From a letter written by his eldest granddaughter, Margaret Nancy Durham “Madge


My granddad Durham was born of a well-to-do professional family in Chancery Lane. His mother died when he was still young and his father decided to emigrate to South Africa, but it was not suitable to take his young son. (note: there is another story, below) He had an unmarried sister (Mary Ann Martin, she actually married in 1866) living in a well-to-do avenue in Gravesend and she agreed to look after young Charlie. She was a well educated woman and brought Charlie up similarly.


Charles William Durham was born 16 April 1866 at 26 Cursitor Street in the City of London (note: there is an office building there today, but there might once have been a pub, as his father was a licensed victualler). His father was William Jacob Smith Durham, a licensed victualler, and his mother was Henrietta Martin, daughter of a waterman and Freeman of the Thames, from Gravesend. She died in 1869, and WJSM remarried in 1872, a Louisa Whenman, who probably died in 1880. There was another son, Walter James Durham, born 1867 in Greenwich.  I don’t know whether he had any children by his second wife, or by his third wife, Madge Isobel, whom he presumably married in South Africa, or just before he went. Charles William Durham said he had "2 stepmothers".




William Jacob Smith Durham is described by various family members as having 3 pubs in Greenwich and/or owning the Neville Arms in Borough High Street and 5 others in Greenwich. According to Charlie (the writer’s cousin) he was found in bed with a maid, fell into disgrace and emigrated to South Africa in 1882. Charlie says he "rented" the pub, that's why he was disgraced.  It would be interesting to know whether licensed victuallers owned their pubs in those days, or whether they were simply managers on behalf of the brewery, like nowadays. If he owned one or more pubs, naughty as the incident with the maid may have been, I don’t see why that should have made him emigrate.  And what happened to the pubs after he went away? If on the other hand he was only a manager, how would he have had so many pubs? So perhaps it was a mixture, owning and renting.

William Jacob Smith Durham gave Charles William Durham £100 before he went, but later had to ask for it back, and died a pauper in South Africa in 1894.


According to Charlie, when William Jacob Smith Durham emigrated, Charles William Durham walked to Gravesend, and went to live with his mother’s elder sister, Mary Ann Martin (Aunt Lygo), who had married a widower, Henry Charles Lygo, also a waterman, in 1866. Mary Ann probably didn’t have any children of her own (she was 42 when she married), although her husband had 3 daughters by his first marriage.


In the 1871 census William Jacob Smith Durham is shown as living at the Man in the Moon, Greenwich, with his second wife, Louisa (although they didn’t actually get married till 1872!), but without his two sons (not all that surprisingly!), although they would only have been 5 and 4 then; so perhaps they were already living with the Lygos in Gravesend then, having gone to live there when their mother died. Charles William Durham is shown as living with the Lygos in Edwin Street in Gravesend. Walter James Durham is missing, which is a mystery.


In the 1881 census William Jacob Smith Durham is not shown, so perhaps he had already emigrated to South Africa by then and not in 1882, as previously believed.  Charles William Durham was living with the Lygos at 69 Parrock Street, Gravesend, but there is no mention of his brother, Walter James Durham anywhere, although he was only 14.


The story also goes that Charles William Durham met Annie Wigley when he was living with the Lygos, as she was a servant there, and they married in August 1891 at Greenwich.  In the 1891 census Charles was still living with the Lygos, but Annie was in service at another address in Northfleet, so perhaps she’d lost her job with the Lygos.


At the wedding, the witnesses were his cousin William Henry and his wife Emma Louisa Pyett Martin, ie. nobody from his and her immediate family - one wonders why they got married in Greenwich (they BOTH gave their address as 27 Haddington Terrace, Greenwich), not Gravesend. Perhaps the marriage was disapproved of.


Mary Ann Lygo had a servant who left to get married, and found she still needed domestic help. She engaged a Miss Annie Wigley from Selling in Kent (how she got in touch with some one living so far away I do not know). Annie turned out to he a buxom, good looking girl, but with little education due to poor rural schooling.


In normal circumstances Charlie (Charles William Durham) would not have considered Annie as a partner but he had one very grave drawback - he was only 4 feet 11 inches tall - so short that no woman would look at him. However, Annie did, although she was easily five or six inches taller and very robust. They married and had four children and settled in Gravesend. Granddad found work in the printing firm of Harmsworths in Northfleet and Grandma turned their front room at 84 Cecil Road, into a sweet shop.


Walter James Durham married in 1888, settled in Poole, Dorset, and had about 9 children.


When I became old enough to notice things I realised that Grandma always was acting a part, putting on airs, never letting up and behaving as if she was of a higher social status. Gradually I became to realise that she had married quite a bit “above herself”.

Even in my early teens I must have been a hit of a social observer to notice all this.

My own mother Nancy (actually Annie Ethel) Cobley was from a higher social status than Grandmother Durham. My Grannie Cobley came from a well educated middle class family, but had to break up her marriage as her husband turned out to be a sottish drinker.

Grandfather Durham enjoyed life and made the best of things, but he never went down to the hopfields. In his younger days he had done turns on the Music Hall stage, and still loved them - and took me to several of them. I have no photos of him. I loved him but did not like grandmother Durham. My mother and I lived with Grannie Cobley for some years and although she was very strict I liked her.

Looking at my father (Henry Charles Lygo Durham) in this picture (see PHOTOS D008) I think it shows that he was puzzled and unhappy with life - due probably to the considerable disparity of education and intelligence between his parents.