GILBERT, Bishops Stortford, 1902-14

February, 2013



Bishops Stortford

Bruce Gilbert ( @t writes from Gloucester, NSW, Australia writes: My research into Charles (Chas) Edward Ashford GILBERT has thrown up a number of blanks between 1908 and 1913, most of them related to Bishops Stortford and Hertfordshire.

My grandfather, Charles Edward Ashford GILBERT (my Grandad) , born about March 1877, a British Boer War veteran, returned from South Africa to England between 1902 and about 1908. He took his discharge from the 1st Dragoon Guards in Potchefstroom in December 1902. His army 1902 discharge papers shows that he was "Born in the Parish of HORNSEY near the Town of London in the County of Middlesex". Other records show he was born in 'Peckham, Middlesex".

After his undated return to the UK, he was a publican of the White Horse Inn (1908-12?) in Bishops Stortford; He may have also been involved with other pubs between 190? and 1912. In 1912 he opened the EMPIRE PICTURE PALACE, 20 South St, B/S, with a partner Frank Ashley Dando.

On 3rd April 1908 he enlisted in the Territorial's 1st Batt, Hertfordshire Regiment. (I have his Dragoon Guards and Territorial discharge papers, plus his 2 Boer War medals). I presume the Territorials paid their members, hence a possible small income for Grandad.

[He presumably joined the Territorial Force when it was first created.]

It seems that Grandad had a practice of using his first names partially or fully and in different orders, and at times also used 'Chas'. It seems that he rarely used his given name ASHFORD. Perhaps where he came from or his mother's surname?

[Names are what you call yourself or what people call you - and the kinds of variations you describe are normal. My father-in-law was baptised "Walter" but his wife (and only his wife) called him "John". In addition there can be real confusion when a child is born shortly before the marriage and is registered under the mother's surname - but is brought up using the surname of the father or step-father.]

In the 1911 UK Census, I found a married couple, Charles Gilbert (age 33) and an Annie Gilbert (aged 50), living at 6 Barrells Down Road, B/S. We 'believe' this our CEA Gilbert, as the Census stated he was a 'licenced victualler out of business'. We plan to get a copy of this marriage certificate from England, which may be Charles and Annie, but may not.

According to my father Charles Ernest GILBERT (C E A Gilbert's son), we have a bit of family gossip, as my father wrote in his life's history that CEA's partner (F A Dando) in the Empire Picture Palace "Ran away with the cash and the cashier!".

According to my late Father, Grandad and his wife Norah (maiden name MADDOCKS) arrived in Sydney in 1913 in the SS Persic, and my father was born on 14/1/1914.

Now - and here's the fun bit - we have found shipping records to show that a 'Chas Gilbey' and an 'Ellen Gilbey'  boarded the SS Persic which sailed from Liverpool on 14/11/1913. But, the "All Victoria, Australia Assisted and Unassisted passenger list" (presumed to have been compiled in Australia), shows a 'Chas Gelbirt' and an 'Ellen Gelbirt' on the same ship, which arrived in Sydney on 31/12/1913.

... ... I have Australian Census records for the 1930's showing a Charles and Norah Gilbert living at Sydney addresses which, from my father's written history, I know to be correct.  ... ...

There are two parts to your question  - one relating to Charles' birth and parents, and the other to his brief stay in Bishops Stortford.

As there is no reason to think Charles had anything to do with Hertfordshire before he returned from South Africa I only had a brief look at possibilities:

The 1881 census has a 4 year old Charles E. T. Gilbert,  born Hornsey, living at 4 Victoria Cot, Snakes Lane, Prospect Road, Woodford, West Ham with parents Alfred (44, banker's clerk, born Surrey) and Margaret (33, born London, Middlesex). The family turn up again at a different address in the West Ham registration district in the 1891 census - but Charles has lost his initials and a year in age while Margaret appears to have become Marguerite (50, artist). There is also a 13 year old nephew, Walter Gilbert. Bearing in mid the kinds of  errors which occur in all records - including the census - it would seem appropriate to investigate this family further.


As to the Hertfordshire records , my first reaction is that you have tried a wide variety of sources and I agree that the kind of possible scandals that may have occurred may not have left any direct records. I would feel you best hopes are via local contacts through the web site who would combine detailed local knowledge with access to locally held records.  However I have drafted the following notes that might help.

A quick search of the British Newspaper Archives came up with nothing obvious BUT coverage is far from complete AND searching is not very precise - so you might want to check for yourself - and something may appear when more papers are covered.

Manuscript Public House Licensing Records for this period and district may be held at HALS - possibly licensing changes are detailed in local paper not yet in the British Newspaper Archives. These might well reveal his actual dates at the White Horse Inn, and there might also be some indication as to why he ceased to be a publican. (HALS and/or the Bishops Stortford Public Library may have copies of more local newspapers - possibly on microfilm.)

The White Horse Inn was a Benskin Public House from 1898 (Brewers in Hertfordshire) and apparently there is a document Hostelries in Bishops Stortford, published in 1976 by J. G. Smith which mentions 45 licensed houses in Bishops Stortford by 1900. (referred to in Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses).

Some time ago I recorded something of the history of the Empire Picture Palace, briefly mentioning Charles Gilbert (see The Funeral). In 1912 it was managed by William Alexander Rankin. It is listed in 1914 without the name of a manager and had closed by 1917. (Kelly's Hertfordshire Directories). I can't add to this information but there may be an old cinema buff somewhere that has some information. As it is listed as a limited company there should be some records of its registration records and winding up, and possibly annual accounts. Couldn't see it in the National Archives index. Clearly the company was a failure - and the reason for its failure and Charles going to Australia could well be connected.

There might be a clue somewhere if you can identify F. A. Dando - a quick guess (and it is no more than a guess) is that he might be the Frank Ashley Dando, 39, living with family at Lewsiham, in the 1911 census. He is described as Manager, Barge Litters and Lighterman - and could have contacts with Bishops Stortford because of the Stort Navigation. (Company registration documents, if they can be located, should give both his address and Charles' address at the time.)


There is another line - If the Mrs Annie Gilbert of the 1911 census travelled to Australia what do the Australian records say happened to her?  The 1911 census shows a 22 year old Norah Maddocks (born in Rangoon, Burma) living with her parents in Bishops Stortford  (and also in 1901). The name is uncommon and surely this must be your "Norah" in Australia. If she was in Bishops Stortford in 1911 and in Sydney in 1914 (when your father was born) she must have travelled to Sydney.  If there is no separate evidence of Norah's passage or arrival one must consider the possibility of her travelling under a different name - and in the circumstances Mrs Charles Gilbert seems a very likely possibility. I am not sure how the passport system worked 100 years ago but a wife may well have been able to travel with her husband on her husband's passport - and if Charles had a passport saying his wife was Annie that is how Norah could have travelled ...

March 2013

Bruce Reports: I have had some success, plus a total surprise with my surname. Once I track down all the facts ( and perhaps some fiction?), I will give you an update. Seems my grandparents (perhaps NOT/NEVER married!?) used the surname GILBEY on arrival in Sydney, and technically my father's birth surname, and death, has been recorded as GILBEY. And ... he came from Bishops Stortford !!!. Now, ain't that a tonic?


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

February 2013   Page created