried 11 Feb 1778, aged 9
  • Thomas, born 6 Aug 1770, baptised 19 Aug 1770
  • Alice, born 1 Dec 1771, baptised 9 Feb 1772
  • Ann, born 2 May 1773, baptised 4 July 1773
  • William, born 22 Oct 1774, baptised 20 Nov 1774
  • Mary, born 6 Feb 1776, baptised 11 Aug 1776, buried 3 Jan 1777, died of small pox
  • John, buried 16 Feb 1778, an infant (baptism not found)

He appears in the Poor Law records too, in 1779, recorded as William Mussett with two sons, and his parish of settlement was West Bergholt too. Despite being born in Wivenhoe, he had inherited his father’s parish of settlement. His Ann died in March 1779,[2]She was buried in Wivenhoe on 28 March that year. and it seems that William’s details were entered in the Poor Law records as the parish was now faced with a widower and his children who might need relief from the parish. There are five burials in Wivenhoe for Mussett children, but the Poor Law record only records “Two sons, James and William.” What happened to Elizabeth and Alice? One of the burials is for 12-year-old “Boy Mussett” in August 1779 which might have been Thomas given the wrong the wrong age.

What then happened to the family? A William Mussett was buried in West Bergholt on 17 Jan 1786, with a note saying “from the Poor House”. I think this could be William, the father, and that at some point after his wife’s death he fell on hard times and was “removed” to West Bergholt where he was officially settled. What happened to James and William, his sons, remains to be seen.

But there’s another question – why did Thomas Mussett have legal settlement in West Bergholt to begin with? We know he was actually living there in 1738 when he married Alice Payne, but there’s no sign of a baptism for him there, or indeed anywhere else in Essex. In fact, the first Mussett to pop up in West Bergholt’s parish register is John Mussett, son of John and Susan, who was baptised there in 1741. But remember that Henry and Margaret Mussett of Bures had a son called Thomas, who had died by 1712 when his daughter Susannah was baptised in Bures? And also that he might’ve been buried in Aldham in 1710? He could be a candidate for Thomas’ father. Or he could’ve been a son of John and Rose from Fordham.


1 The baptism for Alice gives her father’s forename as James, but this seems to be in error as the mother’s name for both baptisms is given as Alice.
2 She was buried in Wivenhoe on 28 March that year.