Broad Street Wrington ARCHIVE
Personal Quest - Josephine Smedley
William Henry Woolf - page 2

When the Woolf children were old enough to be educated their mother brought them to London were they stayed at 2, Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, the home of her father, or at Grafton Street, for which John had been paying rent since 1790.

Elizabeth Woolf may have been responsible for the children during the absence of their parents. She was their aunt - family records show her as Robert's sister. Robert retired from the Madras Civil Service on a pension in 1802 or 1803

The family finally returned to England 1802 and lived in Hampstead. Eventually the family settled at Leigh House later re-named 'Fairfield', near Bradford-on-Avon.

Robert did not remain at Leigh House after his wife died. Anna Maria Woolf was buried on 17th November 1813, in the Clifton Churchyard, Bristol, aged 47 years.

He evidently remained in the area, as his daughter, Sophia, was married from Uphill, in 1815. Uphill Castle, Cowslip Lodge, Batcombe Court, Somerset, and Highbridge House, Dundry, near Bristol, are all mentioned in his diary as places where he resided.

I have a suspicion my ancestor William Henry must have been a great disappointment to his father. Robert, the eldest son, seems to have been a considerable favourite with his family, as is evidenced by an inscription on the back of a portrait painted by his grandfather:

    "Beware of what the world calls happiness - all this died with thee dear Robert".

I don't think Robert ever fully recovered from the loss of his first son. Robert, junior, born in Madras 1786? -1825 was educated in England, and became a cadet in 1803. He was later advanced to Captain in the 6th Madras Light Cavalry, and died at Jalnah on 29th September, 1825 (Farley's Bristol Journal).

Robert Woolf, junior, born in Madras 1786 -1825 Captain in the 6th Madras Light Cavalry. Waterclour by his cousin, John Smart, junior

Robert, the son was also a gifted artist, as we can judge by his self-portrait and his painting of The Last Charge of the 6th Bengal Light Cavalry and the 6th Madras Light Cavalry at the battle of Nagpore, 16th December 1817. (engraving by Denis Dighton after Robert Woolf, 6th Madras Light Cavalry (Plate 3) from The Indian Army by Boris Mollo).

Robert Woolf married for a second time at Congresbury, about 1819. His new wife was Hester Shaw, and six children were born, four of whom were christened at Butcombe. Robert died at Turnham Green on 2nd or 11th March 1836, and was buried at Chiswick age 81.

With the kind permission of Commander Michael Lawder I will now quote from a report prepared in 1991 for Mr John Woolfe of Bristol, who kindly sent me a copy - it appears we share the same ancestry.

"The Squire's Daughter"

I think I can suggest a possible origin for the family legend. One George Lovell was born in Wrington in 1820, and during his long life held various offices here. It was probably during the 1890s (not much earlier) that, as the Superintendent of the (then) Congregational (now U.R.C.) Sunday School, he took his young charges on a verbal tour of the village as it had been in his youth, commenting on people and houses as he had seen them then. His rough and rather laconic notes for this series of talks (which I now have) have the following - copied here verbatim":

"In front of Mr Horwood's shop was a pent house and underneath Mr Marshall's was a blacksmiths shop in front of which was a flight of steps, walk up and look into the room over the shop and you will see a poor/lean hungry looking Woalf near him his mate with several cubs looking fat and well, this said Woalf came from a respectably and wealthy family but was disinherited and driven from home because he married his father's servant his name was William Woalf."


Likewise, I have not further information about the 12 year old George and his 15-year old brother William in the 1841 census. The Mary Ann their sister in that census is of course the one that was baptised in 1830 and buried aged 14 in 1844, and shows that her father was "supposed to be in America" in 1830".

22 August 1830 Marian Wolfe - William Henry and Mary - gardener - "mother lives in Church House Wrington. The father supposed to be in America". (The Church House was used to accommodate paupers, the aged, the infirm, etc.)"

The above statement seemed almost impossible to be true at the time, but as the years have gone on and I have found out more and more about the Woolf family, I do believe that William Henry may well have been in America, perhaps aiming to begin a new life. His sister Maria, born in 1793, was living in Ohio, USA.

Just a thought - maybe William Henry named his own children after his brothers and sisters, in a final attempt to make it up with his father. It is interesting to note Robert left £50.00 to William Henry in his will. There is no doubt the family had an extremely hard life, while his father and new family would appear to be very well-off in comparison.

If by any chance there are any Woolfs, Wolfs or indeed Woolfes still living in Wrington who see a family connection, I have a great deal of information compiled over 12 years which I would be delighted to share.
Jane Wolfe - daughter of George Walter, born Butcombe 1827, the fourth child and third son of William Henry.

Jane here is with her husband James Stagg. They were married on Christmas Day 1862 in Bedwelty Church, Tredegar
I thank Commander Lawder, Daphne Foskett - alas now deceased, the kind and generous members of the Rootsweb Indian list, the various museums and art galleries here and in America who have given me permission to view their collection of John Smart Miniatures, the National Army Museum and finally the Indian Office at the British Library all of whom have been so helpful. There is so much more I could write but I will end now."

Jo Smedley

Footnote from Jo's cousin