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From Faxton to Adelaide: the emigration of the Cox family to Australia

by Rob Walker and Alan D Craxford


Charles Cox

Charles Cox

Sarah Cox

Sarah Cox

These pages have already provided a link for the Cox family to the antipodes through George, the son of Joseph Cox and Louisa Craxford. He became a Baptist minister, who travelled with his family to Geelong, Australia in 1886, before finally settling in New Zealand. His story (Rev George D Cox (1849 - 1929)) is told elsewhere in these pages.

However, two of Joseph Cox's brothers, Charles and Richard, had made the journey to Adelaide, South Australia, nearly 40 years earlier. Our researches into George's history revealed that he had been searching for these long lost cousins at the turn of the last century. He had written to a distant relative in Adelaide from New Zealand in March 1904, and it was our recent reinterpretation of this letter that provided the trigger which has expanded the story of their translocation in 1848. Pencilled notes on the reverse of the letter held cryptic clues to Cox family origins which pointed to Faxton, Northamptonshire. So it was that new Cox family members were found, largely from their census locations, providing a rapid expansion of the family tree.

The lost village [A]

St Denys Church, Faxton

St Denys Church, Faxton (1)

Present day family historians can be forgiven if they become confused by references to Faxton in the genealogical record. Indeed we, the authors, initially ascribed the point of origin of this family to the village of Foxton, near Market Harborough, some 15 miles away across the border in Leicestershire.

The village of Faxton stood just east of the Northampton to Market Harborough road, a mile north of Old and 2 miles east of Lamport. This area of the country is rich in land suitable for agriculture and was probably settled by the Anglo-Saxons. Its name derives from Fakr's farm (Fakr was a Scandinavian personal name), and was a royal demense at the time of Edward the Confessor. In Norman times, the settlement passed into the feudal protectorate of a Lord of the Manor. Faxton had a population of 60 to 80 recorded in the Domesday Book (2). During the Civil War, Royalist soldiers were garrisoned in the village prior to the Battle of Naseby in 1645. Its population was decimated by the scourge of the Black Death in 1665.

Central to life in the village was its church. The rather odd looking structure was built in the 13th century, incorporating an older 12th century chapel. It consisted of a central rectangular nave without tower or spire but with a twin-gabled bell-cote at its west end. St Denys' Church was dedicated to St Denis, a bishop of Paris who was executed in Montmartre (hill of the martyrs) in 250AD.

The marker of the site of St Denys Church

Site of Denys Church, Faxton (3)

As well as the church and workers cottages, Faxton also possessed the Manor House and a row of charitably based almshouses. In 1710, the village's population consisted of 100 souls distributed between 32 families. The majority occupation was in agriculture, although for almost two centuries there was a small local brickworks. The population peaked at 108 in the 1841 census. Then, over the next fifty years, there was a dramatic decline to a mere 46. By the 1920s, life in the village was becoming unsustainable with no school, running water or electricity. The church was abandoned in 1940. It was demolished, along with the remaining buildings, in 1958.

The land on which Faxton existed for over one thousand years has been ploughed and returned to farming. All that remains now to mark the passage of the village is a stone column, surrounded by some scattered headstones, which indicates the place where the church once stood.

Life in rural Northamptonshire

St Peter & St Paul, Abington

St Peter & St Paul Church, Abington

Richard Cox, the earliest recorded member of this branch of the family and grandfather of our two emigrés, was born in the village of Abington sometime before 1760. Then a distinct entity, Abington has been surrounded and become a suburb of the county town of Northampton. Richard married local girl, Mary Barker, at the Parish Church of Saint Peter & St Paul, Abington on October 3rd 1782. The church, parts of which date back to the twelfth century, stands adjacent to the Hall (commonly known as Abington Abbey) in Abington Park.

After the birth of their son, Richard Barker Cox, in August 1789, the family moved the 10 miles north to Faxton where Richard found work as a farm labourer. Richard's arrival in the village probably coincided with the point at which the population reached its peak. Although we do not know where he lived or for whom he worked, he had joined a thriving community, which was mostly engaged in agricultural activities.

The marriage of Richard Cox and Mary Gilbert

Richard to Mary (Pallot Marriage Index)

Richard Barker Cox grew up in this pastoral environment and, in his time, he, too, worked on the land and became a shepherd. He married Mary Gilbert, a lass from the nearby village of Pytchley, at the Church of St Denys, Faxton on October 19th 1811. Over the next 18 years they were to have six sons (Samuel, Joseph, George, Richard, Charles and William) and two daughters (Ann and Elizabeth). Apart from Willliam, who died five days after he was born, the sons were all destined to follow their father's occupation. The story of Joseph's marriage into the Craxford family and their move to London is recounted in the article This line terminates at Uxbridge. Samuel and the two girls remained in the family home at the time of the 1841 census. Richard died in the village at the age of 62 years and was buried in the churchyard on September 24th 1851.

Samuel married and raised a family in the village until his wife died in the latter part of the 1850s. He was a near neighbour of William Hales, a farmer of 300 acres who lived at Shortwood House. Samuel's son, Charles, worked as a carter for the Hales for a few years. Samuel eventually moved away from the village to live with his daughter Elizabeth and her family in the Barton upon Irwell district of Manchester.

Third son, George, married Hannah, the daughter of William and Mary Harper, from Hanging Houghton, near Lamport, in 1849. They set up home in a cottage in Cottesbrooke, a village about four miles to the west, where they raised a son, Henry, and three daughters. At the time of the 1871 census, George had taken a job as a shepherd, with Henry as his assistant, at Broxhill Farm on the Hothorpe Hall estate near Market Harborough. George became increasingly infirm, and was admitted to the Union Workhouse in Brixworth, where he died in November 1881. He was buried at St Denys Church, Faxton.

Nothing is known for certain of the destiny of the eldest Richard and his wife, Mary, except for the chance (and possibly coincidental) observation from the England Census of 1841, that the next door neighbour of Ann Craxford (Joseph Cox's widowed mother-in-law) in Middleton, Northamptonshire, was one Richard Cox, a shepherd in his 70s and living alone.

The long trek overseas

The parish church of St Nicholas, Newton Blossomville, Buckinghamshire

St Nicholas Church, Newton Blossomville, Buckinghamshire (4)

Richard and Mary Cox's youngest surviving son, Charles, was born on October 22nd 1822. By 1841, he had left the family home in Faxton, and was working as an agricultural labourer in Draughton, a village 5 miles to the north west. Four years later, he married Sarah Pratt in Newton Blossomville, a village on the outskirts of Olney, Buckinghamshire. Sarah had been born in that village in 1820 where her baptismal record appears in the registers of the parish church of St Nicholas. Sarah's parents were William Pratt and Martha Wood. William was a labourer and Martha, like many women in her village, was a lace worker or lace collar maker.

Having visited the area ourselves, we had wondered how Charles and Sarah got together from a distance of some 20 miles and in two adjoining counties. That was probably answered by evidence obtained from the 1841 census. We found the 20 year old Sarah listed as a resident female servant to Mary Walton and her son Thomas's family, in Garden House, Ecton. Since 1778, the successive generations of the Walton family had farmed the South Lodge farm there. The village of Ecton lies on the road between Northampton and Wellingborough. It is now a designated conservation area. By the time of their marriage Charles, too, had entered his abode as Ecton. Their son, William, was born on July 27th 1845 in the village and was baptised there.

Richard and Mary Cox's fourth son, Richard, was born in Faxton in 1820 and was baptised at St Denys Church on March 19th that year. He married Mary, the daughter of near neighbours Richard and Ann Turland, in the village on 15th February 1848.

We do not know the stimulus which precipitated the life-changing decisions which were made in that fateful year. There must have been considerable discussion given and changes in the family fortunes to generate the idea of emigrating to the other side of the world before the two newly-married brothers took to the ships to Australia. There had been a general drift from the land towards the towns and cities with the onslaught of the Industrial Revolution. We have seen from the account above that Faxton was suffering from population loss more than most. Workers in many other villages adopted cottage industries such as leather working and framework knitting as an alternative to agricultural labour when times were hard. This does not seem to have been the case with Faxton. There is a suggestion that the English countryside suffered from the same stringencies (although by no means to such a devastating degree) that Ireland underwent with the potato famine of that decade. Could it have been part of a parish scheme? There were waves of Methodist, Catholic and Baptist emigrations documented from Lincolnshire, the West Country, Scotland and, locally from the county, from Middleton Cheney and Long Buckby. (5, 6, 7)

Family bible

The Cox Family Register

Charles, Sarah and William were the first to leave, a handwritten entry on the Family Register at the front of the Cox family Bible indicating they started their journey on December 15th 1847. They boarded the sailing ship, "Bolton", at London on January 11th 1848. The "Bolton" was a barque of 510 tons and carried a complement of 267 passengers (8). What they may not have known at the time was that Sarah was in the early stages of her second pregnancy. Adding morning sickness to the other hardships on board would probably have made the journey especially miserable for her. The voyage was to take 95 days, arriving at Port Adelaide on April 15th 1848.

SS Sibella

Sailing Vessel "Sibella" (11)

Richard and Mary must have left the village almost immediately after their wedding. They travelled to London where they joined the other men, women and children on the 721 ton sailing ship, "Sibella" (9), on April 5th 1848. Like her sister-in-law before her, Mary was about three months pregnant when they set out.

Their journey was to last for 104 days. On board, too, was crew member and ship steward, 24 year old Francis Treloar, who kept a diary of the voyage (10). In it, he described in graphic detail the discomfort and privations suffered in the cramped and insanitary quarters below deck, the sickness and disease and the constant fear of fire from the oil lamps. Their route took them initially due south through the Atlantic Ocean, then round the Cape of Good Hope, before turning east across the Indian Ocean. The weather varied from fine and fair through squally to storm force winds and heavy seas. They faced seasickness, an epidemic of measles amongst the children, the birth of several babies and a number of deaths on route. They finally landed at Port Adelaide on July 19th 1848.

Continued in column 2...

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Life and death in Brighton

Land sale advertisment

Land Sale Advetisement 1835: The Colonization Commissioners for the Province of South Australia (14)

South Australia had been brought into being as a separate colony from the south western portion of New South Wales by an Act of Parliament in 1834 (12), the official declaration being made in December two years later. It is the only Australian state to have been settled entirely by free settlers. After an initial temporary encampment was made just offshore at Kangaroo Island, the more permanent settlement of Adelaide was established in 1836 after surveys by Colonel William Light. Sheep, brought in from New South Wales, and the wool industry were the basis of the local economy initially. As the land was surveyed, it was put up for sale for farming (13). Wheat, then, became the more important commodity. In perspective, all this happened only 12 years before the Cox families arrived.

Within three months of their arrival, Charles, Sarah and William Cox had moved to Brighton, a new community on the Gulf of St Vincent coast about 15 kilometres south of Adelaide. Richard and Mary Cox followed, to be in close proximity to his brother. Tragedy struck barely a month after landing when Richard died there on August 20th 1848 at only 28 years of age. The cause of his death is not known. One week later, Charles and Sarah's daughter, Anne Elizabeth, was born.

Richard's widow, Mary, gave birth to the child she was carrying on October 25th. A daughter, she was named Emily. Mary did marry again, to William Hyland, in February 1849. She lived until her death in 1905 in the Seven Hill district near Clare, north of Adelaide.

Charles and his family took up farming in the Brighton area, no doubt using knowledge he had gained from a similar occupation in Northamptonshire. They must have thrived in the new colony of South Australia as there are records of a number of parcels of land in and around Brighton which they farmed

William, Ann and Rosina Cox

William and Ann Cox with daughter Rosina, about 1870

In 1867, William married Ann Elizabeth Birchmore, in Brighton. Ann was the daughter of George Birchmore and Rebecca Varney, who had arrived in Adelaide on the "Bolton" with Charles and Sarah Cox in 1848. The Birchmore family had originated in Luton, Bedfordshire where Ann had been born on January 13th 1846. William and Ann Cox had four children, all of whom were born in Brighton. They named their daughter, born in 1867, Rosina Emily Sarah. Three Brothers followed: Alexander Charles William (1870), Arthur George Herbert (1873) and, lastly, Alfred Varney (1877).

The four children were, however, not to have their parents for very long. Their mother, Ann, died in August 1882 and their father, William, passed away in the Brighton residence the following February. At the time, Rosina was 16 years of age and Alfred, at 6 years, the youngest. Fortunately we have photos of Charles, Sarah, William, Ann and a young Rosina, so, although their lives were short, they have a presence in our record. Their grandmother, Sarah, had died in 1880, which left grandfather, Charles, who was then 61, and Rosina to look after the young family. Charles was to live until his 77th year, dying in Brighton on October 9th 1899. Despite these setbacks the children must have been of a vigorous constitution as they lived to an age from 63 to 86 years.

Rosina married Frederick Outram in Adelaide in 1887. Their family was to consist of three girls and three boys born between 1888 and 1904. Arthur was the first of the boys to marry. His future wife, Mary Jane Daly, and her sister, Sarah, had landed in Adelaide from West Cork, Ireland, in 1889. They married in 1894. Arthur and Mary Jane had two daughters, neither of whom married, and a son who married and moved to Melbourne, Victoria. They did not have children. Alexander married Minna Jane Swann in Adelaide in 1901. They were to have a daughter and two sons; all of whom married and had children of their own. The youngest of William and Ann's family, Alfred Varney Cox, now a carpenter, married Lucy Rebecca Baker in Adelaide in 1904. They had two sons they named Alfred William and Ronald Henry.

Deaf, dumb and blind kids

The two middle brothers, Alexander and Arthur, were to follow similar career paths, both becoming teachers of the deaf and blind. Charles Cox was the signatory to the indentures for both his grandsons.

The opening of the Anderson Wing, Townsend House, Brighton, Adelaide 1886

Anderson Wing, Townsend House, Brghton 1886 (17)

The South Australian Institution for the Blind, Deaf and Dumb was founded in 1874 by William Townsend, a politician, lay preacher and two-term Mayor of Adelaide (15). From a humble background, he had emigrated from England in 1853. His discovery of destitute blind people living rough in the State led to him fulfilling his ambition to establish a "Blind Asylum in the City of Adelaide". The main school, Townsend House, in Brighton, opened in 1878. By 1894, it was catering for 146 children (16).

Alexander joined the staff at Townsend House as a student teacher in 1885, working his way through the ranks to become its Superintendent and Principal between 1926 and 1940. An account of his working life with The Institution is given in a book about the history of the school (17). An extract from the book reads: "Mr Cox (Alexander) was born in Brighton, SA and educated locally. He served the deaf and blind of this State for 55 years, most of them with this school (Townsend House) or institution as it was known in his time: a wonderful record of service. Starting in 1885, he was appointed as a Student Teacher (under apprenticeship) the following year, and was promoted to Assistant Teacher in 1890. .... In 1897 he became Head Assistant and Drawing Master, and remained in this position for 24 years. During this time, Mr Cox became actively interested in adult deaf people. In 1921 he left the school to become full time Superintendent and Secretary of the Adult Deaf Mission. He returned as Superintendent, following the death of Samuel Johnson in 1926 and remained as such until after the outbreak of WWII, retiring in 1940."

Alexander Cox

Alexander C.W. Cox (17)

Arthur Cox

Arthur Cox (17)

Arthur Cox also gets a mention in "The Story of Townsend House". He was an apprentice teacher at the School in the 1880s. It was while he was on the staff that he met Mary Jane Daly when she arrived to take up her duties. After their marriage, they left the school in 1899 to become the first Managers of Angas House for Aged and Infirm Deaf Mutes. This was a new farm at Parafield, 15 kilometres north of Adelaide; the project having been conceived by her uncle, Samuel Johnson, when he was the superintendent at Brighton. Samuel was born in Toormore, Cork, Ireland in 1855 and came out to Adelaide in 1882. He spent some time initially in Melbourne before relocating to Brighton in 1885. His son, William Herbert Johnson, became the Bishop of Ballarat, Victoria.

The Institute's educational and residential services continued into the 1970s. Eventually attitudes and methods changed towards integrating the disabled into the community. The use of the Townsend House site was run down and much was demolished in the 1980s. Only the central building was retained and restored. The area has recently been redeveloped as a retirement estate. (14)

Townsend House, 2009

Townsend House today

Into the present

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, South Australia was slowly building its population of free settlers with the majority coming from Britain and Ireland. As a particular consequence of this migration to Adelaide our part of the Cox line picked up Mead and Baker family lines deriving from England. On the maternal side of the tree are the Tomkins, including the Webber and Beard connections, who were from Kent, Devon and Gloucestershire while the McNenie and Waters families came from County Westmeath and County Tyrone, Ireland. The Webber-Beard connection is another rather interesting story, when three Webber brothers married three Beard sisters all of whom arrived in Adelaide between 1838 and 1853.

The Cox story continued in and around Adelaide until the mid 1950s when direct branches of the family left South Australia for New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. It is fascinating to contemplate in this, the 200th year after Richard Barker Cox married Mary Gilbert in Faxton, Northamptonshire that descendents of one of their children, Charles, still carries the family name. Faxton may have become one of the "lost settlements" of English history but generations of that family continue to hold a place in Australian and possibly New Zealand history as well.

Footnote: The Gloucestershire Cox family

By Roger Mitchell

I represent another Cox family, which, as far as I can tell, is unrelated to the family whose story is told in these pages. However, they share a history which has similar resonances. Today, as 300 years ago, the Cox surname can be found in all walks of life in Gloucestershire, a county dominated by the wool and cloth industries. Of our 230 Cox individuals, I can start with Thomas, born in Avening, in July 1778. A stone mason by trade, he married Ann Mitchell in Tetbury in November 1800 with whom he had eleven children. Two are of particular interest to us here. Their first son, christened Robert John Mitchell Cox was born in 1801; daughter Sarah in 1810.

Sarah Cox married William Monger, a sawyer, in Avening, in July 1833. With their first two surviving children they decided to try the new life offered in Victoria, Australia. They were probably tempted by one of the many Assisted Passage schemes which the State of Victoria used to tempt pioneering families to the region. By all accounts, they did well. With his sons, William became a successful and prolific builder. Amongst many of his important works was the design and construction of West Gippsland Hospital, in Victoria.

Robert John Mitchell Cox was tempted by South Australia, some 1000Km west of his sister. He had married Mary Jones in Minchinhampton, in 1823. We do not know why they left for Australia, but, in February 1840, with their first 9 children, they sailed aboard the 'Eliza' for Port Adelaide. This settlement was dubbed 'Port Misery' by the first settlers and later migrants because it was little more than a "mosquito-infested mangrove swamp". One wonders just how much information about conditions in this far-off land the migrants were made aware of! Undaunted by these difficulties, Robert and his family settled in Adelaide. They had a further 5 children and Robert continued his work as a builder and stone mason. Sadly, Mary died aged of 55 years but Robert lived on until he was 77. All of their 14 children remained in, or around the Adelaide area and worked in jobs ranging from Stone Mason, a City Councillor, 2 Publicans, a Boundary Rider and Stock Keeper, a Blacksmith, a Miner and General Contractor.

There is more information about the Gloucestershire Cox Families in Australia in this article on the mfo (Mitchellfamilyonline) wiki.


Faxton - The Lost Village cover

[A] Inspiration for the section "The Lost Village" was gained from the book "Faxton - The Lost Village" by Bryan Holden (2008) Roseworld Productions Ltd. Solihull, West Midlands, UK. ISBN 978-0-9553130-2-8. This limited edition volume, signed and numbered by the author, is available direct from Roseworld Productions Ltd; email for further information.

We would like to thank Bryan Holden and Janice Morris for their critical review and for their help with our researches into the history of Faxton.

Our thanks to Junesse Martin for the photograph of the Family Register page from the Cox Bible, she is a direct descendent of Ann Elizabeth, and to Simon Rees for bringing its existence to Rob's attention.


Louisa Craxford, who married Joseph Cox - the brother of the emigrants Charles and Richard Cox, was Alan Craxford's first cousin (three times removed). Patriarch of the story, Richard Cox of Abington and Faxton, is Rob Walker's wife's fourth great-grandfather.


1. St Denys Church, Faxton - Watercolour by John Piper (1940) © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
2. Faxton in A History of the County of Northampton: Volume 4: edited by L.F. Saltzman 167-172 (1937) British History Online
3. The remains of the church of St Denys, Faxton. © Richard Williams, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
4. St Nicholas Parish Church, Newton Blossomville, Buckinghamshire: © Sian Harrison, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
5. Lincolnshire Emigration and Immigration in: Lincolnshire GENUKI UK & Ireland Genealogy
6. The Radical Village in: A Very Brief Village History of Long Buckby, Northamptonshire
7. The Baptist Church in: Middleton Cheney Village Website
8. The "Bolton" Passenger List 1848 South Australian Passenger Lists 1836 - 1851
9. The "Sibella" Passenger List 1848
10. The diary of Francis Treloar - a transcription: Francis Treloar and Sarah Biggs bound for South Australia 1848: Account of the voyage of the Sibella
11. The "Sibella": The Collections The National Maritime Museum
12. South Australia: wikipedia
13. History of South Australia: wikipedia
14. Land Sale 1835: Advertisement placed by the Colonization Commissioners for the Province of South Australia wikipedia
15. History of Townsend Park Townsend Park Retirement Lifestyle Estate
16. Townsend House in History of Disability in South Australia Disability Information & Resource Centre Inc,
17. "The story of Townsend House 1874-1974: the South Australian Institution for Deaf and Blind Incorporated": Barkham, Laurence F.: Adelaide, South Australia (1974) ISBN: 0959836306

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