Ann Hunt & John Stephens

You can see references for the material displayed on this page by clicking here.

In this short section I shall briefly outline the information I have gathered about my 4 x great grandmother, Ann (Hunt) Stephens, and her family. Ann was a daughter of Thomas Hunt and Mary Jacobson, his wife. Her parents and siblings are treated elsewhere on this website.

Although the place and precise date of Ann’s birth are unknown to me, I have been able to deduce the approximate date of this event with what I believe is a fair degree of accuracy. I know that she was aged under twenty one years at 9 December 1788, as this was referred to in her father’s will(1), and the fact that the parish record entry relating to her wedding, just over two years later, makes no mention of parental consent to the marriage(2), indicates that she was over twenty one then. The combination of these two pieces of evidence, combined with the statement of her age in the record of her burial, leads me to believe that she was born c1770(3).

Ann signed as a witness when her brother, William Hunt, married Sarah Love at Walthamstow on 31st December 1789(4), and William reciprocated by witnessing her marriage to John Stephens at St Mary Woolnoth, London on 1 March 1791. You can see this image by clicking here.

It is interesting to note that the officiating minister at the marriage of Ann Stephens was John Newton, the famous clergyman. You can see his signature on the image of the entry. Newton was minister at St Mary Woolnoth from 1780 until the year of his death in 1807. He drew very large crowds to hear him preach, and wrote many hymns, of which probably the best known is Amazing Grace(5).

I find it interesting to note that Ann, alone of the Hunt children, married by banns rather than licence. Marriage by licence has often been regarded as an indication of superior social standing(6), and as there was no apparent difference between her social status and that of her siblings, maybe I should interpret Ann’s marriage by banns as an indication of the relative modesty of her and her spouse. On the other hand, it could be that Ann’s marriage was arranged less hurriedly than those of her brothers and sisters, leaving time enough for the calling of banns. One of the frustrations of family history research is the impossibility of resolving conundrums like this. Without access to sources such as personal papers one cannot hope to definitively ascribe reasons to such facts, but I enjoy the process of attempting to do so, and believe that it brings me closer to understanding my forebears as individuals.

The parish register entry for Ann’s marriage (see above) enables us to see the signatures of three of the Hunt siblings, Ann’s spouse, and Thomas Osborne, Ann’s brother in law. I feel moved to remark on the quality of the handwriting of these people, which was at once stylish and clear.

The closeness of relations between the various Hunt brothers and sisters is evidenced by the repeated appearance of members of the clan at family events. In this context it is worth pointing out that according to the registration of the event at Dr Williams’s Library,Ann (Hunt) Stephens witnessed the birth of her nephew – Thomas Osborne(7) on 15 December 1791 at the home of her sister in Winchester Street, London.

Within eighteen months of their marriage the union of Ann Hunt and John Stephens produced a daughter. Mary Ann Stephens was born on 4 September 1792(8), and her arrival into the world was registered at the Baptist Church, Little Prescot Street, Goodman’s Fields on 25th November 1792 . It may (or may not) be significant that Rev. Thomas Hunt, brother of Ann (Hunt) Stephens, had begun his career in the Baptist church at Little Prescot Street in the early 1780s. Abraham Booth, who recorded the birth of Mary Ann Stephens, had been minister of Little Prescot Street when Thomas Hunt was active there. According to this source, Ann and her spouse were living in the parish of Allhallows, London Wall in 1792.

The annals of the Haberdashers’ Company tell me that John and Ann Stephens had another child, named Eliza Stephens, but unfortunately I have not yet traced her in any other records. In 1808 it was recorded that the Bankes trustees had paid an apprenticeship grant to Eliza(9) . As it was usual for youngsters to start apprenticeships at age fourteen, this information leads me to deduce that Eliza was born c1794-5. This date is confirmed by a separate entry in the Haberdashers’ Company records(10), which states that in 1812 Eliza was aged seventeen. In 1816 the Bankes Trustees paid her £120 as a grant towards the cost of setting up a business(11). A handsome sum, indeed! What a shame I do not know the nature of her business.

As far as I know there were no more children born to John and Ann Stephens. My belief that Mary Ann and Eliza were the only children of this couple gains in credence from the fact that when Ann made her will they were the only offspring she mentioned. However, it is possible that there were other children in the family, and that they died before their mother made her will(12) .

On 1 January 1801 the nineteenth century dawned. The evidence of the Millennium celebrations in 2000 – 2001 leads me to generalise that in such times people are usually optimistic. However, life in the Stephens household was to be struck by tragedy before very much time had elapsed, as during November 1802 John Stephens died. The record of Bunhill Fields Non-Conformist burial ground shows that his burial took place at 3.30pm on Tuesday 16 November 1802. He had died at the comparatively young age of thirty two years(13).

We know very little about John Stephens. From what I have already written about the Hunt family, I am sure that my reader would expect that the husband of Ann would be quite prosperous. However, the only fact I have gleaned that would indicate John’s social status is that in several wills of family members – including his own – he was referred to as being a ‘Gentleman’(14) . How does one interpret this scrap of information? I know that all sources that gave his address, apart from his will, stated that John lived in the City of London. If he worked in a trade in the City he would have had to be a Freeman of a Livery Company, and would have been referred to as ‘Citizen & (name of trade) of London’. The reference to him as ‘Gentleman’ suggests to me that he may have been a member of a profession, such as the law? This is pure hypothesis, but one needs to engage in this type of informed guesswork in order to develop research ideas, and I hope that before too long, I shall succeed in discovering more about this man.

The Will of John Stephens(15) was dated 7 January 1800 – nearly three years before he died – and was quite short. It stated that the home of the testator was in Hackney, which surprised me; as I mentioned above, the previous residential evidence I had found regarding him stated that he lived in the City of London. Maybe he moved to Hackney in the later period of his life, and travelled in to the city for business purposes. There is clearly scope for more research here.

The only beneficiary of John’s Will was his wife, to whom all his estate was left, subject to the payment of his debts and funeral costs. His brother in law – William Hunt – acted as executor.

About three years after the death of her spouse it seems that Ann (Hunt) Stephens went about acquiring a trade – presumably to support herself in her widowhood. The records of the Bankes Trust show that she received an apprenticeship grant amounting to £50 in 1805. The entry states:

‘Stephens Ann (daur of Mary Hunt Wo. Grand daur of Bankes Mitchell) (sic) Apprentice Fee with her daur Mary Ann’(16) .

Normally, Apprenticeship grants mentioned in this source merely state the name of the recipient, and the amount. From the above evidence it seems that this grant was paid to Ann and her daughter jointly, which was an unusual occurrence. I have not found any other entries showing an apprenticeship grant to parent and child. Presumably both these ladies were undergoing training.

One wonders why Ann Hunt would have entered into an apprenticeship with her daughter. Maybe she did so in order to lend support to her child. Bear in mind that her other daughter would have been two years younger than Mary Ann, and she, also, would have needed support – probably more than her elder sister. Of course, another possible reason for this is that Ann simply needed the money! If this were the case, surely, she would have been able to find a means of income without going through an apprenticeship, which, I assume, would have taken seven years to bear fruit.

I do not know the answer to this puzzle.

If Ann was learning a trade because of financial necessity, that would tend to suggest that my expectation that she and her spouse were comfortably off financially, was incorrect. I could interpret the probate documentation relating to John Stephens in this light, for at least two reasons.

Firstly, his will contained no reference to land or houses owned by him, or monetary values, Also, unlike the wills of many of the Hunts and Jacobsons, it made no mention of Bank of England Stock.

Secondly, in spite of many attempts, I have not succeeded in tracing a record of Death Duties paid on his estate. I have found such a record in the cases of several family members, and had expected that such a record would exist for John. This may be taken as evidence that his estate was of insufficient value to qualify for payment of this tax.

My belief that John Stephens was probably quite comfortable in a material sense is based mainly on the fact that he was evidently considered a suitable husband for one of the Hunt ladies, and on the references to him being a ‘Gentleman’. However, it may be that I am incorrect in this judgement. Further research will be necessary if I am to form a more definite view on these matters.

Ann featured as a beneficiary in the wills of both her parents, and that of Esther Jacobson, a cousin living in the Channel Island of Jersey, in 1789(17) . The accounts of the Bankes Trust show that the trustees bought an annuity from Ann Stephens and her surviving siblings on 8th March 1810(18).

Early in March 1811 Ann (Hunt) Stephens died. She was buried at Bunhill Fields at 4 pm on Thursday 5 March 1811(19). As her brother was a Baptist Minister it seems possible that he may have conducted the service. She died before the start of civil registration, so I shall almost certainly never know the cause of her death. She left two teenage daughters, one of whom – Mary Ann – was my direct ancestor.

Ann Stephens’s will was made in 1807, when she would only have been about thirty seven years old, and was presumably two years into her apprenticeship. Probate was granted on 6 April 1811 in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury(20).

At the time of making her will, Ann was living at Winchester Street, in the city of London. As I know that her sister – Mary Osborne – had been living in that area(21), it seems possible that the two siblings were sharing accommodation. Although her will was quite short, Ann Stephens took some pains to state her wishes as regards her property. The annuity payable to her by the Bankes trustees was left to her daughter, Mary Ann. As well as this, Ann had apparently already given £50 to her executor – her brother, William Hunt. This was stated to be yielding 5% interest, and was to be used by William for the benefit and upkeep of her daughters – Mary Ann Stephens and Eliza Stephens.

The close relationship between Ann and William was hinted at by the fact that the two siblings were said to have held jointly ‘£672. 19.7 stock in the navy, 5% annuites in the books of the Bank of England’. This investment was to be managed by William Hunt until Ann’s two daughters attained the age of 21 years, and then Ann’s share of it was to be transferred to her daughters.

The only bequest made by Ann to anybody other than her children was a sum of £10.10.0, which she left to William.

The view that comes across to me from the available information is that Ann (Hunt) Stephens was probably a thorough person, and a hard working individual. She suffered misfortune in the loss of her husband at an early age, and in her early death. As I mentioned above, her eldest daughter was my direct ancestor.

If you would like to see an abbreviated family tree for John Stephens, Gentleman (c1770-1802), his wife – Ann Hunt – and children you can do so by clicking here.

G M Culshaw, December 2006.
Last updated December 2008.

You can see references for the material displayed on this page by clicking here.

  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.