Whittle le Woods, Lancs

Margaret E Goddard 300
Margaret Evelyn Goddard

Margaret Evelyn was born 22 November 1878 in Brigstock, Northamptonshire and baptised 29 December 1878 at St Andrew’s Church. On the church baptism record the vicar had originally made a mistake and described William as a labourer and then corrected it to Huntsman, initialling his correction in the margin. He had also dated it 1879 when it should obviously have been 1878 in the sequence of the entries. Some vicars really are a researcher’s nightmare!

Her father, William hunted as a whipper-in with the Pytchley Hunt in Brixworth and then Brigstock for at least 10 years. In the year she was born he rode with Earl Spencer and Her Imperial Majesty Elizabeth, the Empress of Austria for six weeks.Margaret Evelyn Goddard married William Gent on 24 August 1908 at St John the Evangelist Church, in Whittle le Woods, Lancashire. Apparently, they met when William Gent was on holiday in Devon where she was living when her father, William, was hunting with the Modbury Harriers.


Hill Foot Cottage & Tom Goddard
Hill Foot Cottage, Whittle le Woods, Lancs & Tom Goddard

The census of 1901 shows Tom Goddard (her brother who was younger than herself) living at Hill Foot Cottage, Whittle le Woods and working as a kennel huntsman for the local hunt. At this time his father was working in Peterborough, Nr Cambridge.

At some point before 1908 Tom, having met William Gent in Whittle le Woods, might have taken him on holiday to the family home where he met Margaret Evelyn. Tom was to die of cancer of the pancreas in January 1909 so may have been showing signs of his illness at this time.

Did Margaret Evelyn go back with her brother to nurse him and then get to know William better? Or did she attend Tom’s wedding (20 August 1908) and then decide suddenly to marry William, whom she had obviously met earlier? William Gent’s place of residence on his marriage certificate is Christ Church, Eccleston (occupation Asylum Attendant) and Margaret Evelyn’s residence is Whittle le Woods. William Gent had previously worked as an engineer in a calico print shop in Whittle le Woods and after marrying Margaret Evelyn he moved to live in Elephant Lane, Thatto Heath, St Helens, working as an engineer in the laundry department at Rainhill Asylum.

Tom married Sarah on 20 August 1908 and William married Margaret Evelyn on 24 August 1908, four days later. Why didn’t they have a double wedding and share the expenses? It would have been easier if guests had travelled a great distance to be there. We could find no wedding reports in the local newspapers of the time.

Memorial: Tom Goddard merged
Memorial for Tom Goddard

Tom died on 22 January 1909 aged 28 and was buried 25 January 1909 at St John the Evangelist, Whittle le Woods having been married for just five months. He was married to Sarah Barker Hutchinson, aged 21.

We decided to research Sarah’s family and found that her mother was Penelope Barker, an office cleaner in Everton in the 1891 census. Her father was George William Hutchinson, a stationer also from Liverpool. They married on 10 Feb 1886 when Penelope was 27 and George 33. However, he died 18 months after the wedding when Sarah was still an infant (she was born 7 Dec 1886) and her mother died when Sarah was only 13 years old.

The 1901 census shows her in a Girls Preventive Home, 49 Peel St, Liverpool, aged 15. It appears to be an institution/school for orphaned girls where they were kept morally on the straight and narrow and trained as domestics or for factory work. (Perhaps for the textile industry, for example in Whittle le Woods?)

In the Whittle le Woods Parish Magazine, printed in 1910, Mrs Tom Goddard had paid £5 for a tablet for a plaque inside the church dedicated to the memory of her husband Tom Goddard (see photo).

We wondered whether she might have been pregnant when Tom died in 1909. Her name is in the Church Magazine which was printed at the end of the 1909 year, but she would have had no family in Whittle le Woods except her husband’s sister, Margaret Evelyn and she moved to live in St Helens when she was married.

Sarah’s mother had three sisters living in the Liverpool area, so she had relations there that she could return to. We’ve checked the General Register Office Index and there were lots of Goddard babies born in the North West at the right time, but unless you send off for lots of certificates there is no way of verifying that you have the right one. Tantalisingly, a Sarah B Goddard married a Walter Kendall in Egremont in 1912.

Goddard_wirral comp
(left) William and Margaret Evelyn Gent with sons Norman and Jim
(top right) William and Margaret Evelyn Gent with sons Syd and Jim
(bottom right) Les & Jim Gent


In 1948 Margaret Evelyn and William Gent retired to Egremont, Wirral with their youngest son, Arthur James who was a policeman at the time. Why did they retire particularly to Egremont? Did they already know the area from visiting Sarah there?

Margaret Evelyn and William Gent had 4 sons.
Name Life Dates Occupation
John Leslie 1910-1979 a glass cutter
Harry Norman 1913-1988 a psychiatric nurse
Edward Sydney 1916-1982 a joiner
Arthur James 1922-1982 a policeman and other occupations

William died 16 February 1949 aged 69 and Margaret Evelyn died 6 February 1955, aged 76 in Egremont.