By Gwyneth Wilkie

A codicil to the Will of Thomas Marshall dated 21 November 1840[1] makes provision for his wife Sophia, during her widowhood and if she so wishes, to occupy a freehold messuage on the north-east side of the High Street which he had recently purchased from James Stratford. The Tithe Apportionment survey of 26 October 1837 (accessible through The Genealogist website) links the name of James Stratford to two plots. One, no 476, was a home and garden and is probably where he was living. The other, no 468, is unoccupied and is likely to be the one bought by Thomas Marshall not long afterwards. Logically it seems that this should be the house where Sophia Marshall can be found in 1851, and which has now been identified as Wisteria Cottage, 89 High Street, Amersham.

Thomas Marshall noted that the property was ‘occupied by Misses Cox and Drayton’ as a school and mentioned that he had recently spent quite a lot of money improving the house. Pigot’s Directory for 1842 listed amongst Amersham’s schools ‘Cox & Drayton (ladies’ boarding and day), High Street’.

The 1841 census allows us to see that the establishment was being run by Ann Drayton (age rounded down to 30 and born outside the county) and Eliza Cox (age given as 25, born in Buckinghamshire). Twelve pupils are then listed aged between 6 and 14, of whom 4 had been born in Buckinghamshire and 8 elsewhere. These must be the boarders: an unknown number of day pupils would also have been in the house on school days.

Such schools often drew their pupils from quite a wide area and the next clue about how the school functioned comes from the Gloucester Journal of 17 January 1846:

  • Mansion House Establishment, Amersham, Bucks.
  • Misses Cox and Drayton beg respectfully to inform their Friends that SCHOOL DUTIES will Resume Tuesday, the 21st instant.
  • Terms for Board and Instruction in English, French, &c, &c, 30 Guineas per Annum. Pupils under 9, 24 Ditto.
  • A resident French instructress, and accomplishments taught by Professors, on the usual terms.

The ‘accomplishments’ probably included music and art.

According to the Bank of England’s inflation calculator 30 guineas in 1846 would equate to £3,641.06 in 2019. The National Archives Currency Converter  shows that in 1850 £31 10 shillings would have bought two horses or five cows and that a skilled tradesman would need to work for 157 days to earn such an amount.

A link with the Gloucester area is hinted at in a further advertisement which appeared in the same newspaper on 17 July 1847, p 2:

  • MISSES COX AND DRAYTON’S LADIES’ ESTABLISHMENT, Amersham, Bucks, beg to solicit the Patronage formerly accorded Miss Richards; their Residence is only five and a half hour’s journey from Gloucester, by the Great Western, to Maidenhead.
  • References of the first respectability.’

As Miss Richards clearly cannot be a parent she may have been a former pupil of some social prominence in the Gloucester area?

The school underwent changes towards the end of 1848 when, according to a notice which appeared in the London Gazette on 2 January 1849 p 15, the partnership of Cox & Drayton as Schoolmistresses was dissolved by mutual consent on 27 December. The change may have been timed to take effect while the pupils were on holiday.

The notice is helpful in giving Miss Drayton’s full name — Ann Frances Box Drayton. Using this it is possible to find the details of her birth. She was the daughter of George Box Drayton, a surgeon, and his wife Louisa. Her birth took place on 29 July 1813 in the parish of St Mary Lode, Gloucester, and was registered at Dr Williams Library on 28 June 1837 (RG 5/145/177), just before the start of civil registration. The registry was used principally by members of the Presbyterian, Independent and Baptist persuasions and suggests that the family are likely to have been nonconformists.

By June 1837 her father had moved to Stoke Newington and her mother had died. She had a number of siblings. Having her full name was also helpful in tracing the presumed reason for the change of ownership of the school. On 18 January 1849 at the Enon Chapel in Marylebone Ann Drayton married Frederick Hailey, a plumber, painter and decorator born in Amersham. The chapel, also known as the Aenon Baptist Chapel, was in New Church Street, now known as Church Street, NW8. Built about 1830, the chapel was demolished in the 1950s.

A mention in the list of members of the Lower Baptist Chapel — ‘Ann Drayton Hailly’ with the annotation ‘Dismissed’ — briefly acknowledges both her connection with the Chapel and her moving on to a new place and new name (Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Minutes of Church Meetings 1832-1874.[2] The couple spent most of their married life in the Hanwell area and by 1881 Frederick Hailey, aged 71, had become a surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances. Anne continued to teach. In 1851, when they were at Deans Cottage, Hanwell, she was described as ‘Conductress of a private ladies school’ and by 1891 was principal of the school being run by her daughter Mary. Ann died in December 1910 aged 97 and was brought from 16 Ashford Road, Maidstone, to be buried in Hanwell Cemetery in grave no 2024, where her husband had been buried in 1883.

The school in Amersham continued long enough to appear in the 1851 census. Eliza Cox was then said to be 42 and her birthplace was given as Great Missenden. She was employing another teacher and two servants — Mary Ann Wise, 24, and Ann Elbourn, 23, both of Amersham.  The school was accommodating 9 boarders ranging in age from 5 to 17. Amongst them was Mary Ann Hatch, 11, and Susan Hatch, 7, both born in Friday Street, London. Comparing this entry with the 1841 list it seems that girls were remaining at the school for longer.

The school has also moved, presumably because no 89 was required for Sophia Marshall and her family at some point after the death of Thomas Marshall in May 1842. By 1851 it has relocated to the Coldmoreham end of the High Street. 

The enumerator was John Wilson and the description of his allocated area began ‘the First District commencing at Coldmoreham Farm and continuing down the South West side of the High Street.…’  Having listed two households, that of the bailiff Charles Curtis and a carpenter, William Bailey, at Coldmoreham, Wilson noted ‘leading into the High Street’ in his first column. Next came the households of John Bignell, then William Jones. This was followed by an uninhabited house and then the school. Trying to compare this with the tithe maps of 1837 and the census of 1861 does not lead to any firm conclusions but a speculation that the school must have been in or close to Little Shardeloes, which by 1861 had become the home of Emily Drake. The answer might be found in the Shardeloes estate papers, but the advertisement of 1846 describing the school as a ‘Mansion House Establishment’ suggests a spacious house and might account for the closure of the school if and when the premises were required for other uses.

It appears to be flourishing and ‘Mrs’ Eliza Cox’s ‘ladies boarding school’ is listed in the 1854 Kelly’s Directory. Sometimes the title ‘Mrs’ was used for unmarried women who held a position of responsibility such as being a housekeeper, without necessarily meaning that they were in fact married. There is no further trace of the school or of Eliza Cox in the 1861 census or the 1864 Kelly’s Directory for Amersham.

It seemed probable from the details recorded in 1851 that Eliza was the daughter of Caleb Cox and Elizabeth Potter of Great Missenden[3] although, if so, her age should have been given as 44. The marriage allegation shows that both Caleb and William Potter, Elizabeth’s father, were shopkeepers.[4]  Eliza was born on 26 October 1806, and her birth was registered at the Lower Baptist Meeting House in Amersham (RG 4/239/25).

© TheGenealogist © Crown copyright Images reproduced courtesy of The National Archives, London, England
© TheGenealogist © Crown copyright Images reproduced courtesy of The National Archives, London, England

Caleb Cox’s second marriage was not of long duration. An entry in the burial register of the church of St Peter and St Paul, Great Missenden, records the burial of Elizabeth Cox on 5 Nov 1806, less than two weeks after she had given birth to Eliza.[5]

The recording of the birth details of Eliza Cox and Ann Drayton strongly suggests that the two principals both had a nonconformist background. Certainly both were members of the meeting at the Lower Baptist Chapel. Their faith may have been reflected in the ethos of their school, which could make an intriguing parallel with Ebenezer West’s boarding school for boys. A quick comparison of the two lists of boarders, in 1841 and in 1851, did not reveal any obvious instances of a brother being in one school and a sister in the other.

The records of the Lower Baptist Chapel, as well as recording Eliza’s birth, mention her twice more. ‘Ann Sharpe, Miss Cox’s’ was dropped from the membership list and Eliza Cox herself was ‘Dismissed to Regents Park, London, Feb 1st 1858’.[6] This would account for her disappearance from Amersham and puts the likely closing date for the school between 1854 and 1857.

Regents Park, London, no doubt refers simply to the Baptist Chapel there, but the area was one of some significance for Baptists. In 1752 the London Baptist Education Society had been founded. In 1804 it became the Baptist Education Society and in 1856 moved to Holford House, Regents Park, which was renamed ‘Regents Park College’. Here dissenters could read for degrees in the arts or law or prepare for the ministry. Later the College moved again, this time to Oxford, where the Angus Library and archives are now housed.[7] Their records reveal that Emily Cox was listed as a member of the Regents Park Chapel on 10 February 1858, but there is no further trace of her in the Minute Book.

Searching this area in the 1861 census produced no leads but eventually an entry was found in West Hastings, Sussex. Aged 54 and unmarried Eliza is lodging at 7 Eversfield Place. She does not appear to be teaching as her occupation is given as ‘proprietor of houses.’ The enumerator has done his best, recording her birthplace as ‘Bucks Minisden’.

At 54 and in an age when qualifications were felt to be more and more necessary it seems unlikely that she would go back into teaching. There was an entry for her in the National Probate Calendar, plus a corresponding death in the Bermondsey Registration District correctly giving an age of 61. She died on 28 February 1867 at Earlswood Cottage, Tulse Hill, Brixton. The executrix was Susanna Olliff and Eliza left everything to her, specifically mentioning freehold cottages in Great Missenden.[8] The Tithe Apportionment map of Great Missenden dated 27 February 1841 shows that by that date Eliza Cox was the owner of four houses and gardens, numbered no 513 and just off the High Street. At that point they were occupied by Thomas Clarke, James Rance, Joseph Eldridge and Thomas Keen.

Who was Susanna Olliff?  Lodging with Eliza in Hastings there had been a fundholder aged 27 listed as Susanna Cliff, born in Camden around 1834. ‘Cliff’ could well have been an attempt to render the less usual Olliff.  An attempt to track Susanna Olliff, born about 1834, led straight to Amersham in 1851, where she was a boarder at Miss Cox’s school, again with the detail that she was born in Camden c1834. There appears to be an earlier connection between the Cox and Olliff families in that on 18 October 1814 James Olliff married Mary the daughter of Caleb Cox, draper, of Great Missenden.[9] The maternal grandfather’s details were also recorded at Dr Williams’ Registry in London on 17 February 1836 when the births of Samuel Webb Olliff (born 14 July 1821) and Mary Sophia Olliff (born 11 September 1824) were registered. As there was apparently no mother available to sign the register Eliza Cox signed instead as a witness and the squiggle following her signature might be ‘Aunt’. It appears that Mary née Cox had died, as in 1834 James had married Mary Munger at Dinton and when, on 6 February 1837, James registered the birth of his daughter Martha, she was able to sign the register as the mother. Susanna, however, was the daughter of William Olliff, a tailor, and his wife Hannah Early, who had married on 1 Oct 1828 at St Pancras. Susanna was baptized in the same church on 8 July 1833 and another daughter, Martha, was baptized on 4 May 1836 at Hampstead St John.

The Will of William Olliff,[10] described as a builder, was proved on 16 February 1848 by his two brothers, James and Samuel Olliff.  His wife, and a further daughter Martha, baptized on 4 May 1836 at Hampstead St John, are not mentioned.[11] His age is given as 57, so he was born about 1791. When Susanna, who died in Switzerland on 12 November 1906, married the Swiss theologian Emmanuel Petavel DD on 2 May 1867 at the Swiss Church in Endell Street, she was described as the only surviving child of the late Mr W Olliff of Camden Town.[12] Thus both Eliza Cox and Susanna Olliff’s widowed fathers died when they were about 15, leaving them as orphans, and it would seem that the two women, aunt and niece, lived together until Eliza’s death.

The Will of Caleb Cox, draper of Great Missenden, brought some much-needed clarity to an investigation bogged down in an unexpected oversupply of Caleb Coxes. The Will was dated 15 April 1820 and Caleb, who was a draper at Great Missenden, died on 3 March 1821.[13] In it he confirmed

‘the Settlement made prior to my Marriage with my late second Wife Elizabeth by virtue where of my Youngest Daughter Eliza now an Infant and the only Issue of that Marriage will in the Event of her surviving me become absolutely intitled to certain Freehold Hereditaments in Great Missenden aforesaid settled by me previous to and in Contemplation of such Marriage.’

He mentions three surviving children of his first marriage:[14] his son Caleb, his daughter Elizabeth, married to James Thompson and his second daughter Mary, married to James Olliff. He owned houses and land also at Prestwood Common and Frith Hill and the value of the estate was under £600. Pulling together some very fragmentary evidence, a tentative theory could suggest that Eliza lived for a while with her half-sister Mary, or at least was in the household when two of Mary’s children were born. She presumably had received a good education and shown enough interest and ability to make teaching a possible career. Thomas Marshall was a witness to Caleb’s Will and his firm applied for probate. He or his successors may possibly have played some role in administering Eliza’s settlement and even in finding premises in Amersham for the school, but this is highly speculative.

What has been established is that the school did not continue for long beyond 1854. No details have come to light of when and how the school first started, or of how it was financed, but we now have an outline of the two schoolmistresses’ later lives and at least a little more is now known about its history and what was taught there. Unsuspected links between this school and the Baptists of Amersham have emerged.



[1] National Archives PROB 11/1964, accessible through Ancestry and TheGenealogist websites

[2] Amersham Old Town Baptist] NB 1/2, partly reproduced in Amersham Lower Meeting Baptist Church, Births 1773-1837 & Burials 1784-1837, Lists of Members 1784-1894, The EurekA Partnership, 2007, p 21

[3] They married at Great Missenden on 16 December 1802 by licence. Caleb Cox was a widower and Elizabeth a spinster from the parish of Chesham. William Potter and E Potter were witnesses (Familysearch digitised film 8061839, image 134)

[4] Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies D/A/M/C/916/2

[5] Familysearch digitised film no 8061839

[6] Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, Minutes of Church Meetings 1832-1874 [Amersham Old Town Baptist] NB 1/2, partly reproduced in Amersham Lower Meeting Baptist Church, Births 1773-1837 & Burials 1784-1837, Lists of members 1784-1894, The EurekA Partnership, 2007, pp 22 & 21

[7] I am grateful to the archivist, Emily Burgoyne, for most kindly producing this information.

[8] The Will was dated 2 November 1865 and accessed through Familysearch’s digitised film 8058447, image 659

[9] The Death Duty Register entries for Caleb Cox of Great Missenden, draper, who died on 3 March 1821 mention James Olliffe as a trustee, a daughter Elizabeth married to James Thompson, and a son Caleb Cox (Familysearch digitised film no 8492883, image 116).

[10] PROB 11/2069, dated 18 March 1840.

[11] Martha Olliff, of Golden Yard, was buried on 18 May 1836 aged 4 weeks at St Martin in the Fields (p 269, no 109). Hannah Olliff was buried at the same place and in the same year on 30 Oct 1836 aged 35 and her address given as Harwood Road (p 279, no 192). William, aged 57 of 24 Harwood Street, was buried at St James, Highgate Cemetery on 18 Jan 1848 (p 162, no 4491).

[12] Pall Mall Gazette, 3 May 1867, p 6

[13] The Will is at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, D/A/WF/114/94, and the date of death is taken from the Death Duty records accessed through Familysearch digitised film 8492883, image 116

[14] A manuscript transcription of Monumental Inscriptions at the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Great Missenden, of unknown authorship and date, shelfmark BU/M1, in the Society of Genealogists’ Library, lists in grave 40 Elizabeth Cox, wife of Caleb Cox, who died on 7 March 1793, aged 40, and commemorates three other children who died in infancy.

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