How doth your garden grow? Part 1

In the course of my web ‘wanderings’ I came across these two items.

Charley Casbon flower description 1871
Casbon florist ads Gardening Illustrated Vol X 1888

The first item is from a Washington, D.C. “Descriptive catalogue of new, rare and beautiful plants, dahlias, chrysanthemums, geraniums, fuchsias, carnations, verbenas, phloxes, &c. for spring, 1871.”[1] The Charley Casbon flower described is listed under “New Zonale and Nosegay Geraniums” that “comprise the very finest of their classes, sent out by the best growers in England and the Continent.”[2] Charley (or Charlie) Casbon is mentioned in a variety of English gardening journals published between 1870 and 1876.

The second item is a series of advertisements from “CASBON Florist” and “T. CASBON” from an 1888 gardening magazine.[3] Such ads are common, mainly in the 1880s, although references to “Messrs. Casbon & Son, Peterborough,” Nurserymen, can be found as early as 1866.[4] Clearly there was a well-established family business in Peterborough, an important city in Northamptonshire (since then it has become part of Cambridgeshire).

These two items will serve to introduce another family with the Casbon surname. I’ll call them the ‘Peterborough Casbons.’ As far as I can tell, there is no relation to my own family (the ‘Meldreth Casbons’). As can be seen, the Peterborough Casbons were a family of gardeners and florists. It’s tempting to believe that they were responsible for developing the Charley Casbon flower. I’m afraid I can’t say for sure, but later I’ll provide some evidence that supports the theory.

The Casbon name doesn’t appear in Peterborough until the 1850s. The family originated in Littleport, a large village near the cathedral city of Ely in Cambridgeshire. In Littleport, the surname is almost always spelled with an “r” before the “n” – Casborn, Casbourn, Caseborn, Casebourne, etc. Records of the family in Littleport go back to the early 1600s.


Use this interactive map to visit locations mentioned in this post

Generation 1. Thomas Casborn (1776-1855)

I’m numbering each generation, to make things simpler to follow. As you’ll see, each generation has a Thomas, and it’s easy to get them confused. I’ll start with this Thomas, because he was: 1) the one who left Littleport and started the journey that eventually led to Peterborough; and 2) the first member of the family known to be a professional gardener.

Thomas Casborn was born about 1776 in Littleport, and baptized in 1778, the son of Thomas (yes, another one!) and Mary (nee Diamond).[5] He married Ann Dolby in 1800[6] and had five children between the years 1800 and 1808. Two of the children, Mary and Thomas, died in early childhood, and as was the custom, the next girl and boy born after their deaths were given their names. The three surviving children were Mary (b. abt. 1802)[7], Thomas (b. abt. 1807),[8] and Elizabeth (b. abt. 1808)[9]

Sometime after 1808, Thomas left Littleport. The next record I have is the 1841 England and Wales Census. At that time, Thomas, his wife Ann, and daughter Elizabeth were all living in Needingworth, a small village in Huntingdonshire, about 20 miles southwest of Littleport.[10]

Thomas C b1776 1841 census Needingworth
1841 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Needingworth, Huntingdonshire (Click on image to enlarge)

This census is also noteworthy because it lists Thomas’ occupation as Gardener.

Ann died in 1843.[11] In 1851, Thomas is listed as “retired Gardener,” residing in Colne, about 3 miles from Needingworth.[12]

Thomas C b abt 1876 LIttleport 1851 census Colne
1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Colne, Huntingtonshire (Click on image to enlarge)

Thomas died in 1855.[13] I have no further confirmed records of daughters Mary or Elizabeth.

Generation 2. Thomas Casbourn (about 1807-1863)

Thomas, the son born in Littleport about 1807, also became a gardener. By 1841, he was married to Jane (surname unknown) and had three children: John (b. abt 1832), Sarah (b. abt. 1834), and Thomas (b. abt. 1840).[14] At that time Thomas and his family were living in Warboys, about 6 miles from his parents in Needingworth.

Thomas Casbourn b1806 1841 census Warboys
1841 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Warboys, Huntingtonshire (Click on image to enlarge)

By 1851, Thomas and his family had moved to Peterborough. His name is misspelled as Gasborn in the 1851 census.[15]

Thomas C b 1806 LIttleport 1851 census Peterborough
1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Peterborough, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire)
(Click on image to enlarge)

This is the earliest record of the Casbon family in Peterborough. Thomas, Jane, and son Thomas also appear in the 1861 census, where he is listed as a “Nurseryman.”[16] The elder Thomas died 1863 in Peterborough.[17] Jane appears in the 1871 census, living with her daughter Sarah, now married to a man named Richard Baker.[18] Jane died in 1874.[19] Oddly, I have been unable to find any other record of Thomas the son, after the 1861 census.

With the move to Peterborough, the Casbon gardening business finally had a home. I leave you with this entry from this 1854 post office directory.[20]

Thomas C b1806 Littleport 1854 directory Peterborough
(Click on image to enlarge)

The next post will pick up where we left off, beginning with Generation 3.

[1] Saul, J. “Descriptive catalogue of new, rare and beautiful plants, dahlias, chrysanthemums, geraniums, fuchsias, carnations, verbenas, phloxes, &c. for spring, 1871.”Page 30.  Washington, D.C. Internet Archive https://archive.org/details/descriptivecatal18john [accessed 13 September 2016]
[2] Saul, J. “Descriptive catalogue…” Page 29. [accessed 13 September 2016]
[3] Gardening Illustrated, Vol. X No. 470, page 22. 10 March 1888. London. Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=oilIAAAAYAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s [accessed 20 September 2016]
[4] “The Gardeners’ Chronicle and Agricultural Gazette,” No.14, page 311, 7 April 1866. Google Books https://books.google.com/books?id=S7szAQAAMAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s. [accessed 20 September 2016]
[5] Church of England, “Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857.”FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-HQHY?i=387&cat=976859 [accessed 20 September 2016].
[6] “Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857.”FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-HQDS?i=467&cat=976859 [accessed 13 September 2016].
[7] “Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857.”FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-HQ44?i=480&cat=976859 [accessed 13 September 2016].
[8] “Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857.”FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-H3Y1?i=510&cat=976859 [accessed 13 September 2016].
[9] “Bishop’s transcripts for Littleport, 1599-1857.”FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-H3Y1?i=510&cat=976859 [accessed 13 September 2016].
[10] “1841 census of England, Wales & Scotland.” Findmypast http://search.findmypast.com/record?id=gbc%2f1841%2f0448%2f0148&parentid=gbc%2f1841%2f0005795608&highlights=%22%22 [accessed 14 September 2016]
[11] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2JQ4-ZRJ [accessed 13 September 2016]
[12] “1851 census of England and Wales; digital image, FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SGR7-6LS [accessed 9 August 2016]
[13] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2NLY-2KB [accessed 20 September 2016]
[14]  “1841 England, Scotland and Wales census.” findmypast http://www.findmypast.com [accessed 3 August 2016]
[15] “1851 census of England, Wales & Scotland.” findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com [accessed 5 August 2016]
[16] “1861 England, Scotland and Wales census,” findmypast http://www.findmypast.com [accessed 5 August 2016]
[17] “National Burial Index for England & Wales.” findmypast http://www.findmypast.com [accessed 15 September 2016]
[18] “1871 census of England and Wales.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VFF9-6R7 [accessed 3 August 2016]
[19] “National Burial Index for England & Wales.” findmypast http://www.findmypast.com [accessed 15 September 2016]
[20] “”Post Office Directory of Berkshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire; with Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Huntingdonshire.” [1854], p. 478. University of Leicester Special Collections Online http://specialcollections.le.ac.uk/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p16445coll4/id/167099/rec/7 [accessed 13 Sep 2016]
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