My great great grandfather William Robb (1813 – 1888) clearly saw himself as the guardian of the family’s Scottish heritage, despite the fact that he was born in Yorkshire and spent most of his life in London. It is thanks to William’s memorandum, written on 20th June 1880, that we know about his parents’ Scottish origins and their life before moving to England. On at least one occasion, William signed his name William Monteith Robb, thus preserving his Scottish-born mother’s maiden name, and he also honoured her in naming his first-born daughter, who sadly died when she was two years old, Fanny Margaret Monteith Robb.
William Robb would father fifteen children in all, five with his first wife Fanny Sarah Seager, and ten with his second wife, Marianne Mansfield Palmer. Both William and Marianne seem to have been keen to pass on the names of their respective parents and grandparents in naming their children. Marianne’s family were honoured in the names of their daughters Lydia Palmer Robb, Marianne Mansfield Robb and Rose Emma Tunstall Robb, and their son David Enoch Robb: Marianne’s father was Enoch Palmer, her mother Lydia Tunstall, and her paternal grandmother Ann Mansfield.
William and Marianne named their second daughter, born in 1857, Alice Martha Stormont Robb. Martha was the name of Marianne’s older sister, while ‘Stormont’ was a reference to the Robb family’s supposed aristocratic Scottish heritage. In his 1880 memorandum, William would write:
My mother Margaret Ricketts Monteith was the only daughter of John Monteith and Matilda his wife who was the daughter of Viscount Stormont who was engaged as well as my Father’s father in the affair of Prince Charles attempt to gain the crown 1745/6.
I’ve been prompted to re-visit the life of Alice Martha Stormont Robb, following a message via Ancestry from one of her descendants, whose DNA test results suggested that we share a common ancestor. Alice was born on 22nd February 1857 in Mile End Old Town, the second child of her parents’ marriage: her older sister Lydia Palmer had been born two years earlier in 1855, and William and Marianne were married the year before that. Two more daughters would follow in quick succession – Marianne Mansfield Robb in 1858 and Rose Emma Tunstall Robb in 1860. The 1861 census record shows the family living at 15 St Ann’s Road, Mile End. With William and Marianne are their four young daughters: Lydia, 5, Alice, 4, Marianne, 2, and Rose, 4 months, together with two of William’s children from his first marriage: Matilda Fanny, 14, and Charles Edward (my great grandfather), 10.
Victorian houses in Turners Road, Mile End (via Google Maps)
Four more younger siblings would arrive in the next decade: David Enoch in 1863, Eliza Ann in 1865, Gertrude Constance in 1867 and Alexander George in 1870. By the time of the 1871 census, the Robb family had moved to 31 Turners Road, also in Mile End Old Town. Alice was now fourteen years old. William and Marianne Robb would have two more children – Grace Amy in 1872 and Arthur Ernest S (Stormont?) in 1875. However, by the time of Arthur’s birth, Alice had left home.
Marriage to Alfred Newton Timpson
On 17th October 1874, Alice Martha Stormont Robb married Alfred Newton Timpson at Wycliffe Chapel in Philpot Street, Whitechapel. I’ve written about this chapel before: it seems to have been where my maternal 3rd great grandparents, William and Lydia Holdsworth, were buried in 1830, when it was still located in Cannon Street Road. And Charlotte Bowman, the aunt of Louisa Bowman, who married my great grandfather Charles Edward Robb, was buried there in 1854. Wycliffe was an independent – i.e. Congregational – chapel, and the choice of the chapel as a wedding location is a clue to the Timpson family’s religious affiliation.
The Robb family were, by this time, confirmed Methodists. William’s Scottish forebears had been Episcopalian. His uncle William, after whom he was probably named, was almost certainly an Episcopal minister in St Andrews, Fife, and I suspect that his parents, Charles and Margaret, retained their attachment to its English equivalent, the established Church of England, following their move to London. Certainly there is no evidence of Nonconformity before William’s marriage to Fanny Seager. We know that the Seagers were Nonconformists, and Fanny would be buried at Whitefield Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road. Shortly after Fanny’s death, William had their son Charles Edward, my great grandfather, christened at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Great Queen Street. It was almost certainly here that William met Marianne Mansfield Palmer, who would become his second wife. Marianne’s family, who originated in Staffordshire, were staunch Methodists and Marianne had been christened at the Methodist New Connexion Chapel in Longton, near Stoke-on-Trent. In time the Methodist tradition would be continued by my great grandfather Charles, who worked as caretaker to the Wesleyan Methodist Mission in Whitechapel. His son Joseph became a Methodist lay preacher, as did my own father, Peter Ernest Robb, the son of Charles’ youngest son Arthur.
Marriage between members of different Nonconformist denominations is hardly unusual. Although my father came from a Methodist background in East Ham, my mother had ties to the local Congregational church, which is where they were married and, indeed, where I was christened. After our move to Chelmsford, when I was a small child, we at first attended a Congregational church, but later transferred to the new Methodist church on our estate, where my parents are still active members. Fittingly, the church in East Ham where my parents were married is now a combined United Reformed (i.e. Congregational) and Methodist congregation.
Alfred Newton Timpson, the man whom Alice Robb married in October 1874, was eleven years older than her – he was twenty-eight, while she was only seventeen – and already a widower. Some time before 1870 (I’ve yet to find a record of the marriage), Alfred had married his first wife Caroline Maria (maiden name unknown), by whom he had two daughters, Isabella Jane Caroline (1870) and Caroline Beatrice Katharine (1872). At the time of the 1871 census, Alfred, described as a twenty-five-year-old commercial clerk, born in Tunbridge Wells, was living at 75 High Street, Shadwell, with his wife Caroline, aged twenty-six and originally from Mile End, and eight-month-old Isabella, born in nearby Ratcliff. Caroline Maria must have died shortly after giving birth to her second daughter, perhaps as a result of complications from childbirth.
The Timpson family
Alfred was the fourth of five children born to Henry Clare Timpson and his wife Eliza. Henry Timpson, a surgeon and apothecary, had been born in 1816 in Birmingham, the son of Thomas Timpson and his wife Elizabeth Deykin. The record in the Nonconformist register, which was not completed until July 1837, describes Thomas as the minister of Union Chapel in Lewisham, though at the time of his son’s birth he was apparently working as a goldsmith at Horse Fair, Birmingham. Union Chapel was Congregationalist, and Rev Timpson, who seems to have been a prolific writer of religious texts, composed a history of the Christian church in Kent which he included a detailed account of his own incumbency there, which ended in 1854 when he retired due to ill health. Henry Clare Timpson seems to have had one sister, Miriam (or Marian?) Elizabeth, born in 1820.
Photograph of 19th century Lewisham
Rev Thomas Timpson appears to have been married three times. His first wife Elizabeth – Henry’s mother – died some time before 1828, when the first of Thomas’ children with his second wife, Frances Kate Harvey, was born. Frances was the daughter of Robert Harvey, a Bloomsbury schoolmaster, and his wife Amelia. She and Rev. Timpson had six children together. At the time of the 1841 census they were living at No 1, The Retreat, in Lewisham village, with Marian, Thomas’ daughter from his first marriage, and their own six children. Frances died in 1848 and in the following year Rev Thomas Timpson married Maria Barnard from Kings Lynn in Norfolk. Thomas would die in 1860.
Henry Clare Timpson had left home a number of years earlier. On 28th June 1840 he married Eliza Jane Shrewsbury. Born in Ramsgate, Kent, in 1817, and christened at the Ebenezer Independent (i.e. Congregational) Chapel in the town, Eliza was the daughter of Edward Shrewsbury from Deal and Eliza Jane Billet of London. At some point the Shrewsburys moved to south London, where Edward, described variously as a secretary and a collector, and Eliza can be found living in Kings Row, Newington, in the 1841 and 1851 census records. Alfred Newton Timpson had three older brothers: Thomas Edward, born in 1841; Henry Shrewsbury, 1842; and Howard Clare, 1844. There was also a younger sister, Elizabeth Jane, born in 1847.
The Timpsons lived first at Grosvenor House, Mount Ephraim, in Tunbridge Wells, where Alfred Newton was born, and later moved to Albion Road in Woolwich. This was their address in May 1847 when Henry Clare Timpson, described as a ‘Chymist, Surgeon and Druggist’, was declared bankrupt. However, the 1851 census finds the family still living at Albion Road, where Henry is still working as a surgeon and apothecary, and they can still afford to employ a family servant. Henry’s wife Eliza died three years later, at the age of thirty-six.
Henry Timpson seems to have married his second wife, Jane Smith, before 1861, when the census record finds the two of them living in Cambridge Road, Bethnal Green. None of Henry’s children from his first marriage are with them. The eldest of them, Thomas Edward, now twenty, was serving as a private with the 18th Hussars at Aldershot. I’m not sure where his brother Henry Shrewsbury Timpson was in 1861, but ten years later he was lodging in Warkworth, Northamptonshire, where he was working as an ironmonger, a trade he would later carry on in Ealing, where he lived with his wife, Banbury-born Ellen Elizabeth Potter, and their children. The third Timpson brother, Howard Clare, joined the Royal Navy and in 1861, when he was still only seventeen, was serving as a ship’s steward’s boy on HMS Firebrand, which on the night of the census was said to be ‘at anchor at Carthagena, near Granada, South America’ (now part of Colombia).
As for Alfred Newton and his younger sister Eliza Jane, then aged fifteen and thirteen respectively, the 1861 census finds them with their widowed step-grandmother Maria Timpson and her two adult daughters, Amelia and Ruth, both of whom worked as governesses, at the Retreat in Lewisham. Alfred Newton was already earning a living as a merchant’s clerk.
Alfred and Alice Timpson: from London to Wolverhampton and back again
As mentioned before, Alfred must have married his first wife, Caroline Maria, before 1870, and she must have died before 1874, when he married Alice Robb. Thomas and Alice’s first child, Alfred Percy Timpson, was born in Walthamstow in 1875. He was followed by Spencer Cuthbert, who was born in Mile End in 1877. By the time their first daughter, Marion Alice Rose, was born in 1880, Alfred and Alice had moved from London to the Midlands. The 1881 census finds them with Isabel and Caroline, Alfred’s daughters from his first marriage, and their own children Alfred, Spencer and Marion, living at Vine Terrace in Wolverhampton. Presumably the move was on account of Alfred’s work: he is now described as an accountant and commercial clerk.
In February 1880, Alfred was the victim of a robbery. A notice in the Police Gazette describes how, at about 7.30 pm on 17th February, somewhere between Bentley and Walsall, ‘three men who cannot be described’ stole a number of items:
The Timpsons were still in Wolverhampton when their next child, Sydney, was born in 1882. Alice gave him one of her own middle names – Stormont – thus perpetuating the link with the Robb family’s supposed aristocratic past. Wolverhampton was also the birthplace in 1886 of Alfred and Alice’s son Wilfred, whose middle name Mansfield commemorated Alice’s mother’s family.
At some point in the next three years, the Timpson family must have moved back to London, where Alfred began to work as a stockbroker. In early September 1889, he was arrested and charged at Mansion House Police Station with ‘forging and uttering a false cheque’ for £500, with the intention of defrauding his business partner, Edward Wace. Apparently there had been ‘a good deal of friction’ between the two men. When the case came to trial at the Old Bailey, Alfred pleaded guilty, and although the court record says that judgement was ‘respited’, a separate source states that he was sentenced to three months in prison, ‘without hard labour’, from 21st October 1889. The same year saw another family misfortune: the death of Alfred and Alice’s son Alfred Percy at the age of thirteen.
Old Bailey court room (1897)
Alfred Newton Timpson would have been released from prison in time to witness the birth of his and Alice’s sixth child, Howard, on 17th April 1890. Once again, Alice honoured her family heritage by using her grandmother’s maiden name – Monteith – as a middle name for her son. Records state that Howard Monteith Timpson was born in the Wanstead area, and certainly by the time of the census taken in the following year, the family had moved eastwards to Leyton. Alfred’s spell at Her Majesty’s Pleasure seems not to have affected his career unduly: he was back working as a stock broker and ‘agent’.
The Timpsons’ final child, Annie Edith, was born in April 1892. Before Annie was four years old, her mother would die. Alice Martha Stormont Timpson née Robb was only thirty-eight years old when she passed away in June 1995. Six years later, the census of 1901 would find Alfred Newton Timpson, a widower of fifty-five, and working as an accountant on his ‘own account’, living at 51 Woodstock Road, East Ham, with Isabel, 30, a nursery school governess; Spenser, 24, a commercial traveller; Marion, 21; Sydney, 19, a ‘hatters manager’; Wilfred, 15, a pupil teacher; Howard, 10; and Annie, 8.
The children and grandchildren of Alfred and Alice Timpson
By 1911 the family had moved to 11 Newick Road in Clapton. In the meantime Alfred, now 65, had undergone another change of career. He is now described as a ‘limited company secretary’ and as an employer in the shoe trade. His daughter Annie, 18, is working with him as a ‘shoe trade forewoman’, as is Winnie Upson, 19, a visitor on the night of the census. Also still at home are Alfred’s daughter Caroline, 33, described as a housekeeper (presumably for her father); Wilfred, 25, a schoolmaster; and Howard, 20, a mercantile clerk for a soap manufacturer.
Marion Alice Rose Timpson had married Frank Alma Baker in 1903. Their daughter Alice Annie Alma was born at Southend in 1904, but by 1911 they were living in Cann Hall Road, Leytonstone. Frank was employed as a handyman in a brewery. In this record, Marion uses ‘Alice’ as her first name; an ‘Alice R.M. Baker’, who is almost certainly the same person, would die in Whitechapel in 1914. Frank died four years later (I wonder if were they both victims of the influenza epidemic?), leaving his effects in the hands of his father-in-law, Alfred Newton Timpson. Their daughter Alice married Peter John Peacock in 1929. He died at Waltham Forest in 1968 and she died at Pagnell Grange Nursing Home in Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes in 1998, at the age of 94.
Spencer Cuthbert Timpson had married Mabel Isabella Wood in 1905, and in 1911 they were living in Mortlake Road, Ilford. Spencer was employed as a clerk for a dry goods merchant. They had a son, Percy Arthur, aged four, presumably named in memory of Spencer’s older brother, and a daughter Margery, whose middle name – Stormont – kept the memory of the family’s noble Scottish heritage alive. Spencer Timpson died in Chatham in 1960, at the age of 83; Mabel died in Canterbury in 1978. Their son Percy married Winifred May Wills in 1934; he died in Torbay in 1978. Their daughter Margery married Jack Savidge in 1937; she died in Pontypool in 1995.
Sydney Stormont Timpson had married Daisy Ellen Hosking in 1909 and in 1911 they were living in Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, with their one-year-old daughter Daisy Denise. Sydney was still working as a ‘retail hatters manager’. The couple would have two more children: Iris Madeleine in 1912 and Anthony Gerald in 1926. Sydney Timpson died in Tonbridge and 1954 and his wife Daisy in London in 1958. Daisy’s will describes her daughters Daisy and Iris, the joint beneficiaries of her will, as spinsters. Daisy died in Paignton, Devon, in 1984 and Iris in the same area, in 1999. Anthony Gerald seems to have been married twice (unless I’ve misinterpreted the records): firstly, in London, in 1948, to Freda Young, and secondly in Poole, Dorset, in 1978, to Maria Spinola do Amaral. Anthony Timpson died in Torbay in 1984. It seems that the three Timpson siblings – Daisy, Iris and Anthony – lived in the same part of the country, and possibly even lived together, in the closing years of their lives.
The grave of Private W.M. Timpson, Poperinge, West Flanders, Belgium
Wilfred Mansfield Timpson served as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the First World War and was killed in action on 12th May 1917. He is buried in Flanders, Belgium.
Wilfred’s younger brother Howard Monteith Timpson also served in the conflict, in the newly-created Royal Air Force, but he survived. Howard’s service record mentions his wife, ‘E.M.Timpson’, though other records suggest that he and Ethel May Polley were not married until 1918. I think Howard may have been married twice, but I’m not sure. He died in 1963.
In 1913 Isabella Timpson married James W Brook in Brighton. Her husband predeceased her and Isabella died in February 1953 in Uckfield, Sussex.
The youngest of Alfred and Alice Timpson’s children, Annie Edith, never married. She died in October 1966 at the age of 73.
As for Alfred Newton Timpson, he died in 1921, at the age of 75.
Although much of this post, particularly on the early history of the Timpson family, is based on my own original research, I should acknowledge my debt to other researchers who have recorded their findings at Ancestry, and especially to my second cousin Michael John Robb, on whom I relied for information about some of the later Timpson generations.