Alan March’s Family History
This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back many generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from Alan’s as (1)
JAMES ROFFEY and CAROLINE LADD (5)
JAMES ROFFEY was the eldest son of James Roffey and Eliza Hersey. He was baptised in the village of Chaldon, seven miles south of Croydon, on 5 Jan 1840, near the start of Queen Victoria’s reign. His father was an agricultural labourer.
In the 1841 census he is one year old and living with his parents and three other agricultural labourers in Chaldon Lane, Chaldon.
The family are still in Chaldon Lane in the 1851 census. James is now an 11-year-old schoolboy living with his parents, three younger siblings and a lodger.
By 1861 James has become an agricultural labourer as his father was previously. He is still living at home with his parents and younger brother and sister, but the family has moved three miles south to Warwicks Wold, Bletchingley. His father now has a more responsible job as a shepherd.
James’s life is a mirror of the 19th century. He began by working on the land, as so many men did. But he moved on to work on the railway that was so much a driver of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1841 she was a 13-year-old living with her parents and three younger siblings at Tadworth in Banstead.
She left home and went into service. In 1851 we find her at Weston Cottages, Hackney, working as a general servant for Thomas Worthington, proprietor of houses, and his family. It was a considerable move for her. Hackney is 16 miles north of Banstead.
Sometime in the next three years she moved back to Chipstead, less than four miles from her birthplace of Banstead.
It was here that, on 21 Jan 1854, Caroline Ladd married Francis Stedall. His surname is more often spelt Studdle..
Three years previously Francis had been an unmarried agricultural labourer living at home in Reeds Nest, Banstead, aged 25 (though other records show him to be older). He and Caroline grew up in the same small town.
Caroline must have been pregnant at the time of her marriage. Their daughter Elizabeth was baptised in Chipstead on 7 May 1854.
By 1861 the marriage appears to have broken down. Caroline is living back in Banstead, but without Francis. She is entered as the Head of the household. She is supporting herself and Elizabeth by working as a seamstress and taking in lodgers. The agricultural labourer, Frederick Charlwood, born in Banstead, was probably a friend of Francis.
1861 Census. Newton Cottages, Banstead.
Caroline Steddall Head Mar 31 Seamstress Banstead
Elizabeth Steddall Daug Unm 7 Scholar Chipstead
Elizabeth Charlwood Boarder Mar 20 Banstead
Frederick Charlwood Boarder Mar 25 Ag lab Banstead
James Mitchell Boarder Unm 24 Thatcher Buckland, Surrey
We have been unable to find Francis Studdle/Steddall in this census.
But the Studdles’marriage was not over. Robert, son of Francis and Caroline Studdle, was baptised in Kingswood by Reigate, two miles south of Banstead, on 11 May 1862. He only lived a few months and was buried there on 17 Oct of that year.
A third child, Kate Louisa, was born on 4 Feb 1864 in Banstead. She was registered by Caroline as the daughter of Francis Studdle, labourer, and Caroline Studdle née Ladd.
Without knowing more of Francis’s movements, we have only Caroline’s word that he was the father of these children.
Sometime between 1861 and 1868 James Roffey left Chaldon and moved to Chipstead, where Caroline’s child Robert was born. He was working now, not on a farm, but as a fettler doing maintenance work on the railway.
Chipstead had featured early in railway history. The Surrey Iron Railway was constructed in 1803, with horse-drawn trucks carrying limestone from the quarries in Merstham along a route that ran close to the Brighton Road to Croydon. It passed through Chipstead, but it closed in 1846.
Half a century later, in1899, a station was opened at Chipstead on the new Tattenham Corner Railway. Trains were crowded with passengers on Derby Day.
But James was living in Chipstead and working on the railway nearly thirty years before that. The likelihood is that he walked to wherever maintenance was needed on the railway line from Croydon.
By 1868 Caroline was back in Chipstead, but Francis was not with her. She moved in with James and remained with him until her death.
On 1 Oct 1868, she registered the birth of her daughter Emma Roffey, born in Chipstead on 21 August. She named James Roffey as Emma’s father. Apparently, she told the registrar she was Caroline Roffey. In fact, she never married James, but remained Caroline Studdle till the end of her life.
Divorce in those days was difficult and expensive. It was not an option for most working-class people. Francis Studdle outlived Caroline, so she and James were never able to marry.
In 1871 they are living together in Croydon Road, Chipstead.
1871 Census. Croydon Road, Chipstead.
James Roffey Head Mar 31 Fetler on the Railway Chaldon
Caroline Studdle Housekeeper Mar 46 Housekeeper Banstead
Kate Louisa Studdle Daur 7 Scholar Banstead
Emma Studdle Daur 2 Chipstead
It is unlikely that James would have been able to pay Caroline a housekeeper’s salary, as well as her keep. This was almost certainly a euphemism for the fact that the couple were living together as man and wife on James’s wages.
James is entered as married. There is no evidence that he ever was.
Both girls’ surnames are given here as Studdle. This was true for Kate Louisa, but not for Emma who was registered at birth as Emma Roffey. If the enumerator heard that both girls were Caroline’s daughters, he may have assumed that they were therefore both Studdles.
In this census, we have more news of Frank Studdle. He is an indoor farm servant back in his home parish of Banstead, living with a farmer, his family and other servants. He is said, correctly, to be married.
By 1881 James, Caroline and Emma had moved three miles further south to Merstham. James is no longer working on the railway, but is once more a farm servant.17-year-old Kate Louisa has left home.
1881 Census. Cottage, Hooley Lane, Merstham.
James Roffey Head Unmar 40 Farm Servant Coulsdon
Caroline Studdle Housekeeper Mar 50 Housekeeper Banstead
Emma Studdle Daur 12 Scholar Chipstead
Fred Henry Green Visitor 4 Scholar Croydon
Ellen Potter Visitor 1 Croydon
William Clark Boarder Unmar 45 Farm Servant Harfordshire
William Marshall Boarder Unmar 40 Wheelwright Huxbridge, Mddx
Here, James gives his status truthfully as unmarried.
Emma’s surname is again recorded as Studdle.
We do not know how the small children from Croydon came to be visiting them. They may be relations.
“Huxbridge” should be Uxbridge. There is a III in the far right-hand column against William Marshall’s name which should mean that he was an “imbecile or idiot”.
In the same census, the farm labour Francis Studdle, aged 60, is a lodger, still in Banstead. He is now said to be single.
When their daughter Emma married James March in 1888, James Roffey’s occupation is given as Signalman. His move back into farming was evidently short lived.
Caroline died at the age of 63. The death of Caroline Studdle was registered in the Croydon district in the 4th quarter of 1890. Merstham is not in the Croydon district. Without her death certificate we do not know exactly where she died.
In the census of the following year, James is still in Merstham. He describes himself as a widower. He is now working as a fettler on the railway, responsible for maintaining the line. His niece is now acting as his housekeeper.
1891 Census. Turnpike Road, Merstham.
James Roffey Head Widr 51 Fettler Chaldon
Eliza Knight Niece S 19 Housekeeper dom Bletchingley
Frederick H Green Boarder S 14 Croydon
Potter Potter Boarder S 61 Farm Labourer Southwater, Sussex
Charles G Lucket Boarder S 21 Farm Labourer Black Barton, ?
Fred Green, who was a youthful visitor in 1881, is now a boarder. There appears to be a mistake in the forename of the next person on the list. He is probably related to the Ellen Potter, who was visiting the Roffeys in the previous census, possibly her father or grandfather.
There is a death registration for Francis Stedall in the first quarter of 1899 in the Epsom district of Surrey, which includes Banstead. He is said to be 76. This would make him a little older than the birth date given by his age in the 1851 census, but is closer to that given in 1881.
James still describes himself as a widower in 1901.
1901 Census. Hooley Cottages, Old Merstham, Betchworth.
James Roffey Head Widr 61 Platelayer on Railway Chaldon
Charles Page Boarder Mar 59 Blacksmith Kingswood, Surrey
Abigail Page Boarder Mar 55 Croydon
Both James and Charles are said to be Workers, meaning that they were employed by someone else.
A platelayer is another name for a fettler, employed to maintain the railway track.
James remained in Merstham. In the next census he is retired.
1911 Census. 13 Star Cottages, Hooley, Merstham.
James Roffey Lodger 71 Single Pensioned Rly Platelayer Chaldon
Charles Gasson Head 33 Married Railway Signalman Rye, Sussex
Mary Gasson Wife 39 Married Catsfield, Sussex
Winifred Gasson Daughter 6 School Merstham
Charles Gasson Son 4 Merstham
James’s name comes first, and he is originally entered as the Head of the household. This is crossed out and replaced with Lodger. Similarly, Charles Gasson is originally said to be a lodger, but this is changed to Head. It is Charles who signs the return.
James was one of a fortunate minority who had an occupational pension. Most men had to continue to work into old age or risk ending up in the workhouse. But his pension cannot have been a large one because of the years he spent as an agricultural labourer.
James gives varying accounts of his marital status in different censuses. In this one, he is entered as single. This is his true position.
He lived to see the outbreak of the First World War.
The death of James Roffey aged 77 was registered in the Reigate district of Surrey in the 3rd quarter of 1917. Merstham is part of this district.
NEXT GENERATION: 4. MARCH-ROFFEY
PREVIOUS GENERATIONS: 6. ROFFEY-HERSEY