At the time of the 1851 census (see page 12) GEORGE (G1) was a servant living in Yateley. Maybe he did not consider that being a servant was his niche in life and he may have already been contemplating a living further afield. In any case he literally moved to pastures new; to the downlands of Sussex. His actual late of moving from Yateley is open to conjecture. In the light of his marriage in 1854, he could well have moved not long after the 1851 census.
GEORGE was married on 22 November 1854 to EMMA GILBERT (E2), (see page 21) she was the illiterate spinster daughter of RICHARD GILBERT. RICHARD lived in number 2 Chalkpit Cottages in Funtington. A witness at their marriage was one ALICE RIDGERS, also illiterate, who could well have been GEORGE’s sister from Yateley. GEORGE signed the register with his name so therefore had at least the rudiments of an education.
Judging from the range of occupations listed on the 1861 census (see pages 25, 26 & 27) the estate upon which GEORGE was now working was rather vast, the house at Woodend being the farm house.
GEORGE and EMMA's first child GEORGE (G2) was born in January 1857 (see page 28), by which time GEORGE and EMMA were already living in the Chalkpit Cottages. I suspect these cottages were tithe dwellings rather spartan to look at but with a very sheltered aspect.
1 & 2 CHALKPIT COTTAGES
Two years were to pass before the next child ALICE (A2), born 12 February 1859 (see page 30) appeared. Named maybe after her aunt? Unfortunately ALICE died in January 1361 (see page 31).
The census of 5 April 1861 (see 25, 26 & 27) lists the occupants of the four Chalkpit Cottages. GEORGE was still shown as an "Agricultural labourer". Maybe he worked alongside his father-in-law, RICHARD GILBERT who was living next door. With no central heating, double glazing or such associated modern developments, the day to day life in those flint built cottages was somewhat more austere than which we experience today. A possible compensation for the austerity was that the cottages are built in a disused chalkpit, hence their name, The now-tree covered sides of the chalkpit having created a setting that modern day estate agents would drool over.
The cottages were originally built for the workers at Downs Farm (see map page 23). Mr McDougall, of flour fame had the farm and house at Bow Hill built opposite the Wood End House when it was occupied by one Sir Hugo be Bath. Another one time occupant of Wool End House was Lily Langtry, of music hall fame. She was instrumental in modernising number 1 & 2 Chalkpit Cottages by having the electric light and water laid on and also converting the two cottages into one.
The year 1861 saw two events worthy of note. The first being the birth of GEORGE and EMMA's next child, WILLIAM (W2) born 10 February (see page 33 & 34). The second event in this the twenty-fourth year of Queen Victoria’s reign was much sadder. In December of that year Albert, whom she married in 1841, tied of typhoid fever. News of his death no doubt filtered down to both Yateley and Funtington in due Course.
Queen Victoria became depressed and shunned public life following Albert's death. For some years her seclusion was almost complete. Criticism and the burden of public work however, brought the Queen out of the depths of her depression and she eventually, returned to a more public life. She vowed though to wear mourning for the rest of her life in memory of her "dear Albert".
By 1861 the RIDGERS family were spreading out from the centre of civilisation - Yateley. The census for Crondall (see page 35), a small village east of Yateley shows that at least one member of the family, CHARLES, albeit a distant relative, was a man of some note in the area. Considerable research has been carried out by DONALD RIDGERS of Camberley into the ancestors of CHARLES. DONALD has traced that particular family line back to a LAWRENCE RYDYAR, who died in Yateley in 1710, although his birth late is unknown.
Of JOHN's (J1) three remaining sons not a great deal is known. One of them was attracted by the discovery in 1851 of gold in Australia. During correspondence with a PETER RIDGERS of Chichester he mentioned that his mother still corresponded with a relative in Australia, by the name of MAUDE HAY. Despite several letters to her I did not receive a reply. Despite this lack of reply though the information that PETER supplied would indicate that either WILLIAM (W1), JAMES (J1) or CHARLES (C1) emigrated to seek their fortune in Australia. Considering their respective ages though, the most likely émigré was WILLIAM. Without confirmatory evidence though that is pure conjecture. Another possibility that must be considered about the Australian connection is that one of our relatives incurred the wrath of the British legal system and was deported.
The years passed uneventfully in the Chalkpit Cottages until March 1866, when EMMA suddenly died of consumption. A virulent disease in the mid,-1800s, consumption was a primary cause of death amongst the working classes until increased hygiene standards and antibiotics revolutionized its treatment.
GEORGE (G1) did not mourn his first wife for too long. Force of circumstances in the form of young children maybe, but in any case in 1867 he married MARY DEWEY (M3) of Selsey. MARY was of "full age" on the marriage certificate (see page 38) and "in service". She signed her own name on the marriage certificate, as opposed to making her mark.
GEORGE (G1) and MARY (M3) had three children; JAMES, born 1869, who later married FLORENCE and themselves had six children; JAMES died in 1966 at the advanced age of 97. GEORGE and MARY had two other children; JOHN and ELISABETH neither of whom do I have any information upon.
GEORGE (G1) remained true to the land for the rest of his life as his death certificate (see page 40) showed his occupation as a "farm labourer". He died on 14 February 1903 at 5 Brewery Lane, Bognor Regis, Sussex. MARY, his wife did not survive him for many months as she died on 21 September 1903 (see page 41). Their son JOHN, was present at both deaths.
Turning to GEORGE(G2), who died in 1916. He sired seven children, five boys and two daughters, one son being named ERNEST, who died in 1951; he in turn sired eight children, one son also named ERNEST. By an unusual coincidence Ian and I were able to meet ERNEST at Ian's home in August 1981. [correction by IanR] Please click here to read about the circumstance of that meeting a short transcript ERNEST’s recollections.
GEORGE's (G1) -second son, WILLIAM (W2) had chosen an occupation totally divorced from that of his father, he became a brewer. In 'October 1884 he married MARY BULBECK in the now disused parish church of St Peter the Great opposite the Chichester Cathedral. Both WILLIAM and MARY signed the register at the ceremony and one witness was MARY ANN BULBECK, the bride's mother.
The BULBECKs originally came from the tiny village of Funtington. Both MARY's mother and father are buried in the churchyard there.
The history now approaches more modern times as the next members of the family to arrive on the scene are those who I can recall, maybe only dimly, but they are within living memory.
WILLLIAM (W2) and MARY had only two children; WILLIAM JAMES PELLY (W3) and WILHEMENA, later known as 'EM. The Christian names of JAMES and WILLIAM have occurred frequently during the years but PELLY is a name that that I have not been able to establish any background upon. WILLIAM (W3) was born in 1887 at Basin Road in Chichester (see page 43), but I do not know when WILHEMENA was born, although I do know that she later married ROBERT GROVES in 1906. They were known as Aunty Em and Uncle Bob. ROBERT was in the Royal Navy and it is said that during the war he managed a high class pawn shop in Gosport.
The year 1887 saw not only the birth of WILLIAM but the occasion of the first jubilee of Queen Victoria. Celebrations were held throughout the country as during her later years the Queen was held in a respect close to reverence. The nation had undergone massive changes during her reign - not only in the field of industrial processes and the widening of British influence abroad, but especially in improvements in social life and education. It was these last improvements that had possibly the greatest impact on the Victorians themselves.
Abroad, the emergence of Germany after unification in 1870 suggested a shift away from Britain's long acknowledged strong position in Europe; a major change which some Victorian politicians found difficult to accept. But by far the greatest change was that by the 1870's the steam-engines had at last reached a very high standard of efficiency and sailing ships and those of wooden construction began to be rapidly superseded. Iron hulled warships, steam driven and heavily armored now began to rule the seas.
It was into this new mechanised Royal Navy that WILLIAM enlisted in 1904/05; a calculated guess about his enlistment late as I have not been able to obtain a copy of his service record but as he was awarded the commerative medal for the visit of George and Mary - Prince and Princess of Wales to India in 1905/06, he must have enlisted some time before their trip.
WILLIAM, saw service in both wars and rose to the rank of Chief Yeoman of Signals. It is interesting to note that his medals, enscribed around the rim with his name ant initials show “JWP RIDGERS” as though he may have preferred the name "JAMES" to that of "WILLIAM".
A more important event had occurred before the Great War that is relevant to WILLIAM and our family. On 4th November 1914 he married MABEL HENNING (see page 48). MABEL and WILLIAM were virtually the same age, she being born only two months later in 1887 than he ( see page 49). Following their marriage they lived initially at 29 Gordon Road, Gosport and later in Porchester Road, Portsmouth.
MABEL had trained as a nurse and worked in either Eastleigh or Southampton hospitals. In 1910 she bore a son, HARRY, later to be known as 'SANDY. rumour states HARRY's father to have been a doctor in the hospital where MABEL was working.
MABEL, known as Nana Ridgers to us grandchildren, was a very striking woman with extremely fixed ideals, positively Victorian. A beauty in her day, but later, a strict mother. Syd related a time when he and Roy, his younger brother were eating cakes that had a covering of silver foil. To avoid detection the silver foil was eaten !
One of the two witnesses at WILLIAM and MABEL's wedding was WILLIAM TALBOT, later known as "BILL". The photograph on page 49. which shows MABEL's brothers and sisters. MABEL's mother, Mrs MARY HENNING, the oldest relative for whom a photograph is held, is shown at page 50.
WILLIAM and MABEL had four children, three sons and a daughter. Unfortunately, the laughter, EILEEN died (see page 52) of whooping cough contracted from a charlady’s daughter whom MABEL had hired to carry out the housework.
MABEL and probably WILLIAM too, exercised strict control over their sons, the first of whom, PERCY, was born in 1920. A strictness that was to be echoed in a later generation. By virtue of WILLIAM's Naval career the family moved several times when the sons themselves were fairly young. During the 1920's and 30's houses were set up in Lowestoft and Glasgow, but the family finally settled down in Brighton.
Two semi-detached houses, -numbers 39 and 41 Upper Bevendean Avenue were bought by at least August 1935 as the reverse of the photograph of ROY was post-marked with that date.
<Pic not shown>
The year after the move into Bevendean Avenue the abdication of the King and the Accession of George VI combined with the threat of Nazism made headlines. The later became cause for concern in Britain and the thoughts of war were often voiced. HARRY was the only member of the family in the armed forces, although WILLIAM was later recalled to the Navy during the Second world War. With the war looming ever presently closer the three Brothers joined the armed forces. PERCY joined the REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), ROY enlisted in the Royal Air Force and SYD joined the Royal Navy on 16 January 1938.
After seeing service in many varied situations and locations around the world all four brothers and WILLIAM too survived the war, all having witnessed and participated in the nastiness and horror of World War II.
HARRY continued his military service after the war having been commissioned in the Royal Corps of Signals and having had a distinguished war record.
By the KINGS Order the name of
Lieutenant (t/Captain)(A/Major)H.H.C. Henning,
Royal Corps of Signals
was published in the London Gazette on
23 March 1944
as mentioned in a Despatch for distinguished service
I am charged to record
His Majesty’s high appreciation
Not long after the war ended in 1945 WILLIAM and MABEL moved to Downsview Avenue in South Woodingdean not far outside Brighton. HARRY and KATH moved into 39 Bevendean Avenue and ROY and his bride, JEAN moved into number 41, where they lived for the next few years.
At this point the actual family history really ends as the sons of WILLIAM and MABEL soon produced and raised their own families, but before their stories unfold, a few more lines about WILLIAM and MABEL. WILLIAM died on 1 January 1954 of a brain tumor. MABEL, now alone in the cottage in Woodingdean, decided to move. She left her garden, few chickens and many possessions and moved into a little flat in West Drive in Brighton. In later years she became a very lonely old lady; she died of cancer on 3 January 1965- a frail shadow of her former self.
But now to the descendants of both 'WILLIAM and MABEL who have supplied the remainder of this history. (TO FOLLOW!)