My 4-great-grandparents on the Cooper line were William Cooper (1792-1852) and Martha Spode (b abt 1793 in Sandbach, Cheshire). They married 19 September 1814 in Barthomley, Cheshire; had 8 children (known to me); and William was killed by a cart in Haslington 20 December 1852. Martha’s fate, however, was unknown to me as there was no local burial for her that I could find, nor a local remarriage. And not only was her fate was unknown, so was her origin because I couldn’t find a baptism for her.
At least, her fate was unknown until I found a “Suggested Record” on Ancestry for her. It seemed that she had married again in 1854, so I applied for the marriage certificate to confirm this. It was only after I’d posted the form, that I realised I was going to get not only (I hoped) proof of Martha’s fate, but also, as this was a post-1837 marriage, the name of her father to solve her origin as well. When I tried to follow her father, Thomas Spode, through the Sandbach registers, initially things didn’t go well until I realised that the name was being written not just as “Spode” but also “Spord” and other variants as well. I realised that, then it turned out Martha had been baptised after all, at Sandbach on 23 February 1794 as Martha Spord.
Anyone using wild-card characters to search for the name should use “Spo*d*” as this will find “Spode”, “Spord” and one or two other variants as well. In Sandbach it adds in very few false returns – other places will differ.
What follows is a summary of the three generations of Spode in Sandbach prior to Martha, but I also attach a report on “Spode of Sandbach – Descendants By Generation”, with source references.
Thomas Spode and Jone Read
The furthest back I can get on my Spode line is 12 July 1743 when Thomas Spode, labourer of Sandbach parish, married Jone Read, spinster of Swettenham parish, at St. Mary’s, Astbury, Cheshire. The couple (my 7-great-grandparents) seem to have settled in Sandbach, for the registers there record three children of theirs:
- Thomas Spode (bap. 1 February 1744/45, bur. 25 April 1746);
- Thomas Spode (bap. 25 October 1747, bur. 16 September 1805, my 6G-GF);
- John Spode (bap. 22 February 1750/51).
Thomas senior was buried at Sandbach on 8 November 1767 and Jone on 21 February 1777. Neither can be traced before their marriage, though there is one possible baptism for Jone, at Astbury in 1706, which would put her aged 45 at her last birth – just about possible. According to FamilySearch, the only Thomas Spode baptism in Cheshire before the marriage was way back in 1615.
Yet, this simple little story has indications of hidden depths. Thomas and Jone married by licence – except that if you consult the parish registers of Astbury, the register writes “married by Dispensation” – in fact the term is used several times on that page. Even after consulting Rebecca Probert, author of “Marriage Law for Genealogists”, who suggested several reasons why “dispensation” might be used instead of “licence”, it is not clear why the word “dispensation” is used here. There is, she says, no certain difference between the two terms – in effect, a licence gives dispensation to depart from the canon law relating to marriage by banns. Use of the term “dispensation” does, however, tend to imply further departures from the norm than simply dispensing with the calling of banns – for example, a marriage in those seasons of the church’s year not normally available for marriages. But none of the suggested reasons seem to apply here. It is not even clear why a dispensation / licence would be obtained – the couple do not seem to have the time pressure of a pregnancy and a labourer seems an unlikely person to want the status of a dispensation / licence.
Interestingly, Thomas junior was apprenticed to William Ryder, a cordwainer of Sandbach, on 25 October 1759, exactly 12 years after his baptism. Based on the records of the duty paid, Ryder was to receive £12 for taking on young Thomas, suggesting someone in, or linked to, the Spode family had money – maybe there’s more to Thomas senior or Jone than is at first apparent?
As indicated above, there are no baptisms recorded for a Thomas Spode in Cheshire between 1615 and 1743. However, it is clear that this is not the full story as baptisms with a Thomas Spode as a father are recorded in the county – in 1723, a Sara is baptised to Thomas and Sara Spode at Astbury, followed by Anna in 1729 at Church Lawton. Thomas’ wife, Sarah, seems to be buried at Church Lawton in the same year. Does this Thomas have anything to do with mine? I don’t know.
If there are missing baptisms and marriages, then the possible explanations would seem to be:
- The people were never baptised or married in the first place;
- They were married or baptised in Cheshire, in the Church of England, but the records were lost;
- They were married or baptised in the Church of England, but outside Cheshire – for instance, there are some interesting Thomas Spode entries in the Wolstanton registers, according to FamilySearch;
- They were married or baptised in another denomination – Roman Catholic, for instance. This might explain why a dispensation was obtained for Thomas’ marriage. The usage of the term would, however, suggest a lot of Roman Catholics in the Astbury area.
Thomas Spode, cordwainer, and Martha Higham
Thomas Spode, the former apprentice cordwainer, baptised 25 October 1747 to Thomas and Jone Spode, went on to marry Martha Higham at St. Mary’s in Sandbach on 14 February 1768. There is no clue about Martha’s origins, and no local candidate for her birth, which I would estimate as being anywhere between 1739 and 1755. The Sandbach registers record 11 children baptised to Thomas, with a probable child missing between 1776 and 1780. The couple, who are my 6-great-grandparents, had at least the following children:
- Samuel Spode (bap. 20 November 1768);
- Thomas Spode (bap. 5 March 1770 – bur. 29 March 1806, my 5G-GF);
- Betty Spode (bap. 11 Dec. 1771 – bur. 31 December 1771);
- John Spode (bap. 15 March 1773 – bur. 17 March 1773);
- John Spode (bap. 14 May 1774 – bur. 25 May 1774);
- Sarah Spode (bap. 29 March 1775);
- William Spode (bap. 5 May 1776);
- John Spode (bap. 23 August 1780 – bur. 21 April 1781);
- Jenny Spode (bap. 22 September 1783);
- Martha Spode (bap. 15 October 1786 – bur. 17 February 1787);
- Martha Spode (bap. 21 December 1789 – bur. 15 November 1814).
As can be seen, this couple were rather more prolific with their children than the elder Thomas – though I do, looking at that often-sad list, want to say to Thomas and Martha, “Just don’t call him John.” In fact, there is another John Spode, baptised 17 December 1791, who might be their son, though I suspect not.
Martha Spode nee Higham was buried at Sandbach on 25 November 1792, with her husband following on 16 September 1805. He had been married at 20 and was dead at 57, having buried five of their children.
Thomas Spode, shoemaker, and Mary Latham
Thomas and Martha’s son, Thomas, followed his father into the shoe-making trade, and married Mary Latham, again at Sandbach, on 18 July 1789. This couple are my 5-great-grandparents and the baptisms of their six known children form a slightly tangled story. They cannot be blamed for the frequent use in the Sandbach registers of the spelling “Spord” for “Spode”, which starts back in 1776, but the curious delayed baptisms of their last children must be down to them. Their known children were all baptised at Sandbach and were:
- Anna Spode (bap. 13 January 1790);
- Martha Spode (bap. 23 February 1794 – d. 24 March 1880, my 4G-GM);
- Mary Spode (bap. 1 January 1797);
- Esther Spode (b. 6 November 1798, bap. 8 June 1806);
- William Spode (b. September 1802, bap. 8 June 1806);
- Samuel Spode (b. 10 April 1804, bap. 8 June 1806).
In addition, John Spode, baptised 17 December 1791 as a son of Thomas “Spord”, is probably their son (otherwise the gap between children would be four years), while there must be the possibility of another missing child born about 1800.
Mary senior is buried at Sandbach on 9 September 1805, aged 36. Thomas is buried 29 March 1806 at Sandbach, also aged 36, some six months after both his wife and father. On that basis, the youngest children would probably have been left to relatives to look after – is this why Esther, William and Samuel are suddenly baptised together? Did their relative realise that Thomas and Mary had avoided this before now?
I have not traced Martha’s siblings, but one thing does come to my notice. None of her known ancestors reached any great age, both of her parents dying at 36 – yet she reached the age of 86. Was Sandbach really that unhealthy a place to live?
Martha Cooper nee Spode, later Turner
My 4-great-grandmother was baptised at St. Mary’s, Sandbach, on 23 February 1794. The register uses the spelling “Spord”, hence my failure to find her for some time.
Martha married William Cooper (born 19 April 1792), a labourer of Barthomley parish, on 19 September 1814 at St. Bertoline’s in Barthomley, Cheshire. The couple lived in Crewe Green and then the adjacent village of Haslington, where William carried out various labouring work until his death on 20 December 1852 after being hit by a cart. The couple had eight children, all of them, with the possible exception of John, being baptised at St. Matthew’s, Haslington:
- Thomas Cooper (bap. 24 September 1815, d. 2 March 1897);
- John Cooper (b. abt 1818, baptism not found, d. 3 July 1905, my 3G-GF);
- Hannah Cooper (bap. 30 September 1821);
- Uriah Cooper (bap. 29 August 1824);
- Mary Cooper (bap. 24 February 1828);
- William Cooper (bap. 27 February 1831, bur. 6 August 1844);
- Ann Cooper (bap. 6 May 1834, bur. 19 September 1841);
- Daniel Cooper (bap. 28 April 1839, bur. 3 January 1840).