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 TOWES was the son of William Towes, labourer. He was born in West Hoathly, Sussex, in 1811 and baptised there on 12 Jan 1812.

There is some doubt about his mother. The index of baptisms says she was Jane. We have not found a marriage for William and Jane, and no further baptisms are recorded for couple. She may be the Jane Towes who was buried in West Hoathly in March 1815, when John was four. But it seems more likely that this Jane is the wife of William’s brother James. Baptisms for James and Jane cease in 1811.

There are however the baptisms of three girls, in 1815, 1820 and 1825, to William and Mary Towes. This was Mary Meades, who married William Towes in 1811.

There may be mistake, either in the original register, or in the transcription, with James’s wife entered instead of William’s . We do not yet have a scan of the register to check.

If his mother was really Mary, then John was born two or three months after the wedding, and had three sisters.


John spent his childhood in the hilltop village of West Hoathly in the High Weald.

In 1815 the country celebrated the end of the long war against France with the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo.

John became a labourer like his father.

At some point before his wedding he moved 15 miles north, to the larger town of Mertsham, just north of Redhill.

In the marriage register his surname is given as Trowes.


ELIZABETH DENMAN was baptised in Worth, Sussex, on 15 Nov 1818. She was the daughter of Richard Denman and Jane, or Jinny Turner.

Worth is just east of the modern town of Crawley

Her father was an agricultural labourer.

Elizabeth was also born less than two months after the wedding. Her teenage mother must have been heavily pregnant then.

She was the eldest of ten children, though two of them were born after she was married.

She too had moved to Merstham before she married John.


Four years before their marriage, the young Victoria became Queen of England. Her rule lasted the rest of their lives.

Marriage. St Katherine, Merstham, Surrey.
1841 Apr 3  John Trowes, bachelor, labourer, and Elizabeth Denman, spinster.
Both were off full age and living in Merstham.
John’s father was William Trowes, labourer, and Elizabeth’s was Richard Denman, labourer.
The witnesses were Thomas Vallance and Sarah Vallance, who made their marks X, and Wm Davies.


The couple set up home, not in Mertsham, but in the Pimlico a district of Nutfield, 3 miles south. Nutfield, like West Hoathly, lies on the Weald.

1841 Census. Pimlico, Nutfield, Surrey.
John Tows               25      Ag. lab.  No
Elizabeth Tows        20      Wife       No

‘No’ means that neither of them was born in Surrey.

Baptisms. Ss Peter and Paul, Nutfield.
1842 Feb 27  William
1843 Nov 18  John  Father Labourer  Pimlico

Pimlico Cottages, Nutfield[1]

They then moved west to the town of Reigate, which was expanding with the arrival of the railway in the 1840s.

Baptism. St Mary, Reigate.
1846 Mar 15  Jane  Labourer

By the next baptism, John had not only moved house again, but changed his occupation, though only for a short while.

Baptism. St John the Evangelist, Redhill.
1848  Aug 20   Henry  Coal hewer  Linkfield St

Baptism. Ss Peter and Paul, Nutfield.
1851 Apr 6  Amy  Labourer  Pimlico 

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

The family continued to grow.

Baptisms. Ss Peter and Paul, Nutfield.
1854 Jan 1  Elizabeth  Labourer  Pimlico
1856 Jul 1  James  Labourer  Pimlico


We have not found the family in the 1861 Census

Elizabeth died a year before the 1870 census.

Burial. St John, Redhill.
1870 Jan 16  Elizabeth Towes, aged 50.

John went to live with his son James and his family in Reigate Foreign.

In the 17th century the ecclesiastical parish of Reigate had grown so large that it was divided for administrative purposes into two parts: the “Borough of Reigate”, which broadly corresponded to the modern town centre, and “Reigate Foreign”, which included the five petty boroughs of Santon, Colley, Woodhatch, Linkfield and Hooley. The two parts were reunited in 1863 as a Municipal Borough, though the name still seems to have been in use.

1871 Census. Garland Road, Reigate Foreign, Reigate.
James Towes            Head      Mar   28        Plasterer’s labourer   Surrey, Nutfield
Mary Ann Towes      Wife       Mar   30                                         Herts, Bishopstorford
Henry Towes            Son                  7 mo                                     Surrey, Red Hill
John Towes              Father     Wid   60        Labourer                   West Hoathly
James Towes            Son                  14        Labourer                   Surrey, Nutfield.

The younger James is James’s son, not John’s, evidently added belatedly.

Next door is John’s eldest son William and his family. He is a Railway Engine Stoker. Two other households on the same page are headed by railway workers.

We have not found either John or James in the 1881 census.

By 1891 John has moved to live with his second son, John junior. He is still in the parish of Reigate Foreign.

1891 Census. 97 Cromwell Road, Reigate Foreign.
John Towes              Head      M      46        bricklayers labourer  Surrey, Redhill
Mary A Towes          Wife       M      48        Laundress                 Bishop Stortford
Henry Towes            Son        S        20        Sawyer                      Surrey, Redhill
Ada Towes               Daur       S        18        Domestic Servant      Surrey, Redhill
Jane Towes               Daur                14                                         Surrey, Redhill
Walter Towes            Son                  12        Scholar                     Surrey, Redhill
John Towes              Father     Widr  80                                         Sussex, West Hoathly

In the days before old age pensions, people worked as long as they were able to. No employment is shown for John senior. By now, he probably had some disability which prevented him from earning his living as a labourer.


John Towes was buried at the church of St John and St Matthew, Redhill, on 12 Nov 1895, aged 84.


[1] Ralph James Estate Agents.




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