A History of the

Dumbrell Family

of Mid-Sussex and

Malling, Kent

1525 - 1925


This short history of one branch of the Dumbrell family is written as a tribute to my mother, Marjorie Johnson née Dumbrell, who died in 1975. My interest in her family arose from stories of her own childhood and that of her brothers and sisters that I heard more than 50 years ago, and my curiosity was aroused by each discovery as I began my research.

I am not a historian by training, and the contents may therefore contain some inaccuracies. I have done my best to keep these to a minimum, and where I am unsure, I have said so honestly. I have tried to write in jargon-free language in order to make this history accessible to all who wish to read it. A short glossary of specialist terms is to be found at the back of the booklet.

The names of the direct ancestors of my grandparents, George and Eliza Dumbrell of East Malling, are printed in bold. I have assigned each family member a number, in order that the reader can trace those with the same Christian name more easily. Our ancestors were not given to endowing their offspring with the eclectic crop of names which our current generation bestows. Sometimes, this can be an advantage, especially if a new name suddenly appears in a generation; mostly, it is a positive hindrance.

I am grateful to the staff of the East and West Sussex Record Offices at Lewes and Chichester for their patient help, and also to those at the Centre for Kentish Studies at Maidstone.

I also wish to thank Mr. Frank Leeson FSG and his associates, who have spent more than twenty years in preparing the Sussex Marriage Index. Access to this has saved me many hours of fruitless searching.

This second edition contains amendments and details not available at the time of the first. In particular, I have made use of the 1901 census to trace the beginnings of the dispersal of the family in Kent.

Those seeking information on other branches of the Dumbrell family may apply to the author at the address below. Researchers intending to use the contents of this booklet for other than private purposes should please seek the author’s permission.

Graham Johnson

Hurstwood House

Church Road


East Sussex



October 2010 (3rd. Ed.)

The origins of the Dumbrell name

These are by no means certain. One source on the origins of surnames gives the name to be a corruption of the Saxon dialectic word dummerell, ‘a slow-witted person’. If the name does derive from a characteristic, then it is possible that the earliest bearers of the name were unrelated. If that were the case, it might be expected to occur contemporaneously throughout the whole of Sussex, but the evidence is against this, as we shall see below.

The earliest positive use of the surname so far discovered is during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307), when a Godefry Dumberel was one of thirteen witnesses to a grant of land by William de Mulstone to Gilbert de Sikelfot ‘at Pidelingewerth in Dichenynge’ (Ditchling). Pedlingworth was a small manor in Stanmer Park, not far from the present site of Sussex University. In 1301, William Dumberell, a carpenter unusually living a good way from Sussex in Colchester, and assessed on the tax of a fifteenth (quindime), owned a brodex (broad axe) worth five pence, an adese (adze, worth two pence) and a squiry (square) worth one penny. He also had seven shillings in money.

In 1408, the Bishop of Chichester inducted as Rector of Hurstpierpoint a certain William Dumbrell at a ceremony at Amberley, near Arundel. He remained in post until 1413. It is also known that a Walter Dumbrell was arrested at Lewes on January 5th 1418 on suspicion of theft, escaping from Lewes Castle two months later1. These references all pre-date the arrival of Huguenots in the country and undermine the theory that it was they who introduced the surname.

The name Dumbrell (-ill) is highly specific to mid-Sussex; by the early sixteenth century, about ten branches of the family are known to have had properties at Cuckfield, Wivelsfield, Fletching and Portslade2. None of these settlements are more than twenty miles from the Sussex coast, and this gives rise to the possibility that the name may not be Saxon at all, but may have arrived from France, perhaps with specialist craftsmen, in the 1200s. On the other hand, the Dumbrell name does not occur regularly outside the County before 1580, when it appeared in Morden, Surrey.

The name occurs with different spellings, reflecting nothing more significant in the earliest records than pronunciation differences, or poor hearing or spelling on the part of local clergy. Variants include Domrell, Domberrill, Dumberhill and Dumvrill. The name Dumbrell occurs today in old farms and properties in the Cuckfield/Burgess Hill area, and the name Damerel at a farmhouse in Fletching, East Sussex.

A family with a similar name, Dambrell or Damerell, occurs in Devon. This can be positively traced to the French name Aumerle (Abermarle), but it has yet to be established whether this family ever settled in Sussex.

The First Generation

The most distant ancestor positively traced is Thomas Dumbrell [1], tenant of Antye Farm, Wivelsfield, near today’s Burgess Hill. He died about 1536. But he certainly wasn’t the only Dumbrell in that part of mid-Sussex at the time; far from it. For example, John and Henry Dumbrell were living at Fletching, about five miles away, at the same time. In the mid-sixteenth century there were also Dumbrells nearby at Lindfield, Cuckfield, Nuthurst and Horsham, and it is quite probable that our Wivelsfield branch were related to Richard Dumbrell of Basden (now Bawlsdon) at Rottingdean, since Thomas’ son, William, cites this family in his will.

Nor were they poor. Antye Farm (the name ‘Antye’ means ‘at the high enclosure’) was acquired by Thomas Dumbrell’s family in about 1500 from the Hentys, whose name is derived from the property. This was the one of many substantial farms in Wivelsfield at the time, although the nearby manor house, ‘Great Otehall’, and ‘Theobalds’, an adjacent farm were both rather larger. Antye Farm (sometimes called ‘Hantye’) had been built in the late fourteenth century as an open hall house, possibly replacing a previous settlement called Entenie that was given to the monks of Lewes Priory before 11502. The farmhouse still stands today, much altered. According to tax records, Antye was owned by John and Robert Hentye in 1327. Their descendants, Ralph and Walter, paid 12d tax on the property at the poll tax collection of 1379. The last Hentye to own the property, before it was acquired by the Dumbrells, was Isabel, who assumed the lease on the death of her sister Lucy in 1481. The family then moved away, to Littlehampton and West Tarring on the Sussex coast, and so Antye came into the possession of the Dumbrells.3

Thomas Dumbrell was a yeoman, as indeed were many of the other members of the family in mid-Sussex, and only one step down from a gentleman. Yeomen generally held property in copy from the Lord of the Manor. That is to say, the tenant yeoman held a copy of the agreement made with his Lord, and was therefore known as a copyholder. In Sussex, land leased was generally passed down unhindered from one generation to the next, usually through the youngest son. This was known as the ‘Borough English’ form of succession.3 On the death of a tenant, the Lord would exact a heriot, a sort of death duty, from the heir, but in other respects the succession would pass unchallenged by the Lord, who would usually be on good terms with his yeoman farmers. Often the heriot was paid in kind; in the case of Antye at the beginning of the seventeenth century, it was a young bullock.

We know very little about Thomas. The value of his property was assessed at £400 in 1524, when the government was raising money as the result of heightened tension between the English and the French in 1522, and he paid £10 in tax.4 This is recorded in the Lay Subsidy Rolls of that date. Thomas died some time before May 31st 1536, and his widow Joan took over the property until her death in that year. She would have had the right to remain at Antye when the property passed to Thomas’s son, William [2]. This was because of her ’right of widow’s bench’, a succession law which allowed the widow to continue to live at the family property after her husband’s death. This custom caused some difficulty at Antye a hundred years later, as we shall see.

The Second Generation

Thomas’s son, William [2], was born about 1504, possibly in Wivelsfield or Cuckfield The assumption of his birth date is based on the fact that his name does not figure on the main tax roll for 1524, only appearing on the subsidiary roll for Wivelsfield for 1525. At that time he paid one pound, and it could be the case that he was a minor when the principal tax roll was drawn up a year earlier. William inherited Antye in 1536, and, in 1545, he sold two and half acres and a watermill, all lying in the north-western part of the property, to one Ralph Rickard. This small plot was situated to the east of where the eight railway arches of the London-Brighton Railway today carry passengers into the outskirts of Burgess Hill. The watermill passed to Ralph Rickard’s wife, Katherine, on his death in 1566, then to his son Richard. The leat supplying water to the mill had sadly silted by 1603.3 William almost certainly did not live at Antye, at least until later life. In 1549, the property was described as ‘his tenement’, and was leased out for a period of seven years from March 25th (Lady Day) in that year. It was only four years later that William and his wife retook possession.

William Dumbrell’s wife was Agnes, and we know from his will that he had at least two children, a son, John [3a], and a daughter, Alice [3b] who married John, the son of Joan and Nicholas Pryor of Hamsey, in 1562. However, it is possible, though not likely, that these children could have been from a previous marriage, since no mention is made of Agnes in the title deeds for Antye until 1555. The marriage settlement between the Pryors and John and Alice Dumbrell included the transfer of an annuity of £7 a year for a property in Cuckfield, and pasturage for 120 sheep in the parish of Piddinghoe. William had died before May 25th 1568, and it is possible that no longer had an active role in family decisions by the time of his daughter’s wedding, since he is not mentioned in the marriage settlement. Alice and John Pryor lived at Piddinghoe, close to Newhaven. Alice pre-deceased her husband, as his will of 1584 mentions a second wife, Margaret. He bequeathed £40 to his three daughters, Joan, Alice and Emye, and the rest of his estate to his son Richard.

William Dumbrell was quite specific that he wished to be buried in the churchyard at Cuckfield, although records for the parish before 1598 are lost. In accordance with the custom of the day, he decreed that all should make merry at his funeral, giving a ‘calfe and a shepe to be baked to refresh the poor with two bushels of grain to be baked into bread and a barrel of drynke’. He also left money to poor widows at Cuckfield, a heifer to Thomas Begley, his servant, and £30 to his son-in-law, John Pryor. The residue of the estate was left to his son. As you will realise, this is not the will of a poor man. He also left money or gifts to other relations or to the poor, and it is quite likely that he had estates beyond Cuckfield and Wivelsfield. As we shall see below, it is almost certain that the Dumbrells held land at Portslade continuously from about 1540 until August 1650, and William is mentioned for his payments to the manor there. His wife Agnes received from him a legacy equal to what she brought in to the marriage ‘I wyll that my wyfe Agnes has all her goods that was hers at the day of my marriage that is ij oxen....’. She probably continued living at Wivelsfield until her death around March 2nd 1573, and was buried in Wivelsfield churchyard.

The Third Generation

John Dumbrell [3a], son of William, was born about 1539 and died about September 15th, 1602 in Wivelsfield. His wife, Elizabeth, was buried on November 4th 1604, also in Wivelsfield. They had five children:

John, christened October 31st 1559 [4a]

Mary August 25th 1561 [4b]

Joan December 8th 1563 [4c]

Richard c 1565 [4d]

Elizabeth January 12 1568 [4e]

All, except Richard, appear in the Wivelsfield parish records.

It would seem that John did not occupy Antye House continuously during his ownership of its copyhold, because he applied twice to the manor to lease it for two seven year periods between 1575 and 1589. It is quite likely that he was living either at Ansty, where he had half-share of a property, or possibly at Cuckfield itself. His daughter, Elizabeth, gave her home as “Cookfield” when she married in 1688. On the other hand, John is recorded on the tax subsidy return for Wivelsfield made on May 17 1563, when a fine of 20s was levied. This was when his father William was still alive, so it is quite possible that Antye was used as a second residence for a Dumbrell family that was clearly quite well off.

We know much more about John [3a] towards the end of his life, mainly as the result of his will, written in 1599. At this time he was a yeoman of some standing, having property or moveable stores in Cuckfield, Keymer, Ditchling and Wivelsfield. He also must have had property in Portslade, because he sat as a juror at the manor court there on April 8th 1600. Between 1600 and 1601, he also sat three times as a juror in the manor courts of Keymer and Houndean (Wivelsfield).5 In 1601, he successfully applied for the removal of 2 doles of timber from St. John’s Common, Keymer to repair the barn at Leyland’s Farm, which he held in addition to Hantye.6 Leylands Farm was about half a mile west of Antye, on the north side of today’s Leylands Road in Burgess Hill. On his death, he left his property at Cuckfield to his elder son, John [4a], but that in the remaining parishes to his younger son, Richard [4d], after the death of his wife, according to the customs of inheritance. He remembered the poor, too, leaving ten shillings each to those in Cuckfield and Wivelsfield, and six and eight pence to the poor of Portslade. Naming Richard Dumbrell of Basden (now Bawlsdon, near Rottingdean) as one of the overseers of his will strongly suggests a blood relationship; moreover, he paid him an annuity of 10 shillings a year thereafter for his trouble. The Dumbrells in the Rottingdean area were almost as prolific and numerous as those in mid-Sussex, and it is possible that John and Richard were cousins.

John Dumbrell [4a], John’s eldest son, married Eleanor Vincent (baptised on April 15 1565 in Bolney) on February 5th 1584 at Cowfold. This branch of the family has not been fully researched, though it is known that John and Eleanor Dumbrell had five children:

[5a] Eleanor christened 23/12/1586

[5b] Dorothy 29/8/1588, married Thomas Tulley of Ardingly on September 22 1609

[5c] John 29/10/1590, and buried the same day

[5d] John buried March 31st 1593

[5e] Francis 13/1/1594

John [4a] may have inherited the large property of Pickwell in Cuckfield from his father. According to Rev. Carey Hampton Borrer, an amateur genealogist who lived in the house in the nineteenth century, John Dumbrell occupied the property from c. 1582 (though he may not have inherited it outright until his father’s will was published in 1599) and was an ironmaster. Borrer’s evidence for this were grants of title deeds in which George Goring of Denny allowed John Dumbrell to cut underwood and timber for iron smelting, and the remnants of ironworking in the old ponds and osier beds beside the house. A piece of ironstone was also kept in the house. Borrer here may have pointed to the real source of the Dumbrell wealth, although the evidence for this is not conclusive. John was a substantial figure in Cuckfield society, an attorney to the Grammar School (1589), parish surveyor (1596), and churchwarden (1611-1612). Eleanor, John’s wife, must have died by around 1593, because Francis is described in John’s will as “his last and natural son”. John may have married Joanna Roberts, née Ockenden and originally of Ockenden Manor in Cuckfield, by licence in 1596. She died in 1600. John may then have married an Anne, who died in Cuckfield in March 1617, and finally took as his wife Thomasina Anstey. She outlived John who was probably buried at Cuckfield on Christmas Day in 1624, living out her last days at Buxted, where she died in 1632.

John’s sister, Mary [4b], married Eleanor Vincent’s brother, Hugh, (not the only time that brothers and sisters have married into each others’ families), and had five children, Robert, Hugh, John, Joane and Mary. All of these grandchildren were mentioned in their grandmother’s (Elizabeth’s) will. Her children were not forgotten, of course, Mary receiving ‘my best gowns, my Flemish petticoat and my felte hatte’, while her granddaughters Dorothy [5a] and Eleanor [5b] received ‘all that was in one cheste’. Eleanor additionally acquired her red and white petticoats and her best hat. This will entry typifies most of that time. It reminds us that people had very few possessions, and that treasured clothes were handed down from generation to generation, not out of sentimentality, but for their practical use.

Dorothy’s father stood surety at her wedding to Thomas Tulley in 1609, when he was described as a yeoman.

The third child, Joan [4c], married John Humfrey at Wivelsfield on August 13th 1601. Little more is known about her. Her younger brother, Richard [4d], is dealt with in greater detail below, while her younger sister, Elizabeth, the fifth [4e] child of John and Elizabeth, married John Walker at Sandhurst, Kent, on May 12th 1588. She was buried in Sandhurst in May 1603, the year before her mother wrote her will, in which she left provision of ten shillings a year to Elizabeth’s three survivng children (Alce, Elizabeth and Mary Walker) until they reached the age of 21 or married. By this time, John Walker, Elizabeth’s widower, had remarried, although the name of the second wife is not known.

The Fourth Generation

Richard Dumbrell [4d] is presumed to be fourth child of John and Elizabeth, and was at any rate the youngest son at the time that he inherited his father’s property. He was not christened in Wivelsfield, and no record has yet been found of his birth. It is possible that he was baptised in Cuckfield as his father also had connections there, and if this is the case, we may never know the date of his baptism as the Cuckfield registers before 1598 are lost. Richard married Mary, daughter of John and Jone Ridge, possibly around 1596, but again we cannot be sure of the date as this has not been found in parish records. Mary Ridge was probably born in 1568, the fourth child of this well-to-do family from Iford, about two miles south of Lewes. When John Ridge died in 1612, his son-in-law Richard Dumbrell was an assessor of his property which was valued at more than £655, no small sum in those days.

Mary and Richard had the following children:

Mary christened March 19th 1598 [5f]

John c 1599 [5g]

Richard November 9th 1600; buried November 22nd 1600 [5h]

Elizabeth December 6th 1601 [5j]

Francis c.1602 [5k]

Richard March 8th 1604 [5l]

Susan December 7th 1606; buried May 24th 1608 [5m]

Anne June 4th 1609 [5n]

In addition to customary properties at Southease and Iford7 acquired probably through his marriage, Richard retained the ancestral Dumbrell properties elsewhere. It is recorded in the minutes of the Houndean Manorial Court (Wivelsfield) that, after the death of his father, Richard [4d] was admitted to the tenancy of Leyland’s Farm in 1603 for £9. He also held the larger property of Antye, to which he was admitted on March 26th 1603, having satisfied the Houndean court that he was indeed ‘the son of his father’. At that time, Antye was a virgate of customary land with a heriot of a bullock. Next to the house was a backyard and two orchards. There was also a three acre plot of flax or hemp which realised a rent of 40/- or 13/4d an acre. This was a good return as good meadowland only realised 8/- an acre at the time, arable from 5/- to 6/6d, and coppice 2/-. Hemp was pulled up, not cut down, and soaked in watercourses so that the fleshy part of the stem could be rubbed away, leaving the fibres. Laying hemp in streams was unpopular with the local population who depended on them for drinking water.8 In 1637, Richard’s property was assessed at £15/10/- a year, and was the tenth most valuable of the 65 properties valued in the parish.9

Richard must have been a pillar of the Wivelsfield community, a churchwarden in 1609, and a juror on the manorial courts of Houndean (1609-1642), Keymer (1605-1617) and Portslade (1627-1641). He even presided over the Court of Houndean for one meeting in 1609, and was a reeve of that manor at the time of the enclosure of Chailey common, when each copyholder agreed to pay a fine of 6d for each acre held8. Sometime before this, he had appeared at the Cuckfield manor court, as a juror in 1597 and on September 30th 1601, and continued to attend infrequently in this capacity until at least 1612. This regular attendance at local Manor Courts certainly appears to give the lie to the assumption that people of the time did not move far from their home village. Certainly roads were not good, especially in the winter, but this did not mean that people did not travel at all. To attend Court at Portslade, for example, Richard Dumbrell would have travelled more than twelve miles, negotiating the South Downs on the way.

In addition to his several holdings scattered across mid-Sussex, Richard may also have held a cottage and 15 acres of land in the parish of Cuckfield near Ansty Cross. He had acquired this on May 9th 1584, when he was admitted to a half-share of the property with his father, John, who had previously held it in moiety with one Robert Stondon. It does not seem as though he retained property in Cuckfield later in life, coming before the Cuckfield court to give up customary lands at Hodehurst(?) in 1598, and not appearing as a juror there after about 1612.

Back at home as one of the churchwardens at Wivelsfield, Richard was in trouble with the church council for failing to repair the churchyard fence in October 1609. It is quite likely that, in common with other local parishes, a system of church marks was used to maintain the enclosure of the churchyard at this time. Each occupier of land in the parish was allocated a length of fencing that he had to maintain; failure to do so incurred a fine. As churchwarden, Richard Dumbrell was probably responsible for ensuring that each tenant kept his mark in good order, and had incurred the displeasure of the church council for failing in his duty. The other churchwarden at the time was Edmund Attree, owner of the adjacent farm of Theobalds. We also know that the churchyard itself was in a poor state at this time, by Richard’s own admission. ‘Our churchyarde is in default’, he said at one meeting, ‘but who is to repaye it we cannot sureley tell10.

In 1612, Richard was granted the right to cart away from his land three loads of straw, for which he paid 12 pence, presumably towards the upkeep of the parish roads.

In 1615, he still held Antye, and in 1623 and 1633 is recorded also as the tenant of Leylands Farm. Leylands (or Lylands) was located on north side of Leylands Road, Burgess Hill, just east of Lowlands Road. An old wall of a children's play area is all that remains of the farm site. The land, referred to as a quarter virgate in a valuation of copyheld property in 1624, was worth £9 per year.7 It just lay in the northern corner of the parish of Keymer, about one mile from Wivelsfield church, and two from Keymer.

In 1634, Richard Dumbrell was a signatory to the enclosure of Keymer Commons, as the result of which the lords of the manor would receive a third of the land, and the tenants, the remainder. Other signatories were John Rowe of Burgess Hill farm, Nicholas Jenner of Sheddingdean and Roger Virgo of Bedelands Farm. The land was bounded by London Rd., Station Road, Mill Road and western part of Leylands Road, with several acres either side of Freeks Lane. The land was commonly called Freeks (Freck) Common, and the Dumbrells were to hold land in the vicinity until long after all other had been relinquished; in fact until 175111.

Richard’s wife Mary died in Wivelsfield at the beginning of August 1636, and he remarried just a year later. His new wife, whom he wed in Keymer church, on August 31st 1637, was Margaret Blunden, a widow of the parish. Born Margaret Virgo, of a family very prolific in this part of mid-Sussex, she had married George Blunden at Keymer in February 1628. By now, Richard could have been around sixty-five. His new wife may also have been past child-bearing years and there were no children from the marriage. A further example of Richard’s respectability in the community is that he asked John Godley, a local landholder and tailor in the City of London, to stand surety at his wedding to Margaret Blunden. The following year, when John Godley himself was married, Richard Dumbrell reciprocated the favour.

Richard was buried at Wivelsfield on June 29th 1648. In his will, he bequeathed almost everything to his youngest son, Richard (5l), according to the custom of the manor, offering just one shilling to the elder ones, John and Francis. He also left twenty shillings to be divided among his three grandchildren, daughter of Anne, ‘at the age of fourteen or on the day of their marriage, whichever is the sooner’. This clause in itself is a commentary on the customs and expectations of the time. He also donated six shillings and eight pence to the poor of Wivelsfield. Richard’s second property, Leylands Farm, consisted of a messuage and barn and twenty-eight acres of land. His status as a yeoman, as which he was described when he provided surety at the marriage of his sons Richard [5l] (1629) and Francis [5k] (1631), and in his will of 1646, did not change so far as we can tell, so that the small Dumbrell fortune remained intact. It was to do so for one more generation.

And what of his wife and children? Richard’s second wife, Margaret, did not outlive him. She was buried at Wivelsfield on December 1st 1646. Nothing further is known of Richard’s eldest child, Mary [5f], except that she received ten shillings a year from her grandmother until she reached the age of twenty one. She may have become a servant at Wakefield Place to Elizabeth Farnfold, a member of the Culpeper family. In her will of 1632, Mrs. Farnfold left to a Mary Dumbrell ‘one of my best under-petticoats’. After her death, this Mary continued in the service of the family at Wakehurst Place, and was buried at Ardingly in 1639. Three other grandchildren, John, Richard and Elizabeth received a similar amount, but it is a puzzle that Francis is not mentioned. This may mean that he was born after his grandmother’s death late in 1604, but if this is so it would make him younger than Richard, and therefore heir to the Dumbrell estate. This being so, why did Richard inherit Antye instead of Francis, who inherited secondary Dumbrell property in Portslade? This has yet to be resolved. No record of Francis’s birth has yet been discovered.

John [5g], Richard’s eldest son, also lived in Wivelsfield, marrying Dorothy Anstey, a widow on January 16 1621. No children have yet been found of their marriage, and Dorothy died in 1632. He then married another widow, Eleanor Humfrey of Little Horsted on September 14th 1635, and they had five children, Henry, John, Eleanor, William and Abraham. We know that John had died by early 1656, when Eleanor remarried to Thomas Lambard in Lewes. John must have been another stalwart of the Wivelsfield community. Living at Lyland in 1624, he was a reeve for the manor of Keymer with a George Kent7. As a member of the homage (executive committee), he also represented the strong Wivelsfield tenant lobby for the enclosure of Wivelsfield Common when the South Malling Lindfield court convened in 1626. As a result, a provisional agreement was drawn up at which the tenants had the rights to the use of two thirds of the enclosed land, with the lord of the manor having a third share12. The final agreement between the Lord and the tenants was concluded four years later. In 1633, John Dumbrell was charged by the same court two shillings for a parcel of Shoulder’s Cop, and ten pence for a smaller parcel of land; he was also charged three pence for the use of twenty-five acres of divided common land. Four years later, John’s property was valued £12 per annum in the Wivelsfield parish land revaluation of 1637, an exercise undertaken to determine the parish’s proper contribution to the poor at a time when Wivelsfield was perceived to be a rich parish that was not paying enough to help the poor of the area.

This was a time when petty misdemeanours were often resolved by the courts in a way unthinkable even by today’s litigious standards, sometimes because people sought to gain social advantage over neighbours. This led to an unusual case brought at Lewes when Bridget Barratt was summoned in 1638 ‘for the thrusting of pinnes into the wife of John Dumbrell in the [ Wivelsfield] church in tyme of divine service, and for other irreverent behaviour’. She decided to plead guilty, because at the next court, on March 10th 1638, she admitted ‘ that shee did thrust a pinne into the wife of John Dumbrell, by reason of she sate down in her lap13. Eleanor was three months pregnant at the time of the attack, and this could have done nothing to help her condition!

Richard’s second son, also Richard [5h], was sadly buried less than a fortnight after his christening in late 1600. Little is known about his second daughter. Elizabeth [5j], except that she married William Townsut (Townsett), a member of a well-established local family, in Wivelsfield on January 9th 1623.

The life of Francis [5k], third son of Richard and Mary, the direct ancestor of the Dumbrells who migrated to Kent and New South Wales in the early nineteenth century, is discussed in greater detail below.

Richard, [5l] the fourth and youngest son, inherited Antye and Lylands on the death of his father in 1646. Married to Jane Bishop, probably of Henfield, in September 1629, he was the last to pass on the properties to his children because he had incurred so many debts in the course of his tenure. We know little of his life except for a strange court case, brought before judge Unton Croke at the Surrey Assizes on July 31st 1656, where Richard accused one John Parsons and three other persons of “seducing his wife Jane to carry away his goods and remain away from three weeks to his damage of £100”. The seducers pleaded not guilty, stating that Jane went “only with her own apparel [...] to be baptised by Parsons, differing in judgement from her husband”. For some reason, the judge found in favour of Richard, but awarded him only 20s. On his death two years later in 1658, his sons Richard and Thomas had the painful duty of selling Antye to their neighbour, John Attree at Theobalds. But as we shall see, this was no clean break for the family with their past. After all, they had occupied Antye for at least a hundred and thirty years. Instead, the legal wrangling over the ownership of Antye was to continue until 1680.

When he took over Lylands in 1646, Richard paid the customary heriot (still a bullock) and eleven pounds. However, when Antye, the larger Dumbrell estate, passed to Richard’s youngest son, Thomas [6b], in 1658, no heriot was paid to the lord of the manor because Richard did not own a single beast on his death. We can only speculate at the reason for this demise. Antye was still a property of some importance (40 acres together with a messuage and barn), but evidently not substantial enough to support the debts which Richard must have incurred. His two sons (Richard [6a] was the elder) decided not only to sell Antye to their neighbour at Theobalds, John Attree, but also the dispose of the smaller property of Leylands, which was purchased by a Thomas Jenner and his wife Elizabeth in 1657. In his will, Richard [5l] makes reference to his ‘great and grievous sins’, which, even taking into account the contemporary practice of asking God for atonement at one’s deathbed, was very strong language for the period, and suggests that Richard did indeed carry a burden of guilt. But he made proper provision for his family, too, leaving twenty pounds a year until their marriage to each of his daughters, Margaret [6c], Jane [6d], Mary [6e] and Elizabeth [6f], and a room in his house for his wife Jane, which would be equipped with a ‘featherbed and all thereunto belonging’ and ‘two hundred faggotts a year for the maintenance of her fire’. As may be imagined, this caused immense problems when the property was sold to the Attrees because John Attree was obliged to provide accommodation for Richard’s widow under her ‘right of widow’s bench’. As for the annual payment of twenty pounds to the four daughters, John Attree was left with the obligation to pay this according to the terms of Richard Dumbrell’s will as one of the conditions upon which he obtained the property.14 And this he did, his son Isaac taking over the obligation on his death. However, the Attrees must have contested this clause vigorously, because in 1680 daughter Jane Dumbrell and the husbands of her sisters Elizabeth [6f] and Mary [6e] were obliged to sign a document renouncing all further claim to Antye15.

The legal discussions over the transfer of Antye to the Theobalds thus lasted for more than twenty years. To begin with, John Attree must have relished the prospect of enlarging the Theobalds estate, especially as the fields belonging to each property were scattered among those of the other; this must have caused considerable difficulty over rights of way. However, he had this unfortunate sitting tenant, Richard Dumbrell’s widow, Jane, for whom he was obliged to make proper provision. As the result of an agreement drawn up between him Jane’s younger son, Thomas in 1659, he was obliged to build a separate dwelling for her, and Thomas Dumbrell [6b], for his part, agreed ‘to clear his mother from the house whereby the said John might have peaceable possession by Michaelmas next ensuing if a house can so soon be builded’. Jane Dumbrell was still at her property in 1662, being so recorded in the Hearth Tax return for that year. It was clear that Antye was a place of upheaval in 1659. John Attree decided on taking an inventory of his property, and the draft deed of sale, specifying ‘all the morter, tyles, bricks, laths, new collumes, stools and heads for windows which are now in or about the house’ suggested that much renovation was in progress, and may give a further indication of the extent to which Antye had declined under Richard Dumbrell. Nevertheless, Antye is still there today, much renovated and altered, but parts of the house which the Dumbrells knew remain intact3. At the time he took over his new property, John Attree had a plan drawn of Theobalds and Antye, showing the extent of his lands and the field boundaries. Sadly, this is could not be found when the writer requested to see it at the local Record Office.

A further provision of Richard’s will was that Richard [6a], the older son, would inherit one third of the estate, while Thomas [6b] would inherit two thirds. In practice, this meant that Thomas also inherited two thirds of the debt. We know that Thomas did not stay in Wivelsfield after leaving Antye. Besides selling his major property, he and his brother Richard had already disposed of the copyhold of Leylands to Thomas Jenner and his wife Elizabeth in 1658, and therefore had no further interest in the village. Thomas married Mary Kempsall in Horsted Keynes on March 8th 1660, and went to live in his wife’s village. Mary was the maid to the Rector, Giles Moore, a post that she had taken in November 1656 for three pounds a year. In September 1659, Thomas Dumbrell had also gained employment at the vicarage for five pounds a year, doing general work in the garden and collecting tithes on the Rector’s behalf from the farms round about. However, both Thomas and Mary were summarily dismissed on December 22nd 1659, the venerable gentleman entering and finding Thomas asleep with Mary ‘in his bosome’. However, he appears to have relented by March 1660, as he married the couple without charge at his church, donating them ‘eight stones and two 2 lib. of beefe 16s6d, A lamb 7s6d and An hind quarter of mutton 3s4d Besides butter wheat fewell etc.’ He also paid sixpence to ‘Caine the fiddler’ for playing at their wedding. The Dumbrells continued to do some work for Giles Moore until early 1661; he must have had a soft spot for Mary in particular, because she was still visiting him occasionally twelve years later after the couple had moved to Cuckfield. Two occasions are recorded in his Journal, on each of which he gave her ten shillings16.

By 1661, the couple were living in nearby Fletching, where he received the £478/10/- that John Attree paid to him for Antye. There they remained, his wife giving birth to seven children, of whom two survived to adulthood. In about 1675, they moved to the parish of Cuckfield where a further son, Richard, was born. Thomas was buried in the little town in May 1708, and his wife Mary in the same month in 1713. The burial entry notes Thomas Dumbrell as a husbandman, a considerable decline in status for a man whose recent forebears had been substantial yeomen. This demise seems to be confirmed by the fact that Mary was one of the Cuckfield poor who received one and a half yards of cloth in 1677 and 1680; this the parish purchased at 2/6d per yard from collections in the communion service at church on Palm Sunday, Easter Sunday, Whitsunday and Michaelmas Day. From this, recipients were expected to make winter clothing. Later the parish extended the practice of reserving collections for its poor to other church festivals. Incidentally, Cuckfield was extraordinarily generous in its charity giving; collections in the town were taken regularly, sometimes five or six times a year in the late seventeenth century, for the relief of those stricken by natural disasters and war, both in Britain and abroad. In 1690, for example, Thomas Dumbrell gave 2d for the relief of Irish Protestants. The poverty of this branch of the family is further confirmed in the Cuckfield poor records for 1711 to 1713, in which a widow Dumbrell living in the west part of the parish, almost certainly Mary, is recorded as receiving £7 per year in village alms. The last entry, in 1713 just a fortnight before her death, makes no mention of the allocated amount, but states that this will be ‘minded by the parish’.

Less is known of Richard, Thomas’ older brother, but he, too left Wivelsfield, probably also to live in nearby Lindfield. There is a wedding recorded there of a Richard Dumbrell to Susan Blackmoor in January 1669, but their marriage was to be all too short, as Richard died in 1670 and Susan early in 1673. Their dwelling had been a small one; just one hearth was recorded in the Tax Returns for 1670. A Richard Dumbrell is also recorded with one hearth in the West Hoathly Hearth Tax Returns for 1665; this could well be the same person, as West Hoathly is only three miles from Lindfield.

Thus the late 1650s were a time of major decline of the Dumbrell fortunes in Wivelsfield. By the 1660s, only John’s two sons of his marriage with Eleanor, John and Abraham, were left in the village to continue the family’s long association with it. Both continued to live in the parish, more or less continuously, until their deaths. In 1671, this younger John acquired the copyhold of a property near the village green which, though rebuilt, is still known locally as Dumbrells Cottages. He continued to live there until his death in 1719.

There were two other two original offspring of this generation (see above), Susan [5m], died at the age of two; the youngest sister, Anne [5n], married a distant relative, Edward Dumbrell, possibly of Rottingdean, in 1629.

The Fifth Generation

No baptism has been yet found for Francis Dumbrell [5k], but his relationship to his father, Richard, is not in doubt because of his marriage record and the details included in those for Portslade Manor. He probably grew up in Wivelsfield, marrying Elizabeth Nutley, a local girl, in the church at the beginning of April 1626. The following year they had a son, Richard, whose future has not been positively traced. However, he could easily be the Richard who married at Chailey in 1655, and whose only daughter, Frances, was christened in 1657. This Richard married twice more following the premature death of two of his three wives. He outlived the third by just a few months, dying at Chailey in 1697. Coming back to his parents, it seems likely that Francis and Elizabeth were intending to live in one of the Dumbrell properties at Portslade since they were admitted to copyhold property there jointly with Francis’s father and mother in November 1627. However, Elizabeth sadly died soon after, as she was buried at Wivelsfield on May 6th 1629.

Two years later, Francis married again, to Lucy Patching of Horsham. She came from a family with property in the town, the youngest daughter of Thomas Patching, and it gives an indication of the standing of the Dumbrells at the time that Francis was able to marry into a family which appears to have been reasonably well off. For example, when Lucy’s brother, Thomas died in 1670, he left £100 to each of Lucy’s older children and £50 to the youngest, no small amount at that time. In addition, he left a number of properties and legacies totalling about £1,400 to other distant relatives. Francis and Lucy were married by licence, the event being noted in the records of both Lewes and Horsham, on September 14th 1631. They had nine children altogether:

Elizabeth christened January 1633 in Wivelsfield [6g]

Lucy November 16th 1634 in Portslade [6h]

Abraham November 25th 1636 in Portslade [6j]

John and Margaret March 15th 1638 in Portslade [6k/l]

William c. 1642 [6m] Phyllis c. 1645 [6n]

Frances c. 1648 [6p]

Thomas c. 1650 [6q]

The order of birth of the last four children and their birth year are to some extent conjecture, based as they are on the provisions of Lucy’s will and the customary rights of succession. No parish records remain for Portslade between 1640 and 1665 because they were destroyed by fire when lightning struck the rectory at Hangleton, the neighbouring village, between 4am and 6am on May 31, 1666.

In 1631, Francis was admitted to the Dumbrells’ copyhold property in Portslade, in partnership with his father, and Lucy was jointly admitted to the same holdings on August 7th 1633. These were a messuage and virgate of land called Skinners, eight acres known as Bassetts, and a toft with a garden called Caffins at Aldrington. Richard also had a more substantial holding of 40 acres in the parish. Francis and Lucy almost certainly brought up their young family at Portslade, Francis being appointed churchwarden there between 1634 and 1636, but relinquished all their properties to a local gentleman and landowner, Abraham Edwards, on August 29th 1650 for reasons unknown. At that time the yearly rent was 43 shillings and threepence. (Incidentally, Abraham Edwards was sufficiently important for his death to be recorded on a monumental stone in Portslade Church; he died in 1654.) In 1651, Francis purchased eighteen acres called ‘Pollard’s Inholmes’ in the parish of Ditchling from John Coleman. This lay not more than two miles south of Antye, and it could be that Francis wanted to be nearer to the rest of his family after the death of his father, Richard.

However, Francis himself was to die not long after this, in about 1658, leaving the property, as would be expected, to his youngest son, Thomas, who was only about eight at the time. Lucy, exercising her ‘right of widow’s bench’ was left with six of her children. The twins, John and Margaret [6k/l], had both died at Portslade during 1640, and her eldest daughter, Elizabeth [6g], may have married the previous year at Steyning to a Thomas Gattfell, a yeoman of Wiston. Although no record has yet been found of Elizabeth’s death, she probably died between 1670 and 1682, as she is mentioned by name in the will of her uncle Thomas Patching, but not in her mother’s will, drawn up twelve years later, which only refers to Elizabeth’s children. Lucy herself never remarried, and was to soldier on as a widow for the next twenty-seven years, finally dying back in her native Horsham at the age of eighty. It was clear from her will, as we shall see, that she was a most determined lady who resolved to make proper provision for her three grandchildren after their parents had died, and that she must have had her full measure of sorrow in her long life. Four years after the death of Francis, in 1662, Lucy is recorded as a widow on the Hearth Tax returns for Ditchling, the assessor noting ‘two poore but one very poore’ hearths. She is also recorded in the return made on September 29 1665, where she was assessed at one shilling for two hearths ‘in a very poore state’, but does not appear on the following return of 1670. By then she may have moved to Horsham with at least some of her children to Horsham. Edward Lullham, who appears on the hearth tax records next to Lucy Dumbrell, was the vicar of Ditchling. However, he was ejected from the living in 1658, only to set up a conventicle at Blackbroke Farm, Westmeston, where his preaching attracted 200 non-conformists17. Whether the Rev. Lullham had any influence on the beliefs of the Dumbrell children is difficult to tell, but, as we shall see later, Abraham, [7d] one of Lucy’s grandchildren, married into the Chatfield family, who were strong Anabaptists in Ditchling.

Whatever the state of the Dumbrell residence in Ditchling, Lucy herself was certainly not poor. On her father’s death in 1610, she had inherited the properties of ‘Rise House’ and ‘Barnes’ in Horsham. Lucy was also named in her mother’s will of 1623. In 1670, her brother Thomas left her £50 in his will. He also bequeathed a further £100 to each of her surviving older children, Elizabeth, Lucy, Abraham, William, Phyllis and Frances, but only £50 to the youngest son Thomas, possibly because he was a minor at the time. In addition to the above property, Lucy was copyholder to a messuage and farthingate of land at Tower Hill, on the southern boundary of Horsham and lying in the manor of Tarring and Marlepost. She also owned an adjoining cottage and one acre of land, ‘Slaughters’, left to her by her brother Thomas in the same will of 1670. He had acquired this for £74/4s/0d in 1663. Lucy was still occupying ‘Slaughters’ just before her death.

And what had become of her children by the 1680s? Well, their fortunes had varied. We have already referred to the eldest, Elizabeth. Lucy [6h], the second daughter, probably wed secondly a Jasper Young in Gatton, Surrey in March 1671, her first husband possibly being a man named Sturt. Her mother’s will of September 1682 refers to Lucy as the wife of Jasper Young, but makes no mention of where the couple were living. Her second sister Phyllis [6n] married, the year before, a John Arnold from Oving, a village in the Chichester area. She may have been previously married to a man called Clothwell, a name not uncommon in south-west Sussex at the time. Phyllis survived her second husband by five years, dying in Tangmere in October 1712. Beside the entry for her death in the parish records is the comment ‘a poor woman’. It is not certain why Phyllis moved so far from her home area, but one possibility is that she went there to be near her aunt Bridget, Lucy’s elder sister who lived close by at Walberton. The fourth Dumbrell sister, Frances [6p], married firstly a certain John Berrick, son of Robert and Elizabeth of Cuckfield. No record yet has been found of their marriage, but it must be remembered that parish registers during the Commonwealth period and immediately after the Restoration are often missing or poorly kept. The Cuckfield records show the birth of a John Berrick in 1642, but the only direct evidence of his marriage to Frances is contained in Lucy Dumbrell’s will, and in the letters of administration granted to Frances on her husband’s death. These are dated March 6th 1676, and his property was assessed at £53/5/-. Interestingly, the other signatory to the papers was a Richard Fillery, a Cuckfield bucket-maker and friend of the family. Such a good friend, in fact, that Frances took him as her second husband In February 1685. Richard died in 1690, and so Frances married for a third time the following year, to Joseph Webb of Stanmer, a man who owned several properties in mid-Sussex. She finally died in 1731 in Horsham, at about the age of eighty-three, but not until she had played a crucial role in maintaining this particular Dumbrell line, as we shall see later.

Abraham Dumbrell [6j], the eldest son of Francis and Lucy, lived most of his life in Keymer. He married a girl from the neighbouring village of Clayton, Joane Gunn, in 1666, and they had at least one child, Mary [7a], who was born in the following year. In 1670, Abraham was occupying a small cottage, paying for one hearth in the assessments for Keymer in that year, but a year later he acquired a brick-making assart (land cleared of woodland and scrub) in the north of the parish from a John Turner. This, together with cottage and rood of land, stood at the edge of present-day Burgess Hill, in Freeks Lane, close to the site of the ancestral Dumbrell property of Leylands. By the time Abraham had bought it, the lands attached to the cottage had encroached onto neighbouring commonland, and had grown about seven acres; the cottage itself had expanded when neighbouring properties became vacant. Abraham was almost certainly a respected member of the community, as he sat regularly as juror on the Keymer manor court between 1674 and 1695. It is likely that Abraham extensively remodelled the house and property to accommodate his business, where he probably remained until old age obliged him to move to Cuckfield to be near his sister Frances and other relatives. In October 1701, he surrendered his premises at St. John’s (Freek’s) Common, Keymer to his brother-in-law Joseph Webb, leaving them in his will to Frances [6p] who was to sell them to pay his debts. Although Abraham’s will is referred to in the Keymer Manor records, it has not yet been traced. Described in the Cuckfield burial register as a day labourer, Abraham died there in late October 1701. However, the property was not sold and remained in the Dumbrell family for another fifty years, thanks largely to Frances’ third husband, Joseph Webb (see below). In 1762 it was described as ‘a cottage and parcel of Frick Common, formerly Dumbrells’. It was to remain intact until the 1970s, when it was sadly demolished to make way for the new houses of ‘Dumbrills Close’. All that remains now, according to Hugh Matthews, the Burgess Hill historian, is the seventeenth century hedge18.

The life of William Dumbrell [6m] the second son, sadly all too short, will be described in greater detail below.

Lucy’s youngest child, Thomas [6q], did not bring much credit on the Dumbrell family. He continued to live with his mother when she moved back to Tower Hill, Horsham, and was the subject of a bastardy declaration, dated October 6th 1676, when Ellinor Poarse (sic), a servant in the Dumbrell household, alleged that Thomas had ‘carnal knowledge of her body on the floor of the first room on July 6th and again about the Bartholomew’s Day’ (August 23rd). A third occasion followed, about three weeks later, on Thomas’ bed, when ‘his mother was away from home’. At this stage we cannot be certain whether the illegitimate child survived long beyond birth, or what became of it. We can well imagine that Lucy, who from the tone of her will was clearly a strong-willed and principled woman, was by no means pleased with the shame and notoriety this must have brought upon her youngest son and heir. Richard Fillery, the family friend who was later to marry Thomas’s sister Frances [6p], stood surety for him in court in the sum of twenty-five pounds19. Whatever may have happened to the illegitimate child, Ellinor herself married in 1684 and had her own family, and Thomas Dumbrell sadly died two years after this unhappy incident, in October 1678, leaving an estate of forty-seven pounds and eighteen shillings, presumably the residue of the fifty pounds bequeathed to him by his uncle Thomas Patching in 1670. His mother had the unhappy task of winding up his small estate, which consisted only of money and bonds. She asked Richard Dendy, a yeoman occupant of her messuage at Tower Hill at the time, to draw up an inventory of her son’s property, required because the young man had unsurprisingly died intestate. This could not have taken long as it contained only four items. Lucy’s final act for her son was to pay six shillings and eight pence for his grave at St. Mary’s, Horsham.

The Sixth Generation

William Dumbrell [6m], almost certainly born in Portslade in 1642, married Anne, the daughter of John and Margaret Coleman, at Newick on November 13th 1670. Shortly after their marriage they moved to Ringmer, two parishes to the east, where he owned, rather than occupied, a cottage and two acres of land valued at three pounds a year at Norlington, some way to the north of the centre of the village. His property was the nucleus of what later came to be known as Mount Farm, and was appropriate for a person of modest means. The original cottage had one heated room and an outshot with a chamber over. At Easter 1673, William was chosen as churchwarden of Ringmer; this was not an obvious choice as he was then just 31, a newcomer to the village and living about two miles from the church. However, this does indicate that he was indeed a settled resident of the parish. And what of his occupation? John Kay, of the Ringmer Historical Group, suggests he may have been a brick maker, as by the enclosure act of 1767 there was a brick kiln on the site. This had not been there when Cromwell’s commissioners surveyed the area in 1649. This occupation would link very well to the fact that William’s older brother Abraham [6j] was probably a brick-maker (see above), and to the fact that the cottage is sited on very heavy, relatively infertile wealden clay which would have been very difficult to farm20.

William and Anne had three sons, all born at Ringmer:

William christened May 19th 1672 [7b]

Thomas January 3rd 1675 [7c]

Abraham July 14th 1678 [7d]

Disaster struck the little family two years later, when Anne, their mother died. She was buried at Newick on August 30th 1680, and William followed her to the grave less than two years later, leaving the three boys of ten, seven and four. What would happen to them now? Fortunately, their grandmother, Lucy, still living in Horsham but now almost eighty years old, took decisive action. Three months after her son’s death, she made a will leaving her property to her daughter Frances Berwick, by now a widow for the first time, on condition that she cared for the grandchildren until they were twenty one. If any of the sons refused to live with Frances, or in whatever place she appointed, she could keep the property at Horsham for her life, and not be responsible for them. If Frances died, or refused to look after the boys, or neglected them, the property was to go to Lucy’s son, Abraham [6j], on condition that he brought up the boys. After Frances's death, the property was to go to the rightful heirs of the testator according to the custom of the manor.

We must assume that Frances [6p] accepted the challenge given by her mother, but we have no direct evidence of the lives of two of her nephews for at least twenty years, until they were married. Frances had a quite a number of properties to administer by this time. In addition to those left to her by Lucy, her brother Abraham’s {6j} estate at Keymer had passed to her and her third husband, Joseph Webb in 1702. Rather than sell Abraham’s property, Joseph continued to pay the five shillings tithing for each year in two instalments until 1713. Interestingly, he paid the same amount in that year that Abraham was paying in the 1680s: zero inflation for twenty-eight years! We know that Frances and Joseph were living at Cuckfield during the years between 1692 and 1704 because Joseph contributed on five occasions to public subscriptions raised to relieve the suffering of such groups as the Irish and French Protestants, and the ‘slaves in Barbary’. As we have said above, it is astonishing that news of the plight of others travelled so successfully without the media we have at our disposal today, and heartening that people who were often quite poor managed to find a few pennies to help those less fortunate than themselves. Joseph Webb was certainly not poor, however, leaving goods worth £136 when he died in 1726. Frances would also have had property in Cuckfield from her second marriage to Richard Fillery, the bucket maker, and may also have had premises from her first alliance to John Berrick. Whatever the case, she was certainly quite comfortable in her middle life and old age, and possibly regarded the task of looking after her nephews as a small compensation for the fact that she had no children of her own to look after, her only daughter, Mary Fillery, dying at the age of six weeks. The value of Frances’ goods at her death was assessed at just over fifty-five pounds.

The youngest nephew, Abraham [7d], was the first to marry, at Cuckfield, on May 6th 1702, to Susan Chatfield of Ditchling, a member of a prosperous yeoman family very well known in the locality at the time. Her brother, Robert, a prominent dissenter, was responsible for founding the Baptist Meeting House in Ditchling in 1734, and her connections with the Anabaptist movement may, as we shall see, be the reason for one of the unsolved puzzles of this branch of the Dumbrell family. The marriage of Abraham and Susan was not to be a long and happy one. Their first two children, Susan and Frances, died under the age of four, and the only daughter to survive them, another daughter called Frances [8a], was born in 1706. Early in their married life the couple lived in the Keymer area; Abraham paid tithes of sixty-four shillings a year between the Lady Days of 1704 and 1706 on a property in the parish called ‘Holmbush’. About this time, the couple must have got into serious debt. Around 1705, Abraham mortgaged his property in Ditchling parish, Pollard's Inholms, acquired by his grandfather Francis fifty years before, for £121 to Richard Scrase of Westmeston. Then, in 1706, he borrowed £147, from Richard Neale, the owner and occupier of Fowles Farm in Clayton. A year later he finally surrendered the messuage, barn, orchard and seventeen acres of land which constituted Pollard’s Inholms, and which at the time was occupied by one Isaac Pentecost, to Michael Martin of Keymer, who was the father-in-law of his wife’s brother18.

But Abraham’s financial problems did not end there. Owing a considerable sum to William Courtness, a mercer and gentleman of Hurstpierpoint for reasons unknown, he appeared at the court of Tarring and Marlpost, in whose manor lay the copyhold properties originally inherited by his grandmother Lucy from her brother (see above), on July 27th 1708. His purpose was to ask to be admitted to the reversion of the properties, and he surrendered them there and then to William Courtness. Curiously, the reason given for the transfer of property to Abraham recorded in the Court Book is the death of his aunt, Frances Barwick (sic). Yet we know that she was still alive over twenty years later. Was this a deliberate deception in order for Abraham to get hold of the money he desperately needed? Whatever the reason, this was evidently not enough; when Abraham died a few months later, in February 1709, the balance from his estate, just over £35, went to Courtness, his principal creditor. Poor Susan, his pregnant widow, may have gone to Westmeston to live, and would no doubt have been well supported by her family. A few months later, she gave birth to John [8b], but he was not christened until 1711, possibly because of her own family’s Anabaptist views. She may well have turned her back on the Dumbrell family, especially after remarrying in 1715 to John Streeter of Worth. In her will, drawn up just a day before her death in September 1736, Susan left her children Frances and John Dumbrell just twenty shillings each, adding, in what was clearly a last minute change of heart, that she would leave John an extra five pounds. Frances was not even mentioned by name, being referred to ‘my daughter, wife of Edward Whiske’. All the rest was bequeathed to the five Streeter children of her second marriage.

The thirty year-old Frances Dumbrell had clearly not lived up to her mother’s expectations, and the reason for this can be inferred. Firstly, she gravitated strongly towards her old great-aunt, also unhelpfully called Frances [6p], who had had responsibility for caring for her father Abraham when he was a child (see above). On her death in 1731, she left her great-niece her property at West Street, Cuckfield, together with all of her goods and chattels, so perhaps Susan Dumbrell thought that her eldest daughter had enough in life. Secondly, this same Frances may have had an illegitimate son, Edward, by the man who was eventually to become her husband, Edward Whiskey. This gentleman may have had an affair with Frances in 1729, just before he married his first wife, Mary Morley. We know that Edward Dumbrell was born around 1730 from his death date, but his baptism has not yet been discovered. This may link again to the Anabaptist background of his grandmother. Secondly, Edward had never been used as a Christian name in this branch of the Dumbrell family; not a strong reason for the assertion that he was Edward Whiskey’s son by today’s standards, but a fairly powerful one in the context of that age when family names and ties were all-important. Thirdly, Edward spent his life at Cuckfield, where Frances and Edward made house after their marriage in 1733, presumably in the West Street property left to Frances by her great-aunt. This Edward Dumbrell is quite important to our story, as he may have founded a line which was to make its way to East Malling one hundred and twenty years later (see below).

And what had happened in the meantime to the other two orphaned sons of William Dumbrell [6m]? Little is known of them from their birth in the 1670s until their marriages, by which time they were well into their thirties. Even then our knowledge of William, the elder son [7b], is less certain. He may be the same William who married a Mary Jupp in 1707 at Shipley, only about four miles from where his grandmother, Lucy, owned her property in south Horsham. We also know that Lucy’s brother, Thomas Patching, had properties both in Shipley and Nuthurst, so it is possible that her grandchildren went to these two villages because of the family connection. If this is the case, then William was responsible for a prolific Dumbrell line that was established at nearby Ashurst and West Grinstead, and is still prominent there today. At present, all we can say with certainty is that this William was still alive in 1729, when he was the tenant of Goarlands, West Grinstead. Two years earlier his aunt Frances, Lucy’s daughter, had bequeathed him five pounds in her will.

The fate of William’s second son, Thomas [7c], is much better known, and forms the main subject of our next section.

The Seventh Generation

Thomas Dumbrell was baptised in Ringmer on January 3 1675. We may assume that his aunt, Frances, at Horsham, brought him up according to the provisions of his grandmother’s will. As a teenager, he was apprenticed to John Clarke, a blacksmith there, and, during this time, a sad accident occurred that must have stayed with him for the rest of his life. To explain this, we can do no better than quote an account of the inquest held on January 7th.

On January 4, when Thomas Dumbrell of Horsham, laborer aged 14 not more, apprentice of John Clarke of Horsham, blacksmith, was in Clarke’s dwelling house at Horsham, trying to mend the iron ‘cock’ of a ‘pistoll’ which was ‘out of order and rusty’, having been left to do it by William Kewell, servant of Thomas White, gent. In Clarke’s absence, not knowing that the pistol was ‘charged with gunpowder and a leaden bullet’, Dumbrell moved ‘the cocke’ with the fingers of his right hand ‘up and downe’, with the intention of inspecting the ‘fault’ and mending it; but the gunpowder being fired by Dumbrell’s moving the cock, the pistol ‘did discharge and shoot off’, giving John Clarke, an infant aged 6, the blacksmith’s son, who was standing in his father’s house, a wound in the left part of his body a little below the left breast 1 inch long and 8 inches deep of which he languished at Horsham until next day and then died. So Dumbrell killed him, suddenly, by chance and misfortune and against his will. Dumbrell had no goods or chattels in Sussex or elsewhere at the time of the homicide or even after to the jurors’ knowledge.” 21

Thomas Dumbrell was subsequently indicted at Horsham for murder and acquitted, the jury satisfied that the whole terrible affair was an accident. It was noted that ’he did not flee’ after the incident and that he paid the court’s charges.21 There is little doubt that this Thomas Dumbrell is ours because his location and profession confirm what we already know of him. However, the inquest does note him as ‘not more than fourteen’, whereas he was just seventeen when the tragedy happened. The phrasing of the report suggests that Thomas did not know his age otherwise he would have given it to the court unequivocally. This is also suggests that his aunt and guardian Frances way not have attended the hearing to vouch for his age but may have by now moved to Cuckfield with her new husband, Joseph Webb. It may also be that his stature suggested a younger person, and that the court wanted to present him as a child incapable of such a wanton act as murder.

The first record of Thomas’ marriage is to Mary Blan at Itchingfield early in 1711. By then Thomas was thirty-six, and quite old in those days to marry for the first time, so it is possible that he had a previous marriage, as yet not proven. There is recorded the marriage of a Thomas Dumbrell at West Tarring in 1691, when our man would have only been sixteen, but nothing is known of what happened to this Thomas or his wife, Margaret and their children. Although West Tarring village is a good fifteen miles south of Horsham, it owned lands detached from the parish close to the town at Southwater, and the court baron met alternately at Tarring and Horsham to reflect this. We know that Thomas was still active in the parish of Tarring in 1705, as he was eligible to vote in the shire elections of that year. We also know that in the previous year he had been one of the parish overseers at Tarring, but then the trail goes cold. There is also a note that Richard Fillery the bucketmaker, husband of Frances of Horsham and possibly his step-uncle, sat as a juror at the Tarring and Marlpost manor court in October 1689, but such evidence is very tenuous and hardly proof. Furthermore, no mention is made of Thomas being married at his court hearing in 1692. Finally, we know that the names which Thomas of Tarring chose for his children exactly match those of our Thomas; this again, is too circumstantial to be of real value as evidence.

The wife of our Thomas, Mary, was herself the widow of John Blan(d), resident in Nuthurst but originally from Barcombe, whom she had married in 1701. He possibly shared the profession of blacksmith with Thomas Dumbrell. John Blan died in August 1710, and Mary lost no time in re-marrying to Thomas eight months later, so it is quite possible that Thomas was acquainted with the Blans before John’s death. With the marriage Thomas also accepted responsibility for Mary’s surviving two year-old daughter, also Mary, whom he was to remember in his will, thirty-eight years later. Thomas and Mary Dumbrell raised three children of their own:

Elizabeth christened January 13th 1712 [8a]

Sarah christened April 27th 1714 [8b]

Thomas christened April 21st 1717 [8c]

All three were born in Nuthurst, three miles east of Itchingfield; here Thomas lived for more than thirty-five years, working as a blacksmith. Possibly he was employed on the nearby Sedgwick Park estate, because in his will he makes no direct reference to property in Nuthurst. However, he did still possess the house and land at Frick (Freekes) Common, Keymer, you may remember, which had been left almost fifty years before to Frances Dumbrell [6p] by her brother Abraham [6j] to pay off his debts. This was occupied by one Richard Sanders when it came into Thomas’ possession after the death of Frances in 1732. At that time it was described as a ‘cottage and small parcel of land of the waste lying at Frick Common’, and, forty years later, the description had not changed 18.

Thomas’s wife Mary died in the autumn of 1735, four years after the marriage of her eldest daughter Elizabeth to John Shaw, a wheeler and later the parish treasurer of Nuthurst. Thomas was alone for almost six years, then remarried at Horsham to Hannah Bansted, a spinster of forty-five who had been born in Itchingfield in 1696. By now, Thomas was sixty-six, and his second daughter, Sarah, had married a weaver, James Walder, who later became one of the overseers in the village. His son, also Thomas [8c], was not to marry until after his father’s death, and possibly helped his father with smithing.

When Thomas Dumbrell finally died in 1748, he made a careful will, ensuring that all of his loved ones were properly provided for. He expected his wife Hannah to outlive him by twenty years, leaving her seventy pounds to be paid in six monthly instalments; in fact she was to live at Nuthurst until her death in 1770. He gave for her use ‘one bed and furniture and such household goods as she thinks convenient for to furnish one room and to make use of this room as long as she shall live’, and built the safeguard into her inheritance that expenses or debts should not be charged to her portion. In deference to his first wife, he left his stepdaughter, Mary Blan, now Mary Baites, fourteen pounds and a pewter dish. The rest of his goods and chattels he bequeathed equally to his daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth. To his son Thomas, he left his house and lands at Frick Common.

If his son Thomas [8c] had been living with his father in Nuthurst until his death, he did not delay his departure from the village, nor his marriage for long. While his sisters remained in Nuthurst for all their married lives, Thomas, now thirty-three, was off to pastures new.

The Eighth Generation

By the time that two years had passed after the death of his father, Thomas [8c] had found his way to Lancing, about twelve miles to the south east of Nuthurst, and a mile or so from the Sussex coast. Here he met a local girl, Elizabeth Barnden, who was expecting his child by the autumn of 1750. It is not clear why he made this move. Elizabeth Barnden’s mother, Anne Gratwick, might well have known Thomas’s cousins, the children of William Dumbrell, who may have lived in the same village of West Grinstead; but this is purely speculation. In fact, we know nothing for certain of the life of Thomas between his birth and his marriage, on St. Valentine’s Day 1751. The marriage licence was issued for New Shoreham, one parish east of Lancing, and perhaps the ceremony took place there to minimise any scandal for the seven month pregnant Elizabeth. One Joseph Spicer, a miller, stood surety for the licence, which Thomas himself signed.

The children of the marriage were as follows:

Richard christened April 7th 1751 [9a]

Elizabeth November 12th 1752 [9b]

Ann October 6th 1754 [9c]

Frances October 30th 1757 [9d]

Thomas November 23rd 1760 [9e]

Mary December 11th 1763 ]9f]

All were born in Lancing, and all, apart from Richard, during the autumn months. Does this indicate that Thomas was away from home at particular times of the year? For example, was he a sailor who was at home during the earliest months of the year because weather conditions were too bad? We can only speculate on this. Elizabeth [9b] was the only child to die in infancy, at the age of four months. The remainder survived at least to their teenage years. The reason for the uncertainty of the fate of Richard and his three other sisters, Ann, Frances and Mary, is that no record has yet been found of their marriage. A Richard Dumbrell of exactly the right age set up home at South Malling, outside Lewes, marrying a certain Mary Tuppen from Beddingham and dying at South Malling in 1830, but at the time of writing there is no corroborative evidence that he is our Richard. Indeed it looks increasingly unlikely that this South Malling Richard does belong to our family, because his marriage in Beddingham was witnessed by one William Dumbrell, a literate gentleman, whom we cannot relate directly to our line, but who may have been a cooper in Lewes.

The destiny of Thomas’s other siblings remains uncertain. John Stone, the illegitimate son of a Frances Dumbrell was baptised at St. Nicholas Church, Brighton in June 1785, only to be buried there two months later. There is another record of a Frances marrying Edward Childs at Reigate, Surrey in 1788, unfortunately by banns, so that there is no record of her age. They had one child, Fanny, but her mother was to be buried on the last day of the following year. No further evidence of this Frances has been found, but, coincidentally, a Mary Dumbrell had married one Nicholas Bradford in October 1784, also at St. Nicholas’, Brighton. It has not yet been possible to prove or discount the link between these two ladies and our family.

The real significance of Thomas the father [8c] in this history is that he was responsible for severing the family’s last ties with the Wivelsfield area by selling the house and lands at Frick Common bequeathed to him by his father in 1748. Properly speaking, these stood in the parish of Keymer, and were sold by Thomas in 1751 to one William Savage, a local wheelwright. The explanation for this sale are not clear as the manorial records do not give a reason for the transaction18. Thomas possibly wished to buy property in Lancing, although the local historical society have no record of property belonging to him in the parish. Perhaps he got into debt; we shall probably never know. What is certain is that with the selling of this property, this particular branch of the Dumbrell family ended its two hundred year association with the Wivelsfield area. The house was eventually pulled down in the 1970s to make way for the new houses of Dumbrills Close (see above). Apparently, the local history society were keen to retain the more common spelling of the name with an ‘e’, but made representations to the local council without success.

But back to the story. Elizabeth, Thomas’s wife, was to die in Lancing in March 1765, at the early age of thirty, leaving Thomas with the prospect of bringing up his five children alone, daunting enough for any single parent today, let alone in an age when life hung by such a tenuous thread. In such circumstances, no single parent could afford to remain alone for long with small children, and so it was that Thomas remarried, in Lancing, to a Mary Cain in the summer of July 1767. Mary’s origins are still the subject of investigation. It so happens that Richard Barnden, the older brother of Elizabeth, Thomas’ first wife, may have married a Sarah Cain of Ringmer in 1764. If this is the case, then it is possible that this recently married couple may have been responsible for introducing Thomas to Sarah’s younger sister, Mary. In any event, Mary gave birth to their first child, Stephen, very soon after the marriage. Within the next few years, Thomas had a second family:

Stephen christened September 20th 1767 [9g]

Sarah May 30th 1773 [9h]

Elizabeth February 25th 1776 [9j]

Betty December 7th 1777 [9k]

It is interesting that the couple’s first child was named Stephen, not one of the commonest names of the period. Where had this name come from? It is well known that there was a strong tradition of perpetuating family names, but, in the hundreds of records the writer has investigated, this is the first time that any Dumbrell anywhere had been called Stephen. A clue is to be found in Mary Cain’s family, for the maternal grandparents of the Mary of Ringmer to whom we refer above were a Stephen and Grace Wood.

We can be much more confident of what happened to Thomas Dumbrell’s second family. Sadly, neither Elizabeth [9j] nor Betty [9k] survived more than four months, and the future of the two older children was to be played out not in Lancing, but back in Nuthurst. Sometime between their daughter Elizabeth’s [9j] death in May 1776 and Betty’s birth at the end of 1777, Thomas and Mary moved back to Nuthurst, for reasons unknown. Both of Thomas’ sisters had died by this time, although his brother-in-law, John Shaw was still living in Nuthurst, as were a number of his nephews and nieces. Tragically, our couple’s lives there were to be all too short. The parish record has it that Thomas was buried on the day of Betty’s baptism, and within six months, both this new baby and her mother Mary were dead. It may be that Thomas was already very ill in 1776, and moved his family back to Nuthurst to ensure that they could be cared for by relatives after his death.

Of Thomas’s second family, only Stephen and Sarah reached adulthood. In 1833, Sarah [9h] died unmarried at the age of 62, still in Nuthurst, while Stephen lived in north Sussex for part of his adult life, marrying Martha Mepham from Rotherfield while he was living in East Grinstead in 1796. Whether by chance or design, they married on Martha’s parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary. A sawyer by profession, Stephen fathered no fewer than thirteen children, eleven of whom were born on the northern edge of the Ashdown Forest, in Hartfield, where no doubt there would have been plenty of work for him. Perhaps it was lack of work locally which had initially prompted him to leave his home village, but about 1812 he moved back to the Nuthurst area, living first in Slaugham and then in Nuthurst itself, where he died in 1837. Between 1820 and 1835, the Overseers’ Records show that Stephen’s property was assessed at the lowest rate for paying for the upkeep of the poor in the parish. One of his daughters, Martha, on the other hand, was a beneficiary of the poor rate; while unmarried, she bore two children by different fathers. Penalties levied on the fathers of unmarried children were quite severe: Henry Holder, the second father in question, had to pay twenty-seven shillings in 1823 to the parish for the upkeep of his illegitimate child, as the parish seems to have been determined that fatherless children should not be a drain on its limited coffers. The following year, he married Martha, possibly judging that he would be better off financially for doing so!

Stephen’s oldest son, also Stephen [10a], born in Hartfield in 1798, returned to the Hartfield area to marry and raise his family. A stone mason by trade, he married Ann Neve in Withyham, two miles from Hartfield in October 1826, having already fathered her two children, Alfred and Caroline. Three more, William, Stephen and Elizabeth were born in the next ten years. In 1838, he was living in Crowborough Town West with his wife, father-in-law John and five children. Interestingly, he was interviewed for the Withyham parish survey of that year. When asked if he were a churchman or dissenter, he replied that he was uncertain. However, he did own a Bible and prayer book at the time, although he did not often go to church. It is therefore reasonable to assume that either he or Ann was literate. He did not have a regular employer, taking work from anyone who would hire him as a stonemason. In 1837, he won a runners-up prize of 2s 6d in a cottage gardeners' competition organised by the Tunbridge Wells Horticultural Society22.

It may be lack of work that prompted Stephen to take a radical and momentous step for the family, to emigrate to Australia. Stephen, Ann and his family sailed from Plymouth on January 22nd 1839 on the ‘Roxburgh Castle’. The cost of the trip was £68 per family, or £10 for individuals. The ship was to arrive on May 26th, but sadly without Ann, who died at sea, probably during the previous month. Stephen was therefore faced with a similar situation to that faced by his grandfather, almost seventy years previously, only he was now in a foreign land, apparently thousands of miles from family support. With so many motherless children, he understandably remarried, in the spring of 1842, to one Susannah Hider. From Tunbridge Wells, she had travelled to Sydney on the ‘Roxburgh Castle’ with the Dumbrell family and, according to family tradition, went to live with them as a lodger after their arrival. In later life she wrote regularly to one of the daughters from her marriage to Stephen, giving local news, maternal advice, and constantly admonishing her to resolve difficulty through prayer and trust in the Lord. Copies of these letters from the 1880s were sent to the author by a member of the family in Australia. Although he had declared his own religious denomination to be uncertain a year earlier, Stephen professed himself a Wesleyan for the ‘Roxburgh Castle’ passenger list, and remained so for the rest of his life, dying of phthisis (probably tuberculosis) in Surrey Hills, New South Wales in 1861. He was buried in the Wesleyan cemetery at Redfern23.

Of Stephen’s other brothers and sisters, Richard Mepham Dumbrell, born in the spring of 1803 in Hartfield, probably lived the longest. He was living with daughter Louise in Horsham in 1881, and finally died there in the spring of 1887. This Richard has the dubious distinction of being one of only two people in our story so far discovered to have a criminal record. In May 1829, he was committed at Horsham Quarter Sessions for having stolen two bundles of heath, value 2/-, from a William Chart. He was found guilty and served three months hard labour.24 By our standards, this seems a high price to pay for taking what seems to be a basic commodity for bedding or possibly tinder, and the incident serves to remind us of the unremitting harshness of the life ordinary folk endured at the time.

The Ninth Generation

Thomas Dumbrell [9c] is, in some ways, the most interesting figure of this history because it was he who made the most profound change in the fortunes of this particular branch of the Dumbrell family. He is in some ways also the most enigmatic, because there are some periods of his life that we cannot account for. Born in Lancing at the end of 1760, he appears to be the only one of his family’s children who stayed in the Lancing area, because the next sighting we have of him is in the adjacent village of Findon, where he married Elizabeth Parker in April 1787. What happened to Thomas in the intervening period is difficult to tell. He was a young man of sixteen when his father moved from Lancing back to Nuthurst. He may have decided to remain in the vicinity of Lancing because he already had a job, or may on the other hand have accompanied his parents to Nuthurst and stayed to help support the younger members of family when his parents died. Be that as it may, there is a ten year slot, between 1776 and 1787, when we cannot be sure of Thomas’ whereabouts. We are further hampered because we do not know enough about the early life of his wife, Elizabeth. She may have been born in Leybourne, Kent, some eighty miles from Findon; an Elizabeth Parker, who would have been of the right age, was christened there on September 28th 1760, the illegitimate daughter of Alicia Parker. But we cannot be certain that she is the same person, and Parker was an extremely common name. So there we have the first mystery. The second will become apparent if we set out the birthdays of Thomas’ and Elizabeth’s children:

Elizabeth christened October 21st 1787 [10b]

Frances June 14th 1789 [10c]

Thomas June 12th 1791 [10d]

Mary September 19th 1798* [10e]

William August 3rd 1803 [10f]

All were baptised in Findon, except for Mary, who was christened in Dover. And we cannot state with certainty that this Mary is a child of our particular Thomas and Elizabeth, although it looks quite possible that this is the case. And what of the years between 1791 and 1798, and between that year and 1803? It is difficult to believe that there were no children at all born to the couple in that time. Another puzzle is that William’s parents in 1803 are given in the parish records as Thomas and Mary, not Thomas and Elizabeth. It is sometimes said of family history that one solution throws up another ten questions, and this is particularly true of the early life of this Thomas Dumbrell. So what facts do we have? Let us try to proceed from the known to the unknown.

We can deal with the last puzzle, concerning William’s [10f] parentage, quite easily. William’s name appears on the tombstone of Thomas and Elizabeth in the churchyard at East Malling, Kent. He is described quite unequivocally there as one of their issue. Secondly, there is much evidence from the census and parish records that this William was indeed born in 1803. Thirdly, a careful examination of the record of his birth at Findon reveals that the birth entries for the whole year of 1803 appear to have been written up at the same time, because the ink quality and entry spacings are so even. It was apparently not uncommon for the incumbent to jot down the parish entries roughly on a scrap of paper, and then to write them up neatly at a later date, perhaps just before the annual bishop’s visitation, part of the purpose of which was to ensure that the parish records were properly maintained and that a transcription of them for the church records was made. So we should not attach particular importance to this entry, which subsequent evidence proves to be an error.

What, then, of Thomas’s movements in the early 1780s, and between 1791 and 1803? And why the gaps between the births of later children? An old exercise book of 1813, written by Hugh Penfold, the overseer of Findon, may provide an answer to this. In an entry for that year, it states that Thomas, aged 53, was still eligible for service in the Old or New Militia21. So had he previously been a regular member of the Sussex militia? There is no doubt that he served in Sussex Voluntary Infantry from 25th December 1807 to June 24th 1808 in the 2nd Company (South Bramber), commanded by a Captain Thomas Clayton. The unit’s overall commander at this time was one Major William Margesson, who may have been local to Findon, since a clergyman of the same name eventually became vicar of the parish. It is noted that Thomas completed twenty-six days of service on exercise during this six month period (i.e. once a week), for which he was paid a 1/- per day (£1/6/- in total). This is the only firm record we have of his military service to date, although his attendance at training at the age of forty seven implies more regular service at an earlier period in his life.

Thomas was a young man through the early period of the Napoleonic wars. From about 1796 onwards, there was a real threat of a French invasion along the coasts of south-east England, and this gave rise to increased militia activity, especially in those counties closest to France. The Sussex militia were constantly on exercise, and defence of the country included the construction of the Royal Military Canal around the periphery of Romney Marsh, and of the Martello towers which the British had first seen in Corsica. The threat of invasion was not equally strong throughout the Napoleonic period; as in any protracted war, there were moments of particular crisis. One of these occurred during the summer of 1798, when the Sussex militia were ordered to march to Dover Castle. The route from Brighton was not the most direct, taking in as it did Cuckfield, East Grinstead, Tonbridge, Maidstone, Ashford and Hythe. At each of these towns, the soldiers rested, arriving at Dover on May 29th after a route march of 109 miles. The regiment stayed there until the beginning of October, although various detachments left at different times for duties such as the accompaniment of French prisoners to Chatham, where they were probably incarcerated in hulks lying in the Medway. The danger over for the winter, the militia thus found their way back to Sussex via New Romney and Hastings25. A similar crisis occurred in 1805, when Napoleon’s fleets were threatening to invade southern England, and Findon was on high alert. A huge bonfire was built above the village to warn of invasion.

So was our Thomas a member of the regular army or militia as a young man? At present, we cannot say with certainty. There was without doubt a Thomas Dumbrell on the march to Dover, but he may not be ours. The recorded Thomas was given as living in Pevensey Rape at the time, and indeed there was a Thomas Dumbrell living in that district at Jevington; he is specifically mentioned in the militia lists for Pevensey Rape in 1802. As fortune has it, he also had a wife named Elizabeth and was having children at the same time as our Thomas, but they are not the same person. Born in 1773, the son of Abraham and Ann Dumbrell of Jevington, near Eastbourne, he married an Elizabeth Turner in 1797. He was a cordwainer, and about thirteen years younger than the Thomas we are following.

Unfortunately, the South Bramber Rape lists, which would contain the name of our Thomas if he were there, are not available at present. If it turns out that he were on that march, then two possibilities open up. Firstly, that Thomas would have passed Teston and Wateringbury, just three miles from East Malling, as he marched between Tonbridge and Maidstone. Secondly, that Mary Dumbrell, who lived for just a week in September 1798 after her baptism at Dover, was indeed a child of our family. And it would be no surprise if Elizabeth had accompanied him to Dover, since women often accompanied or joined their men as camp followers on such sorties.

If Thomas was not in the militia, was he living elsewhere between 1791 and 1801? It is certainly a possibility; however, he was certainly at Findon between 1801 and 1805, because he is recorded as one of the fifty-nine poor of the parish who received a shilling at Christmas in each of those years from the incumbent’s charity, and it is likely that he was there some time before this in order to qualify for the payment. I do not think this means necessarily that Thomas and his family were abjectly poor at this time, because the number of recipients of the vicar’s charity represents quite a high proportion of the population. However, he does not feature in the Findon land tax assessments at a time when he was definitely living in the village, so he must have been working for one of the land owners or their tenants and is not likely to have had much income.

The inscription on the tomb of Thomas and Elizabeth, to be found in East Malling churchyard, makes it clear that there were no further children of the marriage who survived the death of their parents.

We now come to the most intriguing episode of this whole account. At some point in between November 1814 and March 25th 1815, and almost certainly in either February or early March 1815, Thomas moved the eighty miles with his wife and two sons from Findon to East Malling, and in so doing changed the course of the history of this particular branch of the Dumbrell family, establishing the whole new line of the family in Kent which is still there today. The reason for this move eluded the writer for six years, but was finally revealed through the will of William Carpenter, a gardener from Larkfield. Thomas and Elizabeth, both fifty-five in 1815, were no longer young people. Thomas, the elder son, was twenty-three; his younger brother William, twelve. The younger Thomas is also mentioned as eligible for militia service in the same Findon overseer’s document as his father. In 1813, his profession was given as ‘groom’, and on December 5th 1814, his occupation is recorded as ‘helper’. On February 20th 1815, the son Thomas [10d] married Jane Baker in her native village of Clapham, adjoining the parish of Findon, and it is not too fanciful to assume that the little family, including Thomas’s new wife, made the journey together to East Malling sometime after that date, but in any case before Lady Day (March 25th) when Thomas the father is recorded as owner occupier of the property in Larkfield, East Malling, where he was to spend almost all of the rest of his life.

Larkfield was then a small hamlet lying about three quarters of a mile north of East Malling astride the London to Maidstone turnpike road, and separated from the village by the lands of Bradbourne House. Some dwellings lay beside the lane leading down to New Hythe, but its inhabitants formed a relatively small proportion of the parish at the time when Thomas and Elizabeth Dumbrell moved there.

The premises that the Dumbrells took over in Larkfield had been in the ownership of one William Carpenter and his wife Alice. They had both recently died, Alice in March 1814, and William in late December of the same year. On October 1st 1814, he had written his will, leaving his messuage, tenements and lands to Elizabeth Dumbrell,his natural daughter now wife of (blank) Dumbrell of Nepgate (Nepcote) in the parish of ffindon in the County of Sussex husbandman and her assigns for and during the term of her natural life and from and immediately after her decease unto and to the use of all and every the child and children as will daughters and sons of the body of my said daughter lawfully begotten...’ So Elizabeth Parker, the illegitimate daughter and, so far has been established, the only surviving offspring of William Carpenter inherited all of his property and lands, including some beside the New Hythe Brook in Larkfield. Whether Elizabeth Parker was the same child as was born illegitimately to Alicia Parker in Leybourne has not been established, and how Thomas Dumbrell and his future wife met remains a mystery. Did Elizabeth’s mother come from Sussex or live for a while there, or did Thomas meet her, as seems more likely, in the course of his career in the militia? These matters are still the subject of investigation.

Interestingly, the Dumbrells were not the only family to move from Findon to Malling. About 1788, admittedly some twenty five years earlier, but just after the marriage of Thomas and Elizabeth, a William and Ann Viner had made a very similar move from Findon to West Malling, less than two miles from where the Dumbrells settled. The reason for this particular move is more obvious; Ann Viner’s maiden name was Scotchford and this unusual surname occurs commonly in both parishes. It is not unreasonable to assume therefore that the Viners had relations in the Malling area. It is just possible that the Dumbrell family were friendly with the Viners and that it was they who somehow introduced Thomas Dumbrell and Elizabeth Parker. However, this remains pure conjecture. Nevertheless, it is a fact that William Viner (either he who moved from Findon or his son) was one of the overseers for West Malling in 1815-16, and in 1820. As such, he was responsible for parish rate assessments and had access to information about which properties in the area were vacant. Although the Dumbrells moved initially to East Malling, William Viner would no doubt have had close contact with colleagues there, and the property to which they moved in Larkfield would have been no more a mile and a half from the centre of West Malling. There is no firm evidence for this at all, but it is nevertheless a valid scenario.

It is worth noting that, when the Dumbrells were in Findon, they did not own their property. No reference to them has been found in the Findon Land Assessment records, either as owners or occupiers. So for them to take possession of a property of reasonable size when they moved to East Malling represented a real increase in wealth for them, and they must have been delighted to start this new life in another county.

Some search has been made to find out more about William Carpenter, without much success so far, because this is a relatively new line of enquiry. We know that William’s wife was Alice Berry, whom he had married as a spinster in 1782, so there is no possibility that Elizabeth Parker’s mother, possibly Alicia, and Alice Berry were the same person. William Carpenter was possibly born in Aylesford, and his will indicates that he had connections there. Indeed, the overseers of Aylesford made disbursements of 1/6d per week for ‘Carpenter’s child’ (1760), and ‘Carpenter’s girl’ (1761). However, we may never finally resolve the question of how Elizabeth and Thomas Dumbrell met.

And what of Thomas’s other two older children, Elizabeth [10b] and Frances [10c]? The terms of William Carpenter’s will make it plain why the whole family moved to East Malling; because Elizabeth and her lawfully-born offspring were to hold his properties not as joint tenants, but tenants-in-common so that all would have equal rights to enjoy its income. Elizabeth [10b] married a William Luff in Petworth, just three weeks before her brother Thomas married in Clapham. They were to join her father in East Malling, possibly in early 1821, when William received a disbursement from the parish overseer. They are next recorded at Thomas’ property in Larkfield in 1822. No children of this marriage have yet been traced, nor were mentioned in William Luff’s will. This gentleman may have been born in Petworth in 1790, but the location cannot yet be confirmed. The couple lived with the Dumbrells at East Malling at least until 1826, but are not recorded in tax assessments there after that date. His wife Elizabeth’s name is mentioned on her parents’ gravestone, probably erected in 1831. By 1837, William was comfortably off, a gentleman of independent means with lands at several locations in Chatham and Gillingham. He was wealthy enough to leave his niece, Frances Dumbrell [11a] £200 in his will, and with the residue of his estate he established a trust that was to benefit the natural son of his unmarried sister, Sarah. In 1841, the Luffs were living at Wellington Place, Gillingham with Elizabeth’s niece, Frances Dulake, who had married the year before. All three were described as “of independent means”. An intriguing, unsolved mystery is how William and Elizabeth came by their fortune. Were they living off the residue of William Carpenter’s estate, and why did they move to Gillingham where neither seemed to have a previous connection? No doubt this may be solved by looking more closely at the previous owners of the Luff property at Wellington Place. William died in November 1844 at New Brompton, Gillingham, and his wife Elizabeth died there in mid-December 1845, aged 58. The couple seem to have been childless, because she left her entire estate to her niece Frances, and made her its sole executrix. In October 1846, William Dulake (Frances’ husband and William’s executor) sold two messuages and their land fronting Chatham High Street, ostensibly part of the Luff estate, to the guardians of the Medway Poor House, who already owned the land on two sides of the property, for a sum of £425. How the Luffs came to have such property still remains a mystery.

Frances, Thomas’ and Elizabeth’s daughter, stayed on in Findon for a while, giving birth to an illegitimate daughter, Frances [11a] there in November 1815, but had certainly moved to the Malling area by 1819, marrying a Philip Masters in the neighbouring village of Aylesford in the April of that year. By 1820, she and Philip had moved to Gravesend, Kent, where she gave birth to four more children, the last being Elizabeth in 1828. Philp was a horse keeper, but little else is known about him except that two of his children, Philip and Eliza, died at Milton, Gravesend, in infancy within a fortnight of each other towards the end of 1827. Frances Masters herself had probably died by 1831, since she is not mentioned in the tribute to her parents inscribed on their gravestone. Yet her eldest daughter, Frances, lived almost until the end of the century. In early August 1840, she married at Frindsbury one William Thomas Dulake from Gillingham. He was a gardener and close friend of William Luff, her uncle, whom he had appointed to administer the trust he set up for his wife Elizabeth and illegitimate nephew, William Boxall, after his death. Frances went to live with the Luffs in the 1830s, probably after the death of her mother. Even in 1841, when she was married, she was recorded as living with the Luffs on the night of the census while her husband was with his brother in another part of Gillingham, plying his trade as gardener. Frances was to spend her later life in Sittingbourne, where her son was almost certainly the postmaster in the mid eighteen-seventies. In 1890, she was living with her husband in Grafton Cottages, Sittingbourne, and after his death, she moved to Terry’s Square. She was buried at Sittingbourne on the last day of May 1893. She was traced because she was the only Frances born at the time in Findon living in Kent in 1881.

Thomas and Elizabeth Dumbrell’s property in Larkfield was of reasonable size, and by no means the smallest to be subject to the annual parish land tax assessment. The house and lands, of which Thomas was the owner-occupier, were assessed at between £13/10/0 and £12 a year for the period he lived there, between 1815 and 183026. For a long time prior to the Dumbrell’s occupancy, the property had been valued at the same figure, an apt reminder that this was an age of little or no inflation in the property world. We have yet to discover what Thomas’s profession was, although there are strong indications that he may have been a carpenter (see below). Whatever the case, he obviously earned sufficient to sustain himself, and, for the four years when his daughter and son-in-law were living with him, presumably there was enough work for two. Carpentry was the profession followed at West Malling by Thomas, his son (see below).

By the late 1820’s, both Thomas and Elizabeth were in their late sixties, and Elizabeth died on January 9th 1829. Her burial, the first of a Dumbrell in the Malling area, took place in East Malling churchyard six days later. Thomas carried on living in Larkfield for another year, but at some point between April and November in 1830 he moved to Headcorn, about fifteen miles to the south east, presumably to be cared for by his younger son, William [10f] (see below). He finally died there in March 1831, and his body was brought to East Malling to be laid to rest beside his wife. The tombstone was discovered by a friend of the writer on October 26th 2000. Approaching from the front of the church, it is directly level with the side gate in the left-hand fence bordering the footpath, which bisects the graveyard. The inscription reads: "Sacred to the memory of Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Dumbrell of this parish who died January 9th 1829 aged 68 years. Also aforesaid Thomas Dumbrell died March 13th 1831 aged 70 years. Left issue 2 sons 1 daughter viz. Thomas William Elizabeth". Elizabeth did not leave a will, but the wording carefully restates her children’s rights to their property. The tombstone of William and Sarah, the couple’s grandson [12c] and his wife, and that of their great-grandson, are immediately in front of this grave.

What of Thomas’ two sons, Thomas [10d] and William [10f]? The elder brother, Thomas, is dealt with in detail below, and we shall turn our attention first to William.

William [10f] was just under twelve when he made the journey from Findon to East Malling, and although he spent most of his life around Larkfield, there were also periods when he was living elsewhere. It is just possible, for example, that he was working between 1820 and 1821 at Nuthurst with his half-uncle, Stephen, since a William Dumbrell is recorded there working for the parish. In 1825 he married a sixteen year old, Louise Clapson, who had been born in Sheerness and was living in nearby Aylesford. In the course of the next twenty three years, they had at least ten children:

Thomas christened October 8th 1826 buried c 1860 [11b]

Elizabeth December 2nd 1827 buried December 28th 1862 [11c]

William July 1st 1832 buried October 14th 1849 11d]

Stephen March 19th 1840 buried about May 1912 [11e]

Esther May 30th 1841 buried March 13th 1842 [11f]

Philip September 9th 1842 buried October 12th 1883 [11g]

Daniel August 14th 1844 buried January 5th 1845 [11h]

Emily March 14th 1846 buried July 25th 1847 [11j]

Alfred June 6 1847 buried August 1st 1847 [11k]

Phoebe January 21st 1849 died after March 1901 [11m]

No births have been found between 1832 and 1840, and the whereabouts of the family are uncertain during this period.

William and Louisa lived in East Malling during the early years of their marriage. Here, Thomas and Elizabeth were born. William probably worked as a gatekeeper on the Maidstone to London turnpike, collecting tolls from travellers on the new highways which were being built across Britain at this time. Around 1830, he moved to Headcorn, probably to work on the Maidstone to Tenterden road, and his profession is recorded as gatekeeper at the birth of his third child, William, in 1832. It is not known how long he stayed at Headcorn, but by 1840 he had moved to the Farningham area, and presumably back onto the London turnpike. He does not appear on the Headcorn ratepayers’ list for 1835. Stephen, Esther and Philip were all born in or around Farningham, although the fact that they were baptised at East Malling church indicates that William still regarded this parish as his home. In June 1841, William, Louisa and four of their children were living at Farningham, on the east side of the River Darent, and William was listed in the June census as a gateman. Although still a gatekeeper in 1842, he had given this up by the birth of his next child in 1844, when he was back in East Malling as a labourer. He remained in the village until his death.

About 1847, William and Louisa acquired a shop in Larkfield; this also doubled as the village post office. This must have been a very busy household and was probably located next to the Bull Inn, right at the end of New Hythe Lane and not far from the ferry across the Medway to Burham. Could this property have been the remnant of William Carpenter’s garden in 1815, in which he mentions his ownership of wasteland beside the New Hythe Brook? It could well have been so, since William’s occupation in 1851 is described as ‘gardener’. If this is the case, the Dumbrell family may well have let the property to tenants at some point, but this avenue of enquiry has not been fuly explored.

In 1851, in addition to William, Louisa and four of their five surviving children, their home at 96, New Hythe Lane also housed three adult lodgers from different parts of the country. By this time, Thomas [11b], the eldest son, had moved to nearby Trottiscliffe and was living with his wife’s relations. Although William Dumbrell is referred to as a shopkeeper of Larkfield in the Kelly’s guide for 1855 and 1867, and is also mentioned as postmaster in 1859, it is clear from the 1861 census that the shop was his wife’s responsibility. Here, he describes himself as an agricultural worker, while Louisa is entered as postmistress. His only lodger on that occasion was a young man of fourteen, a dealer in yeast from the neighbouring village of Ryarsh. In December 1862, the New Hythe Lane property was described as a cottage and garden of nine perches owned by the Misses Twisden. At that time, William was paying a rent of ten shillings a year. He died in Larkfield in early February 1871 and was buried at East Malling, though the site of his grave has yet to be discovered. Louisa Dumbrell survived him by only a few months. She continued to run the shop and post office right until the end of her life, when she was being helped by her youngest daughter, Phoebe [11m].

Five of the children of William and Louisa survived to adulthood. Thomas [11b], to whom we have already referred, a wheelwright and carpenter, firstly married a young lady called Harriet whose surname was probably Packham, She died in 1854, and Thomas remarried almost immediately to a widow of twenty-one, Sarah White, probably of Horton Kirby near Dartford in Kent. They had two children, Eliza and William, but they were sadly left fatherless when Thomas died before William’s first birthday. In 1881, Eliza was still in Trottiscliffe, working as a servant at Charles Shepherd’s house, but was to die two years later, unmarried, at the age of twenty-seven.

Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of William and Louisa Dumbrell {11c}. Aged twenty-four, she was still living at home in 1851, but late in 1854 she married a Thomas Balcomb at Tunbridge. She died a fortnight after her one year-old daughter Jane at Larkfield in December 1862, leaving behind at least one other child, six year-old William. Stephen [11e], their fourth child, was almost certainly named after his father’s half-cousin [10a] who had emigrated to Australia with his family in 1839, the year before Stephen’s birth (see above). In his early life, Stephen worked on the land, but later took a job on the railways. His first marriage to Sarah Mace, for which no certificate has been found, ended tragically when his wife in died in East Malling giving birth to their first child, Sarah Kate. This misfortune was compounded when the baby herself died five months later. Three years after this, at the age of twenty-nine he married Eliza Mace, probably a younger sister or cousin of Sarah, and left the East Malling area to work first at Dorking and then near Farnborough in north Hampshire, where he and Eliza had three of their six children. Between 1878 and 1880, he returned to Kent, and lived at Brenchley, probably working on the main line between Tonbridge and Ashford at Paddock Wood, which was becoming a busy railway junction. On March 31st 1901, we find Stephen boarding away from the Brenchley family home at 16, Railway Terrace, Lewisham, working as a railway ticket collector. His oldest son, Harry, now 28, was a clerk at the same station, while his daughters and younger son, Louisa, Augusta, Stephen Clapson, Arthur and Ada continued to live with their mother in Station Road, Paddock Wood. Eliza died prematurely in 1901, while Stephen was the longest living of William’s sons, dying in the Paddock Wood area in 1912. Of their children, Harry survived until 1944, while Stephen Clapson was living in the Tonbridge area until his death in 1946. He saw service between 1914 and 1920 in the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. By 1914, Arthur was working as a butcher in Paddock Wood. One of his sisters, Augusta, never married, and may have been handicapped. She died in 1917, aged 39.

Philip, Stephen’s younger brother [11g] did not fare so well, although his life took a similar course. An agricultural labourer as a young man, by 1871 he, too was working as a railway employee, probably at Aylesford station. It was possibly there that he met William Hanslip, a railway porter from Suffolk, who was offered lodging at his parents’ house, where Philip continued to live at least until the death of his mother. In 1881, he had gone back to working on the land, and was a farm servant and lodger at Alfred Whiffen’s farm in East Malling. He did not marry, but died sadly in the Union House at West Malling on Saturday, October 6th 1883. He was just 41.

Phoebe [11m] was the youngest child of William and Louisa. As a youngster, she helped her mother at Larkfield Post Office. She married John Pearson, a painter and paperhanger of Leybourne, in the summer of 1872. They continued to live in the East Malling area, and by 1891 they had seven children, ranging in age from three to eighteen. In that year, they were living at 2, Jubilee Terrace, Ditton. By 1901, Phoebe and John had moved to New Cottages, Bell Lane, Ditton. At the end of March that year, five of their children were still living at home, and the couple were also entertaining their granddaughter, six year-old Rose. Phoebe was the last of her family to die, in 1918.

The Tenth Generation

We finally come to Thomas and Elizabeth’s fourth child, Thomas [10d], born at Findon in 1791. He had married one Jane Baker at Clapham, the next parish west of Findon on February 20th 1815, and, if we assume correctly that he came to Kent at the same time as his father, he and his new wife would have moved to East Malling about a month after their marriage. There is still some uncertainty about Jane’s birthdate and origins. It is quite likely that she was the daughter of John and Frances Baker, born at Steyning in 1787. The couple were married at Findon in 1784, and the three children of their marriage so far traced were born in Steyning. Furthmore, John and Frances feature in the names given to the children of Thomas and Jane, and while Frances had been used in previous generations, John was a departure. The uncertainty of Jane’s origins stems from the fact that there was another Jane Baker born in Clapham, where our couple married in 1780, and from the confusing messages about Jane’s age at points when it could have been established. In the 1841 census it is given as 45, but for that census ages were rounded upwards to the nearest five years, and are notoriously unreliable. The burial register for 1850 gives her as 65, suggesting that she was born about 1785. Her 1850 death certificate records her age as 61, but unhelpfully her passing was reported by a neighbour, Ann Dartnell, present at the death, and so this reported age may be incorrect. Incidentally, this Ann Dartnell was the wife of John, whose savings were to be stolen nineteen years later by Jane’s grandchild Sarah Ann (see below).

What is known of the early years of Thomas Dumbrell is detailed above, and this chapter is concerned with his life in East Malling, and that of his family. Thomas and Jane had seven children:

Jane christened in East Malling March 17th 1816 [11n]

Thomas christened in East Malling June 7th 1818 [11p]

William born in West Malling September 2nd 1820 [11q]

Frances christened in West Malling February 15th 1824 [11r]

John born in West Malling January 30th 1827 [11s]

Charles born in West Malling July 8th 1829 [11t]

George born in West Malling April 10th 1832 [11u]

The indications to date are that Thomas and Jane lived with their parents in East Malling when they first moved to the area, but by 1817, Thomas possessed a carpenter’s shop and yard in West Malling. This almost certainly had a house attached. The rate for that year was assessed at £2/10/0 for the business premises, and £3/-/- for the house26. It is not evident whether Thomas’s father helped, or whether they even shared the business. The situation is not made any clearer by the fact that Thomas is described as a labourer in the parish registers for East Malling, where his first two children were baptised. By the early 1820s, Thomas clearly regarded himself more as a citizen of West Malling, where all of his remaining children were baptised. He continued to hold the carpenter’s shop until late 1821 or early 1822, when what must have been declining circumstances forced him to sell and to resume work as an agricultural labourer. By June 1822, his property was referred to as ‘late Dumbrells’.

About this time, he also took a job as a night-watchman, presumably to supplement his reduced income. For this work he was paid 2/- a night by the overseer. This rose to 2/6 in the inclement weather period of January 12th to March 11th. Under normal circumstances he would be employed twice weekly, but from late April 1823 mid October 1823, there was less work, as only one watchman was required during the summer months. An additional allowance of 7 pence was also provided for candles and beer, and a coat allowance of 5/- was paid by the overseer at the start of the winter period. Very few incidents occurred. On December 26th 1822 the overseer recorded that Thomas Dumbrell was on duty with a Thomas Pointer and that “several people were seen in the course of the night intoxicated, but not being inclined to disturb the peace and being Christmas time, were allowed to go to their homes.” Thomas was still so employed in mid November 182327. By 1841, he was living at Sole Street, West Malling, still working as an agricultural labourer and almost certainly living in tied accommodation, as his name did not appear on the list of freeholders entitled to vote a little before this time. Some time before 1850, Thomas and his wife Jane moved to Bo-Beep cottages, Lavenders Road, West Malling, where Jane died in the spring of 1850. Her death was registered by her next-door neighbour, Ann Durtnall. Thomas’ son William [11q] then moved into the cottage with his own young family, working as a labourer at nearby Bo Peep Farm, not far from Water Lane, West Malling. Thomas continued to live with his son until his death, which occurred in 1860, almost exactly ten years after that of his wife.

The quality of information available concerning the children of Thomas and Jane is variable. Of the two elder children, Jane [11n] and Thomas [11p], we know little. In 1841, Jane was still living in West Malling, in the High Street, a servant at the home of one John Bookham, wine merchant. Two years later, on October 1st 1843, she married a William Wadey or Wady, a labourer, at St. Nicholas Church in Brighton. At the time of her marriage she was living in Market Street, very close to the seafront in the heart of Brighton, but less than a year later, on September 13th 1844, her family home was at 4, Frederick Street, where she died of apoplexy. No link has yet been established between Jane and Brighton, so we cannot be certain of the reasons why she moved there. Her husband, William, may have been born in Worthing and his family may therefore have known the Dumbrell family in Findon before they moved to East Malling in 1815, but this is pure conjecture. Jane may have had a child, John, who was born and died in May 1844, but this has not yet been proven.

Thomas, the oldest son, was living with his younger brother, William [11q] , in 1851 at Bo Peep Farm. This must have been very confusing for, at that period, there were three Thomas Dumbrells living under the same roof; father Thomas (aged 58), his son (33 years) and his grandson, the infant son of William, who was barely three. Ten years later, Thomas the son had finally fled the family nest, and was living at the ‘Indian Hero’ beer house, in Farnham, Surrey, with several other men working in the area as brickmakers. He seems to have been a rather lonely figure who never married, drifting around looking for work in the brick industry after he left home. 1871 found him lodging as a labourer with Thomas Goldsmith, a brickmaker, in nearby Aldershot. He died of dropsy at Farnham workhouse in April 1872.

The life of William [11q], Thomas’ third child, is discussed in more detail below. His younger sister, Frances [11r], married a William Hayesmore in West Malling in 1848. By 1851, the couple had two young children, William, born in the neighbouring village of Offham, and George, who was only a few weeks old. The little family were living at 54, the High Street, West Malling. Three more sons were born, and the Hayesmores were still living in the High Street in 1881. Frances finally died, almost certainly in the same house, at the very end of 1886. Lewis, Frances’s youngest son, was still in East Malling in 1901, a blacksmith with four children.

Thomas’s fourth son, John [11s], never married. He, too. was living with brother William at Bo Peep in 1851, and poor Sarah, William’s wife, must have had quite a job cooking for four men and looking after her growing children. In fact the arrangement must have suited John very well, for he remained with Sarah and William until he died at the age of 59 in 1886, moving with them to the various abodes they had around West Malling in the course of their married life.

Thomas’ other two sons, Charles {11t] and George [11u], did not survive to adulthood, Charles dying just before his twelfth birthday and George when he was just twenty months. Thus, of Thomas’ and Jane’s family of seven, only two remained in the West Malling area to bear them grandchildren. Indeed, if we take together their family, and that of their brother William, then we can count only six of their seventeen children who grew up to have a family of their own. This is not only a stark illustration of how precarious life was in the nineteenth century, but also a reminder that the quality of health care did not appear to have improved for ordinary people with the passage of time. If anything, families appeared larger in Victorian times than they had been a hundred years before, and this brought attendant problems of more restricted living conditions and a poorer diet.

The Eleventh Generation

William Dumbrell [11q] was born at West Malling on September 2nd 1820, and christened almost three weeks later at the local church. Until he was in his early twenties, he lived at Sole Street, West Malling, with his parents, but then moved to Offham, still as a farm labourer. It may have been there that he met his future wife, Sarah Barnden, as Offham is a little nearer to Addington, Sarah’s home village, than West Malling. Yet their friendship presents us with a puzzle, since perceptive readers may have noticed that this Sarah bears the same surname as Elizabeth, the wife of William’s great-grandfather [8c]. This may be simple coincidence, but the surname is not a common one. Moreover, Sarah Barnden’s father, also William, was likewise from Sussex, born at Alfriston in 1794, and it may be that the Dumbrells were well acquainted with them so that the lives of both families ran in parallel through the seventy eight years between the two marriages. We have already suggested. for example, that this Thomas may have met his second wife, Mary Cain, around 1766 through a Barnden connection (see above). However, no connection between the Lancing and Alfriston branches has yet been established. The line of this William Barnden has been traced a further two generations to a John Barnden and his wife Grace Burt ( married in Alfriston in 1765) without any direction relationship with the Lancing family coming to light, so we must provisionally assume the link to be a coincidental one.

Whatever the facts, there is no doubt that William Dumbrell married Sarah Barnden at Addington church on November 21st 1847. Over the course of the next twenty or so years they were to have ten children.

Thomas christened July 16th 1848 [12a]

William born September 23rd 1850 [12b]

Sarah Ann February 13th 1853 [12c]

John William April 29th 1855 [12d]

Jane August 30th 1857 [12e]

George September 23rd 1859 [12f]

Charles April 17th 1861 [12g]

Jonathan died at 1 month February 7th 1863 [12h]

Phoebe June 26th 1864 [12j]

Walter October 3rd 1866 [12k]

James December 9th 1868 [12l]

William and Sarah probably continued to live at Offham for the next three years, moving to Bo Peep cottages, near the junction of Lavender Road and Water Lane, West Malling, sometime between late 1850 and early 1851. They needed larger accommodation after their move, because they also had living with them William’s father, Thomas [10f] and his brothers, Thomas [11p] and John [11s]. Their family continued to grow, and in 1861 they were still living at Bo Peep, now renamed Lavender Cottages, where brother John continued to live with them as a lodger. The family home also accommodated David Hall, an agricultural worker of twenty one from nearby East Peckham. William continued to work on the land, supporting his large family. However, the family’s dependence on agriculture, that had persisted for so many generations, was finally to come to an end within the next twenty years. Cement works began to open along either side of the Medway, using the easily worked riverside chalk. This coincided with the expansion of mechanised farming techniques, which meant that fewer farmhands were needed. It is not known for certain whether William Dumbrell and his growing sons were obliged to leave the land because of lack of work or because they found the prospect of working fixed hours for a fixed wage more alluring, but the evidence suggests that they would have much preferred the healthy open-air life of the farm to the dusty environment of cement labouring if they had had the choice. Each depended in any case on heavy manual work. The family were still at Lavender Cottages in 1871, but by the mid 1870’s, they had moved yet again, to 14, High Street, West Malling. In 1881 William and four of his sons, Thomas, John William, George and Charles were all employed in the cement industry. Between 1887 and 1891, William and Sarah made their final move, to New Hythe, about one mile north-east of West Malling, and in 1897, celebrated their golden wedding, the first couple in this history to do so. William died just before his seventy-ninth birthday on June 2nd 1899. Sarah, six years younger, probably went to live with one of her children, probably William, at Dane’s Hill Gillingham, after her husband’s death. She lived until 1902, and was laid to rest with her husband in East Malling churchyard.

The descendants of William and Sarah:

[12a] Thomas:

Thomas, the eldest child of William and Sarah, never married and lived at home until his sudden death at the age of 35 in 1882. As described above, he worked with his brothers in the cement industry. His grave is to the left of that of his parents in the churchyard at East Malling.

[12b] William:

William {12b], William and Sarah’s second son, seems to have started his working life in agriculture, but like so many men in the Medway valley area, moved into a more reliable livelihood in the cement industry once this had become firmly established. William married an Elizabeth Jeffery from Teston in August 1872, and during the course of the next eighteen years they had ten children, the youngest of whom, Annie, was born in 1890. In 1881, the family was living in a cottage attached to Clare Farm, East Malling. During the early 1880s, three of their children, John, Alice and William attended briefly East Malling National School28, not all at the same time, and it must be remembered that, although education had just been made compulsory, its benefits were still viewed with scepticism by many poor people who saw children’s attendance at school as a loss of family income, and were not concerned with its potential long-term benefits to the family’s well-being. By 1901, the family had moved to Dane’s Hill on the east side of Gillingham, close to the hamlet of Twydall. William was by now a foreman at a local cement works. He was still in the same job in 1905, and remained at Dane’s Hill until he died in late April 1916. Also by 1905, his wife Elizabeth, was running a drapery business at 141, Canterbury Road, Chatham; she was still in business there in 1911. At the time of her death in October 1926, she was living in Sheerness, possibly with one of her children, but was buried with her husband in the Grange Road cemetery Gillingham; here, she had purchased a plot shortly after his death. William’s and Elizabeth’s eldest son, John, worked a local cement factory, but before 1922 appears to have moved with his family to Wharfedale in Yorkshire, where he died in the summer of 1946. The couple’s second son, also William, had followed his father into the cement industry, where, in 1901, he was working as a cooper. From 1908 to 1911, he was in the Navy, where his service was curtailed following a spell of desertion; this despite being of good or very good character throughout the period of his enlistment. After this, he remained in the Medway area till his death in 1938.

Their third son, Thomas, born in 1882, enlisted in the Kent Artillery as a cooper in October 1900, just after his eighteenth birthday. Only five feet three inches tall and weighing eight stone four pounds, he was transferred to the reserve in 1903 and finally discharged from service in October 1912.29 Thomas had married Ellen Hall in 1907, and on leaving the army, he and his two children (Thomas junior and Leonard) emigrated to Vancouver, where they arroved at the end of 1912. However, army life was calling again, and Thomas enlisted in the Canadian forces at the beginning of First World War and was sent back to Europe to fight.After six months in England, he was sent to France in September 1915 and sadly killed at Sains-en Gohelle on July 23rd 1917 by a shell; he was on horseback escorting ammunition to the front line. His elder son, Thomas, lived till 1979 when he died in a boating accident in British Colombia. Leonard, the younger, had died following a heart operation in 1966.

Two of William’s daughters, Alice and Mary Ann, had already married in the Medway Towns in first years of the new century, but no information has been gathered about their descendants. (See Table 1)

[12c] Sarah Ann:

The early life of Sarah Ann Dumbrell [12c], the elder daughter of William and Sarah, is documented for reasons that she probably would not have wished. At the age of fifteen, on March 22nd 1869, she was committed to Maidstone Gaol for stealing £92 from the house of John Dartnall, a carpenter aged 72, a long-standing neighbour of the family at Lavender Cottages, West Malling. Her mother was bailed on the same offence, but was acquitted after the prosecutor had read the depositions.. A newspaper report of April 10th 1869 suggests that Sarah had been in service at Mr. Dartnall’s house and had been dismissed for a previous theft, although she had not been prosecuted. The amount taken was a considerable one for those days, and she had used some of it to purchase new clothes. The police recovered over £66 in cash from the Dumbrell’s house after the theft. At her trial, the Chairman of the Bench stated that she may well have been put to death for such a crime in former times, and no doubt she would have been considered for transportation had the theft occurred twenty years earlier (this had all but ceased by 1857 and was abolished in 1868). In the event, she was committed to prison for one month’s hard labour that was to be followed by five years in a Reformatory School. Originally established under an act of 1854 that was amended in 1866, Reformatories were set up in each county for young offenders between fifteen and nineteen. There were separate institutions according to sex and religion, and children were often sent to the Schools a long distance from home for periods of up to five years. So it was that Sarah was committed to the Liverpool Protestant Reformatory School for Girls at West Derby, Liverpool. This was a reform home for up to 80 girls between fifteen and nineteen, where they were trained to be servants. Regimes were harsh, and Sarah would have had lessons in reading and writing (her skills in these were described as imperfect at the time of her committal). In 1871, while Sarah was still an inmate, seventy-three girls were present, including the eighteen year-old Eliza Pankhurst from Hadlow, about eight miles from Malling. However, there does there appear to be any connection between Sarah’s offence and that of Eliza. In any case, Sarah had returned home by the autumn of 1874, when she married Thomas Wolfe of Tonbridge at East Malling. Little more is known about her life. By 1881, the couple had two children, Jane and Florence, and were living in Church Road, East Malling. In 1901, now with five children, the Wolfes were living in Larkfield, and Thomas was employed in the cement industry. (See Table 2)

[12d] John William:

Sarah Ann’s younger brother, John William [12d] seems to have been living near Clare Farm, close to his brother William (see above), and, he too worked in cement. He married Susanna Pankhurst, a girl whose family was living next door but one, the daughter of a bricklayer, but who was in domestic service by the time of their marriage in late 1880. By 1891, they were living in New Hythe Lane, Larkfield, but without children. It is uncertain whether any were born and had died in the interim, but in 1901, there were no children at home, although Susanna’s father and a nephew were then living with them. By this time, John had taken up brick-laying, probably with his father-in-law. Susanna died, aged 55, in 1916 in Larkfield, presumably at the family home, and John remarried in 1917 to Dorcas Woodger, the widow of Eliza Woodger’s brother (see below). He remained in North Kent until his death in early 1936, at the age of 80. Dorcas survived him, and died in the spring of 1944.

[12e] Jane:

Jane, William’s and Sarah’s next child, married George Wooding of Gillitt’s Hole, East Malling in February 1884 at St. Paul’s Maidstone, having previously had the banns of her marriage to William Chittenden called at East Malling in 1882. At the time of her marriage, she was living in Boxley Road, Maidstone, while George was conveniently residing nearby in Sandling Road. By 1891, the couple were living next door to her brother and sister-in-law George and Eliza Dumbrell at Fair View, Ditton. Their son Albert was christened at Ditton church on the same day as his cousin Olive, George’s daughter. However, the couple had moved to Court Lodge Road, Gillingham, by way of Aylesford and Snodland, before 1901. George Wooding was a labourer in cement, and the move to the Medway Towns was in response to the development of the industry there. By the turn of the century, the couple had had six children. (See Table 3)

[12f] George:

Much more, however, is known about George, the next son of William and Sarah, who will be discussed in greater detail below.

[12g:] Charles:

Charles, George’s next younger brother, married a Louisa Christian of Larkfield at Christmas 1883. The couple had certainly known each other as teenagers, since they were confirmed at the same time in May 1878 at East Malling church. Louisa worked for a time as a domestic servant in Maidstone during the early 1880s, the usual occupation for a young lady before marriage. Charles had followed his father into the cement industry, and was living at home at the time of his marriage to Louisa. In the spring of 1884, she gave birth to their first child, John William, who sadly died at the age of five months. By 1887 the couple had moved to Eccles on the other side of the river Medway from New Hythe, giving birth to two more children. These were Ada, born in 1887, who was visiting her grandmother Christian in Aylesford on Sunday, March 31st 1901, and Charles, who died an infant in 1891. Perhaps Charles moved across the Medway to be nearer his work, as nearby Burham was the site of Peters’, a large cement works and a huge employer of local labour at the time. By 1901, Charles and Louisa were living at 271, Grange Road, Gillingham, with two of their surviving four children, Charles Henry, aged 7, and George, aged 6. As stated, Ada was staying with her grandmother, and Phoebe, aged 15, was almost certainly working as a domestic servant in Chatham. Charles Henry married Emma Adams in 1917, and died in the Sittingbourne area in 1962, while George married a Kate Clarke in 1921. Their father Charles had died prematurely at Burham in the summer of 1906, at the age of forty-five. About a year after his death, Louisa remarried to one George Edmonds. (See Table 4)

[12h] Jonathan:

Jonathan [12h], probably born right at the beginning of January 1863, lived for just one month. He died of convulsions on February 7th at Lavender Cottage. Sarah, his mother, was caring for him, but the doctor was not called, presumably because the family was so poor and, of course, there were no medical benefits in those days.

[12j] Phoebe:

Phoebe [12j], William and Sarah’s youngest daughter, married one George Austin, a labourer from Larkfield and son of a road mender, in March 1887. They had at least four children, of whom the eldest, Clara Jane, thirteen in March 1901, was staying with her grandmother Sarah Dumbrell in New Hythe. At the same time, Phoebe and George were living in Eccles near Aylesford, and he was a brakesman at a local cement works. No further information is available about what happened to the couple subsequently. (See Table 5)

[12k] Walter:

Walter Dumbrell [12k] preferred to spend his early adulthood in the army, rather than the cement works. He married a mill hand from East Malling called Amelia, the daughter of Aaron and Elizabeth Phillips. They had a son, also Walter, born in 1887 before his father left for Army duties in India. His active service finished in Calcutta in the autumn of 1894, and he was discharged at Gosport early in 1895. His record shows him to be less than 5 feet 6 inches tall, with tattoos on both arms. By 1901 the couple had three more young children, Charles, Ida Amelia and Florence Ada who was then just a year old. The couple were then living at 6, Ravensknowle, Wouldham, and Walter, like it brothers, had found work in the cement industry. A third son, Leslie, was born to the couple in late 1901, but had sadly died by the end of the following year; however, two further daughters were born to them, Eileen, in 1904, and Daisy Amy in 1907. It is also known that their second child, Charles, married one Rosie Smith in the summer of 1922. Between May 1916 and February 1919, he served as a stoker in the Navy, acquitting himself well and working aboard various ships. In 1937, a Walter Dumbrell, probably Walter’s eldest son, was living at 1, Bramble Tree Cottages, Borstal; this is about three miles from Wouldham. He is believed to have married a Miss James in about November 1918. Walter senior was buried at Wouldham in April 1926. No record has yet been found of his wife’s death. However, members of Walter’s family were still living in Wouldham in 1949. His wife died in 1951, aged 82. (See Table 6)

James [12l]:

James [12l], the tenth and last child of William and Sarah, attended schools in East Malling from the age of five, and was living at home in New Hythe with his parents at the time of his marriage to a twenty-one year old, Florence Adelaide Upton, in November 1891. Interestingly, James’ name was removed from the Malling School register in February 1875 when he was ill with a fever, but re-instated on his return to school a month later. This is a reflection of the ‘payment by results’ system practised in school at the time. Registers were most scrupulously kept, and school log books invariably recorded the numbers present each week, and reasons for long absences. The local vicar or government inspectors regularly checked registers, and there were harsh penalties for schools claiming to have pupils on their books who were not in attendance. On leaving school, James became a labourer, and unsurprisingly was working in the cement industry in Gillingham in 1901. By this time the couple had had at least three children, Charles (who served in the Navy during the latter part of the First World War), Grace, and James Alfred, born in the early months of 1895. A fourth child, Florence, came into this world in 1903, the only one born after the family had moved to Gillingham. By 1926, James had probably died, because Kelly’s Directory records that the householder of the family home at 10, Elm Road, Gillingham, was a Mrs. Dumbrell. She was still there in 1928, having lived at the same address at least since 1901. (See Table 7)

The Twelfth Generation

George Dumbrell [12f], grandfather of the writer, was baptised at West Malling church on October 30th 1859. As early as 1881, he was working in the cement industry, and pursued this occupation all of his working life. As his father and so many of his brothers also worked in the industry, it is likely that the original opening was found for him by his father, and the importance of more regular work there meant that he was never likely to move very far from Malling area. His life was a hard one; when in his sixties, he was still getting up very early in the morning to walk the four miles from Ditton to the cement works at Burham, taking the ferry across the River Medway to Peters’ factory. There he worked as a limeburner. After a long day’s work, there was of course the return trip, which must have left him, exhausted when he arrived home in the evening. Much of the little free time he had was taken up with gardening. His little terraced house in Ditton boasted a long, narrow plot at the rear. In the middle of the path leading to its end was a water pump, shared by the neighbouring property. This was originally used to provide the house with water, but also made a useful garden supply. Sitting astride the garden, about half-way down its length was a greenhouse, which was George’s pride and joy, especially after his retirement when he had more time to potter around his garden and tend the vegetables on which the family had depended so much when all the children were living at home.

There is a mystery surrounding George Dumbrell’s first intention to marry. The banns were called at East Malling church for him to be married to a local girl, Florrie Fowler, during three consecutive weeks of the summer of 1881, the third occasion being on August 7th. However, there is no record of the marriage actually taking place, and just eight months later, on April 15th 1882, he married Eliza Woodger, daughter of James and Emily, also of East Malling. Florence was apparently buried sometime between April and June 1882, but the circumstances surrounding her death are not yet entirely clear. What had happened to Florence? Was she stricken with a terminal illness that made marriage impossible? And why was George’s marriage to Eliza apparently so precipitate? Unless further evidence comes to light, we can only speculate on the circumstances. At the time of George’s marriage to Eliza, he was a labourer living at Perry Street, Maidstone. Yet less than a year before this he had been living at home and working in cement. Was his move, the only time he apparently left the cement industry, connected in any way with his marriage? The swift development of events suggests that Florence’s death might have been sudden and unexpected. It is interesting that Florence’s older brother, George Francis Fowler, was married to Eliza Woodger’s eldest sister, Frances. A Francis Fowler is recorded as a witness to the marriage of George and Eliza at St. Michael’s, Maidstone. We cannot yet be certain whether this was Eliza’s brother-in-law or her sister, whose Christian name had been wrongly spelled, but whatever the circumstances, it seems likely that the Fowler family approved of George’s eventual marriage.

Just prior to her wedding, Eliza Woodger had also been working in Maidstone. In 1881 she was reported as working as a servant to a Mr. and Mrs. Wakefield at 62, Stone Street, Maidstone, and at the time of her marriage, she was living at Barming Heath.

George and Eliza spent the early years of their long married life at Bell Lane, Ditton, moving to their newly built terraced house at Fair View in New Road between 1885 and 1887. The house was small, but well designed. It eventually became 58, New Road, and still stands today. A very short front garden led to the front door, which opened directly into the front parlour. This was separated from the back parlour by stairs leading up the centre of the house to two further bedrooms, one to the right over the sitting room, and two to the back. One of these was directly over the dining room, and this led to a further bedroom over the scullery, which could be reached either from a back passage which passed along the length of the terrace, or from the back room itself. This room looked out onto a small yard, shared with the partner house, beyond which lay the long, narrow garden. To the scullery was attached the single storey outside toilet, emptied by the council each Friday night. There was no inside bathroom, and baths were taken in a zinc tub in the parlour, in front of the fire when the weather was cold. The shared yard and alleyway made for close communal living, and any news among the families in the terrace must have spread quickly. Amazingly, the parlour contained a piano in later years. May learned to play this, and it stood in her own home in Snodland after she married.

George and Eliza were to have eleven children in all:

Maud Elsie born August 10th 1883 [13a]

George Alfred December 30th 1884 [13b]

Emily (Tot) christened January 23rd 1887 [13c]

Walter born November 28th 1887 [13d]

Olive July 28th 1891 [13e]

Lottie December 13th 1893 [13f]

May Lillian September 19th 1896 [13g]

Leonard about November 1899; died aged 9 days [13h]

Marjorie September 23rd 1901 [13j]

Doris Ruby August 4th 1904 [13k]

Vera about February 1906; died June 4th 1933 [13l]

All of the children were born in Ditton. The two eldest, Elsie and George were baptised at East Malling church, while their younger brothers and sisters were all baptised at Ditton. Although there were so many children for such a small house, it must be remembered that not all of them were growing up at the same time. Nonetheless, it was undeniably crowded, and young sisters often slept three to a bed. Toys had to be shared and clothes passed down from older to younger child. Eliza acquired a Singer sewing machine from her sister, still owned by the author, and this must have been put to very good use. But there were good times, too. At some point the family obtained a piano which May learned to play, and the back parlour was a focus for singing and games at times of relaxation.

All of the Dumbrell children attended Ditton School, and during almost the whole period of the family’s association with it, which spanned more than thirty years, the headmaster was Mr. Frank Bartholomew. Taking up his appointment on January 26th 1891 at the age of 25, he was living ten years later in London Road, Ditton with his wife and two young daughters. His assistant, who began with him as a pupil teacher and eventually became headmistress after his retirement, was Miss Edith Smart. Her long connection with the school began when she received an exhibition from the school as pupil teacher in 1896, and ended with her retirement on January 18th 1944. A separate infants department opened in 1894 under the headship of Charlotte Neath, who was to remain in charge until 1916. Her logbook tells of her prepossession with pupils’ attendance on which depended the school’s incomes and teachers’ salaries. She recounts how smallpox came to the village, and describes the numbers of pupils suffering from diphtheria, ringworm and influenza. There are tales of compassion, too; for example, she started a clothing club and ensured that no child left for the Christmas holiday one year without a warm garment. A significant change came to teaching in June 1904, when exercise books and lead pencil replaced slates. This meant that children’s work could be saved to form a record, but it is clear that exercise books remained in short supply in those early years.

A song that Ditton children learnt at the beginning of the century emphasises the importance placed on learning, discipline and cleanliness. Compulsory education had only been introduced in the previous thirty years. There was much absence because children were wanted at home for harvesting or earning extra cash, and prizes were regularly offered for good attendance and scholarship.

We go to our places with clean hands and faces
And pay great attention to what we are told
For else we shall never be happy and clever
For learning is better than silver and gold

Mr. Bartholomew’s logbook gives the clear impression that he was a firm, but kindly man. He would stand no nonsense from his pupils, but nevertheless had their respect, and that of their parents. One of his entries reads: “had yesterday morning to whip a boy [..] for pilfering and attempting to conceal his guilt by falsehood. The father called this morning to thank me for the trouble I had taken”30. This reaction is certainly not of the sort we could expect from parents today! The pupils’ regard for Mr. Bartholomew is perhaps best summed up by this skipping rhyme, perhaps also used in many other schools at the time, but with slightly different words.

Mr. Bartholomew is a good man, he tries to teach you all he can.

Read, write, 'rithmetic, he don't forget to give you the stick.

When he does he makes you dance, out of England into France,

Out of France and into Spain, over the hills and back again!

There is little doubt that the Dumbrell family’s respect for the headmaster was reciprocated, because in December 1920, Mr. Bartholomew wrote in his log book:

"Beginning with January 1891 with Elsie Dumbrell and closing December 1920 with Vera Dumbrell a stretch of 30 years harmonious work with one family closes today as Vera is leaving. Vera received a memento from me"30.

The memento to which he refers was the school adventure 'The Nicest Girl in the School' by Angela Brazil. And there is no doubt that the sentiments were genuine, since on no other occasion during his long headship did Mr. Bartholomew make a similar presentation. All of the family had acquitted themselves well at school. Elsie, the eldest, for example, won a scholarship for ten shillings in 1896, and the following year was working in the school as an extra monitress. Her contribution was described in his log by Mr. Bartholomew as ‘very useful’. On June 21st 1898, she was entrusted with teaching a class. By the end of March 1901, she had moved away from home to find service with Mr. and Mrs. Chambers, a family of butchers who lived at 7, St. Luke’s Avenue, Maidstone. George, the eldest son of our George and Eliza, was still living at home. He left school at the age of thirteen on February 14th 1898, but enrolled the same day at a night school which Mr. Bartholomew had established to enable pupils to continue their education. In 1901, he was working as a carter on a local farm. He was the first of the children to wed when he married Annie Howland in 1909. His younger brother Walter was still at home in 1901, too. A couple of years earlier, he had won a prize for the best individual work in Standard I. On August 24th 1894, Olive was admitted to school, aged three. Lottie followed her in July 1897, and in May 1900, received 2/6d for ‘making every attendance’. Doris was also to receive an attendance medal on August 5th 1913 for her achievement the previous year. May and Doris both went on to further education after leaving school, May for a nine month course in domestic science at Bromley in September 1911, and Marjorie failed by one place to gain a Holme scholarship in April 1910.

Some time around their thirteenth birthday the children left school, the girls entering domestic service in one or other of the large houses between Ditton and East Malling, the boys obtaining employment as gardeners. There were so few opportunities for young country people early in the century, and parents needed the extra money to feed the growing family. Most of the weekly wage went for upkeep, and a little was retained for buying clothes or perfume. Domestic service, although hard and exacting work, gave young ladies an insight into how the homes of others were run, and of the importance of thoroughness and routine. Many of the sisters, for example, employed these same routines when they themselves were married, washing and ironing clothes, cleaning rooms or doing the shopping to the same weekly patterns year after year. Not that they had not already learned the importance of system and organisation in the home. Each child had a domestic task which contributed towards the benefit of all. Lottie, for example, was responsible for cleaning all the shoes. On one fine Sunday morning, she took all of them to the village green and carried out her work in public, much to the consternation of her parents.

But there were fun and mischief, too. In an age when there was limited communal entertainment, individuals often created their own amusement. Games such as ‘knock-down ginger’ were common; children noisily knocked the door of neighbours’ houses, then ran away when they heard them coming to open it. The excitement resided in staying close to the door as long as possible without being caught. On one occasion, Marjorie was given a good shake by a neighbour for doing this. Sometimes, door knockers were all tied tightly together, so that one knock sufficed for a whole cluster of houses, bringing several occupants on to the street. On more than one occasion, the village policeman visited the Dumbrell house to investigate scrumping or some other misdemeanour, or would administer a cuff to the ear of the offending child. One of the boys, for example, was taking a bath in the tub in the parlour when he caught sight of the policeman at the window. He immediately fled upstairs dripping wet and hid under his bed. But these were the normal entertainments of childhood. And sometimes, tricks would be played on the children themselves. For example, Marjorie returned empty-handed from Grice’s, the village shop, which she visited to buy some loose vinegar, because she was told that it ‘it had all gone sour’. Sometimes, the teenage girls in the family would play tricks on young men who had been too forward in their comments or attentions, or would be frightened by an older brother pretending to be an irate farmer; but these were all part of village life in Ditton before the Great War.

The Great War touched the people of Ditton in a particularly personal way, because the arterial road from London to Folkestone and Dover lay at the end of the village street. Every day, columns of volunteers would pass on the way to the front, and it became the pastime of the village children to watch the soldiers marching past. On one poignant occasion, Marjorie was there with some of the other Ditton girls. One was especially excited because she was expecting her father to pass with the local regiment. As he came by the end of New Road, she called out to him, and he swept her up in his arms to hug her as he marched on towards Maidstone. She never saw him again, for shortly afterwards she learnt that he had been killed in France. The memorial at the end of New Road bears witness to the terrible losses suffered by so many families in this tiny village alone. In June 1916, Walter responded to the call to arms by joining the Royal West Kent Regiment. He was posted to India, returning home in the spring of 1920 with the rank of sergeant24. He had married May Trowell from Aylesford just before the beginning of hostilities, in June 1913.

As time went by, all of George’s and Eliza’s children married, with the exception of Emily, who was always called Tot because of her stature as a child, and Vera. Sadly, Vera developed leukaemia in 1932 at a time when she had a serious boy-friend, Ned Neaves, and died in St. Thomas’ Hospital, London in June 1933. Tot continued to live at New Road right until her death in 1961. In the mid-fifties, she had suffered a severe motor accident while crossing the busy Maidstone road, and from this she never fully recovered. Her parents continued to live at their little cottage, supported by Tot but visited regularly by all of their children, until their death. George died just before the Second World War. He had been working in his beloved garden when he felt unwell, and collapsed by the scullery door. A few years earlier he had suffered an accident at work that had left him partially immobile. With no welfare state to fall back on in the late 1930’s, they were quite poor towards the end of their lives, and relied on Tot’s work at the East Malling Research Station to supplement their income. He and Eliza had been married for fifty-seven years, and had been in Ditton for more than half a century. Eliza carried on alone with Tot for another four years, dying at the age of eighty-one in July 1943, just one month before the birth of the writer. Those who knew her described her as a ‘happy, busy lady’ and ‘a lovely person’.

This is as far as our family history takes us. Something of the lives of all of the children of George and Eliza could be written, the last of whom, Olive died about September 1986. However, in addition to the writer, six other of their eighteen grandchildren are still alive in early 2010, and it is for them to add memories of their parents if they so wish. This history is not a remarkable one in any way, but it is reflection of one family’s response to the fortunes of life and death in times which were often hard and uncompromising, and serves well to remind us of who we are and where we have come from. Those who have gone before deserve our understanding and respect, and often our admiration, for the ways in which their efforts and sacrifices made life a little easier for those who followed them. (Table 8)

The other Dumbrell family of East Malling

Between about 1857 and 1870 another, possibly unrelated family of Dumbrells lived in East Malling. In the early stages of this research, much time was spent on trying to establish a connection between these new arrivals in the village and our main family, mostly without success.

The newcomers were John [4Da] and Sarah Dumbrell, and one can see straight away that the names of their children do not fall within the traditions of our already established Dumbrell family. They lived at 4, New Road, East Malling:

[5Da] Emma born October 15th 1857, possibly at Ditton

[5Db] Clara Elizabeth March 18th 1859 at East Malling

[5Dc] Catherine March 10th 1861 at East Malling

[5Dd] Edward Henley June 7th 1863 at East Malling

[5De] John James December 23rd 1864 at Teston

Their father John, a coachman, had been born in Orpington, Kent in 1830 and married a Sarah Denham from Marylebone in July 1855. The couple seem to have come to East Malling some time before the birth of their first child, Emma, and between 1863 and 1864 they had moved away to Teston area. By 1881, they were in Yalding, where they were living in a house called ‘Singlehurst’ at 51, Hill Road. By that date, too, none of the rest of John’s family remained at East Malling. Emma was working as a domestic servant at Barnjet House, West Barming, while her sister was working at Murston near Sittingbourne as a nurse domestic in the house of one James Hoare. Catherine sadly died whilst still living at home in the summer of 1881. She is buried in Teston churchyard. Her brother Edward Henley was a pupil teacher, probably at Yalding School. In the autumn of 1883 he left for New South Wales, arriving there in December. Tragically, he died of tuberculosis shortly after his arrival, and was buried in February 1884 at Upper Picton. He had given his profession as teacher23. His death is commemorated on the same stone as Catherine’s in Teston churchyard. Nothing is known of the fate of Edward Henley, but his younger brother John James was ordinated, serving as a curate in Maidstone, then as Vicar of Copthorne in East Sussex. He died prematurely in 1901 in Cape Town, South Africa.

How did John and Sarah come to live in East Malling? Did they already know our family? These are questions as yet unanswered. Firstly, we are tempted to assert that this is more than coincidence. In 1881, there were just over three hundred Dumbrells listed in the national census returns, and about 80% of these were still to be found in Sussex. In Kent, in addition to our family, there was one unrelated family at Gravesend who originally came there via Canterbury in the early nineteenth century, and another at West Wickham. So what is the evidence for the origins of these newcomers? An important clue lay in the name Henley, Edward’s second name (see above). Family names of this sort sometimes arise from a wife’s maiden name and may be recur in succeeding generations.

Secondly, John and Sarah were not alone. John Dumbrell’s four sisters, Mary Ann [4Dc], Catherine [4De], Carry (Elizabeth Clara) [4Df] and Sarah [4Dh] all appeared in East Malling at about the same time. In 1861, the eldest and youngest, Mary Ann and Sarah, were both living at 4, New Road with their brother John, and Carry was a housemaid at Clare Cottage. Catherine, known as Kate, married one Henry Dadson at East Malling in 1864, and they settled in the village, having at least five children. One of John’s brothers, William, may have emigrated to America. The United States 1880 census records a William Dumbrell, born in England at the right date, living at Arcadia, Wayne, New York. Significantly, he was a shoemaker, the profession of his father (see below).

So where had they come from? Using Edward’s middle name as a guide, we can trace the family back three generations, to May 25th 1752, when an Edward Dumbrell [1D] married Sarah Henley at Cuckfield. One of their seven children, Martha [2Df], was born in Cuckfield in 1767. In 1800, Martha gave birth to a son, Edward Thomas [3D], who was christened on July 6th of that year at St. Dunstan’s Church, Stepney. It would seem that this Martha, though giving the name of the father as ‘Edward’ at her son’s baptism, was in fact unmarried and is referred to as a spinster in the will of her sister-in-law, Lucy Dumbrell (née Bartholomew). This son Edward, a cobbler by profession, married a Sarah Gatland in Chipstead, Surrey in 1827. In the course of his work, the couple moved to different villages in Kent and Surrey, to which the birth records of their children bear witness:

[4Da] John christened June 6th 1830 at Orpington, Kent

[4Db] Samuel July 22nd 1822 Pirbright, Surrey

[4Dc] Mary Ann December 2nd 1834 Chobham West End Baptist Ch.

[4Dd] Edward Henley October 8th 1837 Bisley, Surrey

[4De] Catherine c 1839 Croydon, Surrey

[4Df] Elizabeth Clara c. 1842 Hadlow, Kent

[4Dg] William christened June 19th 1845 at Hadlow, Kent

[4Dh] Sarah April 20th 1849 Hadlow, Kent

The family were therefore in Hadlow, about seven miles south west of West Malling, between about 1840 and 1855. Edward’s wife, Sarah Gatland died at Hadlow in February 1851, and Edward is recorded as a widower there in the census of that year. However, he is not mentioned in the Kelly’s Directories for 1852 onwards, and it may be that he left the village to return to his native East End of London after the death of his wife. He died at Mile End in August 1858.

There are two unresolved problems relating to this family. Did they know our Malling Dumbrells before John moved there in the mid eighteen fifties? Did they help him and his family to acquire a position there? Not enough research has yet been done on this. All we can say at this stage is that there is no hard evidence to support the fact that the two families were acquainted, although it appears to be more than coincidence that the Hadlow family moved to the Malling area. One more curious occurrence: in 1851, Samuel was not living at home in Hadlow with his parents, but was an ostler at the King’s Head inn. Living nearby at Hadlow Castle as a groom was a George Dumberell (sic), who gave his birth place and date as St. Mary Cray in 1831. He has not yet been tied successfully to either of our families, so who was he?

Secondly, are our two Dumbrell families related? Efforts to prove their relationship conclusively have so far drawn a blank, but the readers’ attention is drawn to the comments made under the sixth generation (see above). The Edward of Cuckfield who married Sarah Henley in 1752 may indeed have been the illegitimate son of Frances Dumbrell and Edward Whiskey, born around 1730, possibly in Cuckfield. As stated above. the strongest evidence for this assumption is the choice of the Christian name ‘Edward’, which was new to the Dumbrell family at the time. Furthermore, Edward Dumbrell and his putative mother spelt their names the same; both Frances and her possible son Edward have their names recorded at their wedding as Dumberell, although their marriages were almost twenty years apart, and in different churches. This is slim evidence at a time when spellings were notoriously fickle, but it might be valid. Lastly, the date of Edward’s birth could have been correct for an illegitimate birth to Frances. As stated above, we know from the burial register of Cuckfield that he was born about 1729 or 1730, and this makes him an ideal candidate for the child of Frances and her future husband Edward Whiskey. If indeed he was their child, then our two families do have a common ancestor, because Edward Dumbrell’s grandfather and the grandfather of Thomas who first came to East Malling would be brothers, Abraham [7d] and Thomas [7c].

These links may appear to the reader to be so tenuous as to be insignificant, especially in our age when cousins sometimes struggle to keep in touch after their parents have died. But it must be remembered that in past generations there was no state social benefit, and precious little from the parish. People were often very poor, and family members depended heavily on each other in sickness, when seeking a job, or if death struck prematurely. In such circumstances, relationships and contacts were maintained for the benefit of all, and so it is just possible that our two families at least knew of each other, and being distant kinsmen, would offer mutual support if this were possible.

A Final Word

This history of the Dumbrell family can only be provisional, not definitive. Record Offices and libraries continue to collect and catalogue documents previously in private hands, and these grow more accessible each year as they are progressively filmed and indexed. Since this history was started, for example, the 1901 British census has been made public. No doubt there are many documents referring to our family which remain unexplored in the archives, and which await other researchers. It is intended to update further this booklet from time to time as more information comes to light. In the meantime, it should serve as a helpful starting point for those wishing to explore this family’s history further.


assart virgin land cleared for cultivation or industry

conventicle an unofficial religious gathering, often held in secret

farthingate a measure of land one quarter of a virgate

hundred an administrative area consisting of a group of parishes

moiety a half share

lay subsidy an early form of land tax assessment

messuage a dwelling house on a plot; formerly the plot itself with outbuildings

outshot an extension to a building, usually single-storey

rape an administrative area consisting of a number of hundreds (see above).

Sussex was divided into the six rapes of Hastings, Pevensey, Lewes, Arundel, Bramber and Chichester

toft a cottage

union house an institution to provide for the destitute and infirm; by the mid-nineteenth century, one was established in each registration district

virgate measure of land usually varying between about 10 and 30 acres; by extension, a farmholding sufficient to maintain one family, the size of which depended on the land quality.


Sussex Grid ref.

Aldrington now a suburb of Hove, just west of its town centre TQ283043

Antye Farm, Wivelsfield about 1 mile NE of Burgess Hill TQ327207

Ashurst about 8 miles due N of Worthing TQ175155

Bawlsdon, Rottingdean 1 mile N. of Rottingdean, and about 3 miles E. of Brighton TQ369029

Beddingham about 2 miles SE of Lewes on the A27 TQ445079

Binsted about 2 miles W of Arundel SU985065

Chailey 5 miles SE of Haywards Heath TQ393194 Clapham 3 miles NW of Worthing Town Centre TQ095065

Clayton about 4 miles S. of Burgess Hill; 1 mile S. of Keymer TQ294145

Cowfold about 9 miles W of Haywards Heath and 6 miles SE of Horsham TQ215225

Crowborough 7 miles SW of Tunbridge Wells TQ516312

Cuckfield about 2 miles W of Haywards Heath TQ305250

Ditchling 3 miles S of Burgess Hill TQ325155

Findon 4 miles N of the centre of Worthing TQ125085

Hangleton about 2 miles NW of Hove TQ265075

Hartfield about 11 miles NE of Haywards Heath and 6 miles W of T.Wells TQ479359

Horsham a large market town halfway between Guildford and Brighton TQ175315

Horsted Keynes about 4 miles NE of Haywards Heath TQ384283

Hundred of Street (Streat) an admin. district centred on Streat, 3 miles SE of Burgess Hill TQ355155

Hurstpierpoint about 2 miles SW of Burgess Hill TQ275165

Itchingfield 2 miles SW of Horsham TQ135285

Keymer 2 miles S of Burgess Hill TQ315155

Lancing just over 2 miles E. of Worthing TQ185045

Lindfield 2 miles N of Haywards Heath TQ346255

Little Horsted 3 miles S of Uckfield, and about 7 miles N of Lewes TQ471183

Newick 6 miles E of Haywards Heath, and about 4 miles W of Uckfield TQ419215

New Shoreham about 5 miles W of Hove TQ213057

Nuthurst about 3 miles SE of Horsham TQ195255

Oving about 2 miles E of Chichester SU905045

Plumpton 5 miles SE of Burgess Hill TQ363132

Portslade 3 miles W of Hove, now part of the Brighton/Hove conurbation TQ255065

Ringmer 3 miles NE of Lewes TQ454127

Rotherfield 7 miles S. of Tunbridge Wells TQ558298

Shipley about 6 miles S of Horsham town centre TQ145215

South Malling less than 1 mile N of Lewes town centre TQ416112

Tarring with Marlepost a long, thin parish extending well inland from Worthing, with outlying TQ1103

lands at Southwater near Horsham. Many South Downs parishes were

shape, so that they contained a variety of soils and types of land

Slaugham 4 miles NW of Haywards Heath; pronounced ‘Slaffham’ TQ255285

Steyning an old market town 5 miles NW of Worthing TQ175115

West Grinstead 7 miles S. of Horsham TQ175205

West Tarring now part of Worthing, about 2 miles NW of its centre TQ115035

Westmeston about 4 miles SE of Burgess Hill TQ335135

Wiston A hamlet 1 mile W of Steyning TQ155120

Withyham 4 miles W of Tunbridge Wells TQ497358

Wivelsfield about 2 miles E of Burgess Hill TQ339209


Addington about 7 miles NW of Maidstone TQ654588

Aylesford just under 3 miles NW of Maidstone TQ729590

Burham 5 miles N of Maidstone, on the Medway TQ728623

Brenchley about 3 miles E of Tunbridge Wells TQ679417

Ditton just over 3 miles NW of Maidstone TQ709581

East Malling about 4 miles NW of Maidstone TQ703572

Farningham about 15 miles NW of Maidstone on the A20 TQ545675

Hadlow about 7 miles SW of West Malling TQ636501

Headcorn about 10 miles SE of Maidstone TQ833442

Larkfield just W of Ditton; 1 mile NE of East Malling TQ704581

Leybourne about 1 mile N of West Malling TQ688584

New Hythe about 1 mile N of Larkfield TQ708597

Offham about 2 miles NW of West Malling TQ658574

Ryarsh close to Addington and Offham,; 6 miles NW of Maidstone TQ679598

Trottiscliffe 8 miles NE of Maidstone (pronounced Trosley) TQ647605

West Malling about 6 miles NW of Maidstone TQ679577


The following references are supplementary to the scores of parish and census records, wills and manuscripts examined at the West and Sussex Record Offices (WSRO/ESRO), the Centre for Kentish Studies (CKS), the Family Record Office and the Public Record Office (PRO).

1 Calendar of Miscellaneous Inquisitions at the Public Record Office (Vol VII 1399 -1422)

2 The Chartulary of the Priory of St. Pancras of Lewes Sussex Record Society Vol. 38

(1932) pp. 159-160

3 Blair S. in Wivelsfield: The History of a Wealden Parish Warne H.(ed) Pierpoint 1995. Ch.3.

4 Lay Subsidy Rolls. Sussex Record Society Vol. 56

5 Manor Court records of Houndean, Portslade, South Malling, Lindfield and Keymer at ESRO

  1. Matthews H. Burgess Hill. Unpublished papers at Burgess Hill Library

7 Book of John Rowe 1631 SRS34

8 Wivelsfield History Study Group exhibition August 2000

9 Wivelsfield land revaluation of 1637 at ESRO

10 Sussex Archaeological Collection Vol.49; pp56-57

11 Matthews H. Burgess Hill p90 op.cit

12 Hall B and Warne H in Wivelsfield: The History of a Wealden Parish Warne H. (ed) Pierpoint 1995 Ch.6

13 Sussex Archaeological Collection Vol. 49 p.64

14 ESRO AMS 4242

  1. ESRO AMS 4241

16 The Diary of Giles Moore SRS 68.

17 Reynolds E., Morley O. and Hall B in Wivelsfield: The History of a Wealden Parish Warne H. (ed) Pierpoint 1995. Ch.8

18 See also Matthews H. Burgess Hill: Some historic sites Unpublished. Burgess Hill library

19 WSRO QR/C 148/54

  1. Information supplied by John Kay, Ringmer Historical Group

21 Hunisett RF: East Sussex Coroners’ Records 1688-1838. SRS vol. 89 (2005)

22 Survey of the parish of Withyham 1838.

23 Information kindly supplied by Judith Dumbrell, Shortland, NSW, Australia.

24 WSRO AMS 36505

25 Muster lists of the Sussex Militia (1796-1803) PRO Kew, London

26 East/West Malling rate assessments 1796-1831 at CKS.

27 Night-watchmen’s records for West Malling at CKS.

28 Admission register, East Malling National School.

29 Service records 1914-18 at PRO, Kew, London

30 School log books, Ditton CE school 1881- 1920