Octavus Hales Sanderson

“A Secret Life”

By Prue Stopford

Octavus Hales Sanderson of Rose Place, Claines, 1821-1892

Octavus Sanderson was married, on 6th October, 1859 to Elizabeth Wilson Quarrell at Leigh-with-Bransford. He was 38 and she was about 24 years old. Elizabeth was born and lived at Salwarpe, Worcestershire, a village located only a very short distance from Claines. Her parents were local people – her mother was also born in Salwarpe and her father, William Chance Quarrell was born at Pirton. Her second name, Wilson, is of interest and will become relevant later. Why she was given that name is unknown, it may have been her mother’s maiden name. The Quarrells lived at Salwarpe Court and farmed 375 acres. In the 1851 census they are shown also to have had a son, Thomas, aged 12 years and he had a friend visiting at the time – one Thomas Wilson, also aged 12 years.

On 7th October, 1860 Octavus and Elizabeth’s first daughter Bessie Amelia Hales Sanderson was born at North Littleton, a tiny village situated North West of Evesham. They were still living at North Littleton for the 1861 census, and Octavus is described as being a farmer of 140 acres. He has lied about his age, which is recorded as 35 whereas in fact he would have been 39. Their second daughter, Alice Georgiana Quarrell Sanderson was born on 16th March, 1862, but by this time they had moved to Leigh Sinton, near Malvern.

By 1871, there had apparently been a great change. Elizabeth and the two children were still living at Leigh Sinton. Elizabeth was described as “married”, and a “retired farmer’s wife”. Octavus, on the other hand, was a lodger at Ronkswood Farm, St Martins, which is in the municipal ward of Claines. He had “no profession”, but was “married”. Clearly, they had separated.

At this point, another family comes in to the story. They are the Wilsons. In the 1851 census, John Joseph Wilson, his wife Sarah and their five children were living at Offerton Farm, Hindlip, which is a village a couple of miles east of Claines. The youngest child, Frances Maria Wilson was one year old having been born on 13th February, 1850. The eldest son Thomas aged 12 years was not recorded as being at Hindlip in the Census – quite possibly because he was the same Thomas Wilson who was visiting the Quarrells on that day, and referred to above. If this was the case, and I believe that it was, then there is an extraordinary link between these two families. The Wilsons had two more daughters in 1852 and 1854. By the 1871 census, John and his wife Sarah and the three youngest daughters, the eldest of whom was Frances Maria, had moved to Mordaunts Farm at Crowle, to the East of Worcester.

On 13th September, 1873 Octavus Sanderson married Frances Maria Wilson at the Parish church of St John’s, Cardiff. Octavus was described as being age 47 (whereas he was in fact 52), and a WIDOWER. Their first child, Christopher Hales Sanderson was born on 4th August, 1874; Cecil Francis was born in August 1875; Edward Hales Wilson on 30th July, 1877 and finally Agnes Mary Adelaide Sanderson, my grandmother, was born on 4th February, 1879, at “The Poplars”, Knowle, Warwickshire.

You might conclude from this that Elizabeth (Quarrell) Sanderson had died between 1871 and 1873. Unfortunately, this is not the case. She and her two daughters Bessie and Alice were still to be found at Leigh Sinton in the 1881 census, where they had been joined by Elizabeth’s mother, Elizabeth Quarrell.  Elizabeth Sanderson was described as a widow, as was her mother.

In the 1881 census Octavus, Frances and their children were living at Manor Farm, Packwood, Warwickshire. A further possibility comes to mind: perhaps Octavus and Elizabeth were divorced? Research on the National Archives website has provided the following information:

Until 1858 divorce could only be obtained by an expensive act of Parliament. Ecclesiastical courts could grant legal separations, but these did not permit either partner to remarry. From 1858 a new court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes was established, which became part of the High Court in 1875 in the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty Division. Indexes to divorce decrees absolute are held by the Principal Registry of the Family Division, who will undertake a search for a fee and provide copies of the decrees absolute if the divorce was granted in the High Court, or arrange for a copy to be sent to you from a county court. If you want to know the grounds for divorce you need to request details from the decree nisi as well.

Originally, when I discovered all this, I did wonder if they had made some kind of arrangement between themselves and Octavus had simply remarried bigamously. However, the following information is important. Elizabeth Sanderson moved back to South Claines with her two daughters and her mother, and in the 1891 census they were living at No. 3 Barbourne Terrace. It turns out that this was next door to Elizabeth’s brother William Chance Quarrell who was living at No. 4. He is listed in the census as being a solicitor by profession, and so there is a possibility, therefore, that he helped his sister to obtain a divorce. Clearly, I now need to do further research.

One other question remains: who knew about this? Before examining this further, I will record the remaining details of their lives.

 In 1901 Elizabeth was still at Barbourne Terrace but t has been difficult to find out any further information about her after that date. An Elizabeth Sanderson died in 1909, which may have been her. She would have been 75 years old. Alice died unmarried on 1st May, 1918, at Worcester. I have not been able to find out what happened to Bessie.

Octavus Hales Sanderson died on 5th April, 1892 at “The Laurels”, Fernhill Heath, and was buried at Claines. Quite how he ended up there is not clear, as in the 1891 census he, Frances and their three sons were living at No 4 (Langham House), Holt Fleet Road, Ombersley. He was described as “Living on own Means” and aged 60 whereas he was in fact 69. We also know that in 1889 he was living at 9, East Hill House, Elmbridge. He appears to have completely wiped all mention of Elizabeth, his first wife, from his life.

Frances Sanderson died 2nd February, 1931 aged 80. She was buried at St Michael & All Angels church, Martin Hussingtree on 6th February, 1931. Her two sons Cecil and Edward are buried there with her. In a bizarre twist of fate, I discovered recently on a visit to the same churchyard the graves of the two brothers of Elizabeth Quarrell / Sanderson!

My grandmother (Octavus’ daughter) Mary Sanderson moved out of the family home and went to live with Octavus’ sisters Mary Anne Hales Sanderson and Fanny Sanderson, (“the aunts”) between 1881 and the 1891 census (when she was 12). It is common knowledge in my family that she was brought up by the aunts, whom she adored. It was always understood that she never spoke to her mother and would cross the road away from her if she saw her in the street. She described her father as having married “the cook” or having married beneath him. When she was engaged to my grandfather, she must have contacted her mother to ask for her birth certificate, because I have a copy of her mother’s letter in reply. These are the only tangible pieces of evidence which I have upon which to base a decision as to whether Mary knew about her father’s marital indiscretion. There are two possibilities. One is that she DID know, and that the story about the “cook” was fabricated either by her or by the aunts to cover up the truth and provide an explanation to other people of her having been brought up by the aunts. The second is that the secret was known only to Octavus, Frances and the aunts, and it remained a secret. Perhaps this is the more likely. We will never know. However, it has been discovered now, and maybe it is better that it has waited all this time, until an age where it is not quite as shocking and we are more understanding, and those who would have been affected by it are long gone.

Octavus Hales Sanderson, my great grandfather, was born in 1821, the son of Edward Sanderson of Rose Place, Claines, Worcestershire. His mother, Harriott Hales, has a well documented lineage and was descended from Sir Christopher Hales of Lincoln Bart. The Sandersons senior, Edward and Harriott, probably moved to Rose Place, Claines in 1812. They already had three children when they moved there, and they then had a further ten, all born at Rose Place. Octavus Hales Sanderson was (unsurprisingly) their eighth son, and tenth child, born on 7th September, 1821. He was baptized at St John the Baptist church, Claines on 14th October, 1821. (for more family information on Rose Place see Fownes-Ridgen)

Rose Place, Claines, today

I am already indebted to Geoff Sansome at Claines Friends for giving me the information about the 1891 census relating to Elizabeth Quarrell / Sanderson, and for suggestions he has made for further research. I would welcome any information from anyone who has any connection with any of these families or indeed simply has “heard tell” of the story from older generations. It would be lovely to solve the mystery!

The grave of Octavus Hales Sanderson, Claines Churchyard

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