Curious circumstances – the marriage of Hannah Miller and William Cooksey 1838

  • That a couple should marry far from home, their marriage possibly witnessed by strangers, is not unknown. We may never know the particular circumstances but the marriage in 1838 of Hannah Miller (née Mallin) and William Cooksey raises questions about some curious circumstances.

Why did they marry nearly 100 miles away from home? Who were their witnesses?

Home was West Bromwich. Both had lost a first spouse: Hannah in 1833, on the death of her husband John, William on the death of his wife Sarah, in 1836. They married at St Mary’s, Edge Hill, in the parish of Walton-on-the-Hill, in Lancashire, on the 4th April 1838.

The wedding certificate hides more than it reveals. Their ages are given only as “Full age”; their residence at the time of marriage is given as “West Derby”, presumably to fulfil residence qualifications to marry at St Mary’s Edge Hill; their fathers’ names in both cases are given as “Not living”.

Why did they marry in Walton-on-onthe-Hill?

William Cooksey’s “Rank or Profession” is given as “Grocer Merchant”. He was also – and perhaps primarily – an ironmonger and nail manufacturer with premises in and around West Bromwich. For sixteen years, until 1834/5, he traded in partnership with Samuel Mallin, as Cooksey and Mallin, with entries in several commercial directories. Is it possible there was a commercial link with West Derby?  Five years before William and Hannah’s marriage, and a year or two before they dissolved their partnerships, Cooksey and Mallin advertised on the 22nd April 1833 in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette for “a respectable Youth as an Apprentice to the general Ironmongery business”. The post was apparently vacant in “a healthy town in Lancashire”. Now a “healthy town in Lancashire” might be an attractive proposition to someone living in the distinctly unhealthy (at that time) town of West Bromwich. But why “in Lancashire”? Had Cooksey and Mallin opened a separate business outlet there? Nothing more is known. The mention that the apprentice was to join “the general Ironmongery business” tends to suggest William Cooksey rather than Samuel Mallin, who was more likely the grocer. Could it be that it was William Cooksey who led the business into Lancashire, perhaps into West Derby, and so was familiar with St Mary’s, Edge Hill?

There is a wholly other speculation. William Cooksey’s first wife Sarah and his second wife Hannah may well have been sisters. William Cooksey’s business partner, Samuel Mallin, may well have been their brother. Is it possible that for religious or social reasons, there was felt some disapproval of the marriage of brother and sister-in-law? They had certainly returned to West Bromwich, carrying on business and living there from 1841 onwards.

The Witnesses to their marriage were Edmund Buxton and Murphy Buxton. Not family. Not familiar family names. There seems little doubt that these names are accurately transcribed. Do you agree? The name Edmund Buxton appears a number of times in various records, with no obvious connection to Lancashire or the west midlands, sufficiently to be unhelpful. However, Murphy Buxton in particular sounds a rare name

Cooksey Mallin Witnesses

and so it proves. There is not a single Murphy Buxton in any English census from 1841 to 1911. Nor is there a registration of any birth, marriage or death. Who was Murphy Burton and why did he, or she, leave so little trace?

Perhaps, one day, someone researching Murphy Buxton may stumble across this note. Do get in touch!

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