REBECCA EISDELL AND FAMILY

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


Miss Rebecca Eisdell
Miss Rebecca Eisdell
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Miss Rebecca Eisdell was a well-known and respected Epsom character, who ran a select private school for girls at The Cedars in Church Street: there are several mentions of her on this website, and of her sister, Rose Anna (sometimes Roseanna), who ran the school with her until she married quite late in life. However, there were more Eisdells and other family members of interest who pitched up in Epsom, even if it was only to visit Rebecca and have their photo taken by Cuthbert Hopkins.

To start at the beginning, according to the Hampshire Marriage Allegations Thomas Eisdall (sic), of Andover, Dissenting Minister and widower, married Martha Byles, spinster, of Henley Oxfordshire on 25 June 1793. Mr Eisdell's previous wife had been Mary Salway and they were married on 22 September 1784 at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. Thus, in the list below, Mary and Joseph belonged to Mrs Eisdell Number 1 and the rest to Mrs Eisdell Number 2. I am not claiming that absolutely all the children appear on the list, but we have those we need, plus some that we don't. They have proved quite complicated and, to be honest, I wouldn't have tackled them at all were it not for the fact that we have quite a few relevant photos in the Hopkins collection.

       Name       Date and place of birth and other information
Maryc.1788 Fyfield, Essex – see below
Joseph Salwayc.1789 Fyfield (died 1876; buried Norwood Cemetery). Joseph was a surveyor/‘gentleman’ and vestry clerk, who lived in London. Probably unmarried.
Rebeccac.1799 Andover, Hampshire – see below
Isabella Lepinec.1800 Andover – see below
John Bylesc.1801 Andover (died 1854; buried West Norwood Cemetery). John was a brewer, originally in partnership with Henry Eisdell. Married 1836 Caroline Barrett (died 1848).
HenryAugust 1805 unknown, but possibly Ipswich (died 1850; buried St Andrew, Enfield, Middlesex). Henry was a brewer in Enfield, originally in partnership with John Byles Eisdell.
Nathanielc.1807 unknown (died 1842). Nathaniel was a surgeon in London. Married 1835 Elizabeth Rice Fluder (died 1852).
Rose Annac.1809 Biggleswade, Bedfordshire – see below

Before Andover, Thomas Eisdell was pastor at Abbess Roding, Essex and his manse was at Fyfield; he was there from 1784 to 1789 and departed after a dispute with some of his congregation about the nature of his ministry, giving a whole new meaning to the term 'Dissenting Minister'. I don't know when Mrs Eisdell Number 1 (Mary) died, but presumably it was around 1790 or so.

Mrs Eisdell 2 (Martha) looks to have been baptised in Rotherfield Grays, Henley-on-Thames in 1769 and that was a dissenting ceremony, so presumably she met Thomas via their shared religious beliefs: she was the daughter of John Byles (died 1785) and Margaret (nee Hodge, died 1805). One of Martha's siblings was an Isabella, who married John Lepine, hence the forenames of Rebecca's slightly younger sister, Isabella Lepine Eisdell. In around 1820 Thomas took up a post in Twyford, Berkshire. Mrs Martha Eisdell died at Twyford in 1829 and Thomas expired in 1832 at the same place.

Rose Anna

We can leave Rebecca and others until later, but there is a mystery to ponder and we even have a photo of the mystery. Rose Anna married widowed merchant William Woodward (I think he was in grocery) in 1856 at the Independent Chapel, Church Street.

Mrs Rose Anna Woodward (nee Eisdell)
Mrs Rose Anna Woodward (nee Eisdell)
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

William Woodward
William Woodward
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

William had children from his first marriage, one of whom was Richard, a commission agent, born 1825 in Manchester. In 1849 Richard married Eliza Bailey Livesey and they had one child, Eliza Shorrock Woodward, born 1850. Eliza Senior died in 1854 and in 1859 Richard married (deep breath, folks) Mary Caroline Dorothea Christiana Engel - therein lies the problem/mystery. For starters, she messed about with her forenames and I am not convinced that the Mary and Caroline are entirely correct, since she was born in the Duchy of Nassau (an independent state that was annexed by Prussia in 1866) and, although she was a naturalised British subject, I think the first two forenames may have been anglicised. In any event, she subsequently decided she was called Caroline. In her only census appearance that I can find she and Richard, with Eliza Junior, were living in Holdenhurst, Hampshire. We know exactly what she looked like, but that doesn't help us to track her down later.

Mrs Richard Woodward
Mrs Richard Woodward
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Incidentally, as a minor conundrum, I wonder if she is in mourning in the photo, since Richard died on 14 October 1862 whilst on a trip to Florence and we are fairly sure that the photo would have been taken somewhere around that time. Anyway, she appears to have gone to live with William and Rose Anna, who resided at Ashfield House, Whalley Range, Lancashire, since that's where she was on Richard's probate record (now called Caroline). After that I have lost her altogether, but if anyone can find her, either before she married Richard or after he died, please do let us know (no prize offered). I know what happened to Eliza Junior and she will lead back to Epsom in convoluted fashion, but I shall park her for the moment.

William Woodward died at Ashfield House on 18 February 1870, leaving a substantial estate. Rose Anna followed on 22 September 1876.

Marianne Caroline Byles

Marianne Caroline Byles
Marianne Caroline Byles
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

This does seem odd, I agree, because you've not met her before, but she will also indirectly get us back to Epsom in the end. Had it not been for her, the journey could have ended up anywhere at all. You may recall that we had a couple of left-over Eisdell ladies, Mary and Isabella Lepine, who were half-sisters. They were spare parts really, since they had no home of their own that I can see, and so they relied on friends and relatives for accommodation. Two such relatives were Marianne Byles and her mother, Judith Isabella. It was the Byles family that had the money and Marianne's father, James Hodge Byles, owned Bowden Hall at Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire. James was the brother of Martha Byles (Mrs Thomas Eisdell 2). The Byles money apparently came from plantations in the West Indies (i.e. they were slave-owners) and Marianne was first cousin to Isabella Lepine and half-first cousin to Mary. Marianne lost her father in 1837, when she was only about 15 years old, and moved with her mother and Isabella Eisdell to Woolavington, West Sussex, near Petworth: they lived at Woolavington House (the village is now called East Lavington).

It seems that Marianne fell for the local rector, who was a widower, and she was tutored by him and Isabella, but then a strange kind of tragedy struck. Nobody died, but, on a principle of pure conviction, in 1851 the rector converted to Roman Catholicism and that was that as far as romance was concerned.

Cardinal Manning
Henry Edward Manning in 1844
Image source Wikimedia

The above picture is of the man that Marianne apparently fell for and the next one shows who/what he became - His Eminence the Most Rev. Dr. Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, Lord Archbishop of Westminster, i.e. head of the Catholic Church in England.

Henry Edward Manning
Henry Edward Manning
by George Frederic Watts oil on canvas, 1882 NPG 1008
Image courtesy of NPG (NPG 1008) (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

'Cardinal Manning' is a very famous name, even to non-Catholics, so who would have thought that his conversion would have changed the whole life of the still young Marianne Byles. By all accounts she was floored and not long afterwards she converted too. Judith Isabella Byles died in 1860 and Marianne then went on a tour of Europe with, I think, Isabella Eisdell rather than Mary. In Rome, in 1864, they met the poet Coventry Patmore and he also was persuaded to become a Catholic. Already widowed, with several children, Patmore married Marianne in July 1864 and, with the assistance of her money, was able to retire from his position at the British Museum (his literary endeavours had not made him a fortune). According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography - article on Coventry Patmore by John Maynard), there were rumours that the marriage was unconsummated and that Marianne was rather nun-like, immersing herself in translations of the scriptures. He purchased the Heron's Ghyll estate, near Uckfield, Sussex, and the couple then moved on to The Mansion at Hastings (this property is now known as Old Hastings House), where Marianne died on 12 April 1880: she is buried in Hastings Cemetery.

Old Hastings House
Old Hastings House, High Street, Hastings, East Sussex
Image courtesy of Oast House Archive © (cc-by-sa/2.0) via geograph.org.uk/p/1293885

Patmore donated about £5,000 to the Pallottine priests, who built a new church, partly in memory of Marianne, in the High Street, Hastings. Completed in 1883, it was wonderfully called St Mary Star of the Sea and still stands today.

Interior of Roman Catholic Church of St Mary Star of the Sea, Hastings
Interior of Roman Catholic Church of St Mary Star of the Sea, Hastings
Image courtesy of Nick Macneill © (cc-by-sa/2.0) via geograph.org.uk/p/2472030

Patmore remarried and died at Lymington, Hampshire on 26 November 1896.

Mary and Isabella Lepine Eisdell

Mary and Isabella Lepine Eisdell had been living with Marianne Byles in Leamington Priors/Spa - per 1861 census. Isabella had been with Marianne for a long time but Mary was usually elsewhere (e.g. Rutland in 1851). Presumably, something had to be done with them after Marianne's marriage.

Mary Eisdell
Mary Eisdell
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The ladies were accommodated in Cedars Cottage (16 Church Street, Epsom), The Cedars itself being Number 14: the intention obviously was that Rebecca could keep an eye on them. So, in the 1871 census Mary and Isabella, aged 82 and 71 respectively, were ensconced in the cottage with a female servant to look after them. As it turned out, Rebecca went first, dying on 21 April 1875. Her executrix was Rose Anna Woodward but, as mentioned earlier, she died on 22 September 1876; in between those two events, Isabella Lepine Eisdell died at the Whalley Range House (12 June 1876) and Rose Anna was also her executrix. Mary was left alone in Cedars Cottage until she expired on 13 March 1880, aged 92.

Cedars Cottage
Cedars Cottage
Photograph courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Woodward/Eisdell Grave
The grave of William and Rose Anna Woodward and Isabella Eisdell
in Brooklands Cemetery, Sale, Cheshire
Image courtesy of Gravestone Photographic Resource

Eliza Shorrock Woodward

We can now retrieve the long-parked Eliza, who will join up some dots for us. As I said, I have no idea what happened to her step-mother, Mrs Richard Woodward 2, but Eliza was only around 12/13 when her father died and I imagine she was taken under the wing of William and Rose Anna at Whalley Range. In 1869 (Barton-upon-Irwell district) she married William Struan Robertson, usually known as Struan. He had been born in London in about 1833 and was an artist, as was his father, also William. I don't know how he met Eliza, but I daresay there is a connection somewhere with one of the other characters in this story (for example, Coventry Patmore's mother was a London Robertson, but I can't offhand find a link there).

The 1871 census saw Struan and Eliza living at 147 King Henry's Road, Hampstead, where they remained until their deaths. With them was their first child, Ethel Woodward Robertson, aged 10 months. And there was a visitor - William Lee of Epsom, son of the Rev. Thomas Lee, who effectively gives us another Eisdell connection, since William's sister, Bertha Mary, was then an assistant teacher at The Cedars and another sister, Gertrude, was a pupil. Bertha took over the running of the school after Rebecca Eisdell's death. We have a photo in the Hopkins portfolio which, according to the wrapper accompanying the glass negative, is 'Miss Lees, Miss Eisdell's', but, having seen every wrapper available, I know that names can be wrong or mis-spelt/open to interpretation, so I think the next photo may well be Bertha Lee, who would have been a teenager when this was taken (the exact date of the photo is not known, but probably around 1863). If you know for sure either that it is or isn't Bertha, please contact the webmaster.

'Miss Lees' at Miss Eisdell's school, possibly Bertha Mary Lee.
'Miss Lees' at Miss Eisdell's school, possibly Bertha Mary Lee.
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

An advert used to appear in, for example, the Glasgow Herald, which read 'THE CEDARS, EPSOM - MISS LEE receives a few YOUNG LADIES to BOARD and EDUCATE, in whose comfort and welfare she takes a personal interest. Terms on application'. This same advert popped up annually for much of the 1880s, but in 1888 the entire contents of The Cedars were put up for auction by Miss Lee. I don't know why Bertha left, but she did, and by 1891 the house had reverted to being a private residence, let out to tenants.

Brian Bouchard tells us in his article on The Cedars that the descent of ownership from Edward Moulton Barrett, who died in 1857, is unclear for a significant period of years, until we get to the owner in the 1900 Rate Book - this is S Robertson, who must be Struan, which implies that the Eisdell/Woodward clan had acquired the property at some point and that it descended to Struan via his wife.

Two more Robertson children were born - the twins William Woodward and Struan Arthur (1872) and both went to Cambridge University. Meanwhile Eliza died early in 1885. Struan Senior was the drawing master at Charterhouse School for over 50 years and since 1903 an annual painting prize has been awarded in his honour. When not teaching, he painted and sculpted. He died on 15 January 1907, followed by Struan Junior on 27 May of that same year and by William, who was fairly newly married, on 26 December 1909. Ethel, who had married a Shropshire farmer, survived until 1950.

So, to finish up, we know that Struan Robertson owned The Cedars in 1900, but not precisely how it left the Robertson family after that. He might have sold it before his death, or it could have been sold afterwards, with the proceeds split up amongst his children, or their estates. Mysteries again!

Linda Jackson 2018