This directory contains information and documents about the 2nd child of Catherine Cheeper-Spilsbury (c.1836-1906) and Anthony Jacques Cheeper (1837-1918), Catherine Cheeper Junior, who became Sister Janet Mary some time in her 30s.
Catherine Lisabel Jane Cheeper was born on 21 Jun 1860 and baptised on 19 Jul 1860. Her birth certificate shows her father as Anthony Jacques Cheeper, gentleman, and her mother as Catherine Ann Cheeper formerly Spilsbury. Their address is shown as Clifton Villas, Darnley Road, Gravesend.
She appears in the 1861 census, at 9-months of age, at 11 Ivy St, Birkenhead.
Her father came down in the world shortly afterwards, in 1862, when he was declared bankrupt, while living in Cleveland Rd, Kingsland, West Islington (inner north London).
In the 1871 census, she was 10, and living with the family at 44 Annaken’s Court, Blake Street, St Wilfred, Bootham in the City, York. (I visited Blake Street in June 2009. It's a pretty street these days, and a tourist trap, 150m from the Minster. But I could find no sign of Annaken's Court).
In the April 1881 census, she was 20, and living at 56 Darville Rd, Hackney (inner north-east London). Her Occupation was shown as Governess. She was shown as a cousin of the head of house, Charles Bokenham (b.c. 1850). Bokenham was Catherine's paternal grandmother's name. There is information on this site about the relevant branch of the Bokenhams. Charles was the 11th of the 12 children of her uncle 4.2.2. William M. Bokenham (1803-76) who m. Clarinda (1812->1881).
Sometime between the 1881 and 1891 Censuses, at age 20-30, Catherine became a nun. In the April 1891 census, she is shown as Catherine Cheeper, 30, Sister of Mercy, Nun, born Gravesend. She was at St Savior's Priory, Gt. Cambridge St, St Leonards, Shoreditch (inner east London). Also present was Clarinda Bokenham, 54, Sister of Mercy, Nun, b. London Islington. Clarinda was presumably an elder cousin of Catherine's, b. 1837, and a daughter of William M. and Clarinda Bokenham. (The elder Clarinda is on the 1881 census, at that stage aged 69). The reasonable inference is that Catherine followed her elder cousin Clarinda into the Order.
Sometime between the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, at age 30-40, Catherine adopted the name Sister Janet Mary. It also appears that she moved from the Order of her assumed cousin Clarinda Bokenham, because in the April 1901 census entry, Clarinda is still in Shoreditch, but Catherine is shown as Sister Janet Mary, 40, born Gravesend, Head of St Ann's Mansion, 59 South Lambeth Road, Lambeth (inner south London). She is with another Sister of Charity aged 38, and four Mission Workers aged 29-36. A century later, the buildings appear to have been replaced, and there's no sign of a St Ann's Mansion.
[Anne speculates that Catherine may have commenced as an Anglican nun, but switched to a Catholic order in her 30s. The names of the orders are confusing, and there's little readily-available documentation.]
Sometime between the 1901 and 1911 Censuses, at age 40-50, Catherine appears to have established a (presumably small) organisation called the Society of the Good Shepherd. In the April 1911 census entry, she is shown as Catherine Lisabel Jane Cheeper, Mother Superior, age 50. She has with her 1 Sister aged 48, 3 Novices aged 26, 31 and 46, and a (female) worker. The Occupation of all 5 is shown as 'Sister of Charity', Society of the Good Shepherd. They are at 212 Markhouse Road, Walthamstow (inner north-east London, a couple of km beyond Hackney). The building had 14 rooms. A century later, it appears that the buildings have been replaced, although St Saviour's CofE is still next door. Clarinda was still at Shoreditch, aged 74.
Catherine's death notice, published in The London Times of 12 April 1938, shows that she died on 7 April 1938, at 77, at Canvey. She was shown as Cheeper, Janet Mary, "Mother Foundress of the Society of the Good Shepherd, in the 44th year of her profession". The Society of the Good Shepherd is the subject of very little documentation at the National Archives.
I've found only one place-name Canvey. Canvey Island is on the northern bank of the Thames Estuary, 10 miles downstream from Catherine's birthplace Gravesend, but on the opposite side of the river. Although she may have travelled a lot in her first 15-20 years, she appears to have spent her remaining 55-60 mostly in south-central London, with some part of her retirement (whatever that meant for a nun in the 1930s) east of London, near her birthplace.
[We're unclear why she was a Sister of Mercy in 1891, but a Sister of Charity in 1901. The difference seems not to be one of seniority, because she listed all 5 in Walthamstow in 1911 under that Occupation, even though 3 were Novices. So it seems more likely to have been a change in Order, or in the establishment she was working with, within the same Order. (This could be more complicated still, if one Order is Anglican and the other Catholic). Anne, Barbara and I have all searched for information on Sisters of Charity and Mercy and on the Society of the Good Shepherd, but found little. And Anne's letter to a church on Canvey went unanswered. There's a Catholic Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, founded in Ireland in 1831. There's evidence of a 'Sisters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul'. But we were looking for an Anglican Order. Royal Holloway (College) runs a program on the History of Women Religious, so maybe we should ask there. Their Bibliography includes mention of a US Catholic Society of the Good Shepherd.]
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 September 2006, 6 April 2010