Charles Roydhouse- “The Other Lot”

Two Roydhouse families lived in London during the period of time before William immigrated to New Zealand, and during the  course of trying to establish a link between their seemingly common Yorkshire backgrounds a couple of generations before, I spent a lot of time researching “The Other Lot”. They were saddlers, or in other horse related trades, and mainly lived in Chelsea. Charles especially was a fascinating study  and I found myself researching him for the sake of finding out more of his life long after the two families connection was proved to be in the “extremely doubtful basket”.

Charles Potter Roydhouse was born in St. Georges, Middlesex in October 1834 ,his father William a saddler  and mother Elizabeth. He had eight siblings, with sisters Mary, Jane , Alice, Caroline, Elizabeth, Sarah and brothers George and William. Alice, Elizabeth and Sarah died as young children.

At age  9 in 1843 he entered St Pauls School, Westminster. Records do not indicate when he left, just that he “Left for a situation”.

He was serving in the Army in Dublin, Ireland, when he met Emma Dennison, daughter of a Sergeant posted there. They married at St. James, Dublin on the 26th November 1861.

As a Sergeant in the Chelsea Guards, Charles went to Fort Henry, Kingston, Ontario, Canada and lived in the married quarters with Emma for at least six years, as daughters Emma Jane and Alice Elizabeth Sarah were born there in 1861 and 1870 respectively. The journey home was undertaken before the 1871 census, as the family is recorded at the Woolwich Barracks in Greenwich London.

Eleanor Mary was born in 1872(recorded as Helena)in Kent.

Sometime before 1881 Charles and Emma were appointed Master and Matron of Dunmow Workhouse in Essex, 70 kilometres from London.


( various angles of the Workhouse)

The plan of the workhouse had a single storey entry, containing the porters lodge and Guardians board-room and a chapel.

The main block, four storeys high in the centre with three storey wings, with the Masters Quarters at the very centre. Men’s accommodation was on the west side, and females to the east, a a separate infirmary was built to the south in 1871.

This was a very demanding role for both Charles and Emma, as seen by the following Duty Statement:(

The Master

  • To admit paupers into the workhouse.
  • To ensure new male inmates are searched, cleansed, clothed and classified.
  • To enforce industry, order, punctuality and cleanliness.
  • To read prayers to the paupers before breakfast and after supper each day.
  • To hold a daily roll-call and inspection of inmates.
  • To provide work, training or occupation for the inmates.
  • To inspect the male sleeping wards at 11am daily.
  • To superintend the preparation and distribution of food.
  • To say grace before and after meals.
  • To visit the male sleeping wards before 9pm in winter and 10pm in summer to see that all male paupers are in bed, and all fires and lights not necessary for the sick are extinguished.
  • To receive the workhouse keys from the Porter at 9pm and return them to him at 6am.
  • To see that the male paupers are properly clothed, and that their clothes are kept in proper repair.
  • To register all Births and Deaths in the workhouse.
  • To send for the Medical Officer if any pauper is taken ill or becomes insane, and to inform their nearest relation in the workhouse, and in the case of dangerous sickness, to send for the Chaplain, and any relative or friend whom the pauper may desire to see.
  • To ensure that no pauper near death is left unattended, day or the night.
  • To inform the Medical Officer and next of kin of any death in the workhouse. If the body is not removed within a reasonable time, to provide for its interment.
  • To deliver an inventory of the clothes and other property of any pauper who may have died in the Workhouse, to the Guardians at their next meeting.
  • To submit, at each Board meeting, an estimate of provisions and other articles required for the Workhouse.
  • To ensure that the workhouse building, fixtures, fittings etc. are kept clean and in good order.
  • To report at each meeting of the Guardians on the number of the inmates in the workhouse
  • To bring before the Visiting Committee or Guardians any pauper inmate wishing to make a complaint.
  • To report to the Medical Officer and Guardians all cases where any restraint or compulsion is used towards any pauper inmate of unsound mind.

The Matron

The Matron acted as a deputy for the Master in his absence, and also had specific responsibilities of her own, mostly relating the supervision of female inmates and the workhouse’s domestic arrangements.

  • To oversee the admission of female paupers and pauper children under seven.
  • To oversee the employment and occupation of female paupers, and to assist the Schoolmistress in training up the children so as best to fit them for service.
  • To inspect the female sleeping wards at 11am daily.
  • To visit the female sleeping wards before 9pm in winter and 10pm in summer to see that all female paupers are in bed, and all fires and lights not necessary for the sick or for women suckling their children are extinguished.
  • To pay particular attention to the moral conduct and orderly behaviour of the females and children, and see they are clean and decent in their dress and persons.
  • To superintend the making and mending of the linen and clothing supplied to the inmates, and ensure that all such clothing be properly numbered and marked on the inside with the name of the Union.
  • To see that every pauper has clean linen and stockings once a week, and that all the beds and bedding are kept in a clean and wholesome state.
  • To superintend the washing, drying, and getting up of the linen, stockings, and blankets, and to see that the same is not dried in the sleeping-wards, or in the sick-wards.
  • To take proper care of the children and sick paupers, and to provide the proper diet for the same, and for women suckling infants, and to provide any necessary changes of clothes and linen.
  • To assist the Master in: enforcing the observance of good order, cleanliness, punctuality, industry, and decency of demeanour among the paupers; cleansing and ventilating the sleeping-wards and the dining-hall, and all other parts of the premises; placing in store and taking charge of the provisions, clothing, linen, and other articles belonging to the Union.
  • When requested by the Porter, to search any female entering or leaving the Workhouse.


In 1881 there were 22 staff and families, and 191” pauper inmates” and by 1891, 136 “pauper inmates” and 14 staff and families, the daughter Alice working as a Caretaker for girls. She died in 1892 at Dunmow aged 21.

Emma married Francis Henry Hawksford in Dunmow 1893- he was also born in Kingston Canada as his  father was  in the Army there also. Their only child was Alice Emma, born in 1895.

On the 7th October, 1895, Charles wife Emma died of a “coughing fit” in Dunmow aged 54.

Charles died at Dunmow on the 19th December, just a few weeks after his wife died. He was probated to Francis and Emma Hawksford at  almost 560 pounds. Eleanor  lived with Emma and Francis until at least 1911 when recorded as a spinster of almost 40.

Researching Charles was the start of a real interest in following up a One Name Study for  Roydhouse families of any country. The challenge continues..

Author: gorcat28

writing up my ancestors one week at a time

2 thoughts on “Charles Roydhouse- “The Other Lot””

  1. How interesting to take the time to think about the Master and Matron of workhouses as individuals. Of course they were , and often painted as not particularly sympathetic characters. Good on you for reminding us that they too have their own story! Most interesting reading of the duties they each had – on paper it reads like a duty of care and not such a bad place. Perhaps that was the intention and the problem was insufficient funding… somethings never change.

  2. It was timely for me also, I have a few ancestors who relied on workhouse/charity to get them through a rough patch or even the use of the Infirmary as medical assistance such as our mutual William Searle.

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