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William Woodward (c. 1760-1797)

Born about 1760; Father, mother and place/date of birth unconfirmed. Married Elizabeth Richards 13 September 1789 in Alcester; Possible date of death 26 May 1797 in Alcester.

Very little is known about William. Details of his date of birth, his parents and his death are all uncertain. Proof that his wife was Elizabeth Richards has been found from several different sources to the point where it is beyond any reasonable doubt - her details are shown below. She married William in Alcester in 1789 and they had three children before William died. William must have died sometime before 1804 when Elizabeth married for a second time. We don't know precisely when William died, but the most likely date in the parish records is 26 May 1797 at Alcester.

Based on the average age of marriage in the mid to late 1700s, ie. 28 years for a man and 26 years for a woman, William would have been born sometime between 1758-62. Also based on statistics that it was common for a woman to marry in her home parish, and common for couples to have their first child baptised in the woman's home parish, the most likely candidate is a William Woodward baptised in Alcester on 25 May 1760, the son of John Woodward and Hannah.

Seven other William Woodwards have been researched in detail, but this 1760 William is still the main contender to be Elizabeth's husband, as he fits so many of the required parameters. (Details of the research into the other possible Williams can be found on the Other Williams page.)

1760 William Woodward from Alcester

William's baptism record

Fig.1: Baptism record for William Woodward, 25 May 1760 in Alcester, Warwickshire.

The William baptised in Alcester in 1760, the son of John and Hannah Woodward, is a perfect match to be the husband of Elizabeth Richards. Of significance is that his baptism is in Alcester where Elizabeth Richards came from, and where all three of William and Elizabeth's children were baptised.

The baptism date for William makes him 29 years old at the time of his marriage - only one year above the average age of first-time marriage for men at that time. This William was also two years older than Elizabeth Richards, an average age gap that has been the norm in England and Wales for over 300 years. The William death in Alcester in 1797 would account for why the family only had three children, with the last child born in 1795, and this fits with Elizabeth's re-marriage in 1804 to William Phipps.

The marriage record of William's parents, John and Hannah Woodward, cannot be found. A Betty Woodward was baptised at Quinton (Lower Quinton), formerly Gloucestershire but now Warwickshire, in 1762 to a couple of the same name and she is the only other child in the records born to this couple. Quinton is 8 miles from Alcester where William was born, but the parish record for Betty's baptism states that John and Hannah came from Mote House, which is a manor house at Dorsington, only 4½ miles from Alcester. There is also a John Woodward baptised at Quinton in 1760 to a Thomas and Hannah Woodward from Mote House. It is almost certain that this is a Thomas Woodward and Hannah Charlwood family from Stratford-on-Avon and Clifford Chambers and that means they must be related to John and Hannah due to the tiny size of the village (the population of Dorsington in 1851 was only 98 people).

Dorsington church and half the village burnt down in 1754. The church was rebuilt by 1760 but by that time many of the original residents, mostly agricultural labourers, would have settled elsewhere. Although Betty's baptism in 1762 was at Quinton, it seems that John and Hannah returned to the Mote House, Dorsington, but still used Quinton Church, and Alcester was their nearest market town.

Before the Dorsington information came to light it seemed unlikely that William would have returned to Alcester to marry Elizabeth Richards after his move to Quinton. However, now with the knowledge that they lived at Dorsington only 4½ miles from Alcester, the nearest large town, the possibility of their meeting later is much more likely.

However ..

Although the 1760 William from Alcester is the strongest contender to have been Elizabeth Richards' husband, what still needs to be answered is the matter of the possible relationship between Elizabeth's husband and that of her brother in law, Joseph Woodward, from Coughton, Warwickshire.

There is a marriage in 1797 in Coughton, 3 miles from Alcester, of a Sarah Richards to a Joseph Woodward. Joseph is almost certainly the son of John Woodward and Eleanor (Chester) from Morton Bagot and later Alcester. They had a Joseph in 1769 at Coughton. A witness at the wedding of Sarah and Joseph was John Richards which matches with that of Sarah and Elizabeth's father. This suggests that Joseph married Elizabeth Richards' younger sister. Sarah died in 1799 and Joseph then married Sophia Woodbine (1801). A witness at that wedding was an Elizabeth Woodward, which could be Elizabeth Richards as was, or Joseph's cousin Elizabeth from Morton Bagot, which is less likely. If it was Elizabeth's sister who died, this would account for why a Sophia Woodward was a witness at the wedding of Elizabeth to William Phipps in 1804 after her first husband, William Woodward, died. There is no other Sophia Woodward that can be found. The other witness was Samuel Richards, probably Elizabeth's eldest brother, which confirms that the re-marriage to William Phipps was that of Elizabeth Richards.

If the Sarah Richards that married Joseph Woodward was Elizabeth's sister, then it seems likely that Joseph and William were related in some way; it would be very odd for two sisters to marry two unrelated Woodwards in such a small place as Coughton. If they were related, that relationship cannot yet be established. Until it is confirmed, one way or another, there is doubt about the 1760 William Woodward as being Elizabeth Richards' husband. There are no other William and Joseph brothers or cousins of the right age that Elizabeth and Sarah could have married.

Of course, it could be the case that they are not related. Joseph might just be another Woodward living in Caughton, and he could have married a different Sarah Richards. There is a Sarah Richards who was baptised in 1769 in Studley, 3 miles from Coughton. She was the daughter of William Richards and Mary (Brockington) from Morton Bagot, the home village of Joseph Woodward's grandfather. There is no obvious marriage for this second Sarah Richards, and no obvious death, which leaves a modicum of doubt. However, she did not have a father or brother named John or Samuel which would therefore not match the witnesses at the weddings mentioned above. If it came down to placing bets on who Joseph married, Sarah the sister of Elizabeth would be the front runner!

Elizabeth Richards (1762 - 1830)

Baptised 18 October 1762 in Alcester; Married 13 September 1789 in Alcester; Died 28 May 1830 at Inkberrow (aged 68). Father John Richards from Alcester. Mother Mary Stiler from Feckenham. Children: Mary Woodward, John Woodward and Ann Woodward. Second husband: 1804 - William Phipps from Inkberrow.

Research has established a wide range of evidence from different sources to suggest beyond a reasonable doubt that Elizabeth Richards was a direct ancestor.

Elizabeth Richards was baptised in Alcester on 18 October 1762. The Richards family had been in Alcester since at least the 1680s when Elizabeth's Great-Great-Grandfather, Johnathan Richards, married Mary Gould. Their son, Samuel Richards, married Sarah Dunn in 1724 at Old Swinford, Worcestershire, but then lived in Alcester. Their son, John Richards, Elizabeth's father, married Mary Stiler in 1754 at Alcester (see Stiler/Richards family tree).

Elizabeth Richards was one of seven children born to John Richards and Mary Stiler. Her mother came from Feckenham, near Inkberrow, Worcestershire, and her father came from Alcester. Elizabeth's younger sister, Sarah Richards, most likely married a Joseph Woodward in Alcester in 1797. Joseph's parents were John Woodward and Eleanor Chesier (Chester or Cheshire), who lived in Alcester then Coughton, but whose roots were in Morton Bagot. Sarah Woodward (nee Richards) died on 18 April 1799 at Alcester. Jonathan Richards was a witness at the wedding of Elizabeth to William Woodward (below).

Fig 2: Copy of the marriage entry for William Woodward and Elizabeth Richards.

William Woodward and Elizabeth Richards were unusual in that they only had three children (the average was six). This supports the belief that a William death in Alcester in 1797 was that of Elizabeth's husband. If this was William's death then he was only 37 years old at the time, based on the premise that she married the 1760 William from Alcester. However, 37.1 years was the exact average life expectancy for men in the late 1700s.

Only one of William and Elizabeth's children survived to adulthood. Mary, the eldest child, died in 1811 in Alcester, a spinster age 21. John married in Inkberrow where he lived all his adult life, and Ann, the youngest child, died in 1799 in Alcester.

Further support for William having died is that an Elizabeth Woodward married William Phipps (a widower) at Alcester in 1804 and then went to live at Inkberrow, close to her mother's home village of Feckenham. Confirmation that this is Elizabeth Richards comes from the fact that she is shown as a widow, and because one of the witnesses at the wedding was Samuel Richards (Elizabeth's brother). The other witness was Sophia Woodward, the same Sophia who married Joseph Woodward in Coughton, whose first marriage was to a Sarah Richards, Elizabeth's younger sister.

William Phipps came from Inkberrow, six miles from Alcester. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Wheeler on 30 December 1787 at Alcester, who died on 5 August 1789 in Alcester. Elizabeth Richards was a witness at their wedding, so she already knew William Phipps before she married him in 1804. Elizabeth Wheeler was related to Diana Wheeler whose daughter later married Elizabeth Richard's son, John Woodward. William Phipps' second marriage was to Anne Hill at Alcester on 6 October 1796 and they had two children. Ann Phipps died and William Phipps then married Elizabeth Woodward at Alcester on 3 April 1804. The fact that the marriage record shows William Phipps to be a widower and Elizabeth Woodward as a widow helps to confirm that it is the same William Phipps as the one who married Elizabeth Wheeler and Ann Hill and the same Elizabeth Woodward that was formerly Elizabeth Richards (see the Phipps family tree).

Fig 3: Copy of the marriage entry for William Phipps and Elizabeth Woodward.

William Phipps had two sons from his second marriage who both lived and married in Inkberrow. Elizabeth's son, John Woodward, who also married at Inkberrow and lived there all his life, is shown on the 1841 census as living next door to William Phipps' sons. Confirmation that it is the same John comes from John's birth place which is stated to be "outside the county" of Worcester. This matches with his birth in Alcester, Warwickshire. He was living at Edgiock, Inkberrow, on the Ridgeway at the time. His birth place shown on the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns is Alcester, Warwickshire, which fits with the 1841 census. This helps support the fact that the Elizabeth Woodward who married William Phipps and then lived in Inkberrow is Elizabeth Richards from Alcester.

There is no death of an Elizabeth Phipps in Inkberrow. However, the National Burial Index (NBI) shows the burial of an Elizabeth Phillips, aged 68, on 28 May 1830 at St Peters Church, Inkberrow. The age shown in the index matches perfectly with that of Elizabeth Richards' birth year (1762).

William Phipps died on 27 February 1834, at the Ridgeway, Inkberrow, aged 70.


It is highly likely that Elizabeth Richards married the 1760 William from Alcester. Research into links with a Hawtin/Horton/Howton/Houghton family (the Hortons) in Stratford on Avon and Alcester helps support this theory. It's significant that Elizabeth's brothers both married Hortons, and records have been found showing that a possible John and Hannah couple from Quinton and Stratford had relatives that also married Hortons. (More details can be found on the John and Hannah page).

The presumed relationship between William Woodward and Elizabeth Richards' brother-in-law Joseph Woodward is still a mystery. More research is needed into the Richards family and Joseph's family from Morton Bagot, Warwickshire.

For the moment, the evidence all points to the fact that Elizabeth Richards married the William Woodward born in Alcester in 1760.