The CLARKSON Conundrum

Updated on 15 February 2016.

Many EZARD researchers are puzzled when they find the name CLARKSON appearing in records of the family. The problem started when 21-year-old Jane Ezard found she was expecting a baby by George Clarkson, aged 18. But George would not marry her. These are the players in the little drama that unfolded in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 1779:

  • Jane Ezard, born at Reighton in 1757, the daughter of Francis Ezard, a labourer, of Reighton. In 1779, Jane was living at Hunmanby, possibly because she was working there.
  • George Clarkson, born at Buckton in December 1760, also a labourer.
  • Reverend Francis Matson, c1700-1782, vicar of Hunmanby and a Justice of the Peace.

Information has been taken from the Bastardy Recognizance issued at the Quarter Sessions held on 12 March 1779; I have a photocopy of the original document, from the East Yorkshire Archives and Local Studies Service. It is a pro forma document with the specifics entered by hand by Francis Matson, the Justice of the Peace presiding that day. Confusingly, he spelled the surname EZART but all other records relating to Jane and to her father give the name as EZARD. I am therefore certain that the EZARTs in this document and the EZARDs in this research are the same people; the mistake/confusion was made by the elderly man who was presiding (Rev Francis Matson, c 1700-1782).

The law that was enforced ultimately derives from an act of 1576 (18 Elizabeth C. 3), which ordered that bastards should be supported by their putative fathers. If the father was known, he was put under very great pressure to accept responsibility and to maintain the child. (2)

The three parishes – Hunmanby, Reighton, Buckton – were within a few miles:

Part of the East Riding, showing Hunmanby, Reighton, Buckton and Burton Fleming; from a reproduction of The County Maps of Old England, Thomas Moule, 1830, in a Studio Edition reprint, 1990.
Part of the East Riding, showing Hunmanby, Reighton, Buckton and Burton Fleming; from The County Maps of Old England, Thomas Moule, 1830, in a Studio Edition reprint, 1990. (1)

Jane’s baby was expected to be born in Hunmanby and would be chargeable on the parish if the father did not accept his responsibilities. To quote from the Recognizance (handwriting given in italic script): “Jane Ezart of Hunmanby.…declared, that she is with child, and that the said child is likely to be born a bastard, and to be chargeable to the said Township of Hunmanby and that the abovebound George Clarkson is the father of the said child.”

George Clarkson, the 18-year-old boyfriend, was taken to court. On 12 March 1779, George, Jane and her father, Francis, appeared at the Quarter Sessions, which would have been held at Beverley, the county town. The case seems to have been straightforward and the Bastardy Recognizance of that day survives. It is a pro forma document, with the specifics entered by Francis Matson, the Justice of the Peace who heard the case.

Definition of 'recognizance', SOED
Definition of ‘recognizance’, SOED

George was bound by a ‘recognizance’ of £10. A ‘recognizance’ was like a bail surety, i.e. the person(s) named would have to pay the amount stipulated if they failed to comply, otherwise they would be committed to prison. There may have been doubts about young George, which could be the reason why Francis also stood surety for the same amount, £10.  It was not uncommon for another family member to be named in a recognizance of this type but it would usually be the man’s father (not the woman’s father). In this case, therefore, I wonder whether George’s own father might have died; also, of course, Francis would have been very concerned about his own daughter and the unborn grandchild.

However, the case did not have to progress any further. The word “discharged” is written the top of the recognizance. Therefore young George must have accepted his responsibilities and/or the family rallied round.

Jane Ezard gave birth to their son. The baby was baptised as George Ezard, at All Saints’ Church, Hunmanby of 2 August 1779. No father is shown. On 1 January 1780, George and Jane married at St Peter’s Church, Reighton, a few days after his 19th birthday. The marriage legitimised their child, five-month-old baby George. The family became ‘Clarkson’ and disappear from the records for a few years.

The ‘baby’ George Clarkson né Ezard grew up and, on 4 August 1798, married 18-year-old Mary Hunter at St Peter’s Church, Wintringham, another nearby parish in the East Riding. This young Mr and Mrs Clarkson lived in Burton Fleming (a village sometimes known as North Burton) and soon had children of their own:

St Cuthbert's Church, Burton Fleming. © Copyright Peter Church; licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence
St Cuthbert’s Church, Burton Fleming.
© Copyright Peter Church and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (3)

a son, Francis Clarkson, was baptised at St Cuthbert’s  Church on 14 June 1800 and a daughter, Jane Clarkson,  on 6 September 1802. Intriguingly, there is a note added  by the minister, possibly at later date: ‘The parents are  alias Ezard.’ And the subsequent children of the  marriage are baptised under that surname:
Mary Ezard, 7 April 1805
George Ezard 12 July 1807
Rhoda Ezard, 1 October 1809
William Ezard, 19 April 1812
Their parents, however, are recorded as ‘George Ezard or Clarkson’ and ‘Mary Ezard or Clarkson’. Over the years, this has caused great confusion. (I suspect that the notes were made by the minister to remind himself what the family were calling themselves, particularly as there was another young EZARD family in the same parish at the time.)

It is still not known why the young couple decided to adopt the surname EZARD, but that is the name they were using from 1805. (Did they want to distance themselves from the Clarksons? Or identify strongly with the Ezards?) Though I now know what happened, the motives remain a mystery. It is still a conundrum.

By the time William was toddling, George, Mary and their young family had moved a few miles to Speeton, near Reighton, and here four more children were born. They were all baptised at St Peter’s Church, Reighton:

James, 12 May 1814
Ann, 16 June 1816
Elizabeth (i), 16 May 1819, died 19 December 1819
Elizabeth (ii), 25 November 1821

James was the father of Charles Ezard, the metalware designer who, with two partners, set up an iron foundry in Manchester in 1867. This was the catalyst for the migration of some EZARDs across the Pennines to Lancashire.

Ezard, George_Gravestone_Reighton
The EZARD gravestone at St Peter’s, Reighton, reproduced by kind permission of Lisa Blosfelds (4).

George and Mary, and four of their daughters, are buried in the churchyard of St Peter’s, Reighton. On the worn and neglected gravestone, it is just possible to make out names and some dates – and these confirm the research recorded here.

George and Mary’s son Francis emigrated to Australia, and so too did their grandson Charles Henry (son of George). William and James crossed the Pennines to Manchester. William and his family later went to the Wirral peninsula in Cheshire and established the EZARD name in the Deeside towns of Hoylake and West Kirby.  There was a cousin marriage between two children of Rhoda and William – Charles Anakin and Betsey (Bessie) Ezard. Charles and Betsey emigrated to the west coast of the United States. (Papers relating to their emigration are held by the East Yorkshire Local Studies and Archives Service at Beverley.)

Thus, through descendants of the illegitimate baby George, the EZARD name has spread to other continents – but it all started with that teenage ‘roll in the hay’ in the autumn of 1778.

(1) I acknowledge that Studio Editions Ltd (Princess House, 50 Eastcastle Street, London W1N 7AP) hold the copyright of  The County Maps of Old England, Thomas Moule, 1830, through the publication, in 1990, of a ‘coffee-table’ reprint of this lovely work from which I have reproduced a small section of the map of the East Riding of Yorkshire. Unfortunately, I have not been able to trace the publishers to make a formal request to reproduce part of the map here but I would be happy to hear from and acknowledge the present rightsholder.  Thank you. JC

(2) “Illegitimacy and Illegitimates”, Alan Macfarlane, 2002; from: Peter Laslett, Karla Oosterveen and Richard M.Smith (eds.), Bastardy and its Comparative History, Arnold, 1980

(3) Creative Commons License Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC by-SA 2.0)

(4) Photograph © Lisa Blosfelds, 2014. This photograph, along with those of many other Reighton gravestones, can be found here:


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