Robert Edmonds

It was fairly easy to trace my father’s direct line of Edmonds in Lowestoft back to Gabriel, who was granted a settlement in 1696. On my way backwards I had noted every example of the surname that I could find and, when I saw them all written down, I realised that every Edmonds in Lowestoft up to the mid 19th Century was probably descended from Gabriel.

So I began to construct a tree of his descendants. I was left with several dangling in mid-air but Suffolk Family History Society’s transcriptions of burials in St Margaret’s Church helped out with many of them.

I found a few in nearby parishes but some remained elusive. I revisited the tree from time to time to see if inspiration would strike. One such loose end was Robert Edmonds, my first cousin five times removed.

Robert was baptised in 1806, the fifth child of John Edmonds and Sarah Morris. The family was quite prosperous and John’s father, another Robert, had left an extensive will mentioning lands both freehold and copyhold to the Manor of Lowestoft. John also left a will but did not mention the names of any of his children, except his son John, who was to inherit the twine-spinning business. The rest he left to Sarah to be sold after her death and the monies divided between his other children or their ‘heirs or assigns’.

Sadly all John and Sarah’s daughters died young, except for Elizabeth, who became a schoolmistress. John carried on the twine-spinning and his brother Benjamin opened a chemist and druggist in the High Street. So I had accounted for them all, except Robert. I found no burial or marriage for him, he just disappeared.

He may have stayed lost had I not idly googled one day and found this.

This Indenture from 1858 was sold by a dealer in America recently. Since it was sold, I don’t suppose he’ll mind me reproducing the image. It conveys a Copyhold on land known as “the Bleach” on the south side of Spurgeon Score, the interested parties being “John Barber, a Cooper, and Robert Brame, a Gentleman, both of the first part; and John Edmonds, a Twine Spinner, and Robert Edmunds of Otley, a Protestant Minister of the Gospel, and Elizabeth Edmonds, Spinster, both of the second part; and Benjamin Morris Edmonds, a Druggist and Chemist, of the third part”.

So I was back on the trail. Otley parish church records revealed no trace of Robert, so I had to assume he was a non-conformist minister. At that time there were no censuses available on the web and Suffolk FHS had yet to index the 1851 census, so that avenue was closed unless I had the time to search the census film a page at a time. I decided to wait for the index.

Birmingham Central Library has a lot of resources useful for genealogists, including trade and Post Office Directories from counties other than Warwickshire. Here I found in the 1855 PO Directory for Suffolk the following entry – Mildenhall Rev Edmonds Baptist Minister. Mildenhall is very close to Otley, so I had found him.

The index for the 1851 census was published by SFHS and at ref HO107/1793/131/30 there he was. Robert Edmonds was an unmarried Baptist Minister of the Particular Baptist Chapel, West Row, Mildenhall.

As soon as began to add the censuses I looked for him. He wasn’t to be found in 1861, so I searched the GRO deaths and sent for the certificate. He died on December 3rd 1860 of apoplexy (certified). I have yet to find him in the 1841 census. has an eclectic mix of records and one day I discovered that they had added the 1851 Suffolk religious census.

There it states:-

246 Particular Baptist Chapel or Great Chapel, West Row, erected 1814.
Sittings free 50. others 280. Present morning 90 + 91 scholars; afternoon 230 + 100 scholars; evening 130.
Signed Robert Edmonds, Minister West Row. (11)

First chapel there by 12 April 1798; new chapel registered 21 March 1815; 30 members and one station in 1852. Unaffiliated.

Even better I found this in the Editor’s introduction:-

The Revd Robert Edmonds of Mildenhall, for example, had been a village home missionary, “a spiritual confidant and advisor in cottage homes, and by labourers’ firesides”.


“his preaching… probe(d) the moral struggles of his people as only a man can who really knows what those troubles are, … as one of themselves, conversing upon the insidious character of the evils with which they are … beset … He talk(ed) as any one of them will talk when he can get a serious listener, by the fireside, over a jug of ale, or as he plods his seven or eight or ten miles from his chapel to his home”

This gave me so much more insight into Robert. He became more than a loose end, more than a name in the census, I was able to see a real man of conviction and compassion.


© Guinevere 2008