Constance (Tunwell) Dean (1715 – 1775)

We have few written records of our Dean ancestors. A notable exception is the handwritten will of Constance (Tunwell) Dean (1715 – 1775), my 5th great grandmother.

I wrote about her will a few issues ago, but thought I’d go into a little more depth on this woman who was our 4th, 5th or 6th great grandmother

Here are the facts, as best we know them:

Constance was born about 1715 in Great Shelford to Thomas Tunwell (1689 – 1736) and Constantia[1] Brewster. She was christened on 20 December 1715, in Great Shelford.

Thomas was the son of Richard Tunwell (1645 – 1713) and Martha Howling. By the very early 1700s, Richard had acquired a large amount of land in Great Shelford[2].

On 5 September 1747, Constance married William Dean (b. ~1719 in Whittlesford, Cambs.) the son of John Dean (1684 – 1756) and Mary Story (1687 – 1733) in Catherine Hall Chapel[3], Cambridge. Over the next fourteen years they had seven children.

Of these seven children, we have records of only three surviving to adulthood – Constance, John and Thomas. None of the others (Sarah, two Williams and Stephen) were mentioned in her will, so we must assume they were not alive in 1775 when Constance died.

And, it appears that only Constance and John had offspring. Constance married John Heffer, so the Dean surname was only passed on by John who married Esther Turner. All of our Dean lines stem from this union through their sons, William, John, Thomas, James, Stephen and Oliver Turner[4].

Constance’s husband, William – we assume he was an agricultural labourer – died in 1863 and she lived for another twelve years dying in 1775, aged 60, in Great Shelford. She was buried there on 9 May 1775.

It is through her will that we can get a glimpse of her life and times. She passed on to her eldest (surviving) son John all her rights to the common lands under the open field system that had been in place since medieval times. It must be remembered that she lived during the last period of the “enclosures” in England when many formerly open fields (commons) were taken into private hands and enclosed[5].

Constance ensured John provide for his younger brother, Thomas. We have scarce evidence of Thomas. He was born 20 Apr 1760 in Great Shelford, and appears to have married Elizabeth Newling 20 June 1886 when he was 26. Elizabeth died a year later, possibly in childbirth.

As was the custom, most of Constance Dean’s possessions (i.e. a chest of drawers, a third of her pewter, etc.) went to her only surviving daughter, Constance, who had married John Heffer, of Great Shelford, in 1768.

Constance was born at the very beginnings of the Georgian (Hanoverian) period, when major transformations and social change were occurring in England:

–          the rise of colonialism, industrialization and the concomitant mercantilism where the colonies provided the raw materials, British industry manufactured the goods and they were then sold back to the colonies;

–          the necessary rise of the British Navy to protect the colonies and the trade routes;

–          the agricultural revolution including the enclosures which intensified class divisions;

–          the crushing of the Jacobite rising  at the Battle of Culloden in 1746;

–          the Seven Years War (1756 – 1763) with the French both in Europe and in North America,

–          and ultimately, the American Revolution (1775 – 1783).

In Cambridgeshire, and the Shelford/Stapleford area she would have seen…

–          an increase in population – there were some 300 people living in Great Shelford in 1700, and by 1801 the population had almost doubled to 570;

–          the agricultural  and transportation revolution (canals and roads facilitating the movement of goods, especially coal) which resulted in the movement of people, the decline of small communities, and the growth of the cities; In 1600, 8% of the population lived in urban areas, by 1700 this had increased to 17% and by 1800, to 28%;

–          the beginnings of large-scale emigration to the new worlds, in particular to North America and later Australia.

It is through her Tunwell ancestors (back through the Austin’s, Alington’s, Drury’s, Stapleton’s, etc.) that we can trace the long line back to Edward I and, ultimately, to William the Conqueror.

= = = = =

I thank my second cousin once removed, Ken Dean, who lives in Great Shelford, for sending me this will and his transcription.  Ken was born in Stapleford and is now approaching 80 years old. He is a wealth of information on the Dean line in Cambridgeshire and is a great grandson of  my GGGF, Peter Dean (1824 – 1872), who married Naomi Elbourn.

[1] Latin for Constance?

[3] See Helen Harwood’s excellent article on Great Shelford marriages performed in Cambridge University Colleges in the mid-1700s:

[4] A daughter, Sarah, married John Haggis to start another branch.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s