Jabez Bancroft and the Royal Horse Guards Regiment

Painting of battle scene from Vitoria

A fellow Bancroft researcher sent me some old army discharge papers for a Jabez Bancroft which tell an interesting story about a man whose origins are a bit of a mystery.

We know that Jabez Bancroft was born around 1772, probably in the Haworth area of Yorkshire. No records seem to exist of his baptism in the area, so it may well be that he was illegitimate or baptised under a different name. Some of this confusion may be due to the different spelling of the name 'Jabez', because he is also listed slightly differently on various records as 'Jabus' or 'Jabes', which points to the fact that it was not an easy name to spell or pronounce, so people wrote it down as they heard it. The name Jabez, [pronounced Jay-bez] is not that uncommon in this area of Yorkshire, and is of Hebrew in origin…. its meaning is ‘borne in pain’ which possibly points to difficulties his mother had in childbirth….who knows?

Discharge Paper


Anyway, the first we know about Jabez is from his army discharge papers....where he is listed as 'Jabus Bancroft'. We know he enlisted as a Private Trooper in the Royal Horse Guards Regiment on 17th December 1791 at the age of about 19 years, and spent the next 22 years and 234 days as a soldier with them. His discharge papers show that he left the regiment at the age of 42 years because he was suffering from “rheumatic, which reoccurred when on duty with his Regiment abroad…which rendered him unfit for future service”. 
 Interestingly, the papers also give a brief description of him as "5 feet 11 inches in height, brown hair, brown eyes, brown complexion, by trade a weaver"

Discharge Paper


From army records we know he served latterly at the Battle of Vitoria in Spain in 1813, where a British Army, under General the Marquess of Wellington, together with Portuguese and Spanish armies broke the French army under Joseph Bonaparte and Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan, eventually leading to victory in the Peninsular War.
Wellington launched his attack at Vitoria on 21 June, in four columns. After hard fighting, The soldiers of the 3rd Division broke the enemy's centre and soon the French defence crumbled. About 5,000 French soldiers were killed or wounded and 3,000 were taken prisoner, while British, Spanish and Portuguese soldiers suffered about 5,000 killed or wounded. 151 cannons were captured, but Joseph Bonaparte, erstwhile King of Spain, narrowly escaped. The battle led to the collapse of Napoleonic rule in Spain.
The British forces consisted of 57,000 men and suffered 3700 deaths and wounded during the battle, and at the age of over 40 years, Jabez must have been struggling to keep up with the younger men, because medical reports show he was hospitalized in August 1814 with rheumatism, possibly made worse by serving abroad, and then quickly discharge.
The following form is an army register showing Jabez as a claimant, probably of his army pension, and lists him as having served at the time of the Battle of Vitoria [sometimes spelt Vittoria]

Army record of claimants

Once discharged, he settled back into normal life, and took up his trade again as a weaver. He seems to have married a young widowed lady, of about 35 years of age, called Elizabeth Naylor at Bingley Parish Church on 10th November 1816, and as can be seen from the marriage record, neither Jabez or Elizabeth could write their name, so just put their X mark on the register. [The fact that Jabez could not write, and so probably could not read either, might be the reason why his name is spelt in at least 3 different ways on documents. The person who wrote the parish record, was obviously fooled by Elizabeth's relatively young age to to be a widow, because he initially marked her down as a spinster, before altering it to widow.]

Jabez & Elizabeth marriage 1816


Arthur Bell Nicholls


By the time of the 1841 census, Jabez and Elizabeth, known as 'Betty' were living at New Road Side, in the Bingley Parish, his occupation still listed as a weaver, and Jabez's death is record in 1849 in the Haworth Church records. The service being conducted by  Arthur Bell Nicholls, the curate of Rev'd Patrick Bronte, who had married his daughter, the novelist, Charlotte Bronte.

Jabez Burial Record 1849

Betty continued to live in the same area, and the 1851 shows her listed as a widow living alone at nearby Lower Pease Close with her occupation shown as "Annuitant Weaver Formally" which would mean that she was able to live on an income from somewhere....possibly her late husband's army pension based on his 22 years service?

1851 census
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