Monday, 2 February 2015

A Charming Scoundrel?

This story comes with a warning to any relatives: the subject did not lead an exemplary life.  Don’t read any further if you don’t want to know about the bad stuff.  On the other hand, if you enjoy a bit of scandal, read on.

Ambrose Rideout* caught my interest because of his unusual name.  Added to this, I have been fortunate enough to have found quite a few records that mention him and have discovered that he led an interesting life.  My feeling is that he lived and died long enough ago that his actions have no real bearing on anyone alive today, so I am not concerned about writing and sharing his story.

Probably born in Ashmore, Dorset, around 1775, Ambrose was the son of Thomas Rideout, a woodman (lumberjack).  A Thomas Rideout and his wife Martha Prence (a variation of Prince?) had several children baptised in the parish of Ashmore between c.1770 and 1791.  Having seen scanned copies of the original records, it wouldn’t surprise me if a baptism was not recorded and that Ambrose was their child.

The first definite record I have of Ambrose Rideout is an entry in the Dorset Prison Registers on 20 Dec 1793.  Ambrose and his future brother-in-law, Jasper Bennett (also my ancestor), were convicted of poaching and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment.  Ambrose was release early on the condition that he enter the Royal Navy with Lieutenant Lethbridge; probably one Thomas Lethbridge.  I haven’t found any record that he actually did join the Navy.  The prison register also told me that at 18 years old, Ambrose was 5 feet 8 inches tall, above average for the time and he hadn’t have finished growing, being an inch taller a few years later.

Sadly, that was not the end of Ambrose Rideout’s criminal record in Dorset**.  On 24 Jul 1801, he was in court on a charge of rape.  The hearing was postponed and Ambrose was released a few days later.  I haven’t yet found any other records relating to this matter so don't know the details of what he was alleged to have done.  At the time, rape was punishable by hanging, so either the case never went to trial or Ambrose was found not guilty.  Then, as now, it was a difficult crime to prosecute. 
On 10 Jan 1803, Ambrose was convicted of killing a pheasant and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment or a £20 fine.  His fine was paid by his master, William Galpine.

In between run-ins with the law, Ambrose married Charlotte Bennett, sister of Jasper, in Tollard Royal, Wiltshire, on 6 Apr 1795.  Tollard Royal is a neighbouring parish of Ashmore and both are rural areas.  Their first child, Ambrose, was born too few months later and baptised in July, in Tollard Royal.  They had three more sons: John Bennett born about 1797, James (my ancestor) born about 1801 and Philip born January 1803.  Philip was baptised 23 January 1803, the same day his mother Charlotte was buried.  I assume that she died due to complications related to child birth.  This was only a couple of weeks after Ambrose was convicted of killing the pheasant.  A difficult time for the young family.

By 1804, Ambrose Rideout left Dorset for Wootton in Bedfordshire, where a newspaper lists him as a game keeper.  As far as I can tell, he left his sons behind.  James and Philip were both convicted of poaching in 1820, still living in Dorset.  While in Wootton, Ambrose had a son, another Ambrose, with Ann Davis, baptised in Jul 1805.  Ambrose Rideout didn’t stay in Wootton for long.  I don’t yet know what happened to Ann and Ambrose Davis. 

In 1806 Ambrose was living in Great Bookham, Surrey, with Sarah Perry.  Ambrose Rideout and Sarah’s first child, Charlotte (named for his late wife? Or a Princess?) was baptised there in February 1807.  Ambrose and Sarah were married 2 March 1811, at St George Hannover Square, London. Between 1807 and 1824, Ambrose and Sarah had 9 children that I know of, and lived in Sussex, Buckingham, Northamptonshire, Kent, Hertfordshire and Norfolk.  I have been able to trace their movements through newspaper records of game keeping licences and thanks to baptism records that include the mother’s maiden name.  I have no records of Sarah after 1824.  By 1826, Ambrose, with or without Sarah, was living in London.  Sadly, his two youngest sons, William and Cornelius, died and were buried at Mile End Old Town, London, in February 1826.

The next record I have of Ambrose Rideout is his marriage 25 Jul 1837 to a widow, Mary Amour nee Maslin, in Bethnel Green, London.  In 1836, England introduced civil registration, so I have a copy of their marriage certificate that includes details such as Ambrose’s father’s name and occupation.  At this time, Ambrose was working as a shop keeper.  They had a daughter, Sarah, born in 1838 and may have had another child before April 1841.  The 1841 Census lists an unnamed baby boy living in their household.  Then, Ambrose was working as a fruit seller.

On 19 January 1842, Ambrose Rideout, of 16 Redmans Row, Stepney, died from lung disease; an all too common fate for my ancestors.  On the death certificate, he is once again described as a game keeper.  He was buried a few days later at Wycliffe Congregational Church.

So why do I describe him as a charming scoundrel?  Well, he was certainly a scoundrel with his criminal records and having at least 16 children by four women.  As for charming, he was twice able to get out of serving full prison terms and, again, four women and lots of children.  It wouldn’t surprise me if I found more criminal records or children scattered around England for Ambrose as more records are indexed and so more easily searchable.


*There are a number of variations of Rideout plus it is sometimes miss-transcribed in indexes.  In earlier records, Rideout and Ridout seemed to be used interchangeably, but I have also found Rydout, Ridoubt, Riddout and other variations. I use Rideout because it is the spelling favoured by more recent ancestors.

**Another Ambrose Rideout, of Manston in Dorset, was transported to Tasmania in 1803.  Some care is needed when checking the records to make sure the correct man has been identified.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > Daphne Madge Smith > John Henry Smith > Louisa Jane Jenkins > Caroline Rideout > James Rideout > Ambrose Rideout


  1. HI Susan, on 3 Aug 1834, my great grandfather Charles Palmer married Mary Ann Ridout (born in Great Bookham on 28 jul 1813). by reading your account it seems likely she is the daughter of Ambrose Ridout (unless there were any other Ridouts in Great Bookham?) have you anything that would confirm this please? Aside from my great grandmother - I am aware of some other ridouts there - Charlott as you said born 1807 - who married William Sutton in 1823, Maria - born 1808 who married Charles proughten in 1833, joseph born 1814 and Henry(skury) ridout born 1823. Are these some of your nine children you mention? I would be grateful if you have any electronic documents that I could see a copy of? Thanks - my email address is and I live in Llandudno - cheers Colin

  2. Hi Susan He was my Ancestor too, I also am an Australian now living in Scotland .