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)(1)

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HENRY TOWES was baptised at St John the Evangelist, Redhill, Surrey, on 20 Aug 1848, the son of John and Elizabeth Towse. His father was a coal hewer at the time of Henry’s baptism, but is usually described as a labourer, sometimes a farm labourer.  It was not unknown for people to work a local coal seam part-time, while supplementing their income through farm work.

Redhill is a town due south of Croydon, close to Reigate. It was a new town, formed in 1818 from the rural parishes of Reigate Foreign and Mersham when the turnpike road was built to carry the London-Brighton road through the Redhill Gap. It expanded further with the coming of the railway, which made use of the same gap. Redhill railway station opened in 1841.

The Towse family were living at Linkfield St.when Henry was born.

His mother was Elizabeth Denman, from Worth in Sussex, while his father came from the Sussex village of West Hoathly.

Henry was the fourth of seven children.

The family moved frequently as Henry’s father found short-term labouring jobs.

In the 1851 census we find the family living in the village of Nutfield, just east of Redhill. They had been there at the births of Henry’s two oldest brothers, then moved to Reigate for a sister’s birth, on to Redhill for Henry’s birth, and now back to Nutfield.

They were living at Pimlico, Nutfield and Henry’s father was a farm labourer.

1851 Census. Pimlico, Nutfield, Reigate, Surrey.
John Towse           Head    Mar   39        Farm labourer       Sussex, Westhoathly
Elizabeth Towse    Wife    Mar   39                                    Sussex, Worth
William Towse       Son               9         Scholar                 Surrey, Nutfield
John Towse            Son               8         Scholar                 Surrey, Reigate
Jane Towse             Daur              5         Scholar                 Surrey, Reigate
Henry Towse         Son               2         Scholar                 Surrey, Nutfield
Ann Towse             Daur              1mth                                Surrey, Nutfield

It may be surprising to find 2-year-old Henry listed as a schoolboy. Children could start at a “dame school” at a very young age.

This was a time of cholera epidemics and famine caused by potato blight. Revolutions were taking place across Europe, but not in England, though the Chartist movement was demanding greater franchise.

The family have not been found in the 1861 census.

In 1871 Henry is one of three young men boarding with the Stevens family in Denmark Villa, Cobden Road, Croydon. He is aged 23 and a labourer. His landlord is a brickmaker, whose 15-year-old son is a Boy in Brickfield. Three younger daughters are at school, and there is an infant son and daughter. All three boarders are labourers.

The next two households are also headed by brickmakers.

The mid-1800s saw an astonishingly rapid growth in house building in Croydon, and indeed, across London. The area around Woodside, which included Cobden Road, stood on best quality London Clay, ideal for brickmaking. Two streets across from Cobden Road is Brickfields Meadow. This was the site of the Woodside Brickworks.


HANNAH BREWER. Hannah was baptised in Chignall St James, a village in Essex, on 2 Mar 1851. She was the daughter of John and Mary Brewer. Her father is a labourer. Her mother was Mary Ann Clift.

 We meet her soon afterwards in the 1851 census aged 3 months, and living at Gandy’s Farm, Chignall St James, Chelmsford, with her parents and three older siblings. Her father is an agricultural labourer. The birthplace of her father and all the children is given as Chignall St James. Her mother was born in nearby Writtle. Chignall St James is 3 miles NW of Chelmsford, and Writtle a little further south.

Her brother George was born in 1854 and her sister Emma 1857. At some point in the next four years, the family moved from Essex to Camberwell. We do not know what prompted this move. Perhaps her father hoped for better employment. In fact, he remained a labourer.

In the mid 19th century Camberwell became a ‘walking suburb’ of London, with clerks tramping north to the City each morning. Those who could afford it took the new horse-drawn omnibuses.

In the 1861 census Hannah is the third of five children of John and Mary A Brewer, living at 3 Alpha Terrace, Camberwell. Her father and two older brothers are labourers.

In this census it says that all the family were born in Essex, her father in Chigwell and her mother and all the children in Writtle. Writtle is two miles further south, just west of Chelmsford. Other censuses give different birthplaces.

Hannah has not been found in the 1871 census. Her family are still living in Camberwell but she is not with them. 20-year-old Hannah may have been working elsewhere as a live-in servant. Employers were not always accurate in listing their servants’ details.


Henry Towes and Hannah Brewer were married in Peckham on 9 Mar 1872.

The following year, Henry was a witness in a court case.

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter12 April 1873.
Wm. Radford 22, described as a plumber, was charged with stealing on the 27th of March, a shovel, value 1s 6d, from a brickfield at Woodside, in the parish of Croydon; also with stealing on the 22nd of March, a counterpane, value 13s, the property of William Colwell, from the garden of No.9 Walters-road, Selhurst.

Henry Towes said he was a bricklayer, living at South Norwood. On the 27th of March he had a shovel in a brickfield at Woodside, where he was at work. He went to dinner at 12 o’clock, and returned at 1. The shovel was then gone. He afterwards found it on the premises of a man named Laurence.

George Laurence, a thatcher, living at Elmer’s End, Beckenham, said on the 27th of March, Radford brought a shovel to him at the place where he was working, and offered it to witness for sale. He wanted eightpence, and witness ultimately bought it of him at sixpence.

The shovel was produced, and the prosecutor identified it by a mark which he said he had placed upon it himself….

The prisoner, who said he bought both the shovel and the counterpane, was remanded till Saturday.

 This account has Henry as a bricklayer. He was probably a bricklayer’s labourer. This would be more consistent with his use of a shovel as his implement. He would have used it to mix mortar for the bricklayers.

The Towses brought most of their children for baptism at St John’s, Upper Norwood, but usually only a long while after their birth.

Elizabeth was born on 2 July 1873, Edith on 14 Feb 1876, Hannah on 24 Feb 1877 and Henry John on 22 Feb 1880.

All four were brought to be christened at St John’s on 5 Dec 1880. The vicar may have applied some pressure on finding that the family were unbaptised.

The family were then living at 7 Clifton Cottages, and Henry was a labourer.

This is where they were living in the next census.

1881 Census. 7 Clifton Cotts, Croydon
Henry Towes      Head    M      32      Labourer                     Redhill, Surrey
Hannah Towes    Wife    M      29                                         Chignel
Elizabeth Towes   Daur               7       Scholar                        Woodside, Surrey
Edith Towes         Daur              6       Scholar                        So Norwood, Surrey
Hannah Towes    Daur              3                                          So Norwood
Henry J Towes     Son               1                                          So Norwood

Clifton Road, Croydon [1]

Alice Ann was born on 23 Dec 1883 and baptised at St John’s on 6 Jan 1884. The family were then living at 12 Woodland Cottages, Clifton Road, South Norwood. Henry was still a labourer. They were still there when Ellen Jane was born on 10 Oct 1885 and baptised on 1 Aug 1886, and when Ada Ann was born on 28 Jan 1888 and baptised on 19 Nov.

 1891 Census. Clifton Road, Croydon
Henry Towes      Head    M      40      Labourer general         Sth Norwood
Hannah Towes    Wife    M      39                                         Red Hill, Surrey
Hannah Towes    Daur    S       13                                         Chinghall, Essex
Henry Towes       Son      S       11                                         Croydon
Alice Towes         Daur    S       8                                          Croydon
Ellen Towes         Daur    S       5                                          Croydon
Ada Towes           Daur    S       3                                          Croydon

Comparing this with other censuses it appears that the Towes family birthplaces have been entered on the wrong lines. It was Henry senior who was born in Redhill and Hannah senior in Chinghall (Chignall).

No baptisms have been found for the last two children. John was born in the fourth quarter of 1891 and James William in the fourth quarter of 1894.

In 1894, Henry Towes joined a volunteer battalion of “The Queen’s” Royal West Surrey Regiment.

14-year-old Henry junior would have been too young, so this must have been his 43-year-old father. The 2nd Volunteer Battalion was based in Reigate. Henry would have had to provide his own uniform and undergo regular training.

West Surrey Times 25th February 1893,
The undermentioned men, having been taken on the strength of the battalion, are allotted the regimental numbers opposite their names: … A Company, Henry Towes 2,755.

 His involvement with the volunteers did not last long.

 Surrey Mirror 31 May 1895
The undermentioned men have been dismissed from the battalion from the 25th May 1895, for misconduct: … A Company (2755) Pvt. Henry Towes on 8th May, 1895.

1901 Census. 125 Clifton Road, Croydon
Henry Towes      Head    M      50      General labourer  Worker     Redhill, Surrey
Hannah Towes    Wife    M      50                                                   S Norwood
Hannah Towes    Daur    S       23                                                   S Norwood
Henry J Towes     Son      S       21      Milk salesman        Worker   S Norwood
Ellen Towes         Daur    S       15                                                   S Norwood
Ada Towes           Daur    S       13                                                   S Norwood
John Towes          Son               9                                                    S Norwood
James Towes        Son               6                                                    S Norwood

South Norwood is within Croydon.

This time, Hannah senior’s birthplace is wrongly entered as South Norwood.

Their son, Henry John, died later that year.

By 1911 the couple are still living at 125 Clifton Road, South Norwood, Croydon, with their two youngest sons.

1911 Census. 125 Clifton Road, South Norwood, Croydon.
Mr H Towes   Head 62   M    Builder’s labourer                        Worker   Redhill Surrey
Mrs H Towes  Wife  60   M                                                                      Chignel, Essex
John Towes     Son   19   S     Glass grinding Optical manufactr Worker   South Norwood
James Towes   Son   16   S     Grocer’s errand boy                     Worker   South Norwood

The couple have had 9 children, of which 8 are still living.

In 1915 James William joined the Royal Army Medical Corps. When he was demobbed he was back working for the Coop grocers.

They are still at Clifton Road for the 1921 census. Only one of their sons is now with them.

125 Clifton Road, South Norwood.
Henry Towes              Head    72y 11m   Married    Croydon   Retired
Collis, Brickfield. Retired
Hannah Towes           Wife    70y 6m     Married    Croydon   Household Duties   At home
James William Towes  Son      26y 8m     Single       Croydon   Grocer’s Assistant
South Sub Coop Society. 1 High St, Thornton Heath.

Henry Towes died aged 77 in the first quarter of 1926.

His burial was noted in the Croydon Times.

Croydon Times.10 April 1926.
Towes, Henry, 77. St Alban.

 The same notice appears in the Norwood News, but the burial is said to be at Queens Road cemetery.

St Alban the Martyr was the name of the parish in South Norwood where the Toweses lived.

Hannah Towes died seven years later, aged 82, in the first quarter of 1933.

/[1] http://hydeandrowe.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/22B-Clifton-Road-6.jpg





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