Eliza Roe and the Walbey family

In my last post, I mentioned that my great great great grandmother Eliza Roe, nee Holdsworth, can be found in the 1851 census record working as a nursery servant in the village of Nuthampstead. This was six years after her second marriage, to John Sharp. In this post I want to say something about Eliza’s employers, the Walbeys, as a way of filling in some of the context of her life, and the lives of my other ancestors, in this north-eastern corner of Hertfordshire. But first a quick recap of the sequence of events that led Eliza to Nuthampstead.

Eliza Roe, widow of Biggleswade shoemaker Daniel Roe, married John Sharp at the church of St. George’s in the East, London, in September 1945. As noted in the last post, it’s likely that John was the widower of Martha Roe of Barkway, who had died in May of that year, and who might have been the sister of Eliza’s late husband Daniel. What’s certain is that John lived in the Barkway area before he married Eliza, and that the newly-married couple moved back there very soon after their wedding – and certainly by 1847 at the latest. As also mentioned before, in June 1847 John Sharp paid for his stepson, Richard Roe, to be apprenticed to carpenter and builder Nathan Warren in nearby Buntingford.

The 1851 census finds 50 year old master carpenter John Sharp living in Barkway High Street. He is said to be married, but is living alone. At the same date 46 year old Eliza Sharp, a married woman, described as a ‘nurse’ and ‘nursery servant’, born in Mile End Old Town, London, was living in the household of John Walbey in Nuthampstead, about a mile and a half from Barkway. John Walbey was 44, born in Barley, Hertfordshire, and a man of considerable property: he is described in the census as a farmer of 800 acres employing 33 men and 8 boys. His wife Emma, 37, was born in Furneux Pelham, a few miles to the south of Nuthampstead. They had three children: William, 10, Emily Jane, 7, both born in Barley, and Arthur George, 5 months, born in Nuthampstead.

Besides Eliza, the Walbeys employed two house servants: Emma and Mary Watson, aged 20 and 16 respectively, both from Barkway and both unmarried. These young women were almost certainly the daughters of George and Mary Watson, with whom they can be found in the 1841 census in the hamlet of Newsells, Barkway.  It also seems likely that George Watson was a relative of Lot Watson, who married Elizabeth Roe, probable sister of Martha. George and Lot might even have been brothers, and the children of William and Eleanor Watson, who appear to have had all their children – Mercy, Thomas, George and Lot – christened in Barkway on the same day in 1822.

So Eliza might have found her job with the Walbeys via her Watson in-laws, or alternatively the Watson girls could have obtained their posts through Eliza. As for the reason behind Eliza’s employment, it would appear that Emma Walbey might have fallen ill after the birth of young Arthur George in December 1850: she would die in December 1851, just 9 months after the census was taken. It’s possible, then, that Eliza had only been with the Walbeys for a short while.

John and Emma Walbey had not been in Nuthampstead long. Ten years earlier, at the time of the 1841 census, they were living with their newborn son, William Henry, in the village of Barley, where John Walbey was born. They had two family servants, Mary and Ellen Clarke – possibly another pair of sisters. Since their second child, Emily Jane, was born in Barley in about 1844, they must have taken over the farm in Nuthampstead between this date and 1850, when Arthur George was born.

I haven’t been able to find a record of John Walbey’s birth, but circumstantial evidence points to him being the son of Henry and Susan Walbey of Barley (The will of Henry Walbey, farmer, of Barley, who died in 1824, can be found in the Essex Records Office). They had five other children besides John: Henry, Samuel, Harriet, Susan and Robert Daniel.  I don’t know what became of Harriet and Susan, but John’s brothers were all, like him, farmers and substantial landowners. Henry Walbey married Mary Ann and farmed 460 acres in Wyddial. Samuel married Abigail Clark of Great Hormead and farmed 560 acres in Barley. Robert Daniel married Clara from Sandon and farmed 584 acres there, before moving to Hampshire where he continued farming while Clara turned her hand to writing novels.

Some confirmation that all of these wealthy farmers belonged to the same family can be found in the fact that they all named their properties ‘Bury Farm’ (except for Robert’s property in Hampshire, which he called ‘Walbey Farm’) – perhaps after an original family farm in Barley? For example, in the 1861 census John Walbey’s property is clearly named as ‘Bury Farm’. By this time, he was of course a widower, left alone with his children Emily, 17 and Arthur, 10. (His oldest son, William Henry, had left home by this date: he would marry Emily Walker and run the 340-acre Queenbury Farm in the village of Reed.) The Walbeys now had two new servants: Charlotte Bush, 48, and Eliza Nottage, 18. We know that Eliza Sharp (formerly Roe) was working for a different family – the Merrys – by this date, but we don’t know how long she had stayed with the Walbeys after Emma’s death.

In 1871, Emily and Arthur Walbey are still living at home with their father John. They now have three servants: Emma Philips, Eliza James and Fred (?) Dellow. They also have a visitor at the time of the census: Ellen Feast, 28, from Albury. Ten years later Ellen is living with the family as their housekeeper, and it becomes clear that she is John Walbey’s niece: probably the daughter of farmer John Feast of Patmore Hall, whose wife Sarah was born in Furneux Pelham and may have been the sister of Emma Walbey. Arthur is still living at home in 1881 and assisting his father in the running of Bury Farm.

In 1873 John Walbey’s daughter Emily Jane married brewer Henry Boon Clark at St. Mary’s church, Putney, though Henry was the son of farmer George Clark of Hyde Hall, Sandon. Emily and Henry would live in Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Hertfordshire and finally Yorkshire, where the latter’s brewing business – H.B.Clark & Co – is still going strong. They had a daughter, Eva Boon Clark, who is described in the census records as an artist and sculptress.

John Walbey died in 1888 at the age of 82. His son Arthur married in the following year, at the age of 38, but I haven’t been able to find a record for him in the 1891 census, so I don’t know if he continued to farm at Nuthampstead. At the time of writing, Bury Farm is still flourishing, though apparently it’s no longer owned by the Walbey family.

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2 Responses to Eliza Roe and the Walbey family

  1. Pingback: Eliza Roe and the Merry family « Martin Robb’s Family History Blog

  2. Melanie Jones says:

    Hello my name is Melanie Jones. My mothers maden name is Annette Walbey. Im a very light african american that looks mixed. My mothers father was wight looking with blue eyes. The blue eye have followed me threw my kids and my sisters. My grandfathers name was Harold B. Walbey Sr.

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