The Earliest Traceable Hubbleday in our Direct Ancestral Line

In previous blogs I have written about Hubbledays from the past without being able to trace a direct link to Hubbledays in the twenty-first century. While the rarity of the name and the clustering of Hubbleday families in just a few counties along the East coast strongly suggest that we all belong to one family, there has been no way to prove it. That frustration is now over. From this point onwards, I will be writing about authentic ancestors for whom I have documentary evidence which links each generation to our own across three hundred years of history.

The trail starts in the fenlands just south of Lincolnshire in the town of Wisbech and the nearby village of Elm. Wisbech, the ‘capital of the fens’, is at the north-eastern edge of Cambridgeshire and straddles the River Nene fifteen miles inland from where it flows into the Wash. It was a prosperous town in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as its port benefited from increasing trade with the continent. During this time, several families of Hubbledays lived there although there is nothing to suggest that they shared in the area’s prosperity.

A modern map of the fenland area south of the Wash where Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk meet. Wisbech and Elm are in the bottom left-hand corner.

These Hubbledays were almost certainly related to those in Lincolnshire, a neighbouring county, but they do not appear to have had the same success as some of their more well-to-do cousins. The parish records are generally silent about the occupations and status of the Hubbledays who were baptised, married and buried in Cambridgeshire. Nor are there any wills or court documents to help us build a picture of their lives. Nevertheless, it is in Cambridgeshire in the first half of the eighteenth century that we find our most distant traceable direct ancestor and my namesake: Robert Hubbleday. He is my seventh-great-grandfather or, to put it another way, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. If you are a Hubbleday, he is also your relative since every other branch of the family died out before the end of the nineteenth century.

A mid-eighteenth-century view of the River Nene at low tide in the centre of Wisbech.

My hunch is that he was the son of Thomas Hubbleday who lived in Elm and who may have moved there from East Kirkby in Lincolnshire in the 1680s. However, the first record of Robert’s existence is in 1716 when he married Elizabeth Willson on 21st February at St Peter’s Church in Wisbech. Assuming that he was in his twenties when he married, he would have been born in the 1690s when William and Mary were on the throne in England, Louis XIV, the Sun King, ruled France from the Palace of Versailles and Sir Christopher Wren completed the building of St Paul’s Cathedral.

The leather-bound parish records for St Peter’s Church, Wisbech in which I found the first reference to Robert Hubbleday in 1716. The book is preserved in the town’s museum.

Robert and Elizabeth Hubbleday lived in Wisbech all their lives and had eight children between 1717 and 1735. Four of their five daughters died young and the record of their burials in the parish register sometimes notes that Robert is a ‘labourer’.

The record of the burial of one of Robert’s daughters, Elizabeth, on January 3rd, 1727 indicating that he is a labourer.

This is all that we know about him except that he died in 1758 and was buried in the churchyard at St Peter’s where he had married. The term ‘labourer’ is clearly not specific about the nature of Robert’s work but he might well have been involved in the huge, labour-intensive operations to drain the fens. This work had started in earnest in the seventeenth century when the Duke of Bedford had brought over the brilliant Dutch engineer, Cornelius Vermuyden. Alternatively, he might have worked at the port of Wisbech unloading ships or, quite simply, been an agricultural labourer.

The churchyard at St Peter’s, Wisbech where Robert Hubbleday was buried in 1758.

One of his daughters, Anne, lived long enough to marry, as did his three sons, who all went on to have families of their own. However, the survival of the Hubbleday name remained precarious despite the three sons having fifteen children between them. The name soon disappeared from the area as all three sons, William, Robert and John, moved away from Wisbech and the only other Hubbleday family, who lived in Elm, failed to produce any healthy males.

A simplified family tree for Robert and Elizabeth showing the four children who reached maturity. Interestingly, the name Robert is used in every generation but one over a span of 150 years between the 1690s and 1851. It was then another hundred years before another Hubbleday was given the name. That Hubbleday was me although there was no family knowledge at the time of its significance.

Robert and Elizabeth’s youngest son, William, left Wisbech for Southwark, London and married Ann Perry in 1763. The marriage is interesting because William signed a marriage bond testifying that there was no impediment to the marriage. This was a device used to avoid having to attend church on four Sundays to hear the banns being read, for instance, if the couple were in a hurry to marry. They remained in London for the rest of their lives but in 1768 one of their children, Maria, was born in Wisbech, presumably while her parents were back visiting friends or relatives in the town. Although Maria had two brothers, William and Luke, there is no trace of them ever marrying.

Part of the marriage bond which allowed William Hubbleday and Ann Perry to marry without the banns being read. Their marriage took place at the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark in April 1763.

Robert, the middle son, did not go far from Wisbech but he crossed from Cambridgeshire into Norfolk when, in 1748, he married Elizabeth Stanham from Tilney St Lawrence. This was a small village halfway between his parents’ home in Wisbech and King’s Lynn. They settled in the village and had five daughters but only one son, who died as an infant.

John, Robert and Elizabeth’s eldest son and my sixth-great-grandfather, also moved to Norfolk. He had been born in 1719 but, confusingly, only baptised ten years later when his sister, Anne, was being baptised.

The unusual entry in the parish register of Wisbech St Peter recording the baptism of John and his sister Anne on the 14th January 1729 and noting that John was born ten years earlier in 1719. The entry reads: “John son of Robert and Elizabeth Hubleday Born January 1st 1719 and ye same day Anne daughter of ye said Robert and Elizabeth Hubleday.”

He married Mary Witten in 1744 and had three children in Wisbech before moving to King’s Lynn, where he had two sons. The continued existence of the Hubbleday name came to depend on these two boys and it is their very different fortunes which will feature in the next blog.

Addendum to the William Hubbleday Ward story

Since publishing the account of William Hubbleday Ward, I have discovered that his home, Carrington House, is now owned by James Dyson, the British inventor. He doesn’t live there but his company, Beeswax Dyson, owns the Carrington Estate in which it stands. The house is rented out to private tenants.

Carrington House, where William Hubbleday Ward lived for forty years until his death in 1911.

William Hubbleday Ward: a prominent Victorian landowner and local politician in Lincolnshire

Delving into the archives of old newspapers is a fascinating way to research your ancestors and has become much easier since the advent of online digitised records. A general search for ‘Hubbleday’ in the British Newspaper Archive will reveal over 30 mentions of the name up to the early years of the twentieth century and the vast majority relate to one man: William Hubbleday Ward who was born a few years before Queen Victoria came to the throne and lived near Boston in Lincolnshire. Here are some examples of the newspaper references to him:

A sample of the numerous references to William Hubbleday Ward revealed by a general search for the name ‘Hubbleday’ in the online records of the British Newspaper Archive.

William Hubbleday Ward is interesting because of his involvement in local affairs and because, as far as I know, he was the richest Hubbleday there has ever been. He also has the distinction of having married two sisters from the same family at a time when it was technically illegal and certainly frowned upon by the Church. For a long time, however, I was unable to find why William Ward had been given Hubbleday as a middle name.

The 1830 baptism record from Algakirk, near Sutterton, which clearly shows how Hubbleday has been used as a middle name for Joseph and Lydia Ward’s son, William.

The problem was only solved when I managed to trace his roots back to his maternal grandmother, Hannah Hubbleday. The reason this had been so hard to track down was that her marriage had taken place in Little Munden, Hertfordshire, a county which has no other connection with the Hubbleday family.

The church record from Little Munden in Hertfordshire showing (on the bottom line) the marriage of Thomas Archer to Hannah Hubbleday in 1792. This record of William Hubbleday Ward’s grandmother was the final bit of the jigsaw which solved the puzzle about his middle name.

I have not been able to find Hannah’s parents as, sadly, there appear to be no baptism records for her. My strong hunch is that she was a daughter of one of the Lincolnshire Hubbledays who had, perhaps, gone to Hertfordshire as a governess or as a companion to a distant cousin. My supposition is based on the fact that within a few years of her marriage she had left Hertfordshire and was living in Brothertoft near Holland Fen, Lincolnshire. It would be too much of a coincidence that someone from a small village a hundred miles from Lincolnshire would find herself living in this remote part of the country inhabited by other Hubbledays unless she already had a connection with the area.

Hannah and Thomas Archer had two children. Their first was a son born in 1797 and baptised in Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, perhaps indicating that Thomas’s job required him to move around the country. They named their son William Hubbleday-Archer but we know nothing else about him except that he died when he was only 23 and was buried in Boston, Lincolnshire. Hannah and Thomas’s second child was a girl, Lydia, born in Brothertoft, Lincolnshire in 1803. In 1829, when Lydia was in her mid-twenties, she married Joseph Ward, a successful local farmer at Algakirk, Sutterton, six miles south of Boston. Their first child, born in 1830, was William Hubbleday Ward.

A simplified tree to show how the name Hubbleday was used to name children in successive generations, firstly by Hannah and then by her daughter Lydia.

The Wards were a well-to-do family of local farmers and William had a good start in life. In addition, he probably inherited money from his grandmother’s side of the family as there were no other relatives from her marriage to Thomas. By the age of 20, he was living in his own property in West Ville with two of his sisters and a servant. The 1851 Census lists his occupation as ‘farmer’s son’ and his father, at this time, was farming 1180 acres.

The 1851 Census shows William Hubbleday Ward, aged 20, living as the head of a household consisting of two of his sisters and two servants.

In the same year as the census, a notice appeared in the local paper making clear that father and son were sharing responsibility for their numerous holdings of land.

William and his father were signifiant land owners by 1851.

By the time of the 1861 Census, when William was 30, he was farming 430 acres in his own right in Thornton le Fen and employing eight men. In the summer of 1865, he married Mary Ann Quincey, the daughter of a miller and baker from Kirkby Underwood in Lincolnshire. She came from a very well-connected family who could trace their line back to twelfth century knights, one of whom, Sir James Burton from Tutbury Castle, accompanied Richard I on his crusade to the Holy Land. In more recent times, her grandmother had married a Lincolnshire surgeon and their eldest son, Thomas, inherited Buckminster Hall in Billborough, Lincolnshire from his uncle. Two of Mary Ann’s nieces, Florence and Beatrice Perry, were leading singers with the hugely popular D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. One of her cousins, Colonel Albert de Burton, commanded the 4th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. William Hubbleday Ward had entered a different social circle and, commensurate with his new standing, his marriage took place in London where his wife’s family had property.

The couple became parents in 1868 when Gertrude Mary was born but there were no further children and Mary Ann was probably in poor health as she died five years after her daughter was born. Shortly before her death, the family had moved into Carrington House in the village of that name. It still stands and is a listed building in private hands. It appears that one of Mary Ann’s sisters, Cecilia Christiana Clifton Quincy, came to live at Carrington House to look after the now motherless Gertrude. In the 1881 census, Cecilia is recorded as a housekeeper and governess alongside a cook, a housemaid and a groom.

A map from 1904 showing many of the places associated with William Hubbleday Ward. His home at Carrington House is at the top of the map; the area of West Ville, where he lived with his sisters, is in the centre; Thornton le Fen, where his father lived, is in the centre at the bottom; Sibsey, where he was Chairman of the Council, is on the right of the map.

The 1881 census also records that William Hubbleday Ward’s land ownership had vastly increased and he was now farming 1600 acres. From this time onwards, he became increasingly involved in local administration and politics. In 1876 he had been appointed overseer for Thornton le Fen, an unpaid role in the parish to do with the financial administration of dealing with paupers. In the 1880s, he served on a Grand Jury at the Quarter Sessions in Grimsby and in the 1890s he became a Justice of the Peace and Chairman of Sibsey Rural District Council.

Wiliam Hubbleday Ward’s election statement on the front page of the Stamford Mercury in 1888.

In 1893, there was a development in William’s personal life which would have set tongues wagging. He married his deceased wife’s sister, Christiana, who was sixteen years his junior and had been living at Carrington House as his housekeeper. The marriage took place at St Georges, Bloomsbury near where her widowed mother was living. Church law had always forbidden marriage with a wife’s sister and this was enshrined in secular law in the 1835 Marriage Act. It was not until the ‘Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Marriage Act’ of 1907 that it became lawful so it was a bold action on the part of William and Christiana. Their marriage did not produce any children and they continued to live at Carrington House until William’s death in 1911 at the age of 81.

The announcement of William Hubbleday Ward’s death in 1911.

William was a very wealthy man when he died. His executors held a number of sales of livestock and machinery at his various farms and the probate records reveal that his estate was worth over £100,000. In today’s money he would be a millionaire several times over. His daughter and wife were left substantial sums but the major beneficiary was his nephew, Thomas Joseph Ward.

The details of the will were outlined in The Stamford Mercury.

Thomas Joseph Ward probably inherited some of the farmland and went on to build an even bigger reputation than his uncle’s. At the time of his death in 1944, he was farming 7,000 acres and employing over 200 men. It is clear from the obituary which appeared at the time that a significant farming and local political dynasty had been built from the foundations laid by William Hubbleday Ward.

Part of the 1944 obituary for Thomas J Ward, the nephew who benefited from William Hubbleday Ward’s will. It refers on the last line to the tradition of public service started by William.

Unfortunately, I am not able to prove conclusively that 21st Century Hubbledays are related to William Hubbleday Ward. However, I believe that his grandmother, Hannah Hubbleday, was likely to have been born into one of the Hubbleday farming families scattered around Lincolnshire in the 18th Century. William and Lydia Hubbleday in East Kirkby, for example, would be a strong possibility. They were raising a family in the 1760s which would fit the timescale for Hannah’s marriage in 1792. Hannah’s two children were called William and Lydia so that would also fit with the common practice of retaining family names. It is a reasonable hypothesis that all of the Hubbledays in Lincolnshire have a common ancestor and that we too belong to that family. I cannot provide documentary evidence but if these suppositions are true, William Hubbleday Ward would be something like a fifth cousin seven times removed!

You may be relieved to know that in the next instalment of this blog, I will reveal our earliest confirmed direct ancestor and will begin to describe the journey our genes have made over the last three centuries from rural East England to the industrial Midlands.

The Lincolnshire Hubbledays in the 17th and 18th Centuries: from Fenmen to Farmers

There are approximately 80 Hubbledays mentioned in church records of baptisms, marriages and deaths in Lincolnshire between 1608 and 1801. This is the largest number of Hubbledays in one county but there appear to be no more than three or four separate branches of the family in existence at any one time. All of these Hubbledays worked the land, usually as poor agricultural labourers or as self-sufficient owners of smallholdings. In a county famous for its flat, low-lying landscape of peaty marshes, some evocatively and, no doubt proudly, called themselves ‘fenmen’. Occasionally, some of their descendants did even better for themselves and became prosperous farmers.

The entry for William Hubbladay’s burial in 1740 reflects his description of himself in his will as a ‘fenman’.

It is highly likely that these Lincolnshire Hubbledays were relatives of the Hubbledays living on the north side of the Humber estuary in East Yorkshire from the fifteenth century. As the name gradually disappeared from Yorkshire at the end of the seventeenth century, it began to flourish in the neighbouring county south of the Humber. The name was frequently spelled as ‘Hubbladay’ or ‘Hubladay’ but there was often no consistency even in the same family and sometimes it appears as ‘Hubleday’ and occasionally as ‘Hubbleday’. The earliest written record of the name in Lincolnshire is on Christmas day 1628 when Elizabeth, the daughter of John and Mary Hubleday, was baptised in East Kirkby. Hubbledays continued to live in this village and the surrounding area for the next hundred years or so. Another part of the county where they settled was around Swineshead, further to the South.

Lincolnshire nestles beneath the River Humber and extends to the south-western edge of The Wash. East Kirkby, the village which was home for many Hubbledays in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, is shown by the star near Horncastle.

East Kirkby is now famous for its aviation heritage centre on the site of the 1943 former RAF bomber command station. Three hundred years earlier in 1643, it played a small part in another war when its church was used as a stable by Oliver Cromwell’s cavalry on the night before the Battle of Winceby. It is recorded as a matter of regret that the horses chewed the ends of the pews! John and Mary Hubbleday had four children baptised in this church in the 1640s and might well have seen Oliver Cromwell pass through their village.

East Kirkby (or Kirkby East as it is labelled) can be seen in this early 18th Century map on the left edge of the Bullingbrook Wapontake. It is on the same line of latitude as Skegness on the East coast. A ‘wapontake’ was the old northern name for an administrative district similar to a ‘hundred’ in Anglo-Saxon shires further south.

John and Mary’s youngest son, another John, married Ann Watson in 1685 after the death of his first wife and they had three daughters and three sons. Three of the children died in childhood but two of the sons lived long enough to write wills which are of considerable interest. The older son, Thomas, died in 1715 quite soon after his marriage and did not have any children. He was 27, living in Sibsey and described himself as ‘a labouring man’. He left a shilling to his brother William and the rest of his estate to his wife. His goods and chattels amounted to £53 and consisted mainly of farm animals and equipment. This was no small sum for a young man in those days and indicates that he was probably better off than many of his neighbours.

John and Mary’s two sons moved only a few miles away from where they had been born. Thomas lived in Sibsey and William lived in Toynton St Peter.

William, the brother who inherited a shilling, was born in 1692 and lived much longer than Thomas. He wrote his will in 1736 and died in 1740 when he was 48. His will is far more detailed than his brother’s and provides excellent evidence of his family tree. He lived at Toynton St Peter, three miles from East Kirkby and described himself as a fenman.

He left his house, land and all of his belongings to his wife Sarah with the provision that as soon as any of his four children married, the land should be sold and the proceeds divided between his heirs: ‘my three children by my late wife and and my daughter Sarah by my present wife. I will that they have ten pounds apiece of ye said money.’ He goes on to say that his wife should have whatever is left over and that the ten pounds each child receives should be ‘put out to interest at the discretion of their two uncles, John Prentice of Toynton and John Spiking of Stickforth‘. These names neatly corroborate the church records about the family so that we can be certain that the following tree is accurate.

This is the family mentioned in William’s will of 1736. There are six children rather than four because it shows Ruth who died in the same year as her mother, Mary Spiking, and a son, John, born in 1739 after the will was written.

After William’s death in 1740, an inventory was drawn up according to the law at the time. Two of the four signatures on it belong to the uncles mentioned in the will: John Spiking and John Prentice. William’s belongings are listed as: his purse and apparel (£5); three cows and a calf (£10); one horse (£4); eight kade lambs (£2); hay and fodder (£4); corn in straw (£2); two beds and other things in the parlour (£3); and two tables and other things in the house (£3). It amounted to £31, which is a surprisingly small figure compared with his brother’s inventory. However, it does not include the value of the house itself or the land.

The first part of William Hubbladay’s inventory after his death in 1740. A kade lamb is one without a mother.

We don’t know what happened to Mary and Thomas, two of William’s three children by his first wife. The third child, William, born in 1727, remained in East Kirkby, married twice and had eight children, three of whom died in infancy. When his first wife died in 1750, soon to be followed by the baby she had given him, the parish record describes him as a labouring man aged 31. He died in 1767 having had only one son, another William, and it is not certain what happened to him. He may have been the William Hubbleday employed by the East India Company as a soldier who died at Fort William in India in 1789. The fourth child mentioned in the will was Sarah. She married William Coats in Toynton All Saints and remained in the area to raise a family.

It was the fifth child, John, who was born in 1739 after the will was written but a year before his father’s death, who was most successful. He secured his family’s fortune by becoming a prosperous farmer. At the age of 21 he became the tenant of Monk’s Farm in Brothertoft, ten miles south of East Kirkby. The land was owned by Sir Charles Frederick and a copy of the lease is held at the Surrey History Centre among his family’s papers. In May 1765, John married Jane Ranby in nearby Boston and they had eight children but only three daughters managed to survive childhood. Jane lived to the age of 74 and her gravestone can still seen in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Swineshead.

A detail from Jane Hubladay’s gravestone in St Mary’s, Swineshead. She died in 1819.

It was during John and Jane’s tenure at Monk’s Farm that the landowners began to drain and then enclose large areas of fenland. The ordinary inhabitants of Brothertoft were fiercely opposed to the enclosure of nearby Holland Fen which they used for fishing, wildfowling and recreation. There were violent riots in 1767 which required Sir Charles to employ an armed guard for the area.

However, John did well out of the land improvements. The reclaimed fens were hugely productive and were at the cutting edge of the agricultural revolution in the eighteenth century. When John died in nearby Swineshead in 1801, he was a rich man. The probate documents held in the National Archives list him as a farmer who left legacies amounting to £5,000. At the time, the average yearly wage of a labourer was under £20. His married daughters, Elizabeth and Mary, inherited the proceeds from property sales; his wife, Jane, received £1,000; his unmarried daughter, Sarah, who was still a minor, received £2,000 to be held in trust until she was 21; his nephew, Christopher Coats received £400; and his granddaughter, Jane, was given £300.

This tree shows John Hubladay’s immediate family and the relatives who inherited his wealth.

From the contents of the will and the details of the family tree in the diagram above it can be seen that there was no male line of Hubbledays to whom the considerable estate could be left. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the name lived on in this branch of the Hubbledays for several more generations as several descendants were given it as a middle name.

The most prominent was Elizabeth and Nicholas Booth’s son who was christened John Hubbleday Booth in honour of his prosperous grandfather. Sadly, he seems to have spent the family’s money unwisely and he attained notoriety in the area for his dissolute life. An obituary in The Baptist Magazine of 1820 painted a lurid picture of someone whose ‘whole life had been filled up with the pleasures of sin, and the carnal conversation and company of an ungodly world’. The writer of the obituary noted that a letter he had written anonymously to Mr J Hubbleday Booth exhorting him to mend his ways had been met with contempt until illness and imminent death at the age of 30 had reformed his character.

The beginning of a striking obituary from The Baptist Magazine of 1820.

Nicholas Booth and Elizabeth also had a daughter, Mary, born in 1792. She married William Hides (presumably a relative of her Aunt Mary who had married John Hides) and, rather oddly, used ‘Hubladay as her son’s first name.

The use of the name ‘Hubleday or Hubladay by three generations of Elizabeth’s descendants presumably indicates the gratitude they felt for the wealth they had inherited from John Hubladay who died in 1801.

Hubladay Hides, born in 1815, had an elder sister, Elizabeth Ann, who married Isaac Flatters, a labourer, and they named their first son John Hubladay. When he died, aged 15, they used the name again for their next son in 1849. This John Hubladay Flatters lived until 1914.

The parish record of the baptism in 1849 of the second John Hubladay Flatters.

Christopher Coats, the nephew who had inherited £400 from his uncle in 1801, married Eleanor Ranby (presumably a relative of his aunt Jane Ranby) and, in 1815, named a son John Hubleday Coats. They had had another son, Edward, in 1799 and he chose not to give the name ‘Hubbleday’ to any of his children. However, remarkably, one of his granddaughters was given the name in 1889, nearly a century after the death of her only link with the Hubbleday paternal bloodline. She rejoiced in the name of Edith Isabel Hubladay Coates. In 1911, she was working as a live-in nanny and governess to the children of a land agent in Aswarby in Lincolnshire. Not long afterwards she married William Strawson and emigrated to Canada. She lived until the age of 93 and was buried in 1982 in Alberta, Canada. One cannot help but wonder if her family ever discovered why she had such an unusual middle name.

Edith Isabel Hubladay Coates was the great, great, grandchild of John Hubladay’s sister, Sarah Hubbladay, born in 1735. Edith died in 1982, breaking a link which had honoured John Hubladay’s memory for nearly 200 years.

The use of Hubbleday as a surname had dwindled into virtual non-existence in Lincolnshire by the beginning of the nineteenth century. It is salutary to note that around two-thirds of the children born into Hubbleday families in the previous two hundred years never made it into adulthood. Of the sixteen male Hubbledays in Lincolnshire for whom we have both birth and death dates, only half lived long enough to marry. With such a small base of males bearing the name to begin with, it is not surprising that it remained a rare surname.


This is a rather different blog to the previous ones. My intention remains to write a chronological history of the family name but I have decided that June 2019 deserves something special. The reason for this is that my branch of the family has celebrated two weddings within the space of three weeks.

At the beginning of the month, my brother Brian’s son, Michael, married Chrissi Renner in Germany and yesterday, my own son, David, married Emily Lloyd in Shropshire. We now have two new Mrs Hubbledays to augment our numbers!

Brian Hubbleday with new daughter-in-law, Chrissi, son Michael and wife Jill.

Chrissi is from Germany but met Michael in England when they were both working as technical writers at Delcam in Birmingham. They moved to Germany a few years ago and, as far as I am aware, they are the only Mr and Mrs Hubbleday living outside the UK.

The new Mrs Emily Hubbleday with my son, David.

David and Emily live in Cheslyn Hay near Cannock. Emily is a Human Resources Manager for an American company with a factory in Dudley. David owns and runs two internet companies: and, which both focus on snowboard and skiing transfers from European airports to the Alps.

Both weddings were wonderful family occasions. The oldest person attending my son’s wedding was my mother, Renee Hubbleday, who is 94. The youngest was my brother’s grandson, Arlo Hubbleday, who is not yet one.

Four generations of my father’s branch of the family, with our two new brides, Emily and Chrissi.

The earliest photograph I have of a Hubbleday wedding dates from 1907. This is the wedding of my grandfather, Charles William Hubbleday, to Emma Allen in Aston, Birmingham. Charles was a metal spinner in a silversmiths. Emma was the youngest daughter of a carpenter from Warwick. They were both aged only 18 when they married.

Emma Allen and Charles William Hubbleday either shortly before or after their wedding in 1907.

Charles and Emma went on to have a large family of ten children, five boys and five girls. They celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1957 and I have every hope that the year 2069 will also see some Golden Wedding anniversaries.

Golden Wedding Celebration at Greenwood Avenue, Acock’s Green in 1957. Kneeling: Eric and Albert; Front Row: Doris, Emma, Charles, Hilda; Back Row: Ivy, Margie, Gordon, Gladys, Charles, Ken.

The London Hubbledays in Tudor and Stuart Times: a tale of two churches

In 1547, Henry VIII died at his Palace of Whitehall in Westminster. In the same year, also in Westminster, Mathewe Hubbylday was christened at St Margaret’s Church in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. Although this sounds very grand and the church is associated with some famous historical figures, sadly there is no indication that Mathewe was an important person. The church of St Margaret’s was simply the parish church for that area of London. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to have a link with such a prominent church near to the Houses of Parliament.

St Margaret’s Church, Westminster showing how close it is to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

We don’t know much about Mathewe’s family except that his parents were probably Alis and John Hubbeldaye who were buried at St Margaret’s in 1569 and 1571 respectively. It is likely that his grandfather was Thomas Hubleday who had been buried in the same church in 1558, the year that Elizabeth I came to the throne. We can’t prove that this family was related to the Yorkshire Hubbledays living at roughly the same time. Nevertheless, there is no reason to rule this out since it was not unusual, as now, for people to leave their birthplace and seek work in more prosperous areas of the country.

Mathewe Hubbylday’s baptism in 1547 is recorded in the registers of St Margaret’s Church, Westminster.

Mathewe had six bothers and sisters, all of whom were baptised at St Margaret’s. Amusingly for us, the surname was spelt differently in each case. Agnes Hobeldaye was born in 1549; Margarete Hubbyldaye was born 1550; Anne Hubbelday in 1552; Heughe Hubledaye in 1555; John Hubleday in 1561 and Essebell Hobleday in 1563. In addition, Two of the sisters, Margaret and Agnes, were married in the church.

This entry in the parish registers of St Margaret’s Church, Westminster records the marriage of William Clerke to Agnes Hoboldaye on 5 June 1570 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

St Margaret’s has a fascinating history and is well worth a visit. Access to it is through the main entrance to the grounds of Westminster Abbey but entrance is free, unlike the Abbey. It houses many striking memorials and is often referred to as the parish church of the Palace of Westminster. In 1560, Queen Elizabeth took Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church away from the authority of the Bishop of London and put them under her direct control. As a result, St Margaret’s became one of only a handful of what are termed ‘Royal Peculiars’. It has had links with many famous names. The burials of Sir Walter Raleigh and William Caxton and the marriages of Samuel Pepys, John Milton and, more recently, Winston Churchill took place there.

An unusual memorial in St Margaret’s Church from the time when Hubbledays were among its parishioners. It records the life of a Yeoman of the Guard who died in 1577 having served Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I.

Towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign, one of the Hubbledays who was baptised at St Margaret’s moved a mile or so eastwards and began living south of the river in Southwark. This was John Hubleday who was born in 1561 and whose life straddled the reigns of two monarchs: Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudors, and James I, the first Stuart king. We know more about this distant ancestor than we do of many of our more recent forebears. The reason being that he worshipped at a church called St Saviour’s, which, in its own way, has just as fascinating a history as St Margaret’s.

St Saviour’s, now known as Southwark Cathedral, has an extensive collection of ‘token books’ which list the names and residence of the heads of households in the parish. St Saviour’s required its parishioners to purchase tokens for the Easter communion, one token for each person over sixteen years of age in the household. Attendance at church was compulsory by law until 1650 and these tokens were handed in at the church on Easter Day to prove that you were present.

The token books show that in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, John began renting rooms in the area known as Clink Liberty and Paris Gardens and remained in the same location for over thirty years until his death. This area, which we now know as Bankside, was notorious as a place of criminality, illicit pleasure and entertainment. It was outside the jurisdiction of the City of London and had the Clink prison, bear-baiting pits, brothels and theatres, including one opened by William Shakespeare in 1599: the Globe. St. Saviour’s was the main church in the area and had close links with many people associated with the theatre. Shakespeare’s brother, Edmund, for example, was buried there in 1607.

This view of early 17th Century London from the south bank shows (at the bottom of the picture) how close St Saviour’s Church was to the Globe theatre. Notice how many small boats there are on the Thames ferrying people across the river. The large church on the far side of the river is the old St Paul’s Cathedral which was later destroyed in the Fire of London in 1666.

As well as telling us where John Hubleday lived, the church records also tell us his occupation. He was a waterman. This meant that he was one of the many hundreds of men living in Southwark at that time whose job was to row people across the Thames. Watermen were in high demand as until 1750 there was only one bridge to serve the city. This was the very congested London Bridge which can be seen in the illustration above. I like to think that John Hubleday may once have carried William Shakespeare in his boat since the playwright frequently travelled from his house on the north side of the river to the Globe.

This entry for 1593 in the parish register of St Saviour’s Church provides the information about John Hubleday’s occupation. It records the baptism of his first son, also called John. Sadly, the child died in the following year. The entry says: ‘John Hubleday son of John waterman’.

John had five children that we know about but three died before reaching adulthood. We know of only one who survived long enough to marry. This was Peter, whose birth, marriage and death are all recorded in the records held by St Saviour’s. He was baptised in March 1597, married to Sarah Winter in July 1624 and buried in August 1626, aged 29 years old. His short-lived marriage produced a son but he also died in 1626.

This is the baptism record from St Saviour’s for March 5th 1597. Seven children are baptised and four of them are the children of watermen. Peter Hobloday, son of John a waterman, is the sixth one in the list.
Peter Hubbleday’s marriage to Sarah Winter took place on 6 July 1624. The word ‘married’ has been abbreviated to ‘m’ with a flourish underneath it.
Peter Hubbleday’s burial on 26 August 1626 (the bottom line) records simply that he was ‘a man’.

John, the waterman, did not live to see his son’s marriage as he was buried at St. Saviour’s two days before Christmas Day 1623, having lived to the ripe old age, for the time, of 52. Although he had five children, there is no record of him being married until, somewhat surprisingly, he marries a woman called Agnes Keere in November 1623, one month before his death. It seems reasonable to assume that she was his common law wife and the mother of his children and that he knew he was dying. The marriage was probably to put things straight before he passed away. The token books list an Agnes Hubbleday, presumably his widow, continuing to reside in Paris Gardens until 1627. However, someone has scribbled ‘dead’ in the margin, so she did not outlive her husband by many years.

After this date, the Hubbleday name disappeared from the capital until the eighteenth century apart from one intriguing record. In 1660, the year in which Charles II was restored to the throne after Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, a William Hubbleday married Elizabeth Hookham at Clerkenwell. Sadly, there is no other information about either of these people.

The Yorkshire Hubbledays

The earliest recorded Hubbledays I have so far discovered lived for at least 250 years in a small defined coastal area north of the River Humber in the East Riding of Yorkshire. We know this because we have several legal documents naming various Hubbledays as well as a number of baptism records. The small town of Hornsea features prominently in these records along with Hull and a few villages in the area.

The blue pins show where there were Hubbledays living between 1453 and 1707. This area of rich agricultural land is called Holderness and it was once marshland until drained in the Middle Ages.

The very first of our ancestors I have discovered was William Hubbleday, born in 1453 in the reign of Henry VI a few years before the Wars of the Roses. He was probably a husbandman which would have meant that he was a freeman and a tenant farmer of a few acres of land. When he was 40, he was a witness in a case brought by the Vicar of Hornsea against the Abbott of the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary’s, York, to whom the church belonged.

On the third line is the earliest discovered mention of a Hubbleday: William Hubbylday appearing as a witness in the York Consistory (Church) Court in 1493. His name appears several times throughout the full document but has various spellings: Hubbilday, Hobliday and Hubbleday.

The Vicar, William Ottoway, like many in his position, received very little money to live on. He depended on tithes (a tenth of each farmer’s produce) but their value had declined at the same time as his responsibilities had increased, for instance paying for repairs to the church. He petitioned the York Consistory Court to increase his tithe income but was unsuccessful. We are not sure what part William Hubbleday’s testimony played in this decision but he must have been a man of some standing to have been called upon. Interestingly, the Vicar took matters into his own hands in the following year and stole the Abbot’s boat and nets in order to fish on Hornsea Mere. This rash action led to him being excommunicated.

Sixty years later, another Hubbleday appeared as a witness in the same court in a case of sexual slander. Church courts were the only recourse people had to salvage their reputation if someone accused them, for example, of being an adulterer. What is interesting for us is that the court papers record the occupations of each witness.

The date of 1555 can be seen at the end of the two lines of the heading. The first line of the paragraph below it says: John Hubleday of Hornsey husbandman aged fifty.

We don’t know anything else about this John Hubleday nor is it possible to compile a complete family tree of the other Hubbledays living in the area. Mainly, all we have are scraps of information about dates of birth, marriage and death for around twenty Hubbledays. It seems likely that they were reasonably prosperous and that some at least owned their own houses. In 1598, for instance, Jenetta Hubbleday, a widow, entered into a legal transaction with Robert Nicholson over a ‘cottage with lands in Great Driffield’. This is a village about 16 miles from Hornsea.

Here are some of the bare details that can be gleaned from church records: William Hubbylday born 1453 in Hornsea; John Hubleday born 1505 in Hornsea; William Hubledaye married Alice Bacon in Roos in 1572; William Hubbledaie born in Hull in 1575; Edward Hubledaile married Elizabeth Bartle in Hollym cum Withernsea in 1592; Roger Hubledaie married Elizabeth at Hornsea in 1601; Thomas and Jane Hubbleday died in Brandesburton in 1634; Thomas Hubleday married Katharina Barchard in Atwick in 1639; Fanny Hubbleday married William Maske at Catwick in 1661; William Hubbleday had a daughter Elizabeth at Catwick in 1666.

Fortunately, however, there is one fuller piece of evidence about the life of one of our ancestors. The Borthwick Institute at York University holds an inventory of goods owned by a John Hubleday and his wife Anne who lived in Hornsea in the 17th Century. John died in 1689, the year of England’s ‘Glorious Revolution’ when William of Orange and his wife Mary replaced James II. Like his namesake in the sixteenth century who appeared as a witness, this John was also a husbandman.

An inventory of the goods and chattels moveable and immoveable of John Hubleday son of Hornsea in Holderness in the County of York husbandman deceased. Appraised the second of April Anno Dni: 1689 by four souls whose names are underwritten.

From 1500-1750, many courts required an inventory to be filed when probate or letters of administration had been granted.  This was a list of the person’s belongings, usually compiled a few days after the funeral by two to four local men who were usually friends, relatives or neighbours. Items are listed, together with their approximate values in pounds, shillings and pence.

John Hubleday’s belongings included his purse and apparel, one cupboard, one table and frame, four stools, one iron pot, three bedsteads with bedding, two oxen, one quy (a heifer), three horses and a foal, one waine (wagon) and wain-gear (harness), one plough and plough-geare, corn in the barn and corn in the field, two geese with other poultry and barley. The value of the estate was twenty pounds, seven shillings and twopence, probably worth about £40,000 in today’s money.

As John Hubleday died without having made a will, his wife, Anne, had to apply for probate and sign an administration bond which spelled out what she was legally obliged to do. This must have been a very sad time since the parish records show that her son, also called John, died two weeks after her husband’s death. She outlived them by nearly twenty years and was buried in Hornsea in 1707, at which point, the name disappeared from Yorkshire.

The parish church of St. Nicholas in Hornsea.

The earliest Hubbledays

We will never know when the very first Hubbledays arrived in England but we can be certain that they were immigrants from the European mainland. In 2018, I had my Y-DNA tested to see what it might reveal about my paternal heritage. The Y chromosome is inherited only from the father and so the test is more narrowly focused than a general DNA test. It marks the path from our direct paternal ancestors in Africa 60,000 years and shows the direction they took in the thousands of years which followed.

We are all descended from the earliest Homo Sapiens who lived in Africa and migrated out of that continent 60,000 years ago. The brown R1b trail is the relevant one for the Hubbledays.

My Y-DNA showed that I (and therefore every other male Hubbleday) belongs to haplogroup R-M269 (formerly known as R1b), which is the most common European haplogroup. A haplogroup is a major branch of humankind associated with a geographic region. R-M269 is carried by approximately 110 million European men and its frequency increases the further west you go. In Wales, for example, 92% of men belong to this group while in Germany the proportion is 50%.

DNA testing may help to confirm or identify people in the past who belong to the same family tree. Unfortunately, testing is not yet refined enough to reveal when or from which country we came to England.

The characteristics of this haplogroup first appeared in Neolithic times, which is around 10,000 to 4,000 years ago. It was the last period of the Stone Age when hunter-gatherers began to adopt farming as their main way of life. This process began in the East near India and China and gradually moved westwards. There were mass migrations as tribes sought suitable land but it took several thousand years before Britain was a significant destination. Our earliest Hubbleday ancestors, therefore, may have arrived in Britain any time from around 4 to 5,000 years ago. This was the period when Stonehenge was built although I am not suggesting that the Hubbledays were in any way involved!

The distinctive inner circle of Stonehenge was built around 2,500 BC in the late Neolithic period.

The Bronze and Iron Ages followed and people continued to move into Britain from mainland Europe. Interestingly, it is only in the Bronze Age (2,500 BC to 800 BC) that people with blue eyes first arrived in the country. Geneticists are fairly certain that the genetic mutation which causes this colour happened in the region above the Black Sea about 4,500 years ago and was carried westward as people migrated. It is thought that every individual with blue eyes is probably descended from the same ancestor. Since I and my two children have blue eyes, as did my father, it makes me wonder how many other Hubbledays share this characteristic.

Celtic tribes from Europe began to settle here from around 2,800 years ago and had become the dominant force by 500 BC. Our first ancestors in this country may well have been Celts even though we have no paternal link with areas traditionally considered Celtic. We tend to think that the Celtic influence resides only around the western extremities of the United Kingdom in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. These Celtic strongholds were first created when the Romans drove troublesome tribes out of England in the 1st Century AD. However, there would have been many Celts who adapted to Roman rule and remained where they had first settled in England.

On the other hand, it is much more likely that the first British Hubbledays were more recent immigrants. Surprisingly, the well-known invasions by Romans, Vikings and Normans have left very little genetic trace in the genes of today’s Britons. In contrast, Anglo-Saxon heritage is far more pronounced. Recent research has shown that on average 25-40% of the ancestry of modern Britons was contributed by Anglo-Saxon immigrants arriving here between 400 AD and 650 AD. This feature is most evident in the East of the country and the Hubbledays, as you will discover later, were rooted to a narrow strip of Eastern coastal land for hundreds of years.

It is quite possible that our ancestors were Angles since the earliest knowledge we have of Hubbledays places them squarely in the right area, albeit many hundreds of years later. Analysis has also revealed strong links between the genetic make-up of the Anglo-Saxon immigrants with that of modern-day Dutch and Danish populations. You can see in the map above that the Angles came from what we now call Denmark.

My father told me that his father had said he thought we had originally come to Britain from Holland. It is hardly likely that this oral history could have survived since the sixth century so, if true, it must relate to medieval immigration. Many families in the Lowlands crossed the North Sea in the 14th and 15th Centuries to bring their skills in weaving, brick making and brewing. However, I have another theory that the Holland being referred to was the area in Lincolnshire still known today as Holland. A significant proportion of Hubbledays in the 17th Century were clustered around this area.

A map from 1610 showing the area in Lincolnshire around The Wash known as Holland. Several large families of Hubbledays lived in this area in the 17th and 18th Centuries, which might explain the story that we originated from Holland.

In addition, if my theory about the origins of the surname is right, our ancestors were living in England at least as early as the 12th and 13th Centuries. It was only during this period that a mix of Norman French and Old English would have created a name such as Hubald le Daye.

A further reason why I am doubtful that we came from Holland as recently as the late medieval period is that we have documentary proof that there were Hubbledays living in Yorkshire in the 15th Century who appear to be well established and settled. The first recorded mention of a Hubbleday that I have found is of William Hobilday who was born in 1453. He was sufficiently well thought of to be named as a witness in a church court case between a vicar and an abbot. I think it is unlikely that a recent immigrant would have been called upon in this way.

The story of the Yorkshire Hubbledays will be the subject of the next blog.

Where does the name come from?

It was always a great disappointment to me that I could never find the name Hubbleday in any encyclopaedia of surnames and their meanings. I imagine that this is because the name is so rare. However, I think I now have enough evidence to offer a plausible explanation of how the name came about. My own research has led me to believe that the name is a surname of occupation.

In medieval England, the words Daye, Day or Dagh meant, at various times, a baker, a dairyman or maid, or a servant. In ‘A Dictionary of British Surnames’ by P H Reaney, the author gives examples of names such as Walter le Daye and Thomas le Deye found in 13th Century documents. Since the Norman invasion of 1066, elements of the French language, such as using le meaning the, had become part of the normal vocabulary. In today’s English, these people would have been known as Walter the baker or Thomas the dairyman. The historian, Francis Lund, in his book, ‘Middle English Surnames of Occupation’ explains how le was used interchangeably with the until it eventually dropped out of use by the end of the fourteenth century.

My belief, therefore, is that the surname Hubbleday has its origins in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries with a dairyman called, say, Hubert, (a common name since the eighth century) who would have been known as Hubert le Daye. Hub was a common nickname for people called Hubert so it is easy to see how he might have been known as Hub le Daye. There is an oral history in my family passed down from father to son that our name was originally hyphenated. I have not found any evidence of this but it might simply be a distant memory of a time when the name was in three parts: Hub le Daye. By the end of the fourteenth century, it is likely that the words would have been run together to form the surname: Hubledaye. Some of the earliest recordings of the name in sixteenth century London have this form of spelling.  

An example of the surname spelt ‘hubbledaye’. This is from the parish record of St Saviour’s Church, Southwark in 1615 and records the burial of Isaack, a young man.

Further support for my theory is provided by ‘The Oxford Names Companion’ published by the OUP in 2002. For the surname Hobday, it says: from the given name HOBB + Middle English day, a servant, i.e. “Hobb the servant’ or ‘servant of Hobb’. In the same book, the derivation of the surname Hubble is given as Hubald, so it is easy to see how Hubald le Daye might have become Hubble le day and then Hubbleday.

If you’re a Hubbleday, you’re a relation

Hubbleday is an unusual surname and is remarkably rare. It had almost died out by the end of the nineteenth century. The 1901 census listed only 15 people called Hubbleday. Two were elderly widows and the other 13 all belonged to one family. As a result, we can say with certainty that every Hubbleday born since then is related.

William Robert Hubbleday was born in 1843 in Tipton, Dudley and it is only because of his family that the surname still exists.

William Robert, the patriarch of the family, had a long life spanning the reigns of Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V. He was the son of a shoemaker and followed his father into that trade. I will write about him in more detail in a separate blog but, briefly, he experienced life in a London workhouse, joined the army, fought in the Maori Wars, was court martialled, had nine healthy children with his first wife, remarried after her death and lived to the ripe old age of 84.

He had four sons, two of whom, Charles Edward and James Ernest, went on to have sons of their own. Charles Edward, my great grandfather, had four sons and they can be seen in the 1901 census when the family lived in Quinton, Birmingham.

The 1901 census shows Charles, a brass polisher, and his wife, Minnie, with their family in Quinton. The four sons: Charles, Albert, Bernard and Norman all married later in life and had their own sons. Interestingly, the enumerator for this census demonstrates how easy it is to misspell Hubbleday! He also had trouble with Bernard and Eva.

James Ernest, William Robert’s younger son, had only recently married in 1901 and so it is not until the next census in 1911 that we can see his family.

The 1911 census shows James Ernest, a coalman, and his wife, Gertrude, with their family in the Ladywood area of Birmingham. They had two sons: James Ernest and Charles Henry. They didn’t have any more children. James Ernest (the father) became a pet shop owner after World War 1. His shop was at 40 Soho Street, Smethwick and trade directories listed him as a bird dealer.

So, if your name is Hubbleday, you can trace your family line back to William Robert through one of his six grandsons. They all continued to live in the Birmingham area but, amazingly, each separate branch lost touch with the others. It was only when I began to research my family history that I learnt of their existence. Like me, they too had no knowledge of the family other than their own branch.

This simplified tree shows the six male branches of the Hubbleday family through which all subsequent Hubbledays can trace their lineage back to William Robert born in 1843.

Although William Robert is a highly significant forebear, the Hubbleday family tree can be traced back with certainty much further. William Robert’s great grandfather, another William and also a shoemaker, was born in 1755. Before that, it is highly likely, but not completely provable, that the line goes back to Robert and Elizabeth Hubbleday who lived in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire in the early 1700s. They were almost certainly descended from Hubbledays who lived in Lincolnshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire throughout the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

The future of the family name is on a reasonably secure footing but there are still only around 70 people in the world called Hubbleday and, of these, only 30 or so are male.