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One of my maternal great-great-grandmothers was Elizabeth Kennard alias COMBER (1838-99). She was born at Cuckfield in mid Sussex, one of the illegitimate children of Richard Kennard (1785-1861) and Mary Ann Comber (1803-51).
<B>Elizabeth Kennard</B> in about 1896 Elizabeth Kennard alias Comber. Photo taken some time after the death of her husband, John DENNETT (died 1895). Photo given to me by Elizabeth's granddaughter Violet Lyle DOWNER (1903-97).
Elizabeth married John Dennett (1836-95) at Brighton in 1861. She married as COMBER. I had been unable to find this marriage as the birth certificate of my great-grandmother, Emily Louise Dennett, gave Elizabeth's maiden name as KENNARD. It was only after meeting Norma Weir who is descended from John and Elizabeth's first child, John Richard Dennett (1863-1932), that we were able to progress. John Richard's birth certificate gave Elizabeth's maiden name as COMBER. Norma had found the marriage but had been unable to find Elizabeth's birth or her census entries. Elizabeth did not name her father on her marriage certificate. John and Elizabeth DENNETT had two other children at Brighton. Violet Downer revealed that her mother, born Annie Lyle Dennett, had been reluctant to allow her and visitors to study family marriage and birth certificates in detail and would remove them from prying eyes after a short time. It would have saved a lot of research if those certificates had been passed down to the right parties!

Richard Kennard (1785-1861) was equally difficult to track down. I found him in the censuses for 1841 and 1851 at Haywards Heath but could not find a marriage for him or the baptisms or births of the five children who were with him. In 1841 a Mary appeared with him in the position one would expect to find a wife. In 1851 Richard was listed as a widower and was the landlord of the Liverpool Arms at Haywards Heath. He said he was born at Cuckfield in about 1786 but there was no baptism for him there. The 1861 census had a Benjamin GODSMARK as the landlord of the Liverpool Arms and two of Richard's children, William and Hannah, were living in the adjoining cottage.

The Liverpool Arms was in Clare Road and was immediately to the east of Haywards Heath Railway station.

Front of Liverpool Arms, Haywards Heath, 1996 The derelict Liverpool Arms, Haywards Heath as seen from the west. Photos taken in August 1996 by Norma Weir, a great-great-granddaughter of Richard Kennard.
The Liverpool Arms as seen from the south, showing the living accomodation on the right. The pub was demolished in spring 1997, about seven years after it closed. Side of Liverpool Arms, Haywards Heath, 1996

There now follows a research story involving many serendipitous finds and many frustrations. If you are only interested in the family I have discovered then skip this section by clicking here.
A chance find while waiting to view a will at Somerset House provided a breakthrough. I occupied myself while waiting by looking to see if Richard Kennard left a will. I was stunned to find that he had died in 1861, just two weeks before the next census. In the will he named his children, some as Coomber and some as Kennard and Elizabeth's paternity was confirmed. Even better, he named his wife and it wasn't Mary but Harriet Fanny. The 1851 census showed a widow, Harriet PATTERSON, in the Liverpool Arms, working as Richard's housekeeper. The question now was, did he actually marry Harriet? Searching the indexes revealed two Richard Kennard marriages in Q3 1851, one in the Lewes area and one in London. I favoured the Lewes area as Harriet was born in Sussex, however, while researching another line in London I had a quick look at one parish (of about 20 possibles) in the correct London registration district. Total luck again! There it was in August and Richard said his father was also Richard, at last a clue. Harriet's maiden name was TURNER.
The IGI had no Richard Kennard, son of Richard but showed that a few Richard Kennards had lived in East Sussex at the required time. The East Sussex Record Office has a very helpful index of all 18th century baptisms so I searched there. No success but I now had a list of the parishes where Richard Kennards lived. Another thought was that Richard senior might also have left a will even though he was only said to be a gardener. Again success and this Richard Kennard (1762-1844) named all his sons including Richard, no address but Richard Kennard senior lived at West Firle. Searching the Firle register confirmed all of Richard senior's sons except Richard junior but there was a five year gap in the right place in the family and in the right time span.
So, no proof but plenty of circumstantial evidence. I now began to study the Firle Kennards in the hope of turning up a link. I discovered that two daughters of both Richard Kennards had the same first names: Hannah and Elizabeth and Richard Kennard senior also had a Lucy. The IGI revealed that a Richard and Mary Ann Kennard had a daughter Lucy baptised at Balcombe. Could this be mine also? A visit to West Sussex Record Office revealed that Richard Kennard was indeed of Haywards Heath and that Lucy had been buried at Cuckfield a few weeks later. I can only think that Richard wanted his sick daughter baptised but did not dare do so at Cuckfield because he was not married to Mary Ann Comber.
While searching the IGI I noticed that there were two baptisms for children of Richard and Fanny Kennard, one for Eliza at Brighton in 1813 and another for Francis at Lewes in 1825. The Cuckfield registers had shown a baptism for Fanny Mary Kennard, aged 16 in 1837 on the same day as Francis Richard Comber aged 6, who Richard Kennard acknowledged as his son in his will. There was a burial for Fanny Kennard senior in 1825 and a burial for Francis Kennard, aged 4, in 1829. The burial register for Cuckfield at that time is fabulously informative, it names the deceased's relatives and their occupations, Richard Kennard was a gamekeeper at Keymer. The IGI revealed marriages for Eliza Kennard at Brighton in 1834 and Fanny Mary Kennard at Lewes in 1839. Mary Ann Kennard was buried at Cuckfield in February 1851. This was just six months before Richard (re-)married, so it's not surprising that he went to London to do so.
I was still not totally convinced but then discovered some facts about two of Richard Kennard senior's other sons: Thomas (1797-?) and Henry (1791-1882). In 1841 Thomas Kennard (1797-?) was living at Keymer and in the same house were Sarah PETERS and a baby, Elizabeth Peters. In 1851 Thomas, Sarah and Elizabeth all appear as Kennard, together with four more children including a Richard and a Lucy. I thought they probably hadn't ever married but a very belated search of the IGI outside the expected dates revealed that they eventually married in 1848 at Keymer. Thomas said his father was Richard, as hoped, he took quite a few years off his age though. In 1849 Thomas and Sarah had their oldest four children baptised at Keymer as Kennard PETERS. Their two youngest were baptised as KENNARD while babies, however there's no sign of the one born soonest after their marriage.
Henry Kennard (1791-1882) married Mary BACK (1790-1870) three weeks after their son, William, was baptised in 1811. William has no surname in the parish register but both parents are named. Henry was later sentenced to transportation for theft, I've yet to discovered whether he went, he lived at Firle later in life. The clincher for me was discovering that Henry's son William Kennard alias BACK, also used the same set of names for his daughters in the same time frame as my Richard Kennard (1785-1861) did.
Repeated occurences of the same slightly dodgy behaviour, aliases and naming patterns. I decided to adopt the Firle Richard Kennard as mine, along with the 200 relatives I had found for him. I also discovered that there had been a Richard HOPE baptised at Firle at the right time (1785) and on the same day as another HOPE child. I strongly suspect that the clerk made an error and copied the surname and parents from the previous entry rather than the correct parents. There is no trace of a Richard Hope of that age at Firle. If anyone can prove me wrong or provide me with another Richard Kennard to fit my tree I am quite happy to amend my ancestry but until then I am fairly well convinced that I have the right person.

A little further evidence discovered a few years after the original research has now confirmed Richard's origins as West Firle beyond all reasonable doubt. The BVRI contains a baptism for another child of Richard's first 'marriage' to Fanny. This child was Warden KENNARD, baptised at Wivelsfield in 1816. Warden is one of the most unusual first names I've seen and the only other Warden KENNARD was baptised at Beddingham in 1810, he was the son of the Firle Richard's older brother William. So Richard was copying the name of one of his nephews. I had previously noticed that there was an unexplained Warden KENNARD at Brighton but as he said he was born at Cuckfield and there was no baptism for him there I thought that line of research was closed. Cuckfield was probably where this Warden spent most of his childhood and it is a very common 'error' for people to assume that they were born in the place that they lived. More unusual facts about Warden later.

Richard Kennard (1785-1861) 'married' three times. The first was to Fanny/Frances (marriage not found), they had Martha at Cuckfield in 1810 and Eliza in 1811. Richard was listed as a Gamekeeper. The same or another Eliza Kennard was baptised at Brighton in 1813 and the register shows Richard as a publican in Carlton Street. Warden was baptised at Wivelsfield in 1816 but his parents were said to be of Keymer, Warden usually said he was born at Cuckfield. Richard and Fanny also had Fanny Mary Kennard in 1820 and Francis in 1825. Fanny senior was buried at Cuckfield in 1825 and was of Keymer where Richard again worked as a Gamekeeper.
Richard definitely did not marry his second 'wife'. She was Mary Anne COMBER, they had six children at Keymer and Cuckfield. Originally it was thought that only one was baptised, Francis Richard COMBER at Cuckfield in 1837 (aged 6), the same day as Fanny Mary KENNARD (aged 16), Richard's daughter from his first marriage. Close inspection of the IGI and the parish registers showed that Richard and Mary Anne's last child Lucy KENNARD was baptised at Balcombe in 1847 and buried two weeks later at Cuckfield. The Balcombe register states that Richard was of Haywards Heath, I assume they travelled to Balcombe to baptise the sick Lucy so as not to be questioned about not being married. The other children were William, Mary, Elizabeth and Hannah. The BVRI revealed that William was baptised as William Kennard COMBER, son of Mary, at Wivelsfield in 1829 but he always appears as William KENNARD in all other documentation, including his father's will. Hannah married a few weeks after her father's will was published in 1861 naming her as Hannah KENNARD but she married as Hannah Kennard COMBER. Like her sister Elizabeth she did not name her father on the certificate.
Eventually I found that both Hannah and Elizabeth were actually baptised. They were done on the same day at Brighton in 1846 as Elizabeth Kennard COMBER and Hannah Mary Kennard COMBER, daughters of Mary Anne. Elizabeth was then about eight years old and Hannah was about five, both always said they were born at Cuckfield. Richard named both Elizabeth and Hannah as KENNARD in his will (also William) so he may have been unaware that his 'wife' Mary Anne had had them all baptised. Richard had been careful to assure that his son Francis Richard COMBER was mentioned by his legal name, presumably Richard was present at that baptism as it was done at Cuckfield along with a daughter from his first 'marriage'.
Elizabeth and Hannah were probably baptised at Brighton because Mary Anne was visiting her younger sister Zilpah who had recently moved there from Wivelsfield. Zilpah had her first child Warden Kennard COMBER baptised at Wivelsfield in 1834. Later children were with Warden KENNARD who she married at Lewes six months after having their first child. They appear at Brighton in the 1851 census, probably having moved there in 1844. Warden had been a Miller at Wivelsfield but he was committed for trial at Quarter Sessions in 1845 (acquitted and discharged - accused of stealing some wood). At Brighton he was only a labourer. If you read the story of my research tribulations you will have noticed that the name of Warden KENNARD is familiar. He was the son of Richard Kennard and his first 'wife' Frances. So Warden married Zilpah COMBER, the sister of his stepmother, Richard's second 'wife' Mary Anne COMBER. The Sussex Family History Group Marriage Index revealed that Warden KENNARD and Zilpah COMBER did eventually marry. If Richard KENNARD and Mary Anne COMBER had actually been married it would probably have been illegal for Warden and Zilpah to marry.
Warden's statement in the court case of 1845 mentioned his father of Haywards Heath, his father-in-law Thomas COMBER of Wivelsfield and his brother-in-law Stephen VINCENT (married Fanny Mary KENNARD at Lewes in 1839). Stephen Vincent worked on the Railway and the Vincents moved to Nottinghamshire after having several children at Wivelsfield and (probably) one or two at Brighton. Warden's sister Martha adds another complication when drawing a tree. She married John BATCHELOR at Brighton in 1831, John Batchelor was the uncle of John DENNETT who married Elizabeth Kennard COMBER, Martha's half sister. Martha married for a second time in 1878 (at the age of 68!) and gave her father's name as Richard Kennard. Her 1881 census entry shows her born at Cuckfield in 1810/1 which agrees with her baptism entry.
Richard Kennard (1785-1861) did marry his 'third' wife, Harriet Fanny PETERSON (née TURNER). They married in August 1851, only six months after the death of Mary Anne. They went up to London to do so, possibly to avoid comments at home. Harriet was still just of child-bearing age so that might account for her death in 1854. Richard Kennard mainly worked as a pub landlord in pubs that catered for working men at Brighton and Haywards Heath with a spell as a gamekeeper at Keymer in between. He was buried at Cuckfield in 1861 and left a will which helped unravel some of his rather complicated marital history.

Richard Kennard (1785-1861) was almost certainly born at Firle, East Sussex in 1785, the second son of Richard Kennard (1762-1844) and Mary BELTON (1759-99). Richard senior and Mary married at Alfriston in 1781. Richard and Mary had seven children at Firle (official records know it as West Firle but there isn't an East Firle!). Their first son, William (1782-1874), had 11 children and many of them and their descendants moved to Beddingham. Richard and Mary's fifth child, Henry (1791-1882), only had one son, William, but William had eight children at Rodmell. Several of these children used the surname of BACK as their father had been baptised before his parents married. Henry Kennard (1791-1882) was sentenced to seven years transportation in 1826 for theft. It's not clear whether he went but he was living with his wife at Firle in 1851, his whereabouts in 1841 are not known. Richard Kennard senior left a will when he died in 1844, his son Henry was one of his executors, the other was William PECKHAM, widower of Richard's daughter Lucy (1794-1839). In his will Richard Kennard said he was a yeoman.

Richard Kennard senior (1762-1844) was the first child of Thomas Kennard (1738-1809) and Judith POLLINGTON (1741-96). Thomas and Judith married at Firle in 1762 and had nine children there, five died as babies. Their three surviving sons married and had families; Richard (1762-1844) and William (1769-1850) stayed at Firle but the youngest son, Thomas (1778-1818), moved to the nearby village of Beddingham.

Thomas Kennard (1738-1809) was the second son of William Kennard (1714?-71) and Lucy FITNESS (1708-66). William and Lucy married at Ringmer in 1736, they probably had seven children at Firle but baptisms have only been found for four of them. Kennard descendants are only known for Thomas (1738-1809) but two of William and Lucy's daughters did marry and have children in the area. Lucy junior (1744-98) had an illegitimate daughter Lucy (1767-?) who married Thomas COLLINGHAM in 1786. Lucy junior (1744-98) married Richard ELLMAN (1752-1830) who was part of the family which bred the original Southdown sheep.

William Kennard(1714?-71)'s ancestry is not known for certain. There were two Williams baptised in the immediate area, one at Beddingham and the other at Firle. There are also possibilities further afield.

I have a great deal of information about the Kennards/Kenwards of Firle and Beddingham due to studying them in detail in order to determine the parents of Richard (1785-1861).

For information about other KENNARDs and KENWARDs visit Dave Kenward's website. This site contains links to other associated sites.

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