I don’t think I’ve noted on this blog (though I’ve done so by email) my thanks to Trevor Holtham, my second cousin in New Zealand. I wrote to Trevor earlier this year, having discovered his whereabouts thanks to some extremely helpful genealogical contacts in New Zealand. In June I was overwhelmed to receive a fat envelope from Trevor, which contained a letter, details of his own family history, and numerous family photographs and mementoes.

Looking at the photos of Trevor’s late grandfather, Thomas Bowman Robb in this collection, I was struck by the resemblance to my own paternal grandfather (his younger brother), Arthur Ernest Robb. Among the many photographs of family events in New Zealand, a couple of earlier mementoes caught my eye. Trevor included in his package a photocopy of a certificate presented to Thomas in 1895. It reads as follows:

School Board for Education

Tower Hamlets Division Betts Street School

Examination A.D. 1895

Presented by Mr. Francis Pechey (?) [surname is faded)

and the

Religious Tract Society


Thomas Robb


Excellence in Biblical Knowledge.

On the same photocopied page, there is a handwritten note, which I assume is from the reverse side of the certificate, though the date doesn’t quite match. It reads:

Thomas Bowman Robb

Age 6 years

January 20th 1893

They believed the Scripture and  the word which Jesus had said.

John II. 22

The Robb family was living at No. 3 Betts Street in 1888, when Thomas’ grandfather (my 2 x great grandfather) William Robb died. By the time of the 1891 census they were living in nearby Pell Street, home to the family of Thomas’ mother Louisa.

Another photocopied certificate is from the RSPCA and was inserted in a book presented as a prize to Thomas in 1900 for an essay on ‘Man’s Duty towards Animals’. A typewritten note below (presumably from a relative or teacher) reads as follows:

On May 5th 1900 at the Crystal Palace, Sir George, Lady and Miss White, distributed the prizes for the essays on ‘Cruelty to Animals’. This books is one of the prizes which was given to Thomas Bowman Robb, of Rutland Street School, Stepney, where Mr C.B.Blow is the headmaster. Lady White was the person who gave this beautiful book to him.

Rutland Street Board School (photo here) was in a road that I don’t think exists any more, off Sidney Street, in Stepney / Whitchapel.  By 1901, the family would be living in Kensington Avenue, East Ham, so this new piece of evidence suggests that they did not move from Stepney until late 1900 or early 1901.

A third interesting memento is a photocopy of part of the brochure / advertisement for the voyage of the R.M.S. Rangitane from Wellington, New Zealand to Tilbury, Essex, via the Panama Canal, in 1939. On one side there is a photograph of the captain and crew, and on the other a picture of the ship and an extract from the list of tourist ‘B’ class passengers, which includes Mr. T.B. Robb and Mrs. Robb. I mentioned in an earlier post that my father remembers travelling from East Ham to Tilbury docks to meet his Uncle Tom and Aunt Eva arriving for a six week visit. Given the sailing time to and from New Zealand, they must have been lucky to arrive home before war broke out.