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The Sidney Line

Farmer BullshotThis is my direct Sidney line as far back as I can get at the moment, but am always hopeful of a new piece of information that will get me back a bit further.

I can only trace my direct male line back to a Thomas Sidney, born about 1715.

This is based only on a death record for Thomas Sidney in Bristol in 1756 and the reference to the father’s name of his children in the same area, but does not mean he was actually born in Bristol or is even the correct Thomas.

I have no idea, at the moment, who he married – his eldest son is named Thomas so his eldest daughter, Sarah (who married Thomas Tucker), was probably named after her mother.

Thomas and William

Eldest son Thomas was born 1749 and William [my 4x great-grandfather] born in 1750, and there was also another son Samuel born 1753.

Another Thomas and William were born in St Philips in 1737 and 1739 and I have assigned these to another branch of the family.

The fathers of both of these sets of boys were named Thomas so they are likely to have been cousins, and are only identified through their children’s baptism records.

There are two death records for Thomas Sidney in 1749 and 1756 so I have assigned the 1749 death to the father of the earlier Thomas and William.

St George

Thomas (d.1756)
.. Thomas (1749-1799)
.. William (b.1750)

St Philip

Thomas (d.1749)
.. Thomas (b.1739)
.. William (b.1737)

I have tried to group together all of the Sidney families in Bristol at about this time, using the parishes they were baptized or married but this is not an exact science.

The Sidney family of Temple go back to John in 1650, but there are no records of a Thomas or William in this family – John and Benjamin seem to be the predominant names.

Many of the records just say “Bristol” which could mean that baptisms were in  Bristol Cathedral rather than any specific parish, or just that the record was held centrally and did not identify the parish.


William Sidney married Esther Tippet in Saint George, Bristol on 8 Oct 1769 and several of their children were married in the same parish.

St George ChurchThere are other Tippets baptised later in this parish however there is no birth record for either Hester or Esther Tippet, which is hardly surprising, as the parish did not exist when she was born.

St George was originally part of the parish of St Philip & Jacob, Bristol, which covered an area to the east of the the castle precinct.

The area was divided following an increase in population (probably due to increased mining in the area) and a new church was completed in 1756.

Saint George was the eastern part of this division and was an area originally part of the county of Gloucestershire and covered by the forest of Kingswood.

I have matched ESTHER to HESTER Tippet who was baptised in Bristol in 1748 for several reasons.

1. The birth dates are a close match – Hester was born in 1748 and was about 2 years older than William.

2. The area of Bristol matches – there are other Hesters but mainly in BITTON which is a little way out of the central area – and some further afield.

3. The baptism record of their child Josiah shows his parents as William and HESTER Sidney.

4. The name Josiah is frequently used in the Tippet line (both Hester’s father and grandfather) and is not seen in the Sidney family until this point.

5. The name HESTER is also used twice for grand-daughters but not ESTHER.

6. There are other references in Bristol parish records to “Hester or Esther …” which indicates that the two are often interchangeable or just commonly misused or misheard.

Son Samuel was born and died in 1791.


My 3x Great-grandfather, also Samuel after his brother, was born the following year and baptised 14 Oct 1792.

He married Eleanor Chapman of St Paul’s in Bristol in February 1812 and they had four children before Samuel died aged just 27.

Elizabeth 1812 (born in December)
George 1813
Hester 1818 (possibly named after her grandmother)
Jane 1819

There are records that show the death of Samuel in 1819 and this would fit in with the birth of his  last daughter, Jane.

Jane was married twice, first to Alfred Willitts and secondly to Alfred Edwin Biggs, and the second marriage gives us some useful information, specifically the profession of her father Samuel – who was a Mill Wright.

However, unless the death record is incorrect, she would never had known him.

But her husband was also recorded as a Miller so it maybe that the Sidney family had been involved with the mill trade and the marriage – which was not in Bristol, but in Pendleton, Manchester – was probably arranged through contacts in the milling trade.

It is possible that Samuel’s widow Eleanor remarried but I have found no record of this and there is a death record for Ellenor Sydney in 1838 which I have assumed if her.


Son George, 2x great-grandfather, certainly did not move much from the area and he married Hannah Appleford in St Thomas, Bristol 1839.

Hannah had previously married Elijah Milsom in 1833 but was widowed in 1835 leaving her with 2 young daughters. She came from a family of potters who lived in the same area (The Dings) of Bristol as George.

George was an engine fitter in the 1860 census as was his son, George, who was 16 – he later became a marine engineer.

George died in 1891 at the age of 78.

See The Wreck of the Constance for more information about George and his son George.


Younger son Joseph is a Clerk of the Court at the age of 17 in the 1871 census and younger brother Frederick an Engineer’s apprentice.

Joseph, my great-grandfather, seems to have taken a more academic career path than the rest of the family and was an Accountant by 1881.

Frederick died suddenly in march 1874 at the age of just 17, and I have have yet to find out how he died – his death is announced in the newspapers.

Frederick Sidney 18740314

Joseph and his wife, Caroline Anne Sebry, had two sons – Arthur Ernest and Walter Stanley, my grand-father.

Joseph died in 1911 but his wife Caroline was alive until 1935.


Walter was a clerk at the Bristol Wagon Works and married Emily Codrington in January 1914 at the age of 31.

bristol wagon works

Older brother Arthur was also still living at home in the 1911 census so it seems the boys were late-starters as far as marriage was concerned.

Emily was a barmaid and the daughter of Robert Codrington of the Lamb Inn, Iron Acton – a direct descendent of Sir John Codrington, as mentioned elsewhere. [i]

Their only child Arthur Walter was born in 1915 but sadly Walter died a horrible death the following year from tuberculosis.

emily codrington

Emily remarried some time later to William Davey, but son Arthur Walter was brought up mainly by his aunt, Bessie Codrington, the eldest of the three younger daughters of Robert Codrington and his wife Mary.

The three girls are now buried together in Arnos Vale cemetery in Bristol, along with Henry Tozer the husband of youngest daughter Annie.

Bessie had quite a forceful personality and may have taken over where she saw her sister was not coping well as a single parent. As a single mother Emily is described in letters from other family members as “useless, not even able to iron a shirt”.

[i] Robert Codrington was actually a butcher and his Mary wife ran the inn – many of his family and children worked in the trade, often running pubs and hotels. [more of this later]


Arthur Sidney and RustyArthur, like his father and uncle, did not marry until later in life at the age of 41 – he met my mother through his work as a clerk and office manager for “Uncle Bob” and married in 1956 at St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol.

Bessie never married and lived with Arthur – I’m not sure she would have been too happy to see him get married, even though she came to live with the family in Pensford, Somerset.

Sadly my father died in 1962 when I was just 3, having moved the family to the north of the country for a new job, and I have no real memories of him.

Consequently, and because Arthur had never known his father, me and my sister have very little family history, photos or stories passed down.

Until very recently we were not even aware of his uncle Arthur and of cousins living just a few miles away who we have never met.


There are two Thomas Sidneys that suddenly appear in Bristol in the early 1700’s, both with sons having the same names – William and Thomas.

There is about a 10 year difference between the birth of the boys, but the important thing here is that there are no records of any Sidney’s in St George or St Philips before these boys.

There are earlier Sidney records in the Temple Parish going back about another 70 years, but the names used in this branch do not match.

There are also records of other family members – that married into the Sidney family – going back much further, so I can only conclude that both of them came from outside Bristol.

In the early 1700’s Bristol was a boom-town and the largest city outside of London.

Workers were moving here from all over the country – the Applefords from Wiltshire and the Burnells from Exmoor, just within my family.

The sugar, slave and tobacco industries were based around “Brightstow” and the parish of St. George – where my family came from – was a big mining area.

Both Thomas Sidneys probably came from London and there are some records that seem to match.

One record from the Shadwell area (St George in the East) shows the marriage of Thomas Sidney and Martha Chatterton.

This was a clandestine marriage and there are two records one of which shows that it took place in at the Kings Head and another that he was a cordwainer.

The Chatterton name is quite unusual and there are not many in Bristol – and a few in London – so I think that Martha may have come from Bristol originally where there is a birth record.

However there is record of William Chatterton in Shadwell so maybe he moved to Bristol, at least for a while – there are tax records for a William Shadwell in both cities but I cannot find a birth for Martha in London.

There is a daughter Martha in the family, who died in infancy – Sarah may have been the name of Thomas’ mother if this link is correct.

If this is the same Thomas then he was a cordwainer (shoe-maker), a reoccurring trade within my family.

Possibly his father – also Thomas – was a Taylor in Gray’s Inn Lane [abbreviated to G: Inn Lane in some records] in Holborn.

Although there are other Sidneys in Shadwell, where he married, there is no Thomas.

There is another Thomas born in London about 1720 who could be the Thomas from the Bedminster (St. Philips) Sidney’s, and possibly they were cousins – or it was just a coincidence that they moved to Bristol at about the same time.

If they did.

 Chris Sidney 2014

The Wreck of the Constance

Farmer BullshotThe steamship Constance was owned by the Bristol Steam Navigation Company and had a short but eventful working live before being wrecked near Plymouth in 1888

This story concerns my great grand-uncle George Sidney who was the chief engineer on the Constance in 1879.

George was born 1844 in “The Dings”, an area of one up-one down, workers housing in Bristol, essentially for those working on the railways. [1]

His father, also George and my great-grandfather, was recorded as an Engineer in the 1871 census and George the younger was a Marine Engineer so we can be fairly sure that it was the younger George who was on the Constance.

The older George had a little run in with the law in 1862 when he was accused of stealing a quantity of brass worth 10s from his employer.

His employer decided not to press charges as George was “of good character” and of “a respectable family” and had worked for him for only 4 months but with a six years reference.

Despite this George was sentenced to six weeks in prison.

We can be sure from these dates that this event did not involve George the younger as he would have been too young.


In 1878 George Sidney, of Totterdown, won third prize in the Hotwells Industrial Exhibition for a model of “three-inch cylinder high-pressure engine”.

 The Constance 1879

The Constance was built in Glasgow and launched in 1871 and seems to have led a quiet life as a coastal steamer travelling from Bristol along the south coast to the continent and back.

But there were two significant events in 1879 when George was engineer, the first a tragic accident and the second involved tobacco smuggling.

The Leading Light

On 12th May 1879 the Constance was in collision with the Leading light, a pilot cutter anchored near the mouth of the river Avon

The enquiry showed that the crew of the Constance were probably to blame for this accident, in which a member of the [two man] crew on the Leading Light was killed.

We think then that this collision was due either to the want of a good look-out on board the “Constance,” which prevented their seeing the cutter until they were close upon her, or to the master of the steamer having laid his vessel on a course to pass so close to the cutter that a slight alteration of her position would involve the risk of a collision. We do not indeed blame the master for having steered a course from the mouth of the Bristol river which would, as he said, take him down between the current which was still running up midchannel, and the eddy on the south shore. It was, no doubt, the usual course at that time of tide, and there could be no reason why he should not take it, even though it was a short cut, provided that he could do so without risk to himself or others. What we blame him for is, for not keeping a good lookout, or for going too near this cutter. It was not a mere error of judgment, it was navigating his ship without “proper and seamanlike care”; and, notwithstanding the high character which this master bears, and the long time which he has been on board this vessel as master, we think that we should not be doing our duty unless we suspended his certificate.

George gave evidence only in regard to the instructions he received through the telegraph in the engine room.

A full record of the enquiry is available.


In July 1879 customs inspectors boarded the Constance to search for smuggled tobacco.

Earlier the ship’s steward had been detained by a vigilant policeman carrying 5lb of tobacco and brandy.

Three searches discovered nothing as it had been well hidden behind machinery, but eventually 128lb of tobacco was recovered worth £6 8s with the unpaid  duty worth £27 14s 8d

George and other members of the engineering crew were arrested and charged with smuggling.

The Trial

At the trial the crew maintained that they knew nothing of the tobacco and that, as they did not sleep near the engine room when docked, anyone could have stored the tobacco while they were in Rotterdam or Antwerp.

One defence was that a number of the crew had recently been dismissed and it was suggested that one of them tipped-off the customs inspector where to find the tobacco having not been able to recover it for themselves.

But Mr. Frederick Wills (tobacco manufacturer) said that the tobacco was probably only about a week old and other witnesses said that the engine room spelled like the the Wills tobacco warehouse so was unlikely that the crew did not know what was going on.

The hiding place also required some engineering knowledge – the accused fireman maintained that he did not have such knowledge.

However the crew, including George and the fireman were all fined £100

It seems that George left the Constance shortly after the trial and tried something else – being recorded as a civil engineer in 1881 – before eventually returning to sea in 1882.

But he was not actually at home for the 1881 census and it was his wife Mary that is shown as “wife of civil engineer”. Perhaps he was at sea and the civil bit was a mistake?

The Douro

In 1882 George, then serving on the Douro as chief engineer, was a witness in a case bought by a passenger on the “Chepstow” who claimed that his clothes were ruined by a discharge from a waste steam pipe. He was awarded costs of £3 and told to donate his ruined clothes to the sufferers of the flood.

Ship: Douro; Official number: 78459. W H Thomas; rank/rating, Master; age, 39

This 1891 register [available in the national archives] shows:

George Sidney; rank/rating, Engineer; age, 47; place of birth, Bristol; previous ship, same.

It also shows:

Joseph Sidney; rank/rating, Fireman; age, 24; place of birth, Bristol; previous ship, same

This is George’s eldest son, his younger son George being a carpenter.

The Wreck

The wreck of the Constance was in 1888 near Plymouth.

George was now serving on the Duoro [not the RMS Duoro that sank in 1882 or the one sunk by a submarine in 1915] so was not on board.

The findings of the enquiry were that the owners of the Constance has failed to maintain the vessel.

As well as a missing compass the telegraph to the engine room did not work correctly and these issues led to the ship running aground in thick fog on the Shagstone Rock with the loss of three lives.

George was lucky to have abandoned this particular ship.

Chris Sidney 2014