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Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Richard Treffry Meredith and Ann Gidley

A posting about a non-Gidley, but one who managed to father two illegitimate children with Ann Gidley, who came from a very respectable family living in Plymouth. The shock to her family must have been immense. It is interesting that Richard Treffry Meredith has left a fairly clear paper trail of what are presumed to be his misdeeds.

Ann Gidley was born on 8th March 1849, the oldest daughter and second child of Gustavus Gidley and his wife, Ann, who had nine children altogether. Gustavus was a respected solicitor in Plymouth and comfortably well-off. In 1861 they employed a cook and a housemaid, in 1871 a cook, a housemaid and a general servant. Gustavus' wife Ann died in 1863, and by 1871 his sister was living with the family.
By 1875 Ann must have met Richard Treffry Meredith, also from a comfortably-off family. He was born in Westbury-on-Trim in 1842, his father being then in the UK Marines. By 1861 his mother had been widowed and the family was living in Fowey in Cornwall, still with sufficient means to employ a tutor in the household. Richard's appointment as a Lieutenant in the Cornwall Rangers Militia is recorded by the Edinburgh Gazette in March 1867, although he resigned his commission only eight months later in November 1867.
By 1871 he is staying in a hotel in Exeter St David's and described as a retired gold digger. To follow this occupation presumably he had left the country after 1867. He is also described as married, and I found his marriage in the September quarter of 1867 to Jane Eleanor Trye. Although the central marriage indexes are typed for this period, Richard's middle name was transcribed by FreeBMD as Treflry, and by FindMyPast as Tretlry. Jane Trye was a daughter of the vicar of Leckhampton in Gloucestershire, but the marriage was not to last long. In 1870 there is a record at The National Archives of Richard petitioning for a judicial separation from Jane. On FindMyPast where the entry is shown, there is a cryptic reference "cross sent" (does this mean Jane cross-petitioned Richard?). The unusual event of a divorce must have caused considerable scandal, especially in a vicar's family.
The result of his meeting Ann Gidley, presumably in Devon, was the birth of a daughter, Minnie Meredith Gidley, registered in the September quarter of 1876 in Islington registration district. I haven't seen the actual birth certificate, but no first name for the child was given when she was registered, and I don't know who the informant was. By 1878 a son was born to them, and Ann Gidley registered the child herself. She gave her name as Ann Meredith, wife of Richard, profession or rank, gentleman. She also gave their son his grandfather's name, Gustavus, as a middle name. And Ann had now moved to Stratford-on-Avon, where in 1881 and 1891 she was lodging with William Moore, a widower.

Richard Meredith seems to have moved on by this time. By 1881 he has yet another lady in tow. He is by now an accountant, lodging in Grays Inn Lane, with a "wife", Mary P Meredith and a 12 year old "son" Reginald W Meredith, aged 12. The most likely candidate for this new "wife" is Mary Paine Worthy, who in 1871 was living in Topsham in Devon and described as the widow of a schoolmaster. By 1891 she and her son have returned to Topsham, reverted to their former names, and where she is described as "living on her own means". One hopes Richard Meredith was generous in his provision for his ladies.

I have found no further trace of Richard Treffry Meredith in this country. A Richard T Meredith, clerk, single, sailed from Londonderry for Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1895. The reference to the death of a Richard T Meredith in 1917 in Richmond (Surrey) RD is for a Richard Thomas Meredith who lived a blameless life in southwest London.
Ann Gidley, however, was in Newbury, Berkshire in 1901, as a "widow" and housekeeper to the Primitive Methodist minister. She is actually the nearest Gidley there has been to my present address, and the house where she lived is still there. She had moved back to Stratford-on-Avon by 1911, and had moved in with her daughter, who was married to a local clock and watch repairer. Ann is described as having private means. She died in Warwick RD in 1925.
After her shortlived marriage I can't find Jane Eleanor Meredith in the English censuses until 1901 when she was boarding in a lodging house in Bath with a much older sister, and is described as a widow. She later moved to Cheltenham, where she died in 1911.

Was Richard Treffry Meredith a bounder and a cad, the Gidley equivalent of "Captain Wickham" from Pride and Prejudice? Or was he a Bohemian who cared nothing for strict Victorian conventions? Either way he must have been possessed of considerable charm to have enticed three ladies of highly respectable backgrounds to share his life.

2015 update:
Richard Meredith's great grandson has recently contacted me. He has generously given me permission to mention that Richard had a reputation within the family for domestic violence. To quote from the email: "He [Richard] had 3 children (Arthur, my grandfather, a baby girl and Harriette) with Jane Eleanor Trye before the marriage dissolved. She was the granddaughter of Charles Brandon Trye a notable surgeon in Gloucestershire. They took their children on a voyage to New Zealand in 1869....the baby girl died when the ship was becalmed by the Falklands. We think Richard died in Australia in December 1897."