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b. 1855- d. 1909

A summary of the evidence for Arthur is very interesting but confusing in places. It has taken a lot of cross referencing of data to ensure that the profile is accurate.

There is another Arthur Bannister in the records, about the same age. He enters and leaves the same workhouse.  He is a stockbroker’s clerk and is described as temporarily disabled. It is easy to confuse the two Arthurs. However, our Arthur is already in Long Grove in 1910. Stockbroker Arthur is in the 1911 census.

The Horton record which gives his birth as June 1855, but this is likely be the quarter (AMJ) when the birth was registered. Extensive checks do not locate a birth in that quarter.  There is one other Arthur apparent in the records at this time. Our Arthur’s parents are Joseph and Ellen. The best way to track our Arthur through the records is working backwards. When he is sent to Long Grove in 1909, he is described as a French Polisher. This detail is how we track him through the years, although there are a few French polishers who crop up!


Our Arthur Bannister is born in Holborn, London on March 10th 1855 (date given at baptism).

Arthur is baptised on August 2nd 1856 at St Sepulchre, Holborn, London.

Arthur’s father is a butcher and in 1856, they are living at 46 St John’s Street.

In the census of 1851, prior to Arthur’s birth, the family is already sizeable with four children. Of note, there is a child William born in 1851, and he becomes relevant to this research later. The key link is that the father, Joseph is a butcher so we know we have the right family. He was born in Farnham, Surrey. They are living in Cloth Fair in 1851.


By 1861, something strange has happened. The family unit still has Joseph and Ellen and several children. Notably William is missing, as is our Arthur. There are seven other children. So where is William and where is Arthur?

Arthur and his brother William are found living with an aunt and uncle in Newington. This is south of the river.   The aunt is Joseph Barrister’s sister named Hersilia.  She and her husband, William Bate married in 1855 at St Saviours Church, Southwark.  Uncle William Bate is a mason. Why would the Bannisters move two sons out to an aunt and uncle?  Speculation might lead us to think that perhaps as a skilled tradesman, Uncle John might be a good route to an apprenticeship. They do not seem to have their own children. Hersilia’s marriage record confirms she was a Bannister.


By 1871, Arthur’s father Joseph has died and his mother, Ellen is now working as the butcher. She has five children living with her and this totals nine children. She is living in 21 Cloth Lane. Arthur is not with her and he is not to be found anywhere in the records. William is also missing still.

Did Arthur go into the army?

In 1877, an Arthur joins the army, signing up in Guildford. He stays in the army until 1889. His record is complete, detailed and fascinating. It tells us a lot about Arthur. The evidence that this is our Arthur is twofold:  one he says his father is Joseph and two, he is a French polisher.

However, there are issues with the evidence, he says he is unmarried but by this time he would have had children. There is no record of Arthur’s marriage.

The record says he is 24 years old when he signs up which places his birth as 1853.

Later evidence indicates that he had a wife and children as early as 1874 so he joined up as a married man. Perhaps he married someone who already had children. This causes some confusion and questions about accuracy. There is one child Elizabeth, who is born when he is ‘away’.

From Army Records

Of note, he is described as being of fair complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair. He is 5ft 5 1/2 inches. His religion is Church of England. He had been vaccinated three times as an infant and was re-vaccinated in February 1877.

He joins the 48th Brigade and travels; we see him in Malta and a long time in India. He was part of the Egyptian campaign.

His temperament is variable and is at one time described as ‘bad’ and ‘latterly good’.  He is imprisoned for desertion and for drunkenness.

He is regularly injured or unwell. He has some minor accidents. Significantly, he has an enlarged liver and hepatitis (mild) in March 1878.


21 Cloth Lane

This returns in 1881. By August 1881, he also has syphilis.

Back at home in 1881, Ellen his mother, is still a butcheress, living in 21 Cloth Lane with some children, Ellen, Alfred, Alice and Joseph.

In 1889 Arthur is discharged from the army.

There are no other Arthurs in the area and beyond during 1881. I believe that Arthur did sign up.


By 1891, Arthur is living with his wife Charlotte in 45 Prebend St, St Pancras. They have a son Arthur, who is a pianoforte action maker, aged 14. They also have other children: Alice is born in 1874; Arthur junior born 1877; James born 1881; Ellen born 1885; Elizabeth born 1890. All of the places of birth are given as St Pancras.


On December 23rd 1900, his son Arthur b 1877 marries Minnie Alice Phillips at St John’s Bethnal Green. We find them again in the 1939 census, living in 17 Corinth Rd Islington.  He is also a French Polisher.

In 1901, Arthur senior is living in 36 Pritchard St. Arthur is a French Polisher. Wife Charlotte is a laundress, born Islington.  Children are given as Ellen Elizabeth, George H, Sarah M, James.

One possibility is that the army Arthur is not the same man as our research subject. However, there is no evidence in the records of any other family.  It has not been possible to find Charlotte and the children in 1881.

On July 9th 1909, our Arthur is admitted to St John’s Road Workhouse. He is given as a French Polisher. His religion is Church of England.

On July 16th 1909, Arthur leaves St John’s Workhouse in Islington and is sent to Long Grove. His age is given as 58 on the record. He departs the same day as a Geoff Simpson who also goes to Long Grove. They are discharged to the care of Mr Haslow and Mrs Everett. It says his address is 47 Campbell Road. He is temporarily disabled.

On December 31st 1909, Arthur dies aged just 54 years old. His death certificate states he is 58 years old. He is listed again as a French Polisher. The cause of death is ‘general paralysis of the insane’ which he seems to have had for 8 months. (His Army Record tells us that he had Primary Syphilis in 1881.)  His address is given as Campbell Rd, possible 100. The medical superintendent at Long Grove is GF Barham.

His resting place is plot 657b in Horton Cemetery.

Authors Comment

In summary, a talented man as a French polisher who handed the skills down to his son. He may or may not have served his country in Malta, Egypt and India.

After his death, there is evidence of his family in the records. In 1911, his wife Ellen is a widowed charwoman, living with her son Harry (George Harry) who is a French Polisher. Her daughter Sarah is living there too. Their address is 4 Andover Gardens Holloway.

By 1939, Arthur junior is living with his new wife Minnie at 17 Corinth Road Islington. A closed record in the 1939 census suggests that there is perhaps a child, who may still be alive today.

Theresa Kenefick-Conway, January, 2021

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