Photograph courtesy of Steve Moore-Vale
On the south side of the Church of St James, is a fine stained-glass window dedicated to two members of long-standing local families: Robert Barnard Lebbell and his wife Mary née Mann.
The cost of the window was funded by their family.
Photograph courtesy of Steve Moore-Vale
Who was Robert Barnard Lebbell?
Born at the Chequers Inn
Chequers Public House during the later tenure of Landlord Ellis Carter. Courtesy of Ray Beales
The son of Robert Lebbell and his wife Elizabeth née Barnard, Robert Barnard Lebbell was baptised in the Church of St James, Great Ellingham on the 2nd December, 1837. He was likely born at the Chequers Inn where his father was the licensee. Robert Lebbell senior was also a blacksmith.
His family recall that Robert Barnard Lebbell had blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. Being a ‘Norfolk boy’, it is no surprise that Robert had a pronounced Norfolk accent.
The 1841 census finds 3 year old Robert with his parents, Robert and Elizabeth Lebbell, and one year old sister Harriet at the Chequers.
Crown Inn with adjoining shops. Postcard Carol Ewin
By 1851, the Lebbell family had moved to the Crown Inn where Robert senior became the licensee. Robert senior also continued to work as a blacksmith. Robert and Elizabeth Lebbell now had three children – Robert 14, Harriet 11 and Emma 8.
Death of Harriet Lebbell
Just four years later, the family suffered heartache when in February 1855, Harriet Lebbell died at the age of 15.
Emma Lebbell marries Robert Le Grice
In 1866, Robert’s sister Emma (then aged 23) married 34 year old widower Robert Le Grice.
Robert Barnard Lebbell likely remained living at the Crown with his parents until he married. He also worked with his father in the family’s blacksmith business.
Marriage to Mary Mann
On the 1st January, 1873, 34 year old Robert Barnard Lebbell married local girl Mary Mann. Mary was the daughter of the late John Mann and his wife Elizabeth née Warren. The marriage took place in St James’s Church just yards from Robert’s home at the Crown.
The witnesses were Mary’s brother Joseph Mann, Emily and Rebecca Rivett (two of the daughters of the late Jonathan Rivett and his wife Mary who lived at Mill Farm) and Alfred Myhill.
St James’s Church, Great Ellingham
Likely Mary Mann had no recollection of her father. Her parents married on the 25th April, 1844 in the Church of St James. Mary was baptised some five months later on the 29th September in the same church.
John and Elizabeth Mann with their daughter Mary moved from Great Ellingham to Sustead. Their son Joseph was born towards the end of 1846. Tragically within months (if not weeks) of Joseph’s birth, John Mann died on the 24th December 1846, following a fall from a gig.
By 1851, widow Elizabeth Mann was back in Great Ellingham with her two young children.
Children Herbert & Mary
Robert and Mary Lebbell’s first child, Herbert Barnard Lebbell, was born within nine months of their wedding. Herbert was baptised in the Parish Church of Great Ellingham on the 5th October, 1873.
Six years later, Robert and Mary Lebbell welcomed a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, who was born on the 17th September, 1879. Mary Elizabeth was baptised in the same Parish Church just over a week later.
Elizabeth Lebbell née Barnard (c.1813-1881) wife of Robert Lebbell. Photograph taken between 1860 and 1870. Courtesy of Susan Fay
The 1881 census was undertaken on the night of the 3rd April, 1881. Just three days earlier, Robert Barnard Lebbell’s mother, Elizabeth née Barnard, was buried in the churchyard of St James. Elizabeth Lebbell was 68 years old.
The census finds 44 year old Robert Barnard Lebbell with his 76 year old father, Robert Lebbell, at the Crown Inn together with his 7 year old son, Herbert Barnard Lebbell and sister, 37 year old Emma Le Grice (née Lebbell). We can only assume that Robert junor and his sister Emma were staying with their father following the recent loss of their mother.
36 year old Mary Lebbell, the wife of Robert Barnard Lebbell, is alone at their home in Town Green. Her one year old daughter, Mary Elizabeth, is at the home of Mary’s mother, 61 year old widow Elizabeth Mann, in Hingham Road. Again, Mary was likely with her maternal grandmother as a result of the death of her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Lebbell.
Birth of William Robert
Mary Lebbell gave birth to her youngest son, William Robert Lebbell, on the 18th December, 1884. He was baptised in the Church of St James on February 8th, 1885, just over a week after his grandfather, Robert Lebbell, was buried.
William Robert Lebbell aged about 17 years. Photograph courtesy of Susan Fay, granddaughter of W R Lebbell
Death of Father
After some 50 years as licensee of the Crown in Great Ellingham, Robert Lebbell died aged 81 in the January of 1885. He was laid to rest in the churchyard of St James on the 27th January.
Robert Barnard Lebbell inherited his father’s freehold Blacksmith’s Shop together with all his father’s tools, iron and other goods within the shop. He also inherited three ponies and all of his late father’s implements of husbandry, as well as his father’s business. The Blacksmith’s Shop in Long Street had for many years been owned by the Lebbell family.
Long Street with Smithy to the right
Robert Lebbell also owned a double cottage which, after this death, was held in trust. The double cottage was near to the Blacksmith’s Shop.
Robert Barnard Lebbell received the income from the double cottage. However, Robert Lebbell senior made provision that on the death of his son, Robert Barnard Lebbell, his daughter Emma Le Grice would be paid four shillings a week from the rents of the cottages for the rest of her life.
On Emma’s death, the double cottage would be sold and the proceeds of the sale shared equally between any children of Emma Le Grice and any children of Robert Barnard Lebbell.
Emma LeGrice née Lebbell. 1843-1926. Photograph courtesy of Sue Fay
The 1891 census captures 53 year old farmer and blacksmith Robert Barnard Lebbell in Long Street with his 46 year old wife Mary and children 17 year old Herbert, 11 year old Mary and six year old William. Herbert was working as a blacksmith – presumably with his father.
Marriage of Son, Herbert Barnard Lebbell
On the 24th December, 1900, Herbert Barnard Lebbell married local girl, Selena Hannah Houchen.
The census of 1901 finds Robert and Mary Lebbell still living in Long Street. Now aged 63, Robert is described as a farmer. His daughter Mary (now 21) is described as a domestic mother’s help. Youngest son, 16 year old William, is expressed as a farmer’s son.
The same census finds Herbert and Selena Lebbell (both aged 27) living in Long Street. Herbert is working as a blacksmith. It is believed that Herbert and Selena’s home was the northern end of the double cottage near to the Baptist Church in Long Street.
By the time of the next census, Robert and Mary’s daughter Mary and their youngest son William, had both married.
Marriage of Son, William Robert Lebbell
On the 1st January, 1908, William Robert Lebbell married Lily Wigby in the Church of St James on what was William’s parents’ 35th wedding anniversary.
Marriage of Daughter, Mary Elizabeth Lebbell
Later the following year, Mary Elizabeth Lebbell married William Purdy on the 21st November, 1909.
Death of Wife
Mary Lebbell née Mann died on the 26th November, 1910. Mary Purdy described her mother as a slim woman standing just 5′ 3″. She had red/auburn hair and brown eyes.
Copper Kettle from the 1880s which once belonged to Mary Lebbell (née Mann) and is now treasured by a descendant. Photograph courtesy of Sue Fay
The 1911 census captures 73 year old widower and farmer Robert Barnard Lebbell living alone in a six roomed property in Long Street.
Nearby in Long Street, and presumably in part of the same double cottage near to the Baptist Church as in 1901, is Robert’s son, Herbert and his family.
At 37, Herbert is working as a blacksmith. With Herbert is his 37 year old wife Selena and three children – Cecil aged 6 and two year old twins, Stanley and Graham. Their home may have been the double cottage occupied by ‘Lebbell and Fox’ offered for sale at auction in December 1910. It is also possible that Herbert purchased either part or the whole of the double cottage at this time.
Lebbell’s Smithy in Long Street/Town Green. Courtesy of Susan Fay
Also nearby is 26 year old William Robert Lebbell with his 26 year old wife Lily and their two year old son Owen. William, described as a shoeing, general smith and wheelwright, is at the smithy in Long Street, which is still owned by his father, Robert Barnard Lebbell.
The same census finds Robert’s 31 year old daughter Mary with her husband William Purdy in Overton, Hamphshire. William Purdy is employed as a gamekeeper.
Baptism of George Robert Lebbell Purdy
On the 29th October, 1915, William and Mary Purdy of Overton, Hampshire, brought their son, George Robert Lebbell Purdy, born on the 20th October, 1914, to St James’s Church, Great Ellingham for baptism.
Death of Robert Barnard Lebbell
Robert Barnard Lebbell c.1837-1924 taken early 1920s. Photograph courtesy of Susan Fay
Robert Barnard Lebbell died on the 29th July, 1924 aged 87. He was buried in the churchyard of St James on the 2nd August.
Upstanding Member of the Community
Robert Barnard Lebbell took an active part in village life. He was involved in the recording of the households in Great Ellingham for the census returns of 1871, 1881 and 1891. He is mentioned as the enumerator for one of the two parts of the village.
Over the years he was also the Parish Clerk, a position which his son, William Robert Lebbell, also held for many years.
Robert Barnard Lebbell’s Will
In his will of the 19th August, 1924, Robert left several legacies:
- his daughter, Mary Elizabeth Purdy received her father’s cottage [in Great Ellingham] which was then occupied by Mary’s aunt, Emma Le Grice, as well as ‘the field hop ground’ on the Attleborough Road [in Great Ellingham] on the provision that Emma is allowed to live in the cottage rent free for the rest of her life. [Emma Le Grice died in February 1926]
- his son, William Robert Lebbell inherited Robert’s Blacksmith’s Shop and stock in trade, as well as a field at Penhill
- William also received his father’s weather glass
The remainder of his estate was left equally to William and his sister Mary.
Robert’s eldest son, Herbert Barnard Lebbell, was omitted from the will. Why was this?
Herbert and his family had already moved away from the village to the Poringland area. For some time, his brother William had been running their father’s blacksmith business in Great Ellingham. Robert may have left William the Blacksmith’s Shop as it was his livelihood. Perhaps Robert felt that Herbert was ‘doing well enough for himself’.
Sadly, at the age of 56, Herbert Barnard Lebbell died in October 1929, following an accident whilst riding his bicycle. He is buried at Poringland.
William Robert Lebbell continued to run the family’s blacksmith business in Great Ellingham. You can read more about William’s life here.
By 1937, Mary Purdy with her husband William returned to Great Ellingham.
Kelly’s Directory of 1937 for Great Ellingham lists William Robert Lebbell as a farmer and his brother-in-law William Purdy as a smallholder.
The 1939 Register finds both the households of William Robert Lebbell and his sister Mary Purdy in Long Street.
Mary Purdy née Lebbell. c.1975. Photograph courtesy of Sue Fay
Mary Elizabeth Purdy of Bow Street, Great Ellingham died on the 4th March, 1975.
Her granddaughter, Jean Marian Purdy, was a clinical embryologist. She was one of three pioneers of IVF treatment. With Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards, Jean Purdy established the world’s first IVF clinic at Bourn Hall, Cambridge. Sadly, Jean died in 1985 aged 39.
Huge thanks to Sue Fay, great-grandaughter of Robert Barnard Lebbell
Great Ellingham Parish Registers (including Archdeacon’s and Bishop’s Transcripts). Norfolk Record Office. PD 609. Also available via https://www.familysearch.org. Archdeacon’s Transcript viewed via //www.Ancestry.co.uk
Poringland Parish Registers. Norfolk Record Office. PD 121. Viewed via Ancestry.com. Norfolk, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
1841 census HO107/781/8
1851 census HO107/1823/133, HO107/1823/131
1861 census RG9/1237/91
1871 census RG10/1841/88
1881 census RG11/1974/92, RG11/1974/85, RG11/1974/80
1891 census RG12/1549/78
1901 census RG13/1867/78, RG13/1867/78
1911 census RG14/11473/88, RG14/11473/85, RG14/6316/68
The National Archives; Kew, London, England; 1939 Register; Reference: RG 101/6590H.
Ancestry.com. 1939 England and Wales Register [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2018.
29 April 1885. Probate. Robert Lebbell late of Great Ellingham, Norfolk. Blacksmith. Will 1st April 1870. Copy obtained via https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk
19 August 1924. Probate. Robert Barnard Lebbell of Great Ellingham, Norfolk. Will dated 1st June 1917. Copy obtained via https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk
GRO Index. https://www.freebmd.org.uk. Marriage. William Purdy and Mary E Lebbell. Dec Qtr 1909. Wayland.https://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/information.pl?cite=PuQ%2FyvraWDZ1ZdWGTvGc1g&scan=1
Herbert Barnard Lebbell. Short Service Attestation. Army Service Corps. Regimental Number 6061. The National Archives of the UK (TNA). WO364; Piece: 2067. Ancestry.com. UK, British Army World War I Pension Records 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010.
William Purdy. Short Service Attestation. Hampshire Regiment. Regimental Number 2419. The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; War Office: Soldiers’ Documents, First World War Wo363. Ancestry.com. UK, British Army World War I Service Records, 1914-1920 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
1937 Kelly’s Directory. Attleborough Heritage Group. Town Hall, Queen’s Square, Attleborough NR17 2AF.