The Clarke family of Suffolk

The Clarke family remained relatively ellusive until January 2009 when I began trying to decipher the UK location "Watchfield".

For years, my Gt Gt Gt Grandmother, Caroline, gave it as her place of birth but there was no real continuity in her Census answers. For example, in 1861, she states that she was from 'Backthen, Norfolk', in 1871 it's 'Suffolk' and in both 1881 and 1891, she names 'Watchfield, Norfolk' as her place of birth.

Caroline's identity had not been aided by her 1855 marriage where she names 'Alfred Woods, deceased' as her father and her 1859 marriage to Robert Coe where Alfred, after being deceased, had taken on the job of 'Publican'!

After looking in to the Clarks of Isleham, I decided that 'Watchfield' may well refer to 'Wattisfield, Suffolk'. After posting this query on the RootsChat.com website, a fellow researcher (DebbieG) sent me information from the 1841 census for Botesdale - a village close to Wattisfield in Suffolk. Here, I could see a Caroline Clarke with her brother, living at a Bailey household - with no mother present.

After backtracking on Mr William Bailey, head of the household, I was able to find a marriage for him to Mary Clarke and then find baptisms of the Clarke children to Miss Mary Clarke.

The Wicked Step-mother

With Mary (now Bailey) missing in 1841, I tracked her down after a tip-off form researchers on RootsChat.com that she appeared to be listed as an inmate at Ipswich County Gaol and House of Correction. This was confirmed by archivists at Ipswich Records Office, who hold the Gaol Book.

Soon afterwards, and after some help from Sue (another RootsChat.com contributor), I was reading a very lengthy newspaper report from March 1841, detailing the trial and sentencing of both William and Mary Bailey of Botesdale for cruelty and mistreatment of William Bailey's daughters from his first marriage, in favour of her own children.

Whilst William was noted as not physically hurting or starving the children, Mary was and it was this that resulted in her being sentenced to six months hard labour in Ipswich Gaol. As the couple's youngest child, Emily Bailey, was only a newborn, Emily accompanied her mother into the gaol.