Tag Archives: STEVENS Richard Walford /

Shared ancestors and their shared experiences

Cape Town from Table Bay 1778

Megan and I are 8th cousins because of our shared 7th great-grandparents, Johannes (Jan Harmensz) Potgieter (1674-1733), Marthinus Jacobus van Staden (1706-1746) and his wife Catharina Botha (1714-1781). As I indicated in my last post, there is more to tell because there are interesting people with colourful stories associated with these ancestors. I have spent a few weeks putting those stories together.

The stories go back to the earliest years of European settlement at the Cape in the mid 1600s for which there are surprisingly good records. The records required some hard work in order to extract the stories because quite a few are in Old Dutch script and use an antiquated Dutch language. The perseverance was worth it and has revealed a rich group of characters.

The most impressive amongst them are the young slave women taken to the Cape from India, Madagascar and Africa. Yes, we have slaves as ancestors. Some died young. Most survived their enslavement and went on to prosper and to found a number of prominent Afrikaans families. Also impressive were the contemporary attitudes that allowed these ex-slaves to take their place in society. One was granted a block of land on what is now Castle Street in the middle of the Cape Town CBD. One owned Camps Bay. Another owned Groot Constantia.

There is the free settler from Cologne who received one of the first grants of land, but was murdered just outside the Castle on what is now the Grand Parade.

There is the rifleman from Rotterdam, with a green thumb, who married the murdered man’s thirteen year-old daughter, but only after he had fathered a child with a slave at Groote Schuur. You guessed it. He was a Van der Merwe. But not a Koos.

There is the young man, born a slave to a slave mother, who married an aristocratic Huguenot woman and had to rescue other Huguenot ancestors from a murdering soldier who took them hostage.

There is the young man’s father, a soldier from Germany, who kept running foul of the law and was banished to Robben Island.

There is the young man’s mother who washed Jan van Riebeeck’s clothes.

There is adultery and divorce and some very choice language.

There are ancestors that we don’t share, who jointly helped an Empress grieve the death of her son.

And more.

The stories are intertwined and complicated in places, but I have provided them with references and links to maps that hopefully help explain them and put them in context. Thanks to the internet, I was also able to source a number of fascinating old maps and pictures from the Netherlands Rijksmuseum and Nationaal Archief that provide a contemporaneous flavour to the stories.

Please have a look HERE and let me know what you think.

©Alun Stevens 2019

Partridge and Walford

Banner is Cornelius Walford; Witham House; and grandfather Arthur Partridge Stevens’ serviette ring.

My grandfather’s name was Arthur Partridge Stevens and my great-grandfather’s name was Richard Walford Stevens. Why Partridge and Walford?

It seems likely that the second name, Walford, was derived from Cornelius Walford who was Richard Walford’s uncle and married to his mother’s sister at the time of his birth. A not uncommon naming practice at the time was to give a child its godparents’ surname as a second or third name. The likelihood, therefore, was that Cornelius (2 April 1827 – 28 September 1885) and Jane (neé Malyon; 1827 – 1 January 1863) Walford were Richard Walford’s godparents.

Cornelius was a very interesting person. He was clearly talented with a wide range of interests and aptitudes. He was involved with building societies and insurance in Witham and had an abiding interest in shorthand. He went on to become a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries (as I did 120 years later) with a significant career in insurance, including managing some significant companies of the day. He was also a Fellow of the Statistical Society, a Fellow of the Historical Society and a barrister. He published work for both Societies and the Institute including a year book on insurance.

It seems almost certain that Richard Walford named his son Arthur Partridge after his next eldest brother of the same names. Arthur Partidge died at the age of 22 in September 1878 on a steamer between Melbourne and New Guinea, at about the same time that Richard Walford arrived in South Africa. The question, therefore, is why Richard and Eliza Stevens named their third son Arthur Partridge at about the same time as Cornelius and Jane Walford named their first son Richard Partridge?

The likely source of the name is Robert Partridge who was a real estate and land agent of prominence in Witham. He and his wife occupied Witham House (57 Newland Street), a grand house with extensive land including a cricket pitch. He acquired the house from the Pattisson family who had built it in about 1750. Jacob Pattisson was a prominent merchant and well respected, but his great-grandson, also Jacob, was not of the same calibre. He was a solicitor and was, in 1852, publicly accused by Cornelius Walford of inappropriate dealings with the funds of the Witham Building Society. He survived this accusation, but in 1859 went bankrupt and fled Witham and Robert Partridge acquired Witham House.

Witham House is not far from Batsford (100 Newland Street, the Stevens family home) so it is probable that there was interaction between the families. The Partridge children were of similar ages to the Stevens children and later history shows a fairly close connection between the Stevens and Partridge boys involving cricket.

The likelihood, therefore, is that Robert and Jane Partridge were the godparents to Arthur Partridge.

©Alun Stevens 2018

Trip to Witham

My great grandfather was Richard Walford Stevens. His parents were Richard Stevens and Eliza Ann Malyon. Richard practised as a solicitor in Witham, a small town in Essex, as well as in London. He was initially articled to Edward Banks in Witham and lived with him at his residence in Newland Street. Once qualified, he became Edward Banks’s partner and eventually took over the practice and the residence.

Eliza Ann grew up in Witham and was, at one stage, a servant to Edward Banks and his clerk, Richard Stevens, whom she eventually married. Their family arrangements were interesting in that Eliza Ann and the children lived in London while Richard continued to live and practice with Edward Banks in Witham.

Richard Walford was born in London in 1859, the youngest of their eight children. His mother died soon afterwards and he and his siblings moved to Witham. The 1861 census shows them living in Newland Street with their father, an uncle, a cousin and four servants. The residence was therefore reasonably substantial.

In August 2016, Megan and I went to Witham to trace the family home and any other information we could find on the family. Janet Gyford, a local historian, very kindly showed us around and provided us with a lot of local knowledge.

We found the old residence. It was indeed a substantial building and still is. It is located at 100 Newland Street and, at the time the Stevens family lived there, was called Batsford. It is now a Wetherspoon public house.

This means that the building has had a number of additions and alterations, but much of the original building remains and it retains its character.  The advantage of it being a pub is that we could just wander around and look at the building. We were also able to have dinner in the front room – probably close to where the family had had their dinners back in the mid to late 19th century. It was quite atmospheric.

I took a number of photographs and Janet Gyford provided a lot of historic detail about the house which can be found HERE.


©Alun Stevens 2018