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William Woodward and Elizabeth Richards 1760-1830

Very little is known about the William who married Elizabeth Richards. His parents details (John and Hannah Woodward) in the parish records seem at first to be clear-cut, but recent research suggests that there was an error made in the records. Proof that Elizabeth Richards is a direct ancestor has been found from several sources to the point where it is beyond any reasonable doubt. She married a William Woodward in Alcester in 1789 and they had three children. 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 1760/61. The most likely candidate is a William Woodward baptised in Alcester on 25 May 1760, recorded as the son of John & Hannah Woodward. Seven other Williams have been researched in detail, but this 1760 William is still the main contender to be Elizabeth's husband.

William Woodward (1760-1797)

The parish record (below) of William's baptism is short and to the point, devoid of any additional information, as was usual at the time. What makes him a prime candidate to have later married Elizabeth Richards is his location, Alcester, her family home, where she and William had three children baptised and where her sister married a Joseph Woodward. The question is whether the entry in the records is correct.

Parish Record

In the parish record, William's baptism entry is the first of twelve entries written in the same style of handwriting, covering a period of six months. It was common at the time for priests to note down events on scraps of paper then later make up the records in job lots, often when a visit from the bishop was due. It was also necessary to keep a Bishops Transcript copy of the records. Some clerics completed the bishop's copy after each event then updated their own copy later, and vice-versa. This means that in the case of William the records appear to have been added as a six-month block (May to November). The later entry in December is in different hand writing. Also of note is that the next entry to William is of a Hannah which might explain why the records were recorded incorrectly. What is unknown is whether the error was made on the 'scrap' of paper or when the record was written up.

The baptism date makes William 29 years old at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Richards in 1789 - only one year above the average age of marriage for single 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. A 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.

We know nothing about William from 1760 to 1789. The marriage record of William's recorded parents, John and Hannah, cannot be found, neither can their deaths or remarriage etc. The only other child born to a John and Hannah family locally was a Betty Woodward born in 1762 at Quinton near Stratford on Avon. Recent research (2021) suggests that the record of her baptism is incorrect and that her parents were actually Thomas and Hannah Woodward from Stratford, Clifford Chambers and later Quinton. A reference at two baptisms (John Woodward born 1760 and Betty 1762) shows the parents as living at Mote-House near Dorsington. This is a strong pointer to the children being directly related and there are other known errors in the parish records that suggest her father's name was entered incorrectly, a common problem at the time. This then suggests that William 1760 from Alcester was not related to Betty 1762 from Quinton. This would explain why there are no records for the John and Hannah couple - they did not exist! So, where does William come from? An important link to a family from Morton Bagot may answer this question.

Elizabeth Richard's had a younger sister, Sarah, who married a Joseph Woodward in Alcester in 1797. Joseph is almost certainly the son of John Woodward from Morton Bagot and Eleanor Chesier who married in Alcester in 1752. Joseph was born in 1769. He had an older brother, James, who married in 1792 when a William Woodward was a witness. A witness at the wedding of Sarah and Joseph was J. Richards which matches with that of her brother or father. This suggests that Joseph married Elizabeth Richards' younger sister. Sarah and Joseph lived in Alcester and had a son baptised there. Sarah died in 1799 and Joseph then married Sophia Woodbine in 1801. A witness at that wedding was an Elizabeth Woodward, which is most likely to be Elizabeth Richards as was, his sister in law. 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, the name of 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, and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that she was, 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 even in a town like Alcester. The most likely explanation is that William (1760) was not the son of John and Hannah but of John and Eleanor, ie.Joseph's older brother. William fits perfectly into a gap between John and Eleanor's first child; John 1755 and the next known child, Hannah 1762. This would make William the elder brother of both James, and of Joseph who married Sarah Richards mentioned earlier. That means that two of the brothers married the two Richards' sisters in the right age order. This is a very likely scenario.

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 from Caughton, and he could have married a different Sarah Richards. There is a Sarah Richards who was baptised in 1769 in Studley, three miles from Coughton but she did not have a father or brother named John 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 is the out-and-out favourite!

Elizabeth Richards (1762 - 1830)

Research has established a wide range of evidence from different sources to suggest beyond a reasonable doubt that Elizabeth Richards was a direct ancestor. She was baptised in Alcester on 18 October 1762. The Richards family had been in Alcester since at least the 1660s and it is where her Great-Great-Grandfather, Johnathan Richards, married Mary Gould in 1686. 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 . Elizabeth was one of five children born to John Richards and Mary Stiler in Alcester. Mary came from Feckenham, near Inkberrow, Worcestershire. (See Richards & Stiler family tree).

Elizabeth married William Woodward in St Nicholas Church, Alcester on 13 October 1789. The marriage entry and a photo of the church are shown below.

Elizabeth Richards wedding entry
Alcester Church

William and Elizabeth only had three children.

  • Mary Woodward, baptised in Alcester on 18 April 1790, but buried in Alcester in 1811, age 21 years, a spinster.
  • John Woodward, baptised in Alcester on 7 October 1792, who was the only child to survive to adulthood and later married in Inkberrow, Worcs.
  • Ann Woodward, baptised 10 May 1795 in Alcester but who died in 1799 aged four years.

Only having three children was unusual, as the average was five, but it fits with William's early death (1797). If this was when William died then he was only 37 years old at the time. However, 37.1 years was the exact average life expectancy for men in the late 1700s.

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. The copy marriage certificate is shown below. By this time Elizabeth could write her name and her signature matches that on the earlier marriage in October 1801 when she was a witness at the wedding of her brother-in-law and his second wife, Sophia Woodbine. Confirmation that this is also 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, her elder brother. The other witness was Sophia Woodward, the same Sophia mentioned above.

Marr Certificate Willm Phipps

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 a cousin of 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 confirms that it is the same William Phipps as the one who married Elizabeth Wheeler and Ann Hill. (see the Phipps family tree).

William Phipps' two children (sons) from his second marriage 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 Woodward 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. His birth place shown on the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census returns is Alcester, Warwickshire, which fits with the 1841 census. This is another piece of supporting evidence 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 almost certain that Elizabeth Richards married the 1760 William Woodward from Alcester and it seems beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the son of John and Eleanor Woodward not John and Hannah. This then makes him the elder brother of Joseph Woodward who later married Elizabeth's younger sister, Sarah Richards. This now links William 1760 to a Walter Woodward born about 1640 in Morton Bagot, Warwickshire.

Compiled by Graham Woodward, Nottingham, England (UK).