Part 2: The Musselwhites of Fawley


Looking back at the first part of this story it is quite striking how the pace of change then was so slow! In the seventy years from 1790 to 1860 life went on in much the same way; the people may have changed but the way of life in a remote rural area hinged around the local estate and scraping a living from the land or serving in your lord and master’s house. There was no educational system and so regardless of mental capacity you became an agricultural labourer or servant and if you were not physically fit enough to be a labourer or to serve you perished! It is hard to imagine what life was really like back then but it was certainly not easy.

To recap, we have reached 1861 in our story when Charles Musselwhite and Ann Wheeler married and were living in Badminston Road, near Fawley. The first of their three daughters, Hannah Musselwhite, was born in 1862, then Ellen arrived in 1864 and finally Frances (Fanny) in 1866. The census of 1871 shows the family together but they have moved up the road from Badminston to Stone Hills Farm. It seems they had a cottage where, before marriage, Charles had been a lodger so he was obviously working on Stone Hill Farm for some time.

Also in 1871, Charles’ mother Lucy  (nee Wheeler) was 78 and living with the Willis family in Fawley and Ann’s mother, Elizabeth (nee Birt), was 60 and still living at Stanswood. Both of their fathers are, by the census returns it seems, deceased. Lucy then died in 1879 at the age of 87, quite remarkable for the time.

Not much may have changed between the start of our story in 1792 and this point in time in 1871 but the next ten years would see a significant change in the Musselwhite family fortunes and to try and get an understanding of what happened it is perhaps helpful to reflect on what was happening in Britain at the time.

The steam powered industrial revolution of the mid-Victorian was transforming social structures. The development of the railway network meant that manufactured products, agricultural produce and people were more mobile than they had ever have been before. Times in the countryside, especially in remote locations, were hard, very hard. The jobs were in the developing cities in manufacturing and in domestic service. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer (times do not change!). People were deserting their rural homes and heading for the city in search of work in an effort to survive.

In stark contrast to the 1871 census, when the Musselwhites were together living on Stone Hills Farm, by 1881 Charles and Ann had moved to the cottage in Ashlett we are all now familiar with and had a lodger, William Cross, who was a wheelwright. But where were the daughters?

Fanny, who was now 16 was working in the grocers shop in Fawley run by William Giles and his sister Frances. The Giles originated from Sherborne, Dorset, so one wonders how they came to be in Fawley!

Ellen was 18 and working as a housemaid to Mrs Mary Brown, a widow, and her two children who lived at 53, High Street, Millbrook in Southampton There was also a cook, Emily Taylor, so Ellen was the general dogs body!

But what of the eldest, Hannah? It took some finding in the records but she is actually recorded as Annie Mustewhite! I believe Mustewhite is a transcription error when the hand written records of the time were transferred to computer and the original handwritten entry was probably Muslewhite. In those days the census was taken by a team of clerks who visited each property in turn and interviewed and recorded each person present in at each address. I can imagine, in responses to the census clerks question “What is your name?” the reply in a deep Hampshire country accent could well have made Hannah Musselwhite sound like Annie Muslewhite! There is no doubt though that this is our Hannah as her age and place of birth tie in exactly with Hannah Musselwhite.

Hannah (aged 20) was a kitchen maid in the household of Sir William Keppel, the 7th Earl of Albemarle and his wife, Viscountess Sophie M Bury. They lived at 65, Princes Gate, Kensington with their eight children together with an entourage of staff including a nurse, footmen, kitchen staff and domestic maids. There is no trace of William Keppel but he could well have been out of town (or even out of the country) on business at the time of the census. He was a senior officer in the military as well as a prominent senior Conservative politician.

Why Hannah went to London is not hard to understand but did she have a job lined up before she left home or did she just head off and trust to fortune? I think she must have had a job to go to but how that came about I cannot begin to fathom. One thing is sure though, Hannah was a strong minded and strong hearted girl prepared to go off into the unknown on her own. I wonder what her mother’s feelings were and what her last words of advice to her daughter were as Hannah headed off, probably on a horse and cart, to Southampton to catch the train to London?

As an aside, Ann’s mother, Elizabeth was aged 70 at the 1881 census and living in Larrytown, Fawley with her bachelor son, Henry, and then by 1891 she was ‘living on own means’ with the Marsh family at 30, Old Alma Road, Southampton. She passed away, aged 87, in 1897. Obviously a very strong and determined lady and I cannot help but think that her daughter Ann and her granddaughter, Hannah, inherited those strong qualities.

With the taking of a census only every ten years we are left with a gap in our knowledge but we do know that in, or around about, 1888 Hannah had a son, Charles Edward, who was to become our grandfather ’Pop’!


Printable Version: 

These are the people mentioned in the above story. Click the name of any person you want to know more about:

Name (Click to see details) Date of Birth Parents Date of Marriage Spouse Child Date of Death
Wheeler, Lucy Sun, 30/12/1792 Tue, 12/10/1813 Musselwhite, Joseph Musselwhite, Charles Sun, 14/09/1879
Birt, Elizabeth Fri, 14/09/1810 Thu, 04/08/1831 Wheeler, William Wheeler, Ann Thu, 01/04/1897
Musselwhite, Charles Tue, 02/03/1824 Sat, 02/02/1861 Wheeler, Ann Musselwhite, Hannah Tue, 05/01/1909
Wheeler, Ann Fri, 09/03/1832 Sat, 02/02/1861 Musselwhite, Charles Musselwhite, Hannah Sat, 07/02/1925
Musselwhite, Hannah Sun, 23/03/1862 Thu, 20/03/1890 Orchard, Henry Orchard, Charles Sat, 01/06/1946
Orchard, Charles Sat, 22/10/1887 Sat, 01/01/1910 Orman, Beatrice Wed, 09/02/1972


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