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Brentford Families - Farnsworth

This research was instigated by an email from Peter Stuart in February 2016: he had found a baptism in 1903 of Lilian Georgiana to John Albert and Maud Alice Farnsworth at St George's Church Brentford; the couple were living at 352 High Street. John Farnsworth had the unusual occupationTaxidermist, Naturalist and Hairdresser in 1903. Having a spare half hour (which then extended to around three hours) I searched for the couple in 1911 but without success. A find of divorce records in their names opened up a darker story, some of which is told below.

Nearly three years after publishing this account a distant relation of a Farnsworth descendant, Valerie Wright, got in touch with new information about the Farnsworth family. Her research has provided a number of updates which are included below.

The divorce

The petition was filed on behalf of Maud Alice Farnsworth on 17th March 1910. The papers include a copy of her marriage certificate dated 27th May 1901, St Annís Tottenham. John gave his address as 352 High Street Brentford and occupation as naturalist; he was 22 and the son of John Farnsworth, also a naturalist. His wife Maud Lucy Farnsworth, who was 21 at marriage, was the daughter of Frederick Farnsworth a manager, and she was living at 44 Avenue Road.

Maud stated that after marrying they had lived at 352 High Street and had two children neither of which survived: one baby died at birth and another at three months. She alleged her husband had committed adultery with Charlotte Ethel Morrell in 1906 and had planned to go through a bigamous marriage with Charlotte when she became pregnant: a female child was born to Charlotte on 7th May 1907.

Maud also made a number of allegations which were listed point by point: they include that her husband committed adultery with an unknown woman in Richmond in December 1906. Prior to that she alleged he committed a string of violent acts against her, including threatening to throw her out of a window on the top floor of their residence (no. 352 was a house of four storeys).

As a consequence in 1903 Maud went home to live with her father in Woodford Green in Essex but returned to her husband early the following year Ė however he was still abusive. At the time of the divorce Maud stated she was living at 150 Prospect Road, Woodford Green and her husband at 3 Campden Street, Kensington; he was a hairdresser.

The case was heard at the High Court of Justice and Decree Nisi was granted 16th January 1911 and Final Decree 15th January 1912. Divorce records are not publically available for 100 years.

What happened before

John and Maud's marriage banns were read at St George's church Brentford on the 7th, 14th and 21st of April 1901 as John lived in this parish. The banns confirm that Maud Alice Farnsworth was living at Tottenham where their marriage was to take place and that her surname was the same as her husband's. The birth of their daughter Lilian Georgiana was registered in the third quarter of 1903 in Brentford and her death was registered in the same quarter.

The 1881 census shows Maud Alice was the daughter of Frederick F and Elizabeth A Farnsworth of 2 Russell Road, St Ann's Tottenham. Maud's father was an ironmonger's commercial clerk, age 34 and he was born in Latimer, Bucks: the same place as where Maud's future husband was born. Maud's mother Elizabeth was 37 and her birthplace Oxford Street, Middlesex. Maud had three elder siblings: Flora F, age 11; Albert F F age 9; and Amy age 4: all four children were born in Hackney.

Ten years later Frederick was widowed and had moved to 3 Albion Cottages, Avenue Road, Tottenham. He was a clerk, ironmongers and his three daughters were at home, the two youngest were scholars. His eldest son Albert was boarding in Islington.

The next census was taken shortly before Maud married; she was at home with her father and elder sister Flora, her occupation 'embroidery'; the family lived at 44 Avenue Road, Tottenham, the address recorded on the marriage certificate.

Returning to John Albert, in 1881 his father was living at West Ham at 4 Crawford Street. John senior was a naturalist (the enumerator scathingly added bird stuffer), age 42, born Latimer, his wife Emily 38, born Hackney and elder son Harry, 14, born Poplar. John junior was 2 and born Kensington. Valerie added: John Farnsworth senior's full name was John James Davis Farnsworth and he married Emily Elizabeth Chalkley at Hackney in 1864. John Farnsworth senior had his 3 children in 1867 1870 1879, Henry, Percy and John Albert.

In 1891 John Farnsworth junior was living with his parents at 352 High Street, Brentford and ten years later father and son were hairdressers at the same address. John senior was married but his wife was not recorded at home.

To conclude, John Farnsworth senior was born around 1838/9 and Frederick Farnsworth around 1846/7, both in Latimer, Buckinghamshire. It seemed likely they were brothers and the 1851 census has a good match on birth dates: a large family headed by William Farnsworth, schoolmaster, age 40, born Latimer, wife Jane, 43, born Towersey; then Georgiana 16, William 15, John 13, Sarah 9, Robert 7, Frederick 4 and Charles 2 - all born in Latimer.

Ten years previously, 1841, the family were in Latimer, father a schoolmaster.

It seems likely that John and Maud were first cousins and their divorce a harrowing experience for the family.

What happened after

In 1911 Maud's father, Frederick Francis Farnsworth, was living at 150 Prospect Road, Woodford Green, the address given by Maud in 1910. Living with him was his unmarried daughter Flora Frances, age 41; he was a clerk in an ironmongery, born Latimer, she had no occupation and was born in Hackney. Their home had 5 rooms. In the same census Maud was living in Aylesbury: a Maude L Farnsworth, age 31, married ten years, one child born alive who subsequently died, was boarding at the Waverley Hotel. She gave her birthplace as South Tottenham.

In 1918 Flora Farnsworth died, age 48; her death was registered at West Ham. Her father Frederick may have lived to the grand age of 92: the death of Frederick F Farnsworth was registered in Essex South Western in 1938.

Next year the 1939 register includes Maude L Farnsworth, birth year 1880, living in Leyton, Essex; it seems she never remarried and settled back home with her father, possibly after her elder sister Flora's death. A death registration in June 1952, Chelmsford Essex, may be that of Maud: Maud L Farnsworth, born 1880.

My searches for John Albert Farnsworth after his divorce failed to locate him but Valerie provided new information: father and son were both living at 5 Campden Street under different names in 1911, John Davis hairdresser, 61 born Chesham Bucks and Albert Villiers, 22 born Kensington, also hairdresser. Their address is very close to that given in the divorce papers: 3, Campden Street.

Albert Villiers later joined the army, married, and died at Gallipoli. When his father died in 1922, it was on Campden Street and Albert Villier's widow reported it, saying she was the deceased's daughter in law, which is proof positive of the connection.
Why the name changes is hard to understand at this distance.

Other lives...

However other lives were affected too: the divorce papers note John Farnsworth's adulterous relationship with Charlotte Ethel Morrell during the latter part of 1906. It has been possible to find out a little more about Charlotte: the 1911 census shows a Charlotte Ethal Morrell, age 25, with her parents at the Dukes Head, Albion Road, Twickenham: her father was the publican. Charlotte's birthplace was Heston and a birth registration in the fourth quarter of 1887 at Brentford matches her name (Brentford registration district covered both Heston and Twickenham). Peter Stuart again helped by finding her baptism:
Name: Charlotte Ethel Morrell
Record Type: Baptism
Baptism Date: 9 Oct 1887
Father's name: Frederick Morrell
Mother's name: Charlotte Morrell
Parish or Poor Law Union: Cranford St John St Dunstan
Borough: Hounslow
Register Type: Parish Registers

In 1891 Charlotte, age 3, was living with her parents, Frederick (37) and Charlotte Morrell (35), in Heston: Frederick was a beerhouse keeper and dealer at the Moulders Arms, Cranford Lane. Ten years later the family was at the same address, his occupation: potato merchant.

One final person is mentioned in the divorce papers: the un-named daughter of Charlotte, who was born in May 1907 but was not living with her mother in the 1911 census. A birth registration in Brentford in the April-June quarter of 1907 of Henrietta May Morrell may be her. Henrietta may have survived and been adopted with a change of name as there is no sign of Henrietta in the 1911 census, nor any death registration in Brentford in the period from her birth to 1911.

A sobering story; at least Maud was able to extricate herself from an unbearable situation. The divorce papers include more details of Maud's allegations and can be seen on ancestry.co.uk.

Please get in touch if you can add more details.

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Page published February 2016; updated February 2019