Tuesday, 2 December 2008

A Cruwys connection with Charles Darwin

I had a long chat on the phone the other night with Norman Cruwys who has provided me with some further anecdotes about his family. I was intrigued to learn that one of his relations, Elizabeth Ann Cruwys née Bradford (1856-1939), the wife of his great uncle John Albert Cruwys (1858-1933), had supposedly at one time worked for the naturalist Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of the Species. I therefore decided to do some research to see if there was any truth in the story.

I already knew that Elizabeth Ann Bradford married John Albert Cruwys, a coachman, in 1886 in the Bromley Registration District. John was the son of William Henry Cruwys, a farmer, and Mary Jane Wonson, and is from the tree which originates in Brushford, Somerset. According to the 1891 census Elizabeth was born in about 1856 in Swaffham Bulbeck, Cambridgeshire. I discovered from the IGI that she was baptised on 24th August 1856 in Swaffham Bulbeck and was the daughter of William Bradford and Jane Hullyer. Her birth is registered in the June quarter of 1856 in the Newmarket Registration District. In the 1861 census Elizabeth, aged four, was living with her parents, William and Jane Bradford, at Hare Park, Swaffham Bulbeck. Her father, William, 50, was a farmer's labourer. Her mother, Jane, was 40. Elizabeth had a brother, Walter, aged two, and a sister, Silina, aged nine months. By the time of the 1871 census Elizabeth, now aged 14, had left home and was working as a domestic servant. She was living with Harriet Palmer, 63, a clergyman's widow, and her daughter Sophia Palmer, 23 at Shrey's Almshouses in the parish of St Giles in Cambridge. Once we get to the 1881 census the story suddenly becomes very interesting. Elizabeth Bradford, now said to be 26 (though in reality she was only 24 or 25), was a housemaid living at Down House in Downe, Kent, which was none other than the home of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. It was a very large household, and I have provided a full transcription of the census entry below.

Down House, Cudham Road, Downe, Kent
Charles Robert DARWIN Head M Male 72 M.A., L.L.D., (Cambs) F.R.S., J.P. Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Emma DARWIN Wife M Female 72 b. Maer, Staffordshire
Elizabeth DARWIN Daughter U Female 33 b. Downe, Kent, England
William E. DARWIN Son M Male 41 Banker B.A. (Cantab) b. St Pancras, Middlesex
Sara DARWIN Daughter-in-law M Female 41 b. United States
George H. DARWIN Son U Male 35 Barrister M A (Cant), F.R.S, b. Downe, Kent
Francis DARWIN Son Widower Male 32 M.A. M.B. (Cant) b. Downe, Kent,
Bernard R. M. DARWIN Grandson Male 4 b. Downe, Kent
Herman FRANKE Visitor M Male 33 Music Director and Violinist b. Saxony, Germany
Rose C. FRANKE Niece M Female 34 b. Etauria [Etruria], Staffordshire
Charles Wood FOX Cousin U Male 33 Barrister b. Hampstead, Middlesex
James JOHNSON Servant U Male 23 Footman Domestic Servant b. Marylebone, Middlesex
Frederic HILL Servant U Male 20 Groom Domestic Servant b. Bromley, Kent,
Margaret EVANS Servant U Female 49 Hedgebottom, Shropshire, Cook Domestic Servant
Augusta DICKSON Servant M Female 44 Ladies Maid Domestic Servant b. Hamburg, Germany (British Subject)
Elizabeth BRADFORD Servant U Female 26 House Maid Domestic Servant b. Bullbeck [Swaffham Bulbeck], Cambridgeshire,
Harriet IRVINE Servant U Female 23 House Maid Domestic Servant b. Offham, Kent
Mary WILKINS Servant U Female 19 Kitchenmaid Domestic Servant b. Sundriger [Sundridge], Kent
Pauline BADEL Servant U Female 29 Nurse Domestic Servant b. Switzerland
Harriet WELLS Visitor U Female 24 Ladies Maid (Domestic) b. Portswood, Hampshire,
Leonard DARWIN Son U Male 31 Royal Engineers Lieutenant b. Downe, Kent

Charles and Emma Darwin moved into Down House in 1842. Some of their children were born at the house and it was here that Darwin worked on his theories of evolution and natural selection. We do not know how long Elizabeth Bradford was employed in the Darwin household, but Charles Darwin died at Down House on 19th April 1882 at the age of 73. Elizabeth quite possibly continued to work at the house after Charles's death, but would almost certainly have stopped working either upon her marriage to John Albert Cruwys in 1886 or upon the birth of her first child, Bessie, in 1889. By 1891 John and Elizabeth Cruwys and their two-year-old daughter Bessie were living in the High Road in Farnborough, Kent, and John was working as a coachman (groom). John and Elizabeth went on to have just one other child, a son, William John Cruwys, who was born in 1891 in Farnborough. Bessie married William Rice in 1919, and William married Doris Gregory in 1919. I do not know if there are any living descendants but I would love to hear from anyone who has further information about this family and the Charles Darwin connection.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

I've been told that the rector of Swaffham Bulbeck (Reverend Jenyns) was a close associate of Charles Darwin, so that might explain how Elizabeth Bradford came to join Darwin's household as a maid.