Sisters and Cousins

Here’s a chance to meet some more relatives via one of my dad’s colour slides. This was taken in 1961.


We had gone camping since I was less than five. By 1961 my dad had a job which required a reliable car. He decided what we should have was a Bedford Dormobile. They were quite cheap because they counted as living accommodation and were exempt from purchase tax. Although it may have seemed big for a car, the chassis and engine were the same as those used for Vauxhall cars. And the Bedford made for easy camping, particularly if just mum and dad went away since they didn’t need a tent at all. That’s the Bedford behind the people here. It was what I drove as a learner and after I had passed my test.

Hang on. This is meant to be about the people!

On the left we have Granny and Grandad. We have met them before – most recently in Grandad’s shoe repairing business in Tunbridge Wells. By 1961 He was retired and he and granny had the best home they ever had – a little bungalow with a garden. They never had a car, so I’d guess dad had driven to Bexhill to collect them and would later be taking them home.

Standing next to granny is her eldest sister, Ellen who was known by us as Aunt Nellie. She lived in Firle where, I discovered later, villagers all knew her as Granny Toms. Toms was her married surname. Granny was the youngest child of George and Sarah Ann Stevens, born in 1892. Nellie was the oldest, born in 1880. By 1961 they were the only survivors of the seven children who were brothers and sisters. One day, Nellie must form the main subject of a blog post. She was a marvellous old lady when I knew her.

Next to Nellie is – er – Nellie. She was a cousin of Gran and Aunt Nellie. Nellie lived at Isfield. The photo is taken in her garden and to avoid confusion we called her ‘Nellie at Isfield’. In the way of speech the words flowed into one another – Nellieatisfield – and it got abbreviated to Nellier.

Standing next to Nellie is her husband, Reuben Joslin.

I’m after help with Nellier so here’s a bit of her life story.

Ellen Kate Allen was born on 1st August 1894 in Isfield. Her parents were David Allen, also born in Isfield and Susannah (née) Crosby from Butley in Suffolk. Susannah was the sister of my Great Granny.

In 1901 Ellen was a 6 year old living with mum, dad and two older sisters. Dad was a farm labourer.

In 1911 Ellen (called Helen on the census) and big sister Mary were the two occupants of 28 Florence Road in Brighton. Mary was a cook and Ellen was a parlour maid. It looks a nice house on Streetview. Presumably the family were away at census time and the two sisters had been left house sitting.

Ellen married John W Newnham in 1917. The marriage was registered in the Uckfield district. This includes Isfield so quite probably the marriage was at Isfield church.

I have no record of any children BUT when great granny died in 1929, a newspaper report says one of the mourners was Miss Newnham. It’s probably a mistake, and means Mrs Newnham, but it leaves me wondering If Nellie and John did have a daughter.

John Newnham died in 1930. The death was registered in the Uckfield district.

Ellen married Reuben Joslin in 1934. He, of course, is the man in the photo. He was 11 years older than Ellen and died in 1964.

Ellen died in 1978. She joined Reuben in Isfield churchyard.

Of course, I should have asked questions of these people and I could have known everything. But I was young when I knew them and had no real thought for the possible interest of their past lives.

I’d like to know about those sisters of Ellen (Nellier) too. Mary Elizabeth was born in 1889 and Mabel Francis in 1891.

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