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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JOHN BREWER. The record of their marriage tells us that John was the son of William Brewer, and he says in the census that he was born in Chignall St James around 1816. This fits with the following baptism.

Baptism. Chignall St James.
1816 Jul 5  John son of William and Ann Brewer. Husbandman.
His mother was Ann Witham.

This was the year after the Battle of Waterloo.

John was the first of three children born in Chignall St James. There are only two isolated occurrences of the Brewer surname in Chignall in the centuries before this. This is the first evidence we have of a Brewer family.

John’s parents had only recently come to Chignall from the village of High Easter, five miles north-west. They brought with them his older sister Mary and his young aunt Hannah. John’s grandmother had died giving birth to her last daughter, leaving several young children in need of care. William and Ann had taken in Hannah, who was then aged five.

John’s father’s occupation is given as husbandman. This had previously meant someone who farmed a small amount of land, but had come to be used for a farm labourer. At his younger siblings’ baptisms William is said to be a labourer.

John followed in his footsteps.

Chignall St James is 3 miles NW of the county town of Chelmsford in Essex. It was then a farming community, rather than the commuter village it is today.

St James, Chignall St James[1]

John’s father died in 1831, leaving 14-year-old John as the principal breadwinner.

In the 1841 census we find him living with his widowed mother and his younger brother.

1841 Census. Green, Chignall St James.
Ann Brewer         60                            Y
John Brewer        25      Ag lab            Y
William Brewer     20      Ag lab            Y


MARY ANN CLIFT. We know from her marriage in 1842 that she was the daughter of Joseph Clift, labourer, and from the censuses that she was born in Writtle.

There were two Joseph Clifts having children baptised in Writtle in the 1820s. Both were labourers. Joseph and Jane Clift had a daughter Mary Ann baptised in 1820. Joseph and Sarah Clift also had a child named Mary Ann in 1824. The first of these would have been 22 at the time of her marriage, a typical age. The younger would have been 16, unusually early.

We can be fairly sure that John Brewer’s bride is the following.

Baptism. Writtle.
1820 Feb 27  Mary Ann Clift daughter of Joseph and Jane Clift. Labourer.
Her mother was Jane Harris.

Mary Ann was the third of six children. We have with John’s family, we have no record  any of them dying in infancy, but the burial records we currently have do not seem to be complete.

Writtle is a picture postcard village one mile west of Chelmsford, the county town of Essex. It has a village green with a duckpond and a number of attractive period cottages. The cottages were probably less picturesque when they were inhabited by impoverished farm labourers.

It is here that we find the Clift family in the 1841 census.

1841 Census. Bridge Street, Writtle.
Joseph Clift     60    A lab        Yes
Jane Clift        55                    Yes
William Clift    20    A lab        Yes
Mary Clift       20                    Yes
Sarah Clift        15                    Yes
Hannah Clift    12                    Yes

The ages of adults have been rounded down to the nearest 5. It might appear that William was Mary’s twin, but he was actually more than two years older.

Bridge Street crosses the River Wid.

John and Mary grew up under the last two Hanoverian kings, George IV and William IV. By the time they married, the young Queen Victoria was on the throne, and they lived the rest of their lives under her long reign.

The couple married in Chignall St James in 1842.

Marriage. Chignall St James.
1842 Sep 19  John Brewer bachelor, father William Brewer labourer and Mary Ann Clift spinster, father Joseph Clift labourer.

Their first child was Agnes Jane, born in 1842-3, but we do not have a baptism or a birth registration for her. Robert was born in the first quarter of 1845.

We then have two baptisms at the parish church of St James in which John’s occupation is given as labourer.

Baptisms. St James, Chignall St James.
1848 Mar 19  Thomas.
1851 Mar 9  Hannah

The 1851 finds this family at Gandy’s Farm. The same address is given for several families.

 1851 Census. Gandy’s Farm, Chignall St James,  Chelmsford
John Brewer           Head       Mar      34          Ag lab       Chignall St James
Mary Brewer          Wife       Mar      30                           Writtle
Jane Brewer             Daur                   8                            Chignall St James
Robert Brewer         Son                    6                            Chignall St James
Thomas Brewer       Son                    3                            Chignall St James
Hannah Brewer      Daur                   3 mon                     Chignall St James

The birth of George was registered in the Chelmsford district in the 3rd quarter of 1854 Emma was baptised on 3 May 1857.

At some point in the next four years, the family moved from rural Essex to the hamlet of Peckham in the parish of Camberwell. In the second half of the 19th century farming was in decline, and John may have decided to try his hand at a different sort of labouring work in the fast-growing suburbs of London.

An omnibus service from Peckham to London started in 1851, the first to have designated bus stops and run to a fixed timetable. A railway station opened in 1865 and horse-drawn trams followed ten years later. This made it an attractive home for commuters, and new homes were in demand. There was plenty of work in the construction industry.

1861 Census. 3 Alpha Terrace, Camberwell, Surrey.
John Brewer           Head       45        Labr.       Chigwell
Mary A Brewer      Wife       40                      Writtle
Robert Brewer         Son        17        Labr.       Writtle
Thomas Brewer       Son        13        Labr.       Writtle
Hannah Brewer      Daur       10        Schr.       Writtle
George Brewer        Son        7         Schr.       Writtle
Emma Brewer          Daur       4         Schr,       Writtle

In fact, only Mary was born in Writtle. Ditto marks have been mistakenly given for the children.

18-year-old Jane has been left behind in Essex, where she is a house servant to the family of a Chelmsford schoolmaster.

Later that year a daughter was baptised in Peckham.

Baptism. St Mary Magdalen, Peckham.
1861 Sep 29  Alice Ann Brewer, daughter of John and Mary Brewer, labourer.

By the next census, they have moved to another street in Camberwell.

1871 Census. Stafford Street, Marlborough Cottages, Camberwell.
John Brewer            Head         Mar           54           Bricklayer’s labourer       Essex
Mary Ann Brewer    Wife         Mar           53                                                Surrey
Jane Assiter             Daur         Widow      29           Charwoman                    Essex
George Brewer        Son                           16           Bricklayer’s labourer       Essex
Emma Brewer          Daur                          13                                                Essex
Alice Ann Brewer    Daur                          9           Scholar                           Surrey, Peckham
George Assiter         Grandson                   7 mo                                            Surrey, Peckham

John is no longer working on the land, but is contributing to the massive amount of house-building taking place in the suburbs of London.

Jane had married, but the marriage was short-lived. She was left as a widow with a young baby, and returned to live with her parents.

John died before the next census. His death was registered in the first quarter of 1875 in the Camberwell district. He was aged 58.

In 1887, Jane, still a widow, gave birth to a daughter, Alice Maud, though her husband had died at least ten years previously.

In 1880, she married again, to James Brant in Peckham. He was still unmarried in the 1871 census, when he was a labourer in Frindsbury, Kent. It is a matter of conjecture whether he was Alice’s father.

We learn from this record that Jane’s full name was Agnes Jane.

We find Mary living with this family in 1881, at the same address as in the previous census.

1881 Census. Marlboro Cottages, Camberwell.
James Brant            Head                     52        Excavator         Grays, Essex
Jane Brant               Wife                     39                                Chigwell, Essex
George Assiter         Stepson                10                                Peckham, Surrey
Alice M Assister      Stepdaur               4                                 Peckham, Surrey
Mary A Brewer      Mother in law        65                                Writtle, Essex
George Brewer        Brother in law       26        Excavator         Chignall, Essex

By the following census, the family have moved to 11 Banstead Street, still in the hamlet of Peckham, Camberwell.
This time, her daughter’s name is given as Agnes, as it was at her wedding.

1891 Census. 11 Banstead Street, Camberwell.
James Brant            Head         M      62      General labourer        Essex, Grays
Agnes J Brant          Wife         M      48                                       Essex, Chignel
Sarah Brant             Daur                   9       Scholar                      London, Peckham
Alice Assiter            Daur         S        14      Laundry Girl Wash    London, Peckham
Mary A Bruer        Mother     Wid   73                                       Essex, Rittle

Mary’s birthplace has been wrongly entered as Rittle.

In the next census, the Brants are living in Stafford Street, Camberwell, where the Brewers were in 1871, but Mary is no longer with them.  She may be the Mary Ann Brewer whose death was registered in the Camberwell district in the second quarter of 1898, aged 81. Her true age was 86-87, but the ages of elderly people were not always known accurately by their relatives.



[1] History of Chignall St James.





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