Sarah Reay wrote:
I have no evidence that my Maria was a non-conformist and she was
the parish church at Clarbeston and her children were baptised there too.
Maria lived until she was 80 years of age. She died of Senile Decay and
Bronchitis. I think she came from quite a poor background (daughter of a
labourer) and she marked the marriage register with a 'x' when she was 35
years old. Her husband, William Bowen the local smith was able to sign his
There was a period when a marriage had to be undertaken in a
conformist church in order to be recognised as lawful. That caused
non conformists to marry twice, once in their own church/chapel and
the second time in the parish church.
It's quite possible Maria couldn't write but there were clergy who
didn't think women should be able to read and/or write and/or that
certain classes shouldn't be able to do so. Also a clergyman was a
figure of authority, so if he said "make your mark", that was quite
likely to be exactly what the person being addressed did.
In the course of my OPC work, I found that during the incumbency of
one particular rector the ability to write (as suggested by the
signatures in the marriage registers) declined markedly. When he
moved on, the ability rose again.
Their daughter Mary Bowen was married on June 13th of the same year,
so maybe she was trying to impress her daughter's new family?
They'd likely presume Maria and her husband were already baptised but
Maria might have wanted to make sure if she hadn't been told she had been.
One last thought - don't know if it has any bearing, but Maria
on February 29th ... a leap year!?! Would there have been any religious or
other reason to take advantage of a leap year for a baptism / christening?
Feb 29 1888 was a Wednesday. I think the majority of baptisms normally
took place on a Sunday during a service. Maria didn't seem to want to
be especially obvious about her baptism which a Sunday one would have
However, Feb 29 was considered to be a fortuitous day for starting new
ventures. It was also not legally recognised in English law and was
"leapt over". It was also the date when women could propose to a man
- not a modern custom, it seems.
OPC for Walton, Greinton and Clutton, SOM
Asst OPC for Ashcott and Shapwick, SOM