Catherine Lisabel Jane Cheeper
aka Sister Janet Mary (Cheeper)
1860-1938

Revisions of 10 March 2018 in red

The preceding version is temporarily here.


This directory contains information and documents about the 2nd of 10 children of Catherine Cheeper-Spilsbury (c.1836-1906) and Anthony Jacques Cheeper (1837-1918), and the first to survive childhood. Catherine Lisabel Jane Cheeper became Sister Janet Mary some time between 1881 and 1891, in her 20s (or in 1894?).

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 (Kent).

She appears in the 1861 census, at 9-months of age, at 11 Ivy St, Birkenhead (across the Mersey from Liverpool).

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). By 1871, he'd recovered sufficiently financially to again have a servant in the household. Yet, during the 1860s, the family is known to have been at 8 different addresses, all over England and in Dublin.

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). The family was in York in her early teenage years, and in Great Yarmouth in her later teenage years.

A note about the family.
Anthony and his wife Catherine had 10 children, 1859-1877. 7/10 survived early childhood.
But Anthony (the original travelling salesman) set up a household elsewhere, with a young maid, in 1873.
He abandoned his wife Catherine and her children, progressively, c.1873-1877.
None of the children prospered, and his wife Catherine fared particularly badly.
In 1877, wife Catherine had 8 surviving children – Catherine (17), boys of 15 and 14 probably already at sea, a girl of 12, boys of 10 (who ended up on the street and at 16 on an orphan's boat to Montreal) and 8 (who ended up, we think, in the army), and girls of 4 and (briefly) a baby.
Anthony had a further 24 children by 4 women, successive maids, one of whom he was long bigamously married to.
From late 1877, he and his other 4 wives and 24 children were known as Clarke, not Cheeper.
Few of those 28 fared all that well either, but there were exceptions and qualifications.
This substantial web-site centres around Anthony Jacques Cheeper/Clarke (1837-1918), and his successive wives and 'wives' – wife Catherine (1859-1877), Mary (1873-1882), wife Emma (1882-c.1895), Kate (1883-c.1904) and Amy (1901-c.1912).
The site was developed, 1994-2020, by descendants of the 4th line, and incorporates information from the only other known family researcher, 1980-2010, a descendant of the 2nd line.

In the April 1881 census, the younger Catherine 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).

By the time of the April 1891 Census, at age 20-30, Catherine had become a nun. She is shown as Catherine Cheeper, 30, Sister of Mercy, Nun, born Gravesend. She was at St Savior's Priory, Gt. Cambridge St (now Queensbridge Rd), St Leonards, Shoreditch (inner east London, 2km N of the Tower of London). In 2018, Sister Barbara advised us that census ennumerators commonly applied the term 'Sister of Mercy' to religious sisters. It is therefore not likely that this was the name of the Order that she was in. A local page on the priory suggests that she was in the (Anglican) Society of St Margaret.

Also present was Clarinda Bokenham, 54, Sister of Mercy, Nun, b. London Islington. Clarinda appears to have been a first cousin of Catherine's father Anthony, b. 1837, 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 older cousin Clarinda into the Order. Clarinda appears to have remained at Shoreditch for the rest of her life.

Sometime between the 1891 and 1901 Censuses, at age 30-40, Catherine adopted the name Sister Janet Mary. A contender date for this is 1894, because her death notice in The Times refers to her having died, in 1938, in the 44th year of her profession. It also appears that she moved from her original Order.

In the April 1901 census entry, Catherine is shown as Sister Janet Mary, 40, born Gravesend, Head of St Ann's MansionMission, 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. There's been a church on the site since 1793, and the present St Anne's parish church was built in 1876, but I've found nothing about a St Ann's Mission. So it's unclear whether she was still with the Society of St Margaret, or had moved to some other Order.

[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) organisationOrder perhaps within a larger organisation called the Society of the Good Shepherd. The only mentions I've found of the Society are a "Home of the Society of the Good Shepherd" at 35 Cedars Road, Clapham, founded 1896, and St. Hugh’s Boys Home at Rectory Grove, Clapham, established c.1903. These are 2-3 miles SW of St Anne's Lambeth. However, Janet Penn has found evidence that the Society was formed in 1902. Despite these locations 5 miles SW of the City of London, the Order appears to have been headquartered in Walthamstow, 5 miles NE of the City. (I've also found various mentions of 'Convent of the Good Shepherd', but none that intersect with the organisation in question).

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, 10 miles NE of Lambeth/Clapham, on the opposite side of the City of London). 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.

Sister Janet Mary's Order founded a convent on donated land on Canvey Island during 1910-11, with the dedication of "a House of Rest"occurring on 1 July 1911. This is a low-lying island on the northern bank of the Thames Estuary, 10 miles downstream from Catherine's birthplace, Gravesend, but on the opposite side of the river.The location can be found using "Convent Rd, Canvey Island", or postcode SS8 9DH (but no Streetview is available). These maps of 1923 and 1932 show the convent. 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.

In 1918, the UK finally granted the vote to women (although, until 1928,only to those over the age of 30 and whose accommodation or husband was suitably respectable). Catherine is on the Electoral Roll in Walthamstow from 1918 to 1922, and on Canvey Island from1923 to (only?) 1928. The 1921 and 1931 Census may in due course provide confirmation of her location.

Catherine died on Canvey Island, and was buried there, in the company of 14 of her colleagues. Her 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". Today, Here's the Canvey Community Archive's dedication to her, of 2018, which provided the photo of her grave-'stone' above.

Janet has established that the Order's presence on Canvey ceased in 1938. This is reflected in the small Canvey graveyard of 16 monuments, which contains 11 members of the community who predeceased Catherine 1933-38, and a further 4 who died in the 9 months after Catherine. The remainder of the Order moved to Yeldall Manor, Berks. (south of Henley), which in 2018 is still in the hands of the Anglican Church, and contains a rehab centre. Catherine's will left her £25 of "Effects" to Agnes Gilbertson, spinster. Agnes d. 1949 at the Convent of the Good Shepherd, Yeldale, Twyford, Berks. Janet has located the records for the Society at an Abbey in Berkshire.

A couple of (presumably long-retired) nuns from the Order were still resident in one of the bungalows at Canvey until at least 1950. A Catholic Order occupied the site 1950-2017. In early 2018, Sister Barbara Jeffery, of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, in Leeds, sought to pay due tribute to the sisters of both the Anglican and Catholic Orders who had served there, and worked with Janet Penn, Editor of the Canvey Community Archive to document the site's history.

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, 10 Mar 2018. This revision reflects much valuable information from Sr Barbara Jeffery in Leeds, whose Catholic Order occupied the Canvey Island premises 1950-2017, and Janet Penn, Editor of the Canvey Community Archive.