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)

March Tree



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.


CAROLINE LADD was the eldest child of the agricultural labourer Edward Ladd and his wife Elizabeth Copper. She was baptised in the Surrey town of Banstead on the North Downs on 6 Jan 1828.

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.

Platelayers [1]

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.


[1] https://www.warwickshirerailways.com/gwr/rowingtonjunction/gwrrj2780.jpg





March Tree