Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos

Charles Bischoff
Charles Bischoff.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Charles and Mary Bischoff are unusual in that each has their own set of memorial stained glass windows in Christ Church, Epsom Common. (Nothing is to be inferred from these being at diagonally opposite corners of the aisles!)

Charles was born in Bloomsbury, London in 1833, the second of four children born to (another) Charles and Frances Bischoff. This was a comfortably-off household: Charles (the father) was a solicitor in the then well-known firm of Bischoff & Co (that later amalgamated with Eversheds), and the family was supported by three domestic servants.

After his schooling, Charles junior attended London University but did not take his degree. He was then articled to his father as a solicitor. Obviously something of a restless soul, he cancelled his articles and studied as an actuary - subsequently relinquishing that and moving to the then British Crown Colony of Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) where, for some years, he was manager of the Colombo branch of the Ceylon Company. In 1866, he was a winner in the Colombo Regatta four-oared outrigger race. His health broke down in that harsher climate and he returned to England where he was successively Secretary of the St John & Maine Railway of Canada and of the Donna Christina and Southern Brazilian Railway Company.

It seems likely that it was during his time in Ceylon that he met his future wife, Mary Maria Catherine Drought. She had been born in 1850 in Candy (now Kandy, Sri Lanka). Her father, General Thomas Armstrong Drought, and mother Mabel were there while the General served with the "Sherwood Foresters". In 1852, Mary's younger sister, Letitia, was also born there. On the General's retirement, the family returned to England in the late 1860s and settled in Winchester.

However it was they met, Mary Drought and Charles Bischoff married in the chapel of Winchester's St Cross almshouses on 25 April 1878. (Only three months before, on 20 January, her sister Letitia was also married there - to William Maunsell Reeves. William, with Letitia, then travelled on business to China. After returning to Hampshire, they moved to Laburnum Road, Epsom where their third child was born in 1879.)

Charles and Mary set up home in Chislehurst, Kent where their first child, Caroline, was born in 1880. The family then relocated to Laburnham Road, Epsom. It seems likely that this was to be near William and Letitia - particularly as Charles and Mary also lived in Laburnum Road. Indeed, it's not fanciful to think that Charles (a "merchant") and William (a "trader") had some business relationship. (There seems also to have been some prior connection with Epsom: on 8 April 1858, Charles' sister, Mary Ellen, had married James Dowie in Epsom's St Martin of Tours. The church records describe her as a resident of Epsom and list both Charles and his father among the formal witnesses.)

The 1881 census recorded Charles and Mary's family as oddly spread around:
  • the one year old Caroline was "daughter of Head" in Laburnum Road, together with a nurse and a servant;
  • the 48 year old Charles (a "merchant") was one of eight boarders at 3 Manchester Street in St Marylebone, London; and
  • the 31 year old Mary was staying with her widowed father-in-law at the nearby 23 Westbourne Square.
Whatever reason for all that, the family were soon back together in Epsom.

Charles and Mary then had two more children: Isabel Armstrong was born on 14 July 1881 and baptised at Christ Church on 6 August; and the last was born on 22 February 1883. Sadly, Mary died during the confinement. Aged only 33, she was buried in Epsom Cemetery two days later, on 24 February 1883. The child - also named Mary, doubtless after her late mother - was baptised at Christ Church on 4 April.

Mary Bischoff's memorial windows.
Mary Bischoff's memorial windows.
Photograph © Nishi Sharma of Light & Shade Photography, 2015

Mary's memorial windows were installed at the east end of the south aisle in 1884, the year after her death. Manufactured - like most of the rest of Christ Church's stained glass (including, later, her husband's) by James Powell & Sons - they show:
  • the flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15); and
  • the young Jesus in discussion with the teachers in the Temple (Luke 2:41-49).
Running across the base of the two windows is the dedication "TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN MEMORY OF / MARY BISCHOFF 22 FEBY 1883"

Mary's 1883 burial record shows her place of residence as "Woodcote", so it would seem that the family had already moved from Laburnum Road to the house at Woodcote Green where, eight years later, her widowed husband and children were logged by the 1891 census. This recorded Charles as "Secretary to a Public Company". He and his three daughters - then aged 8, 9 and 11 - were supported by Mary Clark as "guardian" and three servants.

(William and Letitia also moved away from Laburnum Road, in their case to the grand Ebbisham House almost opposite their church of St Martin's - in which there is a plaque in memory of William, who was one of the many who perished in the sinking of the SS Berlin on 21 February 1907.)

Charles - who never re-married - remained active at Christ Church, serving as Churchwarden for the period 1889-1894. He seems then to have moved away from Epsom. When he died, aged 66, on 22 June 1896, his address was 5 Drakesfield Road, Upper Tooting. This is as noted in both the Probate records about his substantial 15,120 estate - about 2 million at 2017 prices - and those of Epsom Cemetery where he was buried alongside Mary on 24 June 1896. Both sets of records also list him as a "gentleman."

Charles Bischoff's memorial windows.
Charles Bischoff's memorial windows.
Photograph © Nishi Sharma of Light & Shade Photography, 2015

Charles's memorial windows were installed at the west end of the north aisle - diagonally across the church from Mary's - in 1896, the year of his death. Designed by Edward Penwarden, the three windows show as a single scene the Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). Running across the base of the windows is the text from verse 9, "Blessed is he that cometh / in the name of the Lord / Hosannah in the highest."

The brass plaque under the central window reads, "TO THE GLORY OF GOD AND IN MEMORY OF CHARLES BISCHOFF / BORN MAY 18th 1833 DIED JUNE 22nd 1896."

The three daughters - Mary, Isobel and Caroline - were aged only 13, 14 and 16 respectively at the time of Charles's death. They and their guardian, Mary Clarke, moved to Carshalton where the 1901 census recorded them all living at The Nest in Park Hill, supported by two servants.

Roger Morgan © March, 2018