Elizabeth Wilding succeeded her husband Richard Wilding as keeper of Bidston Lighthouse following his death in 1797. We know that Richard was buried in St Peter’s, Liverpool on 27 March 1797; the registers for St Peter’s record his age (85), occupation (Mariner) and abode (Bidston Lighthouse). Elizabeth Wilding was buried in the same church on 22 July 1800; she was 53, a widow, from Bidston, Cheshire.
We have a few primary sources about Elizabeth’s life.
Minutes of the Liverpool Dock Committee
John and Diane Robinson, in their excellent book “Lighthouses of Liverpool Bay”, report this entry in the Dock Committee’s minutes, referring to the appointment of Elizabeth Wilding as Keeper of Bidston Lighthouse in April 1797:
“Elizabeth Wilding Widow of the late Richard Wilding … is hereby appointed Keeper of the Bidston Lighthouse in Cheshire at the clear annual Salary of Fifty Pounds so long as she shall continue to behave herself properly and attentively and employ her Son in Law Captain William Urmson as her Assistant and shall not attempt to employ or use the said Building called the Bidston Lighthouse or any of its Appendages as a Publick House.”
And later, in October, 1799:
“Disputes have arised between Elizabeth Wilding keeper of Bidston Lighthouse and William Urmson her assistant whereby the Regular Discharge of the very important duties of that appointment may be much endangered.”
The registers of St. Oswald’s, Bidston, have an entry for the marriage of Richd Wilding of Bidston Parish to Elizabeth McCave of Liverpool Parish on 4 July 1776 after banns. I have not sighted the original registers, but it would appear that her surname is difficult to decipher, because it has been reported variously as McCave, McCare, McCabe and even McClure.
I had trouble finding an earlier marriage between Elizabeth and a man called McCave in Lancashire or Cheshire around this time. But eventually I found this entry in the Parish records of Liverpool St Nicholas: John McCape and Elizabeth Taylor were married in this church Dec 25 1768 by banns published Dec 4, 11, 18 1768. The bride signed her name, but the groom only left his mark. We know from her will (see below) that Elizabeth had two brothers called Taylor, so it is probable that Taylor was her maiden name. If we accept “McCape” as yet another variant of “McCave”, everything falls into place. (It is quite common for “p” to mutate into “b” and then into “v”, but usually the process takes many generations. Here it seems to have happened in two years!)
I have not been able to find any other Parish records that incontrovertibly refer to our Elizabeth.
Parish records shed rather more light on Elizabeth’s daughter, the one who married William Urmson.
There is a baptismal record for a Mary McCave that fits, in the registers of St Nicholas, Liverpool, which say that Mary, daughter of John McCave, a Gentleman’s Servant, of Chorley Street, was born 8 Feb and baptised 27 Feb 1770. Unfortunately, the registers of St Nicholas did not record the mother’s name of any of the children baptised around this time, but we shall assume that the mother of Mary McCave was our Elizabeth. Two years later, this John McCave had another child. William son of John McCave, Gentleman’s Servant, Chorley Street, was born 13 Feb, baptised 5 Mar 1772 at Liverpool, St Nicholas. John McCave was buried at St Nicholas: John McCave, Gentns servant of Chorley Street was buried 22 Oct 1775. Young William died before his fourth birthday: William Son of John McCave deceased Gentns Servant of Ormond Street was buried 18 Jan 1776.
So when Elizabeth married Richard Wilding in July of 1776, she was a widow with at least one daughter.
Elizabeth’s will (to which I will return later) refers to “the Children of my late Daughter Mary Urmson”. Thus we find that:
- Mary Urmson, aged 29, the wife of William Urmson, was buried on 30 Oct 1799 in Bidston.
- Richard Wilding Urmson, the son of William Urmson, Mariner, and Mary was born 14 Sep 1789 and baptised on 12 Oct 1789 at St Nicholas, Liverpool.
- Sarah Urmson, daughter of William & Mary Urmson, Mariner, of Sparling Street, Liverpool, was born 11 Sep 1791 and baptised 28 Sep 1791 at St Nicholas, Liverpool.
- Elizabeth daughter (and third child) of William Urmson of Sparling Street, Mariner & Mary McCave his wife (who were married in this chapelry in 1787), was born on 9 Sep 1793 and baptised on 9 Oct 1793 at St Nicholas, Liverpool. (Such incredible detail! You don’t get this much information from 20th century birth certificates.)
- Mary Ann Urmson daughter of William Urmson and Mary, was baptised 5 Nov 1797 at St Oswald’s, Bidston.
It even appears that Mary married William Urmson twice!
On 16th Nov 1787, St Nicholas, Liverpool published banns for the intended marriage of William Urmson of Liverpool to Mary Wilding. But in the registers of the same parish, we also find:
- William Urmson of Liverpool, Mariner, married Mary Wilding, Spinster, of the same place, by License on 17 Nov 1787. Witnesses: John Wright, Peter Bankes
- William Urmson of Liverpool, Mariner, married Mary McCave, Spinster, of the same place, by banns, 10 Dec 1787. Witnesses: Thomas Wright, John Marity(?).
I cannot accept that there are two different William Urmsons (both Mariners from Liverpool) and that Mary Wilding and Mary McCave are two different brides and that both couples married in the same church within a few weeks of each other. Far more likely that the vicar had a problem with the bride’s surname – Elizabeth’s daughter Mary was born some six years before her mother married Richard Wilding – and married the couple again just to be sure.
Elizabeth Wilding died in 1800. Her will, which I have transcribed below, tells us that:
- She was a Widow and lived in Bidston, when she made her will on 19 Jul 1800.
- She left £20 to her son-in-law William Urmson.
- She left £20 each to the children of her brother Thomas Taylor.
- She left £20 each to the children of her brother John Taylor.
- She left £5 to the poor of Bidston.
- She left £20 each to her executors John Penket and John Gore for their troubles.
- She owned a house in Sparling Street, Liverpool, and another in Hackins Hey, Liverpool.
- Her executors were charged to dispose of her estate and set up a trust for the children of her late daughter Mary Urmson until the youngest reached the age of twenty-one.
- To her (only living, but unnamed) daughter, she left her clothes and furniture, “free from the power of her husband” during her life, to be passed on to her daughter’s children. (Today, this would seem quite a slight to her daughter’s husband, but in 1800, it might not have been so unusual. The Married Women’s Property Act did not come into force until 1882.)
We do not know the identity of the unnamed daughter. Was she a McCave or a Wilding, and if so, where was born? Or was she the child of another man?
Taking the probate papers at face value, Elizabeth died on the same day that she made her will. Probate was first issued on 24 Nov 1800, to John Gore, one of her executors. A subsequent grant of probate was issued until 12 Dec 1817 to John Penketh, her other executor. This would have been around the time that Mary’s youngest child, Mary Ann Urmson, reached the age of twenty-one.
Here is my transcription of the Will of Elizabeth Wilding.
In the Consistory Court of Chester
John Penket of No. 97 Duke Street in the Parish of Liverpool in the County of Lancaster and Diocese of Chester Esquire one of the Executors named in the last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Wilding late of Bidston in the County and Diocese of Chester Widow deceased who died on the nineteenth Day of July 1800 maketh Oath and saith that he hath made diligent search and due enquiry after an in respect of the Personal Estate and Effects of the said Deceased, in order to ascertain the full amount and value thereof; and that to the best of his knowledge, information and belief, the whole of the Goods, Chattels, and Credits, of which the said Deceased died possessed, with the Diocese of Chester (exclusive of what the Deceased may have been possessed of, or intitled to as a Trustee for any other Person or Persons, and not beneficially, but including the Leasehold Estates for years of the Deceased, whether absolute or determinable on Lives, and without deducting any thing on account of the Debts due and owing from the Deceased), are under the Value of Four Hundred and Fifty Pounds; And this Deponent further with the said Deceased had no Personal Estate and Effects at the time of her decease within the province of Canterbury, to which this Deponent need to Administer.
(signed) John Penketh
Sworn on the twelfth Day of December 1817 before R. K. Roughsedge, Surrogate.
(text of the oath taken by John Penketh omitted)
This is the last Will and Testament of me Elizabeth Wilding of Bidstone in the County of Chester Widow made and published this Nineteenth day of July in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred as follows. I direct my just debts and funeral and testamentary expenses to be paid. I give to my Son in Law William Urmson Twenty Pounds. To the Children of my Brother Thomas Taylor the sum of Twenty Pounds a piece and if any of them shall die in my life time leaving Issue the share of such so dying to be equally divided between or amongst such Issue if more than one, and if only one to such only Child. And I give to the Children of my Brother John Taylor the like sum of Twenty Pounds a piece and if any of them die in my life time leaving Issue the share of such so dying to be equally divided between or amongst such Issue if more than one and if only one to such only Child. I give the sum of Five pounds to be distributed amongst such Poor Persons in the Township of Bidston as shall be by them thought the most proper objects when and as they shall think proper. And I give to Mr. John Penket one of my executors hereinafter named Twenty Pounds and to Mr. John Gore the other of my executors for the trouble they may have in the execution of this my will. And I give and devise my House in Sparling Street and my house in Hackins Hey in Liverpool in the County of Lancaster with their respective appurtenances and all other my Real Estate and Chattles Real and also all my Furniture and Personal Estate whatsoever, unto the said John Penket and John Gore their Heirs Executors Administrators and Assigns for ever or according to the nature of my Estate and Interest therein respectively upon Trust to sell and dispose thereof as they shall think for[?] best and the Money thence arrising to be places out at Interest or invested in some of the Public Funds and the Interest or Dividends thereof I direct to be paid and applied in such manner as my said Trustees or the Survivor of them shall think proper for in and towards the maintenance and education and bringing up of the Children of my late Daughter Mary Urmson until the youngest of them shall attain the Age of Twenty one years and then the Principal to be equally divided amongst them as tenants in common but if any of them shall have died in the mean time leaving Issue the share of such so dying to go to their his or her Children equally if more than one or to the Child if only one. And I give to my Daughter the use of my Furniture and Cloaths for her separate use during her life free from the power of her Husband, and at her death the same to be divided amongst her Children as I have before directed the Money to arise from the sale of my said Real Estate and Chattles Real to be divided. And I empower my said Trustees to advance so much of each Child’s share as they may think fit in its advancement on for putting it out Apprentice or otherwise for its apparent benefit. And I declare that the Receipt of my said Trustees or the survivor of them for the Purchase money of my said Real Estates and Chattles Real shall be a good discharge to the Purchaser or Purchasers thereof who shall not afterwards be liable for any misapplication thereof. And I appoint the said John Penket and John Gore Executors of this my Will and declare that neither of them shall be answerable for the Acts of the other nor for more Money than each of them shall actually receive and that the may reimburse themselves all such Costs charges and expenses as they may sustain in the execution of the Trusts herein contained. In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal the day and year before written.
Signed sealed published and declared by the said Elizabeth Wilding as and for her last Will and Testament in the Presence of us who at her request in her Presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses hereto.
(Signed) Eliz Wilding
(Signed) Jas. Gerard
(Signed) Ann Urmson
(Signed) William, Clerk to Wm. Leigh – Liverpool.