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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Tragedy & Loss

Updated: Mar 27, 2021

In my post, From ankle deep to knee deep, I discovered my great-grandmother Eliza Roberts, had been only 13 when her mother died.

Well, this week I’ve sadly found that another great-grandmother, Jane Hick, (pictured right) lost her mother at a similar age. In fact, she was only 12 and her mother, Eleanor Hick (nee Williams) was only 32.

Christmas tragedy

Naturally, I sent for her death certificate and it arrived yesterday. Distressingly, Eleanor died at home in Great Witley, Worcestershire, on New Year’s Eve, 1872. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for the family. My great-grandmother Jane would have been, at 12, the eldest of the 5 children (I mentioned them last week in my post, Propaganda & Mystery), meaning her little sister and mother’s namesake, Eleanor, would have been only 10, and her brothers, James 8, Ernest 7 and Josiah just a toddler of 2 years old.

Eleanor’s death certificate gives her cause of death as a blood clot in the heart. I was surprised at the diagnosis being so specific but there was no indication on the death certificate that there’d been a post mortem, though I’m told it wasn’t always noted, even if one was carried out.


One puzzling thing I noticed was the final word of the cause of death. It looks like purperial. Could it be puerperal, referring to the six week period following the birth of a child? Did Eleanor suffer from complications after childbirth? My first check in the birth records drew a blank and I wondered whether the baby was stillborn, as stillbirths were not registered in England until 1926.

But on reading Eleanor’s death certificate more closely, I realised that as she’d died at the end of December, her death wasn’t registered until the new year – 2nd January 1873. I’d been looking for the baby in the wrong year!

I went back to the indexes and found the answer to my question. Eleanor had given birth to a little girl, Eliza, who survived.

So now the poor children’s father, James Hick, had been left with 6 children to care for, including a babe in arms. No doubt the family rallied round, as I found Eliza on the 1881 census living with George and Diana Hill (nee Rowley), in Little Witley, recorded as their niece, though I’ve yet to establish where the pair fit on the family tree.

Visit to Little Witley

Many years ago I went to Little Witley to visit a gorgeous cottage garden there which I'd seen featured in gardening books, completely unaware at the time of my family history connection. I wonder how close I was from where Eliza and her aunt and uncle had lived?

I shall leave you with some photographs of that gorgeous garden.

(The bottom right photo is my own but the others are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, © Graham Taylor. )

You can find more photos online by Googling Eastgrove Cottage Garden/images.

Happy browsing!


To find out more about the Esme Quentin books, click on the image below.

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