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John Chandler (1784-1854) was born in Minchinhampton and baptized there on 6 January 1784, the third child of John and Ann Chandler. His early life seems much like that of his siblings. He married Sarah Williams on 23 October 1803 at Minchinhampton, and they had two children: William, baptized 22 July 1804, and Susannah, baptized on 16 March 1806.footnote 1 William married Charlotte Bellerd, lived at Littleworth in the parish of Amberley, and was a woollen cloth weaver.footnote 2footnote 3

John lost his first wife Sarah and remarried on 22 October 1811 at Stroud, Gloucestershire, to another Sarah – Sarah Millard, herself a widow.footnote 4 John and Sarah had a son, Richard, in Minchinhampton in 1814.footnote 5 Then the changes began.

At some time between 1814 and 1818, John and Sarah left the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside and moved 120 miles eastward to Southwark [pronounced Sutherk], lying just south of the River Thames as it flows through London. Hat making was a major industry in Southwark in the early 19th century. Heavy industry had moved into Southwark during the previous century. It was at Blackfriars Bridge that Boulton and Watt set up their infamous Albion Mills (possibly the Satanic Mills’ described by local Lambeth resident and famous poet William Blake), the first steam-powered corn mill in Britain. It burned down in 1791 and was replaced by the great engineering work of John Rennie.* Southwark became a centre for iron-founding, wire-making, glass-making and other heavy industries. The rope works in nearby Bermondsey became one of the longest workshops in London. The whole river-front from Bankside to Greenwich [pronounced Grinitch] became a vast centre of ship building, ship breaking, anchor smithing, stave making, processing and storage.


*John Rennie was also responsible for the new London Bridge built in 1830-1831, which was sold some 130 years later to an American developer, dismantled block by block, and taken to an English quarry. There the face of the stones was cut off, reducing the size considerably. The stone facings were then shipped to America where they were used to clad a concrete mould of the original bridge which had been erected in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Reconstruction began on September 23, 1968, with a ceremony including the Lord Mayor of London, who laid the cornerstone. The new bridge was dedicated in 1971.

Four children of people named John and Sarah Chandler were christened at Christ Church in Southwark: John on 10 May 1818, Sarah on 30 August 1818, James on 3 June 1821 and Henry on 7 September 1823.footnote 6 It is not known with certainty, but these could have been the children of our Gloucestershire couple.

John continued as a hatter until his death caused by bronchitis, probably a result of the very poor air quality, on 16 September 1854.footnote 7 He may have been preceded in death by Sarah 18 months earlier – a Sarah Chandler death was recorded in the Southwark registration district in the first quarter of 1853.footnote 8

The first we hear of their son Richard as an adult is back in Gloucestershire at the time of his marriage. It is unclear at what age he left his parents in London and returned to the clean air of the county of his birth. Richard suffered and eventually died from chronic bronchitis, and it may have been that his constitution simply could not take the foul air of industrial London. He was a tailor when he married Joanna Merrett on 28 August 1837 in Woodchester, Gloucestershire – Joanna’s home town.footnote 9 In the 1851 census of the village of Chalford in the parish of Bisley, Richard is recorded as a tailor, Joanna a seamstress, and they had a son, John Stephen (“Jack”), born in Bisley in 1837.footnote 10 The 1856 Post Office Directory shows Richard as a tailor in the place of his birth, Minchinhampton. There is no evidence of other children.

As a young man, Jack fell out with his father and left home in his teens, probably to work as an apprentice tailor in London. He met the girl who was to become his wife in church. Mary Ann Surfleet was living at 6 Elleston Square in London and worked as a lady’s maid, far from her family home in Candlesby, Lincolnshire. It seems rather appropriate that a Candlesby girl should fall for a Chandler. She was born in 1835 and baptized on 28 February 1836, the eldest daughter of William Surfleet and his wife Ann formerly Farr.footnote 11 Her father William was a bailiff at the Rectory Farm for John Allington, rector of Candlesby.footnote 12 Mary Ann was one of 14 children, only four of whom reached adulthood.footnote 13 She married Jack on 13 May 1861 in St Michael’s Church in the parish of St. Peter Pimlico, in the county of Middlesex (i.e. north of the River Thames, now a part of London).footnote 14

Their first son, John William Chandler, was born early in 1862 in Finsbury, Middlesex, which is also now part of London.footnote 15

By early 1863 the Chandler family had moved to Alford in Lincolnshire, Mary Ann’s home county, where the rest of the Chandler children were born. Jack established a tailor’s shop in West Street, Alford, with the financial help of his father-in-law, William Surfleet, who made a codicil dated 16 March 1863 to his will stating:

.. whereas I lately became bound with my son in law John Stephen Chandler of Alford in the same county Tailor for the payment of 236 pounds approx. borrowed of various persons for the use and benefit of John Stephen Chandler. If the Trustees are called upon to pay all or part of this it is to be deducted from Mary Ann’s share.

Witnesses to the codicil were John Alington, the rector of Candlesby (William’s employer), and Thomas Thimbleby, solicitor, of Spilsby, Lincolnshire.footnote 16

By the time of the 1871 census, the Tailor, Hatter and Woollen Draper” on West Street, Alford, was employing two men and two apprentices. That census shows the Chandler children as John W., Richard, Edgar, Emma M. and Claribel. Another son, Tom, was born three days after the census was taken.

A family reconciliation had obviously taken place, because Jack’s parents Richard and Joanna Chandler, both aged 56, had moved from Gloucestershire and are found in the 1871 census lodging in the South Street, Alford, home of widow Elizabeth Bradshaw. Between 1871 and 1881 Joanna Chandler died. By the time of the 1881 Census, Richard is shown as a widowed tailor aged 66, now lodging in the home of the Stockton family of Hamilton Place, Alford.

In total, Jack and Mary Ann Chandler had eight sons and three daughters, all of whom attended Daddy Ruston’s school in Alford at a cost of two pence per child per week.

The Chandler Family in 1877
Standing at back, from left: Richard born 1863, John William 1862-1907

Middle row, from left: Tom 1871-1953, Mary Ann (nee Surfleet) 1835-1915, Richard 1814-1887, John Stephen 1837-1891, Emma Maria 1868-1905

Front row, from left: Claribel 1869-1963, Fred Stephen 1876-1960 (on Mary Ann’s knee), Kate born 1872, Frank Napoleon 1874-1960, Edgar Thornton 1867-1936.

Henry James was born later that year.

Richard became a religious man in his later years. In a letter to his granddaughter Claribel on the occasion of her winning a prize in a Biblical Study competition, he laments the fact that he did not serve his God half so faithfully as he had served his King and tells her . . . then again, youth is the time to serve the Lord, but alas I was dead to such a real and lasting truth, consequently my life has been one of turmoil and worry, resting on broken reeds. Oh what a folly worse than madness”.

Richard died of chronic bronchitis on 27 March 1887, aged 73, at 34 North Gate, New Sleaford, Lincolnshire. His death was registered by his daughter-in-law, Mary Ann.footnote 17

It is our good fortune that the Chandler family was friendly with Edwin Nainby, the Alford photographer, who lived in the same street, resulting in the availability of a number of Chandler family photographs.footnote 18

Jack Chandler was a very strict parent and his children were afraid of him, with the exception of Frank, who was the only one to rebel against his father’s strict Victorian discipline (see below.) All Jack had to do was look at the cane he kept on the wall above the fire, and the children would be quiet. He insisted that the girls all had to be home by 9.00 p.m. As a young woman, Marie went to a dance and, when she was escorted home by the local policeman afterwards, her father beat her for letting a man walk her home!

It is perhaps not too surprising that Jack’s hero was Napoleon. When Frank Chandler was born in 1874, Jack wanted to name him after his hero, but Mary Ann, who was usually quiet, insisted on the church steps that no son of hers would be known as Napoleon, hence the baby was christened Frank Napoleon.

John Stephen Jack” Chandler suffered throughout his life with asthma and arthritis. He used a horse and trap to make deliveries to his customers. On 6 May 1891 his horse shied at a newspaper blowing in the wind, and Jack was thrown out of the trap, causing a terminal asthma attack.footnote 19 He died at the age of 53, leaving a quite substantial personal estate of more than five hundred pounds to his widow Mary Ann.footnote 20

Mary Ann Surfleet Chandler and Children
Standing back row, from left: Fred Stephen Chandler 1876-1960, Kate Kit” Chandler 1872-1955, John William Will” Chandler 1862-1907, Emma Maria Marie” Chandler 1868-1905, Richard Chandler 1863-1922, Henry James Jim” Chandler 1877-1938, Tom Chandler 1871-1953, Edgar Thornton Chandler 1867-1936.

Seated front row, from left: Frank Napoleon Chandler 1874-1960, Mary Ann (Surfleet) Chandler 1835-1913, Jessie Claribel Chandler 1895-1976 seated on grandmother’s knee, Agnes (Turnbull) Chandler wife of Will Chandler, John Turnbull Chandler 1896-1917 seated on his mother’s knee, Claribel Chandler 1869-1963.

Chandler’s Tailor Shop
The running of Jack’s tailor’s shop was taken over by his son Edgar Thornton Chandler at the age of 24. The picture above shows Edgar Thornton Chandler and his nephew Alan Oliver Chandler outside the Chandler Tailor Shop in West Street, Alford, Lincolnshire in the early 1930s.

After Jack’s death, Mary Ann regularly visited her married children. Some of her letters to her daughter Claribel, written while visiting other children, have survived. They reveal great warmth and simple humanity. She died in 1913, leaving a substantial seven hundred pounds to be divided equally between all her surviving children and Agnes, the widow of her eldest son Will.

John Stephen Jack” and Mary Ann (Surfleet) Chandler are both buried in Alford churchyard. Their children were:

    • John William Will” Chandler, 1862-1907, did not get on with his father. Became a school teacher in 1884. Married Agnes Turnbull in 1894. Lived in Cambridgeshire. Had one son and seven daughters: Jessie Claribel, John Turnbull, Queenie, Muriel, Pauline, Constance, Doris and Ena.
    • Richard Chandler, 1863-1922, was a tailor. He and wife Martha lived in Thornton Heath, Surrey, and had one son, Timothy, and one daughter, Hilda.
    • Charles Chandler, 1865-1867, born and died in Alford, Lincolnshire.
    • Edgar Thornton Chandler, 1867-1936, was named after the place at which his father was engaged in an army exercise at the time of his birth. Took over the family tailoring business. In 1902 was a volunteer in the Third Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. A plaque in Alford Town Hall shows him to have been Urban District Council Chairman 1927-1928. He and his wife Lily had one daughter and three sons: Edith Muriel, Edgar Duncan, Frank and John Stephen.
    • Emma Maria Marie” Chandler, 1868-1905, was a nursing sister in a refugee concentration camp near Kimberley in South Africa during the Boer War. A letter written home to her sister in 1900 has survived (see below), revealing a vivid picture of life in the refugee camp. She married George Randle, a British Army captain. Her obituary in the 17 March 1905 edition of the Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury reads:

      RANDLE: at Jagersfontein, South Africa, Feb 17th of Malarial Fever, Emma Maria (Marie) the beloved wife of George Randle and daughter of the late J. S. Chandler of Alford.

    • Claribel Chandler, 1869-1963, left home to train as a teacher in 1891 and was a headmistress before her marriage to headmaster Fred Waring. Had one son and two daughters: Marjorie, John “Jack” and Barbara. Lived to age 96.
Three Chandler Sisters
Marie, Claribel and Kate,
approximately 1900

    • Tom Chandler, 1871-1853, was a printer, a male nurse, and, during the first world war, a sergeant in the Red Cross. Click here to read the story of Tom and his far-flung family.
    • Kate Kit” Chandler, 1872-1961, was very particular about appearances and would not go for walks with her brothers unless they were properly attired, including their top hats! She helped with the tailoring business before marrying Oliver Essame, a railway clerk on the Great Northern Railway. They had three sons and one daughter: Louie, Edgar (a wing commander in the Royal Air Force and teacher at Ripon Preparatory School), Gerald (a brigadier and head of the Coal Board Staff College) and Enid (principal of Queenswood Girls Public School in Hertfordshire). Kit was crippled by arthritis from middle age onwards.Frank Napoleon Chandler, 1874-1960, emigrated to Canada. Click here to read about the life of Frank Napoleon Chandler.
    • Fred Stephen Chandler, 1876-1960, lived in Croydon, Surrey during tailoring apprenticeship, then got a job in Yorkshire, where he lodged with his future wife’s family. He married Mabel Lillian Pickering Ward in 1909. They had four sons: Fred, Eric, and twins Dennis Martin (died from injuries sustained when crushed by a horse while serving with the Royal Scots Greys in Egypt) and Alan Oliver. Fred worked as a tailor’s cutter for Wallgate in Beverley, Yorkshire, and bought the business when Wallgate retired. Mabel ran a dress shop and, during World War II, they also bought the café at Catfoss Airfield. Mabel was the matriarch of the family, a very strong-willed and domineering woman. In contrast, Fred was a quiet man with a gentle nature, who relished the countryside, his greenhouse and garden, and his daily walk in the country lanes with his dog Laddie.
    • Henry James Jim” Chandler, 1877-1938, married Florence Mary Walker in Surrey in 1905. They had a son William and a daughter Phyllis in England, before Jim and Florence emigrated to New Zealand in 1910 aboard the S.S. Tongariro which arrived in Wellington on Phyllis’ first birthday. They sailed from Wellington on the S.S. Monowai to Auckland, where they had another daughter Mary and remained for the rest of their lives.

Letter from Marie Chandler
to her sister Claribel and brother-in-law Fred Waring

Refugee Camp
14 March 1900
My Dearest Clarrie and Fred
Very many thanks for your letter, it came among my first batch & you can guess how jolly glad I was to receive letters after having been five weeks without any. We are in very isolation here with a vengeance. 11 English to 4000 Boers. No troops to guard us and very few luxuries of any kind. Our compound is quite in the centre of all the camps and look any way we will we cannot see a house. I am NOT fond of tent life. I am night sister for a while & it is no joke trying to sleep in a tent in a temperature of 98 degrees. We have double tents, they keep off some heat. The rains have commenced and I go about at night in Wellington boots that reach to my knees. And just now there is no moon so I flounder about most of the night among the tent ropes, they snare me on every side. My patients are mostly enteric, there is absolutely no convenience to nurse enteric & we are in the midst of an epidemic. I am quite certain all the staff will get it. The food is so awful & if I did not resort to bread & milk very frequently I should be starved. Bread & milk or bread & jam are about all that is at all good. There is no word to express what the tinned butter is like. Things are most awfully dear in Kimberley. A small bun is three pence. They say Kimberley has never righted itself since the siege and I want you to tell Mother & the others that if I do not write every week to someone among you that you may know Kimberley is being besieged again. We know for a fact that the Boers are making preparations. I suppose you know far more about the war than we do because things are suppressed & we get very ——- in the papers. The Boers have been very elated lately & we are sure something unusual is afoot. They sing all day long. Last week we had three deaths from enteric and three more are dying which is rather unfortunate in a way as the mothers and relations generaly think we are killing them because they do not get meat to eat when they have enteric. Last night I had a child die of enteric and had to get men out of the rebel camp to take her away to the mortuary. It was a weird sight. Procession thus: first a Dutch night-probationer carrying a candle, then three men carrying the child on a stretcher & I walking behind. Three tall men they were in soft wide-awake hats, & you can imagine me inviting them to have a cup of coffee. Some of the men are very tall strong men. They say we have nothing to fear if they do beseige Kimberley as they will only come and shake hands with the wives. I am not so sure & would not trust them as far as I could see. The would burn our tents as soon as look at us I think. They say the reason they are fighting so near to Kimberley is that Kitchener and someone else are driving them in. We hear today that Methuen is taken prisoner with 1500 men & that there are 5000 Boers together somewhere. But we hear so many tales that we don’’t bother to believe any. Of course we hope that Kitchener IS near then Kimberley will not suffer. If we do come in for any excitement of the kind we shall be in an awful fix for firewood. We have only one fire in the compound & it is never anything but wood. I know for a fact that 140 wounded were brought into Kimberley hospital after the Vryburg affair last week. Yesterday all the mules were commandeered in Kimberley. I have a very nice man dying tonight from the rebel camp, he won’t do any more mischief though as he has certainly taken his ticket. His wife came and asked the Dispenser (who is also a prisoner-of-war) what we had been giving her husband – meaning we had poisoned him. The British are far too good to these people. The tame” Boers as they are called have done a great deal of mischief just lately. These concentration camps are a mistake because the men know their wives and children are being looked well after while they are fighting. One of my probationers lost her father yesterday at St. Helena. Another woman told me that everything in her house had been burnt & two of her children died in a week and her husband was taken prisoner only about a month ago. She has been in the camp eight months. They tell us all kinds of very sad stories, but we do not believe anything like all we hear. I shall be very glad when I come off night duty, it is so frightfully lonely & gruesome all night long. If they only put on another English sister it would not be so bad. I am hoping they will, two more are coming out. The other day I found a lizard in my tent, sometimes they get into our beds. This was only a small one and looked like a frog with a long fine tail. It was green & yellow. I got him with forceps and put him in spirit. His name is Cojef Maandter” so the Dispenser tells me. We get all kinds of animals in our tents. Huge earwigs, scorpions, beetles of every description & all kinds of horrible creepy things. I must now finish.


P.S. Someone came into my tent so I ended this rather abruptly. Today only one English letter came into the whole place, so we think the mails have been interfered with. Kitchener stayed at Kimberley last night & the night before & set everybody to work & all one side of us is being guarded now. The Cape Police too are in full force. They say the Boers are all around here just now.

Much love, Marie.

Boer War lasted from October 1899 – 31 May 1902
Methuen defeated, 1000 men lost, 11 December 1899
Seige of Kimberley, October 1899 – 15 February 1900

1 Marriage and baptism records extracted from the Minchinhampton Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within the database.

2 Married 23 July 1826 per record extracted from the Minchinhampton Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within database.

3 1851 and 1861 Censuses of England & Wales.

4 Marriage record extracted from the Stroud Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within the database.

5 Baptism record not found. Father’s name taken from Richard’s 1837 marriage certificate. Place of birth taken from 1851 (Bisley), and 1871 and 1881 (Alford) Censuses of England & Wales.

6 Baptism records extracted from the Christ Church, Southwark, London Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within the database.

7 Certificate of death of John Chandler at 13 Emerson Terrace, Southwark.

8 General Register Office index of deaths.

9 Marriage certificate.

10 Baptism no. 2820 on 27 September 1847 by Thomas Keble (Vicar) recorded on page 90 of Bisley Parish Register. This baptism, when “Jack” would have been aged 10, may mark the religious awakening of his father Richard, noted elsewhere.

11 Baptism record extracted from the Candlesby, Lincolnshire Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within the database.

12 1851 Census of Candlesby, Lincolnshire.

13 Baptism records extracted from the Candlesby, Lincolnshire Parish Register under the controlled extraction process conducted by the LDS Church and recorded within the database, and death records from General Register Office death index.

14 Marriage certificate.

15 General Register Office birth index, registered at Shoreditch in the first quarter of 1862.

16 Copy of Will and Codicil in possession of family.

17 Death certificate.

18 Alford Manor House, which lies in the same street as Chandler’s Tailor Shop did, has a collection of Nainby’s glass plate negatives – see // and scroll down to the item about Edwin Rechab Nainby.

19 General Register Office death index – death registered Spilsby Volume 7A Page 519 Second quarter 1891.

20 This information and all that remains on this page is condensed from The Chandler Family Story”, written by Fenella Rook Smith.