John Grant 1743 and the Chitterne Post Mill


In the sale of the Chitterne Estate particulars 1826 held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre (137/125/8) there is mention of a John Grant 1743-1828 leasing the Post Mill in Chitterne in 1826 for the lives of John Grant 26, Elizabeth Grant 26 and James Grant 2 years. The elder John Grant was known to us as the son of Thomas Grant and Mary Miles, but we didn't know, until now, just who the John & Elizabeth Grant and James Grant were. They were not children or grandchildren of John Grant the elder, so just who were they and what happened to them? There follows some answers thanks to excellent research by J & R Rogers.


John Grant junior's grandfather, Thomas Grant 1750, is a half-brother of the John Grant 1743 who is involved in the lease of the Post Mill, or to put it another way, John Grant junior is the half-grand-nephew of John Grant senior! We do not know why the elder John chose to benefit the younger John this way, that may be revealed in the future, but John Grant senior was a pillar of the community having been parish clerk for 57 years when he died in 1828 at the grand old age of 83 years.


In contrast to his benefactor, John Grant junior died a young man. He was baptised on the 18th August 1799 at old Chitterne All Saints Church, the son of John Grant and Mary Moody. He married Elizabeth Smith of Upton Lovell on the 26th of February 1824 in that parish. Elizabeth was also born in 1799 at Upton Lovell and baptised there on the 3rd of April that year. Their son James John Grant was born in 1824 and baptised at old Chitterne St Mary Church on the 19th of June 1825. Presumably the couple were living in Chitterne St Mary at this time, John's parents certainly lived there. On the baptism record father John Grant is said to be a mealman, or dealer in grain, which fits perfectly with his connection to the Post Mill.






James John









The three of them, John, Elizabeth and baby James had moved to Warminster by the 1st of September 1826 because their daughter Jane was baptised there on that date at St Denys Church. Sadly, Jane did not survive and was buried back in Chitterne St Mary the following year on the 16th February. From her baptismal record however we find that John is now an innkeeper.

Figure 1 Present day photo of the Organ Inn


John was the licensee of the Organ Inn, Warminster, and presumably still involved with the Post Mill in Chitterne at the same time, because this notice appeared in the Salisbury & Winchester Journal dated 26th January 1829.




Was John already ill in January 1829?  Is that why he needed help at the mill? Perhaps, since he died later that year on the 3rd of June as announced in the Salisbury & Winchester Journal dated the 8th of June 1829. He was buried in Chitterne St Mary on the 7th of June. 





With the death in 1829 of John, we have reached the end of the story as far as John Grant 1799 is concerned, and we turn to his wife Elizabeth and son James John, to see what happened to them.


The Salisbury & Winchester Journal again provided the answer to the whereabouts of Elizabeth in the edition dated the 10th of October 1831:




Elizabeth had remarried to a Joseph Simons of Bath. This piece of information was the key to what eventually happened to Elizabeth and her son James.


Elizabeth and Joseph were traced to Westbury, about 4 miles from Warminster, where Joseph is a publican in 1841. This fits in nicely with Elizabeth's connection to the Organ Inn in Warminster. The couple are living near the market place, so possibly Joseph was landlord of one of the pubs in that area. Also with them are their four sons and Elizabeth's son, James Grant aged 16. In 1843, by which time the family had moved from Westbury to Trowbridge, Elizabeth gave birth to another son, Robert Mayell Simons, the Mayell coming from Joseph’s mother’s maiden name. Elizabeth's trail then went cold, but the newspapers once again provided the answer to what happened to her. Specifically, the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette dated the 22nd of August 1844. Be warned this will not be pleasant reading:


As you can see, this explains what had happened to Elizabeth. She had been assaulted by Joseph Simons, it appears with no provocation whatsoever, on 29th June 1844, and had subsequently died on 19th July 1844, in Trowbridge. Elizabeth's death is oddly registered in 1844 twice, the first time on the Jul-Aug-Sep quarter of 1844, then again in the Oct-Nov-Dec quarter of the same year. Unsurprising, given the events that unfolded, because it seems that Elizabeth's husband, despite badly treating her, got away with it. And there we leave Elizabeth, having tracked her from birth to death, through her two marriages, and all we are left with is what happened to James John Grant, where I suppose all this really started. We have an actual date of death for both John Grant himself and also Elizabeth Grant née Smith, and surely we cannot hope for more. And yet, here is an announcement found in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal dated 31st January 1846, regarding the death of John James Grant, which speaks for itself:



There is also a burial record for James John, showing that he was buried in Trowbridge on 21st January 1846. So that ends his tale as well, together with his parents John and Elizabeth.


It was a bad day for Elizabeth when she met Joseph Simons, who seems to have been a wayward sort of chap right from the word go. It turns out he was born at Hilperton, Trowbridge on the 9th of December 1810, and not Bath at all. Subsequent finds in the press showed that Joseph had been declared bankrupt in 1840, whilst being a publican in Trowbridge and yet within a year, he seemingly was able to be back up and running another pub in Westbury. After Elizabeth's demise he went on to have several more partners and encounters with the authorities. In 1846, there is a report in the Wiltshire Independent dated 15th October, of Joseph committed to prison for two months for “leaving his family chargeable to the parish of Westbury.”  Joseph and Elizabeth's youngest son, Robert Mayell Simons, appears on the 1851 census in the workhouse in Westbury. Meanwhile in 1851, Joseph was living in Cross Street in Bristol, his occupation now being a brewer and with him were two of the Simons boys and a new wife called Ann, who was much younger than him and said to be from Broughton in Wiltshire. No marriage record was found for the couple so they may not have been married at all. The 1861 census shows Joseph still in Bristol, though at a different address in either East or Earl Street, but he is still a brewer. By this time, the two boys have left home and Ann has now disappeared. It does make you wonder what fate befell her after the news about Elizabeth. Ann was replaced by an even younger wife, Eliza Simons, aged 23, who did at least survive her encounter with Joseph. Eliza, née Williams, had actually married Joseph back in her home town of Trevethin in Monmouthshire in the late 1850s. What happened to Ann is unknown. At this point, Joseph disappears entirely from the official records, but his wife Eliza appears in subsequent censuses. She appears next on the 1871 census as Eliza Stone, wife of John Stone whom she has married in the 1860s, so presumably Joseph Simons has either died or they have split up. This last we do not know.