When I trawled newspapers online for any Winningtons, my surname study, I was somewhat surprised to see this man’s name. It did not feature in the database of Winningtons that I had, but there was a John Myles Wennington from a north Lancashire and Cumbrian family. This illustrates a common problem as the two surnames are often mixed up. Even more fascinating was the fact he was called Sir, as far as I know there were no knights or baronets in this family. So, intrigued, I dug deeper and came up with a fascinating tale, which is not yet complete.
John Wennington was baptised at St John’s, Liverpool on 27 May 1797, the son of Miles Wennington, Gent, and his wife Jane, of Ulveston, Lancashire. However, it also records he was born on 15 November 1794. Ulveston registers have a baptism for him on 22 November 1794, so why was he baptised twice? Both churches were the Established church so he was not changing sect. The Wenningtons can be found in this area of north Lancashire and the southern Lake District for two hundred years before this and were of middling wealth. John’s father Miles Wennington died in Liverpool and is buried the same day his son was baptised, 27 May 1797, and he is described as Gent. of Union Street, aged 30 years.
The next paper trail for John Miles Wennington is when he is articled as a clerk to Thomas Windle in 1811, and is described as the son of Jane Wennington, widow, of Devonshire Street, London. On 18 November 1816 Samuel Austice, Attorney, Tavistock Place, London, files Articles of Clerkship for John Miles Wennington. This is the last time he uses Wennington as his surname. He appears to have finished his articles and to have practised as an attorney.
On 23 August 1820 there is a newspaper report of a marriage at St Margaret’s, Westminster, between Sir John Miles Winnington and Miss Henrietta Antonia, second daughter of the late Bedingfield Pogson Esq, and great niece of the present Earl of Glencairne. However, in 1823 she is suing for divorce in the Consistory Court in London on the grounds of her husband’s adultery. They apparently only lived together for a few months. This case drags on for several years and it is not entirely clear whether or not she gets a divorce. She keeps returning to the Court because she gets no alimony. He pleads poverty. But he is also cited in the divorce case in 1831 brought by Mr Le Fevre, as the guilty party and has to pay 600 guineas.
The next occasion he can be found in public documents is his conviction for theft in 1842 and being sent to Australia for seven years, arriving in Tasmania in mid 1843. He was also an insolvent bankrupt partly because of the debts contracted over his contested divorce from Henriettta, although these were discharged in 1848 after a relative left him £1600. This may have been his mother but no record of her death as been found yet. It is not clear if John Miles Winnington remained in Australia after he served his term, but he is still there when he is declared solvent in 1849.
A tree on Ancestry offered another clue to John Miles Winnington’s later life, as it has him marrying a Jane Nash, date unknown, and having a daughter Maria Nash Winnington, born 1828. This can be partly verified by documents from Australia. Maria married John Gemmell, a surgeon, of the Ovens River, on 5 September 1848 at Parramatta, New South Wales. In the newspaper notice of this event she is described as the grand-daughter of Mr Andrew Nash, of Parramatta. After John Gemmell’s death, date so far unknown, she married Grainger Muir Brough, son of Constantine Brough, on 7 January 1868 at All Saints, St Kilda, Victoria. She is described as Marie Laura Gimmell in the transcription of this record but her parents are John Myles Winnington and Jane Nash so it is obviously the same woman.
So far I have not found a death for John Miles Winnington, but the fact that he keeps using both John and Miles has allowed him to be followed more easily than if he were just John. And the knighthood? He says he was awarded one by Pope Pius VII but I suspect this was a fiction as there is no indication he was ever a Roman Catholic and in the early nineteenth century Pope Pius was having a great deal of trouble with Napoleon Bonaparte, so was unlikely to be honouring a Protestant Englishman. The other notable thing about this tale was that the divorce proceedings were reported in many of the regional newspapers across Britain. It obviously was seen as good copy to fill up any spaces in a newspaper.