Brothers William Henry & George Gent, sons of John and Ann Gent of Whittle le Woods, were both reedmakers and both lived in Preston. Our direct ancestor was their brother John born in 1848.
William Henry was christened at St Laurence, Chorley on 11 Jun 1834 and George at St Johns, Whittle le Woods on 17 July 1836. They both lived at Waterhouse Green in Whittle le Woods until William Henry got married to his first wife, Jane Lingard, in May 1859 at St Johns Whittle le Woods. The witnesses at his wedding were George Gent and Elizabeth Howarth, who George would marry on 23 April 1862 at St Mary’s, Bury. Both brothers were reedmakers by trade like their father and grandfather.
Suicide of Jane Gent (nee Lingard)
William Henry Gent’s first wife, Jane Lingard, committed suicide on 19 January 1866. On 20 January 1866 the Preston Chronicle ran an article describing in detail how she had obtained milk to feed her children, washed them and sent them into the street to play. She then locked the door of her house, and hanged herself. Four street children managed to open a window and her eldest daughter, Mary Ann Gent aged 5 and a half climbed into the house to find her mother suspended by a rope in the staircase. Neighbours cut her down and informed her husband. After inspecting the corpse of his wife he cooly observed “that it was like to be; but he must attend to his work”, locked up the house leaving the dead body of his wife on the floor, put the key in his pocket and went back to work.
(Interestingly, the little girl Mary Ann became a cotton weaver and never married. She inherited a fourth of her father’s estate which included 6 dwelling houses and one shop and when she died age 42 left gifts to 2 charities in her will including Dr Bernardo’s.)
One week later the Preston Guardian reported the verdict of the inquest – that “the deceased had committed suicide whilst in an unsound state of mind”.
It also reprinted part of the Preston Chronicle article about the rumour that her husband, William Henry Gent had been totally unconcerned by his wife’s suicide, had locked her body in the house and returned to work. They emphasised that having spoken to William the rumour was without foundation.
William Henry Gent did not succeed in getting a son and heir and his wives endured much suffering in the pursuit of that goal.
Jane Lingard married William Henry when she was aged 25 in 1859 and she gave birth to 5 children in 5 years (4 girls and then a boy). Her son John was born on 14 October 1865 and 11 days later her youngest baby daughter Margaret died. Jane killed herself 3 months after her daughter’s death on 19 January 1866 and baby John died 6 days later.
(Another family suicide happened in the following year 1867 when her husband’s uncle Jonathan killed himself by cutting his own throat.)
William Henry married his second wife Jane Heys aged 35 in 1867 and she had 4 children (3 boys and 1 girl) between 1869 and 1873. It is most probable that she had miscarriages during the first two years of their marriage. Her first baby son, John, died when only 3 weeks old, her second baby son, James, died within 24 hours and her third baby son William died aged 7 months.
Is it any wonder that many single ladies, when of independent means, opted to stay unmarried!
By 1871 both George and William Henry were living in Preston. William Henry in Egan Street (close to St Paul’s church in the middle of Preston) with his second wife Jane Heys. George was living in Barton Terrace.
On the 1901 census William Henry and family had moved out of Preston’s centre towards the east to Shakespeare Road where he owned and ran a small grocers shop. He died on 29 July 1902 aged 68 years. His will (see below) showed that he left 6 houses and 1 shop to his daughters and when his estate was probated on 29 Aug 1902 he left £1031-11s-10d to be shared equally between them.
Will of William Henry Gent
William Henry Gent stated in his Will that:
“I give and bequeath unto my four daughters Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Alice and Margaret Ellen absolutely in equal shares as tenants in common my six dwelling houses and one shop in Shakespeare Road…”
The rest of his Will deals, at length, with the sale or postponement of the sale of his furniture and household effects. Unmarried daughters could use the furniture and not be answerable for any damage, distress or loss of household effects but the trustees had the last word in any disputes as to ownership or sale of items. I can just imagine the 4 sisters arguing over the teaspoons!
He could not sign his name and made his mark on his will. “the mark of William Henry X Gent”
William Henry’s Daughters
His eldest daughters Mary Ann and Elizabeth Gent both worked as cotton weavers and never married. Mary Ann died on 23 Nov 1902 aged 42 years and left £282-6s to her sisters as well gifts to two charities, the South African General Mission and Doctor Bernardo’s. Elizabeth Gent died on 25 Jun 1910 aged 48 years.
His younger daughters Alice and Margaret Ellen did marry. Alice, a dressmaker aged 34 married Thomas Isherwood, a clogger, at St Thomas’, Preston in 1897 and had a son Thomas William in 1899. Margaret Ellen, a cotton weaver aged 41 married Henry Oddie in 1911, a year after her sister Elizabeth died.
Graves of William Henry and George Gent
As you can see above William Henry and George Gent’s graves are next to each other in Preston Cemetery. In the grave of William Henry Gent are his first wife who committed suicide, his second wife, 5 babies/small children, 2 daughters and himself. George Gent’s includes his wife and himself and also 3 babies/small children, one of which was his grandson. The remaining members of his family moved to Accrington after his death, hence the less crowded headstone.