Catherine Ann Spilsbury-Cheeper

This directory contains information and documents about Catherine Ann Spilsbury-Cheeper.

Catherine was born between April 1834 and April 1836, in Walsall, Staffordshire (just NW of Birmingham). Her father was presumably George Spilsbury, who is shown in the 1841 census as a 30-year-old surgeon, and her mother was Ann(e) Knight, also shown as 30 in the 1841 census. She appears to have been the first of three children, the others being Edward (born 1837 or 1838) and Georgina (born around Christmas 1840).

She is recorded with her family in the 1841 census at Canterbury Grove, Lambeth, and 5. That suggests a birthdate between 5 April 1835 and 4 April 1836.

In the 1851 census, she is at the same address, with her mother, who was by then a widow, and her two siblings. Catherine is shown as being 16, consistent with a birthdate between 5 April 1834 and 4 April 1835.

We don't know how she met her future husband, but they were living only a few miles apart on the south side of the Thames.

Catherine was married on 13 October 1858, to Anthony Jacques Cheeper. The marriage certificate shows that the marriage took place at St Lukes, 2 Norwood, parish of Lambeth, Surrey (South-Central London). He is shown as Anthony Jacques Cheeper, bachelor, a Merchant's Clerk, of Southwark, full age (actually 21, because he was born on 19 July 1837). She is shown as Catherine Ann Spilsbury (full age – by inference, 22-24), spinster, of Norwood. The fathers are shown as AJ Cheeper, and George Spilsbury, both given as deceased. (A.J. senior had died in 1837, prior to the younger A.J.'s birth). The witnesses are shown as E.R. Spilsbury and G.E. Spilsbury. They were presumably her brother Edward Richard, born Feb 1838 and sister Georgiana Elizabeth, born Jan 1840.

For further details of Catherine’s very interesting husband Anthony, including his families with four other wives, see the AJCheeper/Clarke directory.

Catherine and Anthony had 10 offspring, born 1859-1877, and all had the surname Cheeper. Of the 10, 3 died very young, 1 became a nun, and 4 others do not appear to have had children.

The other 2 had children, and we are in contact with a descendant of each line: Ruth Cheeper-Phillips, in St Austell in Cornwall, and Frank Conrick and others in Ontario.

In the 1861 census, Catherine appears, with Anthony and their first child, 9-month-old Catherine, at 11 Ivy St, Birkenhead. Catherine is shown as being 26. That places her birthdate between 5 April 1834 and 4 April 1835. Her sister Georgi(a)na was also present.

Catherine and Anthony's early married life was badly disrupted by Anthony's bankruptcy in Jan 1862, when he was 25. He'd commenced adult life apparently with an income, and on one occasion identified himself as 'gentleman'. During the years after his bankruptcy, he was a commercial traveller, and he appears to have trailed Catherine and their continually increasing brood around with him. (In the 18-20 years of their household, the records disclose at least 15 residential addresses).

During the second half of the 1860s, however, he made some progress financially. In the 1871 census the household includes two servants, and most of his subsequent households contained at least one (even when, as in 1891, he was maintaining two households, each comprising a wife, six children and a servant).

Catherine was in York at least 1870-73 (and, at least some of the time, Anthony as well). By at least March 1877, the household had moved 200 miles SE, to Gt Yarmouth in Norfolk. Anthony and Catherine were about 40 at the time.

It appears that Anthony abandoned Catherine and her family some time between mid-1876 – when the last child Eva was conceived – and the end of 1878. (Eva's birth in March 1877 was registered by her mother. I don't think we have Eva's death certificate, later in 1877, so we don't know which of them reported it). A contender for the date of abandonment is September 1877, because that's when Anthony abruptly ceased using the surname Cheeper and adopted the surname Clarke – despite not even moving his London residence at the time.

Catherine and her family were in Yarmouth, and the household contained children aged about 4, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15 and 17. A note on Arthur's school-records says "Mr Cheeper left the town Christmas 1878"; but that may mean that the family left, with the school politely presuming that Mr Cheeper was still part of it.

By the time Anthony abandoned Catherine, he had been running a second household in London for 4-6 years, with Mary Wanless,and had fathered at least one child by her, conceived about Christmas 1872. Their second child was conceived about Christmas 1876. Mary was known to Catherine, because she is shown in the April 1871 census as being Anthony and Catherine's Governess, aged 27. As far as we can tell, Catherine and Anthony were never divorced (and hence his later formal marriage to his third wife, Emma Terry, was probably bigamous).

In the April 1881 census, Catherine is probably the person who is very badly recorded at 82 Downham Rd, Islington (literally just around the corner from where she had lived with Anthony in 1862, when he went bankrupt, and when she bore her third child, Albert). The person is recorded as Chas A Cheeper, Male, 39. But there is no Chas or Charles elsewhere in the public record, and the mythical Chas is shown as being born in Walsall Staffordshire, as Catherine Ann was. And Alice H., 7, born in York, is shown as being the daughter of Chas. Presumably this was Alice Daisy, who was 7 at the time, and was born in York.

Otherwise we know nothing about Catherine's whereabouts or condition between 1877 and the end of the 1890s. In particular, we haven't found her in the April 1891 census.

At the end of the decade, aged around 65, Catherine was not in a good way. Anne found these entries in and out of workhouses in Hackney (north London) in the 8th and 12th weeks of the Christmas quarter 1899. (The 12th week was Christmas itself ...), apparently "relieved by the "Hackney Union". (Workhouses weren't just an 18th and 19th century phenomenon, but continued until WWII, with c. 100,000 occupants in 1939. And in 1960 "slightly more than 50 per cent of local authority accommodation for the elderly was provided in former workhouses". But the industrial revolution was *good* for Britain, remember?).

In the 1901 census, Catherine (spelt Katherine) appears, aged 65, in an institution in Lambeth (just south of the Thames). Anthony had successive connections with Lambeth and Norwood, and was living in the area in the 1890s; so there's a possibility that he arranged Catherine’s institutionalisation, perhaps in the mid-1890s, in her early 60s. Unfortunately, given his history, that's probably being too charitable. It seems more likely that she came back to where she'd lived in an earlier, and perhaps happier, time; or one or more of her siblings arranged for her to come back; or even one or more of her children arranged it – although few were in London, and very probably none of them had the wherewithal.

Catherine died on 2 August 1906, aged 70, at St John’s Hostel, 5 Calais Street, Camberwell Park, Lambeth, from Senile Decay and Cerebral Effusion. She was shown as being Wife of AJCheeper, Publisher’s Agent. The informant was Florence Steeds, of the same address, P-at-d (which we aren't sure how to interpret, but presumably it was a role in the institution). [Present-at-Death, you clot - Ed.]

At least 3 of the 7 of her children who survived infancy were still alive, together with 6 grandchildren in the UK who she may never have known of, and 9 grandchildren in Canada who she very probably never knew existed. Her (very probably long-lost) husband, who had abandoned her 30 years earlier, was by then 69. He was mostly in and near London from the early 1870s until c. 1902, and had used the name Clarke since 1877; but in 1906 he was in York.

We're missing a lot of information; and we'd love to know more!

This a page within Roger Clarke's Family Web-Site

Contact: Roger Clarke and/or Anne Kratzmann

Created: 14 October 2005; Last Amended: 1 Sep 2006, 17 Aug, 27 Sep 2009, 25 Feb 2016 (re 1899), 12 Oct 2016 (editorial adjustments around the time of Catherine's death), 28 Feb 2017 (refinements, mainly to the date Anthony abandoned the family)