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Susan Gould

(1834 - 1885)

Susan Gould was born in North Molton, Devon late in 1834 and was baptised at All Saints parish church, North Molton on 01 December 1834. Her parents are recorded as John and Mary Gould, who were both from North Molton. At this time her father was working as a labourer.

In 1841, at the age of six, Susan was living at Bridge Street, North Molton with her mother & father and 15 year old sister Jane. Susan's father is now 55 years old and still working as a labourer.

Susan's father John died in 1843 at the age of 58. At the time of his death, Susan would have been only eight years old.

On census night, Sunday 30 March 1851, Susan is recorded as Susan Gould, seventeen years old and not living at home with her mother. Her actual age at this time was only sixteen. Errors in age are not unusual in census returns, particularly if the information was provided to the enumerator by a head of household who was not a family member.

The census records Susan as a parish assistant, working as an apprentice at 'Rapscott', North Molton, the home of the Stoneman family. The Stonemans were farmers of 135 acres and by coincidence, farmer Stonemans wife and daughter were also called Susan.

On 29 September 1851, still at the age of sixteen, Susan gave birth to a son whom she later named John, perhaps after her father. She was not married at this time and the birth certificate does not reveal the fathers name. It would also appear that as the informant, Susan was unable to write, the certificate showing a 'x', rather than a signature.

The birth certificate does raise an interesting question, which has yet to be fully answered. The mothers name as it appears on the certificate is Susanna Hitchcock Gould.

Why then did Susan use a different name? Several theories have been suggested; from Hitchcock being the name of her son's father to there being more than one Susan(na). After lengthy checking of North Molton BMD indexes, parish registers and census returns it is clear that Susanna Hitchcock, Susanna Gould, and Susan Gould are one and the same person.

The use of two surnames is a known Devon practice where the adopted surname is normally that of an ancestor on the mothers side of the family. No evidence has been found to suggest a Hitchcock in Susans ancestors but more work is required to confirm this point

The most likely scenario is that Hitchcock was the surname of John's father. Certainly there were Hitchcocks living in and around North Molton at this time. Perhaps the Susan to Susanna change was made for ease of use whilst living and working within a small household where there were two further Susans.

In October 1858 at the age of 23, Susan who was still unmarried, gave birth to a daughter called Sarah Jane. Sadly, Sarah Jane died during or shortly after birth and was baptised at All Saints church, North Molton on 13 October 1858. The baptism record shows Susan as Susan Hitchcock Gould.

The 1861 census for North Molton records Susan as Susana H Gould, aged 25 and unmarried; a house servant with the family of William Shapland, a farmer of 186 acres. Her son John was living with his now remarried grandmother, Mary Radford. The address for Susan is a little unclear but appears to be Fyeldon. Her actual age at this date would have been 26.

Susan gave birth to a further child, Philip George Gould late in 1862. Philip was baptised at All Saints church on 28 December 1862. The baptism record indicates the mother as Susan Gould.

On the night of the 1871 census, Susan is at home in North Molton at 'Hodges' with her widowed for the second time mother, Mary Radford. Mary is shown as the head of the household with Susan correctly recorded as Susan Gould. At this time, Susan is shown as a washer woman aged 36. Also in the property are her sons John and Philip George

At the age of 42, Susan married William Chapple, a 52 year old widower labourer from North Molton. The marriage took place at All Saints church, North Molton on 26 March 1877. The marriage certificate records 'Susanna Gould' of 'full age', who was still presumably unable to write as she made her mark (x), rather than signing her name. The marriage was witnessed by John Sanders and Lucy Cookings.

William had four children from his previous marriage to Mary Ann. The youngest of whom was Esther, born in 1876 and not baptised until 29 April 1877 i.e. after her father married Susan. It is therefore likely that Mary Ann died in child birth and certainly, GRO records indicate that she died in the second quarter of 1876.

Perhaps it was Susan who identified that Esther had not been baptised. More likely, is that the vicar started asking questions about Esther at Susan and Williams wedding. Whatever the circumstances, the baptism of Esther followed 28 days after the marriage of Susan and William.

It is worthy of note that William married Susan ten months at most after the death of his first wife. This appears more unusual today than was the case in 1877. At the age of 52 and with no other family support, William would have found it very difficult to support and raise four young children, the oldest of whom was eight.

A further thought was that the quick marriage was the realisation of Susan and William's wishes after a long running affair. We will never know.

The 1881 census records Susan as Susan Chapple aged 46 and living at 'Roberts', North Molton. At the same address is her husband William and his children Henry aged 12, Mary Ann 10, Harriet 7 and Esther 5. Whilst Susan has no recorded occupation, it is reasonable to assume that keeping house and raising four young children was in itself full time work.

Susans first child John is now married and living in Kingsbrompton, Somerset and Philip George her third child is as yet, unaccounted for.

Susan died on 07 January 1885 in North Molton from bronchitis, which she had suffered from for three months. Her final three days were made worse by having a 'congestion of the lungs'. She was only 50 years old.

It is somewhat ironic that however Susan was known, Susan, Susanna, Susana, with or without Hitchcock, and the occasional variations in her age, her birth and death details are consistent in both name and age.