The Diamond Wedding of Jesse & Sarah Sewell
by Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the December 2003 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
On 15th February 1932 Jesse and Sarah Sewell celebrated their Diamond wedding. According to Essex newspapers they received both Royal and Civic congratulations. The letter from Buckingham Palace read:
The King and Queen are much interested to hear that you and Mrs Sewell are celebrating your Diamond Wedding Day on Monday next, and desire me to convey to you their sincere congratulations on this great anniversary in your lives, and their best wishes for a very happy anniversary.
Jesse Sewell was born 23 February 1848 in Knodishall, Suffolk. He was the son of James Sewell and Rebecca nee Gibbs and grandson of John Sewell born 1785 in Snape, Suffolk and Elizabeth nee Kent. Jesse’s grandfather and father were well known farmers in the Knodishall area. His father James was killed by wounds received accidentally from a shotgun in 1849 and Jesse and his two sisters and three brothers were raised by their mother a shopkeeper in Leiston (1851 and 1861 census).
Jesse became an engine fitter serving his apprenticeship at the Garretts engineering works at Leiston, Suffolk. Jesse met his future wife, Sarah Churchyard born, 1851 Benhall, Suffolk, in the Congregational Church Choir where they were both members. Jesse and Sarah married on 15th February 1872 at St Margaret’s Leiston, Suffolk. In 1890 the couple moved to Colchester in Essex.
Both Jesse and Sarah became members of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and were involved with the Adult School movement in Essex and Suffolk. Jesse set up a class for men at the Hythe branch and Sarah was founder and President of a class for women at Myland. In 1894 Sarah was returned as a Guardian for the South Ward of Colchester and for the next twenty years devoted her energy’s to children. Due to her exertions orphaned children of the ‘House’ were boarded out instead of being kept in institutions, she believed that children should have a home life influence.
In the Great War 1914-1918 both Jesse and Sarah were actively engaged in social work among the troops. The Society of Friends being the first to open their rooms in Sir Isaac’s Walk for evening recreation for the soldiers. Both were interested in politics and were enthusiasts of Liberalism and worked to return Sir Weetham Pearson, later Viscount Cowdray to Parliament.
Jesse and Sarah had seven children, five girls and two boys. Florence Ada born 1873, a Matrons Assistant (1901 census). Margaret Eveline born 1874 a Hospital nurse (1901 census). Gertrude Augusta born 1876 married Ernest Henry Barritt, Gertrude and her husband Ernest were both interested in local politics and became Mayor and Mayoress of Colchester 1904. On July 28th 1904 they were present at the inauguration of the Trams in Colchester. Mary Helen born 1877, Edward Jesse born 1879. Frank Theodore born 1881 a Steam fitter (1901 census) and Edith born 1883 a Post Office Telegraph worker (1901 census)
At the Diamond Wedding celebrations were the four surviving children, 5 grandchildren and 3 Great grandchildren of the couple. One Granddaughter unable to get a train in time to the celebrations, due to her work commitments, paid a ‘Flying visit’. As a member of the Hanworth Flying Club she went to the club and accompanied by an instructor pilot flew to Colchester in a Puss Moth.
Jessie and Sarah both died 1935 at Colchester
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