Repentance Ware was born the youngest of a large family, when her mother was in her early forties, and baptised at Spetisbury, Dorset on 2nd July 1775, the daughter of Martha Crabb. Martha herself had been baptised in the same village on 9th October 1733, a child of William Crabb and Mary Edwards, who had married there on 25th April the same year.
Martha was to baptise all her children at Spetisbury, where they were variously recorded with the surname Ware or Crabb, and generally noted as base born. Martha and her partner, possibly a Robert Ware, were to have a dozen children, the first baptised when Martha was 18, on 5th June 1752, as Robert, base born son of Martha Crabb. Ann, the daughter of Martha Crabb or Ware, was baptised on 26th February 1755 and Mary, named after Martha’s mother, was baptised as Mary Ware, base born daughter of Martha Crabb, on 13th November 1757. Little Betty was to follow on 22nd November 1759 and Honor, in tribute to Martha’s grandmother, Honor Crabb, was baptised on 27th August 1761.
Following these four daughters were two sons, William, for Martha’s father, baptised on 25th August 1763, and Nathaniel Ware the following year, but buried on 11th March 1767, son of Martha Crabb. A little girl, Sarah, soon followed on 30th November 1766 and John, base born son of Martha Crabb, was baptised on 26th March 1769. Two years later Martha gave birth to twin girls, who appear to have been given names favoured by the Ware family, Kezia and Jemima, and were baptised on 7th March 1771. Finally Repentance joined the family, a name that once more had appeared amongst the Wares, when a Repentance Ware, daughter of William and Mary, was baptised in 1720 in the village of Marnhull.
Whilst Martha was obviously descended from the settled population – her father, William, was baptised in Spetisbury on 9th March 1706, the son of William and Honor, some of the Wares appear to have travelled round the villages, and were subject to vagrancy charges. Perhaps it is not surprising that Repentance, at least, was to marry into a Gypsy and Traveller family herself.
Martha died in 1786, and was buried on 10th September as Martha Crabb, alias Ware. Repentance was just a child and perhaps she and some of the younger children were cared for by relatives – there were members of the family living in Hampreston, and this was the village in which Repentance was married, in November 1804, to William Stanley, alias Pearce.
Repentance was 29 years old by then and it is possible that the couple had been together for some time, maybe having children, or that this was not William’s first union. Perhaps he had already fathered the William Stanley who claimed birth in 1793 and partnered a Patience Ayres, with whom he had a daughter, Mary Anne Hares/Stanley, baptised in January 1812. If this William was his child he was to be transported for larceny in the same year as Mary Anne’s birth.
What we do know is that two months after their marriage William and Repentance were held in Dorchester Gaol for a short time, where Repentance is described as having dark hair, a dark complexion and dark hazel eyes. The dark complexion is surprising, since she came principally from settled stock, so perhaps there really was more than a little of the Traveller in the Ware family.
Repentance baptised her first known child with William at Fawley, in Hampshire, on 20th October 1805, and named her Mahala. Two years later another daughter, Thirza, was baptised on 14th June and then there is a gap of four years before the next known child, Josiah, who was baptised at Wimborne Minster on 8th December 1811. The last child appears to be Anne, the name of one of Repentance’s sisters, baptised at Dibden on 15th October 1815.
Repentance was probably staying with her daughter, Mahala, and her husband, Henry Bundy, since Mahala had settled at Fawley with her three little daughters, Anne, Jane and Emma, when she fell ill and died; she was buried at Fawley on 25th January 1829, aged 55. Her youngest child, Anne, probably remained with Mahala, since this was the village that also saw the union of Anne Stanley and Matthew Limburn in 1838.