Family Research Project

  • When I am not researching for clients, I enjoy exploring my own family's history. One of my main projects currently is looking further into the life of my great-great grandfather, William Jolly (1842-1889).

1881 Census of The South Kensington Museum, London (RG11/44: folios 42-43, pages 16-17)

Registration District: Kensington; Sub Registration District: Brompton

Henry Jackson
Birmingham, Warwickshire
Sergeant RE
Hugh E. Caston
Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Corporal RE
John Mager
Dublin, Ireland
Sapper RE
Charles Anderson
Male 35 Linlithgow, Scotland
Sapper RE
John Bunkall
Male 45 Cambridge, Cambridge
Sapper RE
John Dougherty
Boarder M Male 40 Louth, Ireland
Sapper RE
William Forster
Male 34 Minories, Middlesex
Sapper RE
William Mills
Male 35 Stoney Stratford, Buckinghamshire
Sapper RE
Henry Newell
Boarder M Male 33 Greenwich, Kent
Sapper RE
William Nias
Male 39 Exeter, Devon
Sapper RE
Joseph D. Annett
Male 21 Windsor, Berkshire
Sapper RE
John McAuliff
Boarder M Male 36 Moneghan, Ireland
Sapper RE
page 17

Walter P. Jones
Head U Male 37 Mallon, York
Captain & Sert Major RE
Thomas W. Robinson
Servant U Male 20 Newbury, Berkshire
Valet Domestic Servant
John Knight
Boarder M Male 28 Woolpit, Suffolk
Sapper RE
Margaret Knight
Servant M Female 30 Jusson, Norfolk
Cook Domestic Servant
Thomas W. Talbot
Head M Male 48 St Georges, Middlesex
Gas & Electrical Engineer
Elizabeth Talbot
Wife M Female 49 Chelsea, Middlesex

Thomas Beardsmore
Head U Male 50 Niaidwell, Northamptonshire
Foreman of Works Timbler
George Baker
Servant M Male 48 Bromley, Kent
Anne E. Baker
Servant M Female 41 Hotchworth, Cambridge
Housekeeper Domestic Servant
Jessie Anderson
Head M Female 25 Kings Lynn, Norfolk

George G. Anderson
Son U Male 4 Old Brompton, Kent

Jessie H. I. Anderson
DaurU Female 3 Old Brompton, Kent

Wilhimina L. Anderson
Daur U Female9 mo Kensington, Middlesex

Laura Ellis
Mother W Female 62 Zeal, Devon
The Residences No 1

Edward R Festing
Head M Male 42 Frome, Somerset
Lieut Col RE PR4 Assist Dir So Kensington Museum Science & Art Department
Frances M Festing
Wife M Female 29 Chaldon, Surrey

Gabriell E,
Daur U Female 9 Kensington
Richard CR
Son U Male 5 Westminster
Louisa S Parkinson
Cousin U Female 29 Dunganon, Brecknock, Wales

Eliza J Williams
Servant U Female 31 St Neots, Cornwall
Cook Domestic Servant
Marian Cole
Servant U Female 32 London Nurse Domestic Servant
Elizabeth Ramsay
Servant U Female 32 Westminster Housemaid Domestic Servant
The Residences No 2

The Director of the Museum + household

page 18

The Residences No 3

The Assistant Drector of the Museum + household

The Residences No 4

The Keeper of the Collection Science and Art + household

If any of the above are ancestors of yours, or otherwise appear in your family tree, please let us know.

1871 Census of South Kensington Museum. Barracks, RE, London [RG10/51, ff. 15-16]
Detachment 38 Company RE
Where Born
Patrick Connell
Wakefield, Yorkshire
Joseph Brown
Unmarried 32 Corporal Blandford, Dorset
James Wright
Unmarried 26 2nd Corporal
Lancashire, Manchester
John Harlow
Married 31 Lance Corporal
John Bodle
Unmarried 21 Sapper Lewes, Sussex
Hugh Conway
Unmarried 29 Sapper Ireland
John Cook
Unmarried 30 Sapper Bampton, Oxford
Norman Montgomery
Unmarried 23 Sapper Scotland
Alfred Smither(s)
Unmarried 26 Sapper Winchester, Hants
Hugh Strairs?
Unmarried 29 Sapper Scotland
Benjamin L. Spackman
Married 37 Sergeant Chellard, Gloucestershire

1871 Census of South Kensington Museum. Barracks, RE, London [RG10/51, ff. 15-16]

In 1851 the South Kensington Museum was constructed to hold the contents of the International Exhibition (now known as the Great Exhibiton). From these early years the Royal Engineers (RE) were involved in the construction of the Museum and in the supervision of the Science section. One of the first men to work there was Captain Francis Fowke RE. He died in 1865, but before this he began the adaption of the Art School into the sappers' barracks and carpentry workshops. This is recorded in papers held at The National Archives (Class ED 84/4, 3 January, 1865). Many state papers of this kind can be useful in genealogy.

A map of the museum from 1867 (Kensington Library) shows the sappers' quarters as being against the far wall of the building, behind the North Cloister, the Refreshment Rooms and the Art Museums. The quarters faced workshops (backing directly onto the first numbers of Princes Gate Mews) across a road or path.

My ancestor, William Jolly, joined the Royal Engineers in 1867 and is shown on the census transcript above. He was still living in the Sappers Quarters a year later (1872) when he married at Kensington Registry Office (to Maria Pymer - see guest blog It is possible he had been living in the Museum from 1869, by which time the detachment was established.

Sergeant Benjamin Spackman lived in the Museum for some years, with all his children being born in Kensington, and he became noted for pioneering work in photography. The Victoria and Albert Archives ( hold records on him and his work. He shared his (separate) quarters with his young wife,  Ann (18), his children, Harry (9), Benjamin (7) & Marian (4), and a Scottish maidservant, Margaret Kennedy (24).

The sappers spent their days looking after the fire engines, hoses, hydrants and so on; they also worked as photographers, clerks in the offices, in the Art Library, or as artisans. As the Royal Albert Hall was being constructed in this period, it is likely the sappers made some contribution to the build. I am researching this at present.

The establishment of sappers was intended to be reduced in 1880, but there were certainly sappers there at the time of the 1881 and 1891 censuses (see page 2 for details). According to the census (RG13/34) the newly named Victoria and Albert Museum was uninhabited in 1901.

The science department has since become a museum in its own right (The Science Museum on Exhibition Road) and the building that once housed a Detachment of Royal Engineers (South Kensington Museum) now houses decorative arts (The Victoria and Albert Museum).

This proves how ancestors can be found in the most unlikely places.

If any of the people listed are in your family tree, or you are interested in anything featured, please contact us.