13 July 2011

Skinner Family of Cranbrook, Kent & Sussex.


  • Subject: Mary Ann Skinner (supposed, not proven)
  • Date: c1900
  • Photographer: Henry W Tubb, Portland Rd, Hove
  • Found: Sussex, UK

Nick Miskin in the UK very kindly sent me these photographs from an offer he sent to a genealogy magazine, luckily for me no one else claimed them and I became the lucky recipient. I had thought they might be connected to my Skinner family who were from Sussex, sadly that was not the case. However, they are such lovely photos I thought there must be someone connected to them out there who would treasure them so I set about trying to find out who they were.

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From the information that was sent to me with the photographs and various other sources I’ve been able to glean the following:-

On the 9 Apr 1787 James Skinner married Mary Carpenter in St Mary’s Church, Sellindge, Kent. On the marriage entry James is listed as being a bachelor from Beckley, Sussex and Mary a spinster from Sellindge. Witnesses: Sarah Collings and Francis Godden.

On the 29 Mar 1789 James & Mary had a son, Jacob, baptised at Sellindge.

On the 13 Jan 1810 Jacob Skinner married Phoebe Crampton in St Dunstan Church, Cranbrook, he is listed as a bachelor from Staplehurst, Kent and she a spinster. They had at least five children:-

25 Dec 1814 Susanna dau Jacob & Phoebe - at St Dunstan, Cranbrook
19 Apr 1818  Mary Ann dau Jacob & Phoebe - at All Saints, Staplehurst
14 May 1820  John son Jacob & Phoebe - at All Saints, Staplehurst
10 Nov 1822  Jacob son Jacob & Phoebe - at All Saints, Staplehurst
17 Sep 1826 James son Jacob & Phoebe - at St George, Camberwell, Surrey

These three burials were in the Staplehurst parish registers:-

30 Sep 1827 Jacob Skinner abode Cranbrook, aged 38 years
25 Nov 1829 James Skinner, aged 68 years
23 May 1833 John Skinner, aged 13 years, abode Frittenden

Jacob dying two years before his father & other son John a few years later. That puts James’ birth year at about 1761, nothing further found on James.

Jacob’s widow, Phoebe, remarried on 1 May 1828 to John Fenn at All Saints, Maidstone and in the 1841 census they were living at Milkhouse St, Cranbrook with their son Charles Fenn and Phoebe’s son Jacob Skinner (born 1822), ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years in 1841.


Milkhouse Street – a hamlet in Cranbrook parish, Kent;  2 miles northeast of Cranbrook.  It contains the church of Sissinghurst chapelry, a Wesleyan chapel, and ruins of an ancient Church of England chapel. The following was found on the qwiki.com site:-

sissinghurst-milkhouse street

Sissinghurst is a small village in the county of Kent in England. Originally called Milkhouse Street, Sissinghurst changed its name in the 1850s, possibly to avoid association with the smuggling and cockfighting activities of the Hawkhurst Gang. The nearest railway station is at Staplehurst. Sissinghurst is situated with Cranbrook to the south, Goudhurst to the west, Tenterden to the east and Staplehurst to the north. It sits just back from the A229 which goes from Rochester to Hawkhurst. Sissinghurst's history is similar to that of nearby Cranbrook. Iron Age working tools have been found and the village was for centuries a meeting and resting place for people travelling towards the south coast.

The following is part of a headstone found in the Cranbrook churchyard:-

cranbrook church

In Memory of Jane: wife of William Hoad and daughter of Robert and Jane Crampton: aged (44 years?) also of Phoebe: wife of John Finn and daughter of Robert and Jane Crampton who died May 25 1845 aged 56 years.

This gem was sent to me by Carol who I found online soon after my research started, it was written by her Great Grandfather Walter George Skinner, Jacob & Phoebe’s grandson, when he was 99 yrs old:-

Grand Mother’s maiden name was Phoebe Crampton, B. 1790, and my Grandfather, Jacob Skinner, B.1787,  was a Carrier. Made two trips per week to London. He had a good business and moved in the upper classes. When my Grandfather died (Jacob I) my father ran away after the funeral. He was only 3 years old, a woman took him back to his home. After a while his mother (Phoebe) married a man named John Finn. He turned out to be no good. He got away with a fortune. He hated my father (Jacob II) and Father reciprocated in full measure. When he was 12 years old he walked from Cranbrook Common to Brighton 50 miles, got a job as page boy and was blessed with a wonderful memory, memorized both speeches of Prime Minister Ben Disraeli & Gladstone & recited them for entertainment at the hotel. (The hotel was The Royal Oak Hotel & has been newly refurbished and opened last year, 2010, as a hotel again.)

Jacob would have been 12 yrs old in about 1834 but as he was at home in Cranbrook again by the 1841 census it seems his exciting life in Brighton must have ended all too soon.
In 1851 he is living at Hazelden Common, Cranbrook listed as a single 27 yr old lodger in the home of William Potter. (Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1619; Folio: 105; Page: 13; GSU roll: 193520.)

By 1861 he was still in Cranbrook, now married, he was listed as an ag lab servant living in Cambden House, the home of John Wilson a retired schoolmaster. Living in a Cambden Cottage was his wife Mary & daughter Ellen. (Source Citation: Class: RG9; Piece: 507; Folio: 96; Page: 22; GSU roll: 542651.)

1854 25 Dec SKINNER Jacob m Mary Hayward, Cranbrook Parish

Marriages Dec 1854
Hayward  Maria    Cranbrook  2a 773   
Skinner  Jacob     Cranbrook  2a 773

But I get a bit ahead of myself here! With the photographs came this piece of paper, handwritten on both sides:-



From this I gathered that these were the children of Jacob’s brother James & his wife Julia:-

1849 16 Jan SKINNER James m Julia Elizabeth Manwaring, Cranbrook Parish

I had found James & Julia in the 1851 census with their two young children George & Mary Ann plus John Fenn listed as ‘father in law’, John turned out to be not Julia’s father but James’ step-father. They were also living in Hazelden Common, five houses away from Jacob. (Source Citation: Class: HO107; Piece: 1619; Folio: 106; Page: 14; GSU roll: 193520.)

That was when I realised that the Ellen listed above was the daughter of Jacob & Mary so after much toing and froing between the IGI and all the various census up to and including 1911 I found that all the children listed on one side of the paper belonged to Jacob & Mary and the other side was Julia’s death along with her son George the following day.

These are then the children I have for Jacob & Mary (first 3 children died in a plague):-

Walter James born 30 Oct 1855 died 11 Apr 1859 Cranbrook, Kent 
Rosa Ann born 30 Jun 1857 bap 11 Oct 1857 died 16 Apr 1859 Cranbrook, Kent  
William Alfred born 8 Aug 1858 died 18 Oct 1858 Cranbrook, Kent
Ellen born 21 Feb 1860 Cranbrook bap 6 May 1860 mar 1892 (Charles Pearson) died 1937 Croydon, Surrey
Walter George born 10 Dec 1861 Sissinghurst mar Ellen Josephine Pirtle died 25 Jan 1962 Illinois, USA 
Alice born 1867 Sissinghurst mar 1895 (Albert Martin) died 1945 aged 77 Hastings, Sussex 
Clara born 1869 died 1894 aged 25 Cranbrook, Kent 
Mary Ann born 1871 Sissinghurst mar 1891 (William Grace Mihill) died 1952 Brighton, Sussex 
Bertha Elizabeth born 1874 Sissinghurst (living in Hastings in 1911 but nothing further known)
Hilda Julia born 1878 Sissinghurst mar 1899 (Christian P Christenson), nothing further known 
Eveline (Evelyn) born 17 May 1879 Sissinghurst died 1976 Hastings, Sussex

All of these photographs originally belonged to Evelyn who was a housekeeper for Nick’s father before he married. Evelyn never married, she was apparently a talented artistic lady who painted watercolours, wrote poetry and was the author of a book published about 1960 (title unknown). She lived in Hawkhurst, Kent before 1938 when she moved to Hastings, Sussex, in the 1950s & 60s her address was in St Leonards on Sea, Sussex.


  • Subject: Unknown
  • Date: c1899
  • Photographer: Thomas Donovan, 1 St James’s St, Brighton
  • Found: Sussex, UK

This is another of the photos sent to me, couldn’t make up my mind whether this was a girl or boy, I thought probably boy because of the short hair but posted it onto a RootsChat group to get an expert opinion about it including the date, the consensus was a boy with this sage advice from Jim:-

The seated artist by Marion Imp Paris was a design registered in 1892. The Reg. No. 41062 is in the bottom right hand side of the card & on the left hand side is the date code. Although MIP date codes aren't an exact science this one appears to give the date of 1899.

More on the photographer Thomas Donovan can be found on this website.

So what was Evelyn’s connection to these photos? Apart from her having lived in Hove in 1911?

1911 Census
Reference RG14PN5201 RG78PN229 RD80 SD2 ED27 SN26
25 Boundary Rd, Hove, Sussex
Evelyn Skinner lady help 31 spinster born Cranbrook
(living with two elderly sisters)

There was one other photograph that had me puzzled for quite awhile:-


Up until I found Carol I was unable to find a marriage for Evelyn’s sister, Mary Ann, as there were too many Mary Ann Skinner marriages to know for sure which one she was.

Marriages Dec 1891  
Mihill  William Grace     Brighton  2b 560   
Skinner  Mary Ann       Brighton  2b 560

Carol had known Gerald when she was younger as he was a cousin of her mother’s, ‘Gerald Myhill also called "Geoff or Jeff", born in England as he had a rich English accent. He was a dispatch rider in WWI & rode a cycle between Amien and occupied Germany. He had a wife & girl child in England’.


Back of postcard photograph of Gerald giving the date of 1 Sep 1915 and his British Army service records .


Here we have his marriage before the war & the birth of his son after the war, apart from the death of Edith in 1945 nothing more is known of Edith or son Charles:-

Marriages Mar 1912  
Mihill  Gerald G  Wille  Stockton  10a 121   
Wille  Edith  Mihill  Stockton  10a 121

Births Mar 1920
Mihill  Charles R  Wille  Paddington  1a 135

Deaths Dec 1945
Mihill  Edith  53  Brighton  2b 311

Soon after the birth of his son we find Gerald arriving at Ellis Island:-

First Name: Gerald
Last Name: Mihill
Ethnicity: English
Last Place of Residence: Brighton, England
Date of Arrival: Jul 24, 1920
Age at Arrival:  27    Gender:  M    Marital Status:  M  
Ship of Travel: Baltic
Port of Departure: Liverpool
Manifest Line Number: 0011

The ship’s manifest says he was going to stay with his Uncle W G Skinner who lives at 123 Indiana St, Chrisman, Illinois for an uncertain period. He was 5’ 10” tall, had a pale complexion, brown hair & grey eyes & was born in Brighton, England, read the ship’s manifest here.

The next available US census wasn’t until 1930, I found Gerald living at Melrose Place 105, Peoria Twp, Peoria Co, Illinois with his second wife Julia & a new son Kenneth W aged 2. Here it seems he was called up for WWII in 1941:-


Gerald died on the 5 Jun 1986 and was buried in the Alton Cemetery, Madison Co, Illinois. Nothing more is known of Julia or Kenneth (by me).

Back to his parents in England, I found them in the 1901 census living in Aldrington, Hove:-

Source Citation: Class: RG13; Piece: 939; Folio: 67; Page: 20.
1 The Parade, Station Rd, Aldrington, Sussex
William G Mihill 47
Mary A Mihill 30
Gerald G Mihill 7
William G Mihill 4
Evelyn M Mihill 3
Gladys C Mihill 1

That was when I realised that Gerald could be the young boy in the second photo at the top of the page. I also had those photographs dated to around 1900, the boy looks to be about 5 or 6 so that puts the photos taken about 1898 as Gerald was born in Dec 1892. Which means that his mother, Mary Ann, is the person in all four photos although the first one may be another sister, the other three photos definately look to be the same person to me (& others I asked). Around 1899, Henry W Tubb set up a photographic studio in Portland Road, Hove, opposite Portslade Railway Station. Describing himself as an "Artist Photographer", Henry Tubb took studio portraits at his Portland Road studio.

Which brings me to the last two photographs, these are of an older woman, both look to be the same person to me:-


I couldn’t find much on the photographer William A Dennis except that he was living in Croydon in the 1901 census. I had these photos dated too and it seems they were also taken around 1900 with the second one being no later than 1904. On the back of the small photo is this:-


Another sister of Evelyn & Mary Ann, Alice, married Albert Martin in 1895 and this address is the exact same address they were living at in the 1911 census. Alice was born in 1867 so if this photo was taken around 1900 she would have been only 33 and the woman in the photo looks to me to be in her 60’s at least. Which leads me to believe they might be photos of their mother, Mary neĆ© Hayward, born about 1836, she was living with Alice in the 1901 census in Hastings, Sussex. Yet another sister, Ellen, was living in Croydon with her husband & children in 1901 & 1911 so maybe Mary lived with both daughters from time to time.


That brings me back to Jacob’s brother James Skinner born 1826 in Camberwell, Surrey.

Another excert from 99 yr old Walter George Skinner’s letter:-

My mother's maiden name was Mary Hayward. Their 3 first children died during a plague, she had nursed my Uncle James’ wife who died. Uncle James took his 3 daughters and went to Australia Gold mining making an independent fortune. For some reason he lost it. He married again and saved enough to put him in good shape. 

James Skinner’s wife, Julia, died on the 15 Mar 1859 & was buried at Cranbrook. This is where I came unstuck slightly with the names of their children. We know from the above that their son, George, died the day after his mother so that left me three daughters to find. The eldest, Mary Ann, was aged 1 mth in the 1851 census (taken on 30 Mar) so I knew this birth reg was hers:-

Births Mar 1851
Skinner  Mary Ann     Cranbrook  5 94

Then I had a bit of luck and found a website about the Monaro Pioneers of NSW in Australia and their database of the settlers & their descendants. The children listed for James are:-

Mary Ann born 1851
Ellen born 1853
Julia Elizabeth born 8 Jun 1856

Births Jun 1856
SKINNER  Julia Elizabeth     Cranbrook  2a 448

There doesn’t seem to be a birth reg for Ellen but in 1853 there is this one:-

Births Sep 1853
Skinner  Susan    Cranbrook  2a 401

Susan doesn’t seem to appear in any census after that and there is no death reg for her so one wonders if there was either a mistake on her birth reg or her name was changed later?

From searching the Australian NSW Historical Indices I found the following marriages for James’ 3 daughters and a possible marriage for him plus his death a few years later:-



You will find more on the Australian Skinner family on the Monaro Pioneers website.

Final note: I was unable to find out what happened to Phoebe’s son, Charles Fenn, after the 1841 census. John Fenn’s death was registered in the 2qtr of 1853 in Cranbrook.

ancestry.com; Ellis Island; Find My Past; FreeBMD; IGI;
Kent Look-up Exchange; Mid Kent Marriages Index;
Monaro Pioneers; NSW BDM Historical Records;
RootsChat Photograph Dating; Sussex PhotoHistory;
Staplehurst Genealogy & Local History.

Disclaimer: Most but not all of my research on this family has been verified, you must do your own research to be sure it is 100% correct.


Many thanks must go to Carol Zeilbeck Motley who helped me so much with anecdotes & details from her Skinner family history & without whom I would never have found out so much. Also, thanks to Cindy whose Phoebe Crampton-Skinner-Fenn burial first put me on the right track. Roz from the Kent Look-up Exchange was also very helpful with look-ups in some of the Kent parish registers. Thank you ladies.

If you managed to read right to the end of this saga you will realise I have found a home for the photographs but I’d be very happy to send other descendants high resolution copies of them so please don’t hesitate to contact me if you are connected to this Skinner family in any way. You might just find a few new rellies along the way!

Here is a link to the Strangers in a Box Family Trees on WorldConnect, updated today.

Contact by email is preferable but if you are going to leave a comment please don’t forget to include your email address.

Dawn Scotting

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