- Born: 1756, West Chinnock, Somerset, England
- Christened: 15 Jan 1757, West Chinnock, Somerset, England
- Marriage (1): Sarah Kellaway on 2 Apr 1780 in St. John's Parish Church, Yeovil, Odcombe Parish
- Died: 1836 at age 80
This information is taken from "The Chant Family History" by Janice C. Nickerson--
Our story begins with the birth of Robert in the county of Somerset, England. Little is known of Robert's childhood and youth. His parentage is uncertain since there were a large number of families of the name Chant in that area of England at the time. A strong possibility is that he was born to Robert and Susannah Chant of Odcombe. The parish of Odcombe, where Robert was probably born, had a population of about 400 in 1800. It was mostly an agricultural community. Robert married at about age 22, Sarah Kellaway, a woman who seems to have been 4 years his senior, at St. John's, Yeovil, a parish close to Odcombe. There are no more records of Robert and Sarah until they christened three children at once in ten years later.
The baptisms occurred at the independent (in this case that meant Methodist) church of Bower Hinton at Martock. The church had just opened. Martock was a much larger place than Odcombe at the time. There was a fair amount of cottage industry in Martock at this time, while most of the surrounding area was primarily agricultural. The third Methodist meeting in the parish of Martock was established at Bower Hinton in 1788 by Rev. Christopher Hull. Unfortunately, the register does not begin until two years later. The Rev. Christopher Hull was a former minister of Lady Huntingdon's colleges. He preached in barns, cottages, and open air, both here and in the adjacent villages and towns. The present chapel and manse were built in 1791 and Hull continued as minister until his death in 1814. It is clear that this minister had quite an impact on the Chants. In the first place, Robert and Sarah seem to have waited to baptise their first three children until his church opened nearby. Secondly one of their grandsons was named Christopher Hull Chant. Methodism itself first began in England with an Anglican minister by the name of John Wesley in 1738. it was not until many years later that Methodism became independent from the Church of England. By the end of the century it was awidespread movement which emphasised studiousness and rationality.
The first three children of Robert and Sarah were: Harriot, John, and Christopher. They were all baptised at once in January of 1791. A year and a half later, on the 27th of June 1792, another child, Joseph was baptised there. Four years after that on the 30th of August 1796, yet another child named Onesiphorous was baptised. A fifth son was not apparently baptised there. His name was William and he is mentioned in Robert's will. He was probably the youngest son. There is also some indication that there was another daughter named Elizabeth.
Sarah Chant died in 1824 at the age of 70. She was buried in Odcombe. Six months later, Robert married Anne Harris (nee Rugg). Anne was 15 years Robert's junior and we know that she was illiterate, like many women of her day.
On February 11th 1836 Robert Chant wrote his last will and testament in which he referred to himself as a gardener. In his will he mentions a wife Ann and sons; Joseph, Christopher, Onesiphorous, John, and William. He left to his wife Ann, on the condition that she not remarry, the building and a part of the field that are on the land called Broadfield in the parish of Odcombe, the crops growing on the rest of his land, the bedstead and furniture, one quilt, one copper coal scuttle, one small ash table, one ash armchair, one looking glass, and a part of a set of china. These articles she could bequeath to any of the grandchildren that she choose. He also gave her all the clothing, linen and furniture that she had before she married him. He gave the rest of his land to his son Joseph in consideration f or sums of money given to him previously! He also directed that Joseph give to his brothers, within three months of his father's death, certain specified amounts of money. To two of the brothers he was to give £30, to the others £10. He also left to Joseph his eight-day clock and a silver tablespoon. He appointed his wife executrix. Ann probated the will in the archdiocese of Wells 19th of May 1836. His personal estate and effects (all except real estate) were sworn by her to be worth less than £100. He died in March and was buried first week of April in Odcombe. Ann died four years later. Robert's will leaves many questions unanswered, particularly matter of his social standing. His occupation as a gardener usually indicates that he was a lower class non-propertied however his will seems to indicate that he did own land. Furthermore, the eighty pounds that he left to his sons collectively would have been worth three years income of a labourer who owns his own cottage, but no land. The most reasonable conclusion would be that he was a small landowner. If this was the case, he was one of a dying breed. At that time in England most of the farmland had been consolidated into large farms as part of the Movement towards enclosure.
Enclosure entailed portioning off tracts of land that under the old Manorial system were held in common, and enclosing them with fences or bushes. This meant the end of common lands where local people used to graze their animals. It also meant that the efficiency of enclosed farms increased, thus out-competing those farmers whose land was not enclosed. The pattern that developed was for smaller farmers to sell their land to larger ones and then work on the large farms for pay. This helped to widen the gulf between rich and poor. By 1836, when Robert died, there were very few areas in England that were not enclosed.
The fact that Joseph was bequeathed Robert's land is also puzzling. Custom would entail that the land be given to the eldest son, but Joseph was the third son. We may never know why Robert departed from tradition. Furthermore, Joseph, after having inherited Robert's land, does not show up in the 1851 census of the area. This probably indicates that he sold this land and moved elsewhere, perhaps in search of another type of work. He may have finally become victim to the pressure placed on small farmers and sold out to a larger, more efficient one. Future research will attempt to locate him and thus possibly solve this part of the puzzle.
Harriet, John and Joseph we know nothing about save that John and Joseph were alive when their father wrote his will in 1836. Joseph, as mentioned above, was not in Odcombe in 1851. William and Onesiphorous appear in that census as gardeners, like their father. It is unknown whether or not they owned land. William married Elizabeth Male (possibly a sister of Christopher's wife Jane) in 1831 and they had four children prior to the 1851 census; Jabez, Tom, Mary Ann and Alexander. Onesiphorous married Susannah Kingwell in 1817 and they had Betsy, Joseph, Sarah and John. This Joseph was listed in the 1851 census as a farm labourer wife a wife names Eliza and three children; Richmond, Amila Jane and Julia Ann. Elizabeth married William Fowler in 1825.
Here is a copy of an email sent to John Servais regarding my thinking on Robert's information.
From: Philip Chant <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: JJ <mailto:email@example.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 31, 2005 4:52 PM
Subject: Re: Chants
Thanks so much for your e-mail which caused me to re-visit the family tree once again.
And it caused me to do some more digging. here's what I can tell you after a few hours of going through my files.
First of all, working through Janice Carter's notes on Robert Chant who married Sarah Kellaway.
1. The children (Harriot, John, Christopher) were christened on January 30, 1791
2. The children were christened 10 years after Robert and Sarah were married (which puts their wedding year about 1781)
3. Robert was 22 years of age when married (which puts his birth year about 1759).
My assumption, then, is that his parents would have been born roughly 20-25 years earlier or between 1734 and 1739.
My sources for the information below comes from two Aussie 'Chant' family researchers: Michael Cheeseman and Joan Gray. There is a large Chant contingent in Australia, also from the Stoke Under Ham area of England.
Let's compare this with the records on Robert and Suzannah Chant, the couple that Janice states are a good possibility to have been Robert's parents.
-----------From Files of Michael Cheeseman----------------------------
Robert Chant b 7.10.1719 at Stoke Sub Hamden the son of
Thomas Chant and Mary Virgin. This Robert married Susannah
Tett at Stoke Sub Hamden 6.05.1760 had the following children:
1) Jacob Chant bapt 5.05.1761 Stoke Sub Hamden
2) Mary Chant bapt 6.05.1762 Stoke Sub Hamden
3) Sarah Chant bapt 8.05.1763 Stoke Sub Hamden died pre 1770
4) Susannah Chant bapt 20.04.1766 Stoke Sub Hamden
5) Elizabeth Chant bapt 4.04.1768 Stoke Sub Hamden
6) Sarah Chant bapt 3.04.1770 Stoke Sub Hamden
7) Martha Chant bapt 25.04.1770 Stoke Sub Hamden died pre 1779
8) Robert Chant bapt 30.05.1773 Stoke Sub Hamden
9) Eleanor Chant bapt 18.12.1774 Stoke Sub Hamden died 1775
10)William Chant bapt 8.10.1776 Stoke Sub Hamden
11)Martha Chant bapt 17.04.1779 Stoke Sub Hamden died 12.1784
--------end of transcript-------------------------------------------
Note child # 8 is Robert but he shows being baptised in 1773, not 1791 as in Janice's notes. And his father was born in 1719 which is perhaps 20 years too early and about one generation off. So I've discounted this family connection.
Then I had correspondence with another Aussie, Joan Gray. Here's what she had to report:
----------From files of Joan Gray------------------------------
CHANT. West Chinnock & Stoke sub Hamden
Mary Chant and Mr Chant had a son Robert born 1700, baptised 23/09/1700 and buried 1741 married 1721 to Cecily (unknown),
Robert and Cecily CHANT had 9 children. Brigard (Bridget) baptised 1722 West Chinnock and died before 1732, John baptised 1724 West Chinnock and died before 1727. Robert born 1725, baptised 06/02/1725 and was buried we think 01/07/1810, married 18/10/1750 Chiselborough Elizabeth DAVIS born 03/1727. John born 1727, baptised 23/09/1727 and died 1782 married Dianna TEMPLEMAN, Thomas 1730 West Chinnock died before 1735, Brigard baptised 1732, Elizabeth (Betty) born 1733 married 12/02/1760 to William PATTEN 18/01/1729 - 01/06/1810, Thomas born 1735, and William born 1738 married Ann LONG.
John and Dianna CHANT had 10 children. Dianah 1754 - 1762, Robert born 1756, baptised 15/01/1757 and died 1836, married about 1780 Sarah KELLAWAY 1754 - 1824, John born 1758, buried 25/01/1837, married 24/01/1778 Jane FORD 1759 - 26/09/1826, Joseph 1758 - 1758, Dianah born 1762, Cecily born 1765, George born 1767, Joseph 1768, Diana born 1769 and Job born 1777.
Robert and Sarah CHANT had 7 children. Christopher born Martock, Bower Hinton, Somerset 17/04/1789 and died 19/06/1864 married c1825 to Jane MALE 1800 - 1878, John born 1790, baptised 30/01/1791 and died 1836, Harriet born 30/01/1791, Joseph born 27/06/1792, William born 12/05/1795, died 1851, married Elizabeth MALE on 17/07/1831. Onesiphorus born 30/08/1796 married 12/12/1817 Susanna KINGWELL, and Elizabeth born 1801.
--------End of transcript--------------------------------
Now this fills in the picture and the dates mesh far better. She has Robert born in 1756 (close to our estimate of 1759), marriage in 1780 (Janice reported 1781), Robert's father John born in 1727 (my assumption above had a range of 1734-1739 i.e. 20 to 25 years of age at Robert's birth. The 1727 date would have made him 29 years of age).
Robert married Sarah Kellaway on 2 Apr 1780 in St. John's Parish Church, Yeovil, Odcombe Parish. (Sarah Kellaway was born in 1754,1 died in 1824 and was buried in Odcombe.)
Robert next married Anne Harris Rugg.