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)
JOHN TOWES and ELIZABETH DENMAN (6)
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
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.
 Ralph James Estate Agents.
NEXT GENERATION: 5. TOWES-BREWER
PREVIOUS GENERATIONS: 7. TOWES