VOL. IV - CHAPTER 7

Mary Billeness nee Veness

Mary Veness was baptised on 14 September 1817 at Wartling Parish Church, the daughter of Joseph and Fanny Veness (Chapter 4).

At the time of the 1841 census she was living with her parents at Mill Farm Cottage, Wartling, but had given birth to an illegitimate daughter Emily, who was baptised on 21 June 1840 at Wartling Parish Church. The entry in the parish register indicates that Emily was "Edmunds bastard".

On 29 July 1840 Mary Veness of Wartling, a single, able-bodied servant of the established church was admitted to Herstmonceux House, part of Hailsham Union with her daughter Emily Edmunds of Wartling, an "able-bodied woman" "on account of a bastard child".

On 1 August 1840 she was discharged on her own order to the parish of Wartling with her daughter Emily (East Sussex County Record Office G5/14/2 )

In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act changed the system whereby each parish was responsible for its poor, a system that had been in existence since Elizabethan times.

Prior to the act overseers of the poor had the authority to remove poor from the village if they were likely to become a burden, unless that parish was their "place of settlement". In addition the overseers could issue settlement certificates agreeing to take back their parishioners who wished to travel if they became chargeable to rates while residing in another parish.

Although parishes were first encouraged to build/rent workhouses in 1722, and from 1782, the passing of The Gilberts Act enabled parishes wishing to do so to combine together for the maintenance of the poor, it was not until 1834 that parishes in Sussex were divided into convenient groups served by a central workhouse, known as a union, and Boards of Guardians were introduced to administer the poor law. It was soon after these changes that Mary and Emily found themselves being admitted to the workhouse.

A group of eleven parishes including Wartling were served by Hailsham Union and in 1836, the union was built at the junction of Union Road (now Hawks Road) and Horsebridge Road (A271). The workhouse was built to house 300 inmates and was large and grim, surrounded by a high wall. It was self sufficient with a kitchen garden, kitchens, laundry, a delousing oven, infirmary and mortuary. A system of segregation was in place where men, women and children were kept separate even if they were all from one family. The union was demolished circa. 1932 having been derelict for many years.

Whilst Commissions of Enquiry described appalling conditions in some Sussex workhouses prior to the creation of the union, the new union buildings lacked the informality of the old parish workhouses some of which were simply converted cottages in the village. It is clear from examination of the records that many old workhouses including Herstmonceux House and the Fleurs-de-Lys in Hailsham High Street continued to operate for some years after the construction of the new union.

No specific information is held regarding Herstmonceux House to which Mary and her daughter were admitted, but in 1774 Higham House and Higham Cottage in Herstmonceux were known to have housed the poor and the rise where they were built is still known as Workhouse Hill. It appears that this is where Mary and Emily were briefly sent.

Mary's admission to the workhouse seems to be after she had given birth to her daughter. The reason for this is not clear, although it was not uncommon for young girls to enter the workhouse to give birth and to leave a few weeks later, this is not clear from the record of admissions.

At the time of the 1851 census, Mary was still unmarried and is shown as a dressmaker living with her parents and Emily E, her daughter, now aged 10, who is described as a scholar, at Boreham Road, Wartling.

On 16 October 1853 when she was 35, Mary married James Billeness, a bricklayer from Wartling, at Wartling Parish Church. The marriage was witnessed by William Veness, her brother, Sarah Veness, her sister and Mary Veness presumably either George's wife (chapter 6) or Jonathan's wife (chapter 8). 

James Billeness was baptised at Wartling Parish Church on 18 February 1827, and was some nine years his wife's junior. He was the son of William Billeness, labourer, and Esther Smith who married on 25 December 1812 at St Peter & St Paul, Aston, Warwickshire. Whilst William was born locally in Wartling, census returns indicate that Esther was born in Birmingham, Warwickshire.

In 1861 James and Mary and family were living at 29 Turnpike Road, Wartling.

By 1871 they had moved to Comphurst, Wartling and were living next door to sister Sarah. At that point the family consisted of:

  • James Billeness, head, aged 44, bricklayer, born Wartling
  • Mary Billeness, wife, aged 52, born Wartling
  • Joseph Veness, brother-in-law, unmarried, aged 40, labourer, Born Herstmonceux
  • Emily Edmonds, daughter, married, aged 30, born Wartling
  • Mary Jane Veness, granddaughter (Emily's daughter), aged 12, scholar, born Wartling
  • Sarah Jane Edmonds, granddaughter, aged 7, born Wartling
  • Frank Joseph Edmonds, grandson, aged 5, born Wartling
  • Emily Edmonds, granddaughter, aged 2, born Wartling.

This is the only mention I have seen of a brother Joseph. He would have been born around 1831, a year after Joseph and Fanny's last known child was born (chapter 4). I suspect he may have been some other relative. Relations were not always referred to in the same way as they are nowadays. I can find no trace of him in any of the other censuses.

In 1881 James and Mary are living at "Windmill Hill". James is a 53  year old bricklayer. Their granddaughter Sarah, a domestic servant is still living with them. 

Mary Billeness died aged 68 and was buried on 27 August 1885 at Herstmonceux Parish Church. 

In 1891 "Jim" Billeness was lodging with Emily Sell, a 63 year old widow described as a "lodging house keeper". James was a 64 year old widower, a bricklayer. 

James Billeness died in 1900 aged 74 years. 

Emily Edmonds nee Veness

Emily Edmonds was baptised on 21 June 1840 at Wartling Parish Church, the daughter of Mary Veness.  

At the time of the 1851 census Emily was a 10 year old scholar living with her mother, Mary, and grandparents at Boreham Road, Wartling.

In 1861 census Emily, aged 20 was unmarried and living with her mother Mary and stepfather James Billeness at 29 Turnpike Road, Wartling, but she had given birth to a daughter two years previously and was pregnant with a second.

  • Mary Jane Veness was baptised on 7 February 1859 at Wartling Parish Church.  
  • Eliza Veness was baptised on 6 July 1861 at Wartling Parish Church. 

On both occasions Emily is simply described as a "single woman", a much kinder description of the circumstances than when she herself was baptised back in 1840.

On 9 October 1861 an Eliza Veness, infant of Boreham, was buried at Wartling Parish Church and this was presumably Emily's daughter.

Emily married Francis "Frank" Edmonds in 1863 (Reg Gen June 1863 Hastings 2b 54) . Frances had been working at the Mill House. Wartling, next door to Emily and her parents in 1861.

At the time the 1871 census was taken Emily and her children were back living with her parents at Comphurst and there is no mention of her husband Frank. There are three children listed.  

  • Sarah Kate Edmonds. Baptised 19 July 1864 in Herstmonceux, daughter of Francis and Emily Edmonds
  • Joseph Frank Edmonds (Frank Joseph in the 1871 census return). Baptised 23 October 1867 at Wartling Parish Church.
  • Emily Edmonds. baptised on 7 February 1869 at Wartling Parish Church, daughter of Frank and Emily Edmonds.  

Frank reappears by 1881 by which time he and Emily had had two further sons,

  • Charles Albert Edmonds. Born 10 July 1873. Baptised 31 August 1873 in Herstmonceux
  • George Ernest Edmonds. Born 3 March 1876. Baptised 30 March 1876 in Herstmonceux. 

At the time they are living at Windmill Hill, 51 year old Frank was a miller grinder, his 15 year old son Joseph was a grocers shipman and the remaining children were scholars.

Frank (Francis) Edmonds died later that same year, aged just 51 years old (Reg Gen June Qtr 1881 Hailsham 2b 54).

By 1891 Mary and her family living at Chapel Row, Herstmonceux next daughter to Mary's brother and Emily's Uncle George (chapter 6). The entry includes

  • Emily Edmonds, head, aged 50, widow, a charwoman born Wartling
  • Emily Edmonds, daughter, aged 22 born Wartling,
  • Charles Albert Edmonds, son, aged 17, gardener, born Hailsham
  • George Ernest Edmonds, son, aged 15, an agricultural labourer, born Herstmonceux
  • Emily Elphick, granddaughter, aged 4 born Herstmonceux (see below)

Sarah Kate Edmonds was a domestic servant working for Robert Wright, a brewer and maltster and living with him and his family at The Brewery, Gardner Street, Sussex. 

Joseph Frank Edmonds had died in 1887 aged 21 years old (Reg Gen June Qtr 1887 Hailsham 2b 55).

In 1901 Emily was living in Windmill Hill, Wartling, the entry reads

  • Emily Edmonds, head, widow, aged 60, born Wartling
  • Charles A Edmonds, son, aged 27, single, market gardener working on own account, born Hailsham,
  • George E Edmonds, son, aged 25, single, domestic groom, born Herstmonceux,
  • Emily Edmonds, daughter, aged 32, single, born Wartling and paralysed from birth
  • Thomas F Edmonds, grandson, aged 8, born Eastbourne and
  • Mary K Hills, servant, aged 13.

Thomas Frank Edmonds was the son of Frank and Emily's daughter Sarah Kate Edmonds. He was born on 6 August 1892 at 5 Sea View Terrace, Latimer Road, Eastbourne No details of the father are given. (Reg Gen Sept Qtr 1892 Eastbourne 2b 85).

In 1911 Emily, aged 70 was living with her son George at Beacon Green, Windmill Hill, Sussex. Also at the address was her daughter Emily and grandson, George's nephew, Frank Edmonds. Also visiting was 12 year old Ethel Hills, born Eastbourne.

Emily Edmonds of Victoria Road, Herstmonceux died in 1916 aged 76 (Reg Gen Dec Qtr 1916 Hailsham 2b 138) and was buried on 1 January 1917 at Herstmonceux

The following is known about Emily's surviving children:

  • Mary Jane Elphick nee Edmonds/Veness

Mary Jane Veness was baptised on 7 February 1859, at Wartling Parish Church, the daughter of Emily Veness.

In 1861 and 1871 Mary was living with her mother Emily and grandparents Mary and James Billeness

After banns 

on 9 December 1878 Mary Jane Edmonds married Walter Elphick, a labourer from Herstmonceux, the son of Walter Elphick, at Wartling Parish Church. The marriage was witnessed by Francis Edmonds, Sarah Kate Edmonds and Sarah Elphick. Francis was probably Mary's step-father and Sarah Kate, her sister (Reg Gen Dec Qtr Hailsham 1878 2b 165).

Walter and Mary had six children: 

  • Alfred George Elphick. Baptised 11 November 1879 at Herstmonceux
  • Walter Frank Elphick. Born 20 June 1881. Baptised 7 August 1881 at Herstmonceux,
  • Mary Ann Elphick. Baptised 17 February 1884 at Herstmonceux
  • Emily Elphick. Born 4 May 1886. Baptised 30 May 1886 in Herstmonceux. 
  • Alice Elphick. Born 28 April 1888. Baptised 10 June 1888 at Herstmonceux
  • Kate Elphick. Born 11 July 1891. Baptised 23 August 1891 at Herstmonceux.

In 1881 Walter and Mary Jane were living at Herstmonceux Park, Herstmonceux. Walter, 26 was a shepherd. Their eldest son Alfred was just a year old.

By 1891, the family were living at Cavenden Farm, Lower Road, Herstmonceux. Walter, aged 36, is an agricultural labourer as are his sons, 11 year old George Alfred and 9 year old Walter Frank! Their daughter Emily, aged 4 appears to have been staying with Mary Jane's mother Emily at the time the census was taken.

Mary Ann Elphick died in 1893 aged 9 years old (Reg Gen March Qtr 1893 Hailsham 2b 69)

In 1901 the remaining family was living at Brick House Farm, Herstmonceux. Walter was a farmer working on own account at home. Of their children Walter, Alice and Kate were at home. They were still at Brick House Farm in 1911. Only daughter Kate remained at home, she is described as "slightly blind since birth."

In 1921 Walter and Mary Jane are living at Springfield, Rushlake Green. Walter is described as a "small farmer". Daughters Alice and Kate remain at home. Also listed is Kenneth Elphick, grandson, aged 8. Under status of parents it states "mother alive",   A Kenneth A R Elphick (mothers maiden name Elphick) was born in 1912 (Reg Gen Sept 12 Brighton 2b 412)

Walter Elphick of Springfield Farm, Warbleton died on 27 January 1926. Probate was granted to Mary Jane Elphick, widow and Walter Frank Elphick, farmer. 

Mary Jane Elphick died in 1935. 

Walter and Mary Jane's son Alfred George Elphick married Nellie Wheeler on 23 December 1899 at St John's, Lewes, Alfred was a 20 year old labourer. Nellie was the 22 year old daughter of Amos Wheeler, hairdresser.  

In 1901 "George" was a 21 year old brewers drayman, living at 2 Oxford Terrace, Heathfield. By 1911 they were living at Merton Cottage, Western Road, Jarvis Brook, Uckfield and 31 year old Alfred George Elphick was a railway signal porter. George and Nellie had two children:

  • Frederick Edward George Elphick. Born 5 November 1901 in Heathfield. Frederick married Alice Hester Harber in 1924 in Cuckfield. In 1939 they were living at 64 Railway Avenue, Bogner Regis with their son Kenneth G Elphick, born May 1928. Frederick was a railway signalman. Frederick died in 1978 in Crawley.  Alice Hester Elphick died in 1987 in Chichester. 
  • Nellie Valentyne Elphick. Born 1904. Nellie died in 1919 in Cuckfield. 

Alfred George Elphick died in 1918 in Cuckfield. In 1921 Nelly and her son Frederick were living at 2, St James Cottages, Balcombe.  Nelly was a 44 year old widow, on "home duties". Frederick, aged 20 was a railway porter for LBSC Railway at Balcombe Station. Nothing more is known about Nelly.  

Walter and Mary Jane's son Walter Frank Elphick married Beatrice Charlotte Trigwell on 6 March 1907 at St Thomas a'Beckett, Cliffe. Walter was a 25 year old farmer from Brick house Farm, Herstmonceux. Beatrice was 23 years old, the daughter of Joseph Trigwell, steward, 

In 1911 they were living at Rocks Farm, Bodle Street where 29 year old Walter was a farm worker. They had a daughter with another born later

  • Irene Marion Elphick. Born 9 December 1908. Baptised 28 February 1909 at Herstmonceux. Irene married Robert Frank Burchett on 7 October 1928 in Herstmonceux. In 1939 they were living at 371, London Road, Hastings. Robert is a gardener in private service. Robert Frank Burchett of 17, Upper Glen Road, St Leonards died on 15 July 1967. Irene Marion Burchett died in 1993
  • Freda Grace Elphick. Born 1912. Baptised 30 March 1913 at Herstmonceux. Freda married John Wyatt in 1945 in Brighton. 

In 1918 Kelly's Directory, Walter is listed as a farmer at Rocks Farm. In 1921 they were living at Rocks Farm, Herstmonceux. Walter was a farmer and Beatrice was doing dairy work, both "on their own account". In 1939 Walter and Beatrice were living at Gardener Street, Herstmonceux and Walter was a gardeners labourer. Beatrice Charlotte Elphick of 3 Park View, Herstmonceux, married woman died on 14 March 1958. Walter Frank Elphick of 3 Park View, Herstmonceux died on 20 October 1975

In 1901 Walter and Mary Jane's daughter Emily Elphick, aged 14 was a kitchen maid at Windmill HIll Place working for Herbert Curteis, a JP for Sussex, his wife and two daughters.  In 1939 she may have been in the East Sussex County Mental Hospital, Hollington!! Nothing more is known about Emily 

Walter and Mary Jane's daughter Alice Elphick married Sydney Hook on 2 April 1923 in Herstmonceux. Sydney was a 23 year old farmer, son of George Hook, farmer, Alice, at 34 was 10 years older than her husband. 

In 1939 they were living at Hazeldene, Hailsham and Sidney was a farmer. Alice's sister Kate was living with them. The register shows that Kate was blind. Alice Hook of Hazeldene died aged just 57 and was buried on 7 August 1945 in Warbleton. Sidney Hook died in 1974 in Norwich. 

Nothing more is known about Walter and Mary Jane's daughter Kate Elphick after 1939 when she was still single, she was living with sister Alice and described as blind. 

  • Sarah Kate Edmonds

In 1891 Sarah Kate Edmonds was a domestic servant working for Robert Wright, a brewer and malster and living with him and his family at The Brewery, Gardner Street, Sussex. 

On 6 August 1892 Sarah gave birth to a son Thomas Frank Edmonds at 5 Sea View Terrace, Latimer Road, Eastbourne. No details of the father are given. (Reg Gen Sept Qtr 1892 Eastbourne 2b 85). 

Thomas Frank Edmunds was baptised on 28 August 1892 at Christ Church, Eastbourne. 5, Sea View Terrace is described as a temporary address.  

In 1901 Thomas was living with his grandmother Emily Edmonds at Windmill Hill, Wartling.  In 1901 it is possible his mother "Kate Edmonds" was in Eastbourne Union Workhouse. She is shown as single and a domestic cook. Children "Charles Herbert Edmonds" aged 3 and "Kate Edmonds" aged 2 are also listed. Was this Sarah Kate?

In 1911 "Kate Edmonds" was in Hellingly workhouse, part of the Hailsham Union.  She is described as "formerly domestic cook". 

"Kate Edmonds" may have died in 1912.  

Sarah Kate's son Thomas Frank Edmonds married Florence Earl on 23 May 1915 at St John the Evangelist, St Leonards. Thomas, aged 22 was a soldier. No fathers name is given. Florence was the 23 year old daughter of William Earl, soldier. 

In 1939 they were living at 24 Claremount Road, Bexhill where Thomas was a dairy yardman.  They had at least one son (other entries are closed) 

  • Kenneth Edmonds. Born 3 November 1925 in Hastings. .

Thomas Frank Edmonds died in 1985 aged 92 years old.  

  • Emily Edmonds

Emily Edmonds was baptised on 7 February 1869 at Wartling Parish Church, the daughter of Frank and Emily Edmonds (Reg Gen Dec Qtr 1868 Hailsham 2b 78).

In 1891 Emily was staying with her grandmother Mary Billeness at Comphurst, Wartling. In 1901 she was living with her widowed mother Emily and in 1911 they were both living with her brother Frank. The 1901 census indicates that Emily had been paralysed from birth.

Emily Edmonds died in 1916 aged 47 years (Reg Gen Sept Qtr 1916 Hailsham 2b 110). 

  • Charles Albert Edmonds & Minnie Jane Dennes

Charles Albert Edmonds was born on 10 July 1873 and baptised on 31 August 1873 at Herstmonceux, the son of Francis Edmonds and Emily. 

Charles married Minnie Jane Dennes on 27 November 1907 in Herstmonceux. Charles was a 34 year old gardener. Minnie was 33 years old, the daughter of George Dennes, ironmonger.  

In 1911 they were living at Gardner Street, Herstmonceux, where 37 year old Charles was a domestic gardener. They had been married three years, but had no children.

In 1921 they were living at Bank Side, Herstmonceux and Charles was a private gardener working for Miss Courtes, at Fernleigh, Gardner Street, Herstmonceux. 

In 1939 Charles and Minnie were still living at Bank Side, Herstmonceux where Charles was a "jobbing gardener"

Charles Albert Edmonds of Bankside, Gardner Street, Herstmonceux died aged 83 years old on 20 November 1957 at St Mary's Hospital, Eastbourne. Administration was granted to John Holt, solicitor. He was buried on 23 November 1957 at Herstmonceux.

Minnie Jane Edmonds of Bankside, Gardner Street, Herstmonceux died on 17 December 1957 at The Willows, Herstmonceux. Probate was granted to John Holt, solicitor.

  • George Ernest Edmonds & Victoria Ellen Sturney 

George Ernest Edmonds was baptised on 30 April 1876 at Herstmonceux, the son of Francis Edmonds and Emily.

In 1911 George, aged 35 and single, was a domestic groom living at Beacon Green, Windmill Hill, Sussex with his widowed mother Emily, aged 70, his sister Emily and his nephew (Thomas) Frank Edmonds. 

George Ernest Edmonds married Victoria Ellen Sturney in 1915 in Christchurch. 

In 1921 they were living at 13 Wycliffe Road, Winton, Bournemouth. Charles was a private gardener for Dr Vernon at 19, Queens Park Gardens, Drayton. They had one daughter

  • Doris Nellie Edmonds.  Born 29 January 1920. Doris married Eric George Woods in 1942 in Bournemouth. Eric died in 2003 in Bournemouth. 

Victoria's sister Rose May Sturney, aged 31 a grocers assistant for L Friendship. grocer at 129, Holdenhurst was living with them.  Georgina Mary Henry, a 39 year old domestic servant was visiting. 

In 1939 they were still living at 13 Wycliffe Road, Bournemouth. George was a private gardener. Daughter Doris was a hairdresser

George E Edmonds died in 1942 in Bournemouth.

Victoria Ellen Edmonds of 33 Edifred Road, Moordown, Bournemouth died on 27 January 1955 at Stapleton Hospital, Bristol. Probate was granted to Percival John Smith, railway employee and Rose Mabel Marshall, married woman. 

Click here to go to "Chapter 8 - Jonathan Veness and Mary Deness"

Click here to go back to "Chapter 4 - Joseph Veness and Fanny Hook"