Full Circle

My great great grandfather, WILLIAM LINFIELD (1822-1892), moved to Worthing from Croydon in the 1850s. I imagine that the south coast was becoming a booming area in those days, shortly after the railways had been built.

He had three sons and a daughter, and I am descended from the youngest son, FREDERICK CAESAR (1861-1939), who became Mayor of Worthing in 1906-1908. He was mentioned, with the rest of his family, in Malcolm’s recent article on the typhoid epidemic in Worthing.

F C Linfield had two sons and two daughters. Sadly the daughters died in infancy but the two sons, W F and H J, survived and both served in World War I. My great grandfather, F C Linfield, had political ambitions and unsuccessfully stood as a Liberal candidate in Horncastle on two occasions. He eventually became MP for Mid Bedfordshire in 1922. Because of these ambitions F C Linfield, together with his eldest son and family, moved to the London area around 1916. I am not sure whether this move was entirely due to politics or whether F C Linfield’s business interests were not going well. He lived in a large house in Worthing which my father said was called The Grange but I believe it was known later as Woodside.

When they moved to London they took a house in Balham. My great grandparents lived upstairs and my grandparents with their three children lived downstairs, in somewhat smaller accommodation than The Grange.

My grandfather, W F LINFIELD, married MARY ROY in 1909 and they also lived in Worthing where their three children, FREDERICK ROY, PHILIP CAESAR (my father) and PAULINE MARY were born in 1910, 1911 and 1916.

I believe my grandfather worked for his father in the family business whilst they were still in Worthing. But when he came home from World War I he went into the restaurant business on his own account. Originally one restaurant was opened which provided hot lunches for office workers in London and this was followed by a second. My grandfather’s brother, Uncle Jack, came up from Worthing with his family to run this. Unfortunately, probably due to the Depression, the business failed and my grandfather had to get a job with the London County Council. My grandmother also went to work as the restaurant manageress of Selfridges. Presumably she had picked up the required skills in the family restaurant! Due to the failure of their own business my grandparents were very keen for their children to gain secure employment and my father was persuaded to join the Midland Bank in 1928. Around this time my father met Lloyd George at a dinner he attended with his grandfather.

His brother, Roy, was more adventurous and joined the Merchant Navy. I believe F C Linfield’s father-in-law had been a mariner so perhaps it was in the blood! Roy’s career at sea did not last long, probably due to the aftermath of the Depression. He then joined the British South African (Rhodesian) Police and went to live there of course. However he soon fell out with his superiors because he wanted to marry and they refused permission. He did marry though and left the service. I am not sure what he did in South Africa at this time but he and his wife, Alice, had two children, Pauline and Bill, born in 1938 and 1939. Roy joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war and obtained a commission straight away due to his Merchant Navy training.

My father’s career in the bank proceeded without any mishaps and he married my mother, Joyce, in 1937. She was the daughter of a prominent local shopkeeper, William Chapman, and my father went to school with her brother. When they were married my parents went to live in Purley only a stone’s throw from Croydon, the town my great great grandfather had left nearly a century before, although I do not think they realised this at the time. Purley was chosen because new houses were being built there and my parents liked that particular location. My sister, Christine, was born in 1939 and my great grandfather F C died aged 78 years in that year too.

Shortly after the outbreak of war my father joined the Royal Navy as an ordinary seaman and after initial training was put on a convoy going to South Africa! Here he was able to meet Roy’s wife and family who were living in Durban together with some of my mother’s relatives. I think he found South Africa a marvellous place after wartime Britain with its shortages. His ship returned via Egypt where luckily he was able to meet Roy for the last time in Alexandria. Shortly after, Roy’s minesweeper went missing. My father always believed it was a victim of a submarine. Just before Roy’s death and my father’s trip to Africa my grandfather died of natural causes at home. So you can imagine how my grandmother must have felt when she lost her eldest son too.

In Egypt my father’s ship collected prisoners of war and on the way home to England they rioted armed with kitchen cutlery. Fortunately the incident was put down quickly. After his return from Africa my father was sent to King Alfred at Hove to train as an officer. He was commissioned shortly afterwards and went onto minesweepers, initially as a navigator and later his own command. During this time he went to Iceland where he bought some chickens (oven ready) and some curtains, presumably my mother had given him instructions! Food was easy to transport as his ship was a converted trawler with a freezer!

D-Day saw my father stationed in Weymouth with orders to sweep the American beaches just before they landed. My mother and sister were allowed to go down and visit him just beforehand. On his return to Weymouth, after carrying out the required sweeping and picking up some wounded Americans, he was told that they did not have a berth for him as they had not expected him to return!

After this he went back to his old base, Harwich, and saw the rest of the war out minesweeping round the British coast. Some of his colleagues went to Germany in 1945 but his old coal burner could not make it. He told me one of the flotilla’s ships came back from Germany with a Mercedes car on the deck and enough carpet for an entire house. My father’s only souvenir was a name board made for our house out of

the timber of his ship when it was broken up in 1946. Our house was called Little Grange, after my great grandfather’s Worthing house. My father returned to the bank and I was born in 1947. Apart from having me it must have been a bit of a culture shock, having had his own ship, to go back to being a bank cashier. The pay was a lot less too. My father did try to stay in the Navy but they were not interested. He managed to serve in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve though and thoroughly enjoyed his two weeks naval training each year.

His sister, Pauline, who I have only briefly mentioned, worked originally for the Daily Herald up to and during the War and then went to South Africa where she worked for the South African Argus as a journalist. She returned to the UK with my grandmother in 1952 and worked for the Argus in London. She remained in Britain until she died in 1986 having never married.

My father eventually became a bank manager in the 1960s and was a keen Rotarian and Member of the Chambers of Commerce in the Merton and Cheam areas. He was also Chairman of the Board of Governors of Merton Technical College. He retired in 1971 and died soon afterwards in 1978.

After my father’s death my sister and I kept in touch with our Uncle Roy’s family in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and in 1992 my wife, two children and I went for a superb holiday in Zimbabwe as guests of my cousin Bill.

I digress though as the point of this story is that back in 1976, having spent all my life in the Croydon area, I relocated to Worthing with the company I was employed by. By chance I returned to the town my great grandparents had left sixty years earlier. What I did not know then was that I had retraced my great great grandfather’s journey when he went to the south coast one hundred and twenty years earlier.

The Worthing Typhoid Epidemic of 1893

Some of my grandfather’s earliest memories were of the typhoid epidemic which hit Worthing in 1893. Known ever after as ‘fever year’, the terrible events which affected this seaside town on the south coast were never forgotten by the people who experienced them. Nowadays, though we still have good reason to complain about the deficiencies of the water companies, at least we are not dying from typhus or other related illnesses caused by pollution of the local water supplies. But this is exactly what happened at Worthing just over a century ago. Of the 1,500 cases reported, some 186 people died as a direct result of the infected water they had consumed. My grandfather’s family had lived in Worthing from the early 1850s, when his grandparents, WILLIAM AND ANN LINFIELD, came to the town soon after their marriage in Brighton. William was a tailor by trade and established his business in South Place, near the old Town Hall. Undoubtedly they experienced at first hand the earlier occasion in 1865 when polluted water supplies affected the town. But in its severity and scope – as many as one in ten of the local population succumbed to the disease – the outbreak in 1893 was immeasurably worse. Continue reading

Ann Caesar – the wife of William Linfield (1822-92)

Ann Caesar married William Linfield at St. Nicholas’ Church, Brighton on 30th September 1850. She was the only daughter of Benjamin and Anne Caesar of Godalming and had been born on the 9th November 1822. The Caesar family were well known and respected in the district. Ann had six brothers, the youngest of whom was Julius, the well-known cricketer who played for Surrey and England, being in the first teams to visit America and Australia. Continue reading

William Penn and the Quaker Linfields of Sussex


Earlier this year, on October 14, we celebrated the 350th anniversary of the birth of WILLIAM PENN (1644-1718), undoubtedly the most famous of the early Quakers. Among his many achievements was the foundation of his utopian colony in America where people were allowed to worship without fear of persecution. Yet he also spent a large part of his life in Sussex, where he lived in a mansion house at Warminghurst near the village of Thakeham. Until the establishment of proper Quaker Meeting Houses, Friends would assemble at other members’ homes, and after their arrival at Warminghurst in 1676, the Penn household was also made available for this purpose. Warminghurst came into the area of the Horsham Monthly Meeting, and when Penn left England in 1682 for his first visit to America, he took with him many Quakers from the local area. In 1691 he helped to buy a property at Coolham, some four miles away, where the Thakeham Meeting House was established. Subsequently known as the ‘Blue Idol’, this famous building is still used to this day as a place of Quaker worship. It receives many visitors, often from the United States, who, among other things, come to savour the atmosphere so redolent of Penn’s era. Continue reading

Ralph Parkinson Linfield: An Update

In Longshot Vol 2 No 1 (May 1993), I wrote an article about CAREY HAMPTON BORRER, rector of Hurstpierpoint and amateur genealogist whose papers are now kept at the West Sussex Record Office. His research into the Lin(d)fields of Cuckfield and Hurstpierpoint led him to write a letter of enquiry to RALPH PARKINSON LINFIELD, a fellow clergyman, and vicar of St. Stephen’s, Elton, near Bury in Lancashire. Since his reply is preserved in the Borrer archive, I fully reproduced the contents which are of considerable interest, especially his claim that his grandfather was born in the Sussex village of Storrington and that as a boy he remembered visiting the churchyard and seeing the grave of his great grandfather. Unfortunately, Ralph gave no details of his immediate predecessors, but subsequent research has now revealed their identities and we are able to show exactly how he fits into the Storrington branch. Continue reading

A Family Business

Grandpa and Granny Linfield got married on 1st January 1883. The south road between Lancing and Worthing had been washed away by heavy tides, so the road via Sompting had to be taken. This was gravelly and worried the horse, so the trip took so long that they only just got to Bedford Row chapel in time (there was a limit to the hour within which marriages could be solemnised). Continue reading

Harry Linfield of Sullington

The fascinating picture of HARRY LINFIELD of Sullington (#1394 in the database), was discovered by JOAN HAM in an album of old photographs. This album had been compiled by EMILY CAREW GIBSON of Sandgate during the 1870’s, and the photograph is reproduced here with the kind permission of the West Sussex Record Office (WSRO, Additional MS. 42,006). Continue reading