Family History

The life of Great-grandfather William Blunden

1846 to 1848 William Blunden was born. The exact date of birth is not known as I have I have been unable to find a birth registration or record of baptism. The date of birth is I think significant. His mother Martha Bennett married William Blunden in 1850. Their son John born a year before was registered as John Bennett Blunden (it was common to give a child born out of wedlock his fathers surname as a middle name). From the age given on the 1871 census William would have been born 1847 from the 1881, 1891 ones 1848 and the 1901 census and death certificate 1849. However from the information on the 1851 and 1861 censuses he would have been born 1846, and this would have been provided by his parents. If the later birth dates are correct I would be tempted to accept that he was the son of William Blunden, but if the earlier date as provided by William or Martha is correct then I believe there is a possibility that William had a different father. I can remember my grandmother saying that her father had been ill-treated by his Ďfatherí as a child because he was illegitimate and his Ďfatherí had been made to marry his mother. Why did William become a couple of years younger? Was it because illegitimacy became less acceptable in the late 19th and earlier 20th centuries? And why wasnít his birth registered? Martha had both registered the birth of and had baptised her illegitimate daughter born in 1841 and registered the birth of John who was also born illegitimately.

The 1851 and 1861 census returns give his place of birth as Midhurst but the later ones either Midhurst or Heyshott.

Williamís mother Martha Bennett was born in 1821 (baptised 1/7/1821) the daughter of Midhurst butcher Moses Bennett (born 1785 died 1851) and Elizabeth Challen from Terwick (born 1784 died 1859). On 15/3/1841 she gave birth to a daughter Emily Bennett. The baptismal register for St Mary Magdalene Midhurst 7/5/1841 records her as bastard daughter of Martha Bennett. No father is recorded on birth certificate. Martha had an older brother James Bennett (born 1808) to whose family she seems to have been close. He followed his father in the pork butchery business. Her older sister Elizabeth Bennett (born 1818) married a bargeman from Stoke Newington, London George Leverett. I donít whether she was working in London when they met or if he was working on barges which went to Midhurst. She and her family eventually ended up in the Limehouse area of East London, working as bargemen and lightermen on the Thames. Younger sister Ann Bennett (born 1823) married Alfred Miles in Heyshott 2/10/1847. Martha was a witness. Could Martha have met William Blunden through Alfred? Both Elizabeth and Ann lived to be well into their eighties. Martha also had another older sister Jane Bennett (born 1814) and older and younger brothers William Bennett (born 1810)and Moses Bennett (born 1826), but I havenít as yet discovered what happened to them.

Could Martha have had another illegitimate son? The 1851 census records her parents as having a grandson C Bennett aged 5 living with them (unfortunately the full Christian name wasnít given). I havenít been able to find a possible birth match for him or what happened to him after Moses and Elizabeth died. Of course he may have been a child of one of Marthaís three siblings whose histories I havenít discovered.

1849 John Blunden Bennett born 2a.m. on 21/10/1849 in Midhurst. Martha registered the birth on 19/11/1849. No father recorded on the birth certificate.

1850 Martha Bennett marries William Blunden in St James, Heyshott. Witnesses were Alfred Miles (Marthaís brother-in-law) and Henry Pope. Martha signed her name and William made his mark.

On the marriage certificate William gives his father as Joseph Clue, farmer. The 1851 census records him as having been born in Binsted, Hants in 1820. There was a family of Clues farmers in Binsted at the time of Williamís birth. Josiah Clues died in 1823 aged 74. The only Blunden in the village was John Blunden who in 1801 married Sarah Greenwood and 1818 Sarah Davies. Could Sarah be Williamís mother? So far I have been unable to trace what happened to either of them. A possible, at present very speculative, link is that there was George Blunden living in Heyshott in 1840 aged 50. A George Blunden was baptised in Selham 9/5/1790 and he had an older brother John baptised 28/3/1773. Their parents were Richard and Ann. There is no trace of John dying as a child in Selham.Could John have moved to Binsted, Hants and therefore George be Williamís Ďuncleí?. This might explain why William moved to Heyshott. In 1841 he was living in the parish with George Randall farmer and his family and working as an agricultural labourer.

1851 The 1851 census sees William living with Martha and William and brother John in Heyshott. William Blunden Sr is an agricultural labourer. Accounts of contemporary life in Heyshott by people they would have known are found in ĎLife under the bread taxí. This is a collection of eye-witness accounts of the devastating effects of the Corn Laws on agricultural workers in particular, introduced by the daughter of Richard Cobden. Richard Cobden the free trade campaigner lived at Heyshott himself and was much loved by its inhabitants. He could well have employed William and helped the family. Did William and Martha name their children Kate and Richard after Cobden and his wife? Their next door neighbours were Marthaís sister Ann and her husband Alfred Miles. Marthaís cousin Maria Broadbridge was also living in the village married to George Robinson a grocer and more distant cousins would have been Pollards, as her grandmother Ann Bennett was born a Pollard in Heyshott. Marthaís daughter Emily was living with her grandparents in Midhurst.

1851 Kate Blunden born in Heyshott

1855 Alice Blunden born in Heyshott (baptised 26/8/1855)

1859 William Blunden dies 19/4/1860. Cause of death was fatty degeneration of the heart and softening of the spinal cord. He was buried 4/1860 in Heyshott

1859 Richard (Dick) Blunden born (baptised 3/6/1859) in Heyshott

1861 1861 census sees Martha as a widow and her five children living in The Street, Heyshott. William and his brother John are employed as agricultural labourers.

So far the 1861 census gives us our last information on Emily Bennett. She is a servant to William Baldock aged 51 salesman and his wife Mary at 22 Newgate Street, Farringdon. She was their only servant so would probably have had to turn her hand to everything.




1865 4/5/1865 Martha marries in the Register Office Midhurst Robert Bazley. He was a bachelor of 30, a railway labourer, son of Robert Bazley deceased, farm labourer. The witnesses were Marthaís brother James Bennett and his wife Rhoda. Robert made his mark.

1871 1871 census finds William and brother John still agricultural labourers in Heyshott, lodging with farm labourer Edmund Marshall and his family. George and Henry Quinnel, father and son were also lodgers with the Marshalls and they were lime burners as were next door neighbours, the Woods family

Kate and Alice Blunden were both in-service on the 1871 census and there is no trace of Martha, Robert and Dick.

In 1871 Kate marries in Brighton James Whitehouse a railway labourer and in 1873 Alice marries his brother William, also a railway labourer. As this was Robert Bazeleyís job too I assume that sometime after their marriage Martha and Robert moved to Brighton and Kate and Alice met their husbands through their step-father. William Whitehouse died 1895 and Alice remarries the following year another railway labourer Alfred Jerram. James Whitehouse had died 1882 and there is no further trace of Kate and two of her children. In 1891 her eldest son was living with his aunt and uncle William & Alice Whitehouse and the youngest daughter was in the Rottingdean workhouse. I never heard mention of these sisters or their children in the family.


1875 29/3/1875 William marries in St Mary Magdalene Church Madehurst Fanny Hornsby. She was born in Madehurst 1852 the fifth child of Edwin and Eliza Hornsby. The Hornsbys were an old Slindon family. Two years earlier Fanny had given birth to a son James King Hornsby, baptised 20/3/1873 as son of Fanny Hornsby single woman and was buried 20/7/1875. He was possibly named after Fannyís grandfather James King who at the time of Fannyís birth was a farmer of 9 acres in Madehurst. The marriage was witnessed by Mary Ann Hornsby, Fannyís sister and George Blunden. George Blunden could possibly have been the George Blunden born 1835 son of Robert & Harriet (Robert was the son of Mary, sister of George Blunden who lived in Heyshott). George Blunden was a woodman who lived in Cocking near to Heyshott so perhaps William might have learnt his woodcraft from him?

1879 John Blunden dies 23/7/1879 Madehurst buried 27/9/1879 Madehurst. Cause of death heart disease for several years. The death was registered on 26/9/1879 by William who made his mark. He was present at time of death. Johnís occupation was farm labourer.

1880 Brother Dick marries Annie Davis in Houghton

1881 Fanny Blunden dies 13/1/1881 and is buried 17/1/1881 in Madehurst. The death was registered by William on 14/1/1881. She died of phthisis (tuberculosis) from which she had been suffering for three years. On the death certificate William is described as labourer in the woods.

1881 census William is living with his parents-in-law and Edwinís brother John, who was deaf. He is described as a labourer in wood man.

Martha is living in Church Square, Midhurst with her widowed sister-in-law Rhoda Bennett and working as a charwoman, she gave herself as still being married. Dick and Annie Blunden are living next door. Dick is described as a labourer.


1885 William married on 14/2/1885 in Madehurst Ellen Downer. Ellen was born 1850 in Madehurst the only daughter of William and Jane Downer to reach adulthood. However Ellen had five brothers who did so; William who became a water policeman in Bristol after working on boats which sailed along the Channel and up the River Arun; John who was a steward in the Pimlico district of London; James a railway ticket collector in Croydon; Charles butler to the 4th Earl of Belmore and Henry who after being a gentlemanís gentleman ran an upmarket lodging house in Ebury St, London. William was a gardener at Dale Park House and several of his sons worked there before leaving the area. His wife Janeís father Thomas Saxby had been born in Slindon, the Saxbys being another old Slindon family. As a young woman Ellen had worked in service in West Street Chichester as a general servant to Thomas Brown, Vicar of St Paulís. By 1881she had returned home to be her familyís housekeeper. Jane Downer died in 1881 of smallpox. The marriage was witnessed by James and Mary Downer. James was Ellenís brother but Mary Downer is a mystery. There was an unmarried Mary Downer born and living in Arundel at the time with her older, unmarried sister Frances, a school matron. Could they have been Ellenís cousins?

1885 6 December. Daughter Nellie Jane born. She was baptised 14/2/1886 in Madehurst church.

1887 William Henry Blunden born in Madehurst. Known as Harry.


1888 Martha dies 12/11/1988 of cerebral haemorrhage Described as wife of Robert Beazley estate labourer. Death notified by son William Blunden 13/11/1888, buried 27/9/1879 Madehurst. This is the last mention of Robert. A very elusive character he is not mentioned on any census return or the register of deaths. Searching for him is made difficult by the variety of ways of spelling his name.

1889 3/9/1889 Charles Henry Blunden born in Madehurst


1890 The family move to Bittleside later known as Biddleside, Slindon Common. In his diary Jimmy Dean next door neighbour describes how Harry Cooper wheelwright & carpenter was ordered off Bittleside and ended up in Westhampnett Union workhouse. In his place William Blunden, wife, two sons and daughter moved in. James, Jimmy Dean was distantly related to Ellenís mother Jane Downer though from his diary I do not think they knew of the family connection. Jimmy Dean was a real local character. Self-educated he wrote articles on village life for many years for the West Sussex Gazette. His diaries are now in the Public records Office Chichester. He and his wife Harriet had a large family and his daughter Theresa, Tizzy, born in 1886, was a lifelong friend of Williamís daughter Nellie. On the other side of Bittleside was the Sir George Thomas Arms

My grandmother used to say there was a smugglers tunnel running from the Dog & partridge pub (the smugglersí haunt) to Biddleside.

12/10/1900 Jimmy Deanís cottage at Bittleside burns down.

1891 William is now a wood merchant and he has lodging with him and his family Clement Napper described as woodmanís carter. I think we can assume that William was successful enough to be an employer.

Brother Dick is now a bricklayer and living in Chichester Lodge, Arundel park, with wife Annie acting as gatekeeper. My mother was always astonished at how they could have raised a family of two sons and five daughters in such a small property.

1901 The family now had boarding with them Charles Peskett 20 wood carter (from Heyshott) and George Balchin 42 woodcutter. William is marked as an employer on the census return.

1901 Ellen Blunden dies of gangrene.

Between 1901 and 1918 William has notice to leave Biddleside by Charles Leslie (landlord, owner of Swindon Manor) so that Charles Horton Blacksmith can live there. This may have been in 1904 as on 2/12/1904 William was granted a licence from Westhampnett RDC to erect a cart shed on a piece of land in Walberton.

1911 William Henry Blunden emigrates to Australia

1914 August Nellie Blunden marries Joseph Hill. Born 17/4/1885 in Harting, Joe was a builder.

1915 31/7/1915 granddaughter Gladys Ellen Hill born in Walberton

1918 By 1918 William was living Burnham Cottage, Dairy lane with daughter Nellie

1918 William Henry Blunden dies 4 July 1918 in 5th Casualty Clearing Station France of wounds whilst serving with the Australian forces (Private 4150, 13th Bn, Australian Infantry A.I.F.). Buried Crouy British Cemetery, Crouy-sur-Somme, Somme .At time of enlisting worked for Mr W Morewood, Rushholme, Merrivale Road, Pymble, nr Sydney NSW, as a groom and gardener.

1918 Charles Blunden marries Agnes Rosina Crux, Ashford district. She was born 1889 in Canterbury district.

1919 23/12/1919 Grandson Robert Henry Hill born in Walberton5/6/1926

1922 24/5/1922 Granddaughter Doris Miriam Hill born, Walberton

29/7/1922 Granddaughter Vera Blunden born, Walberton

1924 2/6/1924 Granddaughter Nellie Phyllis Hill born, Walberton

Grandson Anthony C H Blunden born, Walberton

1926 8/6/26 grandson Clifford Leonard Blunden born, Walberton

1928 Granddaughter Sylvia Blunden born, Walberton

1935 14/8/1835 William dies of valvular disease of the heart. At time of death living at Burnham Cottage, Dairy Lane, Walberton with daughter Nelly Jane Hill who was present at and reported the death. Occupation on death certificate wood cutter and seller.