Wednesday, 19 October 2016

By This Misfortune

Last year I wrote a blog post on my 4x great-grandmother, Martha Robinson. Martha suffered multiple tragedies in her life, and it was important for me to document the key points in her life. 

Last week I discovered yet more about my resilient ancestress, and thought I'd update my blog accordingly. 

To Summarise

  • Martha was born in 1783 at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea, to George and Jane Robinson (née Simpson).
  • Lost her father, three brothers and nephews to the sea one fateful day in January 1808.
  • Martha moved down the coast to Cullercoats when she married a fisherman named John Armstrong, at Tynemouth in January 1810. 
  • In April 1810, John Armstrong drowned at sea, after marrying Martha only three months before. In a cruel twist, Martha discovered she was pregnant soon after.
  • Martha returned to Newbiggin shortly after. There she gave birth to her son, George John Armstrong, in November 1810
  • Martha married John Renner, my 4x great-grandfather, in August 1817. John Renner was the elder brother of her sister-in-law, Ann Renner Robinson.
  • Martha and John Renner had three children; Ann in 1818 (my 3x great-grandmother), Edward in 1821 and Johnny in 1822. 
  • John Renner died in May 1847, and Martha's son Edward died in May 1854. 
  • Martha's youngest son, Johnny, drowned just off Newbiggin's Church Point in December 1861.
  • Martha died in January 1867 of old age. 

Last week I found that Martha applied to receive some relief from The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond, when she was widowed for the first time in 1810. The Corporation is now known just as Trinity House. Trinity House was responsible for distributing charitable funds to sailors, pilots and fishermen who had fallen on hard times, but also their widows and children, should they have any. 


It reads:

To the Honourable the Master, Wardens, and Assistants of the CORPORATION of TRINITY-HOUSE, of Deptford Strond.

The humble Petition of Martha Armstrong of Cullercoats in the Parish of Tynemouth, in the County of Northumberland, aged 28 years, and Widow of the late John Armstrong, Fisherman, humbly

THAT your Petitioner's Husband the late John Armstrong was bred and served as a Fisherman at Cullercoats many years. He and many more went off in cobles on the 6th of April last, when a violent storm arose and a Life-Boat was employed to save the People, and the Crews of the other Boats in company, but by the violence of the Waves the said Life-Boat was dashed in Pieces, when your Petitioner's Husband and many more perished! By this Misfortune, your Petitioner is left a Widow and is pregnant. 

That your Petitioner is not now able to Support her self without the Charity of this CORPORATION, having no Pension or Relief from any other Public Charity or Company whatsoever.

Your Petitioner, therefore, most humbly prays that she may he admitted a Pensioner to this CORPORATION at the usual Allowance. 


The document is dated 4 May 1810, just short of a month following the death of Martha's husband, so the situation must have been pretty dire. 

My next task is to try and find out how much the "usual allowance" was, and how long Trinity House supported Martha and her son for. I can only assume that the payments stopped when Martha married John Renner in 1817. 

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