Joseph Cabell

Correspondence with Peter Travis re possible name for housing development between Chelsea Villa and Providence Cottage, Lower Street


I haven’t much info on these street names. I think the earliest mention I know of Farthing Row is on the 1805 draft survey of Road Hill. It does not mention Halfpenny Lane and there are no street names listed in the 1841 tithe survey.

The 1805 map does show that, at that time, this particular piece of land was owned by Joseph Cabell, as was most of the land (and many of the houses) between Rode Hill, Lower St., High St. and the Big Shard; so Cabell’s Court (Place) would be a reasonable historically based option. There is good evidence that in the latter quarter of the 18th century the lord of Rode manor was selling his manorial land holdings in this area and it is therefore likely that Joseph Cabell was the first freehold owner of this piece of land following the demise of Rode manor as an estate.

Joseph Cabell was baptised at St. Lawrence on 7th April 1760 and was buried at St Lawrence on 24 November 1827 aged 74

Any of the dates and/or the age could be a typo, or he could have had a late baptism. Unfortunately I have found nothing to confirm the information which came from transcripts of the parish registers..

There are three earlier baptisms (1744 to 1749) of children with a father of the same name, but the most notable info is that Joseph was baptised on the same day as his sister, Mary., only 11 days after the burial of his brother, Benjamin. So it is my conjecture that his age at death of 74 is correct and his baptism at the age of 7, with his sister, was triggered by the death of his brother, Benjamin.

Joseph’s father, Joseph snr., must have been quite well off as he is given the title “Mr” in the registers from 1749 till his death in 1762

Chapter 1.0

Robert Wheeler Cabell of RodeRefer to Our Cabell Family Charts 1 & 2

Robert Wheeler Cabell was the last son of John and Mary Cabell, nee Wheeler, of Rode in Somerset. His birth on the 16 July 1823 does not appear in any formal document of the time as the official registration of births was still fourteen years away. It has survived as a result of the diligence of Robert’s last daughter, Bessie Cabell, who kept a list of significant family events which her descendants have carefully preserved. Robert Wheeler was baptised at St Laurence Church[i], Rode on 9 October 1823. The three months that elapsed between birth and baptism may well be due to lack of interest on his parents part or reflect the religious dispute that existed in the family and rumbled on for over half a century.

The entry in the baptismal register provides enough information to identify that he was born in a little house in Lower Street in the Somerset part of the village of Rode. The house was owned by Ann Wheeler, Robert’s wealthy step grandmother, the third wife of his maternal grandfather Robert Wheeler and it is not too difficult to see why he gained the name Robert Wheeler Cabell which was probably diplomatic of his parents, for they were paupers, as the North Bradley disbursement book makes clear[ii]. The family almost certainly lived there by the ‘grace and favour’ of his maternal grandfather’s widow.

The cartographer who prepared the magnificent series of maps that, together with a detailed schedule, registered the tithe award[iii] for the Wiltshire parish of North Bradley[iv] included some properties in the adjoining Somerset parish of Rode. It is one of these in which Robert was born. The equivalent map and schedule for Rode shows the house in more detail and this has been reproduced on the North Bradley map. There were two separate houses one behind the other fronting onto Lower Street. The schedule with the Somerset map gives the properties the references 239 and 239a. 239a[v] was the house closest to the road and in the possession of John Cabell and others whilst the house behind was in the tenancy of T. Davies. Both were owned by Ann Wheeler[vi] who also possessed other property in Rode.

Little is known of Robert Cabell’s youthful activities until 1841 when the first National census took place. We can surmise with reasonable confidence that he joined his father, mother elder brothers and sisters, when his sister Rachel was baptised in Rode Hill Church, at the age of 19, on 15 August 1830, the daughter of John and Mary Cabell of Road, Somerset, weaver and would certainly have attended the celebrations two years later when she married Henry Keevil at Tellisford Church on the 3 December 1832. Henry appears to have had a tendency to tipple so the celebrations after their marriage would have been quite boisterous, but no doubt, they would have had a good time! The hamlet of Tellisford is a brisk half hours walk from the Cabell house in Lower Street and no doubt the family were in high spirits when they made this journey, and even higher when they returned! Henry Keevil was a dedicated Baptist whose lapses and faults are well recorded in the Baptist Registers. It may well be Henry’s rather patchy dedication to the Christian message that made Robert less than eager to join the Baptist cause in later life.

It is very possible that he attended the marriage of his sister Hannah and Daniel Crook at Farleigh Hungerford Church on 10 July 1836. This picturesque village lies below a steep hill upon which stands an impressive Castle, just three mile up the lane from Rode Mill past Tellisford. At that time Charles Morris, my other g.grandfather, and his brother Thomas worked in the cloth mill that lay immediately below the Castle. The marriage was witnessed by Robert’s brother in law, Henry Keevil so the festivities may well have been riotous. Another entry in Rode Hill Church registers records the baptism of Fanny Cabell on 13 August 1837, when Robert was 14 years old and he would certainly have attended the service. Perhaps it was at this formative age he realised that the Christian message was being used to separate his family with the male side, and in particular his father, being stoutly persuaded by the orthodox interpretation whilst the female side strongly rejected that view for alternative teaching of Rode Baptist Church. With the strong Leigh upon Mendip Methodist strain still inherent in the family it must have made for an uncomfortable life.

On 2 April 1841 the census enumerator of the first true census held in Great Britain visited Robert and his parents, John and Mary Cabell, who were living in Lower Street, Rode, in the Woolverton parish part of Rode. The enumerator left having filled in the Cabell details on his register sheet which recorded that Robert Cabell lived with his parents, John and Mary Cabell, all his siblings having left home by this time. The record also noted his county of birth as Somerset and that they were aged 15, 65 and 61 respectively, information that confirms Roberts date of birth in 1823, bearing in mind that the 1841 census rounded off ages to the nearest 5 years.

It would certainly be from this house that two years later his mother joined the Baptist procession to walk down to Rode Bridge and take part in a baptism in the water. On 27 August 1843 the Baptist Church Registers recorded the baptisms of six ladies and four men in the River Frome[vii]. What makes this event special is that, William Walter Wheatley, a well respected local artist, who was also a member of Rode Baptist Church and lived in Upper Street, sketched the event for posterity[viii]. Drawn from a position on the Woolverton bank of the River Frome[ix] William Walter Wheatley was recording the baptism of his second wife Emma Wheatley and he sketched it at the exact moment of her immersion. This picture forms the frontispiece to this work and is so well drawn that it has an almost photographic quality to it. However, it is of much greater interest to Cabell history that two of the five ladies in white dresses standing on the opposite bank of the river and preparing for their moment of immersion are my g-g-grandmother Mary Ann Cabell, wife of John and my g-grandmother Sarah Ann Morris, wife of Charles Morris, who was at that time nearly six months pregnant. I frequently look at the picture and wonder which of the many spectators on the banks and on Rode Bridge are members of the Morris and Cabell families and in particular which is Robert Wheeler Cabell. It is impossible to think that John Cabell, his son Robert, then 20 years old, and other members were not watching such an important event.

We come across Robert Cabell again six years later when on 25 December 1849, Christmas Day, he married Mary Ann Gibbs. Mary Ann was the daughter of John and Mary Ann Gibbs of Beckington, born on 28 September 1828. The ceremony took place in the delightful little Church of St. Laurence, Woolverton[x]. On the day of their wedding Robert Cabell was 26 and Mary Ann Gibbs, 20. The Rector Charles Glossop, who had been the incumbent at Rode since 1812, was in attendance at the service. Fortunately the National Registration of Marriages, Births and Deaths had been in operation since 1837 and so I have a handsome certificate that officially records the event. This gives Robert’s profession as a labourer and Mary as a servant and it is possibly for this reason that they were married on Christmas day which would be the only time they could get off from their employment. Both their fathers’ occupations are given as weavers which would be weavers of broadcloth the staple employment in the district and at that time still a cottage industry. Robert Cabell’s niece, Jane Cabell, daughter of his elder brother John Cabell, who was living in Frome at that time[xi], was one witness and the other was Edward Fricker, possibly a friend of the family.

I make no excuse for digressing at this point to imagine the happy couple leaving their parents house in Lower Street and heading towards Rode Hill or Mogg Hill was known at the time. Proceeding downhill[xii] towards the River Frome they would have passed the derelict site of Ledyard’s old dye works on the left[xiii] and pass over Rode Bridge, possibly pausing to look at the River Frome and the place where Robert’s mother was baptised into the Baptist Church six years earlier. Having reached the western end of the bridge and Whittakers Mill[xiv] on the left they headed up the slight hill and past Squire Batton-Pooles house on the right to reach the first stone built cottages of Woolverton and so out onto the Frome to Bath road probably busy with coaches and transport in those days as it is today and to enter the picturesque avenue[xv] that took them through the gate into the Church and so to the ceremony and their marriage.

Robert’s profession on the marriage certificate is given as labourer although in the later census returns of 1851, 1861, 1871 and 1881 he described himself as, a dye house man, wool dyer or dyer. There is no evidence that Robert served an indentured apprenticeship to the trade, which probably accounts for his profession on the marriage certificate, and we may conclude that, in common with many children at that time, he started work at the age of 9 or 10. It is possible that he worked at T.W.Ledyards dye works by Rode Bridge which lay just inside the Wiltshire parish of North Bradley[xvi]. If Robert did work at Ledyard’s dye works ,which was a mere five minutes walk from his home, then by 1841 he had to find another employer for it is known that this works had ceased production by 1835 when Robert was 12[xvii]. The Ledyard family were not only providers of employment to the local community, but also strong supporters of Rode Baptist Church. In the early years of the church the powerful family of the Clothier, Samuel Ledyard, and his four daughters exercised great influence and indeed subscribed large amounts of money to the welfare of the church. Thomas Whittacker Ledyard owned the mills by Whittakers Bridge and it is his house that appears in the W.W.Wheatley picture of 1843 and perhaps it is one of his daughters who is leaning out of the window and looking at the ceremony[xviii].

The site of Ledyard’s dye works is now an open field with no signs of buildings whatsoever but a green defile leading from the river Frome betrays its former use. This culvert appears clearly in the field as do the faint outlines of the buildings which comprised the works. From the tithe award map the site of the works can easily be reconstructed. This works processed the cloth woven by cottage industry workers, such as Robert’s father, John Cabell, at his house in Lower Street, from whom it was collected by clothiers who then took it to the dye works for processing or fulling. From there the cloth passed to one of the many cloth mills that existed on the Frome for final processing to be returned to dye works for shearing, the final operation. The Cloth Mill lay on the opposite side of the River Frome in Somerset and still stands there today, although it is now a splendid restaurant. In the dye works cloths were soaked in a most unpleasant solution of pigs dung and human urine to prepare them for their final process before sale in London[xix]. Considering that hygiene in the 19th century was of little interest to the labouring classes, we can only imagine what the Cabell house in Lower Street smelt like when Robert returned home after 12 or 14 hours tending the vats of dyeing solution!

It is more than likely that in 1849 Robert was a labourer in the dye house at the factory by Scutts Bridge, owned by James Taylor and Sons. This factory contained a dye house with all the necessary equipment as well as three drying racks along the river Frome. These racks were set up along the river bank and had the dyed cloth hung from them which are the origin of the saying, to be on tenter hooks. The factory continued in business until 1900 and would have given employment to Robert throughout his life at a time when generally the cloth trade was dying. At that time there was work enough for dye house men as just down the river at Shawford Mill, near Beckington; there was another factory which had substantial equipment for the business. Shawford Mill would only have been a few minutes further for Robert to walk to work. There is little doubt that Robert worked at Scutts Bridge or Shawford Mill as the next mill was downstream in Frome some five miles away and largely inaccessible to Robert. Both Shawford Mill and Scutts Bridge Mill operated until the turn of the 19th century.

As the son of John Cabell, who had his legal settlement in the Southwick Tithing of North Bradley[xx], Robert would also have had his legal settlement in North Bradley. The right of legal settlement was one of the provisions of the poor law, an act of Elizabeth I, that dominated the lives of all the poor in the Realm and this included Robert Cabell, the son of a pauper. Legal settlement entitled the pauper and his family to parish relief should they fall on hard times and be unable to support themselves. However it severely limited their freedom of movement for it meant that they were unable to live in any other parish without consent of the overseers of North Bradley, who would be required to sign a form to the effect that had Robert and his family fallen into poverty in another parish, then the parish of North Bradley would pay all costs relating to their maintenance. The result would be that they would be then removed from any other parish in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland back to North Bradley where the parish officers had a legal duty to care for them. The benefits of the poor law as far as Robert was concerned were that North Bradley would provide for him and his family by sending him to the parish poor house, which after 1834 and the poor law union reforms was located in Westbury. I was at first puzzled that Robert and his parents were living in a house in the parish of Rode, Somerset and hence the owner of the house, Ann Wheeler, was paying poor rates to the, then, separate parish of Rode, Somerset, whereas John and Robert Cabell were legal parishioners of North Bradley, Wiltshire. I think it possible that Robert’s father John Cabell would have had a certificate from the overseers of North Bradley allowing him to reside out of the parish. This is confirmed by a letter sent by the overseers of North Bradley to their opposite numbers in Rode, Somerset[xxi].

Religion and the Baptist church[xxii] played an important part in the Cabell family history. When Robert was born in 1823 his maternal grandfather, Robert Wheeler and his third wife Ann, were dedicated members of Rode Baptist Church as the many substantial contributions they made to Church funds makes clear. On the other hand, Robert and his father John Cabell do not appear in any of the Baptist records at this time, which suggests their allegiance to the Church of England, or more possibly lack of interest in any form of religion. Later when I address John Cabell and his parents in Leigh upon Mendip a strong Methodist influence can be detected and perhaps Robert shared the same religious convictions. With the maternal side of the family deeply and openly committed to the Baptist cause and the paternal side having opposite views, whatever they were, the seeds of a denominational conflict clearly existed at this time which were to come to a head later. The baptism of Robert’s mother into the Baptist Church in 1843 confirmed the religious divide that existed in the family for Robert’s father John Cabell is noticeably absent from any of the records, despite his eventual burial in the Baptist grave yard. The female side of the family, supported by Robert’s brother William and sister, Rachel, sided with the non-conformist church. This division lasted until about 1870 when Robert seems to have relented and finally attended Rode Baptist Church. However, he may not have had his heart in it as he never became a member, unlike Mary Ann his wife who was baptised in 1880[xxiii].

Robert and Mary’s first child, a daughter named Augusta, was born on 18 October 1850. There is no family reason for this name, indeed all their children were given names that have no precedent in the family, except, that is, for my grandmother Mary Ann who took her mothers name. This is strange for such a conservative time when it was common practice and often diplomatic to name the children after an aunt or uncle and invariably include the father and mothers name. Robert certainly did not conform to this tradition and never gave his own name to his sons. By contrast Charles Morris who was Robert’s contemporary gave his own name and relatives names to most of his children, and Charles survives in the family today.

The 1851 census records that Robert, Mary and Augusta Cabell, were still living in Lower Street, Rode although not in the house owned by Ann Wheeler where his parents still lived. It also records that Robert and Augusta were born in the Woolverton part of Rode. Eight doors along the same side of the Lower Street Robert’s elder brother William Cabell and his family lived. William Cabell and his wife were dedicated Baptists and members of the Church who some years later were involved in a strange dispute with that Church regarding the purchase of coal. This will be the subject of a later chapter[xxiv].

A year after the birth of Augusta, Robert and Mary had their second child, a boy, who they named Alfred. He was born on 4 May 1852 and his birth was registered at Westbury in the September quarter of 1852. This confirms that he was born in North Bradley on the Wiltshire side of Lower Street. The information on his birth certificate is confirmed by the 1861 census for Lower Street, where Alfred appears, aged 8. A year later in 1853 Robert’s father, John, died of asthma at the age of 78 and was buried in the Baptist graveyard.

When the census enumerator turned up to record Robert’s household on 4 April 1861 for the third national census, he found that Robert and Mary had been rather busy. Together with Augusta, aged 10, who was living in the house of James Morgan in Upper Street, he recorded, Alfred 8, Frank 6, Fred 4, grandmother Mary Ann 2 and Emma Cabell 3 month all living in Lower Street in the parish of Rode, Somerset. This may not be the same house in which Robert was born as they may have moved along Lower Street; it is difficult to be certain which house they lived in as house numbering had not been instituted. The places of birth of the children are all recorded as North Bradley except for Augusta and Emma whose place of birth are given as Rode. The census confirms that the family occupied at least two houses on Lower Street as well as one in Rode, North Bradley, since 1851.

The entry in the 1861 census shows that around 1851, Robert and his family had moved to a house on the other side of Lower Street. The unique administrative division of Rode[xxv] means that Lower Street was part in Wiltshire, in the Southwick tithing of the parish of North Bradley and part in the Somerset parish of Rode. Augusta was born in Lower Street, Rode, in 1851, whilst Alfred in 1852 was registered as being born in Lower Street, North Bradley. We know that the family moved back across the street by 1861 when Emma was born as she is recorded in the census as being born in Rode.

In the 2nd quarter of 1854, Robert and Mary registered the birth of Laura Cabell in Westbury but sadly on 6 August 1854 they buried their infant child in the Baptist Church Burial Ground aged 4 months. The death certificate for Laura exists in the September records of 1854. In the days when infant mortality was much higher than today, Laura was the only one of Robert and Mary’s children to die before reaching adulthood. Of the remaining children whose ages at death are known, Augusta lived to the ripe old age of 91, Alfred to 71, Fred to 78, Mary Ann to 82 and Bessie 78, ages that are impressive even by today’s standards. Further the daughters whose age at death I have been unable to identify due to their change of name at marriage all lived to at least 21 and certainly for much longer. This is a record that few other families of rural poor could equal.

The years from 1850 to 1860 appear to have been happy ones for Robert and Mary Cabell with children coming along at regular intervals and still surrounded by close relatives and their young children. The cloth industry was going through change but there was still sufficient work for a dye houseman and without first hand accounts of their daily lives it can be concluded that the Cabell’s were as happy as anybody else in the village and probably satisfied with their lot. The death of only one of their children at an early age suggests Robert could provide adequate food and home comforts to keep his young family in good health. Despite the apparent comfortable life there was a religious conflict within the family that may have been festering for many years.

When Robert’s mother, Mary, became a member of Rode Baptist Church in 1843, the pressure must have been intense on Robert and his father John to join as well; his grandfather, Robert Wheeler, after whom he had been named and in whose house he lived, had been a member of the church since 1807 and his grandmother Ann Wheeler, Robert Wheeler’s third wife, joined in 1815. To add to this his elder brother and sister, William and Rachel, now Rachel Keevil, had also joined Rode Baptist church in 1835. Robert, who seems to have preferred the established church of England, was thus surrounded by staunch supporters of the strongly Calvinist Rode Baptist Church. Such a situation must have caused friction.

It is possible that Robert’s brother in law, Henry Keevil, put him off the Baptist persuasion. He may have found Henry’s private life did not match up to the standards of zeal that was required from a member of that church. In Robert’s day the contents of the Baptist Registers were strictly private and for the eyes of members only, however from family gossip Robert would have known that Henry and Rachel had many faults which the Baptist Registers make all too clear.

Henry Keevil, who married Robert’s sister Rachel in 1832, was baptised in the River Frome by Rode Bridge on 26 July 1835 together with his brother in law, William Cabell. His sister Rachel Keevil joined at a ceremony held on 22 September 1840[xxvi]. This was not the first time her name had appeared in a local baptismal register for ten years earlier on 15 August 1830 she was baptised at Rode Hill Church Rachel Cabell daughter of John and Mary Cabell, of Road Somerset, weaver. This highlights the internal family religious conflicts that raged in the Cabell family.

From 1839 Henry Keevil was paying pew rent confirming his, outward, dedication to the Baptist Church and he continued to pay pew rent until his death in 1872. His wife Rachel survived him by ten years and was buried in the Baptist Burial Ground on 15 October 1883 aged 72.[xxvii] Despite the outwardly show of good righteous living, Henry and Rachel Keevil’s, lives in the church were not without problems. A later cryptic note under the record of Henry’s baptism relates:-

HENRY KEEVIL sent in his dismissal April 13th 1851 a good thing for the church, restored January 8th 1854 put out for having too much beer July 1852.[xxviii]

Rachel also had her problems as the register reveals:-

1856 Lords day March 2nd

After breaking bread the Church stayed as it had been said that RACHEL KEEVIL had taken butter from Mr STROADs shop without paying for it and it being the opinion of the Church after investigation being made it being resolved that the said RACHEL KEEVIL dismissed from the same.[xxix]

As with her husband an endorsement under her baptism record confirms that she was cut off for bad conduct which I assume was for the stolen butter incident.

About this time Henry Keevil was not attending church on a regular basis and so a Baptist commission was established to try to change his ways. Again the register records:-

Monday 8th of Sept (1856)

Brethren MORGAN and BAILEY to visit H. KEEVIL to endeavour to persuade him to attend more regularly and if he do not agree to do so that he will be considered no longer a member.[xxx]

Church meeting Tuesday October 7 ’56

  1. Brother HENRY KEEVIL having promised to attend better for the future resolved that for the present – he be allowed to remain in the church.[xxxi]

Henry Keevil seems to have repented his ways and from now on was a regular attendee at the church so much so that he was chosen to be a Deacon a decision that was quickly changed when it was discovered his wife, Rachel nee Cabell was not a member as a result of the butter incident earlier. The church register confirms the decisions as follows:-

At our church meeting on Sunday 17th January 1858 after agreeing as above on the previous lord day there were a large number of votes brought in for two members whose wives were not members, namely Brethren KEEVIL[xxxii] and CHIVERS, there Votes considering not good, Brother JOB PICKARD where chosen [xxxiii]

In 1857 Robert and Mary Cabell had four young children, Augusta aged 7, Alfred aged 5, Frank aged 3, and Fred aged 1. The question of baptism must have arisen many times over that period. In most cases the established church baptised shortly after birth, but the Baptist Church did not agree with this and baptised in adulthood. Thus after years of simmering religious tension in the home the seeds of a dispute were well and truly sown. As later events would prove Robert wanted to have the children baptised at birth, but he was opposed by his wife, mother, step grandmother, brother and elder sister and so the children were not baptised and the row went on. Things boiled up and came to a head in 1857.

The first indication that positions were being hardened comes from the Baptist Church accounts which record that in the March quarter of 1857 Pew rents for the quarter ending March 25th 1857 – Mary Cabell ten and a half pence. This entry is repeated in the June quarter but in September quarter she is joined in the accounts by her mother-in-law, also Mary Cabell, she now paid an increased pew rent of one shilling. So Roberts’s wife and his mother were spending what would have been a substantial part of the family income not committed to essentials. At that time an average labourers income, providing he could obtain work, was about ten to twelve shillings per week, the greater majority of which would have been spent on food and rent, leaving little to spare for luxuries[xxxiv]. Robert as the sole bread earner at that time was therefore supporting his wife’s religious beliefs which Robert clearly did not share.

It is probable that this increase in pew rent was the last straw for Robert for he took his four young children up Rode Hill[xxxv] to the new church[xxxvi] and had all baptised together! The church register records that on the 16 August 1857 the incumbent baptised Augusta daughter 7 years old, Alfred son 6 years old, Frank son 3 years old, Fred son 10 months old, of Robert and Mary Cable labourer. His wife’s and mother’s reaction to this are not recorded, but we may be sure that the Baptist Church would have been horrified to learn of the baptism’s of the children of two of its strongest supporters, and fee paying ones at that!

If the baptisms had any effect on family relations they did not last long, for in 1859 Robert and Mary had another daughter, Mary Ann Cabell, later to be wife of my grandfather William George Morris[xxxvii]. It seems that Robert’s mother and wife lost some of their zeal because after 1862 their contributions to the church ceased. It is possible that this absence was due to financial problems and they may have joined Roberts’s brother, William and Sister Rachel Keevil, in the pew they rented at this time.

The year after the birth of my grandmother, Mary Ann Cabell, saw the village of Rode swept to national prominence with a typical grisly Victorian murder which took place not more than 200 yards from the front door of Robert Cabell’s house in Farthing Row. The Kent family lived in the big house that stood and still stands on Rode Hill. On the night of 29 June 1860, Francis Saville Kent, the infant son of Edward Kent and his second wife, disappeared and was found later in the outside privy with his throat cut.[xxxviii] Edward Kent was an important member of local society and the official inspector of cloth in the district.

When dawn broke on 30 June 1860 and the village policeman had been notified the whole village set about a search for the child. This was not because the Kent family were well liked, quite the opposite they were disliked, and the village children would shout and jeer at them in the street, but because of a basic curiosity that affects all communities when something so horrible happens came into effect. I can be certain that the Morris and Cabell family were all involved and this most have made their normally dull lives very exciting for many weeks and been the object of discussion at many meals.

Father told me that many years later, c1890, when as a young man he worked as a gardener in Rode and his employer was a man named Benger who is mentioned in the book “the Saint with Red hands” as one of the two who found the hair of Constance Kent, Saville Kent’s younger sister, who eventually confessed to the murder and was imprisoned for many years before dying in a convent. Soon after the murder Constance had cut off her hair and fled to France to escape conviction. She was not hanged as most murderers were in at that time as there was a suspicion of doubt and today it is assumed that her father actually committed the murder.

The years following the murder of Saville Kent saw the births of four daughters to Robert and Mary; Emma 1861; another Laura 1863; Julia in 1865; and Bess or Bessie in 1869. There is no evidence that any of the children were baptised into the Church of England. That Robert had either been won over to, or maybe browbeaten into, his wife’s religious beliefs is shown in the records of the Baptist Church Sunday School. His son Alfred had already attended the Sunday school in 1862. This was only five years after his baptism at Rode Hill church which perhaps shows the date of the victory of Mary Ann Cabell in the family’s religious dispute. It is significant that Emma, Laura, Julia and Bess all appear later in the Baptist School records and were not baptised into the established church.

The Sunday school that Robert Cabell’s children attended was held in the small square stone building that fronts onto Upper Street, Rode, standing alongside the entrance to the main Baptist Church building[xxxix]. The School House, now a private dwelling, was erected by public subscription in 1837. One subscriber was Mr. William Cabell of the East India Company in London, the son of Mr. Joseph Cabell The Baker of North Bradley, who was descended from the Cabell family that originated in Warminster[xl]. It was Joseph Cabell who signed the application to the Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1787, together with nine other local worthies, seeking permission to found Rode Baptist Church. The school was being used by 1839 but the registers only survive from 1859. Alfred made his appearance there in 1862 at the age of 10 and remained on the register until 1873 when he was 19.

Frank, Fred, Michael Cabell’s grandfather, and Mary Ann, my grandmother, joined the School in 1863 and appear on the register together with Charles Morris’s children including William George Morris, my grandfather, and George Riddle, my grandmothers, second husband. The remaining children also joined when they were old enough[xli]. The records of the Sunday school show that Robert’s opposition to the Baptist Church was weakening. Whilst he was never baptised into the Church, and hence never became a member, by 1869 he was paying the Church for a pew. The accounts record that on the 25 March 1869 “One seat, Mr. Robert Cabell – 5/9”. Shortly after this appearance in the Baptist Church account book in 1869 his mother Mary Cabell died and was buried in the Baptist Graveyard. The burial register records “Mary Cabble October 31st 1870 aged 91 years. A member”[xlii]. Mary Cabell achieved a remarkable age for a women living in the countryside of Victorian England. For the rest of his life Robert continued to purchase his pew which demonstrates that after 1869 he attended the Church on a regular basis. His wife continued her attendance of the Church and on 26 September 1880 at the age of 51 she was baptised in the River Frome by Rode Bridge and became a member.

Robert’s decision to buy his pew in 1869 coincided with a period of strife in, what the Church records suggest, had previously been a happy group of people. Like all organisations the Baptist Church had its influential members, but unlike many institutions of the time, these were democratically elected individuals who were voted for by all members, both men and women. Over the years a number of wealthy local families had been dominant in the Baptist church as a result of their positions in society and their ability to put substantial sums into church funds. In the early days it had been the Ledyard family followed in the first half of the 19th century by the Greenhill family. By 1860, Joseph Carter, a local farmer, took over a leading role in the Church. On 11 December 1853 he had been transferred from the North Bradley Church and by 1858 was the most dominant person in the church. Probably because he was one of the largest subscribers to Church funds he seems to have wielded a lot of influence in the church. On the 20 February 1859 a visiting minister, J. Pearce, recorded his surprise at the number of exclusions from the Church.

As an individual and after examining this church book and as Parson of this church I must confess with surprise that I never did hear of an account of so many exclusions before, something must be awfully wrong.[xliii]

Although things seemed to have settled down for a nearly ten years by 1870 events took a turn for the worse. Money leads to a major rift in Rode Baptist Church at a time when Robert’s mother was a member of the church and would have been involved in all the decisions made. At that time the Church was experiencing a severe financial crisis as a result of the payments made to the minister. Previously the ministers who led the service on Sundays would sometimes travel from other parts of the district and the accounts record that sums were paid to accommodate them and, occasionally, pay for stabling of their horses. This must have been inconvenient and so, in June 1867, the Church members agreed to appoint Mr. Thomas Smith of Trowbridge to be their resident Minister. He started his ministry on 21 July 1867 which was clearly a happy event for the members and a recognition service was held with speeches from local Ministers. The highlight of the service was apparently when a new harmonium was placed in the Chapel. The registers record this happy event:-

Mr. SMITH commenced his stated labours at RODE July 21st 1867 a public recognition service was held Thursday 12th November 1867 about 120 partook of tea and the service afterwards. Mr. DAVIES of BATH took the chair and opened the meeting by giving a short description of the nature of the gospel church after which Mr. J. MORGAN JUNIOR narrated the circumstances which lead to the church to give Mr. SMITH the call to take the pastorate then followed Mr. SMITH relating his call by grace and call to the ministry with circumstances led him to become there settled. The Reverend W. RODAWAY of NORTH BRADLEY gave a very solemn and impressive charge to the ministry after which Mr. PARSONS of WOOLVERTON addressed the church giving them some excellent council caution admonition and a new Harmonium was placed in the chapel and used for the first time on this occasion.[xliv]

There can be little doubt that Robert and his family attended the celebrations and were joined by Charles and Sarah Morris. Charles Morris was caretaker of the Chapel at that time and the accounts for December 1867 show that he received £1 for his work and so was responsible for arranging the church before the meeting and clearing up the mess afterwards. The November accounts also show that everybody had a great time for Mr Smith was paid £10 for “gin money”. I think that the £10 included his salary, for £10’s worth of gin at that time would have left even 120 people paralytic. Still, there can be no doubt that everybody had a good time!

One of Thomas Smith’s first acts was to confirm in writing the remarks made by Mr. Pearce in 1859 when he added to the Baptist register his concern at the state of affairs and which he may have hoped to redress

I cannot be (but?) endorse and express the feeling and sentiment former pastor of this church Mr. F. PEARCE as being worthy of being written with ink instead of pencil that as an individual and after examination of the church book and as pastor of this church I solemnly confess with sorrow that I never saw or heard an account of so many exclusions before. Something must be awfully wrong somewhere.[xlv]

The accounts under “bills paid” record a payment to Mr. Thomas Smith of £7 for the September quarter 1867, followed by £10 for the December quarter 1867, £10 for the March quarter 1868 a sum he continued to receive up to 27 September 1870. However it comes as no surprise to read in the accounts that by the September quarter of 1868 the Church was in debt. In 1868 a committee was formed to “consider and determine upon matters that may transpire in the Church” and this committee seems to have taken over some of the power of the Deacons. This may in some way have been a reaction to the financial difficulties and may have contributed to the troubles of the following year. The simple financial facts were that the church could not afford to pay Mr. Smith. He did receive his quarterly payment of £10 in the June quarter 1870. This preceded the rift between Mr. Smith, and Farmer Carter, who together with his wife, were making the biggest subscriptions for the ministers salary. A dispute took place on 27 September 1870 at an evening meeting that would have been attended by Robert, his wife, mother Mary Cabell, and the elder children such as son Alfred. The events of that evening are graphically related in the Church Records.

But of all the Church meetings that I ever attended that on the 27th September 1870 was really ridiculous and disgusting. I never saw the like. Farmer Carter after absenting himself for several weeks got up to set aside the meeting and showed his masterful authority when crimination and recrimination followed so fast that fighting was anticipated. The women flew out of the Vestry and a midnight brawl followed.

We can imagine the brawl outside the Chapel and of course outside the Morris home at a time when Grandfather William George would have been 12. Similarly Mary Ann Cabell his future wife was living in Farthing Row and must have heard the tumult. I wonder what they made of it.

The conclusion to this unfortunate incident was that Thomas Smith’s ministry ended almost immediately. We find an entry in the accounts for the December quarter 1870 which records the payment of fifteen shillings for Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Stevens to “supply the pulpit”. After this time the accounts record more reasonable sums being paid to the minister as for example in the September quarter of 1871 they paid three pound nine shillings for his services.

There is an interesting sequel to this story. The former minister Thomas Smith seems to have been a friend of Squire Batten-Poole and wrote him a letter in which he voiced his opinions of the folk at the Baptist Church. This letter was included in a small book written by Squire Batten-Poole later[xlvi]. Smith wrote:

The scripture says, call no man master, but you know as well as I do that P……………[xlvii] on the Hill, and Farmer C………..[xlviii] are masters there – and of all the covetous, greedy, rapacious dogs, those in Road excel all I have ever met with…..

They want to grind me down to the lowest farthing, and bargain for the gospel as hard as they do over oxen and pigs, and it will be a wonder to me if God does not choke them with their cursed covetousness. Their hearts, says David, is as fat as grease, and they agree well together in order to keep each other in countenance…..

For a minister of the Church this does not seem a very Christian attitude nor is it turning the other cheek. Only Mr. Thomas Smith’s version of events have survived but at £10 per quarter the Church could not afford the cost of a resident Minister at a time when the cloth trade was waning and money was in short supply. Perhaps the church was unwise to appoint Mr. Smith in the first place at such a high salary but the situation could not have been allowed to continue and the action to dispense with him was the only one they could take.

The dismissal of Smith did not end the ill feeling which continued in the Church. A cryptic comment in the Church Register shows that the acrimony carried on outside the church when an unnamed member records “called Mrs. Smith an old whore in the street September 1870”. What this remark was made for we do not know, but after that event it appears the church resumed its peaceful existence. The good work it did even at this troubled time is demonstrated by an entry made on 2 May 1870; The committee wished the Deacons to bring the book and explain how much money was on hand for the poor and how it had been disposed of the last three years. The Baptist and other non conformist churches had for a long time been one of the major sources of support to the army of poor in industrialising England, demonstrating the true meaning of Christianity.

The Cabell’s must have been familiar with these events that caused such turmoil in the Baptist Church. When the census enumerator visited Robert and Mary in April 1871 they were in their new home in Farthing Row and he would have found a happy family who had settled their religious differences. The move to Farthing Row, in North Bradley[xlix], took place some time between 1863 and 1865 as the census recorded that Laura was born in Rode, Somerset, in 1863 and Julia in North Bradley in 1865. The household comprised of Robert and Mary with Alfred their elder son now aged 18 and a plasterer by profession. Frank aged 17 and Fred aged 14 were both employed with their father as cloth or wool dyers and still lived at home. With three employed boys the family income would have increased dramatically and this explains how their mother could afford to stay at home and make the payment for a pew at the Baptist Church. The remaining children, Mary Ann aged 12, Emma aged 10, Laura aged 8, may have been attending school whilst Julia aged 6 and Bess aged 2 were at home. All Robert and Mary’s children were attending the Baptist Church Sunday School in 1871 with the exception of Frank, who had left home and Bess who would have been too young.

With the exception of their elder daughter, Augusta, all Robert’s family were at home when the 1871 census was taken. In later chapter I shall relate the history of Augusta, Alfred, Frank, Fred, Mary Ann, Laura and Bessie in some detail, leaving just Julia and Emma. Emma moved to Bath where she married Ernest Durbin in the last quarter of 1886. I may be confident that they had a happy life for the records confirm that they had five children. Julia who I found as a domestic servant to a Mrs Parsons of South Parade Frome in the 1881 census at the age of 17, then moved to Bath where she is to be found in the census working for a Mrs A Mundy in Green Park, a most exclusive area, as a domestic servant. She married Frank Seaton in Bath in 1892 but I have yet to identify her burial.

The ten years that passed until the 1881 census were completely uneventful with Robert and his family attending the Baptist Church and the family gradually leaving home. By the time of the census of April 1881 only daughter Bessie remained with her parents in the house in Farthing Row. She was still at school and 12 years old. In this census Robert’s trade is recorded as a ‘Dyer’ and so was working at either Scutts Bridge or Shawford Mill. The years 1881 and 1882 brought bad news for Robert as his brother William died and was buried in the Baptist Graveyard. Six months later William’s wife, Sarah, was buried in Rode Baptist Church grave yard.

In 1890 Robert’s wife of 41 years, Mary Ann Cabell, died and was buried in the Baptist Graveyard. The Baptist Burial Register records this event “Mary Ann Cabell buried January 3rd 1890 aged 61. A member”. Her death was registered in Westbury in the March quarter of 1890 and the age is given as 61, accords with the Baptist records[l]. It can be safely assumed that all the family attended the funeral including my father Charles Stanley Morris then aged 8. This left Robert Cabell, a widower, a condition that he soon redressed by marrying Ann Stinchcombe in Rode Hill Church on 26 December 1890. The witnesses were my grandparents William George and Mary Ann Morris, Robert’s daughter, and no doubt my father and his brothers and sisters attended the ceremony and possibly the celebrations held in Farthing Row afterwards.

The census carried out in 1891 reveals that Ann Stinchcombe was born in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, and had probably arrived fairly recently in the village. The census found Robert and his second wife Ann living in Farthing Row. It also confirms that Robert was born in Rode Somerset and which can only be the house number 239a mentioned earlier. He seems to have been reasonably affluent for the census records that he was “living on his own means”. Some years ago I had a brief chance to look at the accounts book kept by an old lady, Miss Wolley, who lived on Rode Hill at that time. This recorded that Robert Cabell had purchased putty and other material to repair a window some time in 1890. So he had money to spare at a time when old age pension was not available and many old folk found a degrading end in the work house.

Ann Stinchcombe does not feature in the Baptist Church before the marriage so I do not know how Robert met her. She appears very briefly in the Baptist accounts after the marriage when she paid a subscription of one shilling to the Church and then on 25 December 1891 she made a contribution to the church of three shillings following which the records fall silent on the Cabell family until 24 June 1894 when Robert paid ten shillings for his second wife’s burial. The Burial Register also records this event “Ann Cabell buried June 11th 1894 aged 68 years (wife of Robert Cabell)”[li].

Robert Cabell survived his second wife by four years and was buried in the Baptist Graveyard on the 31 July 1898 aged 74 the 771st burial in the graveyard since its opening in 1787. His death was registered in Frome in the September quarter of 1898 and states that “Robert Cabell died at Rode [Road] in Frome Registration District on the 25 July 1898 aged 74. Formerly a Dyer. Died from senile decay and cardiac failure. Informant M.A.Riddle” which is consistent with his baptism in 1823 and the Baptist burial register. M.A.Riddle was my grandmother the widow of William George Morris[lii].

The only evidence suggesting that Robert ever left the village comes from the marriage certificate of his youngest daughter Bessie when she married Ludwig King at Camden Town Parish Church on the 29 March 1891. In the certificate he is given the red carpet treatment by being described as a “gentleman”, a term normally reserved for the higher classes and not a simple dye house man. He may well have attended the marriage in London but otherwise his only other excursions from Rode were to register the births or deaths of his children in either Westbury or Frome. Even this is in doubt for the two birth certificates available Fred and Mary Ann Cabell were both registered by their mother.

Robert Wheeler Cabell was born into an England that was far different from that in which we are privileged to live. As a member of the very lowest class and son of a regular pauper it was not possible to sink any lower in society for he was already at the bottom. Freedom, as we understand it,was something he could never have comprehended for his generation of the parish poor were the subjects of a very restrictive system that made absolutely certain that they were kept in their place in society, which was at the very bottom. With no democratic rights by which to change his condition and tied to North Bradley by the laws of settlement, he was not free to move to other places where work might have been available and so better his lot. In common with the other members of his class both in rural and urban areas he suffered from unsanitary and overcrowded housing, poor diet, insecure employment in the declining broad cloth industry, and the dread effects of sickness and old age, Robert Wheeler’s life was precarious to say the least. He lived under a despotic government which made his condition worse by introducing the Corn Laws in 1815 which artificially increased the cost of the poor person’s staple food, bread. To add to these burdens he and his compatriots in poverty were, by law, forbidden to form a union and by so doing agitate effectively for better conditions and a fairer society.

However it was due to the agitation of brave reformers, such as Henry “Orator”, Hunt, and the pressure of modern industrial innovations that by the time he died some of the many iniquities the poor suffered in 1823 had been removed. Robert Wheeler Cabell was given the right to vote in a secret ballot by the third reform bill of 1885 and he was no longer bound by the laws of settlement. That his freedoms were dramatically less than those we enjoy today should not hide the progress society had made over his 74 years, a progress hard won from reactionary forces. None the less his generation started the movement for universal freedom which was taken over and further enhanced by the next generation including my father, Charles Stanley Morris, who by their constant agitation dragged England into the modern world and a welfare State. We have Robert and his class to thank for starting that movement.

The records of the Baptist Church enabled me to paint a fairly detailed picture of Robert Cabell and his family, their life and in particular their religious dispositions. Due to the generosity of our second cousin, Debbie Stimpson, of New York, I have a photograph[liii] that, whilst unidentified, is almost certainly that of Robert Cabell. The general features match those of his daughters Bessie and Mary Ann as well as my grandmother, Mary Ann Morris. It shows an elderly man, well dressed, with an intelligent face. After writing his history this is how I imagine him.

Chapter 1.1

Augusta, daughter of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Augusta Cabell was the first child of Robert and Mary Cabell, born on 18 October 1850, when the family were living in Lower Street, Rode. The 1851 census records Augusta, six months old, living in the same house with her parents. She was not immediately baptised but on 16 August 1857, together with her young brothers, Alfred, Fred and Frank, Augusta was taken to Rode Hill Church where they were baptised together. Ten years later when the 1861 census was taken Augusta, aged 10, was living in Upper Street, Rode, with James Morgan and his wife Adelaide, a shopkeeper and employed by them as a “domestic servant”. The Baptist influence can be readily identified for James Morgan and his father, also James Morgan, were regular subscribers to the Church. James Morgan was also the son of Cecilia Morris, the first wife of James Morgan, hence my g.g.g.Aunt[liv].

Perhaps as a gesture of reconciliation to the rest of the family Robert allowed his children to attend the Baptist Sunday School. The registers commenced in 1859 when Augusta would have been 9 years old and may also have been expected to attend with the rest of her siblings. The fact that Augusta fails to appear in any of Rode Baptist Church records suggests to me that she decided at an early age to stay with the church into which she was baptised and eventually buried. The little I know about her tells me that she was a person with an independent spirit and the four photographs[lv] of her confirm this view.

Some time between 1861 and 1871 Augusta moved to London to take up the position of a “General Servant Domestic” with a well established family. On 4 April 1871 Augusta was living in a house in the exclusive area close to Kewford Road, St Johns Grove, Richmond, Surrey, which lies just alongside Kew Garden, where she served Benjamin, Frederick and Elizabeth Neville. Whilst the father Benjamin was 60 and a retired warehouseman his son Frederick aged 30 was listed as “Probate Division Her Majesties High Court of Justice” which suggest that he had a good profession with an income sufficient to employ a servant and live in a prosperous part of London.

Augusta returned to her home village to witness the marriage of her brother Alfred Cabell and Mary Ann Morris, the elder sister of my grandfather, William George Morris, which was held at Rode Church on 5 August 1879. She returned to her employer in Kew Gardens and continued to serve him until at least 1901 when she appears in the census of that year.

The earliest surviving photograph of Augusta was taken about 1885[lvi]. The studio where it was taken may have been in London where she was working or in Trowbridge where several other family portraits were taken. This was the age when personal and family portraits were very popular and photographers throughout the country were in demand for work that is often of outstanding quality, blending old style painted portraiture, with the modern means of quick production. Cameras of the day used very slow emulsions and so the subject had to stand quite still for often many minutes. Whoever took the photograph of Augusta Cabell has produced a truly outstanding image of a beautiful young women, dressed in the best style of the day, and emitting an aura of calm confidence. This is no country bumpkin but, in an age when women had few social privileges, one that has great self belief. Looking at this photograph makes me wonder why Augusta never married for surely she would have attracted many suitors.

Augusta’s profession in the census returns is lowly, being a cook or servant to the Neville family which contradicts family tradition that claims that she was a teacher but this is perhaps the family trying to impress other local families by promoting Augusta to the profession. It is possible that when she returned to Rode she became a teacher. Father claimed that when his mother Mary Ann Morris, widow of William George Morris, married George Riddle in 1895, Augusta Cabell was disgusted with her younger sister’s choice of second husband and felt that she had married beneath her – very Victorian. “Whatever her station, Michael Cabell tells me that Augusta was always known as “Aunt Gus” and was highly regarded in the family for her probity”.

Six months after the census of 1901 Augusta returned to Rode, possibly only temporarily, for the second surviving photograph of her was taken in October 1901 at Houlton Brothers Studio, Trowbridge. By now she was 50 and the portrait, again sensitively done, shows her in all her finery. Fortunately the reverse is endorsed “Augusta Cabell Oct 1901” This photograph shows only head and shoulders but another, which was probably taken about the same time reveals a more mature lady and is again an excellent example of portrait photography of this age.

That Augusta was in contact with her brother Fred is demonstrated by another surviving photograph of Fred’s daughter, Ethel Alice Cabell, born 1882. The photograph is undated but shows a very attractive young lady of about 20 years. The photographer’s name, Houlton Brothers, is just barely observable at the bottom. Perhaps Ethel was staying with Augusta at that time in Farthing Row, Rode.

Easter day 1910 found Augusta in Banbury where she attended the marriage of her niece Hermia Mina, known to the family as “Daisy”, Cabell, Fred Cabell’s daughter who married Frederick John Hermon King at the Wesleyan Chapel, West Street, Banbury. The photograph of the wedding party[lvii] was taken outside number 13 West Street, Banbury. Augusta is the small lady standing on the front row at the extreme right of the picture. At that time Augusta was still working as a “cook & domestic” in London where she is to be found in the recently released census of 1911. A year later on 2nd April 1911 she was working for the son of her employer in 1871, Fredrick Neville at Langham House, East Twickenham.

Augusta, Daisy and Bessie Cabell, Augusta’s younger sister, remained in contact until at least 1924. By that time Bessie was living in New York and it is due entirely to the care of these precious family archives by her great granddaughter, Debbie Stimpson, that they have survived to give a brief but enduring glimpse of Augusta, Roberts’s eldest daughter.

Little else is known of her life after this other than from a conversation with Mr.Tolman who was the caretaker of Rode Baptist Church in 1980. He remembered as a young boy about 1920 that a “Miss Cabell” lived in the white house in Farthing Row which lay just opposite his house in Upper Street. Mr Tolman’s memory of Augusta Cabell is confirmed by the entry in Christ Church burial register which records that “Augusta Cabell buried 3rd March 1942 of Farthing Row aged 91”.

Despite the male side of the Cabell family being at best resentful members of the Baptist Church, the female side of the family were strongly committed Baptists and so it is strange that there is no evidence that Augusta was ever persuaded into the Baptist Church. The is no record of her attending the Sunday School, although this may be due to the loss of the registers before 1860, and she does not appear in any of their other Baptist records and so I must conclude that she shared her fathers secret religious preference by attending the established church all her life at Christ Church on Rode Hill.

There are large gaps in this history of Aunt Augusta which may never be filled, in particular – when she returned for good to live in Farthing Row, did she make a will, and what made the family believe that she was a teacher? Unfortunately it is unlikely that any of these questions will ever be answered for all the people who knew her are dead and even Mr Tolman, the caretaker of Rode Baptist Church for many years had only the vaguest memories of her when she lived in Farthing Row. However from Mr Tolman’s memories I can be reasonably sure that she lived in the house where her father Robert had died. This would suggest that he owned the property and it was passed down to his eldest child in his will. Unfortunately I have been unable to find such a will to confirm my suspicion.

Chapter 1.2

Alfred, son of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Were it not for a chance meeting with the late Miss Jo Uncles, of Trowbridge, the g-granddaughter of Charles Morris my great Uncle, I would know very little about Alfred Cabell the eldest son of Robert and Mary Cabell born in 1852 other than his attendance at the Baptist Sunday School and his marriage to Mary Ann Morris in 1879. He was living in Bath when the 1881 census took place, a carpenter by profession. His death certificate shows that he died in Bath in the 1st quarter of 1924 at the age of 71 and probably spent his whole life there. Mary Ann Morris was the seventh child of Charles and Sarah Morris born when the family were working in the district of Melksham Forest in 1853.

Miss Jo Uncles of Bradford upon Avon was the daughter of Edith Elsie Morris and granddaughter of Charles Morris, who was born in Limpley Stoke in 1850, the son of Charles Morris of Rode. Hence there is another blood connection between the Morris and Cabell families. Miss Uncles had a small pocket diary that belonged to her grandfather Charles Morris. Dated 1882 it gives some insight into the events that concern Alfred Cabell, who was living in Bath with his daughter Thomsina and wife Ann [Annie]. Miss Uncles also has an excellent photograph of Charles as well as his brother Fredrick and sister Sarah Julia Morris[lviii].

On 8 April 1872 Charles Morris, elder brother of William George Morris, married Mary Ann Drew Dando at South Stoke Church, near Bath. The marriage certificate records that Charles, a boot maker aged 22, and Mary Ann, a spinster, aged 23. The witnesses were Alfred Cabell and his future wife Mary Ann Morris. Charles and Alfred had clearly been friends from boyhood, attending sunday school together, and events seven years later show the close relationships that continued from the Baptist Church sunday school through to Alfred’s marriage in 1879 and to the events recorded in the diary in 1882. It is sad to record that close friendship ended abruptly in 1885 with the death of Charles at the age of 35.

The 1871 census found Alfred still living with his parents in Farthing Row, aged 18 and a plasterer by profession. The census records that he was born in North Bradley which is consistent with all the earlier information. When he joined the Sunday school, Mary Ann Morris, daughter of Charles Morris my great grandfather, had been in attendance since 1859 and so it is no surprise to discover that they were married at Rode Church on the 5 August 1879. The witnesses to this marriage were Charles Morris, who could have been my g-grandfather or more likely, his son Charles, Augusta Cabell, Alfred’s elder sister and essential prerequisite at any family occasion, and a friend James Packer. By this time Augusta may have been working in London where I found her in the 1881 census and probably had a few days off to attend the marriage. Maybe she travelled back to Rode using the Great Western Railway which was at that time on the broad gauge of Brunell.

Alfred Cabell appears in the 1881 census living at 8 Westgate Buildings, Bath, aged 28 and stated to have been born in Rode, Wiltshire, hence in the North Bradley part of Rode. His family consisted of his wife Annie Cabell aged 27 and his daughter Thomasina Cabell aged 4 months. He had changed his profession by this time and was now recorded as a carpenter as opposed to that in the 1871 census when he was a plasterer. Given the growth of Bath at that time there would have been plenty of work for him in either profession.

The first entry in Charles Morris’s diary that mentions members of the family was made a year later on Thursday 18 May 1882 when Charles records cryptically “Went to Bristol and Bath, Alfred Cabell ill”. It seems that Alfred Cabell was at death’s door two days later for Charles Morris’s diary records that on Saturday 20 May 1882 “At home till evening mother (Sarah Morris) and myself went to Bath Alfred Cabell dangerously ill stayed with him all night. Had his will made”. It is curious that whilst Alfred’s father and mother, Robert and Mary Ann Cabell, were alive at that time living in Rode they did not see fit to visit their terminally ill son and instead left it to his step mother and step brother to deal with these matters. However, Alfred seems to have recovered somewhat for on the following Thursday Charles records that “Very rough had a cold not very well. Went to Bath and Bristol seen Cabell”. The diary is unclear at this point but clearly Alfred has survived the crisis that nearly took his life.

By Sunday 6 June 1882 Alfred had made an amazing recovery for the diary records that “Alfred Cabell and myself[lix] walked to Road but tired. Father and myself went to Corsley Longleat [in Wiltshire] Walked from Road early this morning left half past four (the next few words are indecipherable) went to Bath walked from Hinton”. The remaining words are unclear but Charles presumably meant Hinton Charterhouse to Bath as the next few words are unclear but Alfred’s sister Julia, was involved some way. Rode is about ten miles from Bath along the present B3110 which passes through Hinton Charterhouse. This is a very hilly route and such a walk would be strenuous for a fit person and impossible for one who was terminally ill only a few days previously! Similarly the 14 mile return walk to Corsley whilst being very pleasant is also quite taxing. Bear in mind that Charles Morris, father, was 74 years old at the time and despite being a boot maker Charles would not be able to make a pair of walking boots as comfortable as today’s high design boots. So we must conclude that the Morris family were very fit and well at that time.

I have yet to find Alfred in the 1901 census but I am sure that he was still living in Bath and I have no information that would bridge the gap between June 1882 and his death in 1924 although I am sure he appeared in the 1891 and 1901 census. However due to the redoubtable Bessie Cabell a photograph of Alfred’s grave has survived[lx]. The headstone tells us that he died on the 18 April 1924 at the age of 71.

Chapter 1.3

Frank, son of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Born in North Bradley on 5 October 1854, Frank was living with his parents in Rode when the 1861 and 1871 census was taken. The last positive identification of Robert and Mary Cabell’s second eldest son, Frank, was at his marriage to Maria Noad, the daughter of John and Prudence Noad, in 1875. Frank and Maria were married in the Parish Church of St. Augustine The Less in the City of Bristol on 4 July 1875 by the Vicar, J.C.Price. The witnesses at their marriage were Thomas and Ann Brown. Frank gave his place of residence as “College Green, Bristol” and trade as a carpenter. He confirmed that he was the son of Robert Cabell of Rode, labourer, and Maria stated that she was the daughter of John Noad of Rode. Although his name appears in Rode, Christ Church, baptismal register when his only daughter Rose[lxi] was baptised in 1883 there is good reason to suspect that he may not have been present at that ceremony. After that he simply vanishes from the records and even his burial has yet to be identified. However the circumstances that may have led to his disappearance give me a rare opportunity to add to this history a sparkle of excitement and even mention of Royalty, which makes a change from the dreary tale of poverty.

In April 1881 the census enumerator visited the house of the Noad family in Upper Street[lxii]. John Noad’s next door neighbour was Thomas Morris, the elder brother of my grandfather, William George Morris, who passed away in that house in 1893 and lies in the Baptist Grave yard opposite. The enumerator recorded the occupants as John Noad, a familiar name that has already been mentioned in this history, a butcher aged 61, living with Prudence his wife. At the time of the census their son, Henry Noad, and their granddaughter Susan Noad were in the house. What attracted my attention is that they had their daughter Maria Cabell aged 29, of “no occupation” and granddaughter, Rose Cabell aged 3 years were living there as well. The census records that Rose Cabell was born in Bradford on Avon.

Rose was the daughter of Frank Cabell, son of Robert, and Mary, who was baptised at Christ Church, Rode Hill on 26 August 1883 at the age of 6, having been born on 25 May 1877 at Trowbridge Road, Bradford on Avon. Baptising children well advanced in years at Rode Hill Church seems to have been a curious Cabell habit, with the children of John Cabell, senior, and Robert already mentioned.

Rode Hill Church baptismal register also records that Frank was a carpenter and reveals that Maria had an illegitimate daughter called Susan who was baptised on the 28 March 1880, then aged 10 years old. So Maria Noad was 18 when Susan was born. I can be sure that this is the Maria Noad who later married Frank Cabell as the entry notes “now Cabell”.� Maria’s illegitimate daughter was born in 1770 but there is no mention of the name of her father. One can imagine the gossip in the village over that event – have you heard!

Whatever the feelings of Rose’s family in Rode may have been, shortly after her baptism in August 1883 she was sent by her Uncle, Henry James Noad, to London to attend St Katherine’s School of Embroidery in Queens Square, where she developed a life long aversion to sewing! The census returns for 1891 and 1901, the last to be published, record the whereabouts of Rose. In 1891 at the age of 13, she was living with the family of William L. Task, a butcher from Wiltshire, in Bermondsey Rear Road, Southwark, London. Rose was employed as a “general servant domestic”, presumably doing the chores for his wife and five children. Being a butcher Rose’s employment may well have been arranged by her family. By the time of the 1901 census Rose had obtained employment much closer to Rode. It is also possible that she was sent to London because several of her relatives were living in London at that time. Between 1881 and 1891 Augusta, Fred, Mary Ann, Laura and Bessie Cabell moved to London and they may have been instrumental in getting Rose her first work.

In April 1901 Rose is to be found much closer to home living in the home of Anne Jane Kendrick in Walcote, Bath. She was aged 23 and described as a “Housemaid” looking after the three members of the Kendrick family. Unlike the 1891 census that recorded her place of birth as “Somersetshire” in 1901 her place of birth is given as “Wiltshire, Bradford on Avon”, a fact that leaves no doubt that Rose Cabell was the daughter of Frank and Maria Cabell.

Maria Cabell appears in the 1901 census when she was living on her own in Beaconsfield Lane, Bradford on Avon, aged 48, hence born 1853. Here again I can be sure that this is Maria the wife of Frank Cabell as her place of birth was recorded as “Somerset, Rode”. The census records that she was “Living on own means”. Thus she was living fairly close to her daughter, Rose, which may also explain why she cannot be found in the 1891 census. It is my view that she may have been living in London near her daughter. Despite much research Frank Cabell’s final resting place has yet to be identified and it is the same situation with his wife Maria’s. Her descendants record that Rose received a letter from Maria, then living in America, which she destroyed. Thus she may well be buried there but the American records have failed to provide any information. A Maria Cabell died in Bath Workhouse in the first quarter of 1914 aged 65, hence born c1849 but her certificate gives no conclusive evidence to confirm that she was Frank’s wife. So both Frank and Maria’s final resting places remain unknown.

Rose Cabell was born on 25 May 1877 in Bradford on Avon and by simple deduction Frank would have been with his wife, Maria, nine months earlier in the Autumn of 1876. This is the last positive date that can be reliably associated with Frank Cabell. No more children are known from his marriage with Maria Noad and he cannot be found in any trade directory or the 1881, 1891 or 1901 census returns. He simply vanished into the ether. Where did he go? – well as I shall detail later his descendants believe that he and later Maria went to America. Searches of American immigration records have failed to identify them so it is possible he went elsewhere or even lived in England under a different surname.

That is as far as I would have been able to get had it not been for kindness of Wendy Maddox, a friend of Miss Nancy Orchard, the daughter of Daniel James Orchard, born Keevil, Wiltshire, and granddaughter of Rose Cabell of the 1881 census. Wendy not only provided most of the foregoing information about Frank, Maria and Rose Cabell, for until she made contact with me the extent of the information I had only allowed me to compose two small paragraphs which were insufficient to warrant a chapter. Now Nancy has kindly allowed me to include family tradition which greatly enlightens this history.

As I think I have already mentioned, Frank Cabell was a Carpenter when he married Maria Noad, but after their marriage Maria’s father John Noad, a Butcher of Road (Rode) set Frank up in a business as a Pork Butcher in Trowbridge Road, Bradford where it is likely his meat was supplied by John and his son Henry who had their own slaughterhouse.

Maria was always a bit “flighty” and had an illegitimate daughter, Susan, when she was about 18 years old. She liked the good life and was good at dancing, according to the family she once danced with the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria) at Rode Manor. We have read somewhere that Countess DeSalis, wife of a French prisoner of war, was lent the Manor House at Rode, and held dances there. Charles de Gaulle is said to have regularly danced with the local ladies, so perhaps this was where the Prince of Wales was when Maria danced with him. Because her father was a local businessman who probably supplied the Manor House with meat, this may have been the reason Maria was invited to the Manor House for the dances and because she was a good dancer she was probably an asset to the parties.

Returning to Frank Cabell – even after her marriage Maria used to go off on her own and leave her husband, but according to the family she did this once too often, and when she came back Frank had sold up the Butcher’s business “lock, stock and barrel” and as far as we can make out he was never heard of again, certainly we haven’t found him in any of the Census returns from 1881 to 1901. This was when Maria returned to live at her parents home in Rode.

Even in the 1881 Census when Maria was living with her parents she did not work and is listed as having “no occupation”. By the 1901 Census Maria is living alone in a room at 8 Beaconsfield Road, Bradford on Avon, where she is listed as “Living on her own means”. Where did she get her money? When her father died, along with her two brothers she had a third share of his estate which only amounted to about £210, so her share would only have been about £70. We can only speculate from where she got enough money to live on! Of course £70 would have been quite a lot of money at that time, but it wouldn’t have lasted for ever!

Wendy also provided me with details Rose’s life after she returned to the West Country. Rose was living in the Twerton, a district of Bath, with her half-sister, Susan, and it was there that she met and married James Orchard on 31 March 1902 in Twerton a district of Bath. James and Rose had four children and to show that she had inherited the Cabell longevity gene she died in 1969 at the age of 92! We shall never know what happened to her father Frank or perhaps her mother but it is most pleasing to record that her life after she married was long and happy.

When reading the history of Maria Cabell that has survived in family tradition it should be remembered that freedoms in the Maria’s time were not what they are today and so such evidence from that time must be read with a full understanding of social conditions in the late 19th century context. At that time women had few, if any, rights in a male dominated world that considered them second class citizens, but a few men rejected this view and I am proud to say that my father, Charles Stanley Morris, was one of them. A dedicated Wesleyan Methodist, he was a life long supporter and champion of the poor and women’s rights. What little I know about Maria Cabell makes me think that she may have had the same enlightened ideas my father held, which would have put her on a collision course with the views of her contemporaries and no doubt her immediate family. With this in mind it is clear that Maria Cabell was a lady with an independent spirit which may have been the reason why she acquired a rather rebellious image in her family tradition.

Chapter 1.4

Fred, son of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Fred Cabell was born on the 14 November 1856, the third son of Robert and Mary Ann Cabell. His birth certificate confirms that the family had moved across Lower Street in Somerset into the Wiltshire parish of North Bradley, which is why his birth was registered at Westbury. As with the birth of my grandmother Mary Ann Cabell the birth was registered by his mother Mary Ann, formerly Gibbs. He was baptised into the Church of England ten months later with his three siblings in Christ Church, Rode Hill on the 16 August 1857[lxiii].

Having lived with his parents in Farthing Row, Rode, North Bradley, when he worked in the same trade as his father, Robert, Fred left home some time between 1871 and 1876. He next appears in London where, on the 24 October 1876, aged 20, he married Marian Douglas at the District Registry Office, Brook Green, Hammersmith, London. He confirmed that his father was Robert Cabell, a Dyer, thus completing the link back to Rode. The witnesses at the wedding were Marion’s relatives, Thomas and Elizabeth Douglas, who were living in Woolverton, Warwickshire, at that time. Augusta Cabell does not appear on the certificate which is odd as she was working in London at that time.

The 1861 census gives yet more confirmation of the London – Warwick link for I found Thomas and Elizabeth Douglas, the witnesses to the marriage, were living in Woolverton, a small hamlet about eight miles from Warwick. They had four children one of whom was Marian aged 7, which accords very well with the age she gave in Warwick twenty years later. I noted that Thomas Douglas was 59 years and his wife Elizabeth 40. Elizabeth would have been 20 in 1861 when Marian was 7, so she could not have been her natural mother.

Now I come to another little family mystery for Fred or Fredrick William appears in the 1861 and 1871 census returns as “Fred” and this is how he was known when he was baptised at Christ Church, Rode Hill in 1857 and it is how he was known in the Baptist School Registers and more significantly in the general list of births and also later in his death certificate which recorded that “Fred Cabell died on the 31 July 1935 of cancer at 7 West Street, Grimsbury, Banbury, Oxfordshire aged 78, formerly a carpenter”. Indeed in his birth certificate he is also referred to as, “Fred”, so it was with some surprise that he appears in his marriage certificate as “Frederick William Cabell”. His grandson, Michael Cabell, said that he had never heard of him being called anything but “Fred” and thought that Fredrick William may have been an affectation for the purpose of the wedding. However there can be no doubt that Fred and Fredrick William was the same person a fact that is confirmed in the 1881 census.

Some time between 24 October 1876 when he married Marian Douglas in London and the census taken on 4 April 1881 he had moved from London and was living in Cherry Street, Warwick. The census recorded that he was 25 years old, a carpenter and was born in Somerset, but strangely does not give the parish. His wife Marian was 27 and born in Warwickshire at Woolverton. By that time they had two children Robert and Lily Anne, aged 4 years and 6 months respectively. That this Fred is the Frederic William married in London five years earlier is confirmed by his son’s place of birth which is recorded as “Middlesex, Fulham”, a fact that ties up exactly with the marriage. Fred and Marion Cabell had eight children[lxiv], in all, of whom seven survived to adulthood with the exception of Edith Maud who died in infancy at Warwick and from the places of birth it can be seen that they moved from Warwick to Banbury some time between 1887 and 1891.

An indication that Mary Ann Cabell and her elder brother Fred Cabell kept in touch is given by the choice of the Christian name, Percy Victor, for their sixth child who was born on the 2 August 1887 whilst they were living in Warwick. He died in 1955 at the age of 68. On 17 August 1880 William George Morris and his wife Mary Ann, nee Cabell, had a son who they also named Percy Victor. They were living at 1 Mount Pleasant Road, Crouch Hill, London at that time. Sadly their son Percy Victor died on 3 May 1885 and I am sure that Fred and Marion named their son after him. A later contact was recalled by an Aunt of Michael’s who remembered meeting Mary Ann Riddle, as she was then known, in Coventry about 1935.

Whilst the contacts between Fred and my grandmother, Mary Ann Cabell, are tenuous Fred’s daughter Hermia Mina, known to the family as “Daisy” was keeping up a robust correspondence with her aunt Bessie who by this time was living in New York. She even had a special card printed to celebrate Christmas 1910[lxv]. Other evidence of that close relationship has survived in a number of family portraits that Bessie and her descendants kept of Fred’s family[lxvi]. The number of photographs of Augusta suggests that she too may have been in correspondence with Bessie.

This contact has continued with Michael Cabell, our second cousin in New York, Debbie Stimpson and I working together on this history, a fact that should please the sternest critics among our ancestors. Harold Frank Cabell was Michael’s father born on the 19 January 1891 at Banbury. Michael now lives at Newbury and has two children Charlotte and Julian who have now children of their own to continue the Cabell line. Michael recalled meeting his grandfather Fred Cabell on one occasion when Fred was near to death he lived only two doors away in West Street, Grimsbury, Banbury. He lived at No. 7, we lived at No. 9. I was only seven and only interested in the coin he gave me. I wish I had paid more attention. My grandmother, Marion, I remember as a sweet old lady, before she followed Fred, fifteen weeks later. Marion Cabell died on the 13 November 1935 aged 78 of bronchitis and myocarditis.

Chapter 1.5

Mary Ann, daughter of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Mary Ann Cabell, the second daughter of Robert and Mary Cabell, was born on the 13 January 1859 but was never baptised into the established Church. Living in Farthing Row at that time and hence in the parish of North Bradley, Wiltshire, she was taken to Westbury by her mother and her birth was recorded by the registrar, Edward Singer, on the 22 January 1759. Like most of her siblings she attended the Baptist Sunday School into which she was enrolled in August 1863 and then continued to attend until she left in 1773 at the age of 14. It was there that she met my grandfather William George Morris and started her long association with that church which only ended when William George died in 1891 and she then married George Ruddle (or Riddle), another member of the church, and they soon left to live in Coventry with her sons, in the hope of a better life.

My father kept a small photograph[lxvii] taken at the studios of F.W.Dyer in Trowbridge in 1872, showing Mary Ann standing by William Strickland. The 1871 census of Rode records that William Strickland, aged 15, was living with William Riddle and his family, including Mary Ann’s future second husband, George Riddle, a few doors up the street in Marsh Lane, virtually next to John Noad, Maria Cabell’s father. Mary Ann was 13 years old when the photograph was taken which from her appearance looks about right.

Not long after her photograph was taken in Trowbridge Mary Ann left the Baptist Church Sunday School and bought the Family Bible which I still have. She records on the inside front cover that she bought it ‘from her first savings at the age of 15 years’ and paid £3 for it, which was a large sum of money at that time. In her hand but somewhat less assured she wrote nearly 68 years later, ‘This Bible was saved in the Blitzes of Coventry 1940 – 1941’. After their marriage in 1879 all the entries were made by her husband William George Morris in a cultured neat hand. The last entry in this hand records the birth of their last son William Edward Morris “Uncle Ted” in 1889.

The Bible records that William George Morris and Mary Ann Cabell were married on the 26 July 1879 at St Johns Church, Brownswood Park, South Hornsey by the Reverend George Birchett Latrielle. There were two witnesses present at the ceremony, the redoubtable Augusta Cabell, Mary Ann’s elder sister, and Frederick Morris, William George’s elder brother. Augusta was in service in London at that time and so Fredrick must have travelled up from Rode for the ceremony and almost certainly using the Great Western Railway broad gauge from Trowbridge. A marriage certificate will exist but the details in the Family Bible are so accurate and full that I find no need to obtain one.

Only a week after they were married in London, William George’s elder sister Mary Ann Morris and Alfred Cabell, Mary Ann’s elder brother were married in Rode Church on the 5 August 1879, a marriage that demonstrates the close relationship between the two families as well as the Baptist connections as all had attended the Sunday School in Rode. The witnesses at the marriage were Charles Morris, the bride’s father or elder brother, Augusta Cabell, Alfred’s sister and a friend James Packer. From this we know that Augusta Cabell returned to Rode a few days after witnessing her younger sister Mary Ann’s marriage in London.

Back in London William George and Mary Ann were expecting a happy event. The Family Bible gives very precise information of the births of William George’s children with full details of their names, places and date of birth and even the time it occurred. In his neat hand William George recorded that ‘Percy Victor Morris, was born at 1 Mount Pleasant Road, Crouch Hill, London IV at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 17th August 1880’. This name has given me a problem for given the family tendency to name children after older family members his name is different from any earlier names. I cannot find another Percy or Victor in the family so perhaps they were the names of family friends they had met in London.

The family had only been in London for two years when in April of 1881 the fourth national census took place and an enumerator visited 1 Mount Pleasant Road, Hornsey to record the family of William George Morris (mistakenly written down as William J Morris) aged 23, carpenter and joiner with his young wife Mary Ann aged 22 and son Percy Victor aged 6 months. The census tells us that William George and Mary Ann were born in Rode, Wiltshire, and their son in Hornsey. The census allows a view of their neighbours with whom they shared the house. They were James Lyons aged 77 a labourer, born in Lelstead, Essex and his wife Elizabeth aged 74, and their two grown up sons, Edward and Charles. The owner of the house is not mentioned in the census but it is certain that William George was a tenant and the house may have been owned by the Lyons family.

In April 1881 Mary Ann was about two months pregnant with a second child, a daughter named Lily Cabell Morris who was born at 6 o’clock on the evening of the 12th January 1882 at 1 Mount Pleasant Road. Here the Victorian tendency to include family surnames emerges and she was given the surname of her mother’s family, Cabell. The name Lily is a bit of a mystery for I cannot identify any child in the Morris or Cabell family with that name although the Baptist Register mentions the baptism of a Lily Morris in 1861 and that is where her name probably came from.

A further eighteen months passed before the birth of Charles Stanley Morris, my father who was born at 5 o’clock on the morning of the 29 November 1883 at the same house in Crouch Hill. Father often claimed that ‘He was a Cockney because he was born within the sound of Bow Bells’, although I do not know if the bells could be heard from Crouch Hill. He was named Charles because every generation have a son with that name since the birth of Charles Morris, son of Thomas and Ann, in 1782. It has been retained because of the memory of this ancestor who served with the 19th Hussars in India and Canada before retiring to the Chelsea Pensioners in 1840. Stanley is certainly not a Morris surname but may have been a topical name at that time bearing in mind that Stanley had just met Livingstone in the Congo.

These must have been happy times for William George and Mary Ann with three young children and a good job and at this time they would not know, as we do with the benefit of hind sight, that this state would not last long and that ten years later William George, Percy Victor and other family members would be dead.

When father was one year old the first of the close family deaths occurred. Without the benefit of modern communications it would have been a few days before William George learnt of the death of his father Charles on the 6 December 1884 at the respectable age, for the time, of 77 years. Charles Morris junior’s diaries mentioned earlier suggest that he had been ill for some time but it is unlikely that his mother could have let William George know of the death of his father in order for him to return to Rode and attend the funeral which was held on the 12 December 1884. In the space of six months William George lost his father and then his elder brother Charles junior, the boot maker, who died on the 24 March 1885 at the age of only 35 years and was buried in Rode Baptist Church on the 29 March 1885. But the cruellest blow was to follow just two months later with the death of their first child Percy Victor Morris.

Father never mentioned the death of Percy Victor who was the only one of his generation to die in childhood but this is not surprising as he was only one year old at the time. Percy Victor died on the 3 May 1885 at the age of four years and was buried in Finchley Cemetery, London. By this time the family had moved home to 139 Corbyn Street, Islington North and it may have been his death that prompted them to urgently leave London and return to Rode. It is also possible that the affliction that eventually led to William George’s early death manifested itself and they decided to return to their family in Rode for at this time three of their grandparents were still alive as were many of their brothers and sisters. So with two young children, Lily Cabell aged 3, father aged 2 and Mary Ann four months pregnant, they returned to Rode .

Their return to Rode can be dated to within a period of five weeks. The Baptist Church Accounts Register records that on the 27 June 1885, William George was paid 1/9d for work at the Chapel, thus showing that the family returned to Rode a few days after the burial Percy Victor in Finchley Cemetery. We can make a more accurate estimate of the date of their return if we assume that Percy Victor was buried on the 6 May 1885 and the work in the accounts was carried out on the 6 June 1885. Sometime between these two dates they went to Paddington Station and caught the train on the GWR to Trowbridge and by horse and cart to Rode.

The Family Bible records that ‘Cecelia Augusta Morris born September 19th 1885 (8 am) at Rode North Bradley Wiltshire’. They clearly had in mind an earlier Cecelia who was Charles Morris’s sister and married the baker James Morgan and her middle name Augusta came from Mary Ann’s elder sister Augusta Cabell. The precision of the entry allows identification of the house in which she was born. William George and Mary Ann were living in the row of cottages facing the Baptist Church in Upper Street, Rode, with Williams’s recently widowed mother Sarah.

Over two years passed before their next child was born. Percy Fredrick Morris was born at 6 am on the 17 November 1887 at Rode Somerset. The unique administrative arrangement in Rode and the precision of William George’s entry in the Family Bible identifies their residence as the house on the corner of Nutt Lane and Upper Street, opposite the Baptist Chapel where six years earlier William George’s elder brother and his family lived.

William Edward Morris, the last child of William George and Mary Ann Morris was born on the 17 October 1889 at 10 p.m. in this house. By then they had a family of five young children the eldest being Lily Cabell Morris who was 7 years old at the time. The Baptist Church accounts give us the best view of their life at this time as no family stories have survived and father knew little of the period 1885 to 1891, a date when their whole life changed for the worse.

On the 3 January 1890 father’s grandmother Mary Ann Cabell died and was buried in the Baptist Burial Ground having been a member for 44 years. She was 61 years old and we may safely assume that all the family attended the funeral which would have included father at the age of 8. This left Robert Cabell, our great grandfather, a widower, a condition that he soon redressed by marrying Ann Stinchcombe in Rode Hill Church on the 26 December 1890. The witnesses were William George Morris and Mary Ann and no doubt father and his brothers and sisters attended the ceremony and possibly the celebrations held afterwards.

From the accounts and school records over that time a fairly detailed account can be made of their Baptist Church activities. Outside the Church their activities are practically unknown. William George was certainly earning a reasonable living otherwise he would have been unable to pay for his subscriptions to the Church and for his pew but other than that assumption nothing is known of the life the family lived. There is little doubt that the five young children would have been attending the local school but these records have yet to be inspected. Fortunately the Church school records are complete and a detailed view of their life at the time.

On the 27 June 1885 a few days after their return from London the accounts record that payments had been made to ‘Mrs Morris £1, Mrs Morris bill for cleaning 9/11 and William Morris money £3’. We can be certain that the Mrs Morris referred to was Sarah Morris, the mother of William George, as she appears many times before this date. Whilst Mrs Morris appears in every period until the 24 June 1887 William George does not and I believe his appearance in this quarter is tied to a most significant event – his baptising.

In 1887 William Morris was baptised in the River Frome on the west side of Wittackers Bridge. Unlike earlier baptisms the full details are not given but the ceremony would have been the same as that carried out in earlier years and which is recorded in W.W.Wheatleys sketch ‘The baptising'[lxviii]. The records show that his sister Julia Morris baptised three years earlier in 1884 and confirms that she left for London shortly after. Baptisms into the Church were fairly rare events and between 1880 and 1887 only 11 persons were taken into the Church and so could call themselves ‘members’. This event must have been of great interest to the whole village and it is remembered by the Squire Batten-Poole who wrote a book about this time called ‘West Country Pot-Purrie’ where he describes a similar event which attracted a large audience from the village and nationally. There can be little doubt that the whole family would have attended this rare event but Father who was 4 years old at the time never mentioned it. Noticeably Mary Ann was never baptised into this or for that matter any other church.

Having become a member of the Church William George purchased a Pew for which a rent was paid on a quarterly basis. He made his first payment of 1/- in the September quarter of 1887 when he is referred to as Mr William Morris. He joined his mother in law Mrs.Cabell who also paid 1/- for her pew. Sheila and I visited the Baptist Church before it was modernised in 1990 and it was easy to imagine the family attending the Chapel in 1885 with William George, Mary Ann his wife and their three young children Lily Cabell aged 5, Father aged 4 and Cecilia Augusta aged 2. The School Records tell us that Lily, Father, Cecilia, Percy and Fredrick all attended from 1885 until 1902. Father had a distinguished record rarely missing a class and at the end winning a prize. He was in a small group of four children given the name ‘Children’s Friend’.

William George continued to rent his pew until December 1888 after which Mrs. William Morris (Mary Ann) paid until the September quarter of 1889 then no more entries were made. Up to this time we may assume that the family were happy and reasonably well off but now the dark clouds start to appear for some major problem must have arisen to prevent William George attending the Church. We now come to the last few years of his life and I believe that his medical problems were starting to overshadow his life.

There is no evidence to reveal what happened in the 18 months between September 1889 and March 1891. Unlike today’s copious medical records none have survived to inform us of his condition over this period. I imagine that his health deteriorated until his death and the death certificate dated 3 April 1891 gives the circumstances of his death. Living in the Somerset part of Rode the death was registered in the Registration District of Frome. The certificate records that he was 32 years old and by trade a carpenter. His widow Mary Ann Morris who was living at Rode reported the death which was on the 31 March 1891. The cause of death was epilepsy and it seems that a specialist W.G.Evans LRCSI was brought in to diagnose this condition which in my experience is unusual on death certificates at this time. In my family a tradition has survived that claims William George to have been a highly intelligent man who overloaded his brain. The real truth is probably that he inherited the gene that sent his g.grandfather to Devizes Mad House in 1814.

The Baptist burial register records that ‘William Morris buried 31st March 1892 aged 33 years. A Member’ but this is exactly a year after the date shown on his death certificate. For some reason the normally reliable Baptist register is in error and it is unlikely that the certificate is wrong so the register must be. We may be sure that father attended the funeral at the age of 8 but as with other events he never mentioned it.

William George’s death at the early age of 33 left his widow Mary Ann with five young children the eldest being Lily Cabell Morris who was 12 years old and the youngest William Edward Morris who was 2. Father was 10 years old at the time. Thus she had a large family with no income and the awful prospect of being put into a work house where the family would have been split up. At this point family tradition comes into play. Father claimed that ‘they’ wanted to put the family into the workhouse, but never disclosed who ‘they’ were; perhaps he did not know. In the event he claimed that Mary Ann took the position of work at the Batton-Poole House, Rode Manor, which is the large house on the right after Wittackers Bridge and the right turn to Tellisford on the road to Woolverton. She had to get up early and go to the house to help with the laundry. Squire Batton-Poole was the leading figure in the district and figures in another of father’s memories relating to the way his mother and he had to step into the gutter and take their hats off when Squire and Lady Batton-Poole were in the village which was another good reason why he became a life long socialist.

In the event Mary Ann was able to support the family with money she earned by the washing work she had at the Squire’s house supplemented by other work she was given by the Baptist Church, for the accounts for the years 1893 to 1895 when she married George Riddle, record many payments to Mrs. Morris for work carried out at the Chapel, seems to have been sufficient to support the family. Apart from the money she earned at the ‘Big House’ and from cleaning the Baptist Church she also added some income by ‘laying out’ the people who were about to be buried in Rode a delicate task for which she received 1/- per body. Another story that my cousin Vera told me was that Mary Ann was particularly proud that ‘our family (the Cabells) have a stained glass window in St Johns Church, Frome’. You will note that all the stories that have come down to me have been about the family after William George died, simply nothing before!

With her large family to maintain and after four years of widowhood Mary Ann Morris married George Ruddle at the Parish Church, Rode, on the 2 September 1895. The witnesses were Thomas Morris, elder brother of William George, and Fanny Beauchamp a friend. The marriage was performed by the Reverend W. J. Burdett. It should be no surprise to find that Mary Ann married George Ruddle for he was also a staunch member of the Baptist Church and attended the Sunday school for many years and they would have known each other from childhood. From this point onward she became known in the family as ‘Granny Riddle'[lxix], despite the name being Ruddle or more likely in its earlier form Randell and thereby hangs another tale for the family have blood connections with the Randell family of Rode through James Jones our g.g.grandfather and all these families have impeccable Baptist pedigrees.

It is, I think, this period of hardship that defined father’s political views for later he became one of the founder members of the fledgling Labour Party and a life long socialist. He claimed that once he slept in the same room with the first labour MP, Kerr Hardy. This is a part of his life that I intend to research when the Cabell story is complete.

In amongst Father’s small collection of photographs there is a family group[lxx] with George Ruddle (Riddle), my father’s step-father, and his wife Mary Ann Ruddle (widow of William George Morris) together with their children. Again as with most of the photographs this one is also undated but cannot be later than 1923 when Percy Fredrick Morris died in Coventry. The photograph was taken by Taylor Brothers, 23 Primrose Hill Street, Coventry. Father looks about 35 years old at the time which would make it 1918, so a date between 1918 and 1923 would seem appropriate.

Chapter 1.6

Bessie, daughter of Robert Cabell of Rode

Refer to Our Cabell Family – Chart 1

Bessie Cabell[lxxi] was the last child of Robert Cabell and Mary Ann Gibbs. According to her birth registration certificate she was born on 9 March 1869 in Rode, Southwick. Her birth was registered on 15 April 1869 in registration district Westbury and Whorwellsdown, sub-district North Bradley in the county of Wiltshire by Mary Ann Cabell, formerly Gibbs, her mother. Robert Cabell was a dye house man.

By the time Bessie was born the family religious divide that had caused problems in the past was healed. Robert and his wife attended Rode Baptist Church which meant a short walk from their house in Farthing Row, to turn right into Upper Street, now called High Street, and having passed the home of my great grandfather Charles Morris, where his family and my grandfather, William George, were living at that time, and possibly together with them, for they were members of Rode Baptist Church also, cross the road and enter the Chapel door which stands directly beneath the foundation stone dated 1787.

Whilst her parents were in the chapel Bessie and her siblings would, on a Sunday, enter the little school room, now a private dwelling. The records confirm that she attended the school from 1872 through to 1882, that is, from the age of 3 to 13 years after which she would have attended the main church services. Before she left for London, where her elder sisters Augusta, Mary Ann and Laura were already working she would have attended the burial of her grandmother Mary, nee Wheeler, who was buried in 1870 at the venerable age of 91. She may well have remembered this old lady from a distant age and culture.

During the week Bessie Cabell attended the National School at Rode, now Road Primary School, and the registers record that Bessie was an exemplary student. She was living in Lower Street Rode when she started at the School on the 12 June 1876 at the age of 7 years and continued to study there until she left in 1886 at the age of 17 which seems rather late for those times. My father Charles Stanley Morris attended the same school in Road but left at the age of 10. Bessie obviously enjoyed school for when she left she received an award for unbroken attendance which was a remarkable achievement in that age when childhood diseases were rampant. The Cabells were a hardy lot as will be seen one hundred years earlier in Leigh upon Mendip.

By 1891 Bessie had moved to London where she married Ludwig (Louis) König on 29 March 1891[lxxii], at the parish Church, of Camden town in the County of London, registration district “Pancras.” Louis, who was born in the Town of Langenburg in the Province of Wuerttemburg, Germany, was a bachelor age 25, Bessie, spinster age 22. Louis’ occupation listed as “baker” and he was living at 31 King Street. Bessie was living at 167 Stroud Green Road, Tollington Park. Louis father Friedrich König, deceased, was a builder, who may or may not have been at the wedding. Bessie’s father, Robert Cabell, is described on the certificate as a “Gentleman”, which given what we know about him is somewhat of an exaggeration. The witnesses were John Trissler, who was also born in Langenburg in Germany as the groom. He was the husband of Laura Cabell, Bessie’s, elder sister, who were living in London at the time and would have attended the wedding. The other witness, Mary Ann Player, was probably a family friend.

Alice Mary König, the daughter of Louis and Bessie was born 21 December 1891, 61 Sandbrook Road, Stoke-Newington Registration District Hackney, sub-district West Hackney, County of London. The birth certificate confirms that her father was Louis König and his wife, Bessie König, formerly Cabell.

Bessie and Louis must have decided to emigrate to the U.S.A before their marriage. This decision may have involved her sister Augusta and Laura and would have been reached on economic grounds for New York must have offered better prospects at that time. There is no evidence to prove it but Bessie and Alice may have accompanied Ludwig on his April 1893 journey to New York. Unfortunately the ship’s passenger list that included the König family as travellers, has yet to be found, but one would certainly have existed. Ludwig’s Declaration of Intention to Naturalise gives an arrival date of 26 April 1893, but the ship he travelled aboard is not mentioned. Strangely his naturalisation papers have yet to be identified.

The young König family settled in Brooklyn, New York, eventually living at 84 St. Nicholas Avenue. Louis’ occupation is listed as ‘porter’ on the birth record for his son, Louis Robert Koenig who was born 6 November 1898, when Bessie was 29 years old. Ludwig, senior, was variously listed in census returns as a “baker – bread, laborer – whiting factory” (Whiting is pure white chalk used to make putty, whitewash, etc.) and “putty worker”.

Ludwig Koenig died on 20 December 1938 of a combination of ailments including a blood clot in the brain, hardening of the arteries and bronchopneumonia. He is buried in the Amityville Cemetery on Long Island, NY.

Intimate family memories from the Cabell family of any generation are few and far between so I am most grateful to Debbie Stimpson, Bessie’s g-granddaughter for the following: I don’t know the timing but presumably not long after Ludwig’s death Bessie moved in with my grandparents and my mother (who was probably around 7-8 years old). Apparently, where Bessie was going to reside prompted a huge rift between my grandfather Louis and his sister Alice. Bessie must have been quite difficult as it appears neither of her children wanted her to move in with them. It finally was left to my grandfather to care for his mother – probably because his household consisted of just 3 persons, while Alice’s family numbered seven (Alice, her husband George, and their five daughters.) Although Alice and my grandfather lived within 10 minutes drive of one another, according to my Mom they never spoke again after this disagreement. My mother does not remember Bessie with fondness. We know Bessie kept in touch with her family in England throughout her life. It’s not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think that she may have been unhappy in the United States. I have uncovered no evidence to suggest she ever had a chance to see her family again and may have resented that fact mightily. Bessie died 13 January 1947 as noted in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church bulletin dated 19 January 1947. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is located in Amityville, NY. She was 78 years old and is buried in the Amityville Cemetery with her husband.

This history is greatly indebted to Robert’s youngest child, Bessie, and her g-granddaughter, Debbie, for without their diligent care several of the photographs and some valuable information would have been lost.

Having now exhausted the available evidence of Robert Cabell and his children I shall leave Bessie in New York in 1938 to return to her grandfather John Cabell who was born 163 years earlier in 1775. However before I take you on this journey into the past I would confide one thought about my grandmother, Mary Ann Cabell, or Polly as she was known to the family. Ludwig and Bessie, John and Laura, Fred and Marion and William George Morris were all living in London at about the same time. It is hard to think that they did not regularly meet and one subject that must have been of great interest would have been Ludwig and Bessie’s departure to the U.S.A. This must have offered much better prospects and possibly William and George Morris, my grandparents considered going as well. However William George would have been exhibiting the symptoms of the disease that eventually killed him in 1893. How different would it have been if they had emigrated – gives rise to some thoughts!

22 December 2023
Last Updated
23 March 2024