Goddard family in Great Waldingfield, Suffolk – 18th century

Ancestors of Zachariah Goddard

Thomas Goddard (Kids) sim 680

The story starts in the early 1700s when Thomas Goddard married Elizabeth Smith of Lawshall. His son, John Goddard married Susan Ware on 16 June 1744 in St Lawrence Church, Great Waldingfield, Suffolk. The original font is still there but the old gravestones have been flattened and the ones standing are illegible.

St Lawrence, GWald 660
St Lawrence Church, Great Waldingfield, Suffolk


John and Susan (Susannah) had six surviving children, the eldest being Thomas, our direct ancestor who, according to records, was born on 7 January 1744 (apparently five months before the wedding!)

On the marriage entry John and Susan were both described as being single which eliminated the possibility that she might have been a widow bringing Thomas (with another father) into the marriage.

However, we found Thomas’ birth entry and on examining the marriage and birth entries together it was evident that the vicar was still using the Julian church calendar which started the new year of 1744 at Easter and finished the same year of 1744 the following March/April – the year running from Easter to Easter rather than January to December.
The Julian calendar changed to the Gregorian calendar in1752.

So John and Susan were married 16 June 1744 at the beginning of the Julian church year and Thomas was christened 7 January 1744 near the end of the same church year. Susan was two months pregnant on marriage but that was the norm for the time.

In the 18th and 19th centuries for ordinary people the betrothal was more important than the marriage ceremony and many families insisted on the bride becoming pregnant after the betrothal and before a date for the marriage could be arranged. A barren wife could be a disaster for the extended family. Children were needed to work the land, sometimes to inherit the land and always to look after their parents in old age.

Many records of this period were badly preserved or water damaged with just the date of christening and name of child, except when the child was illegitimate. There can be no mistaking a ‘bastard’ child. Capital letters and the name of the baby’s mother with thick lettering “illegitimate” or “bastard child of single woman” re-emphasised the ‘shame’ of the poor mother.

Thomas (Godward) married Elizabeth Halls on 18 October 1773 and it can be seen on their marriage record that both were illiterate and made their mark. The names Goddard, Godward, Godard, Gorrod, Gorward, Gorred and Goderd are all interchangeable. The vicar wrote the surname according to the local accent and as he heard it.

[Map of Great Waldingfield under reconstruction]

Great Waldingfield (the old part) is a tiny place and the nearest market town is Sudbury 2 miles away. This is where the painter Thomas Gainsborough was born in 1727 and on visiting Gainsborough’s House we realised that he had painted many rural scenes of the area at the time our ancestors had lived there. His paintings give an idea of how our ancestors might have dressed, the countryside they would have lived and worked in and you realise how closely they would have worked with horses. The Suffolk Punch is quite famous and is the oldest breed of heavy horse in the world dating from before 15th century. Gainsborough also painted lots of horses and wagons transporting peasants to market towns like Sudbury and also travellers moving through the countryside at the time our ancestors would have been using horses and wagons to move to Stratford.

His ‘Peasants going to the market, 1770-74′ which is a chalk drawing on brown paper is drawn in an era when Elizabeth Halls (married to Thomas in 1773) was just starting a family and within a few years she would have a family of these ages and may well have been travelling to market like those in the drawing.

It is interesting that ‘Wooded Landscape with Cattle by a Pool’, the more traditional romanticised picture was painted in the Sudbury/Great Waldingfield area in 1782, just a couple of years before Zachariah was born there. The larger landlords enclosed the labourer’s strips of land, fenced off this larger area and then used new agricultural machinery and the new threshing machines, all of which left many labourers without work. They also fenced off the commons so the labourers lost their rights and customs and had nowhere to keep their goats or pigs. Woodlands were fenced off preventing the labourer picking nuts and berries, trapping rabbits or indeed collecting wood for the fire. No wonder they moved out of the area.

Suffolk to Stratford…