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The Infamous Sarah Bradbeare (1664-1719)
of Pitminster

Sarah is first recorded in the year 1686 in Pitminster, Somerset. The record is not an auspicious one being the entry in the accounts of the overseers of the poor: "Laid out for a guard upon Sarah BRADBEARE and for a horse to carry her to the justice. 3 shillings". The Quarter Sessions record has not been found, but it is known from the parish register of St. Mary and St. Andrew that her "baseborn" son William Bradbeare was baptised on 3rd April 1687 so it was obviously a "bastardly" hearing. The father is not known.

It is probable that someone, either the child's father or Sarah's parents, were taking care of her as there are no more papers to Sarah until 1690: "Relief Sarah Bradbeare, 15 shillings". The reason for this payment is not stated but turning again to the Parish Register, we find: "Base. Thomas BRODBEARE sonn of Sarah Bradbeare was baptiz the 10th day of March 1688/9." and in 1691. "Laid out for a summon for John BAGSTER and a warrant for Sarah Brodbeare, 1/6d.” These two items are not necessarily connected, the clerk may have had two separate documents to write and sent in one bill, but it is possible that John Bagster was the father of baby Thomas. By now the reader will understand the inclusion of "infamous" in the title but the sorry story is not yet ended!

In 1694 Sarah was a considerable drain on the village economy. The overseers' accounts continue with:

  • Paid out for a guard for Sarah Brodbeare, ten days and for bread and beer for her. 14/6d.
  • Paid out for a waistcoat and mittimas (summons) 2/- Paid to Richard HERRING's wife for keeping Sarah Brodbeare's two children and make one charge? 6/2d
  • Paid for a deliberatum (setting free) for Sarah Brodbeare out of bridwell (lock-up). 1/-
  • For her child. 1/6d. For beding. 5/6d. For linen and woolen. 3/6d
  • Paid for carage of her bed? and Turne?
  • Paid to bridwell keeper for Sarah Brodbeare's fees. 7/6d
The above could be explained by a baptism entry.
  • Base. John ye son of Sarah Bradbeare was Baptiz ye 15th day of March 1695/6. (the baptism was probably delayed until she was free).

In 1696 she received a total of £3-3-8d., in 1697 £3-10-0., in 1698 £2-4-6d and in 1699 £4-4-0 in relief. But also in 1699:
  • Layd out for a guard uppon Sarah Bradbeare and for carrying her to her justice to name a father to her child. 2/- (she was at it again!!)

Mary Bradbeare was baptised 14th July 1700 baseborn daughter of Sarah Bradbeare. There are further entries in the accounts in 1703-4 and in 1706 we find:

Paid to Sarah Bradbeare for tending Thomas Bradbeare in his sickness. 1/9d Also to Sarah and her child in their sickness and intendance £1-2-0.

In the next few years only small amounts of 6d to 1/6d were paid to Sarah, some being "in her sickness" or "in her distress". In 1715 on the 13th February, Sarah was finally married, to one Richard BROOKS. Little is known of him or why he married her, it would be very interesting to find out.

The final overseers entries are,

  • 1719 Paid for a coffin for Sarah BROOK. 7/6d
  • 1720 Paid for a coffin for Richard Brooks. 7/6d Wool to put in coffin. 6d. Grave and affidevit. 1/6d.

Sarah was buried 3rd May 1719. Richard was buried 7th April 1720.

There is some doubt about Sarah's parents as no baptism entry for Sarah has been found. There are several possible couples but I consider it most likely that she was born about 1664 daughter of Thomas Bradbeare and Joan (nee HERRING). They married in 1664 and also in that year the overseers' accounts show "To Thomas Bradbeare's child, £1-19-0d:” . There is little doubt that Sarah was born in Pitminster as otherwise she would not have qualified for Poor Relief but would have been removed to her home parish.

If Sarah was indeed the child of Thomas and Joan, then we can trace her descent back two more generations. Thomas, bapt. 1638 was the son of Thomas, bapt. 1601, and Priscilla (nee GATCHELL) and he was the son of Robert (wife's name not given in baptism register).

The descendants of Sarah are numerous, several of my correspondents count her among their ancestors. These are all descended from her son John. Of the other three children only Thomas is known to have married, to Damares STAGG, widow, of Taunton in 1718 at Staplegrove and later to Sarah BURGE at Creech St. Michael in 1745. There is no trace of issue from either marriage. There is a very interesting "Settlement Examination" dated 1745 of Thomas detailing his apprenticeship, employment and both marriages.

John BRADBEAR, Sarah's third son, married Margaret POMEROY at Pitminster in 1722. John and Margaret had four (or five) children, Mary in 1724, Samuel and Joseph (twins?) in 1726?, John in 1728 all baptised at Pitminster Fulwood Independent Church and also probably, Betty 1734 baptised Wilton St. George.

The family tree chart for this branch of the BRADBEERs (my largest) extends to twelve A4 pages. I have often thought what their surname would have been if Sarah had been married to John's father!

Published on Nathanville with the kind permission of: -

Tony Milward, “Bradbeer One-name Study" -

Many thanks to Stephen Fawcett (one of Sarah's descendants) for the transcription and translation of the Pitminster Overseers of the Poor and Churchwardens accounts.

First published in the Bradbeer Newsletter No. 1O, Autumn 2001.
Also published in the Somerset & Dorset Family History Society Vol.27 No.3

In 1832 John and Hannah's fifth child, Frederick OATEN (1813-1888) married Dinah BRADBEER at St. Giles Church, Thurloxton, near Bridgwater. Dinah being the great-great-granddaughter of the infamous Sarah Bradbeare of 1664.

Also see: -

The Oaten Family History
The Oaten Family Photo Album
The Stickler Roots
The Infamous Sarah Bradbeare