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Victorian Pursers

On November 12th 1809 a baby boy was born to George & Sarah Purser in the Bedfordshire Village of Pavenham. Named Charles this baby boy already had one brother, over the next few years he acquired four more along with two sisters. When he was 16 his mother Sarah died, his father George Purser re-married surprisingly quickly and the family was further enlarged as Charles gained three half brothers and three half sisters. So with 15 brothers and sisters it is fair to say that they were a large family even by the standards of the day.


It is hard to say how many of them would have been stuffed into one house at the same time, doubtless they were "encouraged" to set up their own homes as quickly as their parents could get them out of the door! They cover a fair spread of ages, the eldest George having been born in 1805 and the youngest Lucy & Thomas, twins born in 1835.

Sadly in those days whilst people tended to have large families, they did have to reckon on losing a few along the way. I do not have dates of death for the entire family but of those that I do have, three boys and one girl died before their third birthday.  The twins both died, Thomas at 8 months Lucy at 13 months, to cap it all George's second wife Susannah died about a week after twin Thomas.  There is no record of what they died of, however  with 15 kids they must have been living in grossly overcrowded conditions so tuberculosis has to be very likely as the cause of death of at least some of them. So far as I can find out, George Purser was an agricultural worker, and can't have earned all that much money so their house was not going to have been very big.

By the time of the first national census in 1841 several of George's offspring can be found having married and set up their own homes, Charles & James both in Pavenham. Sadly though, by then George had lost his second wife and he was living in Bedford Union Workhouse.  What may have happened here? Presumably he was too old or feeble to work and his house was probably tied to his former work leaving him destitute.  You would have thought that between his 15 kids they could have kept him out of the workhouse but clearly not.

21 Long Row Pavenham High St then & now.  This was the Purser's home.

1841 Pavenham enhanced

1841 Census Pavenham . shows Charles & James Pursern with their respective families.

Charles Purser Bap OPR

Back to Charles Purser, with whom we started. Fortunately he was one of the children who survived into adulthood. He set up house and home with Mary Risley, from Odell, a village a few miles from Pavenham. They may or may not have gone to the trouble of getting married, if they did then they managed to leave no record of it behind them, or should I say, not that I can find.

Their first child George was born in 1831, they went on to have seven further children.

The reason for concentrating on Charles is that he was the first Purser after 13 generations to do anything other than agricultural work. Charles Purser was a bricklayer  and is listed as such in the various census returns. He must have done fairly well for himself as he and Mary brought up their 8 children and he managed to retire at least 12 years before he died. He is recorded as "retired Bricklayer" in both the census of 1871 and that of 1881.

Coming from such a large family and with many other large families around, finding work in your home locality doing anything other than slave on someone else farm, must have been difficult. This presumably is why the countryside was being relatively de-populated as people moved to towns and cities to get work in the new factories of the Industrial Revolution.

Given the choice between being a bricky in Pavenham or a worker in some "Dark Satanic Mill" I know which would have been my choice. Charles and Mary managed to live their lives and die in the Parish where they were born.

Charles Purser Baptism OPR.

Simplified Purser Family Tree Generations 0-6

George Purser


Ann Smith


Susannah Cockings 1794-1836


Charles Purser


Mary Risley


3 Brothers

3 Sisters

3 Half Brothers

3 Half Sisters


William Purser


Elizabeth Covington


3 Brothers

4 Sisters


2 Brothers

1 Sister

Jane Purser



George Thomas Purser


Elizabeth Pestell


Ellenor Sandey



George Purser


James Purser


Albert Purser


?Hilma Purser



Emily J  Purser


Stephen T Hall


Ellenor Eliza Purser


Joseph David Duffin



Stephen F Hall


Gwendoline Austin


Joseph Francis Duffin


Marguerite Cameron



Andrew Hall

Michael John Duffin


David Neil Duffin




Jane Purser


Known to us as Great Aunt Jane she was George T Purser's sister so my Gt Gt Aunt, our only living relative in Pavenham we actually visited.

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