Charlotte Cox As there is no record of when Ann Cox left Dorset with her children to settle in Chichester I’m working on a rough guess that it was in about 1810 as they were well settled in Chichester by 1817 when her oldest daughter, Ann Foot, married Shadrach Nash. It’s possible that Ann stayed for a while in Poole as that is the place Harriet considered herself to have been born, and where she might have had family; it would make sense for her to have travelled to Chichester by sea. Working on that year Ann Foot would have been 19, Charlotte 17, Harriet and Leah 10, and Richard 4. Harriet and Leah both married in Chichester in 1827, and the Ann Cox who died there the next year is probably their mother. Charlotte married John Boniface in St. Mary Magdalene, South Bersted on the 24th August 1829 and while Charlotte’s age of 36 seems advanced for a first marriage, as she waited until after her mother’s death, it suggests that she had spent the previous years as her mother’s companion. It would seem likely that after her mother’s death Charlotte moved to Bognor where her sister Harriet and her husband Edmund Greenway were already living. When she married John Boniface by banns, they are both of the parish of South Bersted, which included Bognor. Charlotte and John had four children before 1841: William in 1830, Leah in 1832, Frederick in 1833 and Harriet in 1836: the girls’ names helpfully reflecting Charlotte’s younger sisters. Only the baptisms of Frederick and Harriet appear in the South Bersted parish register, so the existence of William and Leah is only confirmed by their appearance in the 1841 and subsequent censuses. In 1841 the Boniface family with their four children can be found in Landgrave Place, Surrey Street, Bognor, somewhere between Waterloo Square and the High Street. John and Charlotte are apparently both aged 40 - Charlotte regularly lowered her age to match her husband’s in the censuses - and John is working as a Fisherman. They are living in Bedford Street in Bognor in 1851 with just their two daughters, Leah and Harriet, and John is still a fisherman. Leah had an illegitimate son in the autumn of 1855 in Bognor, and he was baptised as William Frederick Boniface in Littlehampton on the 22nd of June 1856, and this probably marks John and Charlotte’s move to Littlehampton which is where they are living in the 1861 census, and where Charlotte died in 1872. Leah is in Littlehampton as well in 1861, living as the wife of William Sturt, a carpenter, with William Frederick and new son Henry Charles Sturt. Leah married William Sturt in Portsmouth in 1864, and they had a daughter, Annie Amy, born in Littlehampton in 1864. In 1911 Leah, now widowed, and aged 79, is living with her daughter Annie and son-in-law Richard Edward Neale in The Cricketer’s Arms, Marine Place, Worthing, and apparently assisting in the bar. Leah died in 1918. In 1881 John Boniface, aged 80 and a former mariner, is in the East Preston Workhouse in Littlehampton, and the Eastbourne Gazette from the 16th February 1881 gives a small glimpse into the family’s circumstances when it reported on a case brought before the magistrates. John and Charlotte’s son, Frederick, was summoned by the Guardians of the East Preston Union to “show cause why he did not contribute to the support of his father, John Boniface”. The cost of maintenance was 5s per week, and Frederick told the Magistrates that “his property was mortgaged, and he had four children under 12, and a wife to maintain. The Magistrates ordered him to pay 1s per week.” John Boniface died in 1887. Frederick had married Charlotte Langrish in Worthing in 1858 and they had a son, Frederick William, born the following year in Littlehampton where they are living at the time of the 1861 census with Frederick described as a mariner. It was 10 years before their daughter Charlotte was born, and I wonder if Frederick despite apparently not having his ticket, was away at sea. In 1871 he is described as a fisherman, and three more children were born before 1876; Frederick died in 1910. William Boniface, John and Charlotte’s oldest son only appears with the family in 1841. When he received his merchant seaman’s ticket, no. 232,950, on the 1st February 1845 in Chichester, he gives his birthdate as 24th October 1830, and says that he first went to sea as a fisherman aged 10 in 1840, so he was already working by the time of the 1841 census. Assuming he spent his working life at sea and thus avoided the censuses, he next appears in 1878 when he married Margaret Eliza Hancock on the 16th May in Norbiton in Surrey, when the witnesses are his sister Harriet and her husband Henry Stredwick. The widowed Margaret Eliza gives her father’s name as Thomas Boniface, and it turns out she was William’s cousin, and the illegitimate daughter of his aunt Harriet, his father John’s sister; in the 1841 census she - just named as Eliza - is living with her grandparents Thomas and Jane Boniface in Bognor, so she possibly grew up thinking they were her parents. Harriet married Stephen Dennett in Brighton in February 1851 and that year’s census finds Eliza living as a servant, with her mother and step-father in their lodging house at 17 Marine Parade, Brighton. [Margaret] Eliza married Henry Hancock in Brighton in 1860, and while the 1861 census shows him to be an Egg Salesman from Devon, the next census has them running a lodging house at 45 Marine Parade. Henry died in 1872, and after her marriage to her cousin William, Margaret Eliza returned to the business of lodging-house keeping in Brighton at 45 Marine Parade until their deaths in 1892 (William) and 1893 (Margaret Eliza). John and Charlotte’s daughter Harriet was the only one of their children who moved away from the south coast. She married Henry Stredwick, a carpenter, born in Lewes, in the Hailsham registration district in East Sussex in 1864. They moved first to Croydon and then to Kingston upon Thames, moving to Epsom between 1901 and 1911; which is where Harriet died in 1926. At the beginning of the 19th century South Bersted was a discrete settlement away from the coast and with a largely agricultural community. Bognor in the south of the parish, was developing as a seaside resort, and although the settlement was largely away from the eroding coastline, a collection of fishermen’s huts and cottages can still be spotted right on the shoreline on the Ordnance Survey First Series sheet 9 dating from 1813 and viewable online at Vision of Britain, and they are also obvious on the Yeakell and Gardner map of 1778. Charlotte Cox’s husband, John Boniface, came from a family of Bognor fishermen to whom this coastline would have been very familiar. His parents were Thomas Boniface and Jane Verion who had married in South Bersted in 1801, and John, baptised in South Bersted on the 18th July 1802, was their first child. He was followed by Charles in 1803, Saul in 1805, Edmund in 1807, Benjamin in 1808, Jane in 1810, Harriet in 1814, James in 1816, Emma in 1818 and Mary Ann in 1820. Edmund and Benjamin died as infants, Jane died aged 17, and Charles died aged 25. John’s father Thomas Boniface had been baptised in South Bersted on the 28th December 1777 to parents James Boniface and Mary Allen, one of their ten children. James was a fisherman and at least two of his sons followed in this calling. His oldest son James, Thomas’s brother, moved over to Birdham on Chichester Harbour where he married and had a son also called James, and although I can’t be sure, he may be the James Boniface - right age, right occupation - who moved a bit further west and appeared in the following newspaper report from the Dover Telegraph and Cinque Ports General Advertiser of the 14th of February 1835. HASTINGS. Shocking death. On the morning of Tuesday, two men, and a boy about 14 years of age, by the names of Edward Chiverton, Thomas Chiverton, the son, and James Boniface, left Portsmouth Harbour in an open boat, for the purpose of fishing or piloting. The weather became severe, they were driven to sea, and the little provision they had on board was destroyed by the boat shipping several heavy seas. The weather increased in severity, and the poor creatures continued in that dreadful state until Friday about noon, when Edward Chiverton, exhausted by the cold and want of nourishment, was eased by death from his sufferings. […] The poor boy at this time was utterly unable to render any assistance; and the man Boniface was fast approaching the same state, and it was four o’clock before they reached the beach. They had been blown by this time east of Beachy Head and were eventually helped ashore at Hastings. Taken to the Pelham Arms Inn, the survivors were dried, warmed and fed. Edward Chiverton, aged 44, was buried in the graveyard of St Mary in the Castle on Saturday the 7th February. Thomas Chiverton returned home to his mother in Portsmouth, continued working as a fisherman, and died in 1912, aged 91. James Boniface seems to disappear from the records. I wonder however, if Charlotte was warned about the family she was marrying into? Fishing - with all its accompanying dangers - may have been their primary occupation but the Boniface family seem to have had a sideline in smuggling and sheep stealing. According to a West Sussex page on the local smugglers “smuggling was a huge industry in West Sussex at least up until the 1820s. While these stories may seem romantic, in truth the smugglers were a mixture of hardened criminals, enterprising businessmen and, mostly, frightened locals who were desperately poor and welcomed the extra few shillings a night’s smuggling could bring their families.” I suspect the Bonifaces fitted into the last category. John’s father Thomas may have appeared in court twice, the first time in 1824 seems likely to be in connection with decoy tactics used against the Customs men in a big haul at Sidlesham. A very valuable cargo of contraband goods, we understand, was recently run at Siddlesham Creek, while the Blockade men were nibbling at a bait which the smugglers had designedly thrown in their way, nearly opposite the library at Bognor. Sussex Advertiser 23 February 1824 At the Lent Assizes held in Horsham in March that year, a Thomas Boniface, 36, and three others were sentenced to six months imprisonment to hard labour in the Lewes House of Correction “for exhibiting lights for the purpose of signals to smugglers, contrary to the statute, &c.” While this may not be my Thomas Boniface - the age is wrong, but newspapers are not wholly reliable on such details - it’s an interesting indication of the penalties for such misdemeanours, and follows on quite nicely from this official notice from Custom-House, London, printed in the Sussex Advertiser on the 29th March 1824. It refers to events on the morning of the 4th of February when two men “employed in the Service of the Customs for the prevention of Smuggling, at Bognor, in the county of Sussex, were out on duty […] at the Post Office Hedge, in the parish of Bursted […] and saw a large Tub Boat coming towards the shore, and a company of smugglers, amounting to 200 and more, on the beach”. A fight ensued, and shots were fired, but the Preventive Men gathered reinforcements, “and the smugglers in the boat ran off, leaving the Tub Boat and her cargo, consisting of Foreign Spirits in 225 small casks, in possession of the Preventive Men, who seized the same for illegal importation. and the Boat for being illegally used in importing the said Spirits.” A £50 reward was offered to anyone who could “discover, or cause to be discovered, any one or more of the said Offenders.” Was the load at Sidlesham run in while this was going on at Bognor? Pagham Harbour, and Sidlesham were regularly used by smugglers; the tide running into the harbour could carry a raft of tubs unnoticed without need of a vessel. If vessels were used to bring contraband into the harbour, decoy lights could be used to lure the Preventive Men to Sidlesham before unloading at Pagham, or vice versa. While I can’t find any newspaper reports of the regularly quoted event in 1830 when the smugglers lured revenue officers to Sidlesham with a decoy light so that they could land 700 tubs at Pagham, I did find this similar report from 1835: An extraordinary run of smuggled goods, consisting of 300 tubs of spirits, was accomplished early on Sunday morning last, at Siddlesham, a few miles from Chichester. The smugglers took advantage of the time when the Preventive Service, stationed at Pagham Harbour, were separated and lawfully engaged in their different departments, to pass their vessel to the bank erected between Siddlesham and Selsey, where light spring carts were in attendance, by which all, excepting two kegs, were cleared safely. Sussex Advertiser 5 October 1835 Meanwhile in 1831 this probably is our Thomas Boniface and getting a bit careless: Thomas Boniface was apprehended on Saturday night week, at Bognor, by the Coast Guard, in the act of landing tubs from a boat. The tubs, eight in number, were secured and brought to Chichester Custom House. Boniface was brought before the magistrates on Thursday, and convicted in the penalty of £100, and in default of payment, sent to Horsham gaol. Brighton Gazette 26 May 1831. To be fair to Thomas he probably wasn’t directly responsible for the sheep-stealing episode which took place in early January 1828; after all if your son turns up with most of a carcase of freshly killed mutton it’s probably best to hide it in a cupboard. Unfortunately R. Roberts, husbandry servant to the flock’s owner, Mr. Edward New of Bersted, traced the footsteps of the guilty party to Thomas’s cottage, and from there to a neighbouring cottage belonging to the Tapners where more meat was found. Although suspicion fell at first on Thomas Boniface junior, it was his brother Saul who eventually appeared in court along with William Tapner at the end of March. Thomas Boniface senior also appeared charged with receiving and while the case against him was dropped, his son Saul and William Tapner were sentenced to death. They were both reprieved before the judge left town, and their sentences were commuted to 14 years transportation. Saul died in New South Wales on the 27th of January 1835. The frequency of sheep stealing in Sussex, particularly in the neighbourhood of Chichester, has induced many farmers to set a night watch by their folds, others have caused occasional visits, both early and late, to be paid, and for this purpose, R. Roberts, husbandry servant to Mr. Edw. New, of Bersted, near Bognor, visited his master’s flock at an early hour on Monday morning, and finding a lamb bleating, having lost its dam, on close inspection he discovered the footsteps of two persons, which, with an accuracy scarcely to be excelled by an American Indian, he traced up to the cottage of Thomas Boniface, sen., mariner, when an immediate search was made, and nearly a whole carcase of fresh killed mutton found in a cupboard. Only one pair of shoes being tracked into the premises, suspicion fell on another cottager, named Tapner, in whose possession more meat was found. The men, with the meat, were brought before the magistrates at Chichester, when Mr. James Gates, butcher, made oath, that the meat found in possession of the prisoners, agred with the skin left in the field, and they are fully committed to Horsham gaol for trial at the next assize. T. Boniface, jun. has hitherto escaped. A sharp lookout is kept for him, as no doubt exists that he is an accomplice of Tapner’s. The elder Boniface is committed as receiver. Hampshire Chronicle 14 January 1828
Murray families: Cox & Boniface Charlotte Cox & the South Bersted Boniface family
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