More on the Sewards

Seeing this blog, a gentleman contacted me some while ago. He is a descendant of Richard Hall who was a member of Beddome's congregation for some time and, like William Snooke another member of the congregation, married a Seward daughter, Eleanor. (Snooke married Frances on June 11, 1751, in a memorable “double” – Frances' aunt Grace Seward (widow of the martyr William Seward) marrying Josiah Roberts on the same day in the same church.) The gentleman in question (MR) has done a lot of research on Hall using the notebooks and diaries he left.

He says that shortly after Richard's wedding to Eleanor Seward (1733-1780) at Badsey Church near Bengeworth, on February 21, 1753 the Hall and Seward families left for London. Richard then writes in his diary:
“I had scarcely entered into the Marriage state before I was called deeply to sympathise with my Partner in the unexpected Death of her worthy father. Mr [Benjamin] Seward and his wife [Elizabeth] had left Bengeworth after the time of my marriage in order to visit London, where he was seized of fever which terminated in his death March 30, 1753. His last words were “Sweet Jesus, Come! Come!” His remains were interred in Bunhill Fields burying ground in a vault which Bro. William and I had built for him.”
The epitaph was apparently written by Beddome and is on the tomb:

Whoever knew the man, with sweeping eyes
Must read his mournful epitaph
Here lies the tenderest husband Providence could send.
The kindest father and the warmest friend.
The scholar, Gentleman and Christian too
what more could Grace, what more could Nature do?
Sound was his judgment, just were all his ways.
Ever applauding yet not fond of praise.
With feet he trod the Heavenly road.
Here sleeps his body but his soul is with God

Benjamin Seward's wife (his second wife Elizabeth) remained in London until her death which occurred on January 29 1754 at the age of 58. Her remains were interred in the same vault. "Thus" Richard remarked in his diary “both left their house at Bengeworth and never returned it to it. Oh how wondrous are the ways of the Lord, but he gives no account of any of his matters.” As noted previously, in her will Elizabeth left the income from £4,550 to various Baptist causes. This charitable trust was to be overseen by seven Baptist ministers,
including the minister at Bengeworth, Dr John Gill and Beddome from Bourton. Richard Hall and William Snooke were the executors of the will – and also the residuary beneficiaries.
MR refers to the great financial effect the sudden demise of both Mr and Mrs Seward would have had upon Hall’s fortunes. He explains how in the 18th Century a single woman had extensive rights to own property – but those rights disappeared on marriage. In legal parlance when she became his wife Eleanor ceased to be a feme-sole and became a feme covert – under her husband’s protection, but equally, her husband’s property. It is highly likely that before Eleanor “entered into the married state”, Benjamin Seward would have paid a dowry – and in return Eleanor would have been granted a guaranteed “pension” in the event of Richard’s death. Any property owned by Eleanor became Richard’s on February 21, and anything she acquired after that date passed to him and not to her.
MR has seen a surviving letter from Frances Snooke (March 29 1765). It shows that Richard had been asked to let his son William, then 11, visit the Snooke family at Bourton. She writes "Thank you for your very acceptable letter – the more so as it gives us the agreeable prospect of seeing our Dear Billy so soon at Bourton. We think the journey and Country Air will be very serviceable to our Dear Nephew." The same letter contained words of comfort from Frances to her sister. "I am sorry you complain of such a dark and uncomfortable frame of Soul … you seem my dear Sister to have the desires of Faith tho’ you have not the Joys of it. It is a great Mercy to experience the former and a strong Encouragement to hope that in the Lord’s time you will possess the latter".

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