William Sentance (1842-1900)

William Sentance was the son of John Sentance and Elizabeth Clark. He was born on 13th May 1842 at Harlaxton. (The registrar’s signature on his birth certificate is Stephen Brice, who William’s sister Sarah subsequently worked for!) The 1851 census finds William living with his family in Harlaxton but by the time of the 1861 census he has left home and is working as a servant and agricultural labourer at Harlaxton Lodge.

Marriage to Eliza Marriott (nee Gregg)

William married Eliza Marriott on 31st December 1868 in Knipton Parish Church – about 3 to 4 miles away from Harlaxton, just across the county border in Leicestershire. They were both illiterate, in that their marriage certificate has their mark rather than a signature. George Marriott, Eliza’s step-son, was one of the witnesses at the wedding.

There was a big age gap between William and Eliza – he was in his mid-20s and she was in her mid-40s. However the ages on the marriage certificate exaggerate this difference. William gives his age as 28 when he is really 26 and Eliza gives her age as 48 when she is really about 44. Given Eliza’s advanced age, it is not surprising that the couple did not have any children! Instead, Eliza brought with her a ready-made family from her first marriage to James Marriott - who had died following an accident in the summer of 1859. James and Eliza had four children - John (b.1850), Edward (b.1852), James (b.1854) and Sarah (b. 27th November 1858). (John subsequently married William's younger sister Elizabeth.)

James Marriott and Eliza Gregg had married on 27 April 1851, also in Knipton. The 1851 census shows that Eliza had been a housekeeper in James’ house in Knipton, where he was living with his children from his first marriage (at Knipton in June 1828) to Elizabeth Bemrose, who died in 1848. The 1841 and 1851 censuses show James and Elizabeth had six children – William, Eliza, Henry, George, Mary and Enoch. George and Enoch were still living with Eliza in Knipton in 1861, along with the four children from her marriage to James.

By the time of her marriage to William, or just afterwards, Eliza’s older sons and step-sons left home. The 1871 census shows William and Eliza living in Harlaxton with Eliza’s daughter Sarah, now 12 years old. When she was 18, Sarah had a daughter – Sarah Eliza Marriott – born on 6th March 1877. No father was named on the birth certificate, but there must be some suspicion that William was the father of his step-daughter’s first child. Just over a year later, on 21st March 1878, Eliza died – with her death certificate recording the cause of death as “Epithelioma of the tongue – 8 years debility”. (Epithelioma is a malignant tumour of the mouth or tongue.)

Marriage to Sarah Marriott

Less than a year after his wife’s death, William had married his step-daughter as she was expecting another child – John William, who was born on 22nd June 1879 in Harlaxton, Lincolnshire . On this occasion, William was named as the father on the birth certificate as he was now Sarah’s husband.

Though William and Sarah had lived all their lives on the Lincolnshire/Leicestershire borders near Grantham, they were married in Sheffield , in the Parish of Wicker, on 3rd February 1879. This was probably because their marriage was not considered lawful under the eyes of the church, and possibly also the law - the fact that Sarah had been William’s stepdaughter was easier to conceal in Sheffield than if they had been married locally. William’s eldest sister Mary lived in Sheffield and she was a witness at the wedding.

Following William and Sarah's marriage and the birth of John William, the family appears to have spent some time away from their local area. The 1881 Census finds William, Sarah and their two children living at Bedwell Park Lodge, Little Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire. (Note: Sarah’s first child is still known as Sarah E Marriott, as she is also in the 1891 and 1901 censuses.)  William and Sarah’s third child, Herbert Sentance was born in Hertfordshire on 29 January 1882.

The whereabouts of the family is unclear between 1882 and early 1888 when Emily Sentance was born in Grantham (birth registered Jan-Mar 1888, Grantham). Other children may have been born in the mid-80s but did not survive infancy. James Arthur Sentance was born in 1890 (birth registered Grantham, Apr-Jun) and the 1891 census shows the family living in 1 Elton Street, Grantham, with William giving his occupation as a labourer.

Frederick was born in 1892 and George, the youngest member of the family, was born on 11 February 1895. William died in early 1900 and the 1901 census shows Sarah as the head of the family, with all the children except Herbert still living at home. John William, aged 21, appears to be the bread-winner in the family, working as a “butcher’s man”. Sarah Sentance (nee Marriott) died in early 1915, aged 56 (though 57 is shown on the register of deaths).