Matthew Dix and Martha Thornton
  Southrepps and Antingham, Norfolk, England
 1775-1851

Matthew struggled in humble circumstances, and his life ended in poverty. Little is known of his early years, other than the fact that he was born in Southrepps, one of dozens of rustic, look-alike villages scattered over the rural landscape of Norfolk. Today these villages are still dissected by narrow country lanes and surrounded by farmers’ fields, with modern cottages often built from the same stone once used for the long-gone homes of the 19th century.

 

Matthew worked as an agricultural labourer and at the age of about 28 married Martha Thornton from the nearby village of Antingham, where they set up home. It was the spring of 1803, and the couple had a crop of six children in the next nine years, all born in Antingham. The first child, a son whom they named Matthew, died in infancy. First daughter Mary Ann would grow up to marry a gamekeeper named John Woodhouse (one of their  children would emigrate to Australia where there are many Woodhouse descendants today). Martha, Matthew’s third child, was born about 1806 and would face hardships early in her life, including an out-of-wedlock child and a period as a cook in a workhouse before she finally married at the age of 42. More of Martha and her illegitimate son, Daniel, is found on this site.

Matthew Dix: 
Born 1775 Southrepps, Norfolk, England
Martha Thornton: 
Born 1778 Antingham, Norfolk, England

Children:
Matthew Dix - Born 1803 Antingham
Mary Ann Dix - Born 1804 Antingham
Martha Dix - Born 1806 Antingham
Matthew Dix - Born 1808 Antingham
Ann Dix - Born 1810 Antingham
James Dix - Born 1812 Antinghamdix_martha_and_daniel_1806.htmldix_james_and_elizabeth_1812.htmlshapeimage_5_link_0shapeimage_5_link_1

Cottages line the main street of Southrepps Village, Norfolk, as it looks today.

The name Dix means “son of Dick” or “son of Richard” and has the same origin as Dicks and Dixon. The 1891 census of England showed the name had become concentrated over the centuries in three pockets - in the county of Norfolk in the east, in the neighboring counties of Gloucestershire and Somerset in the west, and in Staffordshire in the Midlands. 


This summary focuses on one particular line of Dixes in Norfolk that descends from a farm laborer, Matthew Dix, born in the village of Southrepps about 1775, and his wife, Martha Thornton, Matthew and Martha are the earliest recorded people in a line that eventually reached to County Durham and other parts of England and then as far away as Australia and the United States.


The village of Southrepps, where Matthew was born, lies about two miles inland from the sea and is split into north and south sections that are divided by a mile-wide swatch of farmland.

Tower of St James Church, Southrepps, dominates the village.

Above left: The former Sheringham workhouse as it is today. Photo courtesy and copyright of Peter Higginbotham, at  www workhouses.org.uk.  Left:  The former Sheringham Workhouse (Picture by Michael Fulcher).

Of the remaining children, son Matthew would be recorded as a pauper with his wife and two children in a later census (1851). Little is known of the fifth child, Ann. James, the last son, worked off the land, trapping the birds that ate the farmers’ crops. It is James’ line of descendants that we will follow in particular on this site.


For Matthew, whose married life with Martha coincided with tough economic times in rural England, his later life must at times have seemed a hopeless struggle. When Martha died and left Matthew a widower, he had no other family of substance to fall back on. Unable to support himself as he grew older, Matthew became an inmate of the Sheringham Workhouse, some ten miles from where he had grown up and raised his family. It must have been heartbreaking for him to live under the same workhouse roof as his 30-year-old daughter Martha, and her illegitimate seven-year-old son, Daniel, as recorded in the 1841 census. Matthew was 65. The workhouse, later converted to a school, still stands today (pictures below and left).


On the 1851 census, Matthew is no longer in the workhouse, but living as one of two lodgers with the family of Robert Norgate in Antingham. He is listed as a “pauper,  farm labourer.” Presumably he was no longer working and this is a reference to his former occupation.


Matthew is believed to have died in 1860, when he would have been about 85, but we have no details. Acquisition of his death certificate is in process (Feb 2010). By this time his grandson, Daniel, with whom he had once shared the Sheringham workhouse, was embarked on a successful army career and may even have been in India when his grandfather passed away.

Norwich

Sheringham

Trimingham

North Walsham

Southrepps

Antingham

Thorpe Market

Great Yarmouth

Lowestoft

Ipswich

Bury St. Edmunds

Chelmsford

NORFOLK

SUFFOLK

The Wash

The Otterson Families of Northeast England and related lines                                  To share information or comment on this site, contact the webmaster: Michael Otterson

For details of the family tree of Matthew Dix and Martha Thornton, click on the WorldConnect icon below. This will open a window for these individuals in the Otterson-Berry family tree at RootsWeb.com, a free site.