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Frederick’s parents and siblings

On 22 January 1834, William Henry Branscombe married 19 -year-old Grace Cholwich Neyle in St Andrews Church, Plymouth.  Their daughter Elizabeth Eunice was baptised on 21 May that same year into the Anglican religion at St. Thomas-a-Becket Church, an ancient church in Dodbrooke, Devon. This small village, at the head of the Salcombe estuary, forms part of the town of Kingsbridge. 

Their second child, William Henry, was born on 20 November 1835. William junior must have died soon after his baptism on Christmas Day, which was in the same church as his sister, as this is the only record of his short existence.

Born on 5 December 1836, Frederick Neyle was William and Grace’s third child. On 1 January 1837, like his two older siblings, Frederick was baptised in St. Thomas-a-Becket Church. Frederick’s brother Frocham Neale was born in 1838, and three months before the 1841 census was taken, his sister Dorcas Garland was born. Frederick’s father was not at home on the evening when the census was taken, but Frederick, his mother, and siblings were recorded as living in Barrack Street, Dodbrooke, Devon. Frederick would later follow his father’s trade and become a carpenter.

The 1850s – a move to London and marriage

The 1851 census records that the Branscombe family had moved to Fore Street, Kingsbridge, Devon. Frederick was by then aged 14 and working with his father as a carpenter. 

At some point over the next nine years Frederick moved to London. It was here that he met his future wife, 17-year-old Fanny Bradley, the mother of his first thirteen known children. Banns for their marriage were read in St Marys Church, Lambeth, and on 26 March 1860 the young couple were married in the church. Whether any of Frederick’s family attended is unknown as their witnesses were Fanny’s father and sister, Nicholas Thomas Bradley and Mary Ann Bradley.

The early 1860s – two births and two deaths in the family

Their honeymoon baby daughter Fanny Eunice was born in January 1861. The family were by then living in Kingston Street, Lambeth, where presumably Frederick worked nearby as a carpenter. Frederick’s father William was not recorded as living with his family back in Kingsbridge when the 1861 census was taken. It is possible he may have been once again travelling away from home looking for work and was missed by the 1861 census enumerators.

The year 1863 proved to be eventful for the whole of the Branscombe family with a birth and a marriage to celebrate, and sadly two deaths to mourn over. 

According to the censuses Frederick and Fanny’s second daughter Elizabeth was born in 1863 [no GRO birth record found]. None of Frederick and Fanny’s children appear to have been baptised.

In the June quarter Frederick’s sister Elizabeth married Henry Prowse in Plymouth, Devon. Their only known child, Augusta Susannah Neyle, was born the following year. 

In May 1863, Frederick’s father William died in St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, London. [Info about St Barts Hospital from Wikipedia – From 1839 to 1872, the mortality reports show that surgical trauma and postoperative infection were the greatest causes of death. Tuberculosis, however, remained the most fatal nontraumatic cause of death]. William was buried on 12 May 1863 in Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney, Middlesex. This would seem to indicate that William had been living in the London area during the early 1860’s.

Two months later, Frederick’s 25-year-old brother Frocham died at home in Kingsbridge; he was buried on 15 July 1863. 

Admitted to the workhouse – and a third child

Workhouse records that show that on 10 February 1864 Frederick, Fanny, and Elizabeth Branscombe were admitted to the Newington Workhouse as being destitute. It is unclear who was looking after 3-year-old Fanny while they were there. At their own request, they were discharged on 17 February 1864. Early in 1865 Fanny gave birth to their third child, a son they named Frederick Frocham in memory of his deceased uncle.

Frederick’s sister, Dorcas

Later, back in Kingsbridge on 5 July 1865, Frederick’s sister Dorcas gave birth to her son Philip Frocham Neyle Branscombe. It was their mother Grace who registered his illegitimate birth. Grace was aged 53 when she died eight months later; she was buried on 4 March 1866 in Kingsbridge, Devon. [Following the death of their mother, Frederick’s sister Dorcas moved to Camberwell with her son Philip and on 26 December 1868 gave birth to a second illegitimate son that she named Louis William Henry Branscombe. Whether the two boys shared the same father is unknown. When Louis started at Peckham Park School in 1877, Dorcas was using the surname Brown which later both sons adopted as their surnames. Dorcas married (possibly bigamously) James Barber on 3 January 1883 in the Camberwell Register Office. Dorcas was buried in the Camberwell Old Cemetery on 30 October 1888.]

A growing family – and a return to the workhouse

An old saying says “One in, one out” and nine months after the death of her mother-in-law Grace, Fanny gave birth, on 15 December 1866, to their fourth child Mary Ann. 

Times must have been hard for the family as on Saturday 10 August 1867, Fanny who was once again pregnant, along with her children Fanny aged 6, Elizabeth aged 4, Frederick junior aged 2, and 8-month-old Mary Ann were admitted to the Southwark Workhouse, Newington. From there, the two eldest daughters were moved temporarily to the Brighton Road School, a residential school for pauper children, before being discharged back to the workhouse on 29 August 1867. By her own request, Fanny and her children were all discharged from the workhouse on 31 August 1867. On 6 March 1869 Fanny gave birth to their fifth child, Susannah Susan.

The tragic deaths of three children

The 1871 census recorded that on the evening of 2 April the family was living at 198 Cator Street, Peckham. Frederick was by then aged 34 and Fanny was 28. Their children were recorded as Fanny aged 10, Eliza[beth] aged 8, Frederick aged 6, Mary Ann aged 4, and Susan aged 3. Fanny was pregnant at the time with their sixth child Matilda, whose birth was recorded in the September quarter, meaning she could have been born in July, August, or September. Sadly, little Matilda died and was buried on 17 November 1871.  This sadness continued with the births and deaths of their next three babies. 

Frederick and Fanny’s next daughter, their seventh child, was born in the September quarter of 1873. Blanche Marian Cholwich Neyle Branscombe died and was buried in the Camberwell Old Cemetery on 29 October 1873.

Aged 31, Fanny became pregnant again in 1874 and gave birth to their eighth child, William Henry. Once again, their baby’s life was cut short, and William was buried on 28 February 1876 in the Camberwell Old Cemetery. 

Albert Ernest, their ninth child, was born in the early part of 1877 but only lived a few months. He was buried on 27 November 1877 in the same cemetery as his deceased siblings.

Frederick and Fanny must have been apprehensive when Fanny became pregnant again, but on the 25 November 1878, Fanny gave birth to Harry, their tenth child, who survived childhood and lived until 1962.

On the 12 November 1879, when their daughters, Mary Ann and Susan, were admitted to Wood Street School, the family address was recorded as being 39 Bournemouth Road.

The 1881 Census – and a change of name

On 24 January 1881, three months before the 1881 census was taken on 3 April, Fanny gave birth to their eleventh child, Florence Maud.

Searching the 1881 census for Frederick, Fanny and their children proved challenging to say the least and the search was abandoned several times. After a lot of fragmented searches looking for just any of their first names, place of births and other obscure methods, the family was eventually found as living at 25 Athearn Road in Camberwell, London.  The reason for the previously fruitless searches was because not only were they recorded by initials or shortened names but, for reasons unknown, their family surname was recorded as BRADLEY, Fanny’s maiden name. What event that had caused them to want to ‘hide’ is unknown.

The census revealed that Frederick was working as a joiner while Fanny looked after their children Elizabeth aged 18, Frederick aged 16, Mary Ann aged 14, and Susan aged 12, Harry aged 2, and 3-month-old Florence Maud. Also recorded was their 5-month-old granddaughter Elizabeth Mummery Branscombe, the illegitimate daughter of 18-year-old Elizabeth. Their eldest daughter Fanny was away living and working as a general servant in Greenwich.

A close-up of a register

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Above: 1881 census

The death of Fanny

Frederick and Fanny’s twelfth child, Alberta Dorothy, was born on 12 February 1883. Their eldest child Fanny Eunice was aged 22 by then and two years after the birth of her sister Alberta, on 3 April 1885, Fanny married James William Hipwell in All Saints Church, Walford.

In June 1886, Frederick became a widower when his wife Fanny, aged only 43, died soon after giving birth to their thirteenth child William, leaving her husband with four children under the age of seven to look after. No GRO birth record has been found for baby William. Fanny was buried on 12 June 1886 in same cemetery as her deceased children.

The Peckham Park School Admission ledger records that when Harry and Florence were admitted to the school on 7 November 1887, that their family was living at 134 Meeting House Lane, but the following year they had moved to 1 Upperhall Street, Southwark. The ledger also records that Harry’s previous school had been “N S Eden Road, Norwood” [N S = National School]. 

Frederick’s second wife, Florence Kew

Where and when Frederick exactly met his second wife Florence is unknown. Florence was the youngest of eleven known children born to James and Maria Kew. She had been born in Wells-next-to-the-sea in Norfolk on 5 March 1862. Her father James’ name does not appear in any of the UK censuses with his family as he was a mariner and was probably away when they were taken. It is possible he died in 1877 in London. Florence, her widowed mother, and sister Fanny were living at 26 East Street, St George the Martyr, Holborn, when the 1881 census was taken. Both Florence and Fanny were working as dressmakers.

The birth of a son

Two months before the 1891 census was taken on the evening of 5 April, Florence gave birth to their son Leonard. Even though he was illegitimate, Leonard’s birth was recorded with the GRO as Leonard Branscombe, mother’s maiden name Kew. Frederick and Florence were living together as a married couple in 118 Helene House, a large tenement block in *East Street, Walworth. Frederick was still working as a carpenter and joiner to support Florence, who was recorded as “aged 40”, and his children Florence aged 9, and Alberta aged 7, and William aged 4, and their new-born son Leonard. Any further records for young William have not been found but, as Frederick and Florence later named another son William, it is possible that he died sometime between this census and 1894. Thirteen-year-old son Harry’s whereabouts in the 1891 census is unknown.

* No GRO birth record has been found to prove this but has been suggested that East Street was the birthplace on 16 April 1889 of actor Charlie Chaplin. He certainly grew up in the area and was admitted twice to the local workhouse before the age of 9. Modern day East Street Market features in the opening titles of the TV show Only Fools and Horses. Source: East Street Market – Wikipedia

Frederick and Florence marry

Banns were read on 31 May, 7 June, and 14 June 1891 at All Saints Church, Walford, stating that Frederick Branscombe, widower, and Florence Kean (sic), widow, intended to marry. Declaring he was 50 years old (he was 55), Frederick married 30-year-old spinster Florence Maria Kew on 20 December 1891 in St Stephens Church, Walford, London. The address given on their marriage entry was 118 Blendon Row, East Street. These 6-storey-high tenement blocks were infamous for their cramped conditions and with just one shared toilet for all the flats on each floor.

Frederick and Florence added to their family over the next few years – Albert Edward in 1893, William Henry in 1895 and Frederick Neyle junior in 1898. 

According to the Peckham Park School Admission ledgers, the family were recorded in 1899 as living at 16 Finley Street and by 1900 they had moved to 24 Frankton Road. 

The 1901 Census – and a return to the workhouse

Frederick was still working as a joiner when, on the evening of 31 March, the 1901 census was taken. Declaring again to be “aged 50”, 64-year-old Frederick and Florence, aged 39, were living with their sons Leonard, Albert, William, and Frederick at 21 Victory Square, Camberwell. Victory Square was made up of terrace houses whose front doors opened out onto a very narrow road that was off the New Church Road. It was certainly an improvement on the cramped tenement they had been living in, even though it had no bathroom.

On 10 July 1901, Albert and William were admitted into the Brighton Road School, where it was recorded that their father Frederick was in the Gordon Street Workhouse and their mother lived in 21 Victory Square. On Tuesday 3 September 1901 Albert, William, Frederick junior and Leonard were discharged from Brighton Road School back into the workhouse. On 16 October 1901 Frederick junior was admitted with his brother Leonard back into the Brighton Road School. The school ledger records that their father was still in Gordon Road Workhouse, and their mother was still living in Victory Square.

The Upland Road Workhouse Admission and Discharge Ledger records that when Frederick’s son William was admitted on 8 March 1902, his father was in the Havill Street Infirmary, and that his mother had moved to 63 Thurley Street.

Frederick’s admission to Horton and death

On Saturday 22 March 1902, Frederick was admitted from the Havill Street Infirmary as ‘mental’ into the Southwark Workhouse in Camberwell. Frederick’s year of birth was recorded as being 1837, that his religion was Church of England, that he was married and had worked as a carpenter. While he was in the workhouse, Frederick’s young son Albert was admitted on 5 April 1902 into the Upland Road Workhouse. Their records later show that on 22 July 1902 Albert had also been admitted to the Havill Street Infirmary. 

Frederick was transferred from the Southwark Workhouse on Tuesday 22 April 1902 to the Horton Asylum in Epsom, Surrey. Frederick was aged 65 when he died there on 8 July 1902 and was buried six days later, on 14 July, in grave 28 in the Horton Estate Cemetery.

Frederick’s family after his death

When the 1911 census was taken, Frederick’s second family was living at 2 Goldsmith Road, Peckham. His widow Florence was aged 39 and working as a laundress while her 20-year- old son Leonard worked as a cabinet maker for a church furnisher. Her son William was aged 16 and working as a sugar boiler for a confectioner, and her youngest son Frederick junior, who was aged 14, worked as a van boy for a printer. Florence recorded that she had been married for 11 years and that all her four children were alive. Although she had started to write Albert’s first name on the form, it had been crossed out. It is not known what had happen to Albert. 

Her son Leonard was one of her witnesses when she married widower William Johnson on 3 November 1912. It would seem the marriage was short lived as she had reverted to her former married name when her son Frederick enlisted on 8 April 1915 and gave her as his next-of-kin living at Marmont Road, Peckham. Florence Branscombe was admitted by the police as ‘temporary disabled’ to the Constance Road Workhouse on 4 June 1918 after being found wandering along the Marmont Road where she lived. Her birth year was (incorrectly) recorded as being 1868 and that she was the widow of Frederick Branscombe, carpenter. Sadly, it was alleged that she was insane. The cause of her distress was revealed in a letter found in her youngest son’s WW1 service record in which it said she had not heard from him in months. Thankfully Frederick junior returned safely from the war. 

Florence Branscombe may have died in 1928 but without sending for the death certificate we cannot confirm this as fact. 

Below is a chart showing potted details of Frederick’s seventeen children.

Frederick and Fanny’s 13 children
Fanny Euniceb.1861 d.19323 April 1885, married James William Hipwell in All Saints Church, Walford.
Elizabethb.1863 d. after 1881No further records found after 1881 for her or her illegitimate daughter Elizabeth Mummery Branscombe.
Frederick Frochamb.1865 d. after 1891Last found in 1891 census in Boarding House, single, General Labourer
Mary Annb.1866 d.1915?28 Jun 1890, married Joseph Thomas Tilley in All Saints Church, Walford. Not found in censuses with husband. Possibly died in workhouse, alleged insane.
Susannah Susanb.1869 d.19411) Married in 1889, John William Van Oost in Bromley Kent. 2) Married in 1895, William Arthur Williams in Bromley Kent.
Matildab.1871 – d.1871Died soon after birth.
Blanche Marian Cholwich Neyleb.1873 – d.1873Died soon after birth.
William Henryb.1874 – d.1876Died 2 years old.
Albert Ernestb.1877 – d.1877Died soon after birth.
Harryb.1878 d.196217 December 1904, married Susan McDaid in Croydon Register Office. Served in WW1 
Florence Maudb.1881 d.1954Married Alfred Houghton Watson
Alberta Dorothyb.1883 d.19631) Married Charles Henry Munday 1903. 2) Charles Gower 1935.
Williamb.1886 d. before 1895No further records found after 1891 for him. Presumed deceased as half-brother was named William in 1895.
Frederick and Florence’s 4 children
Leonardb.1891 d.1973Served in Royal Air Force in WW1. Married Hannah Driscoll 1918.
Albert Ernestb.1893 d. after 1902No further records found for him after 1902.
William Henryb.1895 d.194113 August 1916, married Louisa Jane Charlotte Greenwood.
Frederick Neyleb.1896 d.1977Served in Royal Field Artillery in WW1. Married Edith Gough 1921.

For photos and more information about the workhouses mentioned, visit this page https://www.workhouses.org.uk/Camberwell/ on the excellent website by Peter Higginbotham.

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