The Warden Family from Cratfield, Suffolk


The Eighteenth Century (work in progress)

Our story begins with William Warden who was born in about 1685. His birthdate has been reckoned from the first record we have of him, which is his marriage to Sarah Mills in November 1710. The marriage took place in the parish of Cratfield . From the same parish register it has been possible to identify four children born to them: Susanna (1711) Sarah (1713) John (1715) and William (1719). 

William died aged three in 1723, but his brother John reached his majority, and married Elizabeth Noller from Wenhaston (a village about 4 miles away) in 1738, when he was 23. The marriage took place in Cratfield.  They raised a large family of eight children - five girls and three boys. All three boys married in due course, but it is from the youngest son, James (1755-1830), that we trace our descent.

James Warden was born in the parish of Cratfield, in Suffolk. Comparatively few official records exist for those ordinary mortals who were born in the eighteenth century. However, there is a record of James’s Confirmation, in 1806, in the parish records at Ubbeston, and there his age is given as 45.  The other important event in his life, of which we have a record, is his marriage in 1781 to Ann Ethridge.  The parish register goes on to record the births of five children - to James and Mary !  Perhaps she was really Mary Ann Ethridge, or Ann Mary, and her name was not fully recorded in the Parish Register, when she married James. This is a problem yet to be resolved.  At some point James (who hailed from Cratfield) and Mary Ann (who was born in Fressingfield) moved to Ubbeston, about two miles from Cratfield.

To continue, James’s children were:- Mary b.1781, William b.1782, Elizabeth b.1784, Phillis b.1785, and James b.1786.  Their mother - let us call her Mary Ann, for the time being - died in 1788, perhaps in child birth, poor thing.  Which leaves one wondering who brought up this young family of five children, then all under the age of seven.  Their father died in 1830, and the Ubbeston Parish Register gives his age as 76.  This tallies with his date of baptism, but not with his recorded age in 1806. We should remember that people were not issued with nicely printed birth certificates, to remind them how old they were, and so perhaps it is not surprising that there is a discrepancy of five years or so at his Confirmation.

The Nineteenth Century

William (1) married Sarah Rodwell in Ubbeston in 1811, when he was 29, and she was perhaps two years younger.  (Anyone who knew Auntie Lallie will also know that her full name was Alice Rodwell Warden 1885-1971 - Sarah Rodwell would have been her great grandmother).  No more is known of William (1), until his name appears in the Census of 1841.  He would then have been 59, although his age is given as 55, because the enumerators were instructed to round down ages to the nearest 5 years. 

He was an agricultural labourer, living with his wife Sarah, in Market Street, in the village of Laxfield, Suffolk.  Laxfield lies two miles west down the road from Ubbeston.  I was unable to find William in the Census for 1851but I have since found a record of his death. First I went to some trouble to search through the records of the Workhouses at Blythburgh and at Stradbroke in the 1851 Census, and was quite relieved to find that he was not there. Sarah was living with her married daughter in Ipswich, but her status - wife or widow - is not recorded there. The reason it took me so long to find William’s death is because his surname was recorded as Wharden rather than Warden. He died in Laxfield on 20.09.1844.

William and Sarah had six children.  They were:- Elizabeth b.1811 and James b.1813, both in Ubbeston;  then came William b.1815; Robert b.1817; George b.1819 and Sarah b.1821. These four siblings were all born in Laxfield.  Their parents must have moved from Ubbeston to Laxfield some time after the birth of James in 1813. I cannot tell you any more about Elizabeth for the time being; I found just one mention of George, (1851 Census) as a journeyman bootmaker, visiting relatives in Marylebone, London; but I was able to trace William, James and Robert, and their respective families, through seven successive government censuses from 1841 to 1901. 

James Warden (1813) and family

Quite early on in my Warden family researches I noted what appeared to be a four-year gap between the births of Elizabeth (1811) and William (1815). I could find no record of a birth or baptism for the intervening years, and speculated that this could point to a miscarriage or perhaps a still-birth in this family. I continued under this misapprehension, until one day, when I decided to search the 1881 Census for persons born in Ubbeston, Suffolk.  This is still a tiny hamlet, no more than a few houses. The records produced a James Warden born in Ubberton (sic) about 1813: a pointer perhaps, towards a missing family member, but not conclusive proof.  James Warden married Mary Hanser in 1834. One of the witnesses to this marriage was a Sarah Warden - his mother, surely?  James and Mary went on to have seven children - and their youngest son, b.1856 was named Walter Rodwell Warden. Rodwell (not a very common name) was Sarah Warden’s maiden name. This was too much of a coincidence to ignore, and so I have decided to include James in the Warden family.

James and Mary began their married life in Peasenhall, Suffolk, and James was a blacksmith by trade. They moved to Witham, Essex, sometime before 1845, and then to Canterbury, Kent (Census Ref.522 f.159) in 1861.  Both of these moves may have been prompted in part by the death of a child - Ellen in 1845 and Charles in 1860. By 1871 the family had made their final move, to the village of Blean (just outside Canterbury) in 1871 (Census Ref.972 f.80).

So, of the seven children born to James and Sarah, two died young. That leaves us with three sisters, Sarah, Mary Ann and Margaret, and their two younger brothers Herbert and Walter.

Sarah stands out, because she worked, first as a lady’s maid and then as companion, to a Mrs Mary Hughes Cox for almost forty years. It looks as though Sarah stayed behind in Witham when the rest of the family removed to Kent sometime in 1861. Mrs Cox died in 1895, aged 92, and in the 1901 Census, now retired, we find Sarah living with her sister Margaret, and their niece Nina Littlebury. It would be nice to think, that after so many years’ loyal service to Mrs Cox, the old lady left her servant some money, so that Sarah could live out her old age in a degree of comfort.

James died in 1887, but his widow Mary remained in Blean village (1891 Census Ref.709 f.160) until she too died in 1892.

Both the boys married in the 1880’s and, unlike their sisters, remained in the village of Blean. Herbert b.1853 married Charlotte Geanan in 1887, when he was 34. In the 1881 Census his occupation is given as wheelwright, and in the 1891 Census this has become “agricultural machinist”. Very sadly Charlotte died in 1894, aged 29, and as far as I can tell there were no children born to Herbert and Charlotte.

Herbert’s younger brother Walter married Eliza Brogan in 1884, when he was 28. In the 1881 Census his occupation is given as blacksmith - just like his father before him. Walter died relatively young, aged 43, in 1898. Again as far as I can tell there were no children born to this couple either.

Robert Warden (1817) and family

I will tell you about Robert next. I have chosen to do this because, from where we stand, his family is not one of the main branches of the family tree.  Nevertheless, it provides us with another interesting vignette of a Warden family in Victorian times.  Robert Warden became a shoemaker, and when he was still quite young, he must have made the decision to seek his fortune (if not fame) in London.  In 1849, when he was 32, he married Eliza Wright, in Marylebone.  By 1851 he had a shop at 131 High Street, Woolwich. 

Today, we would consider that Woolwich is a part of Greater London, but then it was a small town in Kent, providing, no doubt, for the needs of the Arsenal by the river Thames.  Robert’s shoemaking business was still in existence forty years later, in the High Street, at number 130 rather than 131. (This might just be the same property, re-numbered.) Although Robert died in 1884 (aged 65), I think that his wife must have continued to run the business, as she was still living ‘over the shop’ in 1891 and 1901.

Robert and Eliza had eight children - five girls and three boys, and William, the youngest son, seemed all set to carry on his father’s business.  In 1891, William was 20, his occupation - boot and shoemaker - helping his mother to run the business.  Frederick, the eldest son, was possibly a disappointment to his parents.  In 1881, when he was 22, he had already left home.  He was then living in lodgings, in Woolwich, and working as a labourer.  Ernest, the middle son, found work as a clerk in the Ordnance factory (Census 1891, aged 23) but he died in 1896 aged 28.

I could find no evidence to show that the girls helped in the running of their father’s business.  In 1891, Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, was 38 and still unmarried.  In the spring, she was staying in Hendon with her cousin, James Henry Warden.  I wonder if she had come to help James and Elizabeth Rosetta with their growing family.  Before I made this discovery (Census 1891) I had no idea of the existence of another large, and thriving branch of the Warden family in Kent!

Clara (26), and Ada (24) were still at home in 1891. No occupation is shown beside their names in the Census, and they are both unmarried.  Their sister Ellen (29) did marry, but she too is living in the family home, with no mention of her husband’s whereabouts.  Alice (35) is no longer at home - perhaps she also married, and moved away.

William Warden (1815) and family 

Like his younger brother Robert, William did not stay in Laxfield for ever.  He too was drawn to towards the metropolis of London.  Did they set out together, full of ideas about adventure? - we shall never know, but a small amount of speculation is not out of place from time to time, I think.  It is very likely that there were no jobs for them on the lands worked by their father and grandfather in Suffolk.  So, in order to live, they were compelled to look for work elsewhere - and they would not be the first, or the last, to take the road to London. 

William married Ann Elizabeth Basstoe in Christchurch Spitalfields, in 1842.  In later years he liked to describe himself as a florist, but then he was a gardener, plain & simple.  Ann’s father was a mariner, and Ann was born in Limehouse (c.1821), in an area of docks and wharves, close by the River Thames. 

William and Ann had a large family of ten children, nine boys and just one girl!  They were:- William Smith b.1842; Sarah Ann b.1845; George Basstoe (1) b.1846; James Henry b.1848; Basstoe b.1851; Robert b.1853; Frank b.1855; Charles b.1857; George (2) b.1860 and Edward b.1861.  Perhaps it is remarkable that only one out of all these did not survive beyond childhood - George Basstoe died in 1852, aged 6. 

At the time of their marriage, William and Ann were living at 10, Lamb Court, off Red Lion Street in Spitalfields.  It seems very likely that they were staying with Ann’s mother, Kitty, and her second husband, George Smith.  William and Ann must have felt indebted to their relatives in some way, because they named their first son William Smith Warden.  He was born in North End, in the Parish of Fulham; so, shortly after they married, William and Ann must have moved westward across London, probably because William had found work as a gentleman’s gardener.  Sarah Ann was also born in Fulham, but George (1) and James Henry were born in Chelsea (3 Apollo Place).  By 1851 (Census) the family had moved again, across the river, to Surrey Place in Battersea.  Here Basstoe and Robert were born, and George (1) died. 

In the mid 1850’s, and with a growing family to support, William took the bold decision to set up in business on his own.  Was he spurred on by the success of his shoemaker brother Robert in Woolwich, or did he see that he could play a part in supplying the ever expanding metropolis of London with fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers?  Whatever the influence, the outcome was the Chestnut Nursery in Willesden.  Like the Kentish Wardens, this business was still thriving forty years later.  As mentioned earlier, William was born in Laxfield, Suffolk.  Imagine my surprise and delight, when I looked at the O.S. map of the village for the first time, and found Chestnut Tree Farm!  I doubt that William’s father owned that farm, but it does seem plausible that he worked there, and that his young family grew up there. 

In 1861 (Census) the Warden family were living at Hales Cottages in Walm Lane, Willesden.  Two more sons had been added to the family - Charles, and George (2).  Edward was born later in the same year.  James Henry, at 13, was old enough to make himself useful as a gardener’s boy in the Nursery, and Sarah, aged 16, was also no longer at home.  William S. at 19, had already left home to work elsewhere as a gardener. 

In 1871 (Census) we find the Wardens living at Mead Villas, recently built. 

I remarked that by 1861 William S. had left home. Ten years on he is the gardener and general servant at Broughton Castle, in Oxfordshire.  Of this you shall hear more, later.  Sarah (26), Basstoe (20), Robert (18), and Charles (14), were all working in their father’s Chestnut Nursery.  Frank (16) was absent from home - but he too was a gardener, and probably working elsewhere in the district.  George (11) and Edward (9) were still at school. 

Of the nine children who survived into adulthood, at least six spent their working lives as gardeners.  What was it then, that prompted James Henry to move into a totally different milieu, that of journalism ?  (I wish I had an answer).  In 1871 he was 23, and working as a clerk in the ‘Standard’ newspaper office.  (The Standard was a famous London newspaper).  He too had left home, and until he married in 1873, he lodged with his great friend and mentor, John Bonnett, a widowed gentleman farmer.  It could be that Mr Bonnett influenced James Henry’s choice of career.

The 1870’s and 80’s: A Decade of Marriages

The 1870’s saw several members of this large family marry, and in turn start their own families.  James Henry was the first to marry.  He was aged 25, and his bride was Elizabeth Rosetta Algar, aged 21.  They were married in Willesden Parish Church on September 30th 1873.  Next was the turn of William S.  He was the head gardener at Broughton Castle - seat of Lord Say and Sele - and quite naturally he married a local girl, Hannah Green.  She was from Tadmarton, just down the road from Broughton, and her father was the grocer and baker there.  William and Hannah, both aged 31, were married at Banbury Parish Church on May 25th 1874. 

Sarah Ann married Thomas Mellett in Willesden Parish Church on the 9th of May 1876.  She was 31, and he was a widower, and an engineer by profession. Thomas already had a little daughter, Jane, from his first marriage. In the Census (1881) their address was 37 Lowfield Road, Hampstead. It took a while to track Sarah and Thomas down, because of the misspelling of Thomas’s family name - he was entered as Mellott rather than Mellett.  But after much searching in the Public Record Office, I eventually discovered that they had three children, born in quick succession: Edward b.1877, Anne b.1878, James b.1879.  My delight in finding this little family was short-lived, because I then found that both the younger children died of respiratory diseases in December 1881, and so did their mother, leaving Thomas Mellett a widower for the second time, with Jane (6) and 4 year-old Edward to care for.  The Mellett family story does not end happily - Edward died in 1894, aged 17, and his father died five years later, in 1899 at the age of 68. For several years previous to this, Jane lived in an institution run by the Sisters of Mercy, St Mary’s Home for Girls in Brighton.

In 1879 there were two more weddings in the Warden family.  Robert (26) married Caroline Wing, and George, just 19, married Harriet Phillips. I have no details for Frank and Edward as they both emigrated to North America sometime after 1881. Charles married Ellen Lee on May 29th 1881 in Naumon Parish Church, Dorking, Surrey.  On the marriage certificate Charles gives his age as 29, and his bride was 26.  In fact he was only 24 ! Since we are only left with Basstoe, it is worth recording that in 1884 he married Fanny Fillmore, and they settled in Mitcham, Surrey.

Ann Elizabeth, wife of William (1815), died in 1878.  And so, sadly, she did not see all her sons married.  I wonder if she saw her little grand-daughter, Sarah Ann Warden, who was born in Tadmarton, Oxfordshire, in 1877; or her grandson, James William Warden, who was born in Broughton, Oxfordshire, in 1878.  She would have certainly known her first grandson, William Luck Warden, born in Kilburn in 1874, and her first grand-daughter, Mary Basstoe Warden (Auntie Daisy), born in Willesden in 1877.

The 1880’s 

Did William Warden (1815) look back on his thirty-six years of marriage with happiness, or a measure of satisfaction ?  It is to be hoped that he did.  He surely had much to be proud of.  While he must have been sad that his wife was no longer alive, and able to share his old age, he had watched nine of their ten children grow up and go out into the world.  In 1885 William would have been seventy years old.  Now a widower, he lived by himself in Chestnut Cottage (presumably next to the Nursery), although he did let out some rooms to a couple and their young son.  I do not know whether he scaled down his business, and managed the Nursery by himself, or employed people to do the work formerly done by members of his family. 

web_Warden W [1815]b

William Warden in old age.....

In 1881 (Census) William Smith Warden was still employed as the gardener at Broughton Castle.  Now that he and Hannah had a growing family, (by 1882 - Sarah Ann, 6, James William, 5, Alice Eliza, 3, and Charles Basstoe,1) they lived at the Mill House, not far from the Castle. 

James Henry was now well established in Hendon, as the founder and proprietor of a local newspaper, the Hendon Times.  His young family numbered three - William Luck (6), Daisy (4) and Rosa Elizabeth (1).  His wife Elizabeth had two young girls from the country to help her run the household - Mary and Kezia, both aged 16.  James’s brother Charles was visiting.  Perhaps he had come to discuss the arrangements for his forthcoming wedding in May.  Another brother, George, was boarding with the family, and it appears that James Henry had given him a job as a newspaper reporter. 

Frank (26) was unmarried, and living in lodgings at 3 Richmond Cottages, Willesden.  He could still, of course, have been working for his father at the Chestnut Nursery, but the Census doesn’t tell you everything you would like to know ! Edward (19) had also left home, and was living in lodgings at 2 Maygrove Road, Hampstead.  He too was a gardener.  At this point I was unable to trace Basstoe, or Sarah, but her story has been recounted above. 

The 1890’s

I imagine that William S. would have been reluctant to leave a good job and a fine house in the Oxfordshire countryside, to return to a village on the outskirts of London.  But some time after 1882, that is exactly what he did.  He must have decided to make the move in response to a plea from his father, because in 1891 (Census) there they all are, living at the Chestnut Nursery.  William S. now aged 48, gave his occupation as ‘Nurseryman - Employer’, while his father, aged 75, called himself a florist. 

James Henry and Elizabeth now had five children, and the family lived at Ravensfield Villas, just beside the Hendon Times Offices.  As mentioned earlier, Elizabeth Warden, their cousin from Kent, was staying with them, most probably to lend a helping hand.  There were also two general servants - Elizabeth (another one!) and Ann, aged  respectively 15 and 16. 

William Luck was now 16, and working as a newspaper reporter already !  Mary Basstoe (Daisy) and Alice Rodwell (Lallie) were at school (aged 14 & 6 ). Ellen (Nellie) was 4, and James Henry Bonnett was the baby of the family at just 8 months old.  Astute readers will spot the large age gap between Daisy and Lallie - very sadly their sister Rosa Elizabeth died in 1879, aged ten.  May (Moggie) was not due to arrive until 1892 !. 

Robert and Caroline began their married life in rented rooms in a house in Linstead Street, West Hampstead.  Their first baby was nine months old then, (1881) and fifteen other people, in two families, also lived in that house.  It must have been pretty grim.  Ten years on, Robert and Caroline also have seven children, but now they live at 2 Abbey Lane, Kilburn.  I think it will become too confusing if I recite all the names and ages of these little Wardens, but you may catch up with them by looking at the accompanying family trees. 

Charles, having married Ellen Lee in May 1881, made a new life for himself and his bride in the West Country.  Clarendon Park, just outside Salisbury in Wiltshire, is still a very large country estate.  I have been given a copy of a very interesting description of the gardens, written by a visitor to the Estate in the 1880’s - which was just when Charles Warden was starting out there as a gardener.  No doubt in those days a whole team of gardeners was employed on the Estate.  In the twenty years that Charles lived and worked on the Estate, he rose to become head gardener.  He and Ellen had four children, all born in Piper’s Cottage, on the Estate.  Her family must have been very sad, when Ellen died in 1899.  She was aged only 44, and she left behind Charles (jr), 16, Edwin, 13, Ethel, 11, and Bertha, who was only 5.  It must have been very difficult for Charles to bring up this young family on his own, and so it is hardly surprising to find that he re-married in 1902.  His bride was Elizabeth Mary Knight, the schoolmistress.  In 1905 they had a little daughter, Violet - and so this Warden family numbered five children. 

So far, I can tell you very little about the life of Basstoe Warden.  Like so many of his brothers, he spent his life as a gardener.  He did marry, but I do not know if there were any children.  Basstoe died, again at a relatively young age, 48, in 1898.  At the time he was living at Mitcham, in Surrey.  I expect that Mitcham, like Willesden or Hendon, was still a village, albeit on the edge of London.  Also, it is not so very far from Battersea, where Basstoe was born. 

Frank Warden’s life in the 1890’s must remain hidden from us, for the moment, simply because I could not trace him beyond the 1881 Census. His brother Edward mentioned in a letter that Frank emigrated to Ontario, Canada.  Frank died in San Francisco in 1908. 

Edward, the youngest son, would have been in his 30’s in this decade, and so it is very likely that he would have already emigrated to the U.S.A.  He wrote the occasional letter home - and one such has survived. He died in Orange County, Los Angeles, in 1942.

And that, for the time being, concludes this survey of the life and times of the Warden family across the nineteenth century.  There are of course, many unanswered questions, and problems still to solve.  All of you who read this may come up with questions that I haven’t asked, or make connections where I have failed.  Please do tell me - and meanwhile I shall continue my researches.  Once begun, this kind of family history project never ends.  Every minute, and every hour of each day that passes, you and I are adding to it - what a thought! 

Sheila Wood     January 2000  (revised 2019)

Postscript: a photo of 4 generations of the Warden family c1900. William Warden 1815-1912, his son James Henry Warden 1848-1920, one of his grandsons, William Luck Warden, and a great-grand-daughter, Grace Warden.

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