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Ronald Basil Girdler

1925 - 2017


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Helene Girdler

1927 - 2020



Charles Kearvell Girdler was actually born on 23rd October 1859 when Caroline was almost 24 years old and she signed the birth certificate (Certificate 8) with a cross showing that she was unable to write even her own name. The middle name of my grandfather was presumably chosen because of her gratitude to Stephen Kearvell, her brother-in-law, at whose house the baptism took place. Quite how long she stayed with Stephen and Harriet Kearvell is unknown, but there was no record of either Charles or Caroline in the 1861 Census Returns for Bosham, and the next record of Charles appears with George and Emma Girdler who apparently fostered their nephew Charles Kearvell Girdler and moved from Bosham to Shalford, Surrey, sometime between December 1859 and May 1861


Despite considerable searching over a large number of years, no further record of Caroline Girdler has been found. No marriage or death record of a Caroline Girdler exists for the relevant period In the records at St. Catherines House. The most likely explanation is that she subsequently lived with some other man as a "common-law wife" and did not marry. It may be significant that a Caroline Annie Blake was a witness at the wedding of Stephen Girdler (Caroline's brother) to Ann Phillips in 1876. Perhaps this Caroline was Charles's mother? The only other possible clue to her subsequent whereabouts came from a cousin of mine (Glad) who said that her father (Christopher Bettsworth) knew my grandfather before he (Christopher) was married, and that Charles and he used to visit Surbiton frequently to see Charles's mother and Christopher’s cousin at a house where they were in service. A photograph of this house is opposite. The photograph was taken before 1908, but I have been unable to trace where the house was situated. Glad said that her father described it as being a beautiful country walk from the station.


Stephen Male was one of 12 children born to Henry and Ann Male. Henry Male was born in 1790 at St. Giles, Middlesex, and was a Royal Navy seaman from 1820-1824, Later on (in 1827) he became a carrier, a and a fish higgler (travelling fish labourer (from 1831 onwards) , seller) in 1840. During his time at Bosham, Henry Male received a considerable number of payments from the Poor Law Overseers. The records show that he received IQs-Od per month for most of 1827 and 1828, plus additional payments of as-Od per week on 26th January and 2nd February from 9th February to 27th March (marked "no work"), 1828 (marked "ill"), presumably making it impossible for on 28th March (marked "donkey pad" him to run his cart) and two more payments on 4th April and 19th April 1828. From November 1828 the monthly payments increased to around 15s-0d or 16s-0d plus further haphazard payments during 1829 ("wife ill" on 16th August). The monthly payments continued until March 1833 (ca. 15s-0d to £1-0-0) plus other haphazard payments presumably due to temporary severe hardship. No further payments were found until April 1834 and some payments continued until at least May 1836. According to the Rate Books for Bosham, Henry Male was living with his family in a cottage in Creed Lane, Bosham, during the period from 1847-1865 at least. This cottage was owned by a W. Walker and the gross estimated value of the property varied during this time from {3-6-8 to €5—0-0, and the rates from 'Is-Id to 2s-6d.


After the birth of Charles Kearvell Girdler in 1859 (coachman in West Ashling, Huntington in 1867), no further record of Stephen Male has yet been found, despite considerable searching of census returns, etc. in Bosham and neighbouring parishes, until 1871 when he was still unmarried and was living in Westbourne Union Workhouse together with his father, Henry Male. At this time, Stephen Male was 35 and his occupation was recorded as a "groom" Westbourne is just over 3 miles N.W. of Bosham and was the location of the workhouse for the surrounding area (including Bosham). Henry Male died on 29th April 1873 in the Union Workhouse at the age of 83 (Certificate 9) and was buried at Bosham on 2nd May. Stephen Male died in the Union Workhouse on 11th June 1879 at the age of 43 and was buried at Bosham on 14th June. A copy of his death certificate (Certificate 10) shows that he died of phthisis (tuberculosis). As already described, Charles Kearvell Girdler's mother and father disappeared shortly after his birth, and he was fostered and brought up by George and Emma Girdler, who moved from Bosham to Shalford (Map 4) ln Surrey sometime between November 1859 and 7th April 1861 (date of 1861 Census). How they decided upon Shal ford is unknown, but they could have travel led there by railway, as Shalford station was opened In 1849 and the railway was extended to reach Portsmouth by 1859. The line from Portsmouth to Chichester had been in existence since 1847 (see map 5). Alternatively, they could have travel led by coach and horses in the Post Office Directory of 1845 it shows that the "Duke of Richmond" coach left the Dolphin Hotel, Chichester at 10 a.m. every weekday to travel to London via Midhurst Petworth, Godalmlng, Guildford and Kingston, and the "Earl of March" coach left the Wheatsheaf, Chichester by the same route.


At the date of the Census, George Girdler was recorded as a "miller" living with his wife, Emma, Emma’s sister, Ann, and his nephew, Charles, at Peasemarsh. This is a small village lying about half a mile West of Shalford and very near to the site of Unstead Mill, where George worked. From a study of the Rate Books for Shalford, it would appear that the Girdlers had only just moved to Unstead Mill at the date of the 1861 Census, as the first record of George Girdler as the occupier of a cottage at Unstead Mill was on 14th May 1861, There were 5 cottages (only 4 at a later stage) in the Unstead Mill buildings and 2 of these, including George Girdler's, were valued slightly higher than the other 3, The entries concerning George Girdler are shown opposite and show that he and his family lived in a cottage with garden at Unstead Mill from 1861 - 1887, for which he paid rent varying between Is-9d and 5s-1d


Unstead Mill was situated (as shown on Map 4) on the River Wey Navigation Canal very near its junction with the River Wey at Stonebridge, Shalford. It was presumably built after the Navigation was opened in 1763, In 1832 the mill was owned by Messrs. Holland and in 1845 by Henry Moline, a Quaker and related to a well—known local banking family, Later on, its ovnership was transferred to R. and W. Sisley (1874), Sisley and Sholl (1882), Samuel Sholl (1887), Francis and Ashby (1891), H. Bottins (1905), and finally S. Fogwill (1915). Unstead Mill was reported to have ceased being a corn mill in 1864, probably because of foreign imports of wheat, but continued in use as a flour mill certainly up to the Francis and Ashby ownership (1891—1905). It was put up for auction in 1899 following the death of the owners, and was then described as "consisting of massively constructed buildings. The motive power is water and steam with a recently erected boiler house and shaft. It was later used as a flock mill and was finally destroyed by fire on 22nd April 1928, a copy of the newspaper report being shown in Figure 9. Also shown in the Appendix (Figures 10 and 11) are photocopies of an aerial photograph and of two old paintings of Unstead Mill, owned by the daughter of its final owner, which show the mill and also the Unstead cottages, one of which was the abode of George Girdler and family from 1861—1888.


In the 1871 Census Returns for Shalford, Charles Kearvell Girdler was recorded as the nephew of George and Emma Girdler living at Unstead Mill. George was a "miller’s foreman" and Charles a "scholar". Charles was presumably at Shalford School, which was built as a C. of E. school in 1855; It was transferred to a school board in 1881 and the buildings were enlarged in 1882. According to older cousins of mine, Charles’s education was paid for by "an unknown woman" and one of the cousins had actually seen a receipt for about £14 to prove this fact. Could this "unknown woman" have been his missing mother, Caroline?


Charles Kearvell Girdler entered the milling trade (presumably following his uncle's example) after he left school, and was recorded as a "Journeyman miller" in the 1881 Census Returns at the age of 21. By this time, Emma Girdler had died of "paralysis" at Unstead Mill on 2nd July 1880 at the age of 55 (Certificate 11) leaving her personal estate to George. George, then 50 years old, very quickly married again (Certificate 12) on 16th September of the same year to (Phoebe) Alice Newman (aged only 20), the daughter of James Newman, a limeburner and later a brewers labourer, living at Shalford Common The reason for the speedy marriage became obvious when George and Alice had a son, George, in December 1880. The 1881 Census, taken on 3rd April 1881, shows them living at 1 Unstead Mill Road with their son George (aged 4 months), Charles Kearvell Girdler (aged 21), Fanny Newman (Alice's sister) and a lodger. In 1887, George and Alice Girdler and their son, George, moved to Guildford and opened a baker' s shop. Examination of the Guildford Directory for 1889, 1890, 1891, and 1892 shows the existence of a baker's and confectioner's shop called "Girdler and Son" at Western Terrace, Yearlstone Villas, Ludlow Road, Guildford. Then in 1893 and 1894 the baker's shop had moved to the top of North Street and was recorded as "G. Girdler, Baker, 82, North Street, Guildford". The shop exists no more but used to stand just above the current Guildford Library in North Street. George Girdler died on 18th February 1895 at the age of 65, and his will is recorded at Somerset House as follows:-



"George Girdler of 82, North Street, Guildford (miller) died 18th February 1895. Probate London 17th April to Phoebe Alice Girdler, widow. Effects £75. This is the last will and testament of me, George Girdler, of Unstead Mills in the parish of Shalford, Surrey, miller. I give, devise and bequeath of my brief estate (if any) and all my personal estate whatsoever unto my dear wife Phoebe Alice Girdler for her own absolute use, and I appoint my wife as sole executor of this my will. In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand this 14th day of December 1886. George Girdler (signed)



Charles Kearvell Girdler married Charlotte Bucksey at Holy Rood Church, Southampton, on 4th June 1881 (Certificate 13). Charlotte was the daughter of Richard and Charlotte Bucksey of Stubbington Lane, Titchfield, and was baptized on 21st November 1858 at Titchfield. How Charles met Charlotte in the first place is still a mystery. Charlotte was in service as a children's nurse from the age of 13 and worked for the same family, presumably until she married Charles at the age of 22 in 1881. She had a pony and trap to take the children to and from church, etc. Her family lived in Titchfield, near Fareham in Hampshire, but her place of work has still not been ascertained. A search of parishes around Titchfield has so far failed to trace where she was on Census Day (3rd April 1881), 2 months before her wedding. One possible theory of how Charles met Charlotte is through Charles's missing mother, Caroline, who may have gone into service in the same household as Charlotte somewhere in the Southampton Fareham area.



After the marriage, Charles and Charlotte did not appear to be living at Unstead Mill, but rented a house on Shalford Common as shown by the relevant entries in the Shalford Rate Books opposite. They lived there until 1887, in Unstead Mill Cottages from 1888 - 1890, and then moved back to a house on Shalford Common.

They had a large family of 10 children in all as follows:-

Charles  b June 9th 1882           Cecil  b 1893

Gertrude  b May 4th 1884          Leonard  b 1895

Alice  b Nov 1st 1886                Frederick Richard b 1896  

Percy  b July 14th 1889             Basil George  b 1897

Arthur William b Nov 15th 1891  Laura  b 1900



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