The Life Of Charles Robert Owen Jarvis (1831-1887)

When I first started researching my family history, my mind formed a picture of my forebears as living in an environment and society that was somewhat similar to today's. I foolishly took all the modern conveniences of life, and just transported them back to my forebear's time. But as I dug into the life story of my great great grandfather Charles Robert Owen Jarvis, a totally different picture emerged of his struggle with life in East London. Here's the life story of him and his family.

Charles Robert Owen Jarvis was born on August 31st 1831, a time when a major cholera outbreak in the East End of London had killed 6,536 people in Limehouse alone. He luckily survived the epidemic and began his formal education at a private school in 1834. His father, William Jarvis was a hairdresser working on Three Colt Street in Limehouse; his mother Elizabeth handled the "domestic duties"; he was the youngest of six children. At the age of 11, his father died, forcing his family into financial hardship. As a result, Charles left private school and completed his education at the local national school, graduating at age 13 and a half.

A typical East End street in Victorian Times.  Note the open sewer in the middle of the alley.

He then started as an apprentice at John Lilley's optical instrument business on West India Dock Road. He left after two and a half years because he felt it was too confining to work in a workshop. He switched to an apprenticeship as a boat builder, working for a man called Joseph King in Limekiln.

5 Rich Street.  Charles lived here in 1851.

Charles served his apprenticeship under a shipwright named Thomas Vaughan (1794-1852), who had a daughter than caught Charles' attention. Maria Vaughan was born on November 10th 1832 in Limehouse, one of six children that Thomas Vaughan and his wife Elizabeth had. She was baptised on December 16th 1832 in St Anne’s Church in Limehouse.

Thomas Vaughan didn’t get to see his daughter Maria falling in love with Charles. He died on the February 24th 1852 of a bladder infection and erysipelas - a secondary acute skin infection generally caused by skin abrasions, dog bites, surgical incisions or eczema. He was buried on February 28th 1852 in the graveyard of St. Anne’s Church in Limehouse.

With Maria's father gone, she got down to the business of courting Charles. Courting in Victorian London was a ritual affair, advancing in gradations with the couple first speaking, then walking out together and finally keeping company after mutual attraction was confirmed. Most initial meetings took place at sunday service at church, or at church suppers that had been specially set up for the purpose.

Given that Charles knew Thomas Vaughan, it’s likely that he met Maria through his acquaintance with her father or perhaps by her presence in church. But this was not your normal courtship. In October 1852, Maria announced she was pregnant with Charles’ child. An unmarried woman with a child was somewhat of a social outcast, so Charles was expected to do the right thing for Maria. The engagement was announced.

History reflects on the Victorian times as a period where social etiquette, morals and values were strictly adhered to and anything outside of it was scandalous, but that is actually far from the truth. By the mid 19th century, it has been said that a third of Victorian brides went to the altar pregnant and 8% of all children born had no father listed on their birth certificate. Pregnancy outside of marriage was common and although not socially acceptable, it was a fact of life.

Perhaps it was the shame of being pregnant and unmarried, but Charles and Maria decided that their marriage would not happen in their local parish church of St. Anne’s in Limehouse. It is not inconceivable that the local vicar at St. Anne’s declined to allow them to marry. So they chose to marry in Islington, with Maria stating that she lived at 24 Shepperton Street and Charles claiming to live at 23 Shepperton Street so as to appear to be members of the parish. It isn’t clear whether they actually ever stayed at those addresses, but in keeping with the church traditions of the time, Charles and Maria underwent the reading of the Banns of Marriage, appearing for three consecutive sundays at St. Mary’s Church in Islington, 5 miles from Limehouse, to have their intention to marriage read out.

Top Left.  The record of Banns of Marriage performed for Charles Robert Owen Jarvis and his soon to be wife, Maria Vaughan.

History will tell you that for a Victorian girl, the day of her wedding was considered the most important event of her life but in truth, most marriages were less for love and more for convenience, particularly among the lower classes, where marriage was a way of surviving the hard way of life.

1853 was to be a big year for Charles Robert Owen Jarvis. On the March 6th 1853, he married a six-month pregnant Maria Vaughan at St Mary’s Church in Islington. Charles was 22 years old. Maria was 19.

The marriage of Charles Robert Owen Jarvis to Maria Vaughan in St Mary’s Church Islington, March 6th 1853.

It’s testament of a good education that both the bride and the groom signed their names to the marriage register. Charles’ signature appears big and bold, full of confidence and Maria’s is delicate and small. Their witnesses were Lucy Vaughan, Maria’s sister, and a friend of Charles named J Smith, who was not able to sign his own name. With the service over, Charles and Maria Jarvis journeyed back to Limehouse to live with Charles’ mother at 6 Rich Street.

14 Park Street Limehouse.  Charles and Maria, and his Mother, lived here in 1853

Three months later, on June 14th 1853, Charles and Maria welcomed their first daughter, Elizabeth Christiana Ann Jarvis into the world.

With a wife and now a family to look after, the family moved to 14 Park Street in Poplar, a stone’s throw from Rich Street. Charles’ mother, Elizabeth, moved with them. It was a two room cottage an easy stroll to a nearby park which had previously been the grounds of a 16th century mansion called Dusthill. At one end of the street was the Royal Sovereign pub and the other end housed the Steam Packet pub. Unlike Rich Street, which was still a lowest class neighbourhood, Park Street had neighbours who were merely poor or comfortably off.

You may think that a two-room cottage for the newly-weds and one mother-in-law sounds fabulous, but on average, 14 people were living in each cottage on Park Street. So Charles and his wife and mother shared one of the rooms with at least one other family, and possibly two.

Charles completed his apprenticeship in August 1854 and was officially a Shipwright Journeyman on a salary of 2 pounds 10 shillings a week.

It was at Park Street that their second child, Maria, was born as an early christmas gift on December 24th 1854. Within 21 months of being married, Charles already had two daughters.

The family then moved to 37 Northumberland Street, a small new terraced house built around 1850 in what was called Poplar New Town. It was a diverse neighbourhood of poor and financially comfortable people. The street had the Sabbarton Arms on the corner and a fruiterer, confectioner and fried fish shop at the end. Fried fish shops were an entirely new concept then - chips weren’t added as a menu item until ten years later. It was in Northumberland Street that Maria gave birth to their third child, Clara, on January 20th 1857.

37 Northumberland Street in Poplar.  Charles's family lived here in 1855-1860

1858 was a hot summer and something that had been building for a number of years finally came to fruition - the Great Stink. Great efforts had been made to build an effective sewer network across London, but the Achilles heel of the system was that all the sewage was still dumped untreated into the River Thames. The hot weather in July and August, together with a seasonal low tide on the River Thames, exacerbated the smell of untreated human waste and industrial effluent on its banks and literally brought the city to its knees. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert attempted to take a pleasure cruise on the river and returned to shore after a few minutes because the smell was so bad. Business in parliament was affected, and the Illustrated London News commented:

We can colonise the remotest ends of the earth; we can conquer India; we can pay the interest of the most enormous debt ever contracted; we can spread our name, and our fame, and our fructifying wealth to every part of the world; but we cannot clean the River Thames.

At a cost of 1500 pounds a week, the banks of the river were soaked in 250 tons of lime chloride. As the stench continued, it became increasingly clear that the only solution to London’s growing population was better treatment of sewage and the removal of raw sewage outlets into the river.

By August 2nd, with The Times stating “Parliament was all but compelled to legislate upon the great London nuisance by the force of sheer stench”, a bill was passed into law that would create a further 1,100 miles of additional street sewers across London and also ensure that all sewage was dumped outside of city limits. Work began immediately but the East End was to be the last part of the city to get the new sewers - a factor that would have a big impact on Charles’ family in the years to come.

On January 13th 1859, Charles’ mother died at home at the age of 69. She had been living with the family at 37 Northumberland Street. She was buried at All Saint’s Church in Poplar on January 24th 1859. The sadness of her loss was replaced with joy when their first son, Frederick William was born, also at 37 Northumberland Street, on May 13th 1859. He was destined to be my great grandfather.

1860 map of Ellerthorpe Street (circled), Poplar, where the Jarvis family lived from in 1860-1861.

In 1860, the family moved house again and settled into 16 Ellerthorpe Street, Poplar. It was a relatively new house on a small street with short terraced houses, having been built between 1842 and 1847. Ellerthorpe street is described as poor to comfortable on the poverty scale, but it was just around the corner from a very poor neighbourhood. You won’t find Ellerthorpe street today - it was demolished by the Ministry of Transport in 1949 in order to reconfigure the road plan of Poplar. The Lansbury Estate was then reconstructed on its site to coincide with the 1951 Festival of Britain.

1860 arrived and the new decade brought joy and heartbreak. Their second son, and fifth child, Charles Benjamin was born on March 5th 1861 at home in 16 Ellerthorpe Street. Within months of his birth, the family had moved to 3 West Cottages in Poplar.

Charles Benjamin barely reached his 3rd birthday before dying on June 21st 1864 after 12 hours of convulsions and a doctor present at his death. It was time to erase the memory of his death, so the family moved yet again to 3 Samuda Street in newly-built Cubitt Town, right around the corner from Charles’ work. It was not a good neighbourhood, surrounded by poor and very poor people.

Unfortunately, burial records of Poplar for 1862 through 1864 are lost, so it is impossible to know where he is buried, but it will probably be St. Anne’s Church in Poplar. In the 19th century, infant mortality was so high that loss of a child was an accepted part of life. A survey of births and deaths between 1851 and 1860 showed that 52% of children died in infancy. So Charles and Maria put their sadness to bed and got down to the business of producing more children.

And so it was that Charles and Maria welcomed their sixth baby, Thomas Charles, born at 3 Samuda Street on October 25th 1864. As was typical, Thomas was given a second name that paid tribute to the son they had lost.

Samuda Street was built around the Samuda Shipyard.  Here is a photograph from Samuda Street from the late 1890s.

1866 brought cholera back to the East End for what would be the last ever epidemic to hit the capital. The prior epidemic, in 1831, happened when Charles was a baby. This one was more serious, yet Victorian doctors still hadn't worked out the cause. In the area between Aldgate and Bow, right where Charles and Maria lived, 5.596 people died of the disease, with 89 dying in Poplar.

Cartoon depicting what one could find in a drop of London water.

The outbreak was a result of the East London Water Company discharging their untreated sewage into the River Thames half a mile downstream from their reservoir. Being a tidal river, the incoming tide carried the sewage upstream and deposited it into the reservoir, contaminating the area’s drinking water. Provoking widespread public hostility, the East London Water Company admitted that it had flouted the provisions of the Metropolitan Water Act of 1852 and thence forth, rigorous public scrutiny of water companies was enacted.

There is one silver lining to this cholera epidemic and it is that the medical profession finally accepted that cholera was a water-borne disease rather than transmitted by miasma.

Construction of the new sewer system on Fleet Street in 1845.

By 1867 the family were living at 12 Norfolk Terrace which was just off East India Dock Road - homes that had been specifically built for “low cost rental to the lower middle classes”. As further evidence of Charles’ rising social status, he started to drop the names “Robert” or “Owen” from his name, referring to himself purely as Charles Robert Jarvis or sometimes Charles Owen Jarvis. Robert Owen may have been a hero and champion of the working class, but his name labelled Charles as working class. It just wasn’t refined enough for Charles’ new status. As my grandfather used to say, “he was called Owen because he was always owing someone”.

It was at Norfolk Terrace that Jessie Elizabeth their seventh child born on October 15th 1867. The family now had three girls - Elizabeth Christiana, Maria, Clara and Jessie Elizabeth; two boys, William Frederick and Thomas Charles and the memory of one dead child.

Baby Jessie Elizabeth Jarvis was also named after her mother Maria’s little sister who had been born when she was 7, in 1840. She died at the age of three of pneumonia. Jessie Vaughan must have been a special little girl, for the name Jessie pops up at least four times in various parts of the Jarvis and Vaughan families in the next generation. It’s rather touching that both families honoured their lost dead children so respectfully.

By 1869, Charles was earning 3 pounds per week from his job as a leading Shipwright for Samuda but an opportunity emerged that Charles couldn't say no to - an expedition to Africa as Chief Shipwright under Sir Samuel Baker, so he left the employ of Samuda. His new employer was the Egyptian Government and his boss was Khedive Ismail Pasha. Charles negotiated and signed a contract giving him a salary of 35 pounds per month (420 pounds per year), some of it paid in advance in London so that Maria could take care of the children in his absence. Leaving his wife and children must have been hard, particularly as Maria was pregnant again with their eighth child. His final act before leaving for Egypt was to move the family to 24 William Street on the border of Stepney and Limehouse - a better neighborhood.

His expedition to Africa is documented elsewhere on this website so I will not dwell on it here, however it was a gripping adventure and well worth looking into.

Charles returned to London in October 1873 to find much had changed in his family life. He met his new daughter and eighth child, Alice Christina Jarvis, who had been born three years earlier. It is unclear why Charles and his wife would name two children with variations of Christina or Christiana. Similarly it is unclear why they named two children Elizabeth.

While Charles was away, records of the whereabouts of his family are scarce. I believe that his youngest son Thomas was at the Holborn Industrial School in Mitcham, aged 7. This was a form of workhouse and hospital. It may have been that he was sick - as I find a pattern of sickness through the rest of his life, but I will never know for sure. The story of Thomas is a story in and of itself, but if I cut to the chase, Thomas would ultimately end up in multiple hospitals and then die young from the complications of a skin ailment. Records for the remainder of Charles’ family during his expedition are scant. I believe that Maria and the family remained in Poplar, as Alice Christina’s birth certificate registers her birth, on March 10th 1870, at 24 William Street, Poplar.

While Charles had been away, London had also changed. The London Underground was operating on the Metropolitan Line and horse-drawn street trams had introduced the first on-street public transportation to the capital. There were bridges galore across the river and the beautiful new Victoria embankment to stroll along. The financial crisis of 1866 was over but it had effectively killed the shipbuilding industry on the Thames. Even the Royal Navy had closed its Deptford and Woolwich dockyards.

37 Northumberland Street in Poplar.  Charles's family lived here in 1855-1860

Charles and his family then moved back to Northumberland Street in Poplar, although rather than living at number 37, they moved into number 62. While the Samuda shipbuilding business was still operating on the Isle Of Dogs, Charles took the next step in his career by applying and getting a job working for the Board Of Trade as the Shipwright Surveyor, earning 210 pounds a year.

The Board Of Trade handled legislation for patents, company regulation, labour and factories, merchant shipping, agriculture and transport. Charles’ job was to ensure that shipwrights maintained a standard of qualification and knowledge required to perform their duties, although in truth the Board Of Trade maintained little power to legislate or enforce standards, so much of the work was administrative. Today, the UK Government Department of Trade And Industry plays a similar role as that of the Board Of Trade in the late 19th century. In a beautiful twist of serendipity, the Board Of Trades offices were on West India Dock Road, close to where he had first started his job working in the workshop of John Lilley & Son.

In 1876, the family moved again, this time leaving Limehouse and heading towards a nicer part of the East End at 120 Turners Road in Mile End New Town. For their entire marriage, Charles and Maria had brought up their family in a tight collection of streets on the border of Limehouse and Poplar that were never more than about 200 yards from each other. The move to Mile End obviously indicated that Charles was doing well at work and wanted better things for his family.

Parliamentary Papers from 1870 officially certifying Charles Robert Owen Jarvis as a Shipwright Surveyor.

You might be wondering why Charles moved his family from house to house so much, but it is an easy answer. There were no tenancy agreements in the 19th century so people were free to move around as much as they wanted. Charles chose to move as his financial condition changed, aiming to give his family the best place to live. The East End had good neighbourhoods and bad, so tenants fluidly moved from place to place in order to make the best choice with their financial means. If you ended up on a street with a quarrelsome neighbour or a noisy environment, it was easy to move elsewhere. Because moving really was rather easy - all the places for rent contained basic furniture, so no family needed their own, and the possessions of a Victorian working class family were basically the clothes they owned. So it was simply a matter of packing a suitcase.

In July 1876 Charles and Maria welcomed their ninth and final child - a son, into the world. Testament to how proud the parents clearly felt about Charles’ career achievements, they fittingly named him Charles Robert Owen Jarvis. By now his eldest son, Frederick William, was 17 and keen to pursue a career as an engineer, so he had joined the Royal Navy.

Charles was now 45 and he had a large family to house, clothe and feed. Yet, looking around the East End, it was clear to Charles that the industry that he had made a career in - shipbuilding - was in it’s final death throes on the Isle Of Dogs. Those associated with the trade were heading north to other cities where the industry was still booming. It was time for Charles to do the same.

Middlesbrough, sitting on the river Tees in the north-east of England had been a hamlet surrounded by rural farms until 1850, when iron ore was discovered in the Cleveland Hills near Eston. The ore was discovered by John Vaughan who, along with his german business partner Henry Bolckow, built Teesside’s first blast furnace in 1851. This had a dramatic effect on Middlesbrough’s fortunes, as illustrated by its population, which had been merely 40 people in 1829 but by 1851 it was 7,600. By the 1870s, Middlesbrough’s reputation as a major steel producer had earned Middlesbrough the moniker of “Iron Town” and it’s river the “Steel River”. With the boom in steel, there had been a corresponding boom in shipbuilding across the whole of the north east.

It was during 1877 that Charles and Maria packed up all their possessions and took the North Eastern Railway train from London north to Middlesbrough, arriving at the recently renovated Middlesbrough Station which had just opened in December 1877. There they settled into a home at 9 Grange Road in Middlesbrough. Accompanying them north, their children Maria age 22, Clara, 20, Thomas 13, Jessie 10, Alice 7 and Charles Robert Owen 2. William Frederick was in Newport, Wales, as part of his duties for the Royal Navy.

Middlesbrough Station which opened in December 1877

Charles was 46 years old and rather accomplished. He’d had a ringside seat to one of the greatest industries to come out of Victorian England and was now comfortably able to care for his family as he moved into middle age. After the experiences of his expedition and the hustle and bustle of London, life in Middlesbrough was probably a little less stressful although the industry all around him made for a highly polluted environment. He needed a job, so on December 24th, he submitted his application and was accepted for the post of Marine Surveyor at the Board Of Trade in Middlesbrough. And to fit in with the working class environment of Middlesbrough, Charles re-adopted his full name on the application. Charles Robert Owen Jarvis was back.

Parliamentary Papers from 1878 certifying Charles Robert Owen Jarvis as a Shipwright Surveyor in Middlesbrough

He was officially certified as a Shipwright Surveyor on February 1st 1878, his name appearing in the House Of Commons papers associating him with the Board Of Trade.

His eldest daughters were now of marrying age so they wasted no time in finding suitable partners in Middlesbrough. Clara was the first to meet her suitor and Charles may have played a role in it for she fell in love with a man who also worked for the Board Of Trade. Henry Lucas Okey was three years older than Clara and worked in the export section of Her Majesty’s Customs office in MIddlesbrough. They were married when Clara was 22 in March 1879 in Middlesbrough and the following year, Charles and Maria Jarvis became grandparents with the birth of Clara’s first child, Elizabeth.

Maria quickly followed her sister. She met John Wood Hopps, a year her senior, who was an engineer and also ran a pub. They were married in September 1881.

By 1882 the grandchildren were coming thick and fast - Clara delivered Thomas Francis Okey and Samuel Frederick Okey in 1882 and 1884 respectively and Maria delivered Charles Robert William Hopps in 1882, the name an obvious tip of the hat to her father.

His eldest daughter, Elizabeth married John Hillier on July 14th 1883 in Lewisham, producing two daughters in 1884 and 1885.

Meanwhile, Charles’ eldest son Frederick William Jarvis had completed his Royal Navy training in Wales and was now an engineer. He joined his parents in Middlesbrough where he met Margaret Hannah Robinson, the daughter of a farmer. They were married on February 10th 1885.

More grandchildren were clearly on the cards and it was on August 28 1895, Maria Hopps delivered her second and final child Frederick William Hopps. On January 30th 1886, Clara Okey delivered Maria Jane Okey. And in January 1887, Frederick William and his wife Margaret welcomed their first child, Winifred Marion Jarvis, who would go on to emigrate to Canada - but that’s another story which I cover in another post on this website.

By the beginning of 1887, Charles and Maria Jarvis could look back on their family and proudly talk about their now-adult children and their eight grandchildren. On June 21st he would have joined in the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrating 50 years on the throne - a monarch who had been on the throne for Charles’ entire career.

The festivities around Christmas had changed a lot during Victoria’s reign. Her husband Prince Albert was of German descent and introduced the idea of bringing a fir tree into one’s home and decorating it for the season. He had started the tradition at Windsor castle in 1840 and by 1887 it was common throughout Britain. Although Thomas Edison had invented the christmas tree light in 1882, they were yet to be widely available and neither was the mains electricity to make them work. Nevertheless, the Victorian’s decorated their trees with baubles and then used decorative candles in order to enhance them. Christmas crackers, which had been introduced in 1846, were also popular and common. Those who could afford them also sent christmas cards. And no Victorian home went without a sprig of mistletoe although the tradition was that every chaste kiss required a white berry to be removed from the sprig and when no more berries were left, there were no more kisses to be had. On Christmas Day, church bells would ring across the land and it was traditional to attend church for scripture reading and the singing of carols.

In the run up to Christmas 1887 in mid-November, Charles became ill. What had started as a mild cold lingered and eventually Charles complained of chest pain. A trip to the doctor revealed that Charles had pneumonia and he was sent home to rest. Four weeks later with little improvement, the doctors diagnosed pericarditis, an inflammation of the soft tissue around the heart, which is typically a complication of pneumonia.

The Death Duty register for Charles Robert Owen Jarvis

After seven weeks in bed suffering from exhaustion, Charles Robert Owen Jarvis passed away at home, his family by his side, on Christmas Day 1887. He was 55 years old. He was buried three days later, on December 28th, in Linthorpe Cemetery in grave 4976A. He had had an amazing life yet it was cut short. In probate his wife Maria, aged only 55, inherited his estate on 10th January 1888, worth 176 pounds and 8 shillings.

Despite the family's wealth, they chose not to give Charles a gravestone. He has lain, to this day, in a single plot at Linthorpe Cemetery with nothing to indicate the remarkable man that he was.

Following his death and burial, his wife Maria remained in Middlesbrough, moving to 19 St John’s Terrace in Middlesbrough where her daughter Maria and her family lived. In the late 1890s, she returned to the place of her birth - London - with her daughter Maria and her family, and settled south of the river in Lewisham. There she remained until her death, aged 88, on 18th January 1921. Her final years were spent in the Deptford Guardians Institute, an old people’s home for the destitute, where she suffered from senility. She is buried in an unmarked grave at Ladywell Cemetery in Lewisham in grave D/2568.

If anything defines a man, it is his children. Charles had eight of them at his bedside when he passed away.

His eldest daughter Elizabeth Christiana Jarvis never left London, became a servant and then married John Hillier in 1883 and resided in Lewisham for the remainder of her life. Her husband was a machinist working at the Royal Arsenal. She had three girls and a boy of her own, dying in 1946 at the age of 92.

His second daughter Maria Jarvis married John Wood Hopps in 1881. She ultimately moved back to London and settled in Lewisham, taking her mother Maria with her. Maria then proceeded to have ten children although tragically only two survived to adulthood. She died in 1947, aged 92.

Clara Jarvis married Henry Lucas Okey in March 1879 and produced eight children. Her husband died in 1905 and she subsequently married George Norman Preen in April 1906. She died in Middlesbrough in 1931, aged 74

Frederick William Jarvis, Charles’ eldest son, married Margaret Hannah Robinson on February 10th 1885 and had nine children, one of whom was called Thomas Vaughan Jarvis in honour of his grandfather, and another is named Charles Robert Owen Jarvis in memory of his father. After leaving the Royal Navy, he worked as an engine fitter in Middlesbrough, dying on 20th April 1941, age 81. He is buried in North Ormesby Cemetery in Middlesbrough.

Thomas Charles Jarvis had a tough life. With a history of sickness, and following the death of his father, he became a mechanical draughtsman but died age 30 on January 26th 1896. He suffered the final years of his life with scleroderma, a debilitating disease of the skin which gradually impacts one’s organs. He ultimately succumbed to cardiac arrest as a result of it. He is buried in Linthorpe Cemetery in Middlesbrough.

Jessie Elizabeth Jarvis married an accountant and company director, Robert William Spencer, in 1888 and had four children. One of them was named William Thomas Vaughan Spencer in honour of Jessie’s grandfather. Jessie remained in Middlesbrough until the death of her husband and then returned to London, dying in March 1947 in Ilford Essex, aged 79.

Alice Christina Jarvis married John William Hutchinson in 1895 and remained in Yorkshire through the early part of the 20th century. She finally returned to London in her later years and died in Woolwich on June 19th 1953, aged 83. She is buried in Eltham Cemetery, with her husband, in Greenwich.

His youngest son, and namesake, Charles Robert Owen Jarvis served in the military before marrying Henrietta Gilbert on February 4th 1900. They then moved back to London and had one son who was given the same name as his father. He died childless in December 1960, aged 84, bringing Charles’ children to their generational end. He was cremated in Eltham Crematorium in Greenwich.

Spanning 34 years, the marriage of Charles Robert Owen Jarvis and Maria Vaughan produced 9 children of which 8 made it to adulthood. Seven of them married and produced children of their own, ultimately giving Charles and Maria 32 grandchildren. One of those grandchildren was my grandfather, who was appropriately named Charles Robert Owen Jarvis. He was born in 1894, 16 years after Charles’ death. And my grandfather named his first son Charles too. So his legacy and his name lived on.

But the story of Charles Robert Owen Jarvis faded into distant memory thirty years after his death. My father remembers his father (my grandfather) occasionally opening his mouth to tell the story and immediately being hushed into silence by his wife (my grandmother). Perhaps she’d heard it too many times, or maybe she just didn’t believe it - my grandmother didn’t like to talk about the past and I recently found out why, but that’s another story. As such, my father’s only recollection of any of this was that he vaguely remembered my grandfather mentioning something about a Jarvis ancestor going on an expedition, but no one knew anything about it.

No living person in my family was aware of the life story of Charles at all until I uncovered it. In fact, the name Charles disappeared from my branch of the family after my grandfather named his first son Charles. There was not a single child christened Charles in the following generation. His story, his legacy and the memory of him was gone.

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