When someone is as interested in family history research as I am, inevitably their attention is drawn to the family tree of their spouse. My wife’s uncle, Harry Albray, had mentioned a number of times that he had been told that his Bartlett family were well known across the South and West of England for their travelling fairground. Quite often however, stories that have been passed down from one generation to another isn’t always accurate. But Harry’s aunty, Beatrice Perry nee Yelland, whose mother was Susan Ellen Yelland nee Bartlett, had certainly passed on accurate information. During my research however, I discovered a close family relationship to a much more famous travelling and entertaining family, something that Harry evidently hadn’t been told about. This other family was not just well known around the UK, but all over the world!
To begin the story, we need to go back to the late 18th Century, and the marriage of John Bartlett to Elizabeth Whitmash at Fordingbridge in Hampshire on 7th April 1796. John and Elizabeth had a total of nine children, all of whom were born at Fordingbridge. For very different reasons, two of their sons, Joseph and Robert, are of particular interest to my research.
Joseph Bartlett (1811-1878)
The reason for my interest in Joseph Bartlett is that he was my wife’s great great great grandfather. He was Christened on 3rd November 1811, and was John and Elizabeth’s third son and eighth child. He married Susannah Philpott on 14th January 1830 at Fordingbridge, and they had a total of eight children, three girls and five boys, who were born between 1831 and 1851. Very sadly, their youngest son died very soon after birth in 1848, his birth and death registrations giving him no forename.
The family are found at Frogham at the time of the 1841 Census, Joseph’s age being given as twenty-five, and his wife, recorded as Susan, is thirty. With them are their children Mary Ann aged nine, John aged seven, Walter aged four, and the newest addition to the family, Michael (Census reference: HO107 Piece 397 Book 12 Folio 5 Page 4).
At the time of the 1851 Census, Joseph and his family were living at Frogham, Fordingbridge. Joseph was recorded as a thirty-eight year old Farm Labourer, and with him were his thirty-eight year old wife Susanna, and their children John aged seventeen, Walter aged fifteen, Michael aged ten, and Matthew aged six (Census reference: HO107 Piece 1667 Folio 602 Page 12).
When the next Census was taken in 1861, the family were still living at Frogham. Forty-eight year old Joseph was recorded as a Jobbing Carpenter, and with him were his forty-nine year old wife Susan, their daughter Harriett Sophia aged nine, and Louisa aged four who is recorded as “daughter,” but who is actually the illegitimate child of their daughter Mary Ann, Louisa’s birth being registered in the Spring of 1855 (Census reference: RG09 Piece 669 Folio 67 Page 12).
The child who is of particular interest to my research is their son Matthew, who was my wife’s great great grandfather, and first cousin of James Bartlett who began the Bartlett’s travelling fairground. In the 1861 Census, Matthew is found at Knowl Hill, in Woodlands, Wimborne, Dorset, where he is a sixteen year old lodger in the household of John and Mary French, his occupation being given as a Carter (Census reference: RG09 Piece 1336 Folio 104 Page 3). The month after the Census was taken, an article regarding Matthew appeared in the Salisbury and Winchester Journal in the issue dated Saturday 13th July 1861:
Petty Sessions, Friday. – Before C. J. Parke, Esq. (chairman), Major Portman, Rev. C. J. Glyn, D. F. G. Dalton, Esq., and Capt. Monro …
Matthew Bartlett, of Frogham, Hants, was summoned by Mr. Simeon Ruddle, of Woodlands, for leaving his service without notice, and drawing all his wages. Defendant agreed to serve till March at 6s. per week, and 15s. for harvest. Defendant said he could not agree with the carter. Upon the suggestion of the Bench, Mr. Ruddle agreed to take him back again, upon his paying the costs; but his father would not agree, and said that his son should go to prison for a month. There was therefore no alternative, and he was committed for one month’s hard labour, there being no wages to forfeit.
Two years later, in 1863, Matthew joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry, and was based at the Forton Barracks in Gosport, Hampshire, where he served until his discharge in 1884.
The last Census Joseph and Susanna appear in is in 1871, when they were living at Frogham. In this Census, Joseph is recorded as being fifty-eight years old, and with him are his fifty-nine year old wife Susanna, their thirty-seven year old son John, their nineteen year old daughter Harriet, and their fifteen year old “granddaughter” Louisa. As previously mentioned, their immediate neighbours were Joseph’s brother, Robert along with his wife and family, and Joseph’s son Michael with his wife and family (Census reference: RG10 Piece 1183 Folio 18 Page 6). Meanwhile, their twenty-five year old son Matthew is found at the Royal Marines Barracks at Forton (Census reference: RG10 Piece 1152 Folio 100 Page 17).
It was late the following year that Matthew married Maria Matilda Aslett at Gosport. Their first child, a daughter who they named Susan Ellen and who was Christened on 23rd August 1874 at Gosport would later become my wife’s great grandmother.,
Very sadly, Joseph and Susanna died just a little over a year apart. Susanna passed away at the age of sixty-five in 1877, and Joseph died in 1878 at the age of sixty-six.
Mathew, Maria and their two daughters, Susan and Beatrice, are found at 2 Prospect Cottages in Gosport at the time of the 1881 Census. His occupation is given simply as Marine, and their ages are recorded as forty, twenty-four, seven, and under two months respectively (Census reference: RG11 Piece 1164 Folio 60 Page 47).
Another four children were born to Matthew and Maria between the 1881 and 1891 Censuses, May Eliza in 1882, William Charles on 8th March 1884, Emily Victoria Grace on 13th March 1887, and Joseph in 1889. At the time of the 1891 Census, the family were living at Forton Road, Gosport, Matthew being recorded as a forty-six year old Carpenter, and with him are his wife Maria aged thirty-six, and their children, Susan aged sixteen, Beatrice aged ten, Mabel aged nine, William aged seven, Emily aged four, and Joseph aged one. Another family member boarding with them is Nelly Aslett, who is said to be three years old and born at Porchester (Census reference: RG12 Piece 880 Folio 29 Page 12). Matthew and Maria’s youngest child was born in 1892, a daughter who they named Dorothy Mary Ann.
At the time of the 1901 Census, most of the family are found at 160 Forton Road in Gosport. Matthew is said to be a fifty-seven year old Pensioner, Maria is said to be forty-three, and the children found with them are William aged seventeen, Henry aged fourteen, Joseph aged ten. (Census reference: RG13 Piece 1011 Folio 108 Page 22) Meanwhile, their daughters Beatrice aged twenty and May aged nineteen are working as Domestic Servants at two Gosport public houses. Beatrice is found close by the family at 165 Forton Road working in the Fountain Inn (Census reference: RG13 Piece 1011 Folio 13 Page 17), while May is working at 2 Privett Road, which was known as the Wiltshire Lamb (Census reference: RG13 Piece 1010 Folio 62 Page 21).
Portsmouth Evening News, Tuesday 27 June 1916
BARTLETT. – In loving memory of my dear husband, Matthew Bartlett, who passed away, June 27th 1908, aged 67. From his loving wife, Maria Bartlett.
Portsmouth Evening News, Wednesday 28 June 1916
ROBEY-YELLAND – In loving memory of my dear daughters, Beatrice Maud Robey, who died Oct. 12th, 1908, aged 27; also Susan Yelland, died June 8th 1915, aged 41 years. Daughters of the late Matthew Bartlett. – from their loving mother, Maria Bartlett.
Robert Bartlett (1806-1892)
Robert was Christened on 24th April 1806, and was John and Elizabeth’s second son and sixth child. On 6th May 1835 at Fordingbridge, he married Eliza Plumley, and they had just three children who were born between 1836 and 1842. Eliza had been Christened at Fordingbridge on 26th November 1805, the daughter of Stephen Plumley and his wife Elizabeth nee Harris who were married on 29th April 1803 at Fordingbridge.
At the time the 1841 Census was taken, Robert and his young family were living at Frogham, Fordingbridge, his occupation being recorded as a Yeoman. Both he and his wife Eliza are said to be thirty years of age, but ages of adults fifteen years and over were required to be rounded down in this Census, so both Robert and Elizabeth were older than the Census suggests. With them are their sons, four year old Charles and one year old George. There is also a ten year old John Bartlett in the household, but currently I don’t know who he is (Census reference: HO107 Piece 397 Book 12 Folio 7 Page 9).
Very sadly, soon after the birth of their daughter Sophia in 1842, Robert’s wife Eliza died at the age of thirty-seven. It was several years later when Robert married his second wife, Elizabeth Ballard, their marriage taking place in the summer of 1850 in the Wimborne area of Dorset. Robert and Elizabeth had four children who were born between 1851 and 1859.
At the time of the 1851 Census, the family were living at Blissford, Fordingbridge. Robert is recorded as a forty-four year old Farmer of eight acres, and with him are his thirty-five year old wife Elizabeth, and his sons Charles aged fourteen, and George aged eleven (Census reference: HO107 Piece 1667 Folio 599 Page 7).
At the time of the 1861 Census, the family were still living at Blissford, Fordingbridge. Robert is recorded as a fifty-four year old Farmer of eight acres, and with him is his forty-three year old wife Elizabeth, and their children Eliza aged nine, James aged six, Ellen aged four, and Emily aged two (Census reference: RG09 Piece 669 Folio 64 Page 6).
When the 1871 Census was taken, the family were living at Frogham. Robert was sixty-four years old, and with him were his fifty-four year old wife Elizabeth, and two of their children, James aged sixteen, and Emily aged twelve. His immediate neighbours were his brother, Joseph, along with his wife and family, and Joseph’s son, Michael, with his wife and family (Census reference: RG10 Piece 1183 Folio 18 Page 6).
When the 1881 Census was taken, they were once again found living at Blissford, Robert being recorded as a seventy-four year old General Labourer. With him are his sixty-three year old wife Elizabeth, and their twenty-six year old son James, who is recorded as a Dealer of Cattle (Census reference: RG11 Piece 1200 Folio 74 Page 12).
Robert enjoyed a lengthy life, as he also appears in the Census that was taken in 1891. The family are once more found at Blissford, Robert being recorded as an eighty-four year old Farmer. With him are his seventy-four year old wife Elizabeth, and their four year old granddaughter, Hilda Bartlett (Census reference: RG12 Piece 909 Folio 63 Page 11).
Robert Bartlett died in early 1892 at Fordingbridge, at the age of eighty-four. Out of Robert’s children, the one of most interest to me is his youngest son named James, who was Christened on 8th October 1854 at Fordingbridge, and it is he who began Bartlett’s travelling fairground. At the time of the 1891 Census, he was thirty-six years old and was “Living in Vans” at the Show Yard, Comel Road, Portsmouth, his occupation being recorded as Hobby Horse Proprietor. With him are his thirty-five year old wife Lucy nee Rogers, their three children Alfred aged seven, Nellie aged three, and a newly born Eliza, as well as two girls who were domestic servants, and eight male boarders who were assistants in the business (Census reference: RG12 Piece 856 Folio 9 Page 11).
When the 1901 Census was taken, James and Lucy along with their family were found back at a Farm at Blissford. James is recorded as a forty-six year old Roundabout Proprietor and Farmer, and with him are his forty-five year old wife Lucy, their children Kate aged eighteen, Alfred aged seventeen, Hilda aged fourteen, Nellie aged thirteen, Eliza aged eleven, Daisy aged ten, May aged seven, Agnes aged six, and Topsey aged four. Also with the family is James’ widowed mother Elizabeth aged eighty-three, and around half a dozen males who were boarding with the family and working as traction engine drivers, painters and carters (Census reference: RG13 Piece 1048 Folio 56 Page 13).
Not only was the Bartlett’s Travelling Fairground very well known throughout the south and west of England, as previously mentioned, they were soon connected by marriage to an Exceptionally well known travelling and entertaining family! At Portsmouth in late 1904, James and Lucy Bartlett’s son, alfred James, married Mary ann Chipperfield who was born in Norfolk in the summer of 1879 and was the daughter of James Francis Chipperfield and Mary Ann nee Jones. James Francis Chipperfield claimed “I can train anything from a rabbit to an elephant,” and was a direct ancestor of James Chipperfield who introduced performing animals to England in 1684 at the Frost Fair on the Thames.
Alfred and Mary Ann had four children, all of whom were born in the Wimborne area of Dorset: Minnie on 30th September 1905, Topsy Elizabeth on 26th September 1907, James Robert on 20th September 1909, and Madge Mary Ann on 7th October 1910. Very sadly, shortly after Madge’s birth, Mary Ann nee Chipperfield died at the age of twenty-nine.
When the 1911 Census was taken, the recently widowed Alfred Bartlett was found at the High Street in Fordingbridge in the household of his brother-in-law and sister , John and Kate Percy, John’s occupation being recorded as a Traction Engine Driver. Alfred is aged twenty-six and is recorded as a Steam Roundabout Proprietor. Also in the household is Alfred’s daughter, Topsey aged three (Census reference: RG14 Piece 5898 Schedule 28). Alfred’s remaining children are found elsewhere: five year old Minnie and one year old James are boarding in the household of Albert Henry and Rose Chilcott at West End, Fordingbridge (Census reference: RG14 Piece 5898 Schedule 192); while Madge is found at Wimborne, Dorset in the household of Sidney Herbert and Emily Julia Cave, her relationship to the head of house being recorded as “Caretaking Child” (Census reference: RG14 Piece 12261 Schedule 86).
Alfred Bartlett’s second marriage was to Mary Conely, which took place in Portsmouth in 1912. They had just one child, a daughter named Emily Mary, who was born on 12th June 1918. Mary Zenetta Coneley was the daughter of James Coneley and Mary Ann nee Hewett who were married in 1868 at Portsmouth. In the 1881 Census, James Coneley was recorded as a showman, the address being given as Caravan in the Market Place, Ringwood, Hampshire.
At the time of the National Identity Card Register in September 1939, Alfred James Bartlett was living at Tan Yard in Fordingbridge, his date of birth being given as 6th March 1884, his occupation being recorded as a Firewood Merchant. With him is his wife Mary who was born on 8th April 1882, and his daughters Topsey born 26 September 1908, said to be an Assistant Fireman, and Emily born 12th June 1918, recorded as Incapacitated (Reference: RG101/2398H/006).
Alfred James Bartlett died at Back Street, Fordingbridge at the age of seventy-one on 31st October 1955, and was buried on 7th November at the Hyde Parish Church at Fordingbridge. Probate was granted on 30th December the same year to Emily Mary Bartlett spinster and Barbara Ileen Newman (wife of Gordon William Newman), his effects being valued at £4664 11s. 5d., which in 2005 would be the equivalent of about £81,256. Mary Nezetta Bartlett nee Coneley died at 34 West Street, Fordingbridge on 27th April 1974 at the wonderful age of ninety-two.