Augustine Cross

Augustine Cross

BORN: Finstock1, Oxfordshire, England, 1820

CHRISTENED: Charlbury, Oxfordshire, 19 April 18202

DIED: Chipping Norton, June 18913


Augustine was born in Finstock in 1820 and christened in St Mary's Church in nearby Charlbury on the 19th of April. The family spent the first years of Augustine's life in Finstock, but by 1831 they had moved to Enstone were Barnett, Noah and Elijah were born and then to nearby Lidstone where Lot, the youngest of the family, was born in 1837. In the 1841 census, Augustine's parents are recorded as living in Lidstone, with Aden, Zachariah, Barnett, Noah, Elijah and Lot. However, Augustine had left home by this time and his name is not recorded.

He married Rebecca Bowers on February 3rd, 1840 in Daylesford, in the parish church of St Peter's4. Daylesford (about 8 km west of Chipping Norton) was where Rebecca was born5. She was about seven years older than Augustine and had a five year old illegitimate daughter named Ellen at the time of their marriage.6

The parish register describes Augustine as an ostler (a stableman, usually one at an inn) from Northampton and after their marriage they returned there. The 1841 Census shows them living in All Saints parish in Northampton with Charles Cross and Ann Cross. At the time of writing these two are unidentified, but were no doubt related in some way. Rebecca's child Ellen was not with them.7

They didn't remain in Northampton long, however, and soon moved to Chipping Norton where their first child Charlotte was born early in 18428. They then moved to Over Norton, a small hamlet at the northern edge of Chipping Norton. Their second child, Jane was born there in 1845 9 and Charles was born at the end of 184610. While they were in Over Norton, according to the parish christening registry, Augustine had a position as game keeper on one of the local estates.

A game keeper was responsible for maintaining the bird population of an estate so that the Master and his guests would have game birds, such as pheasants, to shoot. Unfortunately, the lord of the manor sacked Augustine for shooting a fox that was bothering his breeding pheasants. Since he cared more about foxhunting than shooting pheasants, Augustine was dismissed.11 After this, the story is that Augustine practiced as a vet although we don't know how long he practiced since at the 1851 census Augustine is listed as a labourer. The instruments he used as a vet still exist and are held by his great, great grandson, Brian Williams. (see Photo 1)

Their second son, James was born in November 1849 12. He was christened on 3rd January, 185013, but died on the 7th, of "diseased lungs" (possibly bronchitis), just six weeks old.14 Their third son, Daniel was born in Chipping Norton in June, 185115.

The 1851 Census shows the family living in Chipping Norton, at the Red Lion Yard in Albion Road, along with other families, the Dixons and the Smiths. All the men were described as labourers or agricultural labourers. The Dixons also had young children.

Following the tragedy of James's death were the deaths of the two girls. Jane died of "[scarlet] fever" in October 1851,16 aged 6 years, and Charlotte died of "measles and inflammation of the lungs" in January 1853, aged eleven.17 Their neighbour Mary Smith assisted in nursing the children and attended their deaths; her mark (in the absence of a signature) is on each of the death certificates. In the absence of a cure or even any effective palliative, the girls would have been quarantined to avoid further infection. During Jane's illness especially, Rebecca would have taken the infant Daniel and the remaining children away from the infected home, separating the family when they most needed to be together.

Victorians had to face the terrible tragedy of the loss of their children far more often than we do today. The deaths of babies and children were a common fact of life. The death-rate in England per 1000 live births was about 150 and varied little during the nineteenth century (in comparison, the present rate in the United Kingdom and New Zealand is about 4.9 per 1000 births). Deaths in the first year of life were mainly due to diarrhoea, pneumonia, bronchitis and convulsions. Measles, whooping-cough and scarlet fever were more common in older children. Scarlet fever, often caused by contaminated milk and food, was particulary virulent between 1840 and 1870.18

We can only imagine the heartache of burying three children in as many years. What consolation could any parent find on the death of a beloved child - then or now? When Augustine's and Rebecca's last child was born in July 1855 they christened her Lotty Jane in memory of her two sisters. 19

The registration of Lotty Jane's birth notes that Augustine was employed as a groom. Grooms were employed by well-off households or businesses to care for the horses and carriages. Unless he was managing staff, Augustine would have earned about £15 per year.20

Augustine's brother, Eden died in January 1853, aged only 28 and leaving two children.21 Soon after in May, his mother Eunice also died, aged 61. Her death was reported in Jackson's Oxford Journal: 22

DIED May 23, at LIDSTONE, Oxon. aged 61, Eunice, the wife of Mr. Henry CROSS, leaving eight sons to lament her loss.

On her death, Augustine's father Henry moved from Lidstone to Chipping Norton. Henry's health deteriorated and Augustine and Rebecca took on the responsibilty for looking after him in the last years of his life. Henry expressed his appreciation in his will, written in 1859, giving instructions for "reasonable allowances ... to be made to my son Augustine Cross for services rendered by him and his wife in the transaction of my business during my illness and their personal attentions for my comfort..." On Henry's death in 1862, Augustine also received a ninth part of Henry's estate along with the other surviving children.23

By 1861, as noted in the census of that year, the family had moved house, the surviving children were growing up and Augustine had changed jobs. The census shows the family lived in "Dodd's Yard", suggesting they were renting rooms or an apartment from E. S. Dodd, the baker, and his family, also listed on the same page of the census. This is the same Edward Sumner Dodd that was a witness to Henry's will two years earlier in 1859, indicating there was a close bond between the two families.

The 1861 census also shows Augustine was employed as a "mail driver". The coming of the railways quickly brought an end to the use of horse-drawnmail coaches between larger towns. The last London-based mail coach left for Norwich in April 1846. But smaller horse-drawn vans and carts continued to transport mail locally throughout the 19th century, and even into the next. Individual routes were contracted out by the Post Office. Successful applicants provided horses, vans (to Post Office specifications) and drivers who were provided with a Post Office uniform.24 The two photographs on the right show the types of vehicles Augustine might have driven on his postal round.

The census shows Charles working as a stable boy. While he was only 14, it was quite usual for boys to have left school by this age and be working full time and it's highly probable that Augustine had also been employed as a stable boy at the same age. Charles and Lotty are listed as "scholars", indicating they went to a local school. Rebecca was listed as a "mail driver's wife" so we can assume she was not employed outside the home.

By the 1871 census, Augustine, Rebecca and Lotty were still living in Chipping Norton but in Burbidges Yard. Augustine was again employed as a groom.

By 1871, both Charles and Daniel had left home. Charles had married Elizabeth Newton about 1868. Their first child, and Augustine's first grandchild, was born in Chipping Norton in August, 1869 and christened Alfred George in February 1872. 25 The whereabouts of Daniel is uncertain; although he seems to have left for New Zealand in 1871, he probably didn't leave untill July (passenger lists show a D. Cross departed from London on the Electra on July 12th 1871, arriving in Wellington on the on October 16th).

After 35 years of marriage, Augustine's wife Rebecca died in February 1875 aged 64.26.

However, some joy came later in the year with the marriage of Lottie Jane to John Pratt on May 3rd. Augustine was the groom at his daughter's wedding. Later in the same year, Augustine married Hannah Eldridge, with Lotty Jane as one of the witnesses.27

Hannah was born Hannah Lord in 1831 and married Thomas Eldridge. He died in 1874, leaving Hannah alone with a young son Harry. Sadly for Augustine, Hannah died in 1879, just four years after their marriage.28 At 60 years of age, Augustine was left with the care of seven year-old Harry.

The 1881 census shows him living in Wind Mill Lane in Chipping Norton. None of his first family is with him; instead he was living with Harry T Eldredge [sic], described as Augustine's grandson ("gn son"), aged 9. Augustine was working as a "general labourer". Also living in Wind Mill Lane was his brother Zachariah with his second wife, Sarah.29

Ten years later, the 1891 census shows us that Augustine and Harry were still living together. This time Harry is described more accurately as a "stepson", and was working as a grocery porter. Augustine, by now aged 69, was "living on [his] own means".

Augustine died in June 1891, aged 70 or 71. His two younger brothers, Elijah and Lot, died later in the same year.


  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Charlbury. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 2. CD No: OXF-CN02, p133.
  • ibid.
  • FreeBMD England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index:1837-1983 volume 3a, page 565.
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Daylesford. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01. p33.
  • ibid. p12.
  • ibid. p13.
  • See the 1841 Census for Augustine and Rebecca.
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Chipping Norton. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01, p221.
  • ibid. p225.
  • ibid. p227.
  • Brian Williams' recollections of conversations with his grandfather, Samuel Cross
  • He was probably born on the 23rd of November. Church of England. Parish Church of Norton-Chipping (Oxfordshire), Bishop's transcripts for Norton-Chipping, 1669-1856. FamilySearch IGI Batch No: C020162, Film No: 0095229.
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Chipping Norton. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01, p230.
  • ibid. p168.
    See Death Certificate for James Cross
  • Birth certificate for Daniel Cross
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Chipping Norton. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01, p169.
    See Death Certificate for Jane Cross
  • ibid. p170.
    See Death Certificate for Charlotte Cross
  • Jalland, P. Death in the Victorian Family Oxford University Press, 1996.
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Chipping Norton. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01, p241.
  • Victorian Domestic Servant Hierarchy and Wage Scale
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Enstone. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 3. CD No: OXF-CN03.
  • Jackson's Oxford Journal. May 28, 1853; Issue 5222.
  • Will of Henry Cross
  • The British Postal Museum & Archive
  • Oxfordshire Parish Register Transcripts for Chipping Norton. Oxfordshire Family History Society, Chipping Norton Reg. District Vol 1. CD No: OXF-CN01, p273.
  • ibid. p191.
  • ibid. p197.
  • ibid. p196.
  • See the 1881 Census for Zachariah and Sarah.
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