Ratcliffe Rochester (1823 – 1900)

Ratcliffe Rochester is one of those characters in my family history that intrigues me. He is my 3x great grandfather, he was a waterman of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne he married firstly a prostitute, secondly cohabited with my 3x great grandmother Margaret Leggett before his final and second marriage in 1875. He comes across as an all-round good guy, but full of mystery and here is what I know about him.

My Relationship to Ratcliffe Rochester

Ratcliffe ROCHESTER (1823 – 1900)
3rd great-grandfather

George Rochester WOODS (1863 – 1911)
son of Ratcliffe ROCHESTER

Mary Ann WOODS (1908 – 1982)
daughter of George Rochester WOODS

William Llewellyn BEAN (1931 – )
son of Mary Ann WOODS

Christine Angela Deborah BEAN (1957 – )
daughter of William Llewellyn BEAN

Stephen Robert KUTA
I am the son of Christine Angela Deborah BEAN

Ratcliffe Rochester was baptised on the 29th June 1823 in All Saints Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, he was the youngest of four known children born to the following couple, Anne Walton (1791 – 1866)  and another Ratcliffe Rochester born in May 1793, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His burial is recorded in Greenwich, London in September 1823. I have only a snippet of information as to what Ratcliffe the elder was doing in London in 1823, ‘he was a seaman’ although I have no idea what could have caused his death at such a young age. He was 31 years old.
Ratcliffe Rochester the elder died onboard HMS Grampus.

On the official foundation of the (merchant) Seamens’ Hospital Society, the Admiralty allocated it the ‘Grampus’, 50 guns, to be moored as a hospital ship ‘for seamen of all nations’ off Greenwich, as shown here. This was considered the best place for taking sick seamen on board, with good shore communication, and was also close to the Greenwich Hospital Infirmary. ‘Grampus’ was replaced with the ‘Dreadnought’ in 1827 – source: Royal Museums Greenwich.

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HMS ‘Grampus’ as a hospital ship off Greenwich

Ratcliffe the younger would have been only a few months old at the time of his fathers death.

Ratcliffe’s family continued to reside in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

By 1841, Ratcliffe was in residence at Lawrence Bank, Newcastle and listed as living with the Davidson and Marshall Family. The Marshall family had close ties with the Rochesters and were cousins although the full connection for this household is yet to be researched.

By 1844, Ratcliffe appears in Aberdeen, Scotland and On the 25th November 1844 in Saint Nicholas Church, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Ratcliffe aged 21 is recorded as marrying 19 year old Margaret Buck a scottish girl born about 1825 in Aberdeen.
Margaret Buck in 1841 served time in North Parish & Old Machar Prison for prostitution, she was 15 years old.
Whether or not, Ratcliffe Rochester knew Margaret prior to prison is a mystery, a story that has been long lost.

The marriage was a barren one, and Margaret died in the March quater of 1863 aged 38 in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
During those years of marriage Ratcliffe was (like his father before him) employed as a seaman. By 1861 he was recorded as a labourer.

All Round Good Guy

I have always imagined Ratcliffe to be a guy with a good heart, good strong principles and morally responsible. Firstly his marriage to Margaret (for whatever reason behind the marriage, their seems to be some principle / responsibility to it.)
After her death in early 1863, he began a relationship with Margaret Leggett (my 3x great-grandmother) she was born in Gorleston, Suffolk, England in April 1842, so putting aside the twenty year age gap. Margaret had been abandoned (or seemed to be) by her partner / husband John Jeffries Woods a mariner also of Gorleston, Suffolk. The couple settled in Newcastle about 1861 / 1862 and very quickely the relationship had broken down.

I have no idea as to why the couple Margaret and John had separated, I’m not even sure if they were ever married, although the couple did have two children together – Margaret Ann Woods born 3 December 1859, in Friars Lane, Yarmouth, Norfolk, England and John George Woods born on the 5th January 1862, at 6 Dean Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne.
John George Woods died when he was about 7 months old at 15 Painter Heugh, Newcastle Upon Tyne from Dentitis and Convulsions.
Painter Heugh was a mooring area on the Tyne River, and probably a very poor area of the city.
The separation of Margaret Leggett and John Jeffries Woods had already happened by this point. As a friend Sophia Price registered the death of the child.

By the early months of 1863 Margaret Leggett was recorded as cohabiting with Ratcliffe Rochester and their ten year + love affair began.

The following years will add further mystery to Ratcliffe Rochester and Margaret Leggett, marriage, disapearance, death…

To be continued…

For further reading – What happened to Margaret Leggett?
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