Elizabeth Bennett, fl. 1765-1792

Abandoned Wife bears a Bastard Child

The dispute between parish officials over who should provide for the maintenance of Elizabeth Bennett's bastard child possibly contributed to the child's early death.

Early Life and Marriage

Little is known of Elizabeth's early life, except that she was born Elizabeth Scott around 1744, and lived with her mother Dorothy in the parish of Trinity in the Minories. In 1765, Elizabeth married Robert Bennett, also of Trinity in the Minories, when she was around twenty years old. In the application for her marriage license, her mother Dorothy, a widower, freely gives her consent for her daughter to marry Robert Bennett, then aged twenty-one.1

Robert had grown up as an apprentice to David Jones, and made his living as a lighterman for the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate. In 1773 Robert reportedly left Elizabeth to board a ship to fight in the American War of Independence, and never returned, leaving Elizabeth to assume he was dead. However in 1778, her mother, Mrs Scott, received a letter from Robert saying that he was living in New York. They claimed this was the last they ever heard from him.

Illegitimate Daughter

Three years later, on the 10th of June 1781, Elizabeth gave birth to a daughter, Sophia, in Wiltshire Lane, St John Wapping. In her later bastardy examination, Elizabeth claimed that the father of this child was John Rider of Wapping, also a lighterman. In all subsequent records, Sophia is referred to as Sophia Rider, using her father’s surname.

Sometime between 1781 and 1783, Elizabeth applied for relief from the parish of St John Wapping, hoping that as her daughter’s father was a resident here, she and Sophia might be granted relief. Elizabeth, 'being of inability to Nurse & Maintain' Sophia, was for a short time given a weekly allowance to assist them.

A warrant was sent out by the parish 'for Apprehending the Father of the said Child' to make John Rider pay for the relief of his child, but Elizabeth did not know the outcome so we can assume, that apprehended or not, Rider did not provide support.


On the 5th of July 1783, Elizabeth and Sophia were removed from the parish of St John Wapping back to St Botolph Aldgate, as the overseers in Wapping argued that Elizabeth's place of settlement was St Botolph Aldgate, through her marriage to Robert. The dispute between the two parishes over Elizabeth’s maintenance was settled by two justices of the peace of Middlesex, who finally ruled that the parish of St Botolph must care for her and Sophia.

It appears that on their removal, Elizabeth ‘refused to take Care of her sd Child or in any manner to Administer any Nurture’ and she abandoned 2 year old Sophia at the St Botolph Aldgate workhouse.


On the 15th of July, the master of the St Botolph Aldgate workhouse made an appeal for the removal of Sophia from his workhouse back to St John's Wapping. Because Sophia had been born in St John's Wapping, the parish of St Botolph was able to argue that St John Wapping should pay for her care.

It appears that this appeal was unsuccessful, as Sophia remained on the Workhouse records. On the 1st August she was sent to Mary Nettle, a nurse, and then sent on to Elizabeth Creassey in Walthamstow at a price of 3 shillings a week. Sadly, Sophia died whilst under the care of Elizabeth Creassey on 3rd December, 1783, a not uncommon fate of small children who were put out to nurse.

Later Life

Little else is known about the rest of Elizabeth’s life, apart from the fact that she was admitted in to the St Botolph Aldgate workhouse on 29th June 1790, aged 48, and then discharged 17th March 1792, aged 49. After this, she does not appear on the records again.

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External Sources

  • Marriage Bonds and Allegations (1765), CLC/199/TD/011/MS09772/094, London Metropolitan Archives.


1 Marriage Bonds and Allegations (1765), CLC/199/TD/011/MS09772/094, London Metropolitan Archives.

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About this Biography

Created by

Charlotte Lavelle

Further contributions by

Eleanor Veryard