I recently discovered an interesting database called Espacenet. It is an online service for searching patents and patent applications. According to their website, “Espacenet offers free access to information about inventions and technical developments from 1782 to today.” I typed in “Casbon” to see what would happen. Lo and behold—several patents showed up! So, today’s post will recognize two inventors in the family.
The earliest patent dates from 1908 and is titled “Improvements in Safety Labels or Tags or Tag Attachments for Game, Parcels, or Horticultural or the like uses.” The applicant was “Charles Casbon of 5 Rathcole Gardens Hornsey in the County of Middlesex Gentleman.”
In his application, Mr. Casbon explains that, previous to his design, “much labour and material has been expended in order to produce a safety tag which could not be torn from the article to which it was fastened and at the same time would bear the impress or imprint of the name or destination or description of the article.” His improved tag is cut or stamped from a single piece sheet metal, consisting of a tag, a strap, and slots for securing the strap.
I have written about Charles Casbon before. He was the son of Thomas Casbon (1840–1889) and Emily Cantrill (1846–1891) and was born at Peterborough, Northamptonshire 18 June 1866. Thomas and Emily were legally separated in 1868 and Charles was raised by his mother. He became a professional photographer. Charles died in France, 6 August 1930.
I don’t know what led Charles to design a new and improved method of producing safety tags. Perhaps it somehow related to his photography work. I also don’t know whether he profited from his invention in any way
The second inventor was William Casbon. His name appears on several patents dealing with gas an electric lights and heaters. The earliest of these was titled “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners” and was applied for in December 1915. This was followed by applications for “An Appliance for Attaching Shades to the Holders of Electric Light Fittings,” “Improvements in Inverted Incandescent Gas Burners,” “Improvements in Atmospheric Gas Burners for Heating Purposes,” and “Improvements in Incandescent Gas Burners,” (apparently an improvement on the earlier patent of the same title). I also found a U.S. patent granted to Yagerphone Ltd. in 1929, listing William as the inventor of a tone arm for gramophones.
Most of these patents gave the names of William Casbon and Arthur James Dunkinson as co-inventors. William described himself as a “gentleman.” Dunkinson’s occupation is written in one application as “General Foremen, Architects Department” for His Majesty’s Office of Works.
Who was William Casbon? Although there were two adult men of that name living at the time of the patent applications, only one is the likely candidate for our inventor. He had a most interesting life. He was born at Meldreth in 1860, the son of William Casbon and Sarah West. Based on census listings, his occupations included “railway signalman” (1881), “baker” (1891), “golf club manager” (1901), and finally, in 1911, “catering.” The latter occupation is understated, as William was serving as Superintendent of the Refreshments Department of the House of Lords. I believe William was also the man who sought a position as a footman in 1884.
I’m confident about William’s identity because of his relationship to his co-inventor, Arthur James Dunkinson. It turns out that Mr. Dunkinson was married to William’s niece, Emily Casbon, daughter of William’s brother, Walter. Emily was listed as a member of William’s household in the 1901 census, so she must have had a close relationship with her uncle.
I don’t know what William did for a living after retiring from the House of Lords position; I have found him listed is residential directories for both Hitchin, Hertfordshire—the location given in the patent applications—and in London. Perhaps he had residences in both locations. Nor do I know how he came to be interested in gas fixtures, electric lights and gramophones. He must have been a man of many interests and an active mind. He died in London 8 September 1939.
It’s interesting that both Charles and William described themselves as gentlemen. In earlier times, the term gentleman referred to a particular social class, associated with the aristocracy, the right to bear arms, and perhaps with independent means. It was understood that manual laborers and tradesmen could not describe themselves as gentlemen. This meaning of the word seems to have become obsolete by the end of the 19th century, and anyone with sufficient means and good manners might be considered a gentleman. Still, it seems odd that Charles and William chose to use the term rather than their professions as photographer and caterer. Perhaps they felt that it would give their patent applications greater standing.
 C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A (27 Aug 1908); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  C. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB190803244A.  Emily Casbon, Petition for judicial separation, 9 May 1868; image included in “England & Wales, Civil Divorce Records, 1858-1918,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/2465/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >1868 >00781-00790 >00787: Casbon >images 7-8 of 9; citingThe National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Court for Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, later Supreme Court of Judicature: Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Files; Class: J 77; Piece: 84; Item: 787.  Commune de Levallois-Perret, Saint-Denis, Seine, France, Extract du Registre des Acts de Décés pour l’année 1930 (death on 6-8-30 at Levallois-Perret of Chares Wheeley Cas[b]on); imaged at “UK, Foreign and Overseas Registers of British Subjects, 1628-1969,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/1993/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) >RG 32: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1831-1969 >Piece 16: Miscellaneous Foreign Returns, 1927-1931 >image 209 of 716; citing The National Archives, RG 32/16.  W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A (30 Nov 1916); text and images, European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  J. Doble and W. Casbon, patent certificate no. GB109706A (27 Sep 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB107359A (28 Jun 1917); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB126818A (22 May 1919); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon and A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB151393A (30 Sep 1920); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon, assignor to Yagerphone Ltd., patent certificate no. 1,713,419 (U.S.A., 1929); European Patent Office, database (http://ep.espacenet.com: accessed 8 Nov 2020).  W. Casbon, A.J. Dunkinson, patent certificate no. GB191517089A.  Transcript of birth registration, William Casbon, mother’s maiden name West, GRO reference 1860 S[eptember] Quarter, Royston, vol. 3A/205; found at “Search the GRO Online Index,” database, HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 1 Dec 20).  1881 England census, Derbyshire, Breadsall, p. 2, schedule 9, William Caskan in household of Joyce Bailey; imaged as “1881 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7572/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > Derbyshire >Breadsall >ALL >District 11 >image 3 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 11/3393/67.  1891 England census, London, St. George Hanover Square, Mayfair, ED 14, p. 20, schedule 56, William Caston in household of William Bryceson; imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6598/ : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St George Hanover Square >Mayfair >District 14 >image 13 of 42; citing The National Archives, RG 12/69.  1901 England census, Hertfordshire, Chorleywood, ED 11, p. 19, schedule 136; imaged as “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7814 : accessed 1 Dec 20) >Hertfordshire >Chorleywood >ALL >District 11 >image 20 of 24; citing The National Archives, RG 13/1322.  1911 England census, Westminster, St. Margaret & St. John, ED 24, schedule 10; imaged as “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > London >St Margaret and St John >St Margaret and St John >24 >image 76 of 227; citing The National Archives, RG 14/489.  “England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995,” database with images, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1904 : accessed 1 Dec 20) > 1944 >Cable-Dziegielewski >image 36 of 395; Wills and Administrations, 1944, p. 70, entry for William Casbon. Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, “Gassendi, Pierre” to “Geocentric,” Vol. 11, Slice 5, “Gentleman”; downloaded as EPUB, Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37282 : accessed 1 Dec 20).
“It” is the marriage certificate for William Casbon and Sarah West that I ordered in late August after writing The Two William Problem. I knew from the General Register Office (U.K.) website that the certificate was dispatched on September 10th and I’ve been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since.
Readers may recall that two children named William Casbon were born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire—one to William Casbon and one to his brother James—in the 1835–1836 time frame. One of the two married Sarah West in 1855 and can be traced in records all the way to his death in 1896; the other was lost to follow up. The question was, Which one married Sarah?
To learn the answer, I needed to expend some funds and purchase the actual marriage record of William and Sarah from the General Register Office.
Here is the certified copy of the record …
… and a more detailed view.
The certificate contains a wealth of information. Reading from the top down, we can see that the couple was married in the Baptist Chapel at Melbourn. The marriage took place on 10 November 1855; the bride and groom’s names are given and their ages are listed as 21 and 30 years, respectively. He was a bachelor and she a spinster (i.e., previously unmarried). His occupation was farm labourer and hers dressmaker. Both were residing in Meldreth at the time of the marriage.
Now for the big news: William’s father was William Casbon, farm labourer—not James. Problem solved! We also see that Sarah’s father was John West, a gardener.
Although this confirms what I believed, it contradicts what several others have listed in their online family trees, namely, that James Casbon was the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. It’s nice (and important) to finally have proof of the correct relationship.
Aside from solving the problem of William’s parentage, the certificate contains several items of interest. The first is the fact that they were married in the local Baptist Chapel. This will not sound unusual to modern ears, but in England it was a relatively new thing in the mid-19th century for marriages to take place in so-called non-conformist denominations. The Marriage Act of 1753 required that all marriages, except those of Jews or Quakers, be performed by the Church of England. If a couple failed to wed in the Anglican Church, they had no legal rights as married people. It wasn’t until 1836 that a new Marriage Act allowed couples to be married in buildings belonging to other religious groups, including Baptists.
Aside from their marriage, I have no evidence that William and Sarah were affiliated with the Baptist Church. Their children’s’ baptisms are not recorded in the Baptist church register, nor in the Meldreth (Anglican) parish register.
William and Sarah’s ages are also interesting. Based on census reports and his age at death, I estimate William’s birth year as 1835. The marriage certificate suggests that he was born in 1834. I wonder if he intentionally overstated his age on the marriage certificate. On the other hand, Sarah’s age was understated. Her baptism occurred in April 1832; therefore, she was already 33 years old when she married William. It was unusual then, as it is now, for men to be so much younger than their wives.
This was not the only important difference between William and Sarah. Although not obvious from the record, they came from different social classes. As the son of a farm labourer and being one himself, William was in the lower working class. Sarah’s father was a gardener. This might not seem significant, but in fact, censuses and other civil registers show that John West was a landowner and had the rights to serve on a jury and to vote. His status was more like that of a skilled tradesman.
In the lower left-hand corner of the certificate, we see that William signed with his mark and Sarah signed her own name. This shows that he was at least partially illiterate, while she was able to read and write. Sarah’s education is confirmed by the 1841 census, where her occupation is given as “school mistress.” Given that children’s education was not compulsory at the time, Sarah’s literacy is probably more unusual that William’s illiteracy and is another reflection of their different social classes.
One other difference not shown in the marriage record is that William and Sarah came from different places. William’s home was Meldreth, in southern Cambridgeshire, and Sarah grew up in Soham, Cambridgeshire, about 22 miles northwest of Meldreth and on the opposite side of Cambridge city.
Although an insignificant difference by today’s standards, the distance is outside of the norm for their time. It would have been unusual to know someone beyond about a ten-mile radius of one’s home village.
How did a farm labourer from Meldreth become acquainted with an educated woman from Soham? This is only a guess, but perhaps Sarah moved to Meldreth or Melbourn for employment purposes. Although she came from a higher social class, her father died in 1853 and probably left his family in a state of financial distress (supported by the fact that his widow, Sarah, was described as a “washerwoman” in the 1861 census). Sarah (the daughter), an educated unmarried woman, might have found employment in Melbourn as a dressmaker or even as a governess. At the age of 33, she might have been more willing to overlook class differences in her quest for a husband. Could pregnancy have been a factor in the marriage decision? It seems unlikely, since their first child was born one year after their marriage.
Whatever the reasons, the couple had a long and fruitful marriage. They had three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862). They had been married more than 40 years when William died (sadly, by suicide) in 1896. Sarah died on 22 December 1905 at the age of 83.
I’m fortunate that my two-William problem had such an easy solution. In many cases, records do not exist or cannot be located to resolve this kind of problem.
 “Marriage Act 1836,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_Act_1836 : accessed 28 Nov 20), rev. 13 Sep 20, 15:49.  “England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975,” database, Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9841 : accessed 28 Sep 20); entry for Sarah West, 6 April 1823, Cambridge, England.  1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 2, p. 5, line 14; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8978/ : accessed 28 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 2 >image 4 of 17; citing The National Archives, HO 107/73/14.  “England, Cambridgeshire Bishop’s Transcripts, 1538-1983,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1465708 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >007676701 >image 474 of 520; Soham deaths, p. 182, no. 1449, John West, Soham, 80 yrs old, 2 Dec 1853.  1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Soham, ED 6, p. 47, schedule 278; imaged at Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8767 : accessed 29 Sep 20) >Cambridgeshire >Soham >ALL >District 6 >image 48 of 50; citing The National Archives RG 9/1036.  “Meldreth: Sad Suicide,” Herts and Cambs (England) Reporter and Royston Crow, 13 Mar 1896, p. 5, col. 6; online image, “The British Newspaper Archive,” findmypast (http://search.findmypast.com/bna/viewarticle?id=bl%2f0001795%2f18960313%2f075 : 28 July 2017).  “Holy Trinity Churchyard: Monumental Inscriptions,” Meldreth History (https://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/topics/holy_trinity_church-2-2/churchyard/holy_trinity_churchyard_headstones : accessed 29 Sep 20).
This post describes a situation that is all too common in genealogy research. What happens when you have two people with the same name at the same place and time? How does one connect them to the right parents, wives, and children? This is a big problem when someone is trying to trace their family tree back in time and they discover two people with the same name, either one of whom who might be their ancestor.
I’ll illustrate with two men from Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. Two brothers, William (1806–1875) and James (~1813–1884) Casbon, both sons of Isaac Casbon (~1773–1825), each had a son named William, born within a year or so of each other.
Births were not registered in England at that time, so birth dates must be estimated from other records, such as baptisms and censuses.
Unfortunately, only one of the Williams was baptized, and the baptismal record only confuses the matter.
As can be seen, William was baptized at Meldreth 7 February 1836. He is said to be the son of William and Elizabeth. That seems straightforward, except, there is no record of William Casbon marrying a woman named Elizabeth. His wife’s name was Mary (Cooper) and she died in July 1835.
On the other hand, William’s brother James (b. about 1813) married Elizabeth Waller, who was still alive in 1836.
So, there is a problem with the baptismal record. The name of either the father or mother is wrong. Maybe the vicar or curate was tired and wrote one the names incorrectly. My guess is that he inadvertently replaced the father’s name with that of the child. If so, the baptism applies to the son of James and Elizabeth, but there is no way to know for sure.
But this is only the beginning of our two-William problem. First, how do we even know that both brothers had sons named William? The answer lies in census records. Both Williams appear with their respective families in the 1841 and 1851 censuses. Here are their entries in 1851.
We can see in the upper record that William the father, whose age is incorrectly stated as 40, is a widower and lives with his daughter Elizabeth, age 19, and son William, age 16. This gives us an approximate birth year for William, the son, of 1835. This is consistent with the year his mother died. We can also see in the lower record that James’s family includes his son William, age 15, which gives him a birth year of about 1836.
As we’ve already seen with William the father, ages reported in censuses are frequently incorrect. However, this is less likely to occur with children, and the ages of the two sons in the 1841 census are consistent with the same birth years. So, it is likely that William, the son of William, is about one year older than the son of James.
Unfortunately, the situation becomes unclear from this point forward. We know that a man named William Casbon married Sarah West in 1855. The marriage was registered at Royston, Hertfordshire, a few miles from Meldreth. I only have an index entry of the marriage. This does not include details such as date, location, names and occupations of each party’s father, or names of witnesses. Therefore, I don’t know whose son married Sarah West.
After 1855, I have a complete set of censuses from 1861 through 1891 for William and Sarah. William died at Meldreth 7 March 1896 and Sarah died 22 December 1905.
The inscription reads as follows:
In/ Memory of/ WILLIAM CASBON/who died March 7th 1896/ aged 61 years/ “We hope to meet again at/ The Resurrection of the just/ A light is from the household gone/ A voice we loved is stilled/ A place is vacant in our home/ Which never can be filled”./ Also of / SARAH, wife of the above/ who departed this life/ December 22nd 1905/ aged 83 years./ She hath done what she could/ Her end was peace.
William’s given age of 61 suggests that he was born sometime between March 1834 and March 1835, which would be consistent with him being the son of William (b. 1806). However, this is hardly sufficient to be considered proof.
Of the second William, there is no certain record after the census of 1851. There are no additional census records, no marriage record, and no death or burial records. I have found a couple sources which might refer to him—I will refer to them in a future post—but they provide no clues as to his parentage.
So, we have two Williams, born in about 1835 and 1836. One was married and had a family; we don’t know what happened to the other. One was the son of William (b. 1806) and one was the son of James (b. about 1813), but we don’t know which William was which. This is a problem for the living descendants of William and Sarah West, who can’t determine whether they are descended from William or James.
There are several family trees on Ancestry that list James Casbon as the father of William and father-in-law of Sarah. These do not contain any supporting information or justification for the choice. My own bias is that William (b. 1806) is more likely to be the father of the William who married Sarah West.
Fortunately, there is a potential solution to this problem. I referred above to the marriage record of William and Sarah. The official marriage certificate is supposed to give the names of the bride’s and groom’s fathers. As of this writing, I have ordered a copy of the marriage certificate from the General Register Office in England. When it arrives, I will hopefully have a definitive answer. I will provide an update when I receive the certificate.
Do you have any two-(insert any name) problems in your family tree?
 Parish of Meldreth (Cambridgeshire, England), register of baptisms (1813–1867), p. 40, no. 360; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 219 of 699.  Parish of Meldreth, register of burials (1813–1875), p. 29, no. 232, Mary Carsbon, 28 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/catalog/210742 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Film #007567609 >image 457 of 699.  1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Meldreth, ED 5b, p. 7, schedule 28; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >ALL >5a >image 8 of 25. 1851 England census, Cambrideshire, Melbourn (“Melbourn in Meldreth”), ED 11c, p. 32, schedule 126; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/8860 : accessed 27 Aug 20) >Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >ALL >11c >image33 of 36.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2DQ3-WY3 : accessed 23 September 2015).  Kathryn Betts, “Holy Trinity Church, Meldreth: Monumental Inscriptions,” PDF download, Meldreth History (http://www.meldrethhistory.org.uk/page/holy_trinity_churchyard_monumental_inscriptions?path=0p2p120p53p95p94p : accessed 27 August 2020); entry for William and Sarah Casbon, item 27, unnumbered page 8 of 23.
My last two posts profiled two individuals who entered into domestic service as a ladies-maid and footman, respectively. Before I leave the topic altogether, I want to pay tribute to many other Casbon family members who worked as domestic servants. I’ve combed through my files to find those Casbon relatives who were listed as servants on census or other records. It turns out there were quite a few! I know precious few details about most of them, but collectively, I think their stories are worth the telling.
All of the servants featured in today’s post are women. This should come as no great surprise. Employment opportunities for women during this time frame (mid 1800s to early 1900s) were limited, and domestic service was one of the most common occupations for working-class women. In 1911, although the numbers were already declining, twenty-eight percent of working women in England were employed in domestic service.
Men constituted a much lower percentage of the domestic service workforce. Men had access to a much greater variety of trades and occupations.“Most of those employed in domestic service in Victorian times were women, outnumbering men at over 20 to one by 1880.” There was a tax on male servants, so they tended to be employed in larger, wealthier households. The majority of female servants worked in middle-class households; where having at least one servant was considered essential.
Here are the Casbon women I’ve discovered who were domestic servants at one time or another. They are presented in roughly chronological birth order and grouped by families.
Mary Ann, Edith, Jane and Martha Casbon
I’ve listed these four together because they were the daughters of William (1805–1807) and Ann (Clark, ~1812–1869) Casbon, of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. William was an agricultural labourer with a large family.
Mary Ann was born about 1831 in Meldreth. in the 1851 census, we find her listed as the only servant in the household of John Campkin, a “Grocer & Draper” living in Melbourn. By 1861 Mary Ann was working as a cook in a London public house. I haven’t located her in the 1871 census. In 1875, at the age of forty-four, she married a widower named Joseph Sparrow. She had no children. Her date of death is unknown, but occurred after 1891.
Edith was baptized at Meldreth in 1835. In 1851, sixteen-year-old Edith was working as a “house servant” in the home of Elizabeth Bell, a widow in Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, with a farm of 166 acres (quite large for that time). There were also two male servants in the household, a horse keeper and a shepherd. She married William Catley in 1860, and together they had seven children. She died in 1916 and was buried in Melbourn.
Jane was baptized in 1840 at Meldreth. In 1861 she was living at home but listed as “Servant,” so she was presumably working elsewhere. In 1871, she was listed as “House Keeper,” again in her father’s household, so it is unclear whether she was keeping his or someone else’s house. She married John Camp in 1881 and had two children. She died in 1904, age sixty-four.
Martha, who was twenty-four years younger than her sister Mary Ann, spent most of her life as a domestic servant in London. In 1871, Martha was listed as “Housemaid” along with one other female servant (the cook) in the household of a civil engineer. In 1881 she was the sole servant in a small household consisting of a Scottish woolen merchant and his sister. She was again the sole servant in 1891, this time to a chemist and his wife. In 1901 she was the lone servant for a Presbyterian minister and his wife. The last record we have of Martha as a servant is in 1911 (the last year census records are available). At that time fifty-six-year-old Martha was serving as the cook in a household with three other servants. Their master and mistress were a retired draper and his wife. Quite a few servants for two people! Martha never married. Sometime before 1839, she retired to Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (the sister village to Meldreth). She died in Cambridge in 1947 and was buried in Melbourn.
Sarah was the daughter of Thomas (~1807–1863) and Jane (Cooper, ~1803–1874) Casbon. Thomas was the patriarch of the “Peterborough Casbons.” Sarah was born about 1834 in Somersham, Huntingdonshire. In 1851, she was the only servant for a widow and her daughter in Chatteris. She married Richard Baker in 1857 and had at least eight children. She died in 1904, age sixty-nine.
Priscilla was the daughter of William (~1835–1896) and Sarah (West, ~1823–1905) Casbon of Meldreth. William was an agricultural labourer and Priscilla his only daughter. She was born in 1862. In the 1881 census, she was employed as the only servant for a banker’s clerk and his wife in Cambridge. In 1891 she was living with her parents at home, with no occupation listed.
Priscilla’s story has an interesting twist. When she was thirty-four, in 1896, she married a seventy-seven-year-old widowed gentleman named Charles Banks. He was definitely a “sugar daddy.” He never had children. When he died in 1904, his estate was valued at
£12, 232, divided between Priscilla and two other beneficiaries. There is evidence that she remarried a man named John Wilson in 1908 and was still alive in 1939, but I’m not certain this is her. I would love to know more about her story!
Julia Frances Casbon
Julia was born in 1866, the daughter of George S (~1836–1914) and Sarah (Pryor, ~1831–1903) Casbon. George was a wheelwright in Barley, Hertfordshire, and originally from Meldreth. In the 1891 census, we find Julia working as one of three female servants in the household of a retired Army officer in Kensington, London. She married Henry Brassington, a bootmaker, in 1899. They had two sons. Julia was ninety-nine years old when she died in 1965.
Kate was the daughter of John (1843–1927) and Mary Anne (Hall, ~1840–1880) Casban. She was born in 1874. In 1891, at the age of seventeen, she was one of two female servants employed by a single unmarried woman. She married Frederick Gunn in 1898 and had two children. I haven’t been able to pin down the date of her death.
Margaret Alice Casban
Born at Melbourn in 1875, the daughter of Samuel Clark (1851–1922) and Lydia (Harrup, ~1853–1924) Casban, “Alice,” like her cousin Kate, was already working as a servant in 1891. She was one of two servants, the other a footman, working for the proprietor of a pub. She married Thomas William Francis in 1898 and had seven children. Date of her death is uncertain.
Olive Louise, Maud Emily, Hilda Mary, and Elsie Lydia Casbon
These four sisters were the daughters of George (1846–1897) and Sarah (Pearse, ~1847–1912) Casbon. George was originally from Meldreth but settled in nearby Fowlmere where he was a farm labourer. The family was probably quite poor. Sarah, the mother, went to work as a charwoman after George’s death. The daughters would have had few other options than going into domestic service as soon as they reached a suitable age. A striking feature of this family is that all four daughters died at an early age. I don’t know the cause of death for any of them.
Olive Louise, the oldest, was born in 1884. by 1901, she was the sole servant for a tea buyer and his family, living in Croydon. In 1911, she was one of two servants, the other the cook, for a much larger family, also in Croydon. She married Thomas De Rinzy in 1911 and bore him a son that same year.  Olive died in 1916, thirty-two years old.
Maud Emily was born in 1885. In 1901 at age fifteen, she was working as a kitchen maid in Melbourn, and in 1911 she was the cook for a London single woman. She died later that year at the age of twenty-six.
Hilda Mary was born in 1887. In 1911 she was living with her mother in Fowlmere, but occupation was listed as “General (Domestic),” which suggests that she was doing service work outside of the home. By 1914, she was working as a domestic servant in Surrey. We know this because of the fact that she gave birth to a son in June 1914. The birth certificate states that she was “a Domestic Servant of 140 Beckenham Road Penge.”
An unwanted pregnancy was possibly the worst-case scenario for an unmarried female servant. If she became pregnant, she could be “immediately turned out of the house without a character to join the ranks of the unemployed.”
I have handwritten notes from a relative stating that Hilda abandoned her son at the Croydon Infirmary, and that he was later taken in by the Mission of Good Hope, a well-known organization that placed children for adoption. This fills in some blanks in another story, that of how young George came to be placed with Dr. Barnardo’s Homes and then sent to Canada as a sort-of indentured servant.
I don’t know what became of Hilda after the birth, except for her death, at age thirty-three, in 1921.
The youngest sister, Elsie Lydia, was born in 1890. She was the sole domestic servant at the White Ribbon Temperance Hotel located in Cambridge, 1911. I presume that Elsie later found a position in Kensington, London, because that is where here death was registered in 1919. She was thirty years old.
The stories of these thirteen women are in many ways typical for female domestic servants of their era. With the exception of Martha, they did not work as servants for the greater part of their lives. Most of them started work in their teens and continued until they found husbands and had families of their own. They generally worked in smaller middle-class homes with one or two servants. Other than the four daughters of George and Sarah (Pearse) Casbon, they generally lived “normal” lifespans.
This is far from an adequate description of their lives, since it is based largely on “snapshots” taken every ten years with the census. Nevertheless, their stories provide insights into our shared heritage and deserve to be told.
 “Women and Work in the 19th Century,” Striking Women (http://www.striking-women.org/module/women-and-work/19th-and-early-20th-century : accessed 27 January 2019).  “Who Were the Servants?” My Learning (https://www.mylearning.org/stories/the-victorian-servant/280 : accessed 27 January 2019).  Kate Clark, “Women and Domestic Service in Victorian Society,” The History Press (https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/women-and-domestic-service-in-victorian-society/ : accessed 27 January 2019).  “The Rise of the Middle Classes,” Victorian England: Life of the Working and Middle Classes (https://valmcbeath.com/victorian-era-middle-classes/#.XE3gilxKiUk : accessed 27 January 2019).  “File: John Finnie. Maids of All Work, 1864-65 (higher colour).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Finnie._Maids_of_All_Work,_1864-65_(higher_colour).jpg : accessed 27 January 2019).  1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 19, p. 9, High St., Mary Ann (age 10) in household of William Casbon; imaged as “1841 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8978 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 19 >image 6 of 9; The National Archives (TNA), HO 107/63/19.  1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, ED 11b, p. 3, schedule 8, Church Lane, Mary Casbon in household of John Campkin; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >11b >image 4 of 25; TNA, HO 107/1708/177.  1861 England census, Middlesex, Islington, ED 36, p. 27, schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged as “1861 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 19 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; TNA, RG 9/16/55.  Church of England, Parish of St. Lukes Finsbury (Middlesex), Marriage Records, 1871-6, p. 245, no. 489, Joseph Sparrow & Mary Ann Casbon, 26 Dec 1875; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 10 Aug 2016), Islington >St Luke, Finsbury >1867-1881 >image 494 of 747; London Metropolitan Archives, record no. p76/luk/058.  1891 England census, London, Hackney, ED 23b, p. 31, schedule 47, 33 Benyon Rd, Mary A Sparrow (indexed as “Spawn”); imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 29 October 2018), London >Hackney >West Hackney >District 23b >image 32 of 34; TNA RG12/190/98.  Church of England, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), Register of Baptisms, 1813-77,. 44, no. 345, Edith Casburn, 29 Mar 1835; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,”FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 219 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 5.  1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Whaddon, ED 4, p. 15, schedule 43, Edith Casbon in household of Elizabeth Bell; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Whaddon >4 >image 16 of 23; TNA, HO 107/1708/34.  Meldreth, Register of Marriages, 1837-75, p. 50, no. 99, William Catley & Edith Casbon, 13 Oct 1860; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 397 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 9.  “Index of Cambridgeshire Parish Records,” database/transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Edith Catley, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.  Meldreth, Register of Baptisms, 1813-77, p. 54, no. 429, Jane Casbon, 29 Nov 1840; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 224 of 699.  1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, schedule 133; J Carston in household of William Caston; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 25 of 32; TNA, RG 9/815/64.  1871 England census, Meldreth, enumeration district (ED) 15, p. 21, schedule 125, High St., Jane Casbon in household of William Casbon; “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 22 of 32; TNA, RG 10/1363/25.  “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/england-and-wales-marriages-1837-2005 : accessed 30 March 2017), John Camp, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 27 January 2019), deaths, Jane Camp, J[un] qtr, 1904, Royston, vol. 3A/299.  1871 England census, Kent, Lewisham, ED 4, p. 61, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed “Carbor” in household of John H Greener (indexed “Greeno”); Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; TNA, RG 10/763/89.  1881 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 28, pp. 41-2, schedule 186, 100 Godolphin Rd., Martha Casbon in household of John Weir; “1881 England Census,” Ancestry ((https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), London >Hammersmith >St Paul Hammersmith >District 28 >image 42 of 68; TNA, RG 11/60/143.  1891 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 20, p. 4, schedule 20, 156 Clapham Rd., Martha Casbon in the household of Frederick Glew; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Kennington First >District 20 >image 5 of 45; TNA, RG 12/400/96.  1901 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 3, p. 90, schedule620, 214 Goldhawk Rd., Martha Casbon in household of Henry Miller; “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/: accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/9/124.  1911 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 10, schedule 109, 76 Tulse Hill SW, Martha Casbon in household of Thomas Drake; “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Norwood >10 >image 220 of 421; TNA, RG 14/2109.  1939 Register, Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire, ED TBKV, schedule 34, High St., Martha Casbon, “1939 England and Wales Register,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61596 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >South Cambridgeshire RD >TBKV >image 5 of 9; TNA, RG 191.63261,  “Melbourn Burials 1739–1950,” p. 73, Martha Casbon, 19 Jan 1947; transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Melbourn burials, Martha Casbon, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.  1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, ED 3e, p. 1, schedule 1, Park Rd., Sarah Casborn in household of Ann Curtis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgshire >Chatteris >3e >image 2 of 48; TNA, HO 107/1765/371.  Ibid.  Church of England, Peterborough (Northamptonshire), St. John Parish, Marriages, 1855–1866, p. 76, no. 152, Richard Baker & Sarah Casbon, 22 Jun 1857; imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9199 : accessed 19 January 2018), Peterborough, St John >Parish Registers >1855-1859 >image 41 of 66; Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Sarah Baker, M[ar] qtr, 1904, Peterborough, vol. 3B/146.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Priscilla Banks, D[ec] qtr, 1862, Royston, vol. 3A/227.  1881 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 59, 8 Parker St., Priscilla Casbon in household of Edmund Wilson; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 26 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St. Andrew the Great >District 2 >image 15 of 48; TNA, RG 11/1669/43.  1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 13, p. 18, schedule 134, Witcroft Rd., Priscilla Casbon in household of William Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 13 >image 19 of 27; TNA, RG 12/1104/68.  “England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8913 : accessed 24 April 2018), Priscilla Casbon, 3d qtr, 1896, Bedford, vol. 3B/732; GRO, London.  “Find A Will,” Gov.UK (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Calendar#calendar : accessed 27 January 2019), Wills and Probate 1858–1996, search terms: “banks” “1904.”  1891 England census, London, Kensington, ED 17, p. 30, schedule 157, 40 Evelyn Gardens, Julia F Casbon in the household of Thomas Fraser; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Kensington >Brompton >District 17 >image 31 of 51; TNA, RG 12/32/73.  Church of England, Barley (Hertfordshire), Marriage registers, p. 136, no. 271, Henry Brassington & Julia Frances Casbon, 19 Sep 1899; “Hertfordshire Banns & Marriages,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/hertfordshire-banns-and-marriages : accessed 14 October 2017).  “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVCK-W896 : accessed 4 September 2014), Julia F Brassington, 1965, 4th qtr, Harrow, vol. 5B/961/153; citing GRO, Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Kate Casban, M[ar] atr, 1874, Edmonton, vol. 3A: 203.  1891 England Census, Middlesex, Edmonton, ED 1, p. 49, schedule 284, Langhedge House, Kate Casban in household of Maria Rowley; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Middlesex >Edmonton >District 01 >image 50 of 54; TNA, RG 14/1081/27.  Church of England, London, Edmonton, St James, Marriages 1851-1917, p. 159, no. 318, Frederick Gunn & Kate Casban, 9 Apr 1898; “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Enfield >St James, Upper Edmonton >1851-1917 >image 206 of 506; London Metropolitan Archives.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Margaret Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.  1891 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 34, p. 9, schedule 48, 25 Wellesley Rd., Alice Casbar in household of George E Wheeler; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 34 >image 10 of 89; TNA RG 14/591/44.  Ibid.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:269S-X5P : accessed 13 December 2014), Margaret Alice Casban, 2d qtr, 1898, Croydon, vol. 2A/529/38; GRO, Southport.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Olive Louise Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1884, Royston, vol. 3A/444.  1901 England census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 81, p. 8, schedule 45, Olive L Casson in household of John Percy Lewis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 26 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 81 >image 9 of 55; TNA, RG 13/648/8.  1911 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 18, schedule 63, 18 Avenue Rd, Norwood S.E., Olive Louise Casbon in household of Reuben Glasgow Kestin; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Surrey >Croydon >North Croydon >18 >image 126 of 699; TNA, RG 14/3385.  “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:267B-M1S : accessed 14 November 2015), Olive L Casbon, 2d qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol, 2A/631/105.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Thomas Jessop Cavendish De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/644.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Olive Louise De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1916, Croydon, vol. 2A/473.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1885, Royston, vol. 3A/471.  1901 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, enumeration district 9, p. 9, schedule 44, Maud Carton in household of Albert Spencer; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 28 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >District 09 >image 10 of 27; TNA, RG 13/1296/9.  1911 England Census, Surrey, Penge, ED 2, schedule 138, Maude Emily Casbon in household of Adele Maude Everest; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 201), Surrey >Penge >02 >image 276 of 809; TNA, RG 14/3406.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/408.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Hilda Mary Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1887, Royston, vol. 3A/466.  1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 5, schedule 26, Hilda Casbon in household of Sarah Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 28 January 2019), Hertfordshire >Fowlmere >05 >image 52 of 265; TNA, RG 14/7557.  England, birth certificate (PDF copy) for George Casbon, born 11 Jun 1914; registered June quarter, Croydon district 2A/618, West Croydon Sub-district, Surrey; General Register Office, Southport.  Tessa Arlen, “The Redoubtable Edwardian Housemaid and a Life of Service,” Tessa Arlen Mysteries from the early 1900s (http://www.tessaarlen.com/redoubtable-housmaid-life-belowstairs/ : accessed 28 January 2019).  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Hilda Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1921, Croydon, vol. 2A/312.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Elsie Lydia Casbon, S[ep] qtr, 1890, Royston, vol. 3A/490.  1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire,Cambridge, ED 7, schedule 135, 160-1 East Rd, Elsie Lydia Caslon in household of George W Sheet; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St Andrew the Less >07 >image 274 of 313; TNA, RG 14/9107.  “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Elsie Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1919, Kensington, vol. 1A/217.
My last post dealt with Elizabeth Casbon, a lady’s maid. Today we’ll look at a male servant who placed a newspaper advertisement similar to those placed by Elizabeth.
In this ad, “W. Casbon” is seeking a position as first footman. He gives his age and height. He says he has a “good character” (reference from current or previous employers). His address is in the oddly-named village of Ashby-de-la-Zouch in Leicestershire. This is presumably where he is currently employed.
Who was W. Casbon? His stated age gives us a birth year of about 1860. Unless he has greatly over- or under-exaggerated his age, the only candidate I can find is William Casbon, born 1860 at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. William was the son of William (1835–1896) and Sarah (West, ~1823–1905) Casbon. I’ve written about William previously, so I won’t repeat the details. However, I will say that he led an interesting life. The 1871 census lists eleven-year-old William as a “Scholar.” In 1881 we find him working as a “Railway Signalman” in Derbyshire. He later went on to become a baker, then the manager of a Golf Club, and finally, the Superintendent of the Refreshment Department of the House of Lords in London.
Ashby-de-la-Zouch is only about fourteen miles away from Breadsall, Derbyshire, where William was listed in the 1881 census. There were probably only a few households that could afford a footman, but I haven’t identified the specific home where he worked.
What is a footman? The word has an interesting history. It used to refer to a servant who ran alongside his master’s carriage, or ran ahead to announce his arrival. The meaning later came to refer to a male household servant with various duties, including opening and closing doors, serving meals and carrying items to heavy for the female servants.
In the hierarchy of servants, footmen were on a lower rung than the butler, who was generally the highest-ranking male servant. Very wealthy households might have several footmen, numbered in order of their relative standing in the household (i.e., “first footman,” “second footman,” etc.). In houses without a butler, the first footman would perform the butler’s duties. An extended list of a footman’s duties would be too long to write here, but would include cleaning boots and silver, answering the door to visitors, serving at meals, lighting lamps, lighting fires, going out with a carriage, and serving as a valet to the younger gentlemen in a family.
Footmen often wore livery – a special uniform. Their livery might include knee breeches and silk stockings, and in some households, powdered wigs. The household usually provided two suits of livery per year. Footmen were often selected for their height and looks. Hence, the advertisements above include the man’s height. William Casbon seems to have been at an advantage with his height of 6 feet, 2 ½ inches! Footmen also tended to be fairly young, as can also be seen in the advertisement.
When William placed the advertisement in 1884, he was probably working as a second or third footman, and looking to move up the ladder to a higher position. He obviously did not make a career of domestic service. However, his experiences as a footman probably gave him valuable experience that helped prepare him for his eventual position with the House of Lords. In an era where class distinctions were pronounced, he made significant strides.
The sister villages of Meldreth and Melbourn in Cambridgeshire are my ancestral homeland. Records of Casbon ancestors in these villages go back to the mid-sixteenth century. Families occasionally moved from one village to another, or to other nearby villages, but there was little reason or incentive to go further. The situation remained stable for over 250 years, but in the 1840s, things began to change.
Slowly at first, and then with increasing speed, the number of Casbons in Meldreth and Melbourn began to dwindle. In the 1841 census, there were 7 households with 30 people; in 1851, 7 households with 27 people; 1861 – 4 households/14 people; 1871 – 5 households/12 people; 1881 – 2 households/4 people; 1891 – 2 households/5 people; 1901 & 1911 – 1 household/2 people. (1911 is the last year census records have been made available to the public.) The 1939 register (a census-like record taken before World War 2) shows only one Casbon living in Meldreth.
What happened? Where did they go and why did they leave? The reasons are varied, but for the most part revolve around the “three Fs”: finance, family, friends. In the mid-1800s, the growth of cities and improvements in transportation created new job opportunities. The exodus from Meldreth took off after the arrival of the railroad in 1851.
The first to leave was my third great grandfather, Thomas (1803–1888), and his family, when they emigrated to the United States in 1846. I’ve written extensively about Thomas and his journey, so will not elaborate further here.
The next to go was James Casbon (1806–1871), who moved to the village of Barley in Hertfordshire with his family, probably in the early 1850s. Barley is located about five miles south of Meldreth.
James was a landowner, which put him in a different class than his poorer Casbon relatives. He also had a business as a carrier, hauling freight (and perhaps passengers) to and from London. His reasons for moving to Barley are unknown. His sons remained in Barley and established their own families there. Thus, Barley became a new population center for the Casbon surname.
Between 1851 and 1861 the number of Casbon households was further reduced due to deaths, employment, and unknown other reasons. Lydia (Burgess) Casbon, widow of Joseph (abt. 1811–1847), died in 1851. Two daughters, Hannah and Harriet Ann, preceded her in death in 1848 and 1850, respectively, and a third daughter, Emma, died in 1852. Lydia’s surviving daughter, Mary, emigrated to the United States, where she joined her uncle Thomas Casbon, in 1856. “Patty” Barns (née Martha Wagstaff), widow of John Casbon (abt. 1779–1813), died in 1855. After losing his wife, Elizabeth, in 1852, James Casbon (b. abt. 1813) and his family disappeared from view until he emigrated to Indiana in 1870. Mary Ann Casbon (b. 1831, daughter of William, b. 1805), who had been working as a servant in Melbourn in 1851, was employed as a cook in a London public house by 1861.
Although the numbers remained relatively stable between 1861 and 1871, some important moves still took place. Three more of William’s (b. 1805) children left for the environs of London: John (b. abt. 1842), Reuben (b. 1847) and Martha (b. abt. 1855). John was working as a Labourer when he was married in Lambeth (now a borough of London) in 1866. Reuben must have moved to the London area in the same time frame, since he and his sister Mary Ann are listed as witnesses on the marriage record. Martha, perhaps following in her brothers’ footsteps, is listed as a sixteen-year-old “domestic servant housemaid” for a suburban London household in the 1871 census.
The numbers plunged after 1871, as the “old-timers” – Jane (1803–1872), William (1805-1877) and William (1806–1875) died and their remaining children moved away. Samuel Clark Casbon (b. 1851) moved to Croydon, Surrey. His sister, Jane, married John Camp in 1881. Only the younger William (b. 1835), and John Casbon (b. 1849) remained. William’s three children, Walter (b. 1856), William (b. 1860), and Priscilla (b. 1862), all left home for jobs in domestic service or the railroads.
William (b. 1835) died in 1896. After his death, his wife, Sarah (West, b. abt 1823) moved to Hitchin, Hertfordshire, where she lived with her son, Walter, until her death in 1905. John (b. 1849) died in 1935, followed by his wife Sarah (Pepper, b. abt 1850) in 1938. John and Sarah were the only two Casbons on the 1901 and 1911 censuses for Meldreth.
Martha Casbon (b. abt. 1855), who spent most of her adult life in domestic service, returned to Meldreth in her later years, and is the sole Casbon listed on the 1939 register. With her death in 1947, the Casbon name became extinct in Meldreth.
This advertisement appeared in The (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada) Daily Colonist in 1907.
(Click on image to enlarge)
As you can see, the advertisement includes an endorsement of sorts by “William Casbon, Superintendent of the Refreshment Department of the House of Lords, London.” This William is an interesting character, arising from humble beginnings in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire before rising to this somewhat exalted position. His ascent reflects the social and economic changes during the transition from the Victorian era into the twentieth century.
We can trace his ancestry back to Meldreth through his father and grandfather – both named William – and then back three more generations to the “original” John of early 18th century Meldreth (see “Stuck on John”).
His father William was born in late 1834 or early 1835, and baptized in Meldreth February 7, 1835. Initially an agricultural labourer like his predecessors, by his later years he was known as a fruit grower and market gardener., It would be interesting to know how he was able to advance above the station of a labourer, but I don’t have any information that would help answer that question. The wife of this William and mother of our parliamentarian was baptized Sarah West at Soham, Cambridgeshire, in 1823. Besides William, they had two other children: Walter (1856–1923) and Priscilla (1862–after 1891).
William’s paternal grandfather was also named William. He was the second son of Isaac and Susanna (Howes) Casbon of Meldreth.
The William of today’s post was born 1860 in Meldreth., I have not found a baptismal record. After appearing on the 1861 and 1871 censuses with his family, he disappears from view for over 20 years. I believe he is the William (Casban, Caskan?), age 23, birthplace Meldreth or Hildreth, Cambridgeshire, who appears in the 1881 census in the village of Breadsall, Derbyshire, as a railway signalman. But there is too much ambiguity about this record for me to confidently say this is the same man. I also think he might be the “W. Casbon,” age 24, seeking a position as first footman in an 1884 London newspaper ad. But again, there just isn’t enough information to make a firm identification.
The next record I can confirm as belonging to this William is his marriage in 1892 to Mary Grace Hoskins, at St George-Hanover Square, London.
William next appears in the 1901 census, living in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire. His occupation is listed as “Golf Club Manager.” This is quite a step up from the son of a labourer in Meldreth. It was in this same year that he received a provisional appointment as Superintendent of the Refreshment Department, along with “a house and certain allowances.” I can only guess that the experience he gained as a golf club manager gave him the necessary skills to qualify and be appointed to the House of Lords position. Perhaps he was able to make some influential friends along the way.
The provisional appointment must have been converted to a permanent position. William and Mary appear in the 1911 census, their address listed as “House of Lords Westminster,” occupation “caterers.” The census also records that they had two servants.
The advertisement at the beginning of this post caused some controversy. This was written in the popular magazine, Truth, in 1906.
(Click on image to enlarge)
It appears that William was providing certificates for products on his own initiative (presumably for a fee). The trouble seems to have arisen in 1905, but as the 1907 advertisement shows, the Scotch whiskey purveyors were still using his certificates well after they had supposedly “expired.” Apparently, the controversy was not enough for him to lose his job. Although not mentioned in the Truth article, William did not limit his endorsements to whiskey. I found this advertisement for marmalade in another newspaper.
All this leads me to conclude that William must have been an energetic and ambitious man who capitalized on opportunities to improve his station in life. I think he must have had a winning personality, as well as natural talent, to advance as far as he did. I don’t know whether he was being astute or naïve when it comes to the use of his position in Parliament to endorse certain products.
William and his wife Mary Grace never had children, so there are no descendants today. William died on September 8, 1939, leaving Mary Grace an estate of about £355 (worth about £21,600 today)., Mary Grace died in 1950.