Richard Whibley: Green Fingers

Richard Whibley 1839-1917

Gardener of Southwark, and my great great grandfather.

While we are on the subject of the Whibley family (no, I still haven’t heard from Ronan Quick), I thought I’d tell you a little bit about my great great grandfather, Richard Whibley.  I will admit that I have done much less research into the Whibleys than my beloved Downings and Beales, but maybe writing this post will help bring him to life a little.

Richard Whibley was born in Hunton, Kent, in 1839.  Hunton is about fifteen miles from Biddenden, where the Beales lived, and some distant Whibley relatives actually lived in Biddenden, but as far as I can tell, this is complete coincidence.  The Whibleys are related to my father’s father and the Beales to my father’s mother.  However, as I researched this post I did notice a few similarities between the two families.  Firstly, and most obviously, there are a proliferation of Richards within the Whibleys too, though fortunately not so many that I will have to resort to nicknaming again.  Secondly, the Whibleys lived in Water Place, whilst the Beales lived in River Hall.  Thirdly, the Whibleys lived practically next door to Elphicke Farm.  Elphicke was the maiden name of Crusty Richard’s wife.  The Whibleys were a farming family and I get the feeling that they were comfortably off, but not stinking rich like the Beales.  (They also never went totally broke, unlike the Beales).

Water Place, Hunton
Water Place, Hunton, home of the Whibleys

Richard married Jane Ellis (the daughter of a farm bailiff and a descendent of the incorrigible Thomas Pettit)  in 1862 and, for god only knows what reason, moved to the hellish suburb of Croydon, on the southern borders of London.  (Apologies to any Croydon residents reading.  It was probably a very different place in 1862).    They stayed there for about ten years before Richard got a job as a gardener at King Edward’s School in Southwark.   You probably haven’t heard of King Edward’s School – it no longer exists and has been replaced with an outdoor tennis court – but many of you will have heard of the building with which it shared a ground.  King Edward’s School was next door to the Bethlem Hospital, which now houses the Imperial War Museum, and the grounds which Richard tended are now known as the Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park.

King Edwards School
An illustration of King Edward’s School.

The strangest thing about all this is that I work about ten minutes walk from said park, and often go there on my lunch break.  Here are some nice pictures of flowers and stuff that I took there.  I do hope Richard approves of the way it is being kept nowadays.

Richard and Jane had a total of twelve children, seven of whom were alive in 1911 (and none of whom had gone to Georgia).  On his retirement, they moved to Horley in Surrey, and then back to Croydon.  Richard died in 1917 at the age of 78 and Jane five years later.

Brent Family 1
The Brent Family

Their second oldest daughter was my great grandmother Emily, who died a year before her mother from a particularly nasty case of the flu, aged just 55.  This picture shows Emily with her husband Samuel Doidge Brent, her son (my grandfather) Leonard Brent , his wife Ada (nee Beale) and my father and uncle (Frank and Alan Brent) as babies.  Judging by the size of the children, it must have been taken in 1921, the year before her death.  Emily was buried in Nunhead Cemetery, which was subsequently closed and then reopened, partly as a nature reserve.  During its closure, it became very overgrown and I was unable to locate Emily’s grave due to nearly being swallowed up by ivy, tripping over multiple tombs and having an encounter with an oversized triffid-like stinging nettle that made me say some very unholy words.  There is something quite ironic about a gardener’s daughter ending up buried in such a place.

Emily’s grave is somewhere in this mess.

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