Give me an “a”…

The story of Samuel Clark Casban reflects the social and economic changes that were sweeping England in the mid- to late- 19th century.

He was baptized with the surname Casbon in February 1852, [1] the third son and sixth of seven children born to William (b. abt. 1805 in Royston) and Ann (Clark) (b. abt 1810 in Heyden, Essex) Casbon.

Samuel C baptism Meldreth 1852
Baptismal record of Samuel Clark Casbon from Meldreth Parish Register (Click on image to enlarge)

His brother Reuben was mentioned in “Australia-bound” as first to use the Casben spelling of the name, and the father of Arthur Casben, who emigrated to Australia.

This diagram shows Reuben and Samuel are related to some of the other “Meldreth Casbons” I have discussed in earlier posts.

John Casborn 4 generations
(Click on image to enlarge)

Like most of the early Meldreth Casbons, Samuel’s father William was listed as an “Agricultural Labourer” on census documents, meaning he did not own land, and worked for wages. In this 1861 census, you can see that 9-year old Samuel (“S Carsbon”) and his two older brothers John and Reuben had “Lab” – short for Labourer – listed as their occupations. Only 6-year old sister Martha was not working, and listed as “Scholar.” This was pretty typical for lower-class families in rural England at the time.

Samuel C Casban b1851 Meld 1861 census Croydon
Detail from 1861 Census of England and Wales, Meldreth (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1871 census, Samuel had an unusual job. He was listed as a “Coprolite digger.” Coprolite was a generic term for fossilized material that was high in phosphate content. Phosphate was used as a fertilizer. When it was learned that certain fossils contained high concentrations of phosphate, a short-lived boom occurred in those areas where the fossils could be found, including South Cambridgeshre, where Meldreth is located. The Meldreth Local History website has a good article  about this industry if you’re interested in learning more about it.

Coprolite miners in Orwell, near Meldreth, 1890s. Image used with permission,

Coprolite digging was hard, dirty work, but it probably paid better than agricultural labor.

Whether he was financially better off or not, in 1872 he married Lydia Harrup of nearby Melbourne. [2] Lydia had her own experiences with child labor. In 1861 at the age of 8, she was employed in a worsted woolen mill in Yorkshire. [3]

Lydia Harrop Casban 1861 census yorkshire
Detail from 1861 Census of England and Wales, showing entry for Lydia Harrop (Click on image to enlarge)

Samuel and Lydia’s first two children, Anne (b. about 1873) and Samuel C (b. December 1873), were baptized in Melbourn. [4] Sometime between 1874 and 1880, they moved to Croydon, Surrey, then a suburb south of London (now part of London proper), where Samuel had a new job as a “Railway goods shunter.” [5] A shunter in railway employee who “couples and uncouples railway vehicles to enable them to be moved into position and marshalled (i.e. arranged in order) in a siding or railway yard.” [6]

Samuel C Casban b1851 Meld 1881 census Croydon
Detail from 1881 Census of England and Wales, Croydon, Surrey (Click on image to enlarge)

By this time they had four children. In addition to Anne and Samuel C there were Alice (b. abt 1875 in Melbourne or Croydon) and William (born 1880 in Croydon). They would go on to have a total of 10 children. I’ve been able to locate records for 9 of them.

Samuel C Casban descendants
Diagram of Samuel and Lydia Casban’s children (Click on image to enlarge)

In 1891, Samuel’s occupation had changed again, now to a “Coal Porter,” i.e., one who carries heavy sacks of coal. [7],[8] In 1901 he was a “Contractor’s Carman at Asphalte Works.” [9] A carman was someone who “drove a vehicle used to transport goods” (in 1901 this would have meant a horse-drawn vehicle). [10] By 1911, he was listed as a “Crossing Sweeper.” [11] In earlier times this referred to a person who swept the street ahead of pedestrians as they crossed. “A job as a crossing sweeper was one step above being considered a beggar and the last chance for an individual to earn an ‘honest crust.’” [12] I haven’t been able to determine if this had a different meaning in 1911. At any rate, it is apparent that he was doing less physically intensive labor by 1911.

Samuel’s move from Meldreth to Croydon, and his changing occupations reflect the changing conditions in England in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th century. Industrialization and advances in transportation resulted in urban growth and new job opportunities. Nevertheless, Samuel never advanced beyond working class status, and it is unknown whether his financial stability or quality of life were improved as a result of these changes.

One other major event in the early twentieth century must have had a profound impact on Samuel and Lydia. They lost two of their sons in World War I. Earnest Charles Casbon was killed in the battlefields of France in 1914. [13] He had been married to Nellie Placket the year before and had a daughter Nellie born in 1914 (and died in 1915). [14],[15],[16] Leonard Casban died in a Turkish prisoner of war camp in 1917. [17]

Samuel and Lydia remained in Croydon the rest of their lives, as did many of their surviving children. Samuel died in 1922, and Lydia followed him in 1924. [18],[19]

Samuel is the patriarch of many of today’s Casbans in the United Kingdom (there are others from an apparently unrelated branch). Their numbers are relatively small, in part because they only had three surviving sons, and in part because those sons either remained childless or had a propensity for having daughters.

If any descendants of Samuel and Lydia are reading this, I hope you will contact me or leave a comment. There are many blanks to be filled in my information!

[1] Church of England. Parish Church of Meldreth, “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FHL Microfilm #1040542
[2] “England Marriages, 1538–1973,” FamilySearch [accessed 2 August 2016]
[3] “1861 Census of Engand, Wales & Scotland,” find my past [accessed 19 November 2016]
[4] “1881 Census of England and Wales,” FamilySearch [accessed 2 August 2016]
[5] “1881 Census of England and Wales.” FamilySearch [accessed 2 August 2016]
[6] “Are You Looking For An Ancestor?”. 2016. The Library – Modern Records Section [accessed 20 November 2016].
[7] “1891 Census of England and Wales,” FamilySearch [accessed 2 August 2016]
[8] “Family Tree Researcher: Dictionary Of Old Occupations – C”. 2016. Family Researcher [accessed 21 November 2016]
[9] “1901 Census of England and Wales,” FamilySearch [accessed 2 August 2016]
[10] “List Of Old English Occupations And Descriptions”. 2016. Worldthroughthelens.Com [accessed 21 November 2016]
[11] “1911 Census of England and Wales,” find my past [accessed 19 November 2016]
[12] “Crossing Sweepers – Geri Walton,” 2014. Geri Walton [accessed 21 November 2016]
[13] “Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919”, find my past [accessed 11 November 2016]
[14] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005”, FamilySearch [accessed 12 November 2015]
[15] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008”, FamilySearch [accessed 13 November 2015]
[16] “England and Wales, Death Index 1800-2007”, FamilySearch [accessed 13 November 2015]
[17] “Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919”, find my past [accessed 11 November 2016]
[18] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch [accessed 15 September 2015]
[19] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch [accessed 17 November 2016]

6 thoughts on “Give me an “a”…

    1. Hello Stephen, thanks for your comments! I have you and your mum in my database. Feel free to use the Contact link if you would like more info about the Casbon/Casbon side of your family.


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