The Furniss Family
Part 1 - The Early Furnisses

Note: These articles are not intended to be a comprehensive history of all Furnisses who had Epsom connections. There were very many of them and the purpose of the exercise is to concentrate on those who ran businesses in the town.

The name Furniss (variously spelt) originated from Furness on the south coast of Cumberland, previously in Lancashire. The Furniss family in the Ewell and Epsom area has so far been traced back to a Ralph (or 'Rayffe'), who was born in about 1585. His son, Richard, born c.1621, married Mary King. Next came John Furniss (born c.1650) and his wife, Eliza.

The branch of the family that concerns us begins with John and Eliza's son, Jonas or John (born in Ewell in 1684), who married Sarah; he was a carpenter and was recorded as living in Epsom Common Fields from at least 1716; subsequently he had premises at 8 Old House, Church Street. He was elected as Constable for Epsom in 1719 and died in 1754.

Jonas and Sarah had nine children, as follows.

Name Born Died Spouse
Elizabeth 1716    
John 1718   Elizabeth
Benjamin 1725 1798 Susannah Brown (born 1727)
Ann 1728   Nicholas Backshall of Epsom (carpenter - married 1761)
Mary 1732 1758  
Thomas (twin) 1736 1811 Mary (died 1769)
William (twin) 1736 1736  
Rebecca 1737    
William 1739 1776 at 'The Haunch of Venison', Ashtead Jane Sturt or Stewart (born 1740)

Grave of Benjamin and Susannah Furniss, St Martin's Churchyard, Epsom.
Grave of Benjamin and Susannah Furniss, St Martin's Churchyard, Epsom.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2012

William (1739) and Jane had five children and the one who interests us is Thomas, born in 1773. Thomas was a tailor; he and his wife, Sarah, also had five children, including two sons, George Frederick (1805-1 September 1894) and William Thomas, who were both tailors.

It is perhaps difficult to relate to the times we have been talking about and to appreciate just how far back this family has been traced, so it may be helpful here to show who was on the throne when the people were born.

Ralph Elizabeth I
Richard James I
John Charles II
Jonas Charles II
William George II
Thomas George III

Page from an old Furniss tailor's account book dating back to the 1720s.
Page from an old Furniss tailor's account book dating back to the 1720s.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

George Frederick

George Frederick Furniss married Eliza Bradd on 2 June 1827 at St George, Bloomsbury. She died in 1850. Their children were Sarah Mary (c.1828), Margaret Eliza (c.1829), Emma (c.1832-1911, unmarried - latterly she lived with Chadband relatives in Ladbroke Road, Epsom), Georgina (c.1834-7 February 1917, unmarried - she lived with her sister, Elizabeth, in Catford), Elizabeth (c.1838-20 March 1925, unmarried), Anne (c.1840), Amelia (c.1842) and Eleanor (c.1844). It looks as if, after the death of his wife, George could not cope and in the 1851 census the three youngest children were to be found in the Epsom Workhouse, described as paupers. The indications are that there was not much money in George's household, since the children who were old enough to work when their mother died became domestic servants in London and, when George died, the value of his effects was just £20.

Sarah Mary was a domestic servant and married footman Thomas William Dunthorne (c.1825- 1903) at St Marylebone Christ Church on 17 June 1860. Thomas subsequently became a farmer and eventually they retired to Northchapel, Sussex (near Petworth/Chichester). Sarah probably died in 1904.

Margaret Eliza married William Henry King in 1865 in Lambeth district and she was a general servant in London even after her marriage. Anne married carpenter Thomas Reeves in 1858; Amelia married banker's clerk Vincent Charles Cherry (c.1838-29 September 1874) on 11 October 1865 in Islington. Eleanor married James Griffiths in 1883.

I have no idea where George Frederick was in the 1851-61 censuses, but this may have something to do with woeful transcriptions of this family's surname. However, in the 1871 census he popped up in Long Ditton with a new wife named Charlotte, born c.1808 in Great Preston, Yorkshire: they had married at St George, Camberwell on 23 April 1870. Charlotte died in 1874 and the following year George married Sarah Hurst (born c.1808 Guildford), who died on 10 September 1882 at their home in Melrose Cottage, Long Ditton.

William Thomas

William Thomas Furniss, son of Thomas and Sarah, was also parish clerk of Epsom. He was born in 1802, and in 1826 in Camberwell he married Mary Ann Marshall from Bristol. They had seven sons and two daughters. In 1833-4 William Thomas was probably the town constable, like his grandfather, Jonas; he was also at one time Collector for the Epsom Local Health Board. There is a brass tablet, inscribed in Latin, in memory of William Thomas on an interior wall of Christ Church, Epsom (I will not bother to reproduce it here, since it is fairly standard stuff and I imagine that undertakers/masons/engravers in those days had a book of sample texts for such things); he died on 1 September 1874 and Mary Ann on 10 May 1878.

William Thomas Furniss
William Thomas Furniss.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

The year 1871 was a tragic one for the family. On 26 January Emily, daughter of William Thomas's son, James, died aged just six months. Next, William Thomas's son, Alfred (born in 1836), was killed by a runaway horse on 5 April: this was actually census day, since the form lists him, and the enumerator has written in the margin 'killed this day by accident'. Then James's daughter, Emily, died aged six months on 5 November and finally William Thomas's son, Frederick (born in 1832), a railway engine driver, was killed instantly in a locomotive on 7th November.

1968 photo of the grave of Alfred, Frederick, Marian, Emily and George Frederick Furniss 2012 photo of the grave of Alfred, Frederick, Marian, Emily and George Frederick Furniss
On the left is a 1968 photo of the grave of Alfred, Frederick, Marian, Emily and
George Frederick Furniss, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum. The photo on the right,
©Linda Jackson 2012, shows the effect of a further 44 years of weather on the stone.

In Part 2 we will look at William Thomas's son, Thomas, who, in due course, started the family coal and corn concerns.

Linda Jackson © May 2012

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