Estella Rudgely – 52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors, Week 4.
When my dad Christopher John Newell passed away back in 1996, I knew very little about his family, only his parents and siblings names. In truth I didn’t even know he had a sister, Gillian Mary Newell, who sadly passed away on the 18th October 1947 at a wee six months old.
While my dad was gravely ill in hospital, my nan Doreen June Townsend nee Willats gave my two sister and I, a Christmas card from our dad which he had left in her care on his return to work in Saudi Arabia. Inside the card was our Christmas present, money.
It would be the last Christmas card and present we would ever receive from our wonderful dad. We knew that what ever we brought would be his last gift to us.
How do you even being to think about what to buy knowing the meaning that those notes held?
I was only 18 with probably one of the hardest decisions of my life so far to make.
I finally decided on buying myself a model dolls house, something I could pass down to any daughters I may have in the future. It was beautiful, a treasure that took pride place in my bedroom.
I had a few pennies left over so I decide to buy a Family Tree record book and to start to research our family’s history, a history I knew nothing about.
I guess this was the start of my passion for history and a way of keeping my dad alive and close.
My parental line was always going to be tricky, I was given very limited information about my living ancestors. I couldn’t ask my dad what he knew, or about the childhood memories he held dear to his heart.
I really didn’t know where to begin, how to trace birth, marriage or death records, I was a complete novice.
Some how I managed, finding skeleton after skeleton. How I would love to share all these juicy details with dad. How would he felt about the information I had uncovered about his family?
These skeletons still fascinate me to this day, they run rings around my mind, throwing me questions after questions that I will never find the answers to, unless by luck, my sons ancestry DNA holds the answers.
You see my great, great grandmother, Estella Rudgely, had not just one but three children out-of-wedlock, my great-grandfather Frank being one of them.
Let me tell you her story.
Estella Rudgely was born on the 24th August 1861 in Dinton, Wiltshire, England to Andrew Rudgely, a farm labourer and Matilda Rudgely nee Rudgely.
Her birth was registered on the 16 September 1861.
I have been trying to find her birth Index since I first started researching all those years ago. I just couldn’t find it, until a few weeks ago when I came across a listing for a Priscilla Rudgely.
Could it be her?
It was the right year, the right place but the name was wrong. Could a mistake have been made when Thomas Webb, the register, indexed her birth?
I decided to bite the bullet and order a pdf copy of the certificate. My gamble paid off as thankfully it was the right one.
Estella was really Priscilla.
On the 20th October 1861, she was baptised in the parish church in Dinton. She was baptised Estella.
I wonder why they baptised her with a different name?
In the 1861, her parents Andrew and Matilda were living in Dinton with their son Albert Sidney aged 1 years old, Estella isn’t listed so I assume she wasn’t born when the census was taken.
By the 1871 Census the family have moved out of Dinton and are living at Cowesfield, Whiteparish, Hampshire.
Andrew is 38, a carter, agricultural labour, Matilda is 36, Albert their first born is 11 and working as plough boy. Estella is 9 years old and attending school.
They have two lodgers living with them, Francis Blashford, 32, an agricultural labourer from Damesham, Wiltshire, England and Charles Chalk, 36, an agricultural labourer from Whiteparish.
1881 has arrived and the census has been taken. Estella has left home and is a single 19-year-old working as an domestic servant, living at Round of Beef, 19 Milford Street, Alderbury, Salisbury St Edmund. The head of the household is Levi Kinsman from Bulford, Wiltshire, England. Sarah Kinsman, Levi A Kinsman, Isabel Scott, Sarah J Scott and George H Martin also reside at the address.
Just a few years later Estella finds herself in the family way. I can only imagine how terrified she must have been. The stigma alone must have weighed heavy on her shoulders.
In the 29 June 1884, her baby daughter Alice Louisa Rudgley was born Gambledown, Sheffield English, Hampshire. No father is named!
Who was he? Was he Levi Kinsman, the gentleman of the house she worked at or was he someone who had won her heart, that she loved?
Just a few year later, Estella finds herself in the same situation and on the 3 October 1885, Estella has given birth to a second daughter Florence Ellen Rudgley, once again at Gambledown, Sheffield English, Hampshire. Again no father is named.
On the 27 February 1890, Estella is residing at Romsey Workhouse
and has given birth to a son Frank Rudgley, my great-grandfather.
No father is named on his birth certificate. Estella’s occupation is listed as a domestic servant of Shelfield English, a small parish on the outskirts of Romsey.
Who is my great great-grandfather?
Is he the man she would go on to marry? Is he the father of her two daughters? Her employer? Levi Kinsman?
By 1891, Estella, Alice, Florence and Frank are living in Newtown Lane, Newtown, Romsey, Hampshire. They occupy 2 rooms in the house. Estella is now 29 and working as a laundry worker.
Alice’s and Florence place of birth is listed as Gambledown, Shelfield English.
On the 21st November Estella marry’s Alfred Newell, son to Joseph Newell and Jane Wilton. They marry in the Register Office, South Stoneham, Southampton and are residing at 10 Pound Street, Shirley, Southampton. Alfred is a gardener.
Is Alfred the father is her three children? Or is he a kind hearted gentleman who is willing to take on three children?
It’s not long before they are expecting, Alfred Newell was born on the 3 February 1893 at Cherville Street, Romsey.
Shortly after, on the 6th August 1894 once again at Cherville Street Amy Kate Newell is welcomed into the ever growing family.
Only a few years pass by, they are once again expecting, and give birth to a baby Girl, Edith Maude Newell 6th September 1896 at 11 Cherville, Street, Romsey.
And then Beatrice Dorothy Newell, was born on the 18th December 1899, at 11 Cherville Street, Romsey.
It’s once again not long before they are welcoming another daughter into the world. Ella Gertrude Newell was born at Cherville Street, Romsey, on the 21st October 1900
Estella must be absolutely exhausted. How did she find the time, let alone the energy to get jiggy with it with her husband with all those children to look after.
By the time the 1901 Census was taken, Estella, Alfred and their 7 children are still living in Cherville Street at number 11. The occupy 4 rooms.
Alfred is working as a nursery gardener. Estella’s daughter Florence is working as a general servant – domestic.
1905 brings a new daughter, Eveline Winifred Newell she was born at 9 Cherville Street, Romsey on the 26th April 1905
Just a few short years later their home is filled with grief.
Estella and Alfred’s daughter Edith Maude Newell dies of diphtheria, 10 days on the 26th September 1907 at 9 Cherville Street, Romsey.
How do you come back from that? How does any parent get over loosing a child?
In Estella’s case I believe she didn’t, as on the 21st December the same year 1907, Estella dies from heart failure, consequent on long standing disease of the organ at her home 9 Cherville Street.
An inquest into her death was held on the 23rd of December 1907.
Estella was only 45 years old, that’s only a few years older than I am, no age to die.
Did she die of a broken heart?
That house, on that quant little street has seen my ancestors grow, heard all their stories, their arguments, their secrets and seen two heartbreaking deaths and many others I’m sure.
If only four walls could talk.
Unfortunately number 9 and 11 Cherville Street have been demolished and new builds now stand where the Rudgelys/Newell’s once lived out their lives.
Chas Burnett from the Face Book group Romsey Revisited has very kindly let me use a photo from the archives of the house the Newells/Rudgley’s lived in at Cherville Street.
Estella must have lived a truly hard life, but thankfully in the end she found love, a man whom loved her enough to take on her first three children, or was he really the father to them? I hope so.
She gave life to her 9 children, brought them up as best she could, so they could bare their own, in turn giving us life.
I’m humble to her journey, I’m proud of her achievements, her strength and will, she owns a piece of my heart and I’m proud to call her my Great, Great Grandmother, Estella Rudgely.