For the descendents of Richard Dearie and his son John Russell

Frances Sophia Russell nee Webster born 28 March 1858, Clerkenwell, London.

Died 17 January 1893, at Barganny Lodge, Eber Road, Singapore aged 35.

Compiled by Claire Grey

Frances Sophia Webster was born on 28 March 1858. There is no record of her birth to be found in the national register of births, marriages and deaths. However her baptism has been found at St James Church Clerkenwell. She was baptised on 23 September 1863 and the register notes her actual birth date five years earlier.

She was born in Clerkenwell according to the census, the fourth of a family of six children. Her father was Walter Webster a Parliamentary Agent who was born in Islington in 1831. Her mother was Eliza Charlotte Benford also born in Islington in 1827. Her father had a brother called George born in 1827 in Clerkenwell who was a reporter.

Frances’ oldest living sister was Helen Eliza Mercy Webster known as Nell. She was born on 29 March 1851 at 9, Green Terrace, Clerkenwell. (A patch of green just south of the New River Head water works and the Sadler’s Wells Theatre.)

The 1851 census shows Walter Webster aged 20 general Clerk and parliamentary agent, Eliza C. Webster his wife, four years older aged 24, Eliza Webster, daughter under a month and George Webster, Walters brother, living with a “monthly nurse” and one maid servant. Their neighbours include a silversmith at No 8, and a watchmaker at No 6. Clerkenwell was a printing, distilling and watch-making district.

Frances may have been born at Green Terrace or at Whiskin street where they moved to next.

By 1861 they had moved a few streets south to 37 Whiskin Street, Clerkenwell. Walter Webster head aged 38. Clerk to the Board of Trade, Eliza C. his wife aged 33, Eliza C. daughter aged 8, Anne M. daughter aged 5, Clara daughter aged 4, Francis S. aged 3 and Grace K. daughter aged 1.

34 Whiskin Street was the home of Martha Benford her grandmother, who died in 1864, leaving some money in her will for the education of her grandchildren.

They were no longer living in Clerkenwell when they baptised Frances at St James Clerkenwell, in 1863. Their address was 8, Crown Street, Hammersmith. Walter’s profession is office clerk. Crown Street was just north and east of two large parks in Fulham. This would have been a rural area at the time.

In the 1871 census the family can be found living at 48 Millbank Street. (Millbank Street ran from the end of the houses of Parliament to the start of Lambeth Bridge). Walter Webster head, a clerk aged 48, was now a widower, Helen E. M. Webster, daughter, aged 20, was a dressmaker, Eliza C., daughter, aged 18, also a dressmaker, Annie M., daughter, aged 15, no occupation, Frances, daughter, aged 13 was an apprentice, Grace, daughter, aged 11, and Arthur, son, aged 10, have no occupation, nor are they recorded as going to school.

Walter has not been found in the 1881 census.

It appears that Frances lost her mother at an early age and started working by the time she was 13.

There were no lodgers with the family on the 1871 census. Family stories say that Jack Russell met Frances when he was a lodger at her parent's house.

He himself was apprenticed at the age of 14 in 1869.

Agnes and Cecil Rough interviewed in 1985 said that Jack and Frances' first son was called Francis Webster and that he was put in a foundling’s home. Cecil met a Frank Webster who worked for the British Oxygen Company and said he looked like the Russells; like George. He took Cecil out a couple of times. Webster is a common name and the birth of a Frank Webster on 19 March 1878 has been found with no father’s name on his birth certificate. The address is 16 Chandos Street, Charing Cross but there is no proof of a connection.

Jack and Frances lived together at 64 Waterloo Road. His mother Jessie lived with them. Their marriage took place in Lambeth Registry Office on 16 August 1879: Frances was 21, and 6 months pregnant, Jack was 24.

Jessie lived to see the birth of her grandson George on 23 November 1879 and his first 10 months of life before she died of TB on 14th June 1880, at the early age of 47. Jack and Frances named their son George Dearie Russell. They can be found on the 1881 census at 64 Waterloo Road. Jack aged 26 Printer and compositor, Frances S. aged 23 and George D Russell son.

Above: St James Church seen from Clerkenwell Green, built in 1792. Photo: 2010

Their second son Archie was born at 78 Westminster Bridge Road on Nov 11 1882.

They moved to South View Villas, Elm Road, where their three youngest were born: Philip Charles in 1884, Donald Oscar in 1887, Robert Cecil was born in 1889.

Frances was also supposed to have miscarried a daughter.

The family left for Kuala Lumpur on 12th February 1890 on the steam ship Glengarry. George was 10, Archie 9, Phil 5, Don 2 and Bob 5 months.

They arrived in Singapore on 15 March.

They moved into a rented house, which had previously been occupied, by the European gaoler and his family. They joined a community of 81.000 people; 190 of which were European.

The four oldest children were sent to a small private school run by Mrs Hurth, the wife of a leading coffee planter.

At the end of 1891 the Russells moved to new quarters closer to the printing office.

By the end of 1892 it was decided to send George the oldest boy to Raffles school in Singapore. On 10th of January 1893 Frances with George and Robert the youngest travelled to Singapore to enrol him at Raffles based at St Andrews House in Armenian Street. They stayed at Barganny Lodge in Eber Road.


The remaining part of Whiskin Street today.

Letter to Archie from Frances undated unsigned and unposted.

"Dear Archie, I must let you hear from me first and Phil next. I hope you took great care of father and put on his bib and sent him down to Club by the kiboose.(1) I will try and get your transfers today, if I cannot get them I must try another day. Goodbye dear be a good boy and look after things for mother"




Aunt Nell.

Helen Webster married George Oxer a mercantile clerk and they had two children: George Ernest and Kate Gertrude. They were born at 3 Rutland Villas Crystal Palace Road.

In the 1881 census they were living at 3 Crystal Palace Road. George was a commercial clerk and his wife Helen E. M. Oxer aged 30 was born in Clerkenwell. George aged four born in Dulwich, as was Kate aged one.

The family then lived at 135 Chadwick Road in Peckham.

George Oxer’s name appears in the Peckham street directories at Number 135 from 1898, through to 1907. The 1901 census shows them there. By this time George Oxer is a commercial traveller, aged 51, his wife Helen is aged 50, their son George is 24 and a jewellers assistant while daughter Kate, 21 is a student.

George Oxer died in 1908 and Nell in 1918. This may be the reason that contact was lost with this side of the family. Nell cant be found on the 1911 census, and no one is living at Number 135 in 1911, although George Ernest Oxer, their son, continued to live in Camberwell. For more on the Oxers click here.


On the afternoon of Sunday 15th January, Frances and Robert joined a group to visit the MacRitchie reservoir, which lay in hills off the Thompson Road. On the return journey she was involved in the accident that would lead to her death. See newspaper reports right:

Frances died on Tuesday morning at Barganny Lodge without regaining consciousness. Jack left for Singapore on 17th.

She was buried at the Christian cemetery, Bukit Timah Road, Singapore on Thursday 19 January (2)

Frances and Helen Webster's Parents.

Little is known about Walter Webster and his brother George the reporter.

There is a family of Websters living on Clerkenwell Green on the 1841 census, the only Websters living in Clerkenwell in 1841, which has a Walter and a George at the right age, but this may not be the correct family. It shows Sarah Webster aged 45, born in Middlesex, Harriet aged 20, Walter aged 15, George aged 13 and Henry aged 9.

The Family Search Website has a record of a Walter Webster born to Walter and Sarah Webster on 31 Oct 1822 and christened at Saint Lukes, Old Street on 24 Nov 1822. More confirmation is needed because Webster is a very common name and Walter's age on the different census varies.

George the reporter has not been searched for in the 1861 census or the 1871 census but there is a George Webster who is a journalist editor living in Norfolk on the 1881 census with his wife Mary and daughter Agnes who is an “artist painter”, who appears to have been there for the previous 20 years. More research would be needed to prove a link.

Frances’ mother Eliza C. Benford was born in Clerkenwell or Islington in 1827/8 and was on the 1841 census.

There is an Eliza Charlotte Benford who married Walter Webster in Clerkenwell in December 1849.

The family appear on the 1841 census living in Whiskin Street: Josh. Benford, born in Middlesex, occupation Dyer aged 40, Martha Benford aged 45 (not born in Middlesex.) and Eliza Benford aged 14 born in Middlesex. The household has one young female servant.

Whiskin Street is now half its former length the western part having disappeared under a new estate. The remaining eastern part consists of 19th century industrial buildings some of which are now occupied by City University, and some which have been converted to flats. Printing still goes on there at Nos. 26-31 and 40-41.

Clerkenwell Green has several very old buildings . The Middlesex Sessions house was built in 1782.

The patch of green that ran north of Green Terrace is preserved in Spa Green Park.
Nothing remains of the original Green Terrace in Clerkenwell today.
Above, the Russell boys in Peckham, from left to right: Phil, Don, Archie and Bob.
Frances with George and Archie taken in Weymouth about 1883
Jack and Frances with four of the boys.

“ A serious carriage accident occurred last evening by which a lady and her infant son were severely injured. A party of ladies and gentlemen after having been on a visit to the Impounding Reservoir, were on the return journey about 6 ‘o clock when one of the horses bolted and one of the occupants a lady named Mrs Russell, from Kuala Lumpur, in her alarm jumped from the vehicle with her infant son in her arms, the result being that both are now suffering from concussion of the brain. The runaway horse stopped immediately on reaching the next carriage in front, and fortunately no further accident occurred. It is expected that the infant, not being very seriously hurt will speedily recover, but the case of Mrs Russell is reported to be much more grave”

The Singapore Free Press, Monday 16th January

“A sad accident occurred on Sunday Afternoon which terminated in the death of Mrs Russell, yesterday. Mrs Russell, who is the wife of the Government printer at Selangor, came to Singapore in order to make arrangements for the schooling of two of her children. She out for a drive to the Waterworks, Thomson Rd on Sunday afternoon, with her infant son, and on returning, the horse bolted. It is said that Mrs Russell with her infant son leaped from the carriage, and both were rendered unconscious. They were taken to Barganny Lodge where Mrs Russell was staying, and professional advice was called in which showed that both lady and child were suffering from concussion of the brain. The infant apparently recovered, but Mrs Russell died yesterday morning. The husband was at once telegraphed for; and the last rites were deferred…so that Mr Russell might possibly have the opportunity to be present”

The Straits Times, Wednesday 18th January.

"DEATHS: RUSSELL- At Singapore on 17 January, Francis Sophia aged 34, wife of John Russell of Kuala Lumpur. Deeply regretted."

The Selangor Journal 10th February.

In the summer of 1893 the four youngest boys were sent back sent back to England to live with Frances' sister Nell and her husband George Oxer and their two children at 135, Chadwick Road Peckham. The family communicated by letters until April 1899, when Jack took his children back to Kuala Lumpur.

Although the Russell boys must have known their cousins well they do not appear to have kept in contact with them in later years. It may be Aunt Nell who is next to George in his 1909 wedding photograph. See right:

Above:The Marx Memorial Library at 37a Clerkenwell Green was home to many radical organisations. Lenin used an office here in 1902. It now houses a library with books on working class history, and a collection of archives on the printing unions.
Above: The three buildings to the right of the Marx Library are all over 400 years old.
Left: two views of Whiskin Street .


(1) "Kiboose" Horse drawn vehicle

(2) The Christian Cemetery, Bukit Timah Road was closed in 1971, the memorials having been destroyed. See wikipedia entry.