The South Africa connection

The British settlers of 1820 landing in Algoa Bay, by Thomas Baines, 1853

Two hundred years ago in 1820, James Leppan left England to start a new life in South Africa, with his wife Ann and their three young children. James was born in 1789 and baptised at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints in Stepney, London, where he later married Ann Jackson. His father, also called James, was the younger brother of my 4 x great grandmother Ann Lepine. They were descended from French Huguenots who had settled in England in the 16th century.   

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My publican ancestors

The old Queen Victoria pub, North Moreton

Most of my Berkshire ancestors were agricultural labourers but a few of them ventured into the beer trade and this post focuses on some of the beer sellers and publicans I’ve discovered in my family tree. You might ask what is the difference between a beer seller and a publican. I suspect that beer seller was a more general term which could apply to what we would call an off licence today. However in the censuses I looked at the terms publican and beer seller seem to be used interchangeably so it can be a little confusing.    

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Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, two World Wars

Most people don’t have to look into their family history for very long before they find someone who died during or shortly after the First World War. The more branches of my tree I uncovered, the more deaths I found. It was a constant reminder that this war affected every family in the country; you were lucky if you didn’t lose a close relative and almost everyone lost friends, colleagues and neighbours. As well as the carnage during the war itself some of the men who did return home had physical and/or mental health difficulties which shortened their lives. And then there was the 1918 flu pandemic – the so-called Spanish flu – which killed well over 200,000 people in the UK alone.

Continue reading “Fathers and sons, uncles and nephews, two World Wars”

Frederick Morris Stickley 1889-1918

I think this building, now a church, is all that is left of Wallingford Union Workhouse

Frederick Morris Stickley was born in 1889, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Stickley, who was 17 years old and living in the Wallingford Union workhouse at the time of Frederick’s birth. I don’t know for certain who Frederick’s father was but a man called Henry Morris was also living in the workhouse around that time so he looks like a strong candidate. 

Elizabeth Stickley was herself the illegitimate daughter of Martha Stickley and had spent much of her life in the workhouse. The 1891 census shows 19 year-old Elizabeth and 2 year-old Frederick as inmates of the workhouse, with Elizabeth’s mother living nearby in Union Terrace with her husband and younger children.

In April 1900 Wallingford Union opened the Cottage Homes for Pauper Children and Frederick was one of the first children to be admitted. Situated close to the workhouse, the Cottage Homes consisted of three houses which accommodated 45 children and this is where Frederick was living when the 1901 census was taken. The idea of cottage homes was to give children a better living environment than the workhouse. The cottage home buildings are still there but have now been converted into private housing and other uses.  

One of the three houses at the Cottage Homes

Plaque on the wall of the old Cottage Homes

Meanwhile Frederick’s mother had moved away from Wallingford and started another family with a man called Albert Card, who was a private in the Royal Fusiliers. Elizabeth and Albert lived in Heston, Middlesex and at the 1901 census had three children, William, Winnie and Rose. I can’t help feeling that Frederick would rather have lived with his mother but I don’t suppose he had much choice in the matter. In Wallingford he would have had his grandmother nearby, as well as various aunts, uncles and cousins, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t feel abandoned by his mother.  

When he was 15 or 16 Frederick joined the Royal Navy. In June 1907, on his 18th birthday and after completing some initial training, he signed up for a 12 year period of service. By 1909 he was an Able Seaman and was described in the Royal Navy Register of Seamen’s Service as being 5’3” tall, with dark hair, hazel eyes and a fresh complexion. He had a cross tattooed on his left forearm. 

Over the next few years Frederick served on various ships including HMS Victorious, HMS Albemarle and HMS Blonde. He was on Blonde in 1914 when the First World War began.  

HMS Victorious

In 1915 Frederick volunteered for submarine service and was based for some time training on HMS Dolphin, a depot and training ship which supplied submarines with food, fuel, ammunition, etc.  In 1916 he served on a C20 submarine for several months and he was promoted to Leading Seaman in January 1917.

Later that year he was working on HMS Arrogant for a while, but early in 1918 he returned to submarine duty, this time on the C30. His Royal Navy service ended in March 2018 when he became ill. Not long before he was taken off the submarine he was promoted again to Petty Officer.

Frederick died of pneumonia on 28 November 1918, aged 29, at the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, Hampshire. I’m not sure whether he got to see any of his family again before he died. I hope someone was able to visit him while he was in hospital although his mother Elizabeth had already died before him in 1913, aged 41. After Elizabeth’s death, her husband Albert Card remarried but it is not possible to say whether any of the Card family kept in touch with Frederick.

Frederick is buried in the Royal Naval Cemetery at Haslar alongside many of his colleagues who died during the war. After Frederick’s death, the Cottage Homes in Wallingford created a Stickley Memorial Prize to remember Frederick’s sacrifice. The memorial was used as part of an exhibition in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Stickley Memorial

Photo credits

HMS Victorious – By Symonds & Co – is photograph Q 40503 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,

Stickley Memorial Board – photo by Gary Skinner, from the 2018 exhibition in Wallingford Town Hall.


‘For Your Tomorrow’ by A.G. Russell (2005)

More about cottage homes –

Martha Jones 1843-1920

St Peter’s at Charney Bassett

I am posting this story 100 years after the death of my great-great grandmother Martha Jones.  When I first found out that one of my ancestors had the surname Jones, I assumed I wouldn’t be able to find out much about her because it would be difficult to distinguish between the many families with that name. However, it turns out that Jones wasn’t a common name in 19th century rural Berkshire and it wasn’t difficult to find out that Martha’s parents were John Jones and Mary Clay, and that Martha was one of eight children, 6 boys and 2 girls, born between 1831 and 1845.

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Hannah Lepine’s mourning ring


The crypt at Canterbury cathedral

A few years ago I went to Canterbury to see some of the places that my Lepine and Welby ancestors lived and worked. I saw the cathedral, which is magnificent, although I was mostly interested in a small chapel in the crypt where Huguenot refugees were allowed to worship from the 16th century, and where services are still held in French. I also went to some of the other churches in the city that are linked to my family and found some of the old streets and lanes that my ancestors walked. It was altogether a very satisfactory trip and I came away with many photos and pieces of information which helped me progress my family history project.  Continue reading “Hannah Lepine’s mourning ring”

Emily Stickley – to America and back


Emily Stickley, about 1887

To conclude my series of posts about the Stickley sisters, this one focuses on Emily who was the second oldest of the eight Stickley girls. You can read more about her sisters and parents at Trot and Mr Gasson, The Stickley sisters in Stoke Newington and A 19th century separation.  Emily Stickley was born in 1863 in North Moreton, Berkshire and was clearly the sister with the strongest sense of adventure as she went to live in America as a young woman. Continue reading “Emily Stickley – to America and back”

Trot and Mr Gasson

Mr Gasson & Sarah

Sarah Stickley and Charles Gasson

For reasons that are no longer clear, the oldest of the Jane and George Stickley’s daughters, Sarah, was always known in the family as ‘Trot’.  She was born illegitimately to Jane Everex in 1859 but I’m fairly sure that she was George Stickley’s daughter because Jane and George married the following year and Sarah looks very much like her sisters who were born after the marriage. As with the other stories about this branch of the Stickley family, I’m very grateful to Ann who is Sarah’s great niece and has generously shared her memories and photos with me.  Continue reading “Trot and Mr Gasson”

The Stickley sisters in Stoke Newington


Abney Park, Stoke Newington

George and Jane Stickley separated in 1884 after Jane accused George of assault. But what became of their eight daughters?  I have recently been in touch with Ann who is a direct descendant of one of the Stickley girls, Agnes, and has very kindly provided information and photos about this branch of the family. In this post, I’ll focus on the younger girls in the family, and will return to the older sisters later. Continue reading “The Stickley sisters in Stoke Newington”