Great grandfather Holroyd Chaplin was “a prosperous London solicitor.” His brother Ayrton (1842-1930) was a clergyman and headmaster of Stepney and then Uckfield Grammar Schools, who married Edith Elizabeth Pyne from a well known Somerset family, in 1868 – Upton Pyne is a village near Exeter. They had three children, Ursula (‘Ulla’, 1869-1937), Adriana (‘Audrey’, 1872-1945) who married the famous geologist and explorer John Walter Gregory, and Henry (1876-1905). The third brother, Colonel Allan Chaplin, (1844-1910), spent much of his life in India. He married Maud Elizabeth Skinner (1844-1904). Unfortunately I have no photos of Holroyd’s three sisters:- Julia (1837-) who married a distant cousin, James Edward Nugent ; Louisa (1838-1897), who married John Edwin Hilary Skinner, one of the first war correspondents ; and Matilda, the youngest, who married her first cousin, Professor William Edward Ayrton, a pioneer of electricity. She was one of the first women doctors, in the same group as Sophia Jex Blake, and fought for womens’ rights.
Holroyd’s wife Effie (later known to her children and grandchildren as ‘Dear’) was a woman of great character. Her grandson Edward wrote that she “had physical beauty, vivid intelligence, enormous courage and a strong capacity for disregarding all known social rules. While her husband lived she had, mingled with her love, a Victorian awe of him that kept her more or less within the bounds of convention, but after his death she cast aside the shackles. She had a pleasant gift of composition and occasionally her verses or articles were printed in the Spectator. She was full to the brim with Shakespeare. At times in her old age her memory was erratic, and she would claim the authorship of things that had in fact been written by Shakespeare. But as she also sometimes attributed to Shakespeare poems that she had written herself, she kept the scales fairly even.”
Of their children: Nugent (1871-1917), their eldest son, compiled and distributed in 1902 fifty numbered copies of “A Short Account of the Families of Chaplin and Skinner and Connected Families“, which is in the British Library, and is a key reference for both these families and the families of Ayrton, Nugent and Harding. Irene Kate (1873-1962) was my grandmother – she married John William Ernest Pearce. Phyllis (1879-1924) married Philip Cowell, an astronomer who was responsible for the Tide Tables, and whose aunt was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first British woman doctor. Theodoric (1881-1906), who was said to be ‘a little strange’, went to Australia to become a sheep farmer and died young, by falling off a cliff in Tasmania. The youngest daughter, Daphne Grace Chaplin (1884-1964), is shown on the right in the photo on the home page. She married Cecil Gould, a Captain in the 11th Regiment, who was killed in Palestine in 1917 after only one year of marriage. Aunty Daph was the only one of them I knew, apart from my grandmother, and she was thought to be a mite eccentric, which in my eyes gave her added zip.
The Census returns are a valuable source of information, and I include below the 1891 return for
the household of Holroyd Chaplin, at 29, Palace Gardens Terrace, Kensington, in London:
|Holroyd Chaplin||Head||Mar||50||Solicitor||Born Warwickshire, Edgbaston|
|Euphemia I Chaplin||Wife||Mar||44||Born Sussex, Brighton|
|Allan N Chaplin||Son||Single||19||Articled clerk to solicitor||Born London, Paddington|
|Irene K Chaplin||Dau||Single||18||Scholar||do|
|Phyllis Chaplin||Dau||11||do||Born London, Kensington|
|Daphne Chaplin||Dau||6||do||Born Broadstairs, Kent|
|Catarina Gogalean||Servant||Single||25||Housemaid||Born Wurtenburg, Germany|
|Flora Humby||Servant||Single||21||Cook||Born Wiltshire, Salisbury|
Holroyd’s father, great great grandfather John Clarke Chaplin(1806-1856), was a Birmingham solicitor – his first family house there was Hagley Cottage, Hagley Road, King’s Norton, Edgbaston.
John Clarke Chaplin married, in 1835, Matilda Adriana, born Ayrton (1813-1899), from
an old Yorkshire family, who outlived him by over 40 years. They had six children: three girls (Julia Margaret Nugent Chaplin, Louisa Sarah, and Matilda Charlotte); and three boys (Holroyd, Ayrton and Allan). It seems surprising that three of these Chaplins should have married three of the eight children of Allan Maclean Skinner, but in those days there was much less opportunity to get to know members of the opposite sex, which was probably why marriages between cousins were then so normal. Probably the two families got to know each other first through the fathers: John Clarke Chaplin was at one time a pupil of Allan Maclean Skinner. At any rate the 14 children saw a great deal of each other, and seem almost to have been each others ‘best
friends’. John Chaplin and Matilda are buried at Hildenborough, in Kent – they moved to Tonbridge from Birmingham so that their sons could go to school at Tonbridge School, but after John’s death Matilda lived in London.
Going further back, John’s father was the Rev Edward Chaplin MA (1771-1858), who was
first a curate at Watlington, near Downham, Norfolk, and then Chaplain of the St Martin’s in the Fields Burial Ground, at Pratt Street, Camden Town, and of the almshouses nearby. He married Margaret Clarke Theodorick in 1795 – both their families were from Norfolk and both were comfortably off. Apart from John, Edward’s children were Edward, who was a lawyer; Thomas, who died when 19; George, who died aged 21; Charles, who lasted only a week; Henry, who died aged 19; Mary, who died aged 4: Charles (again) who died aged 4; William, who lasted a month; Louisa, who lived until 36 – long enough to marry Rev Frederic Wickam, second master at Winchester College; Ann, who married Rev Samuel Hands Feild and had three daughters and a son; and Sarah, who married James Mottram. This was the last generation before advances in medical science dramatically reduced the death toll amongst children and teenagers. Matilda wrote of her father-in-law that he was:
“A very agreeable old gentleman who had a great store of interesting anecdotes. He remembered the Gordon Riots; he was at Westminster School, and when there heard parts of the trial of Warren Hastings. He talked with much animation of great elections at Westminster, in which, he said, some of the school took much interest, and boys would get out in spite of punishment to see the great election. The Westminster boys used to play and hunt cockchafers on the land – then very swampy – on which the whole of Belgravia now stands. He said there was then some risk of highwaymen in crossing Hampstead Heath or Hadley Common late. He and his father when riding felt glad to be safely over. Then he had tales of friends who had been in Paris during the great Revolution (1793). One of these, who could speak French, saw them going to hang someone, saying excitedly, “A la lanterne!” He asked what the man had done, talked to them, and finally they did not hang him.”
Edward’s father was Amos Chaplin, who married, in 1759, Maria von Stocken, said to be the daughter of the librarian to the King of Prussia; and died in 1792. All that is known about him is that he had a business at Bridge Street, Covent Garden, and lived at Kentish Town, where he bought some three or four acres of land and built his residence, Fitzroy House North.