200 years ago this week, the Norfolk Chronicle published a story about about how Thomas Want, a former school master in Norwich, had cleared off and left his wife and four children. This was certainly a problem as far as the city was concerned, as the Corporation would now have to fund these children and I can’t imagine they’d have been thrilled at that thought. So, the hunt for him started, and it appears that he had run off with this woman who had a hawker’s licence.
I like a story and so I wanted to know more about this little arrangement, although the documentary chain of evidence was always going to be a little limited. Thomas had married Frances Oldman in St. Stephen’s Church in Norwich (the one in front of the Chantry shopping centre with a path leading to it through the graveyard) on 3 June 1806, so they had been married for fifteen years.
Francis Arthur Want was born on 24 July 1810 and baptised on 17 August 1810 at St. Stephen’s Church. Frances Lucinda Want was born on 10 November 1811 and baptised on 17 November 1811, this time at St. George Colegate Church. Jane Pearcy Want was born on 21 June 1816 and baptised on 30 June 1816, this time at St. Martin at Palace Church. There should be another child, since the newspaper mentioned he had left four, but I can’t find details of that, although I imagine they were born some time around 1814.
Francis Arthur Want married and became a railway station master in Burton upon Trent in Staffordshire, with none of his children being named after Thomas. Frances Lucinda Want never married, going to work as a servant cook, she died in Middlesex in February 1894. Jane Pearcy Want married Robert Newman in Cromer on 4 October 1841 and they lived in the town, with none of their children being named after Thomas. It is this lack of naming their children after Thomas that makes me suspect that the children didn’t have a great deal of respect for their father.
Moving back to Thomas’s wife, Frances. There are no suitable candidates showing on the 1841 census, so I’m fairly sure she died before then. And there is a burial of a Frances Want at Old Lakenham Church in Norwich on 26 August 1822 and I’m going to assume that this was the wife that Thomas left behind. She died just a year after her husband left her and, perhaps not unsurprisingly, I can’t find any record of a gravestone. I can’t imagine that anyone would have had any money to pay for one.
Back to Thomas, he was 42 when he went missing, so he was a fair bit older than Frances, having been born in around 1779. He was a schoolmaster from at least 1812 to 1815 at the academy on St. George’s Plain which was a boarding school for young gentlemen. As for his death, the only one I can find that fits anywhere in the country is the Thomas Want who was buried in Norwich on 17 September 1844. I have yet to discover what happened to Thomas after he went off with this woman with her hawker’s licence, but I don’t feel that he ever went back and his voyage of passion will perhaps remain a mystery to history.