Tag Archives: Victorian


A Victorian Mésalliance, or, Goings On at the Manor, Toddington

By Barbara Tearle

‘Reproduced from Bedfordshire Family History Society Journal, vol. 17, no. 2 June 2009, pp.15-19, by kind permission of the Society’s editor.’

In the early 1800s two men moved to Toddington.  John Cooper was at the top of the village’s social scale and William Tearle was at the bottom.  This is the story of how their descendants’ lives converged.


Toddington during the 19th century was a small country town with a population of 1143 in 1801, rising to 2800 in mid-century and declining to 2000 by 1900.  Shepherd’s 1818 picture of carters unloading in Toddington (in Joyce Godber’s History of Bedfordshire) shows a substantial stone church and two farmhouses with wooden frames and brick infill, and a contemporary account talks of brick-built Georgian houses round the Green where five roads converge.  

There were shops, craftsmen, and chapels for several denominations in addition to the parish church and schools. The weekly market was revived for some years during the century.  The Holyhead road, now the A5, ran a few miles to the west of the town and in 1868 the railway was built through the east of the parish and the nearest station was Harlington, but Toddington did not have its own station.

The overall impression is of a small town which was just not appropriately situated or sufficiently prosperous to take advantage of the conditions for industrial expansion such as occurred at Luton.


The Coopers

John COOPER arrived in 1806 when he bought Toddington Manor from a descendant of the Wentworth family.  His daughter and heiress Elizabeth married her second cousin William Dodge Cooper HEAP, who changed has surname to COOPER in 1819 as a condition of inheriting his father-in-law’s property, which he did in 1824 – William Dodge COOPER COOPER, which is cumbersome but easy to find in records amidst all the other Coopers..

In addition to Toddington, he had property in Chester and Essex and a house in Highgate (redeveloped as flats after World War II where, coincidentally, I  grew up during the 1950s).  He was a Justice of the Peace for Bedfordshire and Middlesex, Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, and High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1829.  

William and Elizabeth had two sons and five daughters.  The two sons married modestly.  The elder, William COOPER COOPER (b 1810), inherited in 1860 and his descendants remained in the manor until early in the 20th century.  The second son, James Lindsay COOPER COOPER (b 1821) became a clergyman, was presented to the living of Toddington in 1846 by his brother who was the patron of the living.  He resigned in 1862 on inheriting property.

Of William and Elizabeth’s five daughters, the marriages of two (Elizabeth and Lucy, the youngest) were advantageously upwardly-mobile and are well documented.

Elizabeth married Alexandre Charles Joseph VAN DER BURCH on 27 May 1828 at Hornsey, which is not far from the family’s town house in Highgate.  He was the eldest surviving son of Count van der Burch of Ecaussines, which is about 25 miles from Brussels and 15 miles from Waterloo.  The Count was a soldier and politician and the son was a diplomat or courtier, being secretary of the Dutch legation in Denmark and chamberlain to the first two Kings of the Netherlands after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.  In 1830 the southern part of the Netherlands broke away to form the Kingdom of the Belgians, with fighting round the area where the van der Burchs lived.  Elizabeth and Alexandre had several children.  They probably lived in Belgium and certainly visited their COOPER COOPER relations in Toddington.

William and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter Lucy COOPER COOPER married Henry ROBINSON Esq. of Knapton Grove, Norfolk, at Toddington in 1842.  In 1840 he had been appointed Standard Bearer of the Queen’s Bodyguard of Gentlemen-at-Arms.  In 1845 he became their Lieutenant Commanding and was knighted.  Later he became Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk.

William and Elizabeth’s daughters, Jane and Caroline never married.  Jane (1805-1856) was deaf and dumb, an affliction which also affected her brother William’s son.  Caroline (1813-1901) lived in Toddington all her life, and did the typical maiden aunt thing of mentioning all her nieces and nephews in her will.  More of Amelia (1810-1880) later.

This COOPER COOPER’s life style could almost be the stereotypical background for a Jane Austen novel.

The Tearles

Maybe a decade after John COOPER bought Toddington Manor, William TEARLE arrived, probably having been hired to work on a farm.

William TEARLE had been born in Stanbridge in 1797, the eldest of a family of 12, from one of several large TEARLE families in the village in the late 18th century.  All were labourers by then, although earlier TEARLEs had been yeoman farmers and the family had lived in Stanbridge since the 15th century.  Arriving from Stanbridge with a population in 1801 of 262 to most of whom he was related to Toddington with nearly five times that number and whom he did not know must have been a shock.

William duly married Catherine FOSSEY who came from a prolific family of Toddington labourers.  Or to be more accurate, Sarah, daughter of William and Catherine TEARLE was baptised on 2 January 1824, followed by their marriage on 29 January.  William and Catherine had two more children, Moses in 1827 and John in 1831.  

In 1841 William and Catherine TEARLE with Sarah, Moses and John were living at Lodge Farm where the whole family were shown as agricultural labourers.  The farmer was William Martin and it looks as if the TEARLE family were living in as they are on the same entry in the census as William Martin and his family.  Possibly they were in a tied cottage on the farm. The next household listed on the schedule was that of William Dodge COOPER COOPER and his family at Park House, Toddington Manor.

Sarah had a son Joseph in 1844 and married several years later.  She was a straw platter, laundress and took in lodgers.  Her husband was an ag lab and her son Joseph was a straw platter, then an ag lab and later an innkeeper. Most of their descendants remained in Toddington well into the 20th century.  I am descended from Sarah – or not, depending on how one interprets a birth/baptism//marriage sequence in the 1860s.  John was also an ag lab, then later a general labourer living in Acton, London.  Most of his family moved away from Toddington.

The Coopers and Tearles unite

At this point, let’s revert to the COOPER COOPER family and Amelia in particular.  The official sources (Burke’s Landed Gentry) say nothing about a marriage or family for her.  However on 10 March 1847, when she was 35, she had a son, Aubrey.  No record of her marriage nor of the child’s birth or baptism has yet been found, unless he is amongst the unnamed male births for the March or June 1847 quarters.   Aubrey’s date of birth comes from family papers now at BLARS.  In the 1851 census he is aged 4 and born in Paddington;  in all later documentation his place of birth is given as Toddington.  I am inclined to think that Paddington was a mistake for Toddington made by the census enumerator, but it is worth bearing in mind.  A Paddington place of birth would have provided anonymity for Amelia if this was an illegitimate birth to the daughter of the Lord of the Manor.

Then in August 1848 36-year-old Amelia married 21-year-old Moses TEARL in London.  The marriage was preceded by a generous marriage settlement providing for Amelia and Moses, but tying up the money so that Moses could not dispose of it.  In fact Amelia became responsible for their trust funds.  Moses was given an annual income for life if Amelia predeceased him and he did not remarry (a neat reversal of the usual provision).

Moses and Amelia moved to Speldhurst in Kent.  Their children were born in Worthing. As they were not living there, possibly Amelia went there for superior natal care.  Later they moved to Portsmouth where their address was Melbourne House, which was in a comfortably middle class area.  But it was rented out to a major in the Marine Artillery and they lived in a more modest area.  Moses worked as a commission or estate agent and the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle contains several advertisements he placed for house and shops to let.   He entered into local society, at least to the extent of becoming a freemason.

Moses and Amelia had four children all registered under the surname CECILL:  Dodge Cooper born 1850;  Elizabeth Dodge Cooper born 1851; Egerton Dodge Cooper born 1853; and Amelia Dodge Cooper born 1854.  They also appear in census returns as CECILL or CECIL.  The next generation were also registered under the surname CECILL, beginning with Aubrey’s son in 1872.  On his marriage certificate, Aubrey called himself Aubrey Cooper CECIL, formerly Aubrey Cooper TEARL.   Moses went beyond merely adopting the surname CECILL.  In many official documents and directories he calls himself Henry T. CECILL or Henry Moses T. CECILL.  It would have been difficult to trace this family’s change of name had it not been for the fact that Amelia made her will under the surname TEARL.

Amelia died in 1880, and Moses lived on until 1907, not marrying again and thus benefiting from the annual income under his marriage settlement.  At his death he was living at Clarence Road, Richmond.

Amelia may have disgraced herself and her family with an illegitimate birth and a socially unacceptable marriage, but her family did not cast her off.  In addition to the marriage settlement, Moses, Amelia and the children maintained contact with the COOPER COOPER family in Toddington.  They were involved in family business transactions and the children received bequests from their grandfather’s and maiden aunt’s wills.  On one official document, Aubrey gave his last place of residence as The Manor, Toddington.

The boys began their education at Eagle House Academy in Portsmouth.  Whatever their later education was (and I have not yet traced it), it was sufficient to proceed to middle class careers.  They were also all cricketers, playing for the East Hants club and Hampshire during the 1870s.

Aubrey was listed as a surgeon on board ship at Peterhead, Aberdeen in 1871, although I have not yet found any trace of qualifications, but by 1881 he was living on private means in Chiswick – not as grand as it sounds as he and his family were boarding with a policeman and his family.  During the 1890s he emigrated with his wife and two sons to Brisbane where he was a government agent accompanying Pacific Island workers returning to their homes.  He was involved in a Brisbane botanical society, donating specimens collected on his South Sea voyages.

Dodge obtained a commission as ensign in the 47th Foot by purchase in June 1870, but sold it in October 1871.  His regiment was stationed in Dublin, and it may be there that he married as his eldest child Frederick W (who eventually emigrated to Australia where he was a farmer) was born in Dublin about the time Dodge resigned his commission. Despite the short time in the army, he continued to proclaim himself a retired officer in the 1881 and 1891 censuses.  By 1901 he was living on his own means in South Bersted, a hamlet not far from Bognor.

Elizabeth gave her occupation in 1891 as a Professor of Music, presumably a music teacher.  By 1901 she was living on her own means in a house in Willesden with several other single, independent women.

Egerton was a civil servant, becoming an abstrator in the Science Division of the Science and Art Department.  He was living in Brentford and maybe he actually worked at nearby Kew.

Amelia married James Marley, a Scot twenty years her senior.  In 1901 they were living, with their children, in Horsham, Surrey.  

What next?

The family certainly kept in touch with their COOPER COOPER relations but did they have any contact with their TEARLE cousins or did Moses and his whole family put his past behind him?  That is something that may never be discovered and, similarly, the real story behind Moses and Amelia’s mésalliance and Aubrey’s parentage may also never be discovered.  However, much more about their lives and those of their children and grandchildren can be pieced together.

Barbara Tearle


Burke’s Landed Gentry 1853 and 1875

Certificates and census returns

Cooper Cooper papers at BLARS

London Gazette