On Christmas Day 1838 a little boy, Moses, was born to William and Hannah Davis. By 15th January 1839 Hannah had registered the child, confirming her maiden name as Whitfield, and that the child had been born at home, at George Street, New Windsor, by making her mark.
Although subsequent census records gave William and Hannah’s birthdates in 1811, Hannah, at least, was a little older – she was born in 1807 in New Windsor to James and Esther Whitfield (formerly Morgan), William is probably the child baptised at Datchet, in Buckinghamshire, son of an Esther Davis, as he gives the location in the 1851 census as his place of birth. The couple named their first son James, born around 1831, William was born about five years later and George the following year. Moses, born at the close of 1838, was followed by Joseph in about 1841 and Edmund/Edward three years later.
In February 1851, at only 44 years, Hannah Davis, latterly of Keppel Street, died and was buried at the church of John the Baptist. Her husband, William, of Keppel Street, is recorded in the spring census as a widower, working as a chimney sweep, as are sons William, George and Moses.
The following February, almost exactly a year after his wife’s death, William, too, died and was buried at the same church as Hannah, recorded as aged 43 years of age.
In 1854 George Davis, sweep, son of William, who was described as a basket maker, married Fanny Church and, by the 1861 census, they had three daughters, Hannah, named for George’s mother, Fanny and Ellen, still living in Keppel street, along with Edward/Edmund Davis, also a sweep. Three years after the census Edward married Susanna Wright, and they had a son, William Edward, again using family names.
Meanwhile Moses seems to have partnered another Susannah, and together they were to have a large family. Several family trees on Ancestry assert this Susannah to be the Susannah Watt who wed a Moses Davis in Gloucestershire in 1852, where both claimed to be over 21. However, this Moses Davis is a miner, and the son of a miner, Charles Davis, and is clearly not the Moses Davis born in Berkshire to Hannah and William, and who would, anyway, only be about 14 years of age at the time of the Gloucestershire union.
Back in Berkshire, Moses and Susannah had three daughters, Annie, Sophia and Elizabeth, between 1863 and 1870; followed by a son, Henry, in about 1872, another daughter, Jane, three years later, then George in 1877, (baptised aged 3, at Brize Norton, son of Moses and Susannah, ‘no settled home, peg maker,’ together with Matthew, aged 6, son of James and Cinderella Bland, ‘no settled home, peg maker’) and, baptised 17th January 1881, also at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, son of Moses and Susannah, of ‘no settled abode, peg maker.’ Their last child, Alice, was born in about 1884, a family that spanned more than 20 years of childbirth for Susannah.
In 1891 a census records Susannah, basket maker, born around 1849 in Newbury, together with Walter, about 10 years of age and Alice, about seven, at Frilsham Street, in Sutton Courtenay, and also living in the same street is Susannah and Moses Davis’ son, Henry, and his partner, Patience Austin; two doors down is Joseph Jeffs (Bland), with his wife Patience (nee Austin), the parents of Henry Davis’ young wife. Joseph was one of the sons of John Bland and Rose Jeffs, who married in Noke, Oxfordshire in 1819. The unions between these three families, Davis, Bland and Jeffs, were frequent and, given a repetition of forenames, often confusing.
In 1901 there is a census record in Berkshire, for example, that causes considerable and understandable confusion, where a Moses Bland is the head of a group which includes a boarder, Emma Susanna Davis, a licensed hawker, and George and Alice, who are surely Moses and Susannah Davis’ two youngest children. This has resulted in many believing this Moses is actually Moses Davis, and perhaps looks back to that marriage in Gloucestershire that has been erroneously entered as Moses and Susannah’s union, since Moses Bland claimed birth in that county.
Moses Bland is probably a relative, however, the son of John and Mary Bland, baptised at Painswick, Gloucestershire, on 4th November 1821, ‘travellers passing through.’ He is also surely the young man arrested with John Bland, his brother, for stealing potatoes in 1848, when they are both described as being about 25 years of age, and were sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In 1855 both men were found guilty of larceny, this time serving a year’s imprisonment. Moses Bland’s death and burial is recorded in Berkshire in 1905, ‘aged 77 years,’ giving him a birth year in about 1828, actually he was probably in his early eighties. In the autumn of 1892 the Reading Mercury mentioned Moses, who found himself in court once more:
Moses Bland, an old man, and James Bland, his son, Gypsies, were charged with
cutting down and stealing two fir trees in the parish of Cholsey, for which they were fined.
By 1911 the young couple first traced in the 1891 census, Henry Davis and Patience, had a very large family: Joseph, Henry, Rose and Walter, a little girl, Clementine, who died as an infant, Alice, Reuben, Frank, Edward and Daisy May; there would be another son, Leonard, born in 1916, named for Patience’s brother, who was killed in the War in 1915. And it was their third son, Walter, who wrote the story of his youth in Didcot, Berkshire, detailing the surrounding countryside and the people he knew, leaving so much more than just memories to his descendants.