Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

The Chamberlains

Emma Chamberlain was one of my great, great grandmothers. Hers was an inauspicious start to life. The youngest of 9 children to Thomas Powell Chamberlain and Sarah Colcomb, her mother died when she was only 2 years old.

It must have been hard for Thomas bringing up the family alone and for Emma growing up without a mother. The family remained in Mansel Lacy and it looks like Thomas remarried in 1854 to a widow - Ellenor Howells nee Tibbey. Thomas & Ellenor were still in Mansel Lacy in 1861 with his sons Reuben & Edwin and Elenor's sister Sarah Phillips. Emma by this time was working, aged only 13, at the Daw Inn, Moccas. The table below gives a transcription of the 1861 census (RG9/1825 Page 4 schedule 16)

Page 4]The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the
Parish [or Township] of City or Municipal Borough of Municipal Ward of Parliamentary Borough ofTownship ofHamlet or Tything of Ecclesiastical District of
Mansel Lacy          
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeRank, Profession or OccupationWhere Born
16 Mansel VillageThomas ChamberlainHeadMarried 52MasonMansel Lacy
   Elenor ChamberlainWifeMarried 50 Hereford
   Reuben ChamberlainSonUnmar18MasonMansel Lacy
   Edwin ChamberlainSonUnmar16Mason's AssistantMansel Lacy
   Sarah PhillipsVisitorWidow46 Hereford

Emma Chamberlain married Thomas Brookes in 1868 and had at least 10 known children.

Thomas & Emma lived mainly in the Burghill area of Herefordshire. Women from rural families rarely appeared in the newspapers in those days, so I've not found much detail on Emma's life. One thing I have found though is that she was an accomplished home baker, regularly winning prizes for her bread at the village show. She died on 18th March 1910 at Rose Cottage, Burghill. For more information on the Brookes family and Emma's descendants, please click the following link:

Thomas Powell Chamberlain was born in 1808 at Mansel Lacy, the village he then seems to have spent the rest of his life in. He married Sarah Colcomb in 1828 at Hereford St Nicholas church. The witnesses to their marriage were John Powell and Eliza Colcomb - presumably both relatives, but I haven't worked out who they are yet. In 1841 the family were living at Brinshill, Mansel Lacy, but by 1851 the widowed Thomas was living at Stone Wall, Mansel Lacy. Thomas was a Master Mason, and he seems to have passed at least some of his building skills on to his sons as Reuben, Jonathan & Thomas all became bricklayers.

Thomas was the son of William Chamberlain and Elizabeth Powell, who had married in 1807 at Mansel Lacy. William was a Miller, said to be from Lugwardine, but as yet no baptism has been found for him, so the Chamberlain line stops there for the time being.

I have been very lucky in my research into the Chamberlains, in that I have found distant cousins Joy Webster and Jean Hicks who are descended from Emma's brother Reuben Chamberlain. Both of them have been researching the Chamberlains for many years and know far more about them than I do. Without them, this page would have been very sparse indeed! Family legend has it that Reuben ran off to London at a fairly young age and settled there. He was certainly there by the 1871 census, married with several children and still there in 1911, living in Shoreditch. Reuben Chamberlain married Emily Austen and they had many children together. The photographs below show Reuben & Emily.

The photos below are of 3 of Reuben & Emily's children. The one on the left is of Annie Rosaline Wilson (nee Chamberlain) and the one on the right is of Ethel Florence Chamberlain. Both of these were kindly given to me by Jean Hicks. The one in the middle is of Jane Higginson (nee Chamberlain) and was kindly given to me by her grand-daughter Eileen.

The photos below are of Jane Higginson (nee Chamberlain) and her husband Joseph Everard Higginson and were kindly give to me by another one of their grand-daughters Doreen. If anyone has photos of any more of Reuben's children I'd love to see them.

The table below shows Reuben Chamberlain and his family in the 1871 census (RG10/253 Page 28 schedule 184). Unfortunately, for some reason, the enumerator missed out quite a lot of the information normally given on a census return, such as place of birth and occupation.

Page 28]The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the
Civil Parish [or Township] of City or Municipal Borough of Municipal Ward of Parliamentary Borough ofTown ofVillage or Hamlet of Ecclesiastical District of
Islington Finsbury   Finsbury  Trinity
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeRank, Profession or OccupationWhere Born
184 25 Trinity StreetReuben ChamberlainHeadMarried 26  
   Emily ChamberlainWifeMarried 24  
   Emily ChamberlainDauUnmar4  
   Annie ChamberlainDauUnmar3  
   Jane ChamberlainDau 1  

Reuben's brother - William George Chamberlain remained in Herefordshire and married Elizabeth Hughes. They too had a large family and the two photos below show 2 of their youngest children, Enoch (named after his grandfather Enoch Hughes) & Emma Chamberlain. It looks as if the two photos were taken about the same time as they are both standing behind the same chair. Perhaps there are more photos out there of their siblings?

The table below gives a transcription of the 1881 census entry for William Chamberlain and his family (RG11/2599 Page 12 schedule 59):

Page 12]The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the
Civil Parish [or Township] of City or Municipal Borough of Municipal Ward of Parliamentary Borough ofTown or Village ofRural Sanitary District of Ecclesiastical District of
Norton Canon       Weobley  
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeRank, Profession or OccupationWhere Born
59 Norton WoodWilliam ChamberlainHeadMarried 45Ag. Lab.H'fdshire, Mansel Lacy
   Elizabeth ChamberlainWifeMarried 42 Eardisley
   Arabella ChamberlainDauUnmarried 10ScholarNorton Canon
   Eli ChamberlainSonUnmarried7ScholarNorton Canon
   Edwin ChamberlainSonUnmarried4 Norton Canon
   Emma ChamberlainDauUnmarried 2 Sarnesfield
   Enoch W ChamberlainSonUnmarried4mo Sarnesfield

Reuben's younger brother Edwin Chamberlain, also remained in Herefordshire and married an older woman - Mary Price in 1885. A letter written by Edwin's widow after his death, suggests some of the family had fallen out with each other, whilst other's were still in touch, even though they lived many miles apart. Here is a transcription of the letter written in 1907, which also mentions my great great grandparents Thomas & Emma Brookes (nee Chamberlain):

The Marsh
November 3rd 1907
Dear Brother, I now write these few lines to you in answer to your kind and welcome letter which I was glad to receive, but I am sorry to tell you that your poor brother is dead and buried am sorry that I could not find your address anywhere. I am sorry to say that I am not very well as I have taken it so hard it was a great upset for me I never thought, that he would go first, but poor dear, he suffered very much, so I hope that he is better off. He was buried on the 16th day of september. Mrs Brookes and her husband was here at the funeral, but it was poor Chamberlains wish not to have any of the Rudges at his funeral, so I cannot tell you anything about them. I am sorry to hear of you having such bad times especially now as winter is coming on, but I trust that you will get on better now. We have had such awful wet weather here this last two months things are not looking very prosperous here now some of the farmers have not done harvest yet. I am sending you one of your poor brothers death cards, I hope that you will get it safe, I do not think that I have any more news to tell you at present. So I will drawer to a close, with my love to you all from your loving sister. Mary Chamberlain.

I have recently been trying to trace the stories of Thomas Chamberlain's other children. Several of them seem to have ended up in London by 1861 - perhaps they didn't get on with their stepmother, or perhaps it was just that there was more work in London. The eldest son, another Thomas Chamberlain must have arrived in London in the mid 1850s as by 1855 he had married Susanna Kemball in Paddington. They were still together in 1861 in London, but at some point after that they seem to have separated. Susanna remarries in 1876 describing herself as a widow, but as far as I can tell Thomas was still alive! I can't find him in either the 1871 or 1881 census, but by 1891 he is living in Southwark, where he died in 1892. Perhaps Susanna really thought he was dead when she remarried in 1876 - if she hadn't seen him for years it may have been a reasonable assumption.

The two sisters Harriet and Isabella also made their way to London - Harriet definitely as a domestic servant and Isabella most likely the same. Both married there and they must have kept in touch as on 29th October 1873 they had a joint christening of 2 of Harriet's children and one of Isabella's. Sadly Harriet died a few years later and her husband Edward Newman remarried. But Isabella must still have kept in touch with the Newmans as in 1891, she has Harriet's oldest son William Newman living with her and her family.

Finally Jonathan Chamberlain also ended up in London, although I've not been able to find out much about him. By 1861 he was working as a bricklayer in the Marylebone area seemingly married to an Arabella who'd been born in Devon. I can't find a marriage anywhere for them and I suspect they may not have actually married. There is an Arabella Harris born near Exeter at the right time, who married a Thomas Bradford in 1855, but who then disappears only for Arabella Chamberlain to appear in 1861. Following the death of Jonathan Chamberlain in 1871, an Arabella Bradford Chamberlain marries a Peter Western back in Devon, so I'm guessing this is her, but am more than happy to hear alternative suggestions.

The family trees below summarise what I know about the above generations of the Chamberlain family. They are hopefully reasonably accurate, but if you spot any errors, or any relatives, please feel free to E-mail me

Please click on one of the red links on the tree to move to a different page.

If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at:

Nicky Rowberry 2018

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry