Answers to Questions


John Sowter PARKES, Bishops Stortford, late 19th century

May, 2012



Bishop's Stortford

Flora Wilkin (wilkinrob @t talktalk.net) from Buckinghamshire writes: John S Parkes, mentioned in 1881 Cenus links with China,  was the husband of my great aunt. I assume that the information given was from a transcript as his actual place of birth reads "West India St Kits" on the census photocopy [corrected]. His obituary in Herts & Essex Observer gives his place of birth as the West Indies, where his father was a Wesleyan missionary. JSP was a missionary in Canton when the 2 eldest children were born. I have found a John Parkes, preaching at a chapel opening in Antigua in 1839, who could be the father. On getting my reply Flora provided the picture and added a few more details which have been incorporated below.

The John Parkes you found in Antigua is the father as there are other people actively interested in this family - see Genes United  - and you might like to contact them.

I have looked at the information there and elsewhere and suggest the following outline history, with an emphasis on the Hertfordshire connections.

John Sowter Parkes grandparents were probably Marmaduke and Sarah Parks as while the name John Park(e)s is common in Derbyshire a John Parks, son of Marmaduke and Sarah Parks was born on 8th September 1807 and baptised at St Michael's Lane Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Derby, on 14th September 1807. (familysearch)

John Parkes married Sarah Sowter at St Werburgh, Derby on 13 August 1835 (familysearch). Note that in 1835 it was not possible to marry in a Methodist church.

In the 1851 census John and Sarah were living at Mount Pleasant, Castle Donnington, Derbyshire

PARKES, John Head Married M 43 1808 Wesleyan Minister Derbyshire
PARKES, Sarah Wife Married F 42 1809   Brailsford, Derbyshire
PARKES, Sarah Daughter Unmarried F 7 1844 Scholar Tortola, West Indies
PARKES, James C Son Unmarried M 3 1848   Montserrat, West Indies
CUNMING, Elizabet Servant Unmarried F 17 1834 General Servant Lambeth, Surrey

John was not at home but may have been at boarding school somewhere. Meanwhile Pricilla Ashwell (13) was living with her parents and siblings in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire. Her family, headed by her father James Amos Ashwell moved to Bishops Stortford Park circa 1855 and James was still farming there in 1881.

John Sowter Parkes arrived Hong Kong March 27th 1860 and left for England February 15th 1865. while in the 1861 census Priscilla Ashwell was living with her brother at Timber Hall, Buckney Wood, Thundridge, Herts.
ASHWEL, Lewis Head Unmarried M 25 1836 Farmer 161 Acres 5 Labourers 2 Boys Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
ASHWEL, Prescilla Sister Unmarried F 23 1838 Farmers Daughter House Keeper Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
ASHWEL, Alford Brother Unmarried M 15 1846 Farmers Son Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
MORGAN, Jesse Servant Unmarried M 17 1844 Groom & Cowman Totternhoe, Bedfordshire
BOHAM, Thomas Servant Unmarried M 26 1835 House Keeper Little Hadham, Hertfordshire

John apparently married Priscilla in China in 1862, where the first two of his children were born. Wesleyan ministers moved about every 2 years in those days. As now, a house (manse) was provided which had to be vacated if a working minister no longer lived in it. They were at Madely Hill, Madely, Wenlock, Shropshire at the time of the 1871 census. By 1881 John had been retired early on health grounds, his health having suffered badly in China. and he had been superannuated by the Methodist church. The family were homeless and temporarily staying with Priscillaís parents at Picots/Pigotts farm, Bishops Stortford (now The Harvest Moon).
ASHWELL, James A Head Married M 67 1814 Farmer of 246 Acres Emply 7 Men & 3 Boys Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
ASHWELL, Hannah Wife Married F 67 1814   Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
PARKES, John S Revd Head Married M 44 1837 Wesleyan Minister Superannuated St Kits, West India [sic]
PARKES, Precilla A Wife Married F 43 1838   Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
PARKES, Mary C Daughter Single F 17 1864   Canton (Bs), China
PARKES, Margrett A Daughter Single F 16 1865   Canton (Bs), China
PARKES, Henry A Son Single M 13 1868 Watchmakers (Asst) Hale, Cornwall
PARKES, Willm F Son Single M 12 1869 Scholar Newport, Monmouthshire
PARKES, George A Son Single M 10 1871 Scholar Ironbridge, Shropshire
PARKES, Maude E Daughter Single F 8 1873 Scholar Cirencester, Gloucestershire
PARKES, Marian G Daughter Single F 6 1875 Scholar Eastington, Gloucestershire

In 1886 the Rev. John Parkes [Wesleyan] is listed at Apton Road, Bishops Stortford, but he was not the minister in the local Wesleyan Methodist church - who was Frederick John Murrell, who was living in Portland Road (Kelly's directory) He died on 9th May 1889 at Canton Cottage, the probate registry describing him as of Northampton, formerly of Towester, Northamptonshire and late of Apton Road, Bishops Stortford, probate being given to his widow, Priscilla Ann Parkes, of Canton Cottage, Bishops Stortford.

In 1891 his widow was living at Canton Cottage Prep School, Apton Road, Bishops Stortford

PARKES, Precilla A Head Widow F 53 1838 Living On Her Own Means Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire
PARKES, Mary C Daughter Single F 27 1864   Carton, China
PARKES, George A Son Single M 20 1871 Farmers Assistant Shropshire, Mabley Wood
PARKES, Maude E Daughter Single F 18 1873 Music Teacher Cirencester, Gloucestershire
PARKES, Marian G Daughter Single F 16 1875   Easterton, Gloucestershire

She continued to live in the cottage at Apton Road with some of her daughters, where daughter Maude Eleanor ran a very small school.  There was no mention of school related activities in 1901. 10 years later the census shows three boarders, Violet Smith (11 born Eastington), Muriel Vincent (11), and Marguerte Palser (10).  Mrs Parkes is listed in Kelly's directory as living at 20 Apton Road until the 1926 edition and the probate records shows she died on 21 March 1930.


Because information on children at such schools is hard to trace I decided to see if I could fine out more about them from the 1901 census.

Muriel Vincent was probably the daughter of Herbert Vincent (waiter, 29, born Marylebone) and Anna (26, born Camberwell), living at 37 Moreton Terrace, St George, Hanover Square.

Marguerte Palser was under one month old (perhaps new born) in the Infirmary of Mile End Old Town, Bancroft Road, London, N.E. with her unmarried mother Hannah Palser (a domestic nursemaid, 27, born at Burton on Trent, Staffordshire and under one month old twin sister Emile Victor Palser.

I was unable to identify Violet Smith as the name is very common and none could be identified from the 1911 place of birth.

Neither Muriel or Marguerte come from backgrounds where you might expect the children to be sent to even a small boarding school in Hertfordshire by the parents, and I wonder if they were, for instance orphans who were sent there instead of going to one of the large institutions for orphans.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

May 2012   Page created