It was reported in The Daily Telegraph of 17 February 2012 that, under the 60 year rule, recently released MI5 Files in Britain showed that in 1952, the Americans had requested British authorities to look into the background of Charlie Chaplin, the renown English comedian. He had returned to Britain that year to attend the premiere of his latest film 'Limelight'. After settling in Hollywood in 1914, he attained enormous success in the early movie industry but just after the 2nd world war he became one of many suspected communist sympathisers there. The US Immigration Department were now seeking evidence that would link him more definitely with such organisations. In any case, they announced that he would not be allowed back into America because of those alleged connections. He subsequently took up residence in Switzerland.
But MI5 could find no evidence that Chaplin was ever a true communist or security risk but merely a sympathiser with leftist leanings. The Americans suggested that he may have been a Russian Jew called Israel Thornstein, and was possibly born near Paris, France. Chaplin claimed that he was in fact born in East Street, Walworth, South London - on 16th April 1889. But after searching Somerset House unsuccessfully for his birth certificate, M15 concluded that "It would seem that he was either not born in this country, or that his name at birth was other than those mentioned". The earliest official record pertaining to him was said to be a British passport issued in 1920. No evidence of his birth in France or of Russian nationality or Jewish ethnicity was ever found, "leaving his true origins, said the report, a mystery to this day".
A possible if unlikely answer to the mystery emerged last year, noted the article, when Chaplin's family found a letter in a locked drawer of a bureau inherited by Victoria Chaplin, one of Charlie's daughters, after her mother Oona had died in 1991. The letter, written about 1971 by one 'Jack Hill' of Tamworth in the English midlands, and recently published online by 'The Mail', stated that Charlie was born in a caravan in an area in Smethwick, Birmingham known as 'the Black Patch' (or Black Patch Park) - as Mr Hill said he was himself, two and a half years later. The caravan was owned by his Auntie - known as 'the Gipsy queen'. The Mail article describes this area as having been "a thriving Romany community" at the time. "Your mum, wrote Mr Hill, did move again - with her Dad's circus and later settled down in London...". The Telegraph article noted that Charlie's mother was born Hannah Hill and was 'known to be descended from travellers'. She and Charlie's father were later both in 'show business'.
Charlie's autobiograpphy had not long been published when this letter was written (in 1971) and we may assume that Mr Hill had probably read it and noted the reference to Charlie's birth in April, 1889 (in south London). His remark that he was himself born in that same Romany area in Smethick not long after (about October 1891) was seemingly consistent (in his mind) with whatever he was told about Charlie's comparable birth there. (We should note that it is ambiguous as to whose Dad allegedly owned the circus.) It is not impossible that a circus (whether of gypsy character or not) had rented part of the Romany site either to store its equipment or to perform their acts there for a week or so - possibly including one performed by a lady who was referred to as 'the Gypsy queen' (as a fortune teller, say) and in whose caravan expectant mothers in the show were traditionally helped in childbirth, as and if needed. [We may note here that throughout the Victorian era, local papers would report on the funerals of various 'elders' of their own Gipsy communities and were often described as 'the King or the Queen' of the Gipsies.]
Were Hannah and Charlie's father 'on the road' near the time of Charlie's birth (in early 1889), we may wonder - performing as and where they could, whether together or not, possibly in the Birmingham area ? Apparently the father at least was - performing at Hull, Yorkshire at the alleged time of his son's birth. Where was Hannah then ? If Hannah did give birth to Charlie in that Smethwick caravan, she could have registered his birth (and had him later baptised) almost anywhere - before returning to Walworth soon after - probably to share her mother's rooms in Walworth as noted in the 1891 Census (see below). But why tell Charlie later that he was born there - on East Street - if he wasn't ? Moreover, any properly registered birth should appear in the indexes anyway - wherever registered in the UK. There would seem to be no reason not to register the birth, nor indeed to not have him baptised - even if 'it's a wise man who knows his own father'. While the caravan birth may sound a touch suspect, Charlie's eldest living son Michael felt the letter concerned could well be genuine for his father to have kept it, and locked up.
Information from Charlie Chaplin's Autobiography, Relevant Archives and Other Internet Sources.
We may first check to what extent any of the above reported facts may be confirmed or not in Charlie's own autobiography (published 1964). In this, he indeed states in the very first sentence that "I was born on 16 April 1889, at eight o'clock at night, in East Street, Walworth.." (in south London) and that "soon after, we moved to West Square, St George's Road, Lambeth " (less than 1/2 mile to the west). When we consult the 1891 Census records (Piece 362, folio 42, page 5) - taken just two years after his presumed birth, for any relevant evidence, we find that a family Headed by Hannah Chaplin, aged 24 and Married, did indeed still reside in Walworth that year - at 94 Barlow Street (seemingly in the civil and ecclesiastical parish of St John the Evangelist) - very close to East Street, the main street in that area. The move to West Square wasn't that soon, therfore.
In Hannah's household then were her two sons: Sidney J. H. Chaplin, shown aged 6 and Charles Chaplin, aged 2, both shown as born in Walworth (quite possibly in that same parish). [Note: while Sidney's name is reported to the census enumerator by Hannah as having three forenames, only one is given for Charlie. A second name (of Spencer) appears much later - without any documentary evidence as to if and when it was ever given or assumed.] For Sidney, his birth in Walworth would thus be about 1885 and for Charles, 1889. Hannah too is shown as born in that same district - in about 1865. Her occupation in 1891 was given as 'Professional Artist - Music'. (We later learn that her stage name was 'Lily Harley', a Singer.) Hannah's husband (and Charlie's presumed father, a Mr Chaplin, one would assume) was not listed at the Barlow Street residence on that Census night - typically taken in early April. (He was later found in that same Census to be residing then in a house of fellow thespians not far away; seemingly, they had already separated by that date - before Charlie was 2.)
Sharing the accommodation at number 94 however, but listed as Head (of her own household therein), was a Mary A. Hill, aged 50+, also still Married and shown as a Wardrobe Dealer, born Soho, London (ca 1835). (Two young, unnamed women in their 30s had apparently also resided with her there on Census night but had been 'turned out' the next day; no details about them were provided.) One could speculate that Mary A. Hill was likely Hannah's mother and, unless shown otherwise, that her full forename was Mary Ann. We may also assume that this location of the family in 1891 was probably a year or so before their apparent next move - to nearby West Square just off St George's Road in neighbouring Lambeth - by about 1892-93, say - when Charles would be 3 or 4. Obviously, Charlie only knew of these early facts of his life by hearing about them later - probably from his mother. His brother Sidney however would be 8 years old by 1893 and may himself have had some vague personal recollections of those early years - and of any 'significaant others' possibly then briefly sharing their second home (as two George D. Wheelers, for example - elaborated on below).
Charlie's presence near East Street in Walworth in 1891, aged two years, is certainly not inconsistent with a birth reported as there barely two years before. Our next port of call would normally be to confirm this by checking the local parish church registers for expected entries - firstly for Hannah's baptism (ca 1860s), for her marriage (ca 1880s) and for the births and babtisms of her two sons (ca mid- to late-1880s). But these require searching a number of possible such church registers (if they can be identified as the likley one(s)) - at the London Metropolitan Archives in Clerkenwell - normally without the aid of indexes. A more efficient alternative (for now) is effectively to repeat what the MI5 searched in 1952 - the civil registrations of births - now usefully indexed and available on-line at 'free bmd' (if with limited information). But, as found at that time with respect to young Charles at least, no such registration is indeed apparent over the period 1885-1890 in the Newington-Walworth-Lambeth area (nor indeed elsewhere in England).
Is there not a baptism record somewhere with his full name shown (as Charles Spencer Chaplin) or did Charlie just assume that middle name himself, once an adult ? Later biographers seem to have simply taken it on board - as an unquestioned given from birth. Possibly, his father had suggested it (that name being signficant in his family at least. Might he have registered the birth as such - but wrongly as to spelings - in his often inebriated state ?
And while nationally there was a (single) registration for a Charles Chaplin for the relevant Quarter in 1889, it concerned a Northamptonshire birth and the parents' forenames were both inappropriate. There was nothing relevant in or near Birmingham either; Nor was anything found in or near Walworth for Charles' older brother Sidney Chaplin - about five earlier. All most odd. What did the boys do later, one wonders, when various authorities required proofs of birth ? Did they not discuss with each other the fact of their missing birth certificates - and so make enqiries then - in their early 20s say ? If not, why not ?
Hannah's Complicated and Stressful Life.
The younger Charles Chaplin refers to his 'Mother' (now known to us as Hannah) as being on the stage by about the age of 16 or so (after briefly being a 'Mantle Machinist' in 1881 - as shown on that year's census, she then aged 15). She apprently first met her husband-to-be Charles Chaplin Snr, while performing together in early stage plays about a year later (1882). They were said by Charlie to have become 'sweethearts' by then - she 17 and Charles Snr 19. But, by 1883, when Hannah was just 18, she allegedly ran off ('eloped') to South Africa with a middle-aged man of apparent means who had 'swept her off her feet'. However, she was said to have returned within a year or so (when about 19 in early 1885 seemingly) and, according to Charlie, would later speak of the luxury of the life there. Her first-born, Sidney, seems to have been born by late 1884 to early 1885 - his father allegedly being the well-off 'Lord' (or son of same) that Hannah had supposedly eloped with. When he reached 21, 'Sidney was suppose to inherit $2000 pounds', according to Hannah some years later. One assumes this never transpired.
This leaves doubt about Sidney's date and place of birth and his paternity. Did Hannah really become pregnant by early- to mid-1884, say, and quietly 'disappear' (as to the 'Black Patch, for example ?) for a few months, returning with her Africa story and a new baby born in early 1885? We were unable to find any certain evidence regarding the younger Charles' birth some years later (thus far) - around April 1889; what do we find with respect to his elder brother Sidney Chaplin - listed as aged 6 in the 1891 Census, and so born about that suggested year - of 1885 ?
We should point out here that our search for relevant evidence with regard to the principals of our story should focus on the date and place of their births, baptisms and marriages - ideally including registrations in both parish churches and civic registry offices, where appropriate. This could entail upto ten items of data per person for a complete set of such facts. Sadly, this is rarely found. However, we may begin with what we have obtained (thus far) - with respect to the births of Hannah, Sidney and Charlie, and with Hannah's marriage:
We begin with Hannah. We have no evidence as to her exact date and place of birth although these were likey approximated in the subsequent civil registeration of same at the relevant Walworth sub-district - where her parents were named and her own name at birth registered - as 'Hannah Harriett Pedlingham Hill' - in the Sept quarter of 1865. [We see that a 'Mary Ann Pedlingham's' birth was also registered there just two years earlier - born to a George and Eliza Pedlingham. This was certainly not a common surname in that area. Hannah's mother Mary Ann Hill was likely a close friend of Eliza Pedlingham therefore - who seems to have named her daughter after this contemporary friend - who (oddly) then included her friend Eliza's surname as part of her own daughter Hannah's full forenames. (It was more usual to include a putative father's surname (as a forename) this way.) We note that George and Eliza Pedlingham later lived in Camberwell, about a mile south of Walworth, for many years.] Normally, one would then have to order this civil birth registration certificate (vs the index entry) for full details of Hannah's birth (where and when, and the parents' names and occupations) this could become rather costly if many such certificates (including those for marrages as well) were required for all concerned.
[However, about 18 months after writing the foregoing, I had an opportunity to make further enquiries into these matters - at the London Metropolitan Archives - where (if one is lucky) some additional information may be found without incurring such costs. As mentioned, we do have Hannah's civil birth registration - at least as indexed, for a particular sub-district but not yet the details contained within the registration certificate; nor can we be sure in which of several chuches located in that larger civil registration sub-district may any subsequent baptism have been performed - with details then entered into its register. I was however unable to identify such a parish church where a baptism entry for Hannah may have been made. The church register sometimes shows both the date and place of the baptism (in the relevant columns of the standard church baptism register form), as well as details regarding the birth itself (sometimes but not always written into the margin - there being (amazinghly) no column specifically for actual date or place of birth); it is essentailly a register for baptism details only. Until about the 1890s, infants brought to many south London churches for baptism could be brought as much as 3 or 4 years after the actual birth, although it was generally only 2 or 3 months later. But this may only be concluded if that birth date has been shown or already known. If one suspects a date of birth, it may still be difficult to locate any later baptismal evidence (because of such delays) without scanning the possibly relevant church register (if known) for a considerble but unknown period into the future; fatigue can soon creep in and such searches abandonnded.
We may usefully set out in tables what information we have found thus far (or hope to soon) on the three people of present interest and so at least increase our confidence that we've addressed all relevant possibilities - if available. Some of this information is now at hand but has yet to be entered in the three intended tables: [Note: tbc = to be confirmed]
I then traced some of Hannah's life by means of the Census - for 1871 and 1881. In 1871, when she was just 6, she is found living at home with her parents Charles and Mary Ann Hill at.... (to be completed). By 1881, they were living in.....and.....(to be completed).
At the Archives office, I was able to check on the civil registration for both the birth of Sidney and the subsequent (sic) marriage of his mother Hannah. [This and other information now to be entered above.] She registered his birth (civicly) in the registration sub-district of St John the Evangelist, Walworth on the first day of that June quarter, 1885 - that is, on April 1st. His name was shown in the first column on the left as 'Sidney John Hill'. The next column, to its right, is for the father's name into which was also written (seemingly in error) the same two forenames - of 'Sidney John' - but with no surname shown. But these two forenames for the father as so shown were then crossed out - presumably by the registrar - apparently being an erroneous entry ...or when he realised that the names alredy given for the baby (suggestd by Hannah, one assumes) did not (in the father's column) have the same surname as already given for the baby - which was the same as Hannah's - shown as: 'Hannah Harriett Hill'. The father's surname (if given or mentioned) was therefore not then entered and the two forenames in the father's column seemingly soon crossed out. Hannah's address was given as Brandon Street in that same sub-district - of St John's, Walworth. It seems to have been located not that far from where she and her sons would be living by 1891. [Bt this also to be further confirmed however. We would assume that the local parish church was St John Evangelist.]
The actual date of the birth was (I believe) not shown in the civil registration entry. [This too to be confirmed.] It was noted that East Street, where Hannah's second son Charlie said he was born about 4 years later, was also in this same registration sub-district, as it seems was Barlow Street just 200 yards to the east, where they lived at the time of the 1891 census. But there wss no comparable civil entry in respect of young Charlie Chaplin (as there had been for Sidney John Hill) in that registration district of St John, Walworth. Why not - we may well ask ?
I then checked for a civil registration for a likely marriage of Hannah and her husband-to-be Charles Chaplin - for which an index entry had also been noted for that same quarter (in the free bmd facilty) - but which doesn't give the exact date of the marriage during that quarter - there being 13 weeks in a quarter. If Sidney was registered on the first day of that same quarter, it seemed most unlikely therefore that they would have married before Hannah had registerd the birth of Sidney with her own surname of 'Hill'. To determine this, it would otherwise be necessary to order and view the civil marriage registration certificate for that same quarter. However, it was possible on this occasion to locate evidence of the marriage in the relevant parish church register in any case - once thus identified.
2. Church Registration of a Baptism (for Sidney) and a Marriage (for Hannah) in a local Parish Church.
One next looked for an entry in the local parish church register for a baptism for Sidney. This could have been entered any time after his birth - of which exact date we are not aware. Thus, his birth could have been as early as September 1884, say, and thus one could search for a subsequent baptism between that date and almost anytime - either before or after the eventual civil registration of his birth on.........(which certificate should show his date of birth sometime before that). Thus, to this point, we do not have evidence or details for a church baptism for Sidney. On April 7th 1885, one week after Sidney's birth was registered civilly, the register of the local parish church in that area - St John the Evangelist - recorded the posting of banns for an intended marriage there of Hannah Harriett Hill with Charles Chaplin (as well as those for 5 other couples). This was repeated twice more at the required weekly intervals - on April 14th and April 21st - duly followed on April 22nd 1885 by their marriage at that church - situated about 100 yards north of East Street and a little east of Brandon Street. Charles was a bachelor, aged 22, a 'Professional Singer' and Hannah a spinster, aged 19, with no occupation listed. Both signed the church register and gave their address as 57 Brandon Street, Walworth. His father was shown as Spencer Chaplin, a Butcher and her father as Charles Hill, a Bootmaker. Witnesses were a George Bailey and Mary Ann Hill (Hannah's mother); both witnesses also signed in their own hand.
Hannah would have turned 18 in the summer of 1883 - with Sidney appearing by early 1885 on this reckoning. This would make him just under 5 years older than Charles. We would hope to find evidence of Sidney's birth between late 1884 and early 1886, say, and of his parents' marriage not long before this presumably. Young Charles had said that his mother "..did not stay long in Africa (with the 'middle-aged Lord' as he called him), but returned to England and married my father". [Note: Passenger List records exist for voyages from Southampton to Cape Town (and return) but apparently only from 1890.]
We find that Hannah and Charles Snr did marry - in the June Quarter 1885 - as registered civilly in St Saviour's, Southwark (formerly Newington or Walworth) - but with no evidence of a birth registration for a Sidney Chaplin following this, as may have been expected - ie in 1885-86, say. What we do find however is the registration of the birth of a 'Sidney John Hill' - in that same June Quarter of 1885, also in St Saviour's, Southwark (which included Walworth). (Which came first, we may wonder ? There are 13 weeks in a quarter; in this case, during April, May and June.) We can't be certain of course when Sidney was actually born prior to that registration, nor where and to what father. We would have to check the actual registration copy or, again, the local parish registers to confirm such dates and that the mother of this baby was indeed, as suspected, our apparently unmarried Hannah Hill, and not some other, married 'Mrs Hill'. [This now done; see below.] [No child of this name at least is listed as having died in the period 1885 to 1891, and the 1891 Census does not show him as such elsewhere; he would seem therefore to have ceased to be further recorded later - as 'Sidney John Hill' - while a Sidney J. H. Chaplin was now recorded as such - in that forthcoming 1891 Census.] If Hannah was indeed his mother, as it strongly appears, when did she find herself with child, and by whom ? Was it by Charles Chaplin ? Apparently not - if we believe the comment uttered by his second 'wife' Louise as mentioned below. This likelihood is further consolidated by a remark made later by the younger Charles himself, and by others.
In any case, Charles Chaplin Snr soon married Hannah, his boyhood sweetheart - the marriage being registered civicly in the June quarter of 1885 in Walworth sub-district Registration office- even though she appears to have given birth to baby Sidney only shortly before, of which fact Charles Snr would presumably have been quite aware. Both boys were in any case later raised as 'Chaplins'. We might reasonably conclude that Sidney's full name as given by Hannah at the 1891 Census was most probably 'Sidney John Hill Chaplin' (second and third forenames typically being subsequently abbreviated by the enumerators, or in the later indexes). One wonders what would be the basis for those first two forenames chosen by Hannah; they were not evident in either her own or Charles' families.
So, we have a civil registration for the birth of Sidney in St John, Walworth but no evidence for his date of birth or for any subsequent church baptism for him. We do have index evidence for a civil registration for Hannah's marriage to Charles Chaplin - in the June quarter of 1885 - but we have not yet seen the actual certificate for same which should show the date and place of the marriage.[But how do we come to have the copy of the civil registraion for Sidney's birth biut not of Hannah's marriage ?] We do have evidence for the posting of marriage banns and the date of the consequent marriage itself - in the church concerned. The answer to the origin of Sidney's forename began to be resolved by a search of Internet sources whereby a Hollywood film archive site (IMDd) indicates that Charlie's brother Sidney Chaplin (closely involved with him in early films there) was apparently 'the son of Hannah and Sidney Hawkes, a Jewish Bookmaker ('Bookie'), and was born, it said, on 16 March, 1885, in London'. And another source (www.wargs.com/other/chaplin.html) partially corroborates this in noting that Hannah, by her first husband, one Sydney Hawkes, had a son named Sydney - born in 1885 - but in Cape Town, South Africa - the younger Sydney later (or his mother almost immediately?) changing his surname to Chaplin'. We might reasonably assume that she didn't actually marry Sidney Hawkes, that she didn't register Sidney as Hawkes (in either Cape Town or in London) but that she did register him with the surname Hill (as Sidney John Hill) in the following Quarter in London, as mentioned above, later marrying Charles Chaplin with her maiden name of Hill shortly thereafter, without first having any recorded (or required?) UK divorce. Of course, all such assumptions and assertions require further evidence and confirmation one way or the other. One is curious as to how and why it was ascertained that the alleged Mr Hawkes was necessarily Jewish; there were no doubt many Bookmakers in Victorian England but their ethnicity wasn't normally a consideration or particularly apparent or mentioned, one assumes. Where did these details first emerge ?
With regard to the 'further evidence and confirmation' mentioned above, we can now report here (after trying a (subsequent) 'long shot') - that the IGI indexes (for South Africa) do show both the marriage and birth of Sydney Hawkes - the father and son, respectively - in both cases in association with Hannah nee Hill. The entries read: 'Sydney Hawkes married Hannah Lily Hill in Cape Town, South Africa in 1883, with her year of birth shown as 1867 (but not where) while her new husband's year of death is given - as 1884. The same IGI facility indicates that this couple then had a son 'Sydney John Hawkes' - born on 16 March 1885 - in Cape Town'. It would thus appear that the father Sydney had died a few weeks or months before this birth and in Cape Town. Odd however that no exact dates or places are provided for the marriage or the death. Where did the Mormons get such incomplete data ? Was any of it 'guessed at' (ie 'estimated') or was it based on hearsay evidence rather than on actual register entries ?
Poor Hannah - alone with a new infant (her first) in a strange country (if her story is to be believed), and at just 20. What 'arrangements' were made for her return - during April that year, say - and by whom ? Was there an inquest or Administration/Will ? Were there telegrams (yet) - between Cape Town and the UK and if so, to whom ? Was Sydney Snr himself also born in South Africa (with its considrable Jewish population) - in the 1840s, say - who only met Hannah during a short trip to England and then 'swept her off her feet' - to come away and share his ?established life back in South Africa ? Or was he English ? The IGI shows no birth for him in South Africa ca 1820-1860. He was said to be rather older than her. Did South Africa have 'Bookies'' in Victorian times ? In any case, 'no true 'Lord' he', we would now assume.
Indeed ! The Internet has now revealed the contents of another biography on Charlie Chaplin ('Chaplin: A Life' by Stephen M. Weissman; Arcade: 2008) in which the identity of Sydney Hawkes is given as: 'a London-born 'con man' from the East end (and thus possibly Jewish, although that may have been a prejudiced assumption) who did take Hannah to South Africa, impregnated her with both a baby and a 'social disease' rampant at the time and left her high and dry. His marriage to her and possible death there remains to be confirmed (I've written to a Cape Town family history society and still await results). The author, a respected psychiatrist, suggests that Hannah was even forced into prostitution for a time - either in Africa (to earn her fare home?) and/or after her return to London, although how this would have been revealed seems uncertain. It is quite possible that her later hospital notes would have documented some of her (eventually) admitted story. Her increasingly irrational behaviour may have resulted in part fron her infection as well as from her very poor diet. Some of this may have been told to young Sidney and/or Charlie but is understandably not indicated or commented on in the autobiography or during his lifetime.
If we return to the biography, we note that Charles says that he does not remember his father (still unnamed to that point) ever living with them. He was told that he too had been a Singer on the stage, that he drank far too much and soon fell behind in paying the family's support. He (later named as Charles himself) and Hannah seem to have separated by about 1890/91. Except for references to his heavy drinking and general unreliability, there is no mention by Charles Jnr of any other specific basis for the failure of the marriage. However, other sources indicate that it may have been more the result of Hannah's infidelity - with a fellow stage perfomer - one George Dryden Wheeler (1863-1939), known professionally as 'Leo Dryden'. He was later a renowned singer of patriotic songs. By about December 1891, Hannah apparently became pregnant with 'Leo's' child - who would be born in Brixton (as reported) the following August 31st, 1892 - seemingly named after the father. (But in what name, we may wonder, was he registered - as Hill, Wheeler or Dryden - and where ?) This would be about the time the family moved to West Square. But Hannah and Leo soon split up (to the extent they were ever truly 'a couple') and young George was allegedly 'snatched' from Hannah's apartment by 'Leo' when he was about 6 months old (ca March, 1893) and taken to India (where the IGI shows no relevant birth registration). He was apparently raised as 'George Dryden' or as Dryden Wheeler' (Jnr) or later known by some combination of those names. He will briefly re-enter our story later.
Meanwhile, Hannah's husband Charles Chaplin Snr soon established his own new relationship about this time - with 'Louise' (surname unknown) in a house on nearby Kennington Road, a well known thoroughfare in Lambeth. They too had a son - in about 1894 (name unknown). Between them, Hannah and Charles Snr would thus produce 4 sons - all half-brothers to each other! (as shown above). But Charles Snr would die of alcoholism in 1901, aged just 37. His christian name is never mentioned by Charles in the biography directly, nor is that of his mother, they being referred to there consistently as simply Father and Mother. On just one occasion, when he and Sidney were being looked after by Charles and new 'wife' Louise (their own mother being ill in hospital), the younger Charles recalls that, "I remember Louise saying to a visiting friend: 'This one's all right (indicating me), but the other one (Sidney)'s a little swine and should be sent to a reformatory - and, what's more, he's not even Charlie's son'!" This recollection informs us (indirectly), and only on page 35, of his father's actual name (also Charles) and the fact that Sidney was apparently not Charles Jnr's full-brother.
While staying with his father and Louise (ca 1897/8), the younger Charles also heard reference to one of his father's brothers - a Spencer Chaplin - who owned or ran several Public Houses in neighbouring Lambeth. The father of the two brothers (and of other siblings) was also named Spencer and this was clearly the source of the younger Charlie's alleged middle name. This, as with his name generally, has, however, never been verified in terms of a birth certificate or baptism entry. The two boys also met their half-brother, the 4 year-old son of his father and Louise at that time; and while so mentioned in the biography, he too remained unnamed therein and, I believe, ever since. There is however no reference to their other half-brother (as George D. Wheeler or whatever) either - of whose existence Charles was possibly unaware until later in his life and, for reasons best known to himself, chose not to mention or allude to in the biography, although they did eventually meet and even work together in Hollywood years before he wrote up his own life story.
We may set out an brief outline pedigree here - to summarise some of what has been discussed thus far (or will be shortly below):
On Hannah's Mother's Family.
Charles then tells us a little more about his mother Hannah and her family. She was, he says, the elder of two daughters (neither named) of one Charles Hill, 'an Irish cobbler from county Cork' who allegedly had a boot-repair business on East Lane, Walworth. (This Charles, his grandfather, claimed to have acquired his rheumatic gout from sleeping in damp fields when hiding from police during nationalist uprisings in Ireland (which would be in the 1850s, say, just after the potato famine. There had been on-going republican movements in Ireland since the mid-1600s and these coalesced further just after the famine with the develpment of the 'Young Irelander' and the 'Fenian' movements; such 'uprisings' involving young Charles could conceivably have been the case therefore - if he was indeed raised there - and later (aged about 18 or so) emigrating to England, as did thousands after the Famine. (However, we have no evidence suggesting he was or had been a Catholic.) As a young man in England in the 1860s (wherever he was raised),Charles Hill would have been thoroughly immersed in the chief news of the day about the famous Irish patriot Charles Stuart Parnell who sought Home Rule for Ireland more impressively than any before him. Was Charles swept up in a romantic vision of an imagined upbringing in Ireland as a result ? But, surely young Charlie would know and have spoken to any of his grandfather's relatives - and/or his own mother - about this alleged origin, at some point ?
Charlie also understood that his grandma - his mother's mother - Mary Ann - was 'half gypsy', with the maiden name Smith (not uncommon amongst travellers), who bragged that her family had at least 'always paid ground rent'. It doesn't appear known if it was Mary Ann's father or her mother (or either) who was of gipsy stock. Mary Ann had separated from Grandpa (Hill) by the time young Charles had come along. She would thus appear to be the Mary Ann Hill who, then aged 50+ (bn ca 1840 but quite possibly before), lived with her daughter Hannah and family in 1891, very near East Street, albeit listed as Head of her own one person household there. If, before Charlie was born, Hannah was away touring with Charles Snr (or on her own) around 1888/9, say (as mentioned), Mary Ann may well have cared for young Sidney 'back home' in Walworth. As noted, her own place of birth was listed in the 1891 census as 'Soho' ca 1840 (which falls in Middlesex, north of the river).
Mary Ann Smith or..... Mary Ann Terry or..... Both ?
If we consult the civil Birth, Marriage and Death (bmd) indexes now available on-line (which were originally listed by Registration District (RD) per Quarter from Sept Quarter (Q) 1837), we see that for each of the London portions of the two counties of Middlesex and Surrey - (such portions together later deemed to be a County in its own right, for which there is another set of partially over-lapping entries), we find approximately 5 to 10 entries listed for births of Mary Ann Smiths for each of the 20 Quarters between 1837 and 1840 (for all three Counties) - or about 250 theoretical possibilities in total! Fortunately, the RD that includes Soho (St Giles) shows very few such entries and it and other RDs nearby might be further considered - in time. South of the river (in Surrey) the RDs of possible relevance include Newington, Walworth (both sometimes listed within St Saviour RD) and Lambeth; we shall note later that one or other of these was, inconsistently, also given (in other Censuses) as Mary Ann's stated place of birth. And they too show just as many possibilities. The search thus becomes rather a challenge. Moreover, such birth index entries do not show parents' names and one would want other suggestive evidence before ordering any actual certificates (rather costly) - in order to determine such and hopefully gain further confirmation and useful information.
The next source of such information would be the Censuses. As she appears to have been born before 1841, the first such Census to usefully examine would be the one for that year - the first to be carried out nationally. It only states whether the individal concerned was or was not born in the present county of residence. However, no relevant young Mary Ann Smith was noted in that earliest Census - for either the Soho or Newington areas. At the next Census, that for 1851 (which does show, as do all subsequent ones, actual places of birth), she would still not be old enough (at between ca 11 to 15 years) to have yet married so we would still seek her presence as 'Mary Ann Smith'. We find that there were only two who were born in Middx but later (1851) resided in the Walworth area. One was 15 (b 1836 in St Clement Danes, quite close to Soho) to a Samuel and Harriet Smith who later lived in Bermondsey and had 7 other children (of whom no later mention ever occurs in our Mary Ann's family). The other was 14 (b 1837) born in the City (some way from Soho) to a John and Ann Smith - later residing promisingly in Lambeth, with a large family.
There were also 5 other Mary Ann Smiths of possible relevance but all were both born and resided south of the river, in or near Walworth and Lambeth: as eg another aged 15 born to William and Mary Ann Smith in Rotherhithe, with three other siblings; one aged 14 (born ca 1837) who appears to have been one of about 50 similarly aged children in a boarding school or Workhouse setting in Lambeth, with no parents named; another that same age (b 1837) born in Norwood (south of Camberwell) who lived later in Clapham (to the west) staying with a young married copule named John and Emily Bowyer; another 14 year old born Camberwell 1837 had been adopted by a William and Mary Slade, with 3 other adoptees; and finally a 13 year old daughter of an Ann Smith (54), born and resided in Lambeth in the St Mary Princess Road area. One may appreciate that identifying any particular Mary Ann Smith as the one being sought is frought thus with difficulties.
On the other hand, some genealogies (eg a most thorough one by Michael J. Wood) suggest that Mary Ann first married as early as 1854 - when she would be aged about 15 to 17 only. Was there such a marriage for a Mary Ann Smith that year or thereabouts ? We would imagine there would have been several. However, the one marriage specified by Wood was not for a Mary Ann Smith but for a Mary Ann Terry - to one Henry Lamphee Hodges, a signwriter, which took place on 15 May 1854 - at St John's Waterloo, Lambeth. The indexes do show just such a marriage. In relation to her birth as indicated in the 1891 Census, however, this early date implies Mary Ann would be but 15 at that time. If she was actually nearer 17 (which seems more likely), she would have been born around 1837 - still a bit earlier than understood. Now, a search for a marriage of a Mary Ann Smith that fits this scenario (to some other husband) would likely find several of that name although not necessarily with any corroborating evidence or hints that any given one would necessarily be the relevant one. That any such marriage of a Mary Ann Smith ca 1856-60, say, was however not further considered seems to imply that the marriage of the Mary Ann Terry described above has that supporting evidence. This could well be in terms of her eventual marriage to Hannah's father (Charles Hill).
An examination of the actual birth and /or marriage registrations and certificates for the appropriate Mary Ann Terry should reveal her age and also her father's name and occupation. This could be relevant to further identifying her and judging her possible Gypsy background, for example, and any relevance that may have with regard to Charlie's missing birth record. [We note that her husband Henry was apparently the one born 14 Sept 1824 (to a Henry and Caroline Hodges) and baptised 1 Oct that year at St Mary Marylebone (Middlesex) and so aged 30+ at the marriage. He seems to have had a brother William John Hodges, also born there, in 1826, and possibly another named Joseph. See later. [To what extent an apparent later marriage (ca 1883) - between a Henry Lamphee (bn ca 1858, but where unknown) and an Alice (?Emma) Hodges (bn ca 1863, seemingly in Newington) which produced a son Henry Lamphee (bn 24 Aug 1884 in St John, Walworth) might relate to any of the foregoing remains uncertain.] In any case, if Mary Ann was born after the Sept Q of 1837, her birth should have been registered at the local Registration District (RD) at that time - but now as Mary Ann Terry of course - not Smith (if the above marriage was indeed the correct one). For, as mentioned, civil registrations only begin from that Quarter.
The marriage certificate has yet to be obtained (by the present writer at least) but when this civil birth registration was again sought, no index entry was apparent for the birth of a Mary Ann Terry is the Soho area of Middlesex - between Sept 1837 and Dec 1840. This leaves the possibility that she was born there or nearby nevertheless - but ca 1835 to early '37, say; this may be investigated (later) - by means of the IGI indexes. Or was she really born south of the river - in or near Newington, Walworth or Lambeth - between 1835 and 1840 ? If so, why would she have informed the enumerator in 1891 that she was born in Soho ? If born before June 1841 (as she very likely was), we also have a chance of finding her in the Censuses for 1841 and 1851 - but now as Mary Ann Terry - and in later Censuses under her eventual married names of Hodges or Hill. Surely, we should locate some mutually consistent data in two or more of these Censuses that will 'nail down' her year and place of birth, and thus her identity and origin. What do we find ?
Before checking and reporting on those Censuses, however, we should note firstly here that the IGI for those 1835-'37 possibilities has now been checked and an intriguing entry has been located: This shows that a Mary Ann Smith Terry(!) was born to a George Terry and wife Mary Ann on 12 Nov 1835 in Marylebone, Middlesex (which abutts the Soho district) and baptised at Holy Trinity church there on 29th March 1836. We might reasonably conclude that her mother Mary Ann may have been nee Smith. Indeed, the next birth registered there for apparently these same two parents - a son George in May 1840 - now helpfully shows the mother's maiden name explicitly as Mary Ann Smith ! Sadly, no marriage for these parents ca 1830-36 has yet been found. A couple with these same names also had a daughter Emma baptised in May 1837 in neighbouring St Pancras Old Church (born 22 April). (St Pancras and Marylebone were initially considered as one entity ca 1830s.) The surname was sometimes spelt Terrey. We recall that Henry Hodges was also born in Marylebone. Might Mary Ann and Henry have met each other because the parents knewn each other ca 1840s in the Marylebone-St Pancras area?
It is just possible that these northern edges of otherwise inner London may, in those days, have provided a less crowded environment, one where a more unsettled lifestyle (as by travellers?) may have been possible. Early maps (ca 1840s) show fields rather than streets on either side of a then newly set-out Regent's Park there. Moreover, an article appearing a little earlier in the London Illustrated News (1829) painted a scathing portrait of the then current problem of the semi-settled Gypsy population (running to some thousands) living within the limits of London (often in Tents). They were known to move frequently, to avoid Census takers and to use more than one name. There would of course be a proportion who left this community and married 'out' - whose life style would likely become a little more stable but no doubt with some lingering characteristics. They made their living typically as 'Hawkers' and selling second-hand goods and it may be noteworthy that in her 50s, Mary Ann ?reverted to being a 'Wardrobe Dealer'. This was a recognised gypsy 'trade' and referred not to selling old wardrobes but rather their used contents.
Returning to the Census entries, we find firstly that in 1841, a Mary Ann Terry, aged 5+, 'resided' (or was staying over-night) in a home in the London Road sub-district of Southwark (in St George the Martyr parish) next to Newington with an apparently unmarried Mary Mallett, 60, a Servant and Ellen Masson, 15, but with no Terry parents listed. The home was on what appeared to say 'Benti H... Place' (but was very indistinct). The two others in the home were shown as born locally but Mary Ann Terry was shown as born 'not in Surrey'. Could it have been in Middlesex therefore (even in Marylebone next to Soho) ? Significantly, she was the right age to indicate a birth about 1835/36. Was Mary Mallett caring for Mary Ann for her parents or even for a widowed mother or father ? Her birth registration would not yet be covered by the civil registrations [but the church records referred to above may yet prove correct.]
Secondly, we find that a Mary Ann Terry, aged 8 months (b ca Oct 1840) was living in the Norwood part of Lambeth/Brixton with the unusually named father 'Samden Terry', 40, an agricultural labourer (Norwood then being semi-rural), with a mother Ann and 3 siblings. The parents were not born in Surrey but all the children were. The name of the father was likely a transcription error for that forename appears nowhere else in any indexes. Finally (for 1841), a Mary Terry, aged 2 (b 1839), resided with her mother Elizabeth, aged 22, with a family named Forder, on Henry Street, next to the Woolwich Dockyards (in Blackheath, Kent) in which county they were all shown to be born. This was somewhat to the east and would seem to be a long shot. We may next see if any Mary Ann Terrys are apparent in the 1851 Census (when she'd likely be aged about 12 to 15) which may or may not prove consistent with any of the foregoing entries. [We would now add that the second and third possibilities (with their later birth years) now appear more unlikely than the first one - especially if that latter ties in with the Marylebone discoveries.
In any case, nothing seems to engage fully with the foregoing. So, what happened to each of the above families by 1851 - especially that of Mary Ann Smith Terry ? Where was 15 year old Mary Ann Terry, not born in Surrey, who was staying in 1841, aged 5, with Mary Mallett in the parish of St George the Martyr (which is in the Borough road area of Southwark)? And how did she come to be there (in south London) - in the very area she would later marry and settle ? If her parents had both survived, she may otherwise have remained in Marylebone. Her possible orphaned status may explain the early shift. But where was Mary Mallett now ? None of that name appear in the 1851 Census in that area but two so named had died in Newington - in 1854 and 1865. This may well explain it. [We might note here that a Mary Mallett's birth was registered on 9 June 1782 in Smethwick, Staffs - born to a William and Catherine Mallett. Were they travellers (Gypsies) who knew Mary Ann's parents - the Terrys and/or Smiths - by the 1830s ?] In any case, where was young Mary Ann Terry now therefore, aged about 15 or so ? When we search the 1841 Census for the Marylebone area of Middlesex we find no obvious evidence of George and Mary's family. Nor in 1951. Had either or both parents died in the interim and any surviving children placed with friends or relatives (as with Mary Mallett) and, if so, where ? We note two Death registrations for George Terrys in Marylebone - in the Dec Q 1840 and 1848 - which could be the father or the son, or both. There were also two for Mary or Mary Ann Terrys - both in 1838 - in St Pancras RD and simply 'London', respectively, although the latter pre-date the birth of the younger George Terry.
As noted above, our Mary Ann would soon marry Henry Lamphee Hodges - in May 1854 in Lambeth - with whom she would apparently have a son 'Henry Hodges' or possibly 'Henry John Hodges' - either there or in neighbouring Newington, respectively, in June Q 1855. However it came about, she had clearly left the north London district (if born in Marylebone) by about 1850, say (when ca 14 or 15), to settle in the Newington area (if not up to 10 years earlier) - as had the elder Henry (also born north of the river). We might thus try next the 1861 Census (completed on Apr 7 that year) - now for Mary Ann Hodges - for we note that her second marriage - to Hannah's future father Charles Hill (still in Newington) - was not performed until mid-April 1861. Being that close, we would not be surprised to learn that first husband Henry Hodges must have died some time before this. His death was in fact registered in Newington - in Dec Q 1858. We show next another outline pedigree covering a few more of the principals. It is still 'tentative' and probably warrants more question marks than are necessarily shown.
No widowed Mary Ann Terry, with a son Henry, aged about 6, is shown in the 1861 Census indexes. We do find two or three Mary Ann Terrys working as servants of a suitable age (ca 21-25) whose places of birth can be determined and placed here - if deemed necessary. While generally only single girls were employed then as servants, she may have had to hide her true status and have a friend or relative care for young Henry. We can thus seek him out living in such a situation. But again we find no such Henry Hodges of the right age either - without both parents, in that Census. Quite maddening. What about Charles Hill that year then ?
On Hannah's Father's Family.
In Michael Wood's genealogy, the birth of Mary Ann's next husband Charles Hill is assumed to be the Charles registered on 19 Oct 1839 as 'Charles Frederick Hill', in St George the Martyr, Southwark, his birth there (at 27 Duke Street, Westminster Bridge Road) registered on 14 Sept 1839 to a Joseph Hill, then a fisherman, and wife Mary Ann Hill (former Gooden). These details (including the middle name Frederick) imply that the actual certificate was examined and we may note that at his eventuual marriage to Mary Ann Hodges in 1861, he is indeed listed as Charles Frederick Hill in the index (and in the actual certifcate, one would assume). The 1841 Census, just a year and a half later, would thus be expected to reveal this same couple locally (Joseph and Mary Ann)- with their son Charles, aged about 2, and any other family born to them either previously or later (ca 1830 to 1840, say). What do we find ?
We find 10 Joseph Hills born ca 1800 to 1810 and/or living in Surrey or Middlesex listed on the index ! Promisingly, one of these, born Surrey 1802 (age ca 39), lived on Pear Tree Street, Waterloo, Lambeth with wife Mary (vs Mary Ann) and their 6 sons, including a son Charles shown as 1+ and so born in 1839 or '40. No occupation was given for the father. (The 5 other boys were Joseph Jnr, 19, Henry, 14, James, 9, Edward, 5 and John, 4 - all born Surrey, as was Charles.) We would expect to find this family again in 1851, although the older boys would likely have moved on. There were two possibilities - one, with Joseph born ca 1800, with a wife Mary Ann and the other, born ca 1803, with wife Mary. But both now lived in Middlesex. (These yet to be examined).
However, in both 1841 and in 1851, we also note two other entries for a seemingly relevant Joseph Hill - but now with a wife Esther, both aged 30 (in 1841) - he a Bricklayer, with 5 children - the youngest being a Charles aged 3 (near enough?), living on Paragon Row, Newington (about 1/2 mile to the east of Duke Street and Pear Tree Street), all shown as born locally. Might this Joseph Hill be the same man as described above - formerly with wife Mary Ann - and a son Charles Frederick Hill (born, or only registered, in 1839?) who could equate to the 3 year old Charles (b 1838?) now found in this latter household ? Possibly he and Mary Ann (vs Mary) had separated and Esther just 'moved in' ? The working classes then could not afford divorces. If it was a different Joseph - who had actually married his Esther - earlier ca 1830 to 1837, say - as per pre-civil registration indexes (IGI), we should find references there for such a marriage (as well as that for Joseph and Mary Ann) - and for early issue from both. Do we ? Seemingly not - although admittedly there is no shortage of Joseph and Esther and/or Mary Ann Hills elsewhere and further analysis may be needed.
But in 1851, we again find Charles and Esther - living now at 7 Townley Place in nearby St Peter Walworth, Newington. Joseph was then 43 (b ca 1802), still a Bricklayer, shown now as born in Camberwell, Surrey along with Esther, also 43, and 8 children, including Charles Hill, 13+ (b ca 1837/38 - which may not be inconsistent - providing he was only registered in 1839). The children were now shown as born within a mile or so of each other south of the river in such as Lambeth, Southwark, Newington and Bermondsey (the latter for Charles). By 1861, we find no more entries for this Joseph and family (with Esther). There were 5 Joseph Hills deaths registered in Lambeth and Newington and two for Esthers in Lambeth. They are probably amongst them.
By the next Census, that of 1861, young Charles (from whichever household) would now be about 23 and, as mentioned, either still single or possibly married or widowed. It shows several Newington area households for different Charles Hills. We may note firstly an unmarried Charles Hill, born in Lambeth, shown as 25 (b 1836), then residing with his mother - now shown however as Elizabeth, 62 (not Esther), in St Giles, Camberwell along with an elder sister Hannah, 39, and brothers Edwin, 30 and Frederick, 23. However this Charles had the middle initial T. (not the F. for Frederick we had understood - a name that was, in any case, already in this family, with Charles the elder of those two). This Charles remains a slim possibility however (assuming we can confirm similar names for his siblings on some other relevant occasion) - if the appropriate one indeed hadn't been married before. (We may note that a Charles reports in 1881 (see below) that he was born in St Giles, the main parish of Camberwell and abutting Walworth). We have thus still not found anyone of this name in the relevant time frame and place shown as born in Ireland. A check of the births in Ireland of this name during the period 1835 to 1840 shows there was certainly no shortage of same there - running in fact to many dozens - but, for what its worth, none shown as Charles Frederick Hill ca 1830s.
We find next - in the Newington area - a married Charles Hill, aged 26 (b 1835!), but promisingly a Bootmaker, born in Walworth, was living in 1861 with wife 'Ann' on Tatum Place, St John's Street which is immediately round the corner from Barlow Street. Mary Ann would later live on that latter street herself, in her separated state, by 1891. With them in 1861 were two sons Joseph,3, and Henry, 5, also born in Walworth (oddly listed in that order). One wonders if Henry may in fact have been born as 'Hodges' - but was now listed as 'Hill' - as would be reasonably assumed by the enumerator. We would normally have expected to locate a Charles Hill living as a bachelor or a widower. To be Mary Ann's soon-to-be husband, the seeming present wife ('Ann') would have to have died within days and Charles to then re-marry (to our Mary Ann) rather hastily - without the usual three weeks delay to post banns. This seems most unlikely. Rather, we might also 'reasonably assume' (until shown otherwise) that this household does in fact represent our Charles Hill and Mary Ann nee Terry, ex-Hodges. They had likely anticipated their marriage therefore - by so naming themselves and their children as 'Hill' - as of census night on Apr 7 1861, just a week or so before their marriage. Or, were they simply out when the Census man called and this information was given by a neighbour - as they likely understood the situation to be ? This source of the required information was not that infrequent.
However, we find in the civil registers index a Henry Harris Hill ,was born in Lambeth - in June Q 1855 (the same quarter when Henry Hodges was also born nearby!), while a Joseph Henry Hill was also - in Dec Q 1857. Was this an earlier family of 'our' Charles Hill - who would later reduce his reported ages in subsequent Censuses ? But why ? There was again no reference to this Charles's birth in Ireland; it was, rather, in Walworth. Do we find a relevant marriage between a Charles Hill and an 'Ann' around 1854 ? Possibly. There was such a marriage, but further west - in Wandsworth RD, in June Q 1855 between a Charles Hill and either an Ann (Figgett) or an Emma (Jones); without ordering the certificate, we can't determine which from the index. This Quarter was of course the same as the one in which Mary Ann's (and his seeming) son Henry was born - but in Lambeth, a neighbouring district. Was there a Death registered for an Ann Hill shortly after ? Yes indeed; there were in fact 5 or 6 in and near Newington (!), although most had second names which at least wasn't the case for the Ann shown above.]
[Note: There were two other lesser possibilities also noted for the 1861 Census: A Charles Hill, 27, born Lambeth (occupation to be determined), and wife Elizabeth, 26, lived then in Clapham, Surrey (some miles to the south-west); they had no children. Did his wife die forthwith and Charles so soon re-marry - Mary Ann ? And a Charles Hill, 25, born Paddington and unmarried then resided in the nearby Regent's Park area. I presently favour more the 'anticipated marriage' scenario - with Charles quite possibly still single.]
10 years later, the 1871 Census shows Charles Hill, with now a seemingly under-estimated age of just '30', a 'Boot Riveter' with a wife Mary Ann, 32, a 'Boot Braider', then lived at 77 Beckway Street in Walworth (sharing with two other families). Significantly, this is very close to Tatum Place and Barlow Street. With them now were daughters Hannah, 5+ (b ca 1865), and Kate, 1 (born early 1870), and, still, a Henry 'Hill', now 15, also a 'Bootmaker' also - listed as a son; (normally this would be in reference to the person listed as Head of household but he would still seem more likely to in fact be Mary Ann's son - born Henry Hodges - from her previous marriage. Her age, if nearer 34, might support this better. But this would have to imply that any son Henry that Charles may have had died in the interim, with the younger son Joseph quite possibly doing so also (or placed with relatives?). There were indeed 7 death entries registered for Joseph Hills in Lambeth or Newington that quarter(!) - but with ages not shown that early in the indexes. All in the Beckway household were shown as born simply 'in Middx, London' (ie north of the river). While this could possibly be correct for Mary Ann alone, it wasn't it seems for any the others and would appear to have been yet another error by the often rushed enumerators, or as incorrectly given by neighbours.
The 1881 Census 10 years later (before the separation) shows that Charles, then reported as 41, was residing at 132 Southwark Bridge Road, still with wife Mary A. Hill, shown as 40, with their two daughters Hannah H, now 16, a 'Mantle Machinist', and Kate, 10. Mary and both daughters were again shown as born locally (in Newington, Walworth (then part of St Saviour's) while the birthplace for Charles Hill, still a Bootmaker, was now given as St Gile's (presumably the one in Surrey, just south of Walworth). Again. no reference is made to either Soho or Ireland.
If Mary Ann had a son Henry with Henry Hodges in 1855, he may again have been assumed by the enumerator in 1881 to be Henry Hill, as he apparently was in 1871. But we find that in fact by 1881 at least, Henry Hodges, now 25, has set up his own household - at 3a Bedford Street, Newington - with wife Alice (nee Griffiths), 26, and their two children Mary Ann, 2, and Joseph, just born. The latter was possibly named after this Henry's uncle(?) Joseph Hodges (his father Henry's possible brother (or cousin?) - but this needs confirming) who lived nearby as a House Painter and Paper Hanger, the same trade as shown for young Henry himself, who may have trained with such a relative therefore (his own father long dead). Joseph too lived then in St George the Martyr (in Trinity Bldgs, Old Kent Road), aged 55, with his sons John W. H. (?William Henry) Hodges, 21, Frank, 19, Joseph Jnr, 15 and daughters Sophy, 25, and Rose, 12. But, this Joseph was born in Shepton Mallett, Somerset ca 1826 (a 'hot-bed' of Hodges) - having settled initially in Kensington, Middx (ca 1850-70s). However, if he did have a relative Henry (Lamphee) Hodges, how did the latter come to be born, as he appears to have been, in Marylebone two years earlier (on 14 Sept 1824) - to a Henry and Caroline Hodges ? Confusingly, we fnd a Caroline Lamphee (a not very common name) reported to have died in Lambeth (on Francis Street) 14 Nov 1819, aged only 37 and shown by the IGI to have been born on Sept 1st 1782 (to a George Lamphee), yet not baptised until 5 Oct 1803 - in St Pancras. Did she actually marry Henry Hodges in 1819 (rather than die that year) - with Henry Lamphee Hodges subsequently born to them - in 1824 ? Or, was there a missing generation somewhere ? These aspects remain rather tentative.
The 1891 Census no longer shows this elder Joseph Hodges in Newington but still shows the younger Henry there, now 35, with Alice and family - Mary Ann now 12, Joseph 10, joined by Henry, 6, William, 4 and twins Charles and Kate Hodges - both 2. (One notes that Henry has, in his name choices, seemingly commemorated his mother, father, uncle and and all his siblings - except Hannah. Why ? Maybe next time ? We may point out that around 1896-98, young Charlie Chaplin (then aged about 8 or 9) was, according to the author Joyce Milton in her excellent biography of Charlie, often 'taken in' by the Hodges when his mother was hospitalised. This may have been with 'cousin' Joseph initially (whom she mentions) but later more likely by Hannah's half-brother Henry (b 1855). They apparently made some attempts to place him in the local school.
By 1901, Henry is 45 and still with Alice in Newington (living somewhere called 'Lady Margaret' parish) - with Henry, 16, William, 14, Charles and Kate, 12 plus now Walter, 6 and Ada, 5. Still no Hannah. Living with them was a John Harris (whose surname may or may not relate to the Henry Harris Hill (b 1855) noted above). By 1901, however, they had apparently ceased helping Charlie - who had become increasingly a semi-independent free spirit - especially as his mother was being 'put away' from time to time. And finally, for 1911, we find that Henry Hodges, 55, born Walworth, and living in Newington North - at 77 Chatham Street, was by now widowed (Alice had died in Dec 1910 in Camberwell) and still a House Painter. If he had been properly identified in the 1861 and 1871 Censuses - as Henry Hodges, not Hill (born ca 1855), we would have had an amazing unbroken coverage for this man through 5 successive Censuses - something only dreamt of with regard to his parents or grandparents. Could this exemplify the increasing stability one referred to earlier - for those marrying out of the traveller community ? Or.... ?
We have already described the 1891 Census earlier - when Mary Ann lived with daughter Hannah and her two boys on Barlow Street (still in that small area near East Street) - or was it the other way 'round ? She seems to have died by the early-1890s (to be confirmed). If she descended from travellers, was this through her now assumed Terry ancestors (rather than those of her apparent mother Mary Ann Smith) or both ? We shall see below that, amazingly, Charlie Chaplin's other Grandma (Chaplin) was also (or more certainly) a Smith (born on the edge of Ipswich, in rural Suffolk) for whom a Gypsy origin has also been suggested ! Charlie was very young when he briefly lived with grandma 'Hill' (she or her mother being nee Smith) in Walworth and, when hearing stories about either Grandma later, might he have confused them in his vague, early memories therefore ? Travellers' families, who would nornmally live in semi-rural areas (rather than in crowded inner London; although we have seen that this wasn't necessarily the case on the then outskirts), needn't be either Irish or Gypsy of course. In any case, Ellen's father was a settled Butcher amongst other things.
By that 1891 Census, Mary Ann's now separated husband Charles Hill, 50+, was living nearby on Ontario Street - again in the parish of St George the Martyr, Southwark, (barely a half mile west of his and Mary's former abode near East Street and, even closer, to Southwark Bridge Road, where he and Mary Ann lived when still together 10 years earlier - in 1881. But now Charles was with new 'wife' Elizabeth. He was described now as a Glass Blower (something once tried (in desperation) by his grandson Charlie; it was a very difficult and hot envirnoment and may have been resorted to (by the older Charles) when Bricklaying was harder to find). He was again shown born in Lambeth, Surrey. In any case, we seem now to have a considerable amount of data on both of Hannah's parents (some of it still uncertain) and can suggest with some limited confidence based on same that there is little or no evidence of an Irish background for Charles Hill but that a Gypsy one (or similar) for Mary Ann is not at all out of the question.
Who Were Sydney and Charlie Chaplin ?
But, be all the above as it may, the younger Charles' missing birth registation still remains our chief mystery. We note him saying (on another occasion) that "..I was born three years after my parents married." This, combined with Charles' earlier remark that his brother was 4 years older than him, seems to imply that he was informing us, if indirectly, that Sidney must indeed have come along well before the marriage. Charles own birth was in fact not three but almost 4 years after the marriage, but this still left Sidney's birth (if not his registration necessarily) as some weeks or months prior to the marriage. Later in his biography, Charles casually(?) lets slip that while in Paris touring with the Karno company in 1909, "..a cousin of my brother Sidney's father (related in some way to him), made himself known to me. He was rich and belonged to the so-called upper class and showed me a very good time...". Was he 'nouveau riche' or truly 'landed' ?. He may have been quite well off but - by virtue of questionable gains ? One would assume that the crucial surname of Sidney's father would have been retained after this incident, if not his current status.
Finally, in this regard, one might postulate that if Charles Snr was not a particularly good husband, often drunk and away 'on tour', Hannah may well have sought solace in the arms of another. [Note: It became known that she if fact did; see below.] It may be significant that while clearly fertile, she had no issue by Charles Snr during the first 3 1/2 years (!) of their marriage. If she became pregnant otherwise (than by Charles), might she feel a certain justice in having a second such son christened as the first one (ie as 'Hill') - even if both would be subsequently raised as 'Chaplins' ? Was a Charles Hill's birth registered around 1889 in Newington (St Saviour), Walworth, we may therefore enquire ? Indeed; there were in fact two: one in the March quarter 1889 and another in the significant June quarter of that same suitable year. Who was/were the parent(s) ? This will hopefully be investigated in time although we imagine that others must have done so already (as they would likely have done in respect to Charles possible church registrations as well). Similarly, one might seek such evidence more in the midlands if we recall the 1971 letter discussed above.
We might mention here too that a 'Charles Sidney Chaplin's' birth had already been intriguingly registered in neighbouring Lambeth in the December quarter, 1887 (still 2 1/2 years after the marriage). Again, the identity of the parentage might reasonable be sought, although one learns not to be optimistic with genealogical coincidences. And we should at least raise the admittedly slight possibility that Charles Snr, being a successful singer for a time, might conceivably have had a booking with colleagues at a show in Paris himself in the late 1880s (accompanied by Hannah) during which young Charles may, conceivably, have arrived a little earlier than expected - there (if not similarly in Birmingham!). There is no mention in the Telegraph article as to the source of the suggestion of the French birth for Charles Jnr but we must note in this regard that one of the archive records indicated by Ancestry.co.uk for various Charles Chaplin entries concerns the' Motion Pictures Studio Directory and Trade Journal' - for the year 1921' (p 162) which surprisingly lists the place of birth for 'Charles Spencer Chaplin' - as: 'Paris'(!) - in the year 1889'. How would such an entry have come about ? We note that Charles' mother Hannah arrived in New York from Liverpool on 25 March 1921 on her way to visit her now successful sons in Hollywood (ie that very year). Was she interviewed ? [But the IGI for France, at least, shows no such entry.] Finally, it has been said by another biographer that Charles himself had once said when in Hollywood that he believed he 'was born in a hotel room in Fountainbleau, France'.
Hannah remained several years in Los Angeles cared for in a home provided by her sons, her emotional health considerably restored, before becoming ill with a gall bladder problem and dying there in 1928, aged 63. Prior to this, it appears that her son with Leo Dryden, the younger George D. Wheeler, had made contact with her and/or her sons Charles and Sidney by the 1920s and he even worked with them on several of their films. He also died there - in 1957, aged 65. (Did Hannah 'know' Leo before 1890? Were any Charles Wheelers or Drydens registered in mid-1889 ?
Hannah and Charles would as noted separate when young Charles was not quite 2 (and Sidney 5+) - by late 1890 seemingly; that is, just 5 years after the marriage. At the time of the 1891 Census, when Hannah and family resided on Barlow Street (just off East Street) in Newington, Walworth, with no sign of Charles Snr, he was indeed soon found living elsewhere nearby - as a Boarder with a family of thespians - at 38 Albert Street, Newington. He was listed as a Music Hall Singer, aged 27, born in Paddington (possibly then in Kensington or Marylebone registration district). Hannah may well have already taken up with 'Leo' Dryden (Wheeler) - being a few months before 'falling' with him. Did Leo help pay for the new flat in West Square and can we envisage Hannah there - with three young sons (one a baby) for a time - ca 1992-94 - with Charles Snr and Louise about to set up home as well around the corner on Kennington Lane ? We note that Leo Dryden was in America for a time before returning on the SS Eturia to Liverpool on 19 Aug 1901 (not accompanied, we assume).
On Charlie's Father's Family
Knowing that Charles Snr had an older brother Spencer Chaplin allows us to seek out that family's earlier Census entries for any information about their earlier abodes and origins (a less common forename as Spencer proving an advantage in any such search). We thus find (as many others, we now appreciate, have done earlier) that in 1871, a family Headed by one Spencer Chaplin (Snr), a Butcher aged 35, and born in Ipswich, Suffolk, resided then in Nottinghill (nr Paddington) , Kensington, London, with his wife Ellen (nee Smith), 33 (also born in Suffolk - at Frimley St Martin, just to the east of Ipswich), and 5 sons and 2 daughters. The two eldest boys - Spencer Jnr and Walter, then 15 and 12, were also born in or near Ipswich (in the 1850s) - as were their parents and grandparents before them - including one 'Shadrach Chaplin'. The younger children were all born in or near Nottinghill, Paddington or Marylebone (after they had moved to London), including 3rd son Charles Chaplin in about 1863 (to become father of our Charlie) and youngest son Albert (in 1869) mentioned further below. Presumably someone in the hotel or pub trade in Ipswich informed them of opportunities in same in the Marylebone-Kensington area at that time. Otherwise, the Charlie that the world would later grow to love may never have materialised.
The Chaplin family of present concern thus emanates from that rural East Anglian county, by way of two or three generations in the main county town latterly - where they acquired more urban skills and occupations. The Chaplins go back in Suffolk and in neighbouring north Essex to the 1500s at least and thus quite pre-date any Huguenot origins ca 1700 apparently once suggested to Charlie Chaplin. The earlier members of Charles' line of Chaplins included a Caleb Chaplin and his son and grandson who farmed in the Gt Finsborough area (nr Stowmarket) and others named as Shadrach, Meschack and Abendigo Chaplins! They obviously read their bible in those days.
Third son Charles was shown in the 1871 Census, then 8, to be born in Marylebone (quite close to Paddington and Kensington), about 1863. But just 10 years later, in the 1881 Census, we find eldest brother Spencer Chaplin, born Ipswich, now aged 25, living at the Northcote Hotel (as a Publican), in Battersea Rise, south London. His brother, Charles, 17, also shown as born in Ipswich now (possibly an error), was employed there with him - as a Barman. Spencer would marry later that year - in Newington (possibly explaining the Chaplins' shift eastward to that area - and, as indicated above, eventually own several such Pubs there and/or Lambeth. His brother Charles Snr must have switched to the stage and a singing career shortly after this - when he presumably met Hannah Hill - about 1882. As mentioned, they would marry in 1885 - after her uncertain 'elopement' adventures, but he soon left her - for reasons described above - and later took up with Louise who, by 1894, had also borne him a son - another half-brother for Charles, Sidney and George. An outline pedigree below shows more of the paternal Chaplin background:
As noted, Charles Snr would soon die of alcoholism, in early 1901, aged only 37, being buried in Tooting, Surrey; the expenses were paid by his younger brother Albert who, ironically, had himself settled in South Africa (being home then for a short visit) and was now very well off. Hannah (out again for a time) and young Charles, along with Louise, attended the funeral. Louise also soon died - in about 1904/5 - when her son, now aged 10, was himself placed into the Lambeth workhouse - under his mother's (unknown) maiden name. Hannah visited him there for a time, notes Charles, but was herself soon institutionalised again (ca 1905) - after succumbing to further mental problems associated with gross malnourishment, her presumed infection and seemingly a vulnerable constitution generally (and, one imagines, considerable psychological guilt).
Charlie's Success Begins.
For the next 5 years (1905-1910), in his later teens, Charles worked increasingly on the stage, both in London and in the Provinces, often with Sidney - learning their trade. They were earning a regular salary and were even able to give their grandfather Charles Hill a small weekly allowance. Latterly, Charlie worked for the Fred Karno company who had several comedy shows touring in England at the same time. One of these was to tour America in 1910 (after their Paris experiences) and Charles, then 21, was again included (as he was for a second tour around 1912). He fell in love with America, particularly the West, and gradually, they with him. The rest is history, movie history. He became a multi-millionaire - but never forgot his London roots - ambiguous as they may well have been in some respects.
After 3 marriages and the production of sons Charles (1925-1968) and Sidney (1926-2009) in that bustling California city, he eventually met and married Oona O'Neill in 1943 and with her had 8 further children - mostly raised in Switzerland. But did he ever see his own birth certificate and, if so, in what name was it and for what place ? Did he never enquire of his mother about this ? On what proof of birth was his first passport issued ? In a reference regarding his religious affiliations noted in a Wikipedia article on Charlie, the writer notes that "Bowman records that Charlie Chaplin received his name 'at the font' " - implying the Church of England apparently. Who 'Bowman' was is not stated. But where was that font ? After his move to Switzerland, he returned for a visit to London and went himself to Somerset House seeking proof of his birth. There was, he found (as quoted by Joyce Milton), 'nothing, Nothing, NOTHING !'
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