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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JAMES ROFFEY. In the 1851 census James gives his birthplace as Beddington.

Beddington is now part of Wallington. It lies between Sutton and Croydon, 2 miles east of Sutton and 1 mile west of Croydon.

 Baptism, Beddington with Wallington.
1803 Apr 17  James Roffey son of Simon Roffey and his wife Sarah

His mother was Sarah Goldsmith of Ewell.

He was the middle one of three known children. The gap of 8 years between his christening and that of his younger sister means that there may have been more.

James was 15 years older than Eliza. This suggests that this may be his second marriage, but none has been found for him, nor have we found baptisms for James Roffey’s children, other than those he had with Eliza. There was another James Roffey in Croydon who married Harriet Prevett, but both of them were still alive in 1851.


ELIZA HERSEY was baptised in Caterham on 22 Mar 1818, the daughter of Richard Hersey and his wife Sophia Belsom. Her father is described as a husbandman. This may mean that he farmed a small amount of land, but is here probably an alternative name for a farm labourer.

She was the eldest of nine children. There is no evidence that any of them died in infancy, suggesting they were not in poverty.


James Roffey married Eliza Hersey at the church of St John the Baptist in Croydon in July 1836.

Croydon lies 6 miles north of Caterham. Eliza had probably moved there to work. Croydon was expanding rapidly in the 19th century. There would have been plenty of opportunity for domestic work.

The couple did not stay in Croydon. James was an agricultural labourer. They made their home in the village of Chaldon, six miles south of Croydon. This village stands high on the North Downs.

In 1827 we have the will of James Roffey, yeoman of Chaldon. A yeoman was a farmer. He may have been a more affluent relation of this younger James.

Five children were born there.

Baptisms. St Peter and St Paul, Chaldon.
1837 Nov 12  Eliza. Eliza lived only for two and a half years. She was buried in Chaldon on 26 Apr 1840.
Earlier that year, their first son was born.
1840 Jan 5  James
1843 Oct 15  Thomas
1847 Jan 17  Sarah Maria
1851 Mar 9  John

In the 1841 census the family’s address has been entered wrongly as Caldon Lane. The following census shows it to be Chaldon Lane. This is now Church Lane.

1841 Census. Caldon Lane, Chaldon.
James Roffey         40        Ag lab                       Y
Eliza Roffey           25                                         Y
James Roffey         1                                          Y
James Butt              20                                         Y
Joseph Akehurst     35                                         Y
Henry King             25                                         N

The Y indicates that all the occupants were born in born in Surrey, except for Henry King.

Ages of adults were rounded to a 5 or 10.

Throughout their married life, Eliza supplemented the family income by taking in lodgers.

In the 1851 census we get a more detailed picture of the family.

1851 Census. Chaldon Lane, Chaldon
James Roffy          Head      Mar   48        Ag lab                            Bedington, Surrey
Eliza Roffy            Wife       Mar   44                                              Caterham, Surrey
James Roffy          Son                  11        Scholar                          Chaldon, Surrey
Thomas Roffy        Son                  7          Scholar                          Chaldon
Sarah M Roffy       Daur                4                                                Chaldon
John Roffy             Son                  2 mths                                       Chaldon
John Smith             Lodger   U       46        Groom                           Caterham, Surrey

There is clearly a mistake in Eliza’s age. In all the other censuses she is 13-14 years younger than James.

The older children were attending the village school. Among the other residents of Chaldon Lane is Sarah Russell, schoolmistress. She probably taught the Roffey children.

Many agricultural labourers did not have a secure job. They would present themselves at the annual hiring fairs seeking employment for the coming year. Often it came with a cottage. The fact that the Roffeys have the same address at both these censuses makes it likely that James had a regular job with the same farmer. Edward Hoare, also of Chaldon Lane, was a farmer with 400 acres employing 18 labourers. It is highly likely that he was James’s employer. .

By the next census they had moved from Chaldon to Bletchingley, three miles further south. Farming was in decline in the later 19th century. A farmer like Edward Hoare may have wanted to save money by shedding some of his large workforce. Alternatively, James may have moved voluntarily to obtain a better paid job.

The move to Bletchingley sees him making a change of employment. He has moved up from agricultural labourer to the more skilled job of shepherd. This remains his work for the rest of his life.

1861 Census. Warwicks Wold, Bletchingley, Godstone, Surrey.
James Roffey         head       Mar   58        Shepherd                       Wallington
Eliza Roffey           wife       Mar   44                                              Caterham
James Roffey         son         Un     21        Ag lab                            Chaldon
Sarah M Roffey      daur                 14                                              Chaldon
John Roffey           son                  10                                              Chaldon

Bletchingley stands on a ridge, overlooked by the prehistoric hill fort of White Hill. Warwicks Wold is a hamlet south east of the village.

In 1869 a remarkable discovery was made at church of St Peter and St Paul in Chaldon where the Roffey children were baptised. The walls were being prepared for repainting when the Rector noticed traces of colour beneath the old whitewash. He stopped the work and investigated. What he found were dramatic medieval wall paintings showing the descent of sinners into Purgatory. Such paintings were common in the Middle Ages, but most were destroyed or painted over at the Reformation or by Puritan soldiers in the Civil War. Chaldon’s are thought to date from around 1200 and are considered among the finest in Europe.

By then the Roffeys had left Chaldon, but Bletchingley is only three miles away. They probably heard about the discovery and may have gone to see the paintings for themselves.

 Doom painting, Chaldon church.[1]

 The Roffeys stayed on in Bletchingley, but moved from Warwicks Wold to the High Street.

1871 Census. High Street, Bletchingley
James Roffey           Head                         Mar   68      Shepperd                       Beddington
Eliza Roffey             Wife                          Mar   55                                           Caterham
William Skinner        Lodger                      Mar   77      Ag lab                            Horne
Robert Crowhurst     Lodger                      Unm  28      Ag lab                            Cowder, Kent
Mary Collins             Lodger                      Unm  24                                           Bletchingley
Sarah Collins            daur of Mary Collins          1                                            Bletchingley

Neither James nor Eliza has been found in the 1881 census.

James is probably the James Roffey whose death was registered in the Godstone district in the first quarter of 1876, aged 76. This overestimates his age by three or four years, but ages of older people were not always accurately known to the person registering the death. The Godstone district includes Bletchingley.

There is death for Eliza Roffey also in the Godstone district, in the first quarter of 1880. She was aged 62.


[1] https://www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/resized_350x227_.resized_450x293_Chaldon_Church_Mural.jpg




March Tree