Collingbourne Kingston

Missing Mary & Secretive Sarah

It’s interesting how undertaking new projects forces you to look at your tree and your research in new ways, and show up those pesky holes.

You know – those people who seem to evaporate like mist or (possibly even worse) apparate fully formed in front of you with kids and all but no sense of before.

I have two ladies on my father’s side who are very much of the disappear into nothingness variety. And, I’m not going to lie, it’s frustrating me!


Eddie Taplin, His First Wife & Her First Husband …

It’s funny what becomes the root cause of a post of mine. Sometimes it’s a new piece of research that solves an old mystery, maybe a new record set becomes available shedding new light on a family – or sometimes it can be something a bit more unexpected.

For example, this one. A few days into the New Year my mum messaged me saying that my father (who has never really been hugely interested in the family history) had asked about Grampy Eddie’s first wife and did I know anything about her. Of course I did, I swiftly replied, and sent her what I knew. Only, it turned out that what I knew wasn’t exactly the truth …


Charlotte Kew – Part One

There are always lines or families in your family tree that take precedence over others – they’re either more interesting, more relevant or perhaps just ‘easier’ to find. On the flip side, this means that there are some families which just don’t get the same attention.

For me, one of those families has lurked in the not-too-distant past in my father’s English tree, specifically that of my 4 x great-grandmother, Charlotte Brine nee Kew. But after many years of neglect, I turned to her recently and made a breakthrough and found a few surprises along the way!


John Norris

I was having a wander through my family tree, trying to find an ancestor or family to share with you. I was reminded, on my father’s mother’s side of the Norris family of Collingbourne Kingston, Wiltshire, and after reacquainting myself with the line found a rather surprising association.

Emily Alice Palmer has been mentioned before – and her less than ‘traditional’ life that she lived. Her maternal grandmother was named Priscilla Brine. Her great-grandmother was Mary Norris. Her great-great-grandfather was John Norris. (Are you still with me, generation fans? We’re back to my 10 x great-grandfather now!) He had been made vicar of Collingbourne Kingston in 1647 and in August 1660 moved to Aldbourne in Wiltshire. It was here that he died on 18 March 1682, and was survived by his wife, Elizabeth.

Searching the Clergy of the Church of England Database (CCEd), John obtained his BA from Pembroke College, Cambridge on 17 June 1636 and his MA on 2 May 1639. What little evidence there is seems to show that he was a Calvinist (that is, a form of Protestantism based on the Reformation-era teachings of John Calvin). He and his wife Elizabeth had 5 children, 3 of whom survived into adulthood.

I am descended from his son Henry, who seems to have remained in Collingbourne Ducis, marrying Catherine Hellyard on 16 October 1674 and having at least five children.

Henry’s brother John – born on 2 January 1657 in Collingbourne Kingston – seems to have taken a quite different turn with his life. Educated first at Winchester College, he entered Exeter College, Oxford in 1676. He read classical literature widely, but was drawn to the writings of Plato, Xenophon and Aristotle and was drawn to various metaphysical and mystical teachings. He obtained his BA in 1680 and became an elected fellow of All Souls. He also discovered the works of the rationalist philosopher Nicolas Malebranche and his work Search after Truth (aka ‘Concerning the Search after Truth. In which is treated the nature of the human mind and the use that must be made of it to avoid error in the sciences’ – which I think we can agree is a most snappy title …). In 1684 he took his MA and was ordained.

St Andrew's Old Church, Bemerton in 1994. © Copyright Nick Macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

St Andrew’s Old Church, Bemerton in 1994. © Copyright Nick Macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

In 1689 he left Oxford and married his wife, Elizabeth. They moved to Newton St Loe near Bath in Somerset where he was the vicar. It was here that he wrote a critique to John Locke’s An Essay on Human Understanding. In 1692 the Norris family moved to Bemerton, Wiltshire (just outside Salisbury) – a position that Locke had recommended him for. The two Johns (as it were) had a mutual friend in Lady Damaris Cudworth Masham, a philosopher and feminist in her own right. She argued that mothers were essential to the well-being of political society and also advocated women’s participation in disciplines long dominated by men: sciences and philosophy.

Although the friendship between John Norris and John Locke and Lady Masham didn’t last (and Locke dismissed him from serious consideration, describing him as “an obscure, enthusiastic man”), he was a close friend and supporter of other learned ladies, such as Elizabeth Thomas and Lady Mary Chudleigh. His closest friendship here was, however, with Mary Astell.

Title page from the third edition of A Serious Proposal

Title page from the third edition of A Serious Proposal

Mary had received an informal education from her uncle, who had left the clergy due to bouts of alcoholism, but introduced her to the works of Plato and Aristotle. Following the death of her father, mother and aunt, she moved to London and came under the patronage of various women, including Lady Elizabeth Hastings, the daughter of the 7th Earl of Huntingdon (Elizabeth and Mary would both die after having a mastectomy following breast cancer). It was under their aegis that she was able to develop and publish her works on the importance of marriage equality and education for women – so much so that she presented an idea of women having the same religious and secular education as men, ideally in a protected environment. Jonathan Swift (he of Gulliver’s Travels fame) mocked her, and Daniel Defoe (yes, Robinson Crusoe) called them “impracticable” – but this didn’t stop him from using almost the exact same idea in a later essay of his.

The more I read about Mary Astell, what she overcame and how she managed to debate freely with some of the most learned men and women of her age, the more I wonder why more isn’t known about her, and other like her. (The answer is, I feel, somewhat obvious.)

One of her key quotes is the following, from her book Some Reflections Upon Marriage:

If all Men are born Free, why are all Women born Slaves?

She had a great many good things to say about John Norris, including the following:

…though some morose Gentleman wou’d perhaps remit me to the Distaff or the Kitchin … yet expecting better things from the more Equitable and ingenious Mr. Norris, who is not so narrow-Soul’d as to confine Learning to his own Sex, or to envy it in ours, I presume to beg his Attention a little to the Impertinencies of a Woman’s Pen.

She wrote in 1694: “Women are from their very Infancy debar’d those Advantages, with the want of which they are afterwards reproached …They are] nursed up in those Vices which will hereafter be upbraided to them. So partial are Men as to expect Brick where they afford no Straw. … How can you be content to be in the World like Tulips in a Garden, to make a fine shew and be good for nothing?”

She urged women to be scholars and poets and to strive for excellence, arguing that the life of the mind was “a Matter infinitely more worthy your Debates, than what Colours are most agreeable, or what’s the Dress becomes you best”. She encouraged women to aspire to higher things than “to attract the Eyes of Men. We value them too much, and ourselves too little, if we place any part of our desert in their Opinion; and don’t think our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some worthless heart.”

#YesAllWomen indeed.

For my own part, and as non-religious as I am, I have to say that I am proud of John and his cultivation of not only his own education but also the support of the notion that women are – shock, horror – just as capable of rational thought as men. In their correspondence, he and Mary agree that as bodies have motion, so minds have love.

I’m not sure I can add anything to that.

 “How fading are the joys we dote upon!

Like apparitions seen and gone.

But those which soonest take their flight

Are the most exquisite and strong—

Like angels’ visits, short and bright;

Mortality’s too weak to bear them long.”

John Norris, The Parting (1678)

For more on John Norris:

Encyclopaedia Londinensis entry

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry


For more on Mary Astell:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry


Grampy Eddie Taplin

It struck me a moment ago that I hadn’t ever got around to publishing a post regarding my fourth grandfather – Eddie Taplin. I’ve written about Ellis, Otto and Bob, but not Eddie.

As mentioned in my first post regarding grandfathers, I have no memory of Eddie, yet I was named (in part) after him. So what do I know about him?

Continue reading

Emily Alice Palmer

When does a member of the family become a ‘black sheep’? When they commit a serious crime? Adultery? Murder? A simple elopement? Somehow rebelling against the standards the family has set or the morals they live by? When does not behaving within the bounds of society turn into becoming a black sheep? Its a tough one to call – and not a label that I can easily tag onto one of my paternal great-grandmothers, Emily Alice Palmer, pictured below at the wedding of her daughter, Norah (my paternal grandmother).

Norah & Eddie's Wedding, 1949
Norah & Eddie’s Wedding, 1949

Emily was born on 26 June 1876 in the Wiltshire parish of Collingbourne Kingston, probably within the village of Brunton (now considered part of Collingbourne Kingston as a whole, Brunton, Aughton and Sunton were all separate villages alongside the village of Collingbourne Kingston). Her parents, Frederick Palmer and Mary Jane Fisher had married in October 1875, and she had an older sister, Sarah Ann Fisher, who had been born in 1874. Frederick and Mary Jane went on to have a further 8 children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)
Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

The majority of Emily’s siblings remained in Collingbourne Kingston, with a few scattering to other areas of the UK. The youngest, Dulcima Lillian May, emigrated to Australia with her husband, John Bagot Percival, and son, John Sydney Percival, in 1921.

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (
Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (

Emily first crops up in the 1881 UK census, living at Tinkerbarn, Brunton, with her parents and 3 siblings. Frederick is listed as an agricultural labourer and no doubt worked on the Tinkerbarn farmstead.

1881 Census
1881 Census

In 1891, Emily is still living with her parents and siblings in Brunton:

1891 Census
1891 Census

The next year, 1892, sees the birth of Emily Alice’s first child – Edward Sidney Palmer – on 23 May. (In some later records he is referenced as Sidney Edward, and his family knew him as Sid, but his birth and baptism were both registered as Edward Sidney.) Three years later, Emily has another child, this time a daughter called Kate.

On October 22, 1898, Emily married Arthur Tom Bowley in Collingbourne Kingston. He was a carter on a nearby farm, although born in the village of Ham in the nearby parish of Shalbourne. Between 1900 and 1904 Emily and Arthur would have three daughters – Avaline Ada, Hilda Violet and Winifred Jessie.

On the 1901 census Arthur, Emily, her first two children Edward and Kate (interestingly, although Edward was enumerated with the surname Palmer, Kate was entered with the surname Bowley – was Kate, in fact, Arthur’s daughter despite her birth being registered as Kate Palmer?), and their daughter Avaline are living in the hamlet of Gallowood in Shalbourne.

1901 Census
1901 Census

It is after this point that things get a bit … complicated.

I knew at some point Emily Alice must have married somebody with the surname Murray – but could never find a marriage between a Murray and a Bowley (or a Palmer). Searching for my grandmother in the 1911 census I tracked down the family living in Marnhull, Dorset – and there was Emily Alice living with Joshua Murray.

1911 Census
1911 Census

Immediately, several things leapt out at me:

  • they stated they were married and had been for 18 years – Emily Alice’s eldest son, Edward, would have been roughly 18 at this time, but in no way had Joshua and her been together this long
  • various children with the Murray surname – Kate was a Palmer (possibly Bowley, as mentioned above), Hilda & Winifred were both Bowley
  • Avaline was missing – although the return states Emily had lost two children, and one may have been Avaline
  • Joshua’s occupation (threshing machine driver) fit with family lore

Using the FreeBMD website, I was able to find 7 children in addition to my grandmother born to Joshua and Emily, and the family settled in the Parkstone area of Poole, Dorset. Norah had actually been born in Collingbourne Kingston, and it was here where she made her home, having her children and then marrying Edward William Taplin in 1949.

Whilst I will come back to the Murray/Morey family in a later post, I should point out here that Joshua Locke Morey (as the name was spelled when he was baptised) was married at the time of … taking up with Emily Alice. He had married Mary Adela Blackmore in 1885, and they had seven children together – the youngest born in 1903. His eldest child with Emily was born in 1906 (her youngest child with Arthur Bowley was born in 1904).

The 1911 census for Mary clearly states she is married (i.e. not ‘Widowed’ or anything similar). I have not made contact with any descendants of Joshua’s ‘first’ family – something that I’ve put off for many years.

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer
Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

That wasn’t the end for Emily Alice, however. Following Joshua’s death in 1933, she married again in the same year to a naturalised Italian. Camillo Antonio Ciotti changed his name to Camillo Antonio Collins in 1941, the following announcement appearing in The London Gazette:

The London Gazette, 24 October 1941.

I, Camillo Antonio Collins of No. 182 Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole in the county of Dorset, Labourer, formerly a head waiter, a naturalised British subject, heretofore called and known by Camillo Antonio Ciotti and that I have assumed and intend henceforth on all occasions whatsoever and at all times to sign and use and to be called and known by the name of Camillo Antonio Collins in lieu of and in substitution for my former name of Camillo Antonio Ciotti. And I also hereby give notice that such change of name is formally declared and evidenced by a deed poll under my hand and seal dated the 8th day of October 1941 duly executed and attested, and that such Deed Poll was enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 21st day of October, 1941.

They had no children together and, following Emily’s death in 1949, Camillo married for his third time in 1952 to Winifred Dixon.

(But what of Arthur Tom Bowley? What happened to him? Research suggests that he married again in 1920 and had a further six children with his second wife, dying in Salisbury in 1940.)

Family Group ...
Family Group …