Caroline Vowles (c1794 - ?)

born Caroline Hickman



This page explores the life of my great great great grandmother Caroline Vowles of Wedmore, born Caroline Hickman.


Caroline Hickman was the mother of Amelia Hickman who married Joseph Fisher. She was thus my great great great grandmother.

Caroline was born about 1784 in the wider Wedmore area in the village of Elborough. This information comes from the 1851 census, as no baptismal record has yet come to light.  Consequently we know nothing of her parents. Two records document that she also went by the name of Catherine.

She bore several illegitimate children, by different men:

  • When she was age 21, her daughter Harriott Hickman was baptized on 17 Nov 1805 at Meare as "illegitimate". It was probably the same Harriott, but possibly two cousins, who went on to have two illegitimate daughters, both Sophia Hickman. Both were baptised at Meare: on 04 Sep 1831 and 19 Dec 1847. The records suggest that Harriott died as a young woman. The older Sophia was probably the one who was living with Joseph and Amelia Fisher in the 1851 census.
  • When Caroline was age 27, her son Thomas Coome Hickman was baptized on 28 Jul 1811 at Meare. For this birth Caroline pointed clearly to the father by giving her son the middle name of Coome. There were certainly Coomes in Wedmore at the time.
  • Caroline was age 34 when her daughter Amelia Hickman was baptised on 31 Jul 1818 as the "base Child of James Chandler & Caroline Hickman, Wedmore, Labourer." Amelia was my great great grandmother and has her own page.

Then suddenly Caroline's wayward ways ceased. At the age 36 on 27 Mar 1820 she married - at of course St Marys Parish Church in Wedmore. The groom was George Vowles, and the match was rather a surprising one as he was 15 years younger than her. The couple went on to have three children:

  • William Vowles was baptised on 5 Aug 1821 at Wedmore. This was well over a year after Caroline's marriage, so could not have been the reason behind it. William appeared in the household of Joseph and Amelia Fisher in the 1841 census at Borough, Wedmore.
  • John Vowles was baptised on 4 Dec 1823 at Wedmore. At the time of the 1851 census, he was still with his parents, age 27. He went on to marry Mary Clark on 18 Apr 1859 at Wedmore.
  • Eleanor Vowles was born circa 1825 at Wedmore.

The age of 41, after bearing six children, saw the end of Caroline' childbearing years. The census records of the wider family show that she and the Fishers stayed close to one another. On 15 Apr 1847, it was she who notified the death of her grandchild Jane Hickman Fisher. She gave her name as Catherine, which she had probably decided to use to avoid confusion with other Caroline Vowles in the area. The 1851 census, too, documented her as Caroline.

In spite of the large age gap between Caroline and her husband, she survived him. George Vowles died on 5 Aug 1853 at Wedmore, after a life as an agricultural labourer. He was 53. She was 69.

The 1861 census showed Caroline still at Wedmore, living with her daughter Eleanor as a pauper aged 77. Due to what must have been an administrative oversight, she also appeared in the household of Joseph and Amelia Fisher in the same census. 

As Caroline was not the only Caroline Vowles in the wider Wedmore area at the time, several death records could be hers. However, none seem particularly likely. If she were the "Vowles, Caroline, Deaths 79 June 1891 Axbridge, Somerset 5c", she would have lived to 105. Unlikely as this seems, no more likely records have shown up. Even if I were to go to the expense of buying all the possible death certificates, they probably would not help to identify 'our' Caroline because there is no way of knowing who she would have been living with at the time.