On this day – 8 July

171 years ago, my 2nd Great Grandfather Alfred Legge was born.

I have always assumed that Alfred was the biological father of my Great grandfather Herbert Henry Legge but as he did not marry my 2nd Great Grandmother Charlotte Laming until three years after their son was born, can I be certain?

Alfred and Charlotte

Alfred and Charlotte both grew up in Canterbury, Kent and at the time of the 1871 census, a year before Herbert Henry was born, their families were living a few doors apart on Blackfriars Street, a stones throw away from the magnificent cathedral.

Charlotte, who had just celebrated her 17th birthday was working as a domestic servant and living with her siblings and parents George and Sarah Ann, but twenty one year old Alfred was not with his family and has yet to be found on any census.

A little over a year later Charlotte became a single mother and as we saw in the previous post registered my great grandfathers birth with the name Legge, but did not provide his fathers first name.

Alfred eventually married Charlotte three years later on Christmas day in 1875, but why wait three years if he was Herbert Henry’s father?

Mystery Solved?

Did Charlotte’s father George who died a few months before the wedding refuse her permission to marry so they had to wait until she was 21?

Possibly, but I also discovered from his death certificate that Alfred had spent time serving in the army so perhaps he had been posted without knowing about the pregnancy?

Army Record

Alfred joined the 76th foot regiment shortly after his 21st birthday in 1870 having previously spent time as a volunteer with East Kent Militia. He then served in India until he was discharged on medical grounds early in 1875 so he married Charlotte within a few months of returning to England.

Unanswered Questions

I thought the army Record and a recent DNA match leading back to one of Alfred’s older half brothers confirmed my theory that he was posted without knowing Charlotte was pregnant, but on reviewing all the records for this blog I have spotted a few anomalies I had not considered before.

Why did Charlotte record Alfred’s occupation as “Iron moulder” when he had joined the army in 1870? He was a Whitesmith and plumber/gasfitter in civilian life so could conceivably been working in a foundry prior to joining the army.

When did Alfred leave for India? His record does not say he was based anywhere else during his career.

Where was Alfred when the 1871 census was taken.

What do you think was Alfred the father of my Great grandfather Herbert Henry?

Sources and Citations

On this Day – 30 June

148 years ago, my Great Grandfather Herbert Henry Legge was born

My first certificate and a mystery to solve at the start my research.

After finding out Herbert Henry had been born in Canterbury from the 1901 census, I found his birth under the name Legge without any problems in the old BMD registers so was surprised to find his mother had registered him in her maiden name and not provided a first name for his father.

Herbert Henry Legge Canterbury 2a 706

Had I hit a brick wall before I had barely started?

Fortunately not. The church of the Latter Day Saints had just released an on line 1881 census search (the first to be digitised) where I was able to find Herbert Henry living with his mother Charlotte, sister Susannah born 1876 and father Alfred Legge.

Another search of the BMD registers and I found Charlotte marrying Alfred three years after the birth of their son in 1875.

So where was Alfred when his son was born and why did he wait three years before he married Charlotte?

Well it took me a while to find out anymore so I will save those discoveries for a future post!

Thanks for reading.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

I have come across this challenge started by Amy Johnson Crow on a number of family history blogs and thought I would give it a try.

The idea is to write about 52 ancestors in a year using a weekly prompt provided by Amy.

I am starting at week 25, but first I thought I would go back to week 23 when the topic was ‘Wedding’ and share this wonderful group photo.

The Wedding of Margaret Sophia Cashford and Charles Roddis

The photo was sent to me by a Granddaughter of the happy couple Margaret Sophia Cashford and Charles Roddis who married in Canterbury, Kent during the summer of 1911.

I am not related to either family but the gentleman seated on the bottom far left of the photo is believed to be Henry Thomas Legge, step-father of Margaret Sophia and a younger brother of my 2nd great grandfather Alfred Legge.

Henry Thomas Legge (1853 – 1939)

Margaret Sophia was just eleven years old when her twice widowed mother Maria married Henry Thomas in 1899, so he must have been an influential figure in her life and possibly the only father she would remember and he certainly looks proud to be at his step daughters wedding.

Henry Thomas, the fourth child of my 3rd great grandparent’s Benjamin Legge and Ann Taylor was born in Canterbury in 1853. He was also a widow with three grown up children when he married Maria, having lost his first wife Sarah three years previously.

Following the family trade

Like his father, grandfather, my ancestor Alfred, his uncles and many cousins, Henry Thomas was a Whitesmith by trade, forging and finishing items in white metal. He started out working for his father as an apprentice (1871 Census) before specialising as a Locksmith (1891 Census).

The Oddfellows Club and Rising Sun Inn

In later life Henry Thomas became a Publican. He was recorded on the 1901 census as living with Maria, and two of her children, Margaret and Rose at the Oddfellows Club, in Canterbury, and then ten years later he was recorded on the 1911 census as the Licensee of the Rising Sun Inn.

As Margaret Sophia’s wedding was just a few months after the 1911 census, the photo may have been taken in the garden of the Rising Sun.

Move to Derbyshire

Henry Thomas was still the licensee of the Rising Sun in 1913, but he and Maria moved at some point to Derbyshire where they died in 1932 (Maria) and 1939 (Henry Thomas).


‘Margaret S Cashford & Charles Roddis (1911) Marriage England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q3 Canterbury 2a 2103 (1911). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Henry Thomas Legge’ (1857) Baptised Henry Thomas son of Benjamin & Anne Legge, Smith, Blackfriars, 31 May 1857, Born 21 May 1853. St Alphege Parish Church Canterbury Baptisms. Accessed at Canterbury Archives (2004) and available at https://www.findmypast.co.uk/

‘Henry Ths Legge’ (1861) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG9/520, folio 137, p. 7 (1861). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

Henry Legge’ (1871) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG10/1969, folio 7, p. 7 (1871). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

Henry Legge’ (1881) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG11/959, folio 81, p. 25 (1881). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

‘Henry T Legge’ (1891) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG12/706, folio 9, p. 12 (1891). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

‘Henry T Legge’ (1901) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG13/794, folio 60, p. 13 (1901). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

‘Henry T Legge’ (1911) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG13/794, folio 60, p. 13 (1911). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

‘Legge Henry Thomas’ (1913) Kelly’s Directory for Canterbury, Kent. Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk

‘Henry Thomas Legge & Sarah Elizabeth White’ (1874) Marriage England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q2 Bridge 2a 1079. Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Sarah Elizabeth Legge’ (1896) Death England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q2 Canterbury 2a 446. Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Henry Thomas Legge & Maria Lefford’ (1899) Marriage England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q4 Canterbury 2a 1893 (1899). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Henry T Legge’ (1939) Death England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q1 Derby 7b 777 (1939). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Maria Morris & Richard Cashford’ (1868) Marriage England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q4 Canterbury 2a 1055 (1868). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

‘Maria Cashford & Thomas Lefford’ (1893) Marriage England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q4 W Ashford 2a 1548 (1893). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

Maria Legge’ (1932) Death England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes GRO: Q1 Derby 7b 790 (1939). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/

The Broseley Legges

Broseley, home to my earliest known Legge ancestors sits on the banks of the river Severn directly opposite the Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site, in the county of Shropshire.

The first mention of the name Legge or its variants in the Broseley St Leonards parish registers was on 16 Oct 1651 when Richard Legge and his wife Jane baptised the first of their ten children.

Richard is most likely the son of Francis and Beatrice Leg who was baptised in the neighbouring parish of Much Wenlock on 1 April 1627, and I wonder if the unusually named daughter Bettredge was actually Beatrice and her name incorrectly recorded in the parish registers. Alternatively the name could be a clue to the identity of Jane who I know nothing about.

Broseley Pipemakers

Broseley was well known as a centre of excellence for the manufacture of clay tobacco pipes and Richard and his sons are documented to be amongst the first producers of the famous “Broseley”

As my Broseley ancestors were also known to be pipemakers, it is likely that I am related to Richard and Jane and I suspect they may have been my 8th great grandparents but have yet to find the evidence to prove it.

Manufacturing in the 17th century was a cottage industry with individuals working at home and Richard most likely had his own clay moulds and a kiln to fire his pipes. He would also have stamped them with a unique mark to identify himself as the producer.

Remnants of pipes bearing the mark of a number of different Legge pipemakers can be found in the Broseley pipework museum. Amongst them are pipemarks bearing the name of two or three Benjamin Legges who I believe to be my ancestors.

My brother and I visited the village a few years back and found the museum on Legges Hill, but unfortunately it was closed.

Hopefully, I will get back there one day for a visit when it is open.

The Five Benjamin Legges

1. Benjamin son of Richard and Jane?

The name Benjamin Legge is recorded in the Broseley parish registers for the first time on 3 March 1702/03 when Benjamin Leg and his wife Mary baptise a baby boy also called Benjamin.

This father and son, I believe are my 6th and 7th Great Grandfathers but more evidence is probably needed before I can be absolutely certain.

Although I have seen many on-line trees where Benjamin the first is recorded as a son of our original Broseley Legges, I have not found a baptism for him or any other real evidence to prove or indeed disprove his parents were Richard and Jane.

He could possibly have been born between Richard and Janes last two children in 1772, which would make him 30 when his son was born. This seems a little late for what appears to be a first child, but as I do not know where or when he married there may have been other children.

Assuming Jane was twenty one when her first child was born she would have been in her forties when her last two children were born so the gap in her children’s births could equally be due to a miscarriage or still birth. Janes assumed age also makes it unlikely although not impossible that Benjamin was born after her youngest recorded child.

Do family naming patterns provide a clue?

Our early ancestors tended to use the same names generation after generation and it was common practice to name a first born son and daughter after their paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother, but it was not a hard and fast rule and many of my ancestors like countless other families chose to name their first born after themselves and subsequent children after their parents.

Benjamin would go on to name two of his children Richard and Jane but whether they were named after their grandparents we may never know.

First though came two daughters named Mary presumably after their mother. The first was born in 1705 but sadly died before her second birthday in 1707.

With high infant mortality in the 1700’s and a limited pool of names to choose from, couples often gave more than one child the same name as Benjamin and Mary did when they baptised their third child Mary in 1708.

Benjamin’s second marriage

Three years after giving birth to her daughter, Mary died, leaving Benjamin a widow with two young children to care for.

As was often the case with widowed fathers it appears Benjamin re-married as within 17 months of Mary’s death a Benjamin and Eliza were recorded in the parish registers as the parents of Richard who was baptised in St Leonards Church in 1712.

Two burials on the same day

Benjamin and Elizabeth welcomed a second son named William in 1714, but their joy was short lived as both boys died a year later and were buried together on 1 Aug 1715.

Another Benjamin or an error in the registers and a mystery William.

Following the burials of Richard and William in 1715, there were a couple of entries in the registers that caused some confusion. First a Benjamin and Mary baptised a son Richard in 1716 and then William a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth was buried in 1728.

I can’t be sure but I think the name Mary was probably written in error and Richard was another child of Benjamin and Elizabeth as was William who may have been baptised in the nearby parish of Bridgnorth in 1720.

In addition to the four boys, Benjamin and Elizabeth had two daughters, Sarah in 1723 and Jane in 1726.

Widowed for a second time

Elizabeth died in 1731 leaving Benjamin once again on his own with a young family. This time however he does not appear to have re-married, and may have enlisted the help of his elder children to look after their young siblings.

Benjamin lived for another seventeen years and was buried in the parish church of St Leonards in 1748.

He was survived by at least two of his nine children (Benjamin and Sarah) and four grandchildren.

2. Benjamin son of Benjamin and Mary

His grandchildren were the offspring of his son Benjamin who had married Sarah Powis in 1726.

Widowed like his father

Like his father, Benjamin was left with a young family to care for when his wife Sarah sadly died in 1743.

Elizabeth Griffiths – My Sixth Great Grandmother

Six years after the death of his first wife Sarah, Benjamin appears to have married Elizabeth Griffiths in 1749.

Elizabeth, who I believe was my 6th great grandmother, was the daughter of Michael and Esable Grifis baptised in 1713 at the parish church in Broseley.

Benjamin and Elizabeth had one known child, my fifth great grandfather who they named Benjamin in 1751.

3. Benjamin son of Samuel and Mary

In 1711, seven years after my 6th Great Grandfather was born Samuel, youngest son of our first Broseley Legges, Richard and Jane, together with his wife Mary baptised a son called Benjamin.

Was he named after his uncle, my 6th great grandfather Benjamin, I wonder?

Married to his first cousin

Our third Benjamin married Mary Darby, daughter of his Aunt Jane Legge and William Darby who was baptised in St Leonards in 1714.

After their marriage in 1734, Benjamin and Mary had nine children baptised in the parish church.

Three burials in five days

Heartbreakingly, Benjamin and Mary had to bury three of their young family during the course of five days in 1751.

Nine year old Benjamin was laid to rest on 28 May, while Susanna aged 13 and John aged four were both buried on the 1 June.

4. Benjamin son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Griffiths

There are some on-line records that indicate the child Benjamin who died in 1751 was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth who was baptised the day prior to the burial on 27 May, rather than the son of Benjamin and Mary.

Unfortunately as neither the mothers name or child’s age were recorded on the burial record, I cannot fully disprove this theory, but I believe that Benjamin and Elizabeth’s son survived into adulthood and went onto marry my 5th Great Grandmother Susanna Taylor in 1779.

Why do I think this?

Firstly there are the notations “aff m 4 Jun” on Benjamin’s burial record and “Aff m 4” on the records of Susanna and John, which indicate a close family member of the three children swore an affidavit on 4 June confirming they were all buried in wool as required by the law of the time.

A coincidence maybe, but the Benjamin who married Susanna Taylor had a child in 1787 who he named Michael Griffiths Legge, making it more likely that it was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Griffiths who survived.

Benjamin and Susanna had five other children baptised in Broseley between 1780 and 1790 .

Sadly, like some of our other Legge families Benjamin and Susanna had to endure the loss of two of their young sons (Thomas and Michael) who were buried within a few days of each other in November 1787.

The surviving siblings would grow up in a fast changing world as the industrial revolution gathered pace and England moved from producing goods on a small scale in rural cottage industries to mass production in factories and mills. This led to migration away from small towns like Broseley to the rapidly expanding industrial centres of the Midlands and Lancashire.

The move to Gloucestershire

While other Broseley residents migrated to the Midlands Benjamin and Susanna chose to move their young family to Gloucester, possibly travelling by barge along the river Severn which was an extremely busy trade route at the time.

Why the couple chose to move is not clear but as a maker of the world renowned Broseley pipe he is likely to have used the Severn trade route to distribute his goods and may have felt basing himself in Gloucester would be better for his business.

Benjamin and Susanna went on to have three more children baptised in Gloucester St Nicholas but all sadly died as infants.

There is also strong evidence to suggest they had two other children, Benjamin, my 4th Great Grandfather and Susanna who do not appear in either the Broseley or Gloucester parish records.

Benjamin Legge Pipe Maker of Gloucester

Benjamin lost his wife Elizabeth in 1813 and then…

On the 8 Sept 1822, shortly before his death and burial in Gloucester St Nicholas on 26 Sept, “Benjamin Legge, of the city of Gloucester, Pipe Maker” wrote his last will and testament in which he made bequests to his daughters Isabella and Susan, and his sons Paul and Benjamin of Cheltenham.

How do we know this is the Benjamin who moved from Broseley to Gloucester?

A year after his fathers death Paul signed the Gloucester St Nicholas parish register as a witness to the marriage of his sister Susanna.

Later in 1841 he can be found on the census living in Gloucester with his sister Isabella, and at the same address ten years later he is recorded as having been born in Broseley.

5. Benjamin Legge son of Benjamin and Susanna

It is also well documented (1851 census and naval records) that my 4th great grandfather Benjamin was born in Broseley around the same time as the world famous Iron Bridge was being constructed less than a mile away in the late 1770’s.

Credit: Civil engineering: the iron bridge at Coalbrookdale, with a ship sailing beneath. Engraving. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

We also know from naval records that his mother was called Susanna and that she was living in Gloucester in 1807 when she received part of her sons wage.

Later records relating to his children also prove he was living in Cheltenham when his father died in 1822.

Benjamin’s Naval Career and Family Life

I will be writing about my 4th Great Grandfathers life in more detail in future posts, so do visit again or follow the blog for stories about his naval medals and life as a Greenwich Pensioner amongst others.

Sources and Citations

In the mean time check out the Legge Family tree where you will find links to the sources and citations for the records referred to in this post.

Other Resources

The Legge Family

The Legges were the first family I began researching some twenty years ago. I knew my grandfather Horace Herbert was born in Leatherhead, Surrey in 1908, so I expected the family roots to be firmly planted in the Surrey countryside.

Oh how wrong I was! While many of my other families did remain in the same area for many generations my Legge ancestors moved quite frequently.

Following the ancestor paper trail

With the help of BMDs, parish registers, census returns, historical directories, military records and wills, I followed the family back in time from Leatherhead to the small town of Broseley on the banks of the river Severn.

Stops along the trail included the cathedral cities of Canterbury, Oxford, and Gloucester and the spa towns of Leamington and Cheltenham.

There were also overseas trips along the way as three of my ancestors joined the military services.

It was quite a journey!

Family Occupations

My earliest ancestors were pipemakers in Broseley and Gloucester, while later generations became Whitesmiths.

Variants of the Legge Surname

While I use my families current spelling of “Legge” on this site, my early ancestors were recorded under a number of different variants including:

Leg – Legg – Leeg – Llegg – Lagge – Leggs

Origins of the Legge Surname

There are a number of theories on the origins of the Legge Surname including these found on the internet surname database.

Medieval nickname derived from the word “legg” and probably used to describe someone with long legs or who was a fast runner

Viking – an old Norse personal name derived from the name “Leggr” and probably used to describe someone with long legs or who was a fast runner

Anglo-Saxon variant of the name “Leigh” which was derived from the word “leah” meaning the person lived in a clearing in a wood.

The Viking connection is interesting given my Dad’s 3% Norwegian ethnicity DNA result!

Legge Family Stories