My Grandfather, his Three Brothers and the Future

As this is the final chapter, I want to acknowledge that, regrettably, I have said more about sons than daughters. I hope you will understand that I am focusing on the story of the name and its continuation through different generations so, inevitably, I have needed to focus on the male lines. I am sorry that it has been beyond the scope of this blog to capture the lives of absolutely everyone who has been given the Hubbleday name at birth.

Before setting off on the final leg of the story, however, I think it might be useful to recap how we got here.

Every living male or female in the 21st Century who was born as a Hubbleday can trace his or her lineage back to a labourer, Robert Hubbleday, who married Elizabeth Willson in 1716 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Their descendants remained in East Anglia until William Hubbleday, a shoemaker, moved to London in around 1780. Our ancestors spent the next hundred years in the capital working as shoemakers but often in great poverty and with frequent stays in the workhouse.

In the early 1870s, William Robert Hubbleday, the soldier who had fought in New Zealand, brought his family to Birmingham and laid the foundations for a more secure existence than previous generations had known. At this point, our unusual surname was in danger of dying out as William Robert was the only married Hubbleday male in the country. His marriage to Mary Ann Dudley produced six daughters but only two sons: Charles Edward and James Ernest.

The younger brother, James Ernest (1880-1940), had two sons who went on to have their own male children. I cannot be absolutely certain but, unfortunately, it seems likely that the surname has now run its course in those branches.

However, the elder brother, Charles Edward (1868-1935), had four sons; these branches, which are the subject of this blog, have ensured that the surname is now in a reasonably healthy state.

This extract from the family tree of just the male lines descending from William Robert shows why there are six branches of the Hubbleday family in the 21st Century. Whether you are male or female, if your surname at birth was Hubbleday, you are descended from one of William Robert’s six male grandchildren.

The first of Charles Edward’s four sons was my grandfather, Charles William. I was aged 11 when he died and was unaware of any of his brothers. My father never mentioned these uncles of his or their children, his cousins. The only slight acknowledgement of their existence came when I heard him once say that he believed that there were other Hubbledays in Birmingham and that we were all related. Now that I have pieced together the family tree and corresponded with descendants of each of my grandfather’s brothers, it is clear that nobody knew their relatives beyond their own branch. This was true even when cousins were living only a few miles away from each other.

The first branch: Charles William Hubbleday (1888-1964)

Charles was born at Lavinia Terrace, Osler Street in Ladywoood. His father, who was a brass polisher at the time, had married Minnie Amelia Hill from Swansea 18 months previously when they were both only 17 years old. The family moved house several times, including going to London for a short period, and were living in Aston when Charles left school in 1902, aged 14.

Within a few years, he had met his future wife, Emma, the daughter of Joseph and Ann Allen who lived in Aston. Joseph, the son of a wheelwright, was a carpenter who had been born and brought up in Mill Street, Warwick near to the castle by the River Avon.

Intriguingly, this cottage in Mill Street is called Allen’s House so may well be where Joseph Allen lived. The house sold for £850,000 in 2004. Motacilla, CC BY-SA 3.0

Ann, was the daughter of a successful plasterer and builder in Warwick, Charles French, who by the time of the 1861 Census was employing four men.

A beautiful photograph of Charles William Hubbleday and Emma Allen in 1907 at the time of their marriage when they were both aged only 18.

Emma was a force to be reckoned with. She came from a more prosperous background than Charles and, as became apparent quite quickly, had high standards about behaviour and how a household should be run. Apparently, she put a stop to her new husband’s habit of going out drinking with his brothers once he had a family to care for. Their first child was born in 1908, ten months after their wedding and they went on to have ten children in all, five boys and five girls.

At the time of the 1911 Census, they had two children and were living at 104 Speedwell Road, Hay Mills near the Coventry Road between Yardley and Tyseley. Charles was a metal spinner in a silversmiths. This was skilled work on a lathe, turning a flat piece of metal into a hollow vessel such as a cup. He continued to work in similar jobs all of his life. When he retired in the 1950s he was making aluminium saucepans.

The 1911 Census shows Charles’s and Emma’s young family. It also tells us that Charles’s brother, Albert, was lodging with them and that the brothers worked in the same industry.

Charles and Emma rented houses in a number of districts around Birmingham but at the time my father was born in 1923, they were living at 1, back of 77, Leamington Place, Balsall Heath. This was a back-to-back house in a court off Leamington Road, which is now in the middle of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle on Ladypool Road. I remember my father saying how basic the accommodation was and how pleased they all were to move to a new council house at 48 Greenwood Avenue, Acocks Green, a few years later.

The eldest daughter, Gladys, lived a few doors away at number 42. In 1934, She married Roy Penici Verrell, a professional musician who, it is thought, played in a well-known band called Troise and his Mandoliers (later, Troise and his Banjoliers). This band became very famous during World War II as it featured frequently on a popular radio programme, ‘Listen While You Work’.

Gladys’s husband, Roy, is standing at the back on the right of the female guitarist. Judging by the logo on the shirts, it is unlikely that this particular band was Troise and his Banjoliers, but it is certainly of a similar type.

Despite Charles and Emma having a large family, my father, Kenneth, was the only one of their children to be called up during World War II. He served in the Royal Corps of Signals as a despatch rider and in the pigeon carrier service as part of Montgomery’s 8th Army in North Africa and Italy. The occupations of his brothers and sisters who were of working age at the time of the 1939 Census were as follows: Gladys (unpaid domestic duties); Albert (metal spinner); Doris (assembler in a factory); Ivy (typist); Hilda (assembler); Charlie (omnibus driver). Margaret, Eric and Gordon were schoolchildren.

Eric and Gordon, however, both did national service in the RAF after the war. Afterwards, Eric worked as a radio and tv engineer at Cooks Electrical Ltd in Shirley where my father also worked as an electrician. The company was owned by their brother-in-law, Ronald Cook, who had married Doris. Gordon, on the other hand, went to work as a wire drawer, which maintained the Hubbledays’ link with Birmingham’s metal industries.

The family was a very happy and close-knit group. Each Christmas, they would all gather at Greenwood Avenue for a party. This tradition carried on until the early 1960s so my cousins and I have fond memories of happy, friendly aunties and the innocent card games we were all encouraged to play: chase the ace, pontoon, Newmarket and 7s. I remember my grandfather as a kindly, gentle man who loved his wife, his children, his garden and his allotment. In 1957, he celebrated 50 years of marriage to Emma with a gathering of the family at number 48. The resulting photographs of the occasion clearly demonstrate the strength of the bonds between members of the family.

Charles and Emma’s Golden Wedding Anniversary in April 1957. The picture was taken at Greenwood Avenue and shows all of their ten children. L to R: Eric (seated), Doris, Ivy, Margaret (back), Emma, Gordon (back), Charles, Albert (front seated), Gladys, Charlie, Hilda, Kenneth (my father).

There are currently eight great-great grandchildren of Charles and Emma who have the surname Hubbleday: Holly, Max, Ben, Megan, Jack, Elsie, Arlo and Joseph.

The second branch: Albert Ernest Hubbleday (1891-1979)

Albert was born in Highgate, London, during a short period when his parents had tried living away from Birmingham. As we have seen, when he was 18, he was lodging with his elder brother Charles (my grandfather) and working alongside him as a metal spinner at a silversmiths. Before this, he had worked briefly as a lorry boy for Great Western Railways and, much later in life, he became a fruiterer in the centre of Birmingham.

In 1913, he married Annie Bold, who had been born in Burton-upon-Trent. Her father had been working in a brewery in that town but, by the time of the 1911 Census, the family was living in Aston and he was a furniture maker’s labourer. Annie’s job title was recorded as ‘chocolate maker’, presumably at Cadbury’s although their factory was a few miles away in Bournville.

Albert Ernest’s future wife had a job as a chocolate maker at the time of the 1911 Census.

Albert and Annie had their first child, Bernard, in 1915. He married Doris Tomlinson in 1939, at which time he was a lorry driver’s mate living on Belgrave Road in the centre of Birmingham. Later, they settled in Tyseley. Doris sent me the photograph below, which was taken at another wedding in the same year as her own. This was the marriage of Albert and Annie’s second child, Mildred. Their third child, Irene, who served in the RAF during the war, is one of the bridesmaids. Albert and Annie’s fourth child, Dennis, was only eight at the time of the wedding and is not in the picture.

This photograph was taken in 1939 at the wedding of Mildred Hubbleday to Geoffrey Browning. Albert Ernest, the father of the bride, is standing in the second row on the left of the woman who is immediately behind the bride. To his left, are Doris and Bernard. Annie, Albert’s wife, is seated on the extreme right of the picture.

Dennis was too young to be conscripted during World War II but did two years national service in the Royal Artillery between 1949 to 1951. Following this, he developed a business as a painter and decorator in Solihull.

One of Albert Ernest’s great-granddaughters made a decision to keep the name Hubbleday when she married. She hyphenated it with her husband’s surname in memory of her father, Anthony, who died at an early age. Although she didn’t know it at the time, Toni Hubbleday-Arnold’s decision mirrored the practice of well-to-do Hubbledays in Lincolnshire in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

There are currently four great-great grandchildren of Albert Ernest and Annie who have the surname Hubbleday: David, Jack, Harry and Oliver.

The third branch: Bernard Hubbleday (1895-1939)

Charles Edward’s third son, Bernard, was born in Sparkbrook. He left school at 14 and became a brass burnisher like his father. When war broke out with Germany five years later, he was one of the first to join up. He enlisted with the Hampshire Regiment on 7th September 1914 and served with the 11th Battalion, which suffered heavy losses in the German Spring Offensive of 1918. He was given an honourable discharge in August of that year because of sickness.

In 1921, he married Mabel Mitton, the daughter of a labourer from Swan Village, West Bromwich, who during World War I had served in 107 Squadron of the recently formed Royal Flying Corps. Bernard and Mabel had four children: George (1922), Mabel (1923), William (1928) and Raymond (1931).

This photograph was taken in 1938. Back Row: Mabel (daughter), Mabel, Bernard, George
Front: William (Billy), Raymond

Bernard died of tuberculosis in 1939 but his wife lived for another 40 years. In 1941, her eldest son, George, was called up into the RAF and, I believe, may have been in North Africa at the same time as my father. After the war, he worked as a press operator for MEM in Tyseley. The youngest son, Raymond, was at school during the war. He married Thomasina Reeves in 1961 and was an office worker at Fort Dunlop in Birmingham. He died in 1996, the same year as his brother George.

Mabel’s daughter, also called Mabel, married Thomas Watkins in 1950. During the war, he had served as an Able Seaman gunner on motor gun boats and had taken part in the D-Day invasion. After the war, he joined the fire brigade and became the Chief Fire Officer for Derbyshire. He got to know the Duke of Devonshire as the Fire Service carried out regular safety checks on Chatsworth House. This led to the Duke recommending him for the ceremonial post of Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire. Thomas was awarded the OBE in 1979 and retired from the Fire Service in 1980. In 2018, he was awarded the French Legion d’honneur for his part in the Normandy invasions. I had the pleasure of meeting him and Mabel for a pub lunch near Craven Arms in Shropshire, the town in which Tom had been born and to where he had returned on his retirement.

Mabel Hubbleday’s husband, Thomas Watkins OBE in his ceremonial uniform as a Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire.

The fourth of Bernard and Mabel’s children, William, always referred to as Bill, married Winifred Edna Woodfield, always known as Edna, in 1949. She was the daughter of a lorry driver and a shopkeeper from New Town Row in the centre of Birmingham. Bill and Edna chose to live in a caravan in Evesham at the beginning of their marriage but soon moved to Small Heath after having Patricia, their only child, in 1950. Bill worked as a bus conductor and also at the BSA factory before eventually becoming an agricultural engineer and moving to Lutterworth and then Honiton in Devon. He died in 2003. Patricia had the distinction of being the first ever Hubbleday to attend university, studying philosophy at Lancaster from 1970 to 1973.

I corresponded with Edna in 2000 and was delighted that she and Bill shared my interest in learning more about our roots. I was touched by something she wrote to me and which I hope will resonate with others.

You have done such a lot of research to find all this information, and this must never be lost to future generations. In fact it has given an entirely new meaning and value to the name Hubbleday, and very hopefully, a feeling of stronger ties to the other branches even though we never meet.

As far as I am aware, there are currently no great-great grandchildren of Bernard and Mabel with the surname Hubbleday, but there are three great-grandchildren: Daniel, Andrew and Grace.

The fourth branch: Norman James Hubbleday (1898-1952)

Norman, the youngest of the four brothers, was born in Ladywood. Within a few years of leaving school at 14, he was a private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. He may have joined voluntarily as one of the quarter of a million underage British soldiers who took part in the war, or he may have been conscripted in 1916 as soon as he turned 18. The records simply say that he was ‘On Active Service’ and eligible for the standard British War Medal and Victory Medal. On leaving the army, he returned to Birmingham, found work as a wire drawer and married Harriet Millin, a general labourer’s daughter, in 1919.

The record of Norman Hubbleday’s marriage to Harriet Millin in 1919 shows that his occupation was a wire drawer.

Norman and Harriet had three children: Doreen, Norman and Edward. Doreen married a tool setter, and Norman, who had been in the RAF in the 1940s, married Evelyn Westwater, a girl from Tynemouth. The eldest child, Edward, married Eileen Craythorne from Aston in 1941. Her father worked for an aluminium alloy company and she worked in an electroplating factory. At the beginning of 1944, Edward was conscripted along with most 18-25 year-olds. However, instead of joining one of the armed forces, he became a Bevin Boy. This was a scheme introduced by Ernest Bevin, the Minister for Labour, which saw one in every ten conscripts selected by ballot to work in coal mines. Edward was sent to Birley East Colliery in Yorkshire. He returned to Birmingham after the war and worked at a steel rolling mill, Power Steel Works.

I made contact with one of Edward’s three daughters, June Bryan, when I came across a lengthy autobiographical article she had written for a Birmingham history group. Her memories of living in Balsall Heath in the 1940s and 50s paint a picture of life that had barely changed since the Victorian period. Here is a sample:

It all started on 3rd December 1945. I was born at 77 Arlington Road, Warstock, Yardley Wood, Birmingham 14. It was nan and grandad Hubbleday’s house and we lived there with them plus Aunty Doreen and Uncle Norman. . . . Obviously, this was not an ideal living situation with six adults and one child and another on the way so mom and dad had their names on the council housing list. . . . They were offered a back to back house in Thomas Street, Highgate, Balsall Heath, Birmingham 12 with the assurance that we would be living there for a maximum of two years as the property was in a slum clearance area. . . . Number 33 faced on to the street and had a living room, a tiny room off that which had a sink, a gas stove and steps leading down to the coal cellar, and one bedroom on the first floor and an attic bedroom. . . . At the side of the house was an entry which opened on to a yard with another six houses in it plus five toilets (two families shared a toilet), two brew houses which ten families used to do their weekly wash, a large area at the side of the brew house which was a playground for us children and doubled as a drying area for the washing, and facing the toilets was a line of dustbins and ‘pig bins’ where all the vegetable peelings and food scraps were put and collected by the dustmen and taken to outlying farms for pig swill. The house was very cold in the winter . . . . mom and dad couldn’t afford such luxuries as hot water bottles, so they heated up the shelves out of the oven, wrapped them up in strong brown paper that dad got from the factory where he worked, and put them in our bed to warm it up.

A typical back courtyard near the centre of Birmingham. June’s parents, Edward and Eileen Hubbleday, spent nine years at Thomas Street before the Council offered them a house in Pype Hayes.

In her article, June describes her father, Edward, as a proud family man who wasn’t afraid to be seen pushing a pram and didn’t care what other people thought of this, even though it was unusual behaviour in those days. He also valued education and took his daughters to the library each Saturday, having taught them to read before they started school.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

It’s salutary to remember that until around 1890, most of our ancestors were illiterate and, despite improvements in educational opportunity, the generation of Hubbledays to which Edward and my father belonged, left school at 14. Thankfully, my father, like June’s, knew the importance of helping his children to make a good start at school. He was a stern taskmaster when it appeared that I was a slow starter in learning to read, but it got me moving. He had not had the best time at school himself and his main memory of it seemed to be of having been caned repeatedly because his handwriting sloped backwards. Later on, he made up for lost time by going to night school to get the qualifications he needed to become an electrician. My mother, too, overcame the limitations of being forced to leave school at 14 by later training to be a nurse during the war.

My generation benefited from more enlightened times and hugely better educational opportunities which meant we could build on the first upwardly mobile steps made by our parents. What would William Robert Hubbleday have made of the way his descendants now live? Many of us have had a university education and expect that our children will follow that route. We have done well in our careers whether we went to university or not. We own our homes, have a car, take foreign holidays and are able to buy good quality food. The occupations of my grandfather’s great-grandchildren bear no resemblance to those of his generation: founding owner of an internet travel comparison site; manager of a care home; director of a financial advisory service; development officer at the Rugby Football Union; RAF officer and fast jet pilot; technical writer for an IT company. None of this could have been foreseen a hundred years ago so it would be foolish to try to imagine the lives of our own descendants in the 22nd Century. However, we can, at least, be thankful that there are now enough Hubbledays for the name to stand a good chance of surviving.

The Future

We began the 20th Century with six branches of the name. There are still six branches but, in the last thirty years, only three of them have produced children with the Hubbleday name. These are the three oldest branches started by my grandfather and two of his brothers.

The chart below shows where the next few generations of Hubbledays will come from. In my grandfather’s branch, my cousin Roger had two sons, John and Alan, who have both had children. I have had a son, David, who has a son. My brother Brian has had two sons, Jonathan who has two children, and Michael who is about to become a father.

In Albert Ernest’s branch, my second cousins, Paul and Anthony, had sons, Craig and Richard, who went on to have their own sons. In Bernard’s branch, my second cousin, Roy, has had three children, two of whom are sons and may go on to have their own children.

So, in the first half of 2021, there are 15 Hubbledays in the World under the age of 30, 11 of whom are boys. I hope that one day they will be interested in our family’s story and appreciate how fortunate they are to have such a rare and distinctive surname.

Future generations of Hubbledays will come from only three branches. The last line in the chart shows Hubbledays who have been born since 1990. For the first time ever, there are more boys (shown in blue) than girls.

Let me finish by telling you about a Hubbleday who has not been mentioned but who will outlast us all. His name is Constable Royston Hubbleday and he exists only in a novel by Edward Marston, the prolific writer of a series of Victorian railway detective stories. Here is an introduction to Constable Royston in The Iron Horse, published in 2010.

The author was clearly taken by our surname as he used it in another book, Timetable of Death, in which there is a shop called ‘Brough and Hubbleday, Tailors’.

Perhaps he had come across the name when, like me, he discovered a kitchenware shop in Henley-on-Thames called ‘Hubbledays of Henley’. I was very excited to find out which of my relatives had set up this business and so rang them and started to explain that I was related to the owner. The shop assistant on the other end of the line listened patiently for a while and then interrupted my flow to say that the shop had absolutely nothing to do with my family. I was a bit indignant. ‘How can you be sure?’ I said. ‘Well’, she replied, ‘ I’m sure about it because we invented the name. I’m Mrs Hubble and I went into partnership with my friend called Mr Day.’

There was an important lesson here. Beneath the seemingly straightforward facts, there may be an unexpected explanation for why something is as it is. Let me apologise now, therefore, if in telling the story of our name, I have unknowingly portrayed something inaccurately.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

8 thoughts on “My Grandfather, his Three Brothers and the Future

  1. Hello Rob, The history of the Hubbleday family has been extremely interesting and well put together, you have done the family a great service in doing it and the time it has taken to investigate the different branches is a credit. I have enjoyed reading all that you have e-mailed me, and I thankyou. I for one have missed nan and grandad and often think of them as well as the rest of the Hubbleday family Again thankyou Best Wishes to you all Graham



    1. Hi Graham,

      Thank you for being a loyal reader over the last couple of years. I’m really pleased that you found it interesting. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet up again at some point once the pandemic is behind us.

      Best wishes, Rob



  2. Hi Rob

    Thank you for all you hard work in finding out about the history on my mother’s side of the of the family. It had been really interesting in learning about our history and where the different branches of the Hubbleday come from and what the did. My memories of Grandfather and Grandmother are very dim as I was very young when they passed away, but reading about them has bought them over to me. I do dimly recall running down the road to see them, and Granny standing on the front doorstep with a beaming smile but unfortunately not much more than that, so it’s been a revelation to be able to read about them.

    Thank you again.


    1. Hi Corinne,

      Thank you for following the blog. I’m delighted that you have found it interesting and am very pleased that it has stirred memories of our grandparents. They were both lovely people and we owe them a lot for the stability they brought to the family, ensuring that our parents grew up with a positive outlook on life.

      Hopefully, we will meet up again at some point in the future.

      Best wishes, Rob



  3. Wow, terrific read and makes u want to wave a flag!! Well done Hubbledays. I have to ask, Albert? brother of dad?? no, really or is this the Albert u mention living at Greenwood Ave? Do a check on Willson. .2Ls? and World ..cap W? Really fab historical stuff Rob well done. Now if u could just put it all into Scandi poetic saga for stage and screen!!! I jest, time to take a break i think. Px


    1. Hi Pam,

      Thanks for the positive review! I am so pleased that we now know about the other branches. It would have been such a shame to have not known we have a tenuous link with the Duke of Devonshire (a Cavendish!).

      As for Albert. There are two. Our uncle is Albert Henry (1910 -1976). He married when he was 54. He used to work at Cadbury’s at one stage and he handed out bags of ’seconds’ to his brothers and sisters so we got to eat some on Friday night.

      The other Albert was our grandfather’s brother (so the uncle of our uncle Albert!).

      Never sure about capitalisation on words like world. It seems like it deserves a capital but perhaps not!

      Willson / Willson – could be either but I have followed the transcription below. The original record is very hard to make out.



  4. Well done for finishing the blog Dad. It’s been very interesting to read and I only hope we can add to the Hubbleday history in our own little way now too 🙂 Have you read the story of Constable Royston Hubbleday? I may look it up myself if not…


  5. Thanks David. You’re adding to it very well already! I’m afraid I haven’t read the novel but I have seen them for sale on Amazon and Ebay. You’ve made me think I ought to buy a copy.


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