The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Cottingham 2.8

In search of James Ernest's Older Sister

by Alan D. Craxford, Brenda K Eldridge and Len Hobbs



Mystery lady

I have noted before in these pages that I had little first hand knowledge of the history of the Craxford family before Brenda started the laborious charting of the family tree. The elder relations of our childhood were all maternal and although James Ernest Craxford, my grandfather, did live with us for a couple of years after the death of his wife, my father (George William) did little to maintain links with the places of the family's past. We did know that there was an ancestry in the Northamptonshire village of Cottingham (near Rockingham Castle) and that my great grandmother's name was Sarah Anne Claypole.

James Ernest Craxford

James Ernest Craxford

Father did occasionally mention his uncle William, who had been a policeman in Leicester, and also thought that he had two aunts - one of whom was called Elizabeth. We traced the family of John and Sarah Anne Craxford through the census returns of 1871 to 1891. We were able to follow several of their sons and daughters, including James Ernest (although at times his surname was spelled Croxford). We were however unable to find a daughter Elizabeth.

During our early explorations Brenda found some correspondence which had taken place between Father and Iris Snow (William Craxford's daughter).Those letters, written in the late 1980s, have been reproduced in these pages at Two letters to George William Craxford. The particular references of interest there are to her Aunt Lizzie who married a man named Hobbs and had a daughter after moving to Kent. Iris also noted that Aunt Lizzie was Sarah Anne's oldest daughter. We enquired further on this point when we made our visit to Cottingham in 2005 where we met two of Sarah Anne's grandchildren (from her daughter Louisa) and several of the great grandchildren. We were able to fill in many of the gaps in our genealogical knowledge but of Elizabeth there was no memory. As best we could tell, we counted two sons and five daughters.

Henrietta Craxford
Louisa Craxford
PC William Craxford

Left: Henrietta Craxford; Centre: Louisa Craxford; Right: William Craxford

The quest for Elizabeth Craxford

The quest stalled for some months until Brenda started to look at her husband Richard's family tree. His family haled originally from Sussex and then moved into Kent. (The BROWN PAGES) We discovered that his great grandmother on his father's side was named Mercy Hobbs (born 1849). That led us to investigate the possibility that there was a family connection to the Hobbs mentioned by Iris Snow. We were helped (albeit with a negative result) by scrutiny of the archives pages of "The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex" web site (1) and by Mike Groome who holds a large database of Hobbs in the south east of England. We determined that there were historically two large families of that name but a direct communication between them had never been made.

Iris' letter suggested that Aunt Lizzie's son was aged 95 years and that his sister was 90 in 1987. We only had the name Kenneth to work on and so we made a concerted attack on the Indexes of Births Marriages and Deaths at There, indeed, we found Kenneth A Hobbs registered in Elham, Kent in 1903. On the strength of that we obtained a copy of his birth certificate. This presented us with our first surprise: his father was a farmer William Robert Hobbs and his mother was registered as Lizzie Alice Hobbs formerly Claypole.

From there it was no great problem to find the wedding. The certificate told us that the marriage took place at the parish church of St Mary Magdalene in Cottingham in October 1890. Lizzie Alice was aged 23 years. Entered as her father was John Claypole, Blacksmith. Witnesses at the service were John and Henrietta Claypole which we have come to believe were her uncle (born 1851) and aunt (born 1854).

The next step was to find Lizzie's birth certificate. We were being directed to the vicinity of 1867 and sure enough in the June Quarter in Kettering, Northampton was registered Elizabeth Hollis Claypole. We wondered whether this was either a mis-spelling of her second name Alice or whether it referred to a missing father - someone called Hollis. We asked Jane Smith at the Cottingham Village website (2) who confirmed that Hollis was not a surname connected with the area. We then obtained a copy of the actual certificate which confirmed that Elizabeth Hollis Claypole had been born to Sarah Ann Claypole on March 12th 1867 in the village of Cottingham.

Birth Register index (part) 1867

Elizabeth Claypole: Entry in the Birth indexes: 1867 (3)

A brother for Lizzie Alice

England Census Cottingham 1871 (part)

Cottingham Census (part) 1871 (4)

Water Lane, Cottingham

Water Lane, Cottingham (5)

We found Elizabeth, by then a child of 4, in the 1871 census. She was living with her grandfather, John Claypole - a blacksmith - and family in Barrack Yard, in Cottingham. By this time Lizzie Alice's mother had had a second child, a son, Thomas Christopher Claypole. They were living a few doors away in a cottage in Blind Lane. Sarah Ann Claypole married John Craxford in August 1871. For the next few years, John and Sarah Ann shared the cottage, adding to their family but Lizzie Alice remained with her grandparents. Tragedy struck in 1875 when Thomas Christopher was murdered by a neighbour (see Death for Threeha'p'orth of Suckers).

John and Sarah Ann moved their young family to a cottage in Water Lane next door to the parish church in 1881. By that time Lizzie Alice had moved away and was in the service of Amelia Walton in Bringhurst in Leicestershire. She described her occupation at the time of her marriage as cook.

Continued in column 2...

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What became of Lizzie Alice Claypole?

Newlands farm, Swingfield, Kent

Newlands Farm, Kent. Photograph : © Len Hobbs

Lizzie Alice moved with her husband to Kent where his father, John Hobbs, managed Newlands Farm, near Swingfield, a village about 8 miles north of Folkestone. William started work as a labourer on the farm. Their union proved to be a very fruitful one. In fact Kenneth proved to be their seventh child (fourth son) of ten. When John Hobbs died in 1907, William took over the running of the farm.

Hobbs family

The family of William and Lizzie Alice Hobbs

Kenneth Hobbs and Gwendolen May wedding group 1928: © Len Hobbs

Wedding group: Kenneth Hobbs to Gwendolen May 1928.

Lizzie died in Folkestone, Kent in 1941 (6) at the age of 74, ironically outliving all of her brothers and sisters except James Ernest. We now know that Lizzie Alice was James Ernest's half sister - and Brenda's and my half grand aunt. The wedding photograph shown here is of her son Kenneth to Gwendolen May which was taken at St Peter's Church, Swingfield, Kent on June 16th 1928. Although not identified it is assumed that Lizzie is one of the guests.

 St Peter's Church, Swingfield, Kent

Left: St Peter's Church, Swingfield; Right: The Hobbs headstone Photographs: © Len Hobbs

A late photograph of Lizzie Alice Hobbs by the garden gate

By the garden gate, Kent. Photograph: © Len Hobbs


Sarah Ann Claypole is great grandmother of Alan Craxford and Brenda Eldridge and great great grandmother of Len Hobbs. Alan, Brenda and Len are half second cousins once removed.


1. Hobbs: The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
2. Families: A history of the village of Cottingham, Northamptonshire
3. Elizabeth Hollis Claypole: England & Wales Birth Indexes 1837-1983: Kettering 3b 173 (AMJ 1867)
4. 1871 England census: Kettering Corby RG10/1506 2 36
5. Places: A history of the village of Cottingham, Northamptonshire.
6. Lizzie Alice Hobbs: England & Wales Death Indexes 1837-1987: Folkestone 2a 2056 (JAS 1941)

Added - April 14th 2006
Last updated: March 9th 2012

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