Back to Group 8

James Chandler (1860-1927) is the Englishman in genetic family group 8 who provides the clearest link between ancestors long gone and living descendants, or those who are still fresh in our memories.

The map  shows the counties of Leicestershire in the center of England and Sussex on the southern coast(both colored in blue) and London – all important locations to Group 8 in the United Kingdom..

Map from “County map of England and Wales,” by George Carrington Gray, 1824. Found on

Born in 1860 and baptised at St Mary’s Church, Broughton Astley, Leicestershire, on 25 November in that year, James was the second and last child of William Strong Chandler (1830-1919) and his wife Sarah, formerly Dudgeon (1820-1904).

After attending the village school in Broughton Astley, it is likely that James worked for a while for his father, a coal merchant and brick and tile maker.

In 1879, a little before his 19th birthday, James migrated some 130 miles from his home near the middle of England to its south coast – to Lewes in the county of Sussex. (Coincidentally, this is the place where the earliest known ancestor of genetic family 12 lived. That Chandler family also had connections with a family named Strong. Without the DNA proof to the contrary, it could have been assumed that these two families were related.)

Almost immediately, James set up in business as a coal merchant. At that time, James’ father William Strong Chandler was recorded as being a coal factor or wholesaler, and it is quite possible that he sent railway trucks of coal to young James for distribution in the Lewes area. The Kelly’s Directory of Lewes in 1882 described James as a coal merchant trading from Eastgate Wharf.

James changed his residence several times in Lewes, finally settling at a house built to his own requirements in Kingston Road and named Broughton Astley, after his home town. His marriage to Mary Caffyn in 1887 produced eight children between 1888 and 1908; all grew to adulthood and all except one lived well beyond the expected span of three score years and ten.

By 1905, James had built up a substantial coal merchant and builders’ merchant business, with stores in the High Street, brick and tile works at Hailsham and Hamsey, and a slate store at Newhaven. The slates were probably imported from France or Portugal, common sources before the Second World War.

James died in a nursing home in Hove on 28 May 1927 and probate of his substantial estate was granted six months later to Mary, his widow, and coal merchant James Larwill, certainly a fellow worker of long standing and possibly James’ business partner.

After James’ 48 years in Lewes, the substantial business he and his family built up was formed into a limited company with Mary, his widow, and his two eldest sons Harold and Edward as directors. As a family undertaking and then a limited company, the business existed for more than a century.

James’ family was able to reverse the gender bias which was common at the beginning of the 20th century. All of his five daughters gained a qualification in one field or another, but only one of his sons obtained a professional qualification.

Dorothy, known as Dorrie, was born in 1888 and brought up at Broughton Astley House. She told her children of great enthusiasm for competitive croquet games played on the lawn there. Like most of the family, she was an avid reader. Dorrie was the first to go to University – Holloway College University in London. She was followed to Holloway by Margie and Hilda. Each had the same study room, and the three Chandler girls had their names inscribed one after the other on the door, with their good degrees. With a first class degree in mathematics, Dorrie taught in southern Ireland and in Gillong School, Melbourne, Australia.

Dorrie had a dangerous return to England after the start of the First World War. She worked in the aircraft design department of Handley Page Limited and, on at least one occasion, served as ‘make-up’ weight on a test flight – brave for a notoriously bad traveler. Dorrie married Hector Gardner soon after he was demobilised from the Royal Flying Corps. They had three children and numerous other descendants before Dorrie died in 1963.

Margaret was baptised at St John’s Church, Lewes, on 2 February 1890 and remained unmarried after university. She taught at the girls’ High School in Hove and lived at her parents’ home until her mother’s death during the Second World War, when she set up home with her younger sister Hilda. Margy was described as always sitting very erect, with rather a severe manner, and living frugally, but always kind to others.

Sarah Edith arrived in the world on 1 August 1891. Unlike her two elder sisters, Edie opted for a nurse’s training and worked at Carshalton in Surrey, in charge of a house of orphans. She had five sons from her marriage to Harry Sheldon. She loved walking and painting and was a great gardener. She became famous among family and friends for having hewn out a chalky hillside at Alton, leveling an area and creating a tennis court largely by her own efforts. Like Margy and especially Hilda, her younger sister, she loved country dancing.

Hilda Mary was born on 3 May 1893 and baptised three months later at All Saints Church, Lewes. By this time, James and Mary must have been wondering if they would ever have a son. After school and university where she obtained a classics degree, Hilda started teaching, but by her own admission she was insufficiently tolerant to be a good teacher. She joined the family firm and performed many duties during her long service there. Her leisure time was very full with a wide variety of interests: a keen walker, member of the Sussex Archaeological Society, a member of the Friends of Lewes Society, country dancing, and a keen bridge player. During her last years she gradually lost her sight and, when completely blind in an Eastbourne nursing home, she would recite poetry to herself, learned as a child and an undergraduate.

Finally, in 1894, James and Mary had a boy – Harold James, the first of three sons and the father of Tony, our first English member of Group 8. Harold attended Lewes Grammar School for boys, and decided at the age of 18 to emigrate to South Africa, at that time a part of the British Empire, to find work (shades of his father, though the migration distance for Harold was much greater). Harold worked as a bank clerk in Johannesburg, but on the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered to join the South African forces and was soon back in Europe. First serving in the trenches, Harold latterly became a rear gunner – initially armed only with a rifle – in a two-seater fighter plane. In 1919, at the end of the war, he returned to his job at the bank in South Africa, where he met Mary Burnett, who worked for the same bank. In 1923 he returned to England to work with his father. The following year his bride-to-be joined him, and they were married at Lewes. Harold loved his office work and continued until 1978. Like his brothers, he was a keen sportsman, playing badminton, hockey and especially tennis until his late 70s. In 1980 he went for a walk in the Canary Isles, stopped for a rest, and died in his sleep. Trau­matically for his family, his body was not found for six months, despite intensive searching.

It is intriguing that a 70-year-old South African business known until recently as Chandler Coal (Pty) Limited still exists today in Krugersdorp, which is not far from Johannesburg. It is not known if that Chandler family is also part of genetic family 8.

Ada Florence was the sixth child of James and Mary Chandler, born in 1896. Her talents lay in a different direction to her sisters. She trained in London as a Domestic Science teacher. Her first job was in Cardenen in Fife, Scotland, where she met George Paterson, a mine surveyor, at the local tennis club. At that time married women were not allowed to work as teachers, so she had to leave her job when she married George in 1922. When George’s work took him away from home, Ada applied herself to various hobbies for which she had considerable talent, particularly wood carving. George and Ada had two daughters in Scotland. In her late 60s, Ada decided to retire to Australia to be with her elder daughter Mary, and she died there in 1982.

William Edward was born in 1898. He attended Brighton Grammar School, and then started lifelong employment with his father. He is recalled as a rather stubborn man who worked long hours with great enthusiasm and imagination. His working relationship with his older brother Harold was odd. Adventurous, expansive Edward was counterbalanced by cautious, frugal financial controller Harold – a good combination for steady expansion, but frequently placing the brothers at loggerheads. In spite of severe breathing difficulties in later life, Edward never lost interest in the company.

John Chandler was child number eight, arriving just after Christmas in 1908, some ten years after Edward. He studied at Lewes and Brighton Grammar Schools, and later qualified as a Chartered Accountant when articled to a local firm. He seems to have had trouble settling, because he had a number of employers in the 1930s. For a time he worked for his brother-in-law Hector Gardner, for his father’s company, and for Green Brothers of Hailsham. John was a keen sportsman, playing hockey and tennis as well as badminton. By 1937 Winifred Johnson, his wife-to-be, had taken up employment as a teacher in a local junior school, and they met at a badminton club. Win’s landlady, a Miss Sandells, was very strict, and only chaperoned visits were allowed in her home. However, Miss Sandells knew and approved of the Chandler family so, on the recommendation of her landlady, John was chosen in preference to another suitor. John’s wartime service was passed operating searchlights on the south coast of England and in Ireland. He died in 1946, a year after the war ended.

It is interesting to contrast the life of James Chandler with that of his older brother William Gilbert Chandler, who lived his whole life in Broughton Astley. On one hand, William Gilbert was an active member of local society, a respected tradesman, a local councillor for many years and chairman for a few. On the other hand, unlike his brother, William Gilbert inherited a substantial business created by his father which gradually contracted to very little over his working life. The reason for this may have been the stress of home life. There were three sons from his marriage to Martha Ellen Ward. The first died in infancy, but the other two lived to a good age although remaining unmarried. They were looked after at home by their mother for many years, but they spent the last years of their lives in a ‘protected’ home, apparently in need of care and attention, somehow unable to fit into the society of the time. It may be that the reason for this was that Martha was the child of two first cousins, and that a weakness was passed on to her sons. Perhaps surprisingly, one of these sons, Horace Ward Chandler (1891-1968), was a published poet. One of his poems, called Worship, is reproduced below.

Among the willows where the river winds,
Beside the road which runs from town to wood,
There rose in me a hunger for the good
And noble time of wondrous ways and minds.

The sun lay on the water; all around
The heat throbbed, vibrant in the air,
The rays burnt on my mouth and forehead bare,
And all the earth as with a spell was bound.

With life and strength and joy all life was fed;
I knew my soul was drinking of the sun,
And felt the life around as with me one,
And standing, worshipped there and bowed my head.

Given the willingness of James Chandler and some of his family members to migrate long distances for work or family interests, it is not surprising that someone from this genetic family travelled to the USA and founded a branch of the family there.