Ellen Partleton (1881-1946) and Florence Partleton (1883-1915)

William Partleton (b1846)


In the 1891 census there are two little nieces, aged 10 and 8. They are Ellen and Florence Partleton respectively, circled in blue in the census sheet below.

We are on a detective trail here; the problem is that there are no birth certificates for these two little girls, and we don't know who their mum and dad are.

Absence of birth records is very unusual, and we may come round to a conclusion that they were born abroad.

There are theories but no proof, and glaring anomalies. But let's make a start with that 1891 census:

The girls reside at Salisbury Road (Now Salisbury Avenue), off Butt Road, Colchester, at no 26 which is circled in blue in the map below.

Butt Road is located right slap bang next to the cavalry barracks, circled in green. We are in military territory here.


That 1891 census sheet is not easy to read. Halfway down the sheet, we see the Salisbury Hotel, which is at 112 Butt Road, outlined in red on the maps above and below:




The Salisbury Hotel was demolished in 2005 and replaced by a new block of flats, as we can see at the left of the picture below. The big building in the background of this picture is the Colchester Barracks buildings. The only picture I could find of the old Salisbury Hotel is the tiny inset which we see below:




So let's have a closer look at the census. Exactly of whom are Ellen and Florence the nieces?...



Theoretically they should be the nieces of either Louisa Maude Jackson or Emma Partridge. But no 'Head' of the family is specified. This makes the relationships impossible to decipher. Louisa Maude Jackson, who was born in Lucknow, India, is named as someone's "daughter", but whose? Plainly, Louisa Jackson can't be the daughter of Emma Partridge as she's only 11 years younger. And Emma Partridge is someone's 'wife', but there's no man in the house over the age of 1 year old...


These relationships are not connected to Charles Hall, who is the 'Head' next door at number 28. Charles, a British subject born in Bermuda, is in fact a minor celebrity, bandmaster to the 2nd Life Guards for decades, well past WW1, and later running a shop in Colchester. The girls are not related to him.


The places of birth of all these people; Lucknow, India and Bermuda, Colchester and Aldershot, all give us the clue that these are army families. They are all living right next to the army barracks; so let's have a look in the barracks in the same year and see if we can find the menfolk:




The two people in Colchester Barracks we see ringed above are Emma Partridge's husband George Partridge, and her dad William Jackson 'Pensioner Canteen Steward'.  You'll have take my word for this at the moment; these relationships are proved later.


To recap all of the above; in 1891 the 'nieces' are living with their 'aunts' (or older cousins) Emma Partridge and Louisa Jackson. Emma Partridge's husband George Partridge and her father William Jackson are living nearby in the Colchester Barracks. But Florence and Emma's mother and father are nowhere under the name of Partleton in the British census: they may be on military service abroad or indeed may already be dead.


Here's what Colchester Barracks looked like. No doubt Florence and Ellen would have been inside and seen it close-up, especially the canteen! Step into their shoes and stand to attention, left, right, left, right:



But the big question is: who and where are the nieces' mum and dad?


We'll do some more digging, but first, here's Butt Road today, a very ordinary suburban scene, except in February 2007 when an old chap left the gas on and his house exploded (he survived):




We'll leave the 1891 census for the time being, noting that both Ellen and Florence's places of birth are given in the census (presumably by their aunt) as Stratford in the east end of London, and I'll remind all of our gentle readers that for some reason the girls have no birth certificates under the name Partleton.


We must move on to the year 1900, and we find that Ellen, now aged 19, gets married at Edmonton in North London:





Ellen's husband, John Wheeldon Byatt, aged 26, is in the building trade, and we learn quite a lot about the couple from John's army sign-up papers of 1915:



At 1915 they have seven children... 14 years earlier, in the 1901 census, we see John and Ellen with their first baby (Violet) at Edmonton, North London:



The really interesting thing about the above census is that Ellen names her place of birth as Norwood, South London. This is an unusual address... unique actually, and one which possibly gives us a clue as to who her dad is, as we will examine later.


More food for thought is that Ellen Beatrice Byatt nee Partleton, who died in 1946, almost certainly has grandchildren who are alive today... perhaps they know about their granny's history?


So that's Ellen, but what about her little sister Florence in 1901?...



As we see above, Florence is a now a domestic servant living at the home of Walter Turtle, a fine art printer, near Victoria Station in London. Of note is that Florence, independently of Ellen, states her place of birth as Norwood.


So, who lived at Norwood in 1881-1883 who could be the daddy of these two girls?


Well, there's only one Partleton couple who live in this suburb, Norwood, in the borough of Croydon. That is Benjamin Partleton (b1824) and his wife Louisa (b1820). But Benjamin is 56 and Louisa is 60 when the girls were born, so clearly they aren't the parents. Benjamin and Louisa do have an elusive son, William, but he is so absent from the official records, we barely know he exists, as we shall see.


Let's move on with the clues, and perhaps we can get closer. Florence is married in 1906 to Charles Ryan, a valet; and - as we did in the 1901 census - we find her residing in Pimlico which is in the general vicinity of Victoria Station:



Aha, now we are getting somewhere. Florence names her father as William Partleton, and we learn that he has died before 1906.


So this strengthens the case that the father is William Partleton, the son of Benjamin and Louisa of Norwood mentioned in the previous paragraph. Below is the 1861 census record for William. This is the only time we ever see him:



William Partleton, born 1846, is a difficult candidate. As mentioned before, we have only one sighting of him; at Lambeth, aged 15, in the 1861 census, a few years before his parents Benjamin and Louisa moved to Norwood.


His birthplace is difficult to read. The enumerator's vague handwriting looks like 'Bonney' - but from declarations on other censuses involving his mother Louisa (who was born in the same place), and examination of other examples of the enumerator's capital R's, we known that it is in fact Romney, aka New Romney, a small village of less than 1000 people in Kent. William himself has no birth certificate, no christening, no marriage, and no death certificate, and appears on only one census, the one we see above. If he joined the in the army after 1861 and was posted overseas, and was married and died abroad, this would explain many of those missing records.


So, what else have we got about the 'nieces'? Well, we have another certificate (with the usual thanks to Terry Partleton for providing these crucial documents):



If someone could explain this to me, I'd be very interested. Florence goes through a second marriage ceremony to the same man; Charles Ryan, just 18 months after her first marriage ceremony in London; this time we have come full circle and are back in Colchester. Perhaps they repeated the event, for family this time? A clue to this might just be found in the witnesses to the first ceremony, held at St George Hanover Square. Frederick Duck can be found at Colchester Barracks in 1901 and is obviously a friend of the couple. But Peter W Leverstra can be found in 1901 as a 'Poor Law Official'. Does this suggest that at the time of the first wedding, one or both of the intended were in the workhouse, which indeed existed at St George Hanover Square?


By the time of the second ceremony, Charles is now a corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps. This seems a big change from being a valet as he was the previous year.


Florence's deceased dad William Partleton is declared to be a 'house decorator' but frankly this information doesn't help much because most Partleton males for over a century were house painters. We should note that this does not support the notion that William was in the army overseas.


However, just take a good look at that witness on the second marriage certificate, Emma Partridge...


Cast your mind back 16 years to the 1891 census:



Aah. From the marriage certificate we have further confirmation that Emma Partridge is closely connected to our Ellen and Florence Partleton.

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