Mary Fooks (1801-55)

Mary Fooks was born at Melcombe Regis, Dorset, the daughter of William Fooks. Her precise date of birth was probably between April and August 1801, as her age is given as forty-nine in the 1851 census (taken 31 March) and fifty-four at her death at the end of August 1855. She may well have been the Mary Fooks baptised at Melcombe Regis on 10 October 1804, the daughter of Wm and Ann Fooks. Also baptised on this day were Stephen John Aisles FooksRichard Wm Fooks, and Ann Fooks, children of the same couple


A will was written in 1842 by William Fooks of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, Yeoman (and proved on 28 April 1849), which mentions ‘my daughter Mary Roberts the wife of Lieutenant Lazarus Roberts of the Royal Navy’, but no other children

On 6 March 1823, at the age of twenty-one, Mary Fooks married Lazarus Roberts, aged thirty-two, at the parish mother-church of St Mary’s, RadipoleThe marriage was by licence and witnesses were James Fooks (her brother?), Ann Fooks (sister?), W.S. Fooks (fourteen-year-old William Samuel Fooks, son of James Mackenzie Fooks?), Jane Fooks (wife of James Mackenzie Fooks?) and M.A.B. Berjew (Mary Ann Barbara Berjew, sister to Jane Fooks, née Berjew?). It was unusual to have so many witnesses to a marriage. 

Announcements of the marriage appeared in The Monthly Magazine (May 1823) and in the Bristol Mercury, which confirms her as the youngest daughter of Mr W. Fooks of Weymouth’. 

In 1829 Mary was executrix for the will of a Jane Iles of Cerne Abbas. Others mentioned in this will were other family members, mostly the same people who were witnesses at her marriage: Mary Ann Barbara BERJEW, Spinster of Cerne Abbas, Dorset (friend); Mrs. Jane FOOKS, Widow of James Mackenzie FOOKS (friends); Catherine FOOKS (daughter of James & Jane FOOKS); Charles, William, James and Samuel FOOKS (sons of James & Jane FOOKS); Miss Ann Williams FOOKS’. 

Mary died on 23 August 1855, at her home, Harrison’s Buildings, Great Yarmouth. Her funeral took place five days later at St Nicholas church, the ceremony performed by the curate, Nicholas Garry. As the burial record confirms, she was only fifty-four. She had given birth to at least twelve children over thirty-two years. 

Of the ten who had survived infancy, the youngest ones – Mary (nineteen), Ellen (eighteen), Catherine (sixteen) and Edward (just twelve) – probably still lived at home, although Edward would have been away at school during term time. Alfred (fifteen) had either just joined the merchant navy or was about to. Of the older children – James (thirty-one) and Henry (twenty-seven) were living in London. William (twenty-nine) was possibly down in Devon, or in LondonArthur (twenty-two) had joined the Post Office at Hull in 1852, so may have been living thereCharles, who turned twenty-six the day after the funeral, had joined the merchant navy and was possibly away at sea, or otherwise absent. By the time of Lazarus’s death eighteen years later, Charles had probably died, and Edward too. So Marys funeral must have been the last – possibly the only – opportunity for all ten Roberts siblings to be together. 

Where did the Roberts family stand on that Tuesday in 1855? The precise location of Mary’s grave at St Nicholas has yet to be discovered; she may have been interred in the churchyard or the adjacent Old Cemetery, which opened in 1854. She is not listed in the churchyard survey taken in 2016 however, although there are many blank entries due to illegible or missing headstones (only thirteen are listed for 1855 and Mary Roberts L131 is not her, but a Mary McRoberts, died 1861).

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