Maria Smith (1817-????)




1817 in Upwell, Cambridgeshire.


Mother: Elizabeth (Smith)
Father: N.N. Smith






1) 18?? John Breeze, agricultural labourer
(b. 1801 - see 1841 census, died about 1845 - see newspaper reports below.)


1837 John Jnr. (died young ?, see 2nd. John, 1847)
1841 Elizabeth
1843 Anna Maria
1845 William

In the 1851 census, Maria is shown as "Head of Household" so John Breeze must have died defore then. In a newspaper report from 1852 (see below) Maria "has been a "widow about seven years, and has four children living."
This would suggest his year of death as "about 1845".
In a further newspaper report from 1859 Maria said "her husband had been dead for fourteen years", i.e. since 1845.

So (even allowing for faulty memory) John Breeze is probably not the father of this child…

1847 John

and he is definitely not the father of these children…

1852 Unnamed, died during or after birth (see below)
1859 Rose Elvina Breeze
(In the birth certificate, "Father" was left blank)


A possible second marriage…
2) 1864 Thomas Brown in Wisbeach, Norfolk.







In 1852 Maria Breeze was charged with concealing the birth of a child and with it's murder.

Cambridge Chronicle, 6 March 1852 In February 1852 neighbours informed the police of Maria's suspicious behaviour. They had previously observed that Maria had been pregnant. When they later noticed her change of appearance, they were puzzled that no child was to be seen. The police searched Maria's house and discovered the body of a baby, hidden beneath a pile of coals.

Norfolk News, 6 March 1852 At the inquest Maria claimed the child had been dead on birth, and not knowing what to do with it, had buried it under the coals; the examining doctor believed the baby had died by suffocation.

Cambridge Chronicle, 20 March 1852 The Coroner, in his summing up, said that it was extremely difficult to tell if the child had been born dead or suffocated after birth. So Maria was therefore committed to trial only on a charge of concealment of birth.

At her trial she was found guilty and sentenced to one months imprisonment with hard labour.

Bury and Norfolk Post, March, 1852
Cambridge Chronicle, February, March 1852
Norfolk Herold, March, 1852
Norfolk News, March, 1852

In 1853 a Maria Breeze was in the papers again…
Cambridge Independent Press, 31 December 1853 Maria Breeze, stealing a quantity of groceries. Cambridge Independent Press, 31 December 1853
I don't know if this is "our" Maria Breeze, as only a name is given, without any distinguishing details.

And in 1859 Maria Breeze (this time definitely "our" Maria !) was in the papers again !

Jacob Wade, a farmer of Outwell, was summoned for the support of the illegitimate child of Maria Breeze. He denied being the father and in a further hearing, the case was found proved, and he was ordered to pay Maria 1s. 6d. a week.

Jacob Wade appealed against the verdict, and in the following trial, he was able to prove that he could not have been the father.
This was an appeal against an order of bastardy whereby the appellant, who is a farmer
Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 22 October 1859 and surveyor of Upwell, was adjudged to pay for the respondant's illegitimate child. The respondant has been before the court before, some years since, charged with concealing the birth of a former illegitimate child.
It was also proved that Maria Breeze had said that the child was not Wade's but she had sworn it for revenge.
The Bench quashed the order. Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 22 October 1859
The name of the child is not mentioned in the newspaper reports, but Rose Elvina Breeze was born in 1859 and Maria's previous child was born in 1852, so my first thought was that Rose was most probably the child referred to here. However, the conception was allegedly during the "Wisbech Statute"*, in September 1858, and Rose was born in January 1859, so the dates don't tally.

So which child did Maria mean ?

Following up on this report from the October Quarter Sessions, in December 1859 three people were charged with perjury.
Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 31 December 1859 Henry Harry Amos, James Housden, and Elizabeth Lefever, were charged upon the information of Mr. Supt. Stocking with having, on the 19th day of October last, in the parish of Holy Trinity of Ely, falsely, wilfully, wickedly, and corruptly committed wilfull and corrupt perjury in the testimony of a certain appeal before Her Majesty's Justices of the Peace ...
The further hearing of the case was adjourned until Saturday, at one o'clock. Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 31 December 1859

The "certain appeal" mentioned here is the appeal, above, by Jacob Wade against the bastardy order from Maria Breeze.

And on Saturday at one o'clock… ?
The CHAIRMAN said said they had given the case every attention, and were unanimously
Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 7 January 1860 of opinion that there was not enough evidence to justify a conviction. At the same time it was evident that perjury had been comitted on one side or the other, and he grieved to say it was very frequently committed, especially in cases of bastardy. [...] Mr NAYLOR [ed.: defence lawyer] ... was prepared to prefer a charge of perjury against the girl Breeze, and to substantiate that charge by independent witnesses. A hint from teh Bench that his clients were still open to indictment at the sessions, however, induced him at once to let the matter rest where it was. Cambridgeshire Chronicle, 7 January 1860
* Wisbech Statute Fair: an annual corn market and fair.

Time line
Date Given
Event Source material(s)
1817 Born in Upwell, CambridgeshireCensus images
06.06.184124UK CensusCensus image
30.03.185134UK CensusCensus image
Mar. 1852Jailed for concealment of birthNewspaper images
Dec. 1853Jailed for theft (poss.)Newspaper images
Oct. 1859Court case for bastardy order (quashed!)Newspaper images
07.04.186141UK CensusCensus image
Late 1864(poss.) Marriage[source(s) ?]
02.04.187152UK CensusCensus image