FUNERAL IN THE SNOW
The earliest Maberly/Astley reference located on the IGI in any of the English counties is the marriage of Robert Maberly to Hannah "Astly", 16 September, 1736 in London's St. Martin Outwich. Robert Maberly is the son of John Maberly (the first son of Stephen "Maberlee" and Elizabeth Osburn) and Sarah Little. Robert and Hannah Astley Maberly had a son Thomas Astley Maberly who married Mary Ann Smith, 21st June, 1786 in Broxbourn, Hertfordshire. With reference to this union Jonathan Maberly provides the following story about the funeral of the widow of Thomas Astley Maberly, Mary Ann Maberly:
Mrs. Ann Maberly; née Smith, died at Bath on Friday, January 14th, 1814. Mr. Long of London, undertaker, was employed to conduct the funeral, which was to take place at Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire.
There was a hearse with six horses, and one mourning coach with four horses. From circumstances, delay took place at Bath; meantime, so heavy a snow fall took place that the roads became impassable, and the stage coaches which started from Bath for London returned to Bath, not being able to get on.
The funeral, however, started; and in the first day got as far as Chippenham (12 miles) where they slept. This was Monday the 17th.
On Tuesday they continued to Wootton Bassett and on to Swindon (19 miles) and slept at Swindon.
On Wednesday morning, the snow lay in parts 15 feet deep. Here ten shovels were bought, one for each man of the company, in order that they might clear a passage as they proceeded. It was not possible to see the direction of the road, so uniformly deep was the ground covered. They hired a guide on horse-back. He went before them, but only for half a mile; he then refused to go further, saying he would not risk his life; which he could do if he attempted to proceed. Benjamin Richard, the undertaker's foreman, then went forward on one of the heavy black horses, pressing his way by the horse's weight through the snow, which was above his chest. At Swindon they found a set of Navigators, necessarily out of work. They employed these men to assist them. They took the horses out of the hearse, fastened ropes to the hearse, and the whole gang united to drag it along. After the guide left them, they could not tell whether they were in the road at any time, or out of it, except so far as they could at times judge by the floundering of the horses, sinking into ditches or pits. Bets had been laid at Swindon by the people there that they would not reach Farringdon that night. Working hard, however, through the whole day, they succeeded in this, and slept at Farringdon (12 miles) on Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning they again set out, intending to go through Pewsey to Oxford. Meeting a farmer, they asked him whether the road was best passable by Pewsey or by Abingdon. He said that both were choked, and that it would be quite impossible to get on. On their stating to this man the urgent necessity of their getting on, and their readiness to pay any guide, etc., he said that if they would put themselves under his guidance, he would undertake to take them to Abingdon. This they did; and their conductor, abandoning all attempt to keep any road, led them across the open fields and plough-lands; and they reached Abingdon (20 miles) and slept there that night, Thursday.
At Abingdon they fell in with Kent, a road carrier of that town, who was in the habit of carrying carcasses up to Newgate Market. He had had two large wagons laden for many days, waiting for the roads to be passable. Fearing further delay, lest his meat should be spoiled, he determined to set out; and there being no other employ for any of the draft horses in the town, he employed two teams of 17 horses each, and started. How he got on, they did not hear.
Friday morning. They found the road to Oxford more passable than any they had yet travelled; and yet so little passable that all Abingdon came out to see them start. The Oxford people, on their arrival there, were equally astonished at their entry; for it seemed they had been shut up for four days, without a post coming in or going out, or any travelling; and the people cried out, "Why, you must have dropped from the clouds!" They continued on to Thame the same day, the impediments on the roads here being comparatively much more surmountable. Nevertheless, the Thame people also were astonished at seeing them, and their arrival created great excitement. Slept at Thame on Friday night. (16 miles).
Saturday. Proceeded to Aylesbury and slept there (9 miles). Here they found that both the roads upward were blocked up, and that 200 men were at work on each, cutting a passage sufficient to admit a carriage.
All Sunday they rested at Thame, and on till five o'clock on Monday evening, when the road was declared to be now passable. Meanwhile, at this place they had found Matthews, Mrs. Maberly's tenant, who had come across from Little Gaddesden to meet the funeral. Richard and Matthews set out immediately on horseback for Gaddesden, to prepare things there, and to reconnoitre and ascertain the best course for the hearse and coach to take. Matthews proposed riding straight across country,without regard to roadways, which they did, over Aubury Hill and through Ashridge Park, crossing the streams and the Grand Junction Canal, all hard frozen, over the ice, without regard to the bridges. They were in some danger more than once; Matthews in one place sunk horse and all into the snow over the heads of both, and Richard had much difficulty in extricating them. They had got into a stone-quarry. Richards slept at Matthew's house at Little Gaddesden on Sunday. Monday morning the two set out again on horseback on the way back to meet and conduct the funeral. They went across Ashridge Park to Great Berkhamstead. Page, the inn-keeper here had had 50 horses lying idle for a fortnight; not a traveller had come in or gone out of the town for that time. They proceeded to Aylesbury, which they reached at five o'clock in the evening; and, late as it was, they started the funeral immediately. Richards now rode with Long the undertaker in the mourning coach, passing through the passage which had been cut between two walls of snow which they could touch with the hand out of either window. They got to Berkhamstead (12 miles) and slept at Page's Monday night.
Tuesday. Lord Bridgewater was in the habit of employing at all times a vast number of labourers. He had very kindly ordered every man into his Park to clear a passage for the funeral, and he and his steward (?) Backingham on horseback met the funeral at its entrance to Ashridge Park, and rode before it. Having crossed the Park and Gaddesden Green, they found the lane to the Church quite filled with snow up to the level of the hedges right and left. The hearse and coach passed therefore through the farmyard of Buckmaster, a farmer there, through his barn into the fields at the back, and across the fields to the Church. Lord Bridgewater and (?) Backingham were the only attendants at the funeral. Mr. Maberly had left London to meet it; but could get no further than Kilburn, and was obliged to return. He had despatched a man and horse to Gaddesden to make this known. Forster (Long's man) who was thus sent got on so badly that the hearse, coach, and people met him at Two Waters on their return from the funeral.
On Wednesday night the party arrived in London; much to the gratification of the wives and families of the men so long out. For ten days they had not been heard of; Richard had posted a letter to his wife in London from Bath, and it was delivered on the same day only that he himself arrived. The men talked of the expedition as of a voyage to the Pole; and the shovels which had been bought and used in excavation were hung up in the shop of Chandler the furnishing undertaker as trophies and memorials.
On a separate piece of paper are some rough notes of portions of the above account; with one to the effect that the cost of the funeral was 525 pounds.
|Grave of Mary Ann Maberly, Little Gaddesden|
Article courtesy of Madelyn Player and Jonathan Maberly
Photograph courtesy of Diane Cresswell