I am currently researching my family history in the Counties of Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and Surrey.

Place Names in Devon: Northam, Great Torrington, Plymouth, Weare Giffard, Crediton
Surnames in Devon: Wills, Greek, Harris

My great-grandfather, the Reverend Joseph Harris Wills, was born in Plymouth in 1842. He was the eldest son of Joseph Wills, a tea merchant, and Elizabeth (nee Harris of Crediton). Education begun at Exeter Grammar was continued on the Continent and completed at Oxford. After matriculating in 1863 Joseph became travelling chaplain to the Bishop of Cape Town and for a time was special preacher at Maritzburg Cathedral.

Due to his ability to speak French, German and 'Taal' (local Dutch), as well as a number of native dialects, he was selected by the Bishop of Bloemfontein to lead an expedition into Central Africa to locate sites suitable for establishing mission stations. On his return to the Transvaal three years later, in 1871, he married Sophie Becker at her parents' home in Pretoria. She was a daughter of Carl Johannes (known as Henry) Becker and Aletta Hillegonda Van Reenen.

Joseph and Sophie lived in England until 1873 when they sailed to New Zealand aboard the 'James Nichol Fleming'. In 1876 they moved to Tasmania where Joseph served as locum tenans in many of the island's parishes. Joseph was affiliated with the 'Flaming Star' Masonic Lodge in the Netherlands and the 'Lodge of Peace' at Forth in Tasmania. He died as the result of a motor vehicle accident in Tasmania in 1925.

Reverend Wills' ancestors were:
Nathaniel Wills & Thomazin Taylor of Northam, Devon who were married in 1694 at Westleigh-by-Bideford, Devon.
Matthew Wills (1700-?) & Margrett of Northam, Devon.
Thomas Wills (1734-1781), mariner of Northam/innkeeper of Great Torrington & his second wife, Agnes Allen, a widow of Monkleigh, Devon.
Thomas Wills (1768-1848), fellmonger, of Great Torrington, Devon & Susanna (nee Greek) of Weare Giffard, Devon.
Joseph Wills (1814-1909) of Great Torrington, Devon, a tea merchant in Plymouth & Elizabeth (nee Harris) of Crediton, Devon.

Place Names in Essex: Barking, Manuden
Surnames in Essex: Sharp(e), Rivers

Place Names in Hertfordshire: Highcross, Hunsdon, Standon, Ware,Wessin
Surnames in Hertfordshire: Sharpe, Gray

Place Names in Middlesex: London, Poplar, Stepney
Surnames in Middlesex: Egalton, Ingram, Rivers, South, Sharp(e)

Place Names in Surrey: Camberwell, Redhill
Surnames in Surrey: Brown, Rivers, Sharp(e)

My great-great-grandfather, James Sharpe, was an agricultural labourer on 'Nine Ashes Farm' at Hunsdon, Hertfordshire. He was born in (1792?) at Manuden in Essex and died in 1875 at Ware in Hertfordshire. His wife, Mary (nee Gray) was born around 1792 at Wessin in Hertfordshire and died in 1874 at Hunsdon.
Their children were:
Mary (b 1831); Eliza (b 1833); Emma (b 1836); Ann (b 1837); James (b 1838) and David (b 1841).

My great-grandfather, David Sharp(e), a coachman/publican, was born in 1841 at Hunsdon and died in 1909 at Croydon in Surrey. In 1870, at Trinity Church Paddington, Middlesex he married Nancy Egalton, a domestic servant. Nancy was born in 1843 at Blackwall in Poplar, Middlesex. Her parents were Joseph Egalton, a River Thames Waterman & Lighterman and Eliza (nee Ingram). All of their children were baptised at Highcross in Hertfordshire - they were:
James (b?) Bayswater, Middlesex; unm.; (d 1953) Redhill, Surrey
Mary (b?) 'Fabdens' Standon, Hertfordshire; married name 'Reed'
Alfred (b?) 'Fabdens' Standon, Hertfordshire
Archibald (b 1876) 'Fabdens' Standon, Hertfordshire. He had three sons, Stanley Archibald, Albert James, Leonard Frederick and a daughter, Lilian Florence. This family has possible Canadian connections
William (b 1878) 'Fabdens' Standon, Hertfordshire; (d 1944) Sydney, Australia.

It is not known when David & Nancy became publicans of the 'Railway Inn' at Redhill in Surrey, but it appears that they were there in the 1890s.

My grandfather, William Sharp, their youngest child, who was born at 'Fabdens' Standon, was a merchant mariner. He married Margaret Sophia Rivers in London in 1910. They had one child, my father, who was born in Essex in 1911. In 1913 they came to Australia and settled in Sydney.

My grandmother, Margaret Sophia Rivers' grand-parents were William Henry Rivers, a coachman, and Margaret (nee Brown who died in 1884 at Bexley Heath in Kent).

Her father, Charles George Rivers, a River Thames Waterman & Lighterman was born at Mile End, London in 1851. In 1874 at the Parish Church in Stepney, Charles married Elizabeth South, a daughter of Henry South, a coachman of London.

Charles & Elizabeth had ten children:
Frederick Charles (b 1874) London
William Henry (b 1876) London; unmarried
Florence Maud (b 1878) London; married name 'Webb'
Alice Beatrice (b1881) London; unmarried
Margaret Sophia (b 1884) London; married name 'Sharp'
Charles (b 1886?) London; (emig. New Zealand with wife Ida)
Edwin James (1888) London: married 'Grace'
John Alfred (b 1890) London; married 'Daisy Terry'
Edward John (b?) London; killed in action in France
Stanley Valentine (b 1898) London; married 'Florrie'

Of the five youngest sons who served with the armed forces in World War I, two were wounded and one was killed in action.
Elizabeth Rivers (nee South) died in London in 1914 and Charles George Rivers died in 1932.

If you would like to exchange information regarding these families, please contact me at:

This page is updated as new information comes to hand.

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