Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

The Puddles

Annie Puddle

Annie Puddle was one of my great grandmothers. She is one of my most enigmatic ancestors and her origins remain elusive!

From the information I know of her, she appears to have been born around 1875 in Hereford, England, although I have yet to find a birth certificate, or even a baptism record.

She first appears in the records in the 1881 census, aged five and boarding with an elderly lady Eliza Jones. They were living at 58 Catherine Street, Hereford. By the 1891 census, the pair of them had moved to 63 Catherine Street, and Annie was described as aged 17 and a General Servant. Both these censuses and all subsequent ones indicate she was born in Hereford. There was still nothing on the census return to indicate any relation between them, Annie was still described as a boarder. I've not found her in any school records yet, but there are still some to check.

Eliza Jones died in 1896 at 61 Catherine Street, aged 92. Earlier in 1896 Annie Puddle had her first child Eleanor Elizabeth Rowberry at the same address. On Eleanor's birth certificate, Annie gives her maiden name as Jones rather than Puddle, possibly because she was living with Eliza Jones still. Annie frequently used the surname Jones rather than Puddle, whether it was out of affection for old Eliza Jones, or dislike of the surname Puddle, we'll probably never know.

Annie went on to have a further 10 children (including my grandfather Alfred) with Albert Edward Rowberry. The family can be found in the 1901 census, living at 43 Blue School Street, Hereford. Annie this time was described as aged 25. She finally married Albert on 17th October 1903 (at which point she must have been 8 months pregnant with her 5th child by him). This time she gave her name as Puddle. For her father's name though, all she seems to have been able to come up with was 'Puddle', no first name. This suggests Annie may have been illegitimate, it certainly implies she was not on close terms with her father!

By 1911 the family were living at 80 Bath Street, Hereford and Annie was said to be 35. They claimed on the census that they had been married 15 years - presumably this sounded more respectable than the reality of 8 years, given that they had their 13 year old son Charles living with them. Life with Albert was not by all accounts an easy one. He had a tendency to drink and was hauled up before the magistrates in 1919 for not providing for Annie and the children. The neighbours seem to have sided with Annie describing her as "a steady woman" who "looked after the home properly and kept the children clean". The newspaper report below is from the Hereford Mercury of 21st May 1919. Image reproduced with kind permission of Herefordshire History

In 1921 the family were still living in Bewell Terrace, with their surviving 7 children; the eldest 4 now grown and earning money of their own to help their mother. Annie gave her age then as 45 and 8 months, suggesting a birth around August 1876. On the 1939 register the remains of the family had moved to Alexandra Avenue. For the year of birth Annie has put 63, but I think she meant this was her age rather than that she was born in 1863. There is just a question mark against her the day and month of her birth - she never knew when her birthday was. Albert is still with her, as are 2 of her sons, Wyndham and Arthur.

Annie Puddle outlived her husband Albert, dying in 1956 at Canonmoor Street at the grand old age of 84 (approximately of course). I only have a couple of definite photos of Annie - the one at the top of this page and the one below, taken at her grandson Les Rowberry's wedding in 1954.

There is another much earlier photo that just might (and it is only might) be Annie with her husband Albert. It was taken probably in the 1890s or early 1900s by Greetham & Co in Hereford and was given to me by cousin Lin in Canada. The young woman in the photo looks similar to me to the older Annie Puddle. It's definitely a photo of part of the Rowberry family and is from the right place and time to be Annie. The woman is also wearing a small stick brooch similar to the one Annie is wearing in the later photo. Is this Annie Puddle?

The lack of a name for her father, combined with the lack of a birth or baptism for Annie, has made it impossible so far to take Annie Puddle's line any further. In attempting to solve the mystery of Annie Puddle, my friend Polly Rubery and I have drawn up family trees for Eliza Jones, the elderly woman who took Annie in, and most of the Puddles in Herefordshire - see below. If Annie really was born a Puddle, there's a good chance she is descended from this Puddle family as there were few other Puddles in Herefordshire at the time.

The family tree below summarises what I know about Eliza Jones's family. In an attempt to find the link between the Puddles and the Jones, my friend Polly did quite a bit of research into this family. If you spot any errors, or any relatives, please feel free to E-mail me

The family tree below summarises what I know about any Puddles we've found living in Herefordshire. The bulk of the research, and indeed the tree itself, is the work of Polly Rubery. As such it is almost certainly pretty 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.

The photograph below shows Seth Puddle and Mary Jane Powell with their large family. From left to right they are: Back row - Elizabeth, Wyndham, Beatrice, Ernest & Hannah. Front row: Bert, Seth Puddle, Dulcie, Mildred, Seth junior, Mary Jane & Lancelot.

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

Nicky Rowberry 2022

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry