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Three Generations



This is not the complete story of the Worsfold family of which we are part, but a kind of interim report on the results of our research so far. There is still a lot yet to be learned, and some mysteries to be unravelled, which with patience and time will, hopefully, be resolved.

The handing down of family names, particularly William and Henry, may make this narrative a bit difficult to follow, but I hope not impossible.

For the most part we have dates and places of where they were born, who they married and who the witnesses were. Finally where and when they died, and the cause of death.

However what were they like these long gone ancestors of ours ? Were they all respectable, hard working ,loving husbands, kind fathers good housewives and mothers?

This we will never know. What we can say, however, is that the times they lived in were difficult for working class families. To survive, let alone prosper, on low wages, crowded living conditions and poor diets, was a minor miracle in itself. Cholera and other epidemics ran through the country on a regular basis. The rich were not protected from these sickness, how much less so, the poor, underpaid, undernourished workers and their families.

Even if they were not all that could be desired, what can be said, is that all of them must have been hardy with a strength of character, which enabled them to persevere and bring up their families, against odds which today would be considered almost impossible.

Name Distribution

The International Genealogy Index (IGI) contains just over 1800 entries of Christenings in the 18th and 19th centuries for the name Worsfold and variants. Of these 1300 occur in Surrey (69 %), just over 350 in Sussex (18 %) and the only other large concentration is 120 in the London area (6.5 %). These events took place between the mid sixteenth century and the early 1800s

Civil Registration in England and Wales commenced on the 1st July 1837 and in the first 50 years of registration, there were 1350 children registered with the surname Worsfold or variations thereof. It is not always clear if these variations are the actual names used by the registrants, or misunderstandings on the part of registrars. However the consistency of the name Worsfield in Brighton, where there were 25 registrations of that spelling indicates that this must have been the spelling in use by a family in that area of Sussex.

The distribution of births as registered continues the pattern of the IGI events with 608 in Surrey (45 %) Sussex 237 (17 %) and the inevitable increase in London to 347 (25%)

Within these areas, the largest concentrations were, 198 for Dorking, 99 for Guildford and 97 for Reigate in Surrey, 103 entries for Horsham in Sussex with Wandsworth, (54) Lambeth (26) Whitechapel (24), Hackney (26) in London.

The Worsfolds

Great GreatGrandfather William Worsfold was born just over two hundred years ago.

* Before, computers, electricity, telephones, washing machines refrigerators and the like.

* Before steam ships, railways, airplanes and the motor car,transport was by sailing ship, barge,horses, and for the poor, walking

* When convicted murderers were hanged in public and the penalty for sheep stealing and many lesser crimes was deportation to Botany Bay.

* When there were still houses on London Bridge and the Thames could freeze over, and the population of London was less than one million people.

* When children as young as eight years of age worked in factories and down the mines and the normal hours of work frequently exceed 14 hours a day.

William Worsfold  (1797/1870)

William Worsfold was apparently born in parish of St. John Horsleydown about 1797. Who his parents were we do not know at this time as we have not been able to trace a christening for him so far. The parish records for St. John Horseleydown are not complete, however there are some Worsfold entries:


Nothing is known of the early life of William, however living close to the river as he did, he would have been affected by the normal events taking place there. The Thames was wider then that it is now, and was a lot busier commercially. Traffic on the river consisted entirely of sailing vessels and barges or lighters until 1815 when the first steam powered boat began operating. Even after that, steam and sail coexisted for many years.

There was a particularly hard winter in 1814, and this was the occasion of the last "Frost Fair" on the river Thames. At that time the piles of the old London Bridge were closer together, slowing down the flow of the river. Thus in really cold winters, the river would ice over and all kinds of activities took place on the ice. An 18 year old, unmarried ,William would have been an active participant

William married the 26 year old Rebecca Baldy at St. Olaves parish church, Southwark on Friday 25th April 1823. The witnesses to the ceremony were John Adams and Thomas Smith, so we assume that there were no members of their families present to act as witnesses. Both William and Rebecca signed the register in their own hands,

Rebecca was the daughter of Thomas and Philadelphia Baldy and had been born in the small Sussex village of Falmer, on 22 February 1797. Several generations of the Baldy family had lived in Falmer, and Rebecca's four sisters and two brothers remained in that area as far as we have been able to establish.

When or why Rebecca came to this part of south London, we do not know, however some entries in the Parish Registers for Falmer for Worsfold children being baptised there indicate that there may well have been a previous connection between the two families.

The adjoining parishes of St. John Horseleydown and St. Olaves, were riverside parishes in Southwark, adjacent to London Bridge.

William and Rebecca had five children as far as we know . The first child William, appears to have been born about 1826. He was followed by Henry in about 1832, then John, Sarah Rebecca, all of whom were baptised on Sunday 6th November 1836 at the church of St. John the Evangelist, Lambeth by the vicar, J. Saunders. Finally there was Philadelphia who was born on Monday 18th September 1843. It is most likely that there were other children, apart from John (1836/38) who died in childhood, however it is not easy to identify the children of particular parents from indexes.

Young William was probably named after his father and Henry could have been from the male line also, whereas John and Sarah were names often used in the Baldy family.



We do not know when they moved from Southwark to Lambeth, but it is likely that the demolition of large numbers of house in the vicinity of Tooley Street and around, in connection with the opening of the new London Bridge station in 1836, may have been the cause.

They could also have been affected by the reconstruction of London Bridge. The work for this went on for eight years between 1824 and 1832. The old bridge contained 14 arches which constricted the flow of the river, whereas the new bridge had only five.

At the time of the 1841 census, the family were living at Pear Tree Street Lambeth, and this is where, Philadelphia, was born.

Pear tree Street, was a short Street, near the junction of Waterloo Road and Lambeth New Cut. The surrounding streets had only recently been developed, having been previously an open marshy area, like much of Lambeth, actually below the level of the river. Also nearby was the Victoria Theatre, now famous as the "Old Vic", but at that time a somewhat seedy music hall.


On the 1841 census, William's occupation is shown as "oil & colour"and on later references as a warehouseman.

There was a Varnish factory situated on the corner of Cornwall Road and New Cut, Lambeth opposite Pear tree Street, which is possibly where William worked. Hours that people worked in those days were much longer than today and therefore living nearby would have made things a little easier.

The building of the railways continued apace. The railway companies were demolishing large numbers of houses, for the laying of the lines, and construction of stations, and although they had a legal responsibility for rehousing those displaced, they rarely did so adequately.

Waterloo station was opened in 1848 and by the time of the census in 1851 the Worsfold's had moved to 37 Brad Street, Lambeth, on the northern side of the railway line. The eldest son William was not shown as living at home on that census, however Henry was still at home and working at that time as a Porter, Sarah was a dressmaker and Philadelphia was shown as a "scholar".

We have not been able to trace any further census entries for William and Rebecca and their family

In addition to the changes taking place in the buildings around, there were changes too in the working conditions that William would have experienced. Under the Factory Act of 1850 women and young persons were not allowed to work after 2 oclock on Saturday afternoons, and as many factory owners considered it was not worth keeping open for less than half the workers, most adopted a Saturday half day

1851 was the year of the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and the discovery of gold in Australia, Whether either of these events had any impact on the Worsfold family it is difficult to say. However, they would almost certainly have been touched in one way or another by the cholera epidemic that raged through London and other parts of England in the winter of 1853/54. Over 10,000 people died in London alone, but another 20 years were to pass before any adequate steps were commenced to deal with the lack of clean water and sanitation, which was the cause of this scourge.

It has not been possible to trace the families' movements after 1851, although it is very likely that they did move, and possibly often. Rents were high relative to family income, so that is was often necessary to move in an attempt to either obtain cheaper accommodation or better quarters for the same rent.

Living conditions for working families at that time were of a standard, which today would not be tolerated by the poorest. Large families crammed in to two or three rooms, with little furniture and few facilities. Lack of internal water supplies was frequently the case and outside toilets, if they existed at all, was the norm.

The family could have been living at Foxes Buildings Southwark in 1861, as this is where Henry Worsfold's, daughter Rebecca was born, however the census returns for this area no longer exist.

At the time of Philadelphia's marriage to Charles Ponder in 1863, she was living at Russell Place, Southwark, and possibly other members of the family were there also.

It was at 6 Russell Place, Southwark that Rebecca died on Tuesday 2nd May 1865 of "Natural decay" at the age of 68. The death certificate shows the informant as W. Worsfold, but unusually does not indicate the relationship. This could therefore be either William the husband or William the son.

William lived on until 1870 when he died at the age of 78 on Sunday 18th December of Bronchitis. At that time he was living with his youngest daughter Philadelphia and her husband Charles Ponder, at 5 Hatcham Terrace, New Hatcham, one of the new suburbs that was springing up in south London. Although the informant of the death was William's daughter Philadelphia, his surname on the death certificate is spelled "Worsfield"

Second Generation


William Worsfold (1826/)

William was the eldest son of William and Rebecca. We have been unable to establish what happened to him after he left home. He is shown as being at home in Pear Tree Street on the 1841 census but is not shown on the 1851 census at Brad Street. The G.R.O Indexes show that there were seven William Worsfolds married in the London area during the time that William was of marriageable age, and he could have been any one of them.

Henry Worsfold (1832/1891)

Henry was the second son of William and Rebecca and had probably been born in Lambeth in about 1832. As this was before the commencement of civil registration, we cannot be certain of that, and his age was not shown on the parish register when he was baptised at St. John the Evangelist in 1836.

At home in Brad Street, Lambeth at the time of the 1851 census, he was shown as being aged 20 and working as a porter.

According to the Marriage Register, Henry was aged 24 when he married Margaret Keefe at the Catholic Chapel, Johnson Street, Stepney on Sunday 3rd February 1856. Henry was able to sign his name on the register, but Margaret was only able to make her mark. At that time Henry's home address was shown as 39 Old Gravel lane, St. George in the East.

Margaret was the daughter of Charles and Catherine Keefe and had been born about 1836. Charles and Catherine were of Irish extraction, and this is the probable reason for Henry & Margaret's marriage taking place in a Catholic Chapel, there being no earlier indication that Henry was a Catholic. The witnesses to the marriage were Jeremiah Crawley and Catherine Donovan. We have not been able to establish any relationship between the witnesses and Henry and Margaret.


Henry and Margaret had seven children, William (born 1856) Henry born 1859 but died 1862, Rebecca (1861) Hannah (1864) Charles (1871) Thomas (1874) and Margaret (born 1877 but died 1879)

All but Rebecca were born in the east end. She was born at 5, Foxes Buildings Southwark, which may well have been the address of Henry's parents, William and Rebecca at that time. Unfortunately the census for 1861 for that area has not survived.

As with his parents, Henry may well have fathered other children that we do not know of. Child mortality was almost of epidemic proportions amongst the labouring poor of those days, and few families were untouched by it. The poor living conditions and the lack of proper nourishment, due to low wages, made it inevitable that all but the hardiest of children were at risk.

Henry, does not appear to have had any training in any particular trade, his early jobs had been as a "porter" but what type is not clear, as this name is given to a variety of jobs at that time. During his married life he worked at various times as a dock labourer, labourer at a rope walk, a carman and as a tent fitter.

Henry's move from South London to the east end may have been related to the greater availability of work in the dock areas. However working in the docks provided a precarious living at best. Labourers worked in the docks on a casual basis and had to attend "the call" every working day morning in the hope of getting a days work.

There were always more men than jobs and the foremen who did the selection could choose those they liked or were related to and ignore the rest. This was a cause of considerable bitterness amongst the men.

The children's birth certificates gave different addresses, indicating that, as was normal for parents with increasing numbers of children, they frequently moved.

In 1856 they were living at 8 Well Yard, Aldgate. not far from Peters Court, Royal Mint Street, where Margaret was living at the time of her marriage.

In 1859 they were in Whitechapel, and by 1864 they had moved to 7 Walton Court, Cartright Street, Aldgate, that is unless they were actually living at Foxes buildings, Southwark when Rebecca was born in 1861, although this appears to be unlikely.

In 1870, the London School Board established under the Education act of that year made attendance at primary schools compulsory, but this was not the case in rest of country until 1880. Young Rebecca and Hannah would have been affected by this decision, if they were not already attending school.

In November 1871, for the birth of Charles, Henry and Margaret were living at 3 Cartwright Street, although they had not been there at the time of the census in March.

By 1879, they had moved to 113 Pennington Street, St. George in the East, which is where they were living when Margaret died on the Thursday 28th June of ptithisis.

The census of March 1881 shows Henry still living at 113 Pennington Street, with his widowed mother in law, Catherine Keefe, and his unmarried children William, Rebecca, Hannah and Charles. There is no mention of the seven year old Thomas.

Rebecca married William Noble Bragg in 1884, however he was not in good health and left her widowed in 1890.

Next door neighbours at Pennington Street were Alphons Eder and his children, which included Elizabeth, whom William married in 1885.

Hannah married William Groom in 1887, and it was with her and her family at 12 Mayfield Buildings, that Henry was living when he died on Friday 13th March 1891 in the Raine Street Infirmary. The death certificate shows that he died of Mitral disease-bronchitis. The certificate also records his age as 50, whereas he was at least 60 years of age in 1891.

Pennington Street lay alongside the London docks and the houses were dominated by the twenty foot high walls that surrounded the dock area.

 John Worsfold (1836/1838)

John Worsfold was baptised at the Church of St. John the Evangelist on 6th November 1836, along with his brother and sister, Henry and Sarah Rebecca. He is not listed with the family on the 1841 census so we have presumed that he was the John Worsfold who died in Lambeth in 1838

Sarah Rebecca Worsfold ( 1836/ )

Sarah Worsfold was baptised at the Church of St. John the Evangelist on 6th November 1836, along with her two brothers Henry and John. Ages are not shown on the parish register, however on the 1841 census she is shown as age 5. Like her brother William, we have not been able to identify a marriage for Sarah Rebecca. She was still at home in Brad Street, aged 15 , at the time of the 1851 census, and working as a Dressmaker. There are no Sarahs showing on the G.R.O indexes as having married and no Rebeccas that could be reasonably identified as being her.

We have been unable to identify a death entry in the indexes, so it may well be that she did not marry, but adopted another surname.

 Philadelphia Worsfold (1843/1909 )

Philadelphia was the last child, as far as we know, of William and Rebecca. She was born on Monday the 18th September 1843 at 19 Peartree Street, Lambeth and subsequently married Charles Ponder. They were married in the church of St. Mary Magdalen in the parish of St. George the Martyr, Southwark, on Saturday 4th April 1863. The witnesses to the ceremony were William Wheeler Ponder and Mary Ann Flinn.

Charles was a bookbinder by trade as was his father, also Charles Ponder.

Philadelphia and Charles began married life in Southwark, where their first child Charles was born in 1865. They later moved to New Hatcham, which is where Philadelphia's father, William died. Subsequently they moved to 9 Leo Street Camberwell, where they were living at the time of the 1881 census.

Eight more children were born to them , Alfred, Philadelphia, Catherine, Hannah, Alice, Wallace, Thomas and Lizzie.

Third Generation

William Worsfold (1856/1916)

William Worsfold was the eldest child of Henry and Margaret and was born on Thursday 11th December 1856 at 8 Well Yard, Aldgate. At the age of 27 he married 20 year old Elizabeth Eder in the parish church of St. Thomas, Stepney on Saturday 15th August 1885. the marriage witnesses were Alphons Eder and Hannah Worsfold.

Elizabeth was the daughter of Alphons Eder, a street musician and Elizabeth his wife, the daughter of Balthasar and Cressire Dietz.

They were to have nine children, Henry Claude(known as Harry, as all Worsfold Henry's were) Elizabeth, William Francis, Margaret, Louise, the twins Lily Mary and Rose, , Thomas and finally Rebecca (Becky)

William was a mat weaver by trade, working in the coconut matting trade, mostly in the east end, but on occasion travelling to find work.

At the time of their marriage, William and Elizabeth were living in Harford Street, Stepney, one at 87 and the other at 89. At least this is what it says on the parish register.

They later moved to Pennington Street, which is where they were living, at 112, at the time of the 1891 census, and next door to where William and his parents had lived ten years previously.

By 1900, at the time of the Birth of Lily Mary and Rose they had moved to 13 Cornwall Street, and by 1916 part of the way through the Great War they had moved to 13 Mayfield Buildings.

Williams sister Hannah and her husband William Groom had been living at Mayfield Buildings since prior to 1891 and presumably were still there at No 12 when William and his family moved in next door.

Mayfield Buildings were not a "buildings" in the normally understood sense, but a short terrace of two and three story houses. approached by an archway from Cable Street and sandwiched between there and St.Georges Street, now The Highway. It was also know as "Shovel alley", but not only to the inhabitants, as the enumerator of the 1891 census, also makes note of this fact. The court as it was also known was adjacent to Princes Square , which could be seen at an angle from the windows of No. 13.

William died in St. Georges Infirmary on Sunday 12th November 1916, from cirrhosis of the liver.. His age is shown as 56 on the death certificate, whereas he was actually 59.

Elizabeth his widow, was left with the care of two young children Thomas and Rebecca, and two working teenagers (although the phrase had probably not been invented then). She found it necessary then to continue working, which she did until over the age of 70. Surviving the rest of the so-called Great War, and World War II, despite being bombed out of Mayfield Buildings,during the blitz, she lived on to the age of 94, dying 26th July 1956. She was a most remarkable woman, who deserves to have her story told in more detail..

Of the children, Henry Claude, married Florence Nelly Worsfold, migrated to Canada, and had two children. Elizabeth (Lizzie) married Frank Durston and had a daughter Florrie. William Francis, married Louie Rowe, spent a life time in the insurance industry and had two sons. Margaret (Maggie) married William (Bill) Holloway and had three daughters and a son. Louisa (Louie) married Dan Walsh and had no children. Lily Mary married Ernest (Ernie) McKie and had eleven children. Rose never married, but spent a life time as a nanny, looking after "other peoples babies" as the old song goes. Thomas married Mary , they had no children, but were "Uncle Tom and Aunt Mary"to numerous nephews and nieces. Rebecca (Becky) was a nurse, where she met her husband George Arlsford, who was a male nurse.

Henry Worsfold (1859/1861)

Henry was the second son of Henry and Margaret and was born in Whitechapel in 1859. Sadly he did not survive beyond his third birthday and died in 1861.

 Rebecca Worsfold ( 1862/

Rebecca was the eldest daughter of Henry & Margaret, and was born at 5 Foxes Buildings Southwark on 30th May 1861.

At the age of 23, she married William Noble Bragg, a carman, in 1884. We have been unable to trace any children for them, and William died in 1890, leaving the widowed Rebecca, continuing to work as a matting sorter. She does not appear to have remarried.

 Hannah Worsfold (1864/

Hannah was the second daughter of William and Margaret and was born at 7, Walton Court, Cartwright Street Aldgate on Saturday 6th February 1864.

In 1887 Hannah married William Groom, a carman, and by the time of the 1891 census they had two children, William and Charles. They were living at 12 Mayfield buildings in 1891, and they also had their widowed sister Rebecca, and the two unmarried brothers, Charles and Thomas, living with them.

 Charles Worsfold (1872/

Charles was the third son of Henry & Margaret and was born at 3 Cartwright Street, Aldgate on Sunday 12 November 1871. At the age of 19, he was working as a cellarman, probably at one of the numerous local public houses, and living with his married sister Hannah and her husband William Groom at 12 Mayfield Buildings. On the 1891 census his surname is spelled Worsfield. What happened to him after that, we have yet to establish.

 Thomas Worsfold (1874/

Thomas was the last son of Henry and Margaret and was born in Whitechapel towards the end of 1874. He was the youngest of the family, and was only 14 when his mother died and 16 at the death of his father. He was fortunate in being able to live with his married sister Hannah and her husband after that. In 1891 he was shown on the census as being employed as a printers hand, and his surname was also spelled Worsfield. We have not traced a marriage for him thus far.

Margaret Worsfold (1877/79)

Margaret was the last child, as far as we know of Henry and Margaret and was born in 1877, but dying in the same year as her mother in 1879.

Mayfield Buildings in the 1920s

No 13 Mayfield Buildings, Grandmas house was one of the four with three floors-remainder of the Court as it was known (Shovel Alley by the residents) were very small houses, all terraced, just 2 rooms up and two down with small yard at the rear.

Mayfield buildings must have been quite old as No 13 had a spiral wooden staircase up to the top floor, the wall of which was tongued and grooved timber.

The ground floor consisted a narrow passage with a door on the right, which was grandmas room and on the right the spiral staircase. Past this was another door which was a coal cupboard, and then on to another door which lead down some steps into the kitchen and then another door which lead out to the small back yard, which contained a water tap, the toilet and a lean-to type shed.

Grandma's kitchen was smaller than the front room, containing a coal fire with a boiler for heating hot water. there was no water tap in the kitchen, a table under the window on the outside wall and Grandma sat in the corner next to the table and not far from the boiler. A few chairs, not forgetting a "cupboard dresser at the door side of the fire place, for crockery etc.

Up the spiral stairs to the first floor there was a small landing, a door into middle floor room, larger than the ground floor, and this was the room for my family. This contained two windows on the wall facing the court, a fire place with one gas jet and mantle above. It was an L shaped room with a smaller room off. At one time it was Uncle Tom's until he left to get married then our family had it for my brother Will Holloway. this smaller room was identical in size to the kitchen which was underneath. A Step went down into that room which had a fireplace and one window,.

Up a few more stairs was a small landing and door int the top room. This was the same size as the room below. This top floor room was also used by my family. It had two similar sash windows as the room below. In the far corner on the wall with the fire place was a shallow cement sink with only one tap of cold water. The fire place range had a small oven on one side and a small container to hold water for heating on the other

In the yard outside at the back, was a covered shelter, open on two sides, where my Mum recalls that her dad did his small jobs, i.e. repairing their shoes. On the back wall of the yard was a fair sized shed. I only saw this shed opened rarely as it housed furniture and goods from my parents previous home in Stepney Green.

Out of the kitchen door and turn left at the end of the kitchen wall, near the cold water tap, was the only toilet- a pull chain, wooden seat affair that was scrubbed regularly and very clean a(no toilet roll-only newspaper !)

You can imagine, everyone living in the house had very little space and privacy, but we were very young, and accepted it. The "square" was our playground. The few play items even had a caretaker.

Those were the days.

Vicki Futcher (Nee Holloway)


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