August 1917


Historical Notes of our Family


by  Harry John Chilvers

(1868 - 1932)


As far as I know there are no family data in existence. For many years at various times, places, on any old scrap of paper, letters, in notebooks, etc etc, I have jotted down odd bits of information, which I have now put together in a kind of chronological order, believing that everything I have written is absolutely correct.

At the end of the 19th Century I unfortunately destroyed a lot of notebooks, diaries, papers and odds & ends of all kinds which had accumulated for many years, and which contained all sorts of data, and of course it is impossible to get it together again.

The plan I have adopted will be easily understood I think, and for reference purposes have numbered the names of people rather than paragraphs.


Our  “ Paternal “ Ancestors


I have heard mother say that our forefathers for generations were ” fen-men “. Father frequently had very severe bouts of fen-fever or ague when he used to apply leeches to obtain relief. In my teens and twenties especially I frequently had attacks, sometimes so severe, that I have had to give up work for a week and occasionally a fortnight at a time.


1.  John Chilvers, our grandfather was one of six or seven brothers. I know nothing of his parentage, date, or place of birth though evidence points to the latter being at King’s Lynn, Norfolk, or the immediate neighbourhood.

He followed the sea, going to all parts of the world in the Merchant Service as man & boy. For his last voyage, as Captain of his own vessel, he entered into partnership with a cousin (or other relative) of his named -----------


2.  Sutton and together they put their all into the venture.

It was grandfathers intention to retire from active service afloat at the end of this voyage and he wished to insure their vessel and cargo to its full value but for some reason or other Sutton would not hear of it and grandfather gave into him at last with dire results as things turned out. I cannot say if Sutton went on the voyage. Affairs prospered greatly throughout and they made a good fortune and were within Old England’s Shores once more when alas! in a severe storm in the North Sea, they met with total shipwreck.

All the ship’s company perished with the exception of grandfather and one seaman. These two were successful in getting on a piece of the wrecked mast to which they lashed themselves and floated about for three days and two nights, with only a ship’s biscuit and a small piece of plug tobacco between them. Eventually they were sighted and taken on board a fishing smack which in due course landed them on English soil, destitute of everything, except the clothes they had on when disaster overtook them.

What grandfather did then for many years I know not but it seems he lived at King’s Lynn till after my father’s death in 1873. During the later part of his life he lived at Jarrow-on-Tyne where he carried on a coal merchants business!

One very peculiar thing about him, considering he was a seafaring man, was the fact that he had a very great horror of playing cards and would not allow them on board his ships. Father had a pack and I heard mother say many times, that when they were expecting grandfather to call on them, they always locked the cards safely out of his way.

Many times grandfather has been heard to say, that his shipwreck and total loss of fortune was due to the fact that one of his seamen, at the last port of call they made in their homeward voyage, smuggled a pack of “those devil’s imps” (as he used to call them) on board the ship.

Grandfather died at Jarrow-on-Tyne, on Trinity Sunday, May 23rd 1880.


3.  James Chilvers1 was one of grandfather’s (1) many brothers. My sister Mary whilst living in Lynn in 1884 once met him and his wife. He was married to Lydia and they had six children.


4.  Mary Doubty (or Doughty) married grandfather Chilvers (1) when he was about 21 years old. Her people were farmers at or near a place called Brancaster near Huntstanton in Norfolk. She died quite young about the year 1853 or 1854.


5.  Sarah----------2 a widow, was grandfather’s (1) second wife. She was childless and was still alive in 1884, carrying on the coal business at Jarrow-on-Tyne. Since then nothing seems to have been heard of her. I have heard mother say she was a good stepmother to her two step-sons.

When a boy living at Whelford (Gloucestershire) I can remember my mother occasionally having letters from or about grandfather and step-grandmother, and once particulars were asked as to the names, and places of birth of my eldest sister Mary and myself, but why, we never knew for certain but had an idea it was something to do with a row of cottages grandfather had bought.


6.  John William Chilvers, my father, was the eldest son of John (1) and Mary (4) Chilvers. He was born on Rogation Monday May 2nd 1842, at King’s Lynn, Norfolk and was about 11 or 12 years old when his mother died. He attended the St. John’s National School at Lynn, and chose the scholastic profession. He served his apprenticeship there as pupil teacher under a Mr. R. Bray. A Rev. John Fernie MA was Vicar of St. John’s, at least the latter part of the time. (In 1906 Rev. J. Fernie was Rector of a Lincolnshire parish, and as late as 1911 was still alive, and residing in Lincoln City.)

Finishing his apprenticeship in February 1861 father went to Great Marlow, Bucks, as one of the assistant masters in the Church of England Boys School, under a Mr. Robert Williams, where he stayed for 2 1/2 years. He also conducted a large Night School at Marlow for two seasons.

Whilst living here he met with Anne Jane Badger (48) whom he afterwards married.

As far as I am aware, father never did any Church work before his marriage, with the exception of taking a class in the Sunday School. He copied a vast amount of music3 for the Rev. Henry Rudge Hayward who was senior curate at Marlow at the time. (Mr. Hayward was Rector of Lydiard Millicent 1864 to 1881, Vicar of Cirencester 1881 to 1898 where Mother and I went to visit him. In 1898 he went to Gloucester as Canon and Archdeacon and is still there I believe (1917).) I have a large green manuscript book of music that father made in 1863.

The Vicar of Marlow during father’s residence there was the Rev. Robert Milman, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta.

            On Saturday February 8th 1908, while at Marlow for a few hours just after Uncle Badger’s (37) funeral, when out with my cousin Will (43), I met Mr. Robert Williams in the Marlow Institute and Reading Rooms, and although he was then a very old man, he at once recognised the likeness, of whom I was the son. No doubt he had seen me many times before I was five years old, when visiting my grandmother Badger (36) at Marlow.

Father left Marlow in the autumn of 1863, being appointed Assistant Master in a school at New Charlton, London, E.

After a year had elapsed father returned to Marlow and married mother on Monday September 26th 1864.


7.  Henry Abel Chilvers, my uncle was the second and youngest son of John (1) and Mary (4) Chilvers, and father’s only brother. He was born at King’s Lynn on Saturday November 4th 1843, and was 10 or 11 years old when his mother died.

He was a printer’s bookbinder by trade. I have a printed label (blue) of his: - Hy. A. Chilvers, King’s Lynn - in one of my old tune books.

He went quite blind and died shortly before or after grandfather’s death in 1880.

I have an old glass photograph of grandfather (1), step-grandmother (5) and Uncle Henry (7) and I must have seen them many times before father’s death in 1873. I have no recollection of them, except a very faint one of grampy and grannie, once in London, when grandmother Badger (36) up from Marlow, to see my father when he was very ill in the winter of 1872-3.


8.  Mary Ann Gamble, married uncle Henry Abel Chilvers (7) and they had six or seven children.


The family of uncle James Chilvers (3) were: -


9.  Charles, the eldest son born 1847.


10. Walter


11. Fred, who joined the army.


12. Philip, who was a coachbuilder and lived at Lynn, and with whom my brother (Cyril Wildsmith Chilvers) learnt his trade in later years. Philip and Walter (10) married two sisters, the former having a large family, and about 1890 failed in business.


13. Charlotte4, the eldest daughter in 1884 was Head Mistress of Burnham Beeches School, in Bucks.


14.  Emma lived at home.





                                                                1  Also a sea faring man

                                                                2  Also did nursing

                                                                3  First lesson on the organ Nov. 26th 1862

                                                                4  Married a steward at Burnham Beeches.


Transcribed by Derek Chilvers (grandson of Harry John Chilvers) in February 2004


If you have any comments or anything to add please contact me through  Richard Chilvers.


back1.gif (1097 bytes) Back to the Chilvers Story Index

Updated 23 February 2004