Michael Pursey & Martha Halfacre

What happened in Finchampstead in September, 1835?

There was certainly a deadly bug going around – at least in the home of Michael Pursey and his wife, Martha Halfacre. Michael was a grocer and shopkeeper*.

Of their seven children, no less than four – the youngest four, John, George, Martha and Michael – all succumbed to flu in that month. Benjamin, William and Lydia – all of whom had probably moved out – survived.

I can trace no records for Benjamin being the son of Michael and Martha but a Lydia presumably his sister – but possibly a cousin – witnessed his marriage to Jane Blake in Feb 1836 in Reading.

William made a name for himself in nearby Reading. Like his father, he started out a grocer having premises in Chain Street, Reading. But by 1862, he had built up a substantial property-letting business, being responsible for no less than 200 properties. He was an upstanding man of the town and in 1862 he wrote to the local newspaper urging help be offered to local prostitutes to enable them to lead better lives. At the same time, he took a hard line when it concerned properties under his remit. He said that he always made it a principle to eject them from houses in his possession at the same time, regretting the fact that it only drove them to “worse resorts and worse associates”.

He was twice-married, first to Lucy Jacob in 1845 and then to Pearcey Sykes in 1873.

Lydia married John Goswell in Wokingham in 1839.

*In 1858, he was fined 1 shilling for having an unjust scale in his possession.