Leonard Nunn of Chelmondiston, 1746-1826

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Leonard was the second child of Joshua Nunn and Mary Baker, and was born in Earl Stonham, Suffolk, on 8 April 1746. While his siblings lived in Essex and London, Leonard moved to south-east Suffolk. Like his brothers John and William, he worked as an innkeeper. And, sadly, like his brother Joshua, there was a great deal of tragedy in his life.

On 28 Sep 1769, he married his first wife, Susan Hudson, in Stutton. Their first child, Susannah, was baptised in Bradfield, across the River Stour, and where his uncles Leonard and John lived. Susannah was baptised in August 1770, but was buried in Bradfield soon afterwards, in October that year. The couple then moved to Chelmondiston, where they had four more children, but like Susannah, they all died in infancy.[1]Two daughters called Mary 1775 and 1777, and two sons called John, 1776 and 1778.

Susan died, and was buried on 9 September 1781. With surprising speed, Leonard married his second wife, Kerenhappuch Batley, only two months later on 27 Nov 1781. Kerenhappuch was a Chelmondiston local, having been baptised there on 21 Jan 1757, the daughter of Walter and Deborah Batley.

As we know, Leonard’s parents had lived in Witham – his father died there in 1778. Although he’d been living in Chelmondiston, Leonard appears to have lived in Witham for a while after his second marriage. In 1783, Leonard placed an advert in the Ipswich Journal:


LATELY held by Mr. Croke, is now fitted up in a genteel manner by LEONARD NUNN, from Chelmondiston, Suffolk, who returns his most sincere thanks to the nobility, gentry, and others, for the many favours already conferred, and hopes for a continuance of the same, as his utmost endeavours shall be exerted to render every accommodation agreeable. – Wines, &c. neat as importat. Neat Post-chaise, with able horses and careful drivers, to any part of England.

Ipswich Journal, 16 August 1783

On 24 April 1785, Deborah, infant daughter of Mr. Nunn, victualler, was buried at St Nicholas’ church in Witham. It seems very likely that “Mr. Nunn” is Leonard, seeing as his wife’s mother had been called Deborah too. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of her baptism in the Witham parish register, or in any other.

In 1786, Leonard and Kerenhappuch were back in Chelmondiston, where their son William was born, but he died the following year. Another son, also called William, was born in Chelmondiston in 1789. He appears to have died as Leonard made no mention of him in his will. Kerenhappuch died a few years later; she was buried in Chelmondiston on 17 March 1793.

Several years passed before Leonard decided to marry again. Wife number 3 was a widow, who was also his first cousin.

Ann Nunn was born in Bradfield, Essex, and baptised in 1759, the daughter of John Nunn and Ann Webb. John was Leonard’s uncle. In 1782, she had married Robert Brightwell, and the couple had one child, also called Robert, who was born in Bradfield too, in 1783, but died soon afterwards. Ann was widowed in 1790, and married Leonard Nunn in Harwich on 3 October 1800.

Leonard and Ann’s daughter Charlotte was born in Chelmondiston in 1801, and a son, Joshua was born there in 1804. But Ann died the following year, leaving Leonard the survivor of three wives, with two or three children.

Evidently deciding not to risk another marriage, Leonard became very friendly with his housekeeper, Elizabeth Patterson. So close, in fact, that on 10 May 1809, she went to Ipswich, where she gave birth to a daughter. She named her daughter Elizabeth, and she was baptised at St Margaret’s on 13 May 1809.

Leonard wrote his will on 9 Dec 1824. The first part of the will sets out his provisions for Elizabeth, his housekeeper. He left the properties he owned in Chelmondiston, and all his money and possession to her, managed by his executors, Philip Bacon Mason and Thomas Evans, both of whom were farmers who lived in Chelmondiston. On Elizabeth’s death or marriage, everything that had been left to Elizabeth was to be sold, and Leonard stipulated that this was to be divided between his three children: Mary Anne Nunn; Charlotte wife of Thomas Horn of Ipswich, a blacksmith; Elizabeth wife of Isaac Webb of Chelmondiston, an innkeeper; and his son Joshua Nunn.

Mary Anne Nunn’s appearance in his will came as a surprise because I cannot find her baptism. But bearing in mind that he names her first when he lists his children, it’s likely she was the eldest. Given that Charlotte was born so soon after Leonard’s marriage to Ann, then it seems possible that Mary Anne was Kerenhappuch’s daughter – we can’t find a baptism for Deborah, likely her daughter too.

Charlotte had married Thomas Horn at Chelmondiston in 1819, when she was 18. Elizabeth married Isaac Webb in the same church in 1824 – when she was only 15. It’s very surprising to see such a young bride, but back then, girls as young as 12 could marry, as long as they had their parents’ permission. Illegimitate children could marry underage without permission, which could have happened here. But the fact that Isaac lived in the same village as Elizabeth’s father, and was in the same profession, suggests that the marriage was approved by Leonard – Isaac was likely one of his friends. It could be that as Leonard was in his 60s when Elizabeth was born, he was concerned for her future, and wanted to make sure that she was secure.[2]Elizabeth’s maiden name at her marriage was Patterson, and on the censuses, Elizabeth, wife of Isaac Webb, has a year of birth and place of birth that matches with the baptism in Ipswich in … Continue reading

Leonard died in March 1826 and was buried in Chelmondiston on 28 March, aged 80. Elizabeth Patterson didn’t survive him long; she died in 1829. Elizabeth Webb lived in Chelmondiston for many years, before moving to Ipswich. Charlotte moved about – first to Walton in Suffolk, then to Harwich, and eventually to Kent. Leonard’s other two children, Mary Anne and Joshua – as far as I know at the moment – disappear.

By Helen Barrell

First published 14 January 2024

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1 Two daughters called Mary 1775 and 1777, and two sons called John, 1776 and 1778.
2 Elizabeth’s maiden name at her marriage was Patterson, and on the censuses, Elizabeth, wife of Isaac Webb, has a year of birth and place of birth that matches with the baptism in Ipswich in 1809 of Elizabeth, daughter of Elizabeth Patterson.