The Grenadier Guardsman who married three sisters - or did he?
My mother's grandmother was Esther Gunton (b. 1845 in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire). She had an elder brother called Thomas Widdows Gunton (b.1843 Chatteris)who was witness at her (first) wedding.
Thomas married three times, each time to ladies called Passingham.
I have the three wedding certificates plus other evidence to show that it is the same Thomas and that the three Passingham ladies were sisters.
In chronological order of events, the tale unfolds thus:
1865 on Esther Gunton's Marriage Cert., one of the witnesses is shown as Tho.Ws.Gunton,Serg. 3rd. 13th.Grenr.Guards.
1869 - Marriage Cert. Thomas Widdows Gunton (full age) - Sergeant 3rd Batt.Gren. Gds. married Maryann Passingham (full age). Thomas's father is Richard Gunton, shoemaker, Maryann's father is John Passingham, Wheelwright. Thomas's address is Windsor Barracks and that of Maryann is shown as "Tower Liberty". The wedding took place in the Royal Chapel in the Tower of London.
1871 (31st January) Marriage Cert. Thomas Widdows Gunton (full age) Drill Sergeant in the Grenadier Guards at Chelsea Barracks, (father, Richard Gunton, shoemaker), married Annie Passingham (full age) of
9 Oxford Street, father John Passingham, wheelwright. The wedding took place at The Parish Church of St. Simon, Chelsea.
1871 Census shows Thomas W. Gunton (29) Colour Sergeantand wife Annie (23) living atChelsea Barracks.
1881 Census shows Thomas Gunton (40) Quartermaster Grenadier Guards and wife Anne (33) at Chelsea Barracks.
1882(1st February) Death Cert. for Maryann Gunton, wife of Thomas Widdows Gunton (Quarter Master 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. Cause of Death - Suicide by Drowning while of uncertain mind. At this time they were based at Windsor Barracks and an Inquest was held in New Windsor on 2nd January 1882.
1883 Wedding Cert. Thomas Widdows Gunton (39) Widower,Quarter Master Grenadier Guards, father- (Richard Gunton[deceased]-Bootmaker), married Emily Theresa Passingham, father John Passingham, Coach Builder. The wedding took place at "The Church in The Grove, Sydenham"
in Lewisham, by Licence'in accordance with the Rites and Ceremonies of the Congregationalists'.
Later census forms show Thomas and Emily with their children, Thomas being described as a retired Captain. He was called up again in World War I with the rank of Major. I understand that he may have retired finally with the rank of Colonel.
The mystery surrounds the first two marriages. Were Maryann and Annie the same person and if so, why did they marry twice? It could not be that they were 'underage' as at the time of the first wedding in 1869, Thomas would have been 26 years old and Maryann would have been 22 years old. As her father was present at all weddings (he is shown as a witness) they could hardly be marrying without consent, even if it had been needed. It is a puzzle that if Maryann and Annie were two different people, how is it that the death cert of Maryann in 1882 shows her to be Thomas's wife, when he has apparently married Annie some ten years previously?
Why did she committ suicide? Did she think that Thomas was 'carrying on' with her younger sister? There are many unanswered questions here. Can anyone help? For example, how do I go about finding the Coroner's report?
Any help to explain the mystery would be appreciated.