Sunday 18 June 1995

The Crockerton Centenarian Who Wasn't


One hundred and twenty five years ago today, in its issue dated Saturday 18th June 1870, the Warminster Herald newspaper reported that a pamphlet about the age of a woman living in Crockerton was erroneous. The Warminster Herald noted:

A short time ago a little book was published, professing to give an account of a "Wiltshire Centenarian," living in the neighbouring district of Crockerton, and a portrait of the venerable dame was prefixed to the work. Without entering upon a critical examination of the book, which contains many ingenious flights of fancy, we think it right to state that its title, at least, is a complete misnomer.

Ann Elling, the old woman whose history the book professes to give, is, only now, at most about 93. She was the eldest child of Joseph and Mary Fisher, of Bampton, in the county of Devon, and was first married in 1803 in the city of Exeter, no age being assigned to her in the marriage register, but her parentage being given as above.

From enquires that have been made, it appears that she was not christened as a child, and there is therefore no Baptismal register to testify as to the probable date of her birth; but her parents, it is ascertained, were married in Bampton church in November 1776.

It is evident then, that this old woman, instead of being a centenarian, is not more than 93 years of age, having been born some time in the year 1777. This date tallies exactly with the belief of many who knew her in days gone by, and who concisely describe the year of her birth as the year of "three sevens."

We cannot but express our regret that those persons who made so much stir about the old lady's 100th birthday, and put forth the ingenious and imaginative pamphlet entitled "The Wiltshire Centenarian," did not first take more pains to ascertain the real truth as to the age of their venerable friend.