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)

March Tree


 JAMES MARCH. In the 1851 census, James’s birthplace is given as Fakeham, in Sussex. In the days when many people could not read or write, the enumerator questioned the household and wrote down what he thought people had said. “Fakeham” is probably Thakeham. This village lies on the Weald, halfway between Worthing and Horsham in West Sussex. In 1841 it was described as “an out of the way parish with no resident gentlemen”.[1]

James’s age in the census would give him a birth date of 1781-2. No baptism has been found for him in Thakeham or elsewhere.

There were, however, a couple, William and Hanah March, who were having children baptised in Thakeham around that time. Daughters were born to them in 1780, 1787 and 1791. The gap of seven years between the first and the second suggests that there were other children born then. James could well be one of them. His baptism may be on a page of the register that has become unreadable, or he may have been baptised in a nearby parish whose registers are not yet online.

This identification is strengthened by the fact that James named two of his children William and Hannah.

The family’s address for their daughters’ baptisms is West Thorney. This is not the parish of that name on Chichester Harbour, 16 miles away, but is probably a part of Thakeham whose location has since been lost.

They seem to be the first March family in Thakeham. William and Hanah must have moved there from elsewhere. In the 18th century there were a large number of Marches in Billingshurst, six miles away, and smaller numbers in other West Sussex parishes.

We do not know about James’s early career, but he gravitated to the fast growing town of Croydon, some 33 miles to the north. He became a post boy.

A post boy could be either someone who delivered mail between towns or a guard riding postillion with a coach. In some ways his job resembled that of his grandson, a younger James March, who drove a lorry between Croydon and Brighton. With Brighton becoming a fashionable resort, Croydon was an important staging post on the London to Brighton road.

Post Boy en route to London [2]

Postillion [3]

James was 15 years older than Martha and this was his second marriage.

Before the baptisms of James and Martha’s children, there are two other baptisms in Croydon for children of James March.

1815 Dec 16   Sarah daughter of James and Penelope March

1818 Aug 8  Charles son of James March and “Keranhappuch”. This is may be the transcriber’s unsuccessful attempt to interpret the handwritten entry for Penelope.

James’s first wife died in 1823.


MARTHA MAPES. Martha’s birthplace is given in 1851 as Belsham, Essex. This is almost certainly Belchamp or Beauchamp.

Martha’s age in that census gives her a birth date of 1795-6.

There is a baptism at the Independent Church in Abbott’s Roothing, Essex, on 27 Mar 1797.

Baptism. Abbott’s Meeting Rookwood Hall (Independent), Abbott’s Roothing
William Mapes of Beauchamp Roothing parish had a daughter born March 21st 1797 and Baptized  named Martha. 

Martha was the first of four children of William Mapes and Sarah King.

Abbott’s Roothing and Beauchamp Roothing are more commonly known as Abbess Roding and Beauchamp Roding. Beauchamp is pronounced “Beecham”. They form part of a group of eight villages in the Epping Forest district of Essex known as the Rodings. Beauchamp Roding lies midway between Harlow and Chelmsford.

The Congregational church in Abbess Roding was one of the strongest non-conformist churches in Essex. [4] The name Rookwood Hall came from the moated manor house of that name, where the church originally met in the malt house, and then in a church built in one of the barns. By the time of Martha’s baptism the congregation had moved to a church built on land donated at Cockerell’s Farm, but it retained the original name of Rookwood Hall.

Beauchamp Roding, only a mile away, was a small village with no manor house or other buildings around the parish church, which was reached by a field track.

In the 18th and early 19th century the road through the parish reached its greatest importance as part of the coaching route between Dunmow and London. One possibility is that this is how Martha met the post boy James March, whose job would have taken him far afield, especially if she was working at a coaching inn . Or she too may have moved to Croydon, drawn by the much greater prospect of employment.

Martha grew up and James spent his young adult years during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, which ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. They married in 1823, three years after George IV came to the throne.

James’s first wife died in 1823. He wasted no time in marrying Martha, The marriage took place in Croydon on 11 May 1823. Martha was already four months pregnant.

Both groom and bride signed the register with their mark X.

The couple set up home in Croydon and had six children baptised in the parish church of St John the Baptist.

1823 Oct 23  William
1826 Mar 5  Jane
1828 May 5  John
1830 May 9  Hannah. Hannah did not live to see her first birthday. She was buried on 13 Mar the following year.
1836 Apr 24  James
1838 Jul 5  Edwin. Edwin lived only a year. He was buried on 6 Oct 1839.

In 1841 the family are living in Mid Row, Croydon. Middle Row, as it was more often known, was the area around Market Street and the focus of street trading.

1841 Census. Mid Row, Croydon.
James March      60          Post Boy          N

Martha March    45                                  N

William March     18                                  Y

Jane March          15                                  Y

John March          13                                  Y

James March      5                                   Y

Ten years later the 1851 census finds them at Middle Street with only the youngest of their surviving children. Today, Middle Street is one of only two remaining medieval streets in Croydon.

Middle Street, Croydon [5]

 1851 Census. 12 Middle Street, Croydon.
James March      Head      Married            69   Formrly post boy        Sussex, Fakeham
Martha March    Wife       Married            55   General dealer            Essex, Belsham
James March      Son        U                     15                                      Surrey, Croydon

James is retired. Whether he was delivering mail between towns or travelling as postillion with a stage coach, his work involved riding long distances on horseback, at a brisk pace, in all weathers. It was no job for an ageing man.

In the 1850s there was no state old age pension and most workers did not have an occupational pension. James may have been one of the lucky ones.

Martha is supporting the family by running a general shop. This was probably in the front room of their house.

No employment is shown for James junior. He became a house painter.


Neither James nor Martha made it to the 1861 census.

We do not have a burial for James, but his death was registered in the Croydon district in the fourth quarter of 1853.

Martha survived him by just over a year. She was buried at St John the Baptist, Croydon, on 30 Jan 1855.


[1] https://thakehamparish.co.uk/about-thakeham/parish-history/
[2] https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/postboy-en-route-to-london-c-1800.jpg?w=300&h=195
[3] https://c8.alamy.com/comp/T1151C/mail-stagecoach-team-of-the-brandenburg-state-post-2nd-half-17th-century-wood-engraving-later-19th-century-
[4] https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol4/pp195-196
[5] https://photos.francisfrith.com/frith/croydon-middle-street-1893_c201302.jpg





March Tree