Home > Some Holyer families of note
The spelling Holyer turns up from time to time in the study of Hollyer and Hollier families. But these are all most probably spelling errors. The only family known to have consistently used the Holyer spelling variant were the family from Kent who descend from John Holyer (c1714 - 1772). Down the years, some branches have changed the spelling to Hollyer (mine included), but today the name Hollyer and Holyer is most frequently found in Kent and Sussex.
Many of the Holyer families were farmers or farm labourers. The first John Holyer was a butcher as well as farming beef and this profession can be found down some 230 years and 7 generations. But many other Holyers just worked on the land. Indeed, by 1870, only one Holyer is shown as owning their own land - Elizabeth Holyer, widow of Richard Holyer, the miller from Brenzett whose grave at Woodchurch is still visible.
One prominent family moved to Tunbridge Wells and had a butcher's shop in what is now the very fashionable Pantiles. Another line were publicans in Ramsgate and Margate. I cannot describe all the Holyer families, but here are a few of the more interesting lines researched.
The butchers shop (right) at The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, at the time of Queen Victoria's Jubilee, probably the Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
John Holyer was born in 1800 in Woodchurch, the home of the Holyer family. He was the 4th of 10 children of William Gregory Holyer and his wife May Illenden. The only thing known about his father was that he was a 3rd generation butcher at Woodchurch but was bankrupted in 1826. He died in 1845 and an indistinct gravestone exists at Woodchurch.
John married Sarah Taylor in 1831 in Speldhurst, which seems to have been the parish covering Tunbridge Wells, some way across the county from Woodchurch. He settled in Tunbridge Wells and in 1839 is recorded as having a butcher's shop at Chapel Place. By 1848 he was renting a butcher's shop in Bath Square, on the Pantiles, in the centre of Tunbridge Wells and this was to remain a Holyer butcher shop for many years. He and Sarah only appear to have had two children: Mary Ann in 1833 and Henry in 1835. John died in 1865 and he left his son Henry a considerable sum of over £5000.
The son Henry married Eliza Nunn in 1862 in Lambeth in South London. They had two children: Sarah in 1862 in Lambeth (some 8 days before they married) and John in 1864 in Tunbridge Wells. It is worth mentioning that this son John married Hannah Amelia Baker in 1907 and emigrated to Australia with their two babies and had two more in Australia.
Henry's wife Eliza died in 1865 and Henry remarried in 1872 to Mary Ann Taylor, a woman 15 years his junior. Curiously, once again the marriage took place in Lambeth, South London. Whether Mary Ann had any connection with Henry's mother is not known. Henry took over his father's shop in the Pantiles and rebuilt it. In 1881, as well as his growing family, the census records that living 'over the shop' were 4 butcher's assistants and 2 servants.
Henry and Mary Ann had a very large family of 12 children and it is worth describing what happened to them, as several correspondents descend from this family.
Henry and Mary Ann stayed on at 9, The Pantiles, though one source says they were latterly at Caenwood Farm. Henry died in 1910 at The Pantiles and left just £335/14/7 to his widow. In 1911, the widowed Mary Ann was still living at the shop but she later moved, as in 1918 she was at 21 Nevill St, Tunbridge Wells. Mary Ann died there in 1926 and left £256/4/7 to her son Richard. He was not the eldest son, but the eldest unmarried son. Members of this family are spread out across the globe.
The line of publicans ('Licensed Victuallers') starts with Nicholas Collis Holyer born in 1835 in Woodchurch, the 3rd of 5 children of William Holyer and Mary Ann Weston. Mary Ann had some connection with the Collis family and was left money from them. Many of her children were given the middle name Collis, a name that stayed with the family over many generations. Nicholas Collis started out like so many of his family as a Butcher. In 1851, he is at Woodchurch with his Uncle George Holyer shown as an apprentice - presumably an apprentice butcher. But by 1854, he may have moved to Ramsgate, as that is where his father William died (93 King Street). What we do know is that he became the landlord of the ‘Cinque Ports’ pub at 4 King Street, Ramsgate. In 1856 he married Eliza Butler at St George's, Ramsgate and they went on to have 9 children:
The Holyer/Cladingbowl family is also of interest and through several contacts, a good deal is known of this family.
Their family was:-
I suspect that there are other more recent Ramsgate publicans waiting to be uncovered.
Collis is not the only name to be used down the generations. In 1819, James Holyer, a butcher (what else?) married Hannah Morris in Woodchurch. He was the illegitimate son of Sarah Holyer, but we know of his history as he was mentioned in the will of 1810 of his grandfather William Holyer. James and Hannah's 4th child was called William Morris Holyer. The latter, who became a brickmaker, married Hannah Hawkett in 1856 in Tenterden. He sometimes called himself Morris. They had no less than 11 children between 1855 and 1879, some registered as Holyer and some as Hollyer. Their third child was Moses Morris Hol(l)yer. He in turn married Mary Jane Martin in 1890 in Rolvenden and had 11 children, the second being called William Morris. I still have a Morris George of 1899 to fit in this tree somewhere.
While discussing this family, of interest is Moses Morris's 6th child: Lily Kathleen born 1896. She had a child in 1917, Harold Melville Hollyer (but registered as Hollier). She deserted the child, who was then brought up by Moses and Mary. Harold is the father of Tony Hollyer who has provided help in corresponding with family members in Kent and Sussex. Rumour in the family was that Lily might have had another child and Tony's research suggests that this was Joan Hollier born in 1919 in Chelsea. Joan too was abandoned to a Woodward family and later married a John Plomer in 1941. Tony and his father Harold have now met the family of John and Joan and believe they have found long lost relations. Let's hope it's true.
Richard Holyer was born c1805, the 7th child of William Gregory Holyer and Mary Illenden. He became a Miller at the post-mill at Brenzett, South-East of Woodchurch on the Romney Marshes. In 1835 he married Elizabeth Davis, daughter of James Davis, a farmer at Plurenden and his wife Elizabeth Bourne. They had two children: Richard Henry in 1838 and John Parton in 1840. The significance of the name John Parton is that he was the mill owner at Woodchurch, so the families would have known each other well. Indeed, a notebook of John Parton's shows that he sold Elizabeth Holyer a pair of cloth sweeps (the windmill sails) in 1848. A John Parton, Miller, was also an executor of William Holyer's will of 1810 - this might have been an earlier John Parton.
Sadly, Richard Holyer died young in 1842 and is buried at Woodchurch. Elizabeth was left to carry on the business herself. However, it appears that it was not just the mill that she owned, but land as well on which she kept grazing cattle. In 1850, tragedy struck again when the younger son John Parton Holyer died at the age of ten.
In the 1851 census she is shown as having 3 acres grazing and was accompanied by her eldest son who seems to have been known just as Henry. Elizabeth became friendly with a local man called Thomas Tuearsly Tunbridge, the son of William Tunbridge, another Grazier on the Romney Marshes. They hoped to marry, but Thomas never went through with it, though not before leaving Elizabeth with another young child Jabez, born in 1853. He therefore was brought up as Jabez Holyer and this started another line of Holyers, though not one having any direct genetic link with the Woodchurch Holyers.
In the 1861 census, Elizabeth is shown as a dairywomen with her 8 year old son Jabez. In 1873, Elizabeth Holyer is recorded as owning 2 acres, 3 roods at Old Romney. In the 1881 census Elizabeth is again on the Romney Marshes, still a Grazier at 66. Jabez was a farm labourer, as was Richard Henry, living nearby. The latter had married an Annie at Elham in 1876, but she died the year after.
In 1885, Jabez married Jane Ruth Fisher, who had been born in Southsea in 1856, the daughter of Frederick Fisher, a Farmer with local connections, as he had been born in 1814 in Brenzett, and farmed at nearby Snave. His wife was Ruth Jane Burn. Jabez and Jane Ruth lived at The Grove in Old Romney and went to have 7 children between 1887 and 1900. Three of these children emigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, though the family history is complicated by returns to the UK and re-emigrations. Thanks to Roger Cantle and others for this history.
Also from Judith Lawrence, I learned that Jabez Holyer acted as executor in 1912 for the will of Jane Smith née Woodland, who was a descendant of William Woodland who had married Mary Holyer, elder brother of Richard Holyer, the Miller. But that was not the only connection, since William Woodland's son John married Sarah Davis, sister of Elizabeth Davis who was, of course, Jabez's mother. All this goes to show what a closed community it was on the Romney Marshes.
In the 1998 Update I described at length the story of Walter Hollyer who married bigamously in India after marrying in Brighton. There must be something about the name Walter, since I have subsequently discovered a Walter Holyer who was also a bigamist.
Walter was born in 1813 in Tenterden, the 9th child of 11 of Walter Holyer and Elizabeth King. Walter, senior, was the grandson of John & Elizabeth Holyer (the first of the line) via their son Abraham.
Walter did not follow the normal Holyer life on the land in Kent. He moved to London and was a Servant in 1837 when he married Hannah Holbrook at St George's, Hanover Square. They had two children in Marylebone: Elizabeth in 1838 and Mary in 1841. In the 1851 census the family are not in one place. Walter is at 37 Gloucester Square, Paddington where he was a Butler - so perhaps it was a live-in job. Hannah, with daughters Elizabeth and Mary were at 1 James Street, Chelsea.
Then in 1854, Walter marries again to an Elizabeth Leveritt, the 31 year old daughter of James Leveritt, a Cabinet Maker. The marriage certificate describes Walter as being a Servant aged 40, son of Walter Holyer, farmer. The marriage took place at St Olave, Southwark. In 1856, Walter and Elizabeth have a son Edwin Walter, but the birth takes place at Farm Road, Hove, in Sussex. Walter's occupation is clearly shown as a Butler.
The next event in Walter's complicated life occurs in 1860, when his second wife Elizabeth dies of stomach cancer aged 37 in Leinster Street, Paddington. This was Walter's place of residence and was shown as a Butler. Six years later, his first wife Hannah dies aged 57. Again, she is described as “wife of Walter Holyer, Butler”.
No longer a bigamist, but Walter obviously liked marriage, for in 1869 in Southampton, he marries Eliza Harriet Kebby. Whereas his earlier marriages had both shown him as being a Bachelor, this time he describes himself as a Widower. He no longer appears to be a Butler as he is described as a Labourer and is using the Hollyer spelling for his name. In the 1881 census, we find Walter and Eliza Hollyer at Brighton, where he worked as a porter on the West Pier. In 1888, Eliza dies at Brighton. Walter then moves back to his old haunts in London, as it is in Paddington, where Walter himself dies aged 83, having outlived three wives.
What happened to the rest of the family? From the first marriage, Elizabeth had an illegitimate son Samuel in 1856, but he died in 1860. Elizabeth married Hugh Driver in 1863, but nothing more is known of her. From the second marriage, Edwin - who later calls himself Edward - marries Maria Eliza Blackwell in 1879 in Woolwich. The family moves around South London a bit before settling in Greenwich. They have 8 children in all and the descent down to the present day is known for some of the branches.
Marriage of first cousins is not unknown - indeed it is quite common in the royal family - but it's never very common. Though not prohibited by the church, it was never encouraged. However, one pair of Holyer cousins did marry. The common grandparents were William Holyer (5th child of Walter Holyer and Elizabeth King) born 1800 in Tenterden and his wife Mary Highsted, whom he married in 1820 in Woodchurch. William was an agricultural labourer, but also a lay preacher. This must have been non-conformist preaching, as two of his nine children were baptised at the Providence Chapel in Tenterden, rather than the parish chrch at Woodchurch. One of these sons, John, also went on to be a Bible Christian preacher.
William, born 1821, was William and Mary's eldest. He became a Gamekeeper and married Mary Ann Parsons in 1843 in Warehorne. They had 4 children between 1844 and 1849, but as so often happened in those early days, the first three were not registered at birth, but the 1851 census for Warehorne shows all 4 children. Our interest is with William, their 3rd child born 1848.
John, born 1833, was William & Mary's 6th child and became an agricultural labourer, as well as a Bible Christian preacher, as noted above. In 1852 he married Jane Godden and had a family of 9 children at Lower Green, Woodchurch between 1855 and 1873. Their eldest was Alice and it was she who married her cousin William in 1873 in Woodchurch. William and Alice had 7 children, though the fate of them all is not yet known. Their youngest George is the father of Ronald Holyer who made contact with me and helped clear up a mystery, as his own birth is not in the birth indexes. Ron's son Ian is a computer scientist at Bristol University.
Two contacts have been made with descendants of Elvira Lizzie Holyer. She had an illegitimate child in 1895 in Tenterden: Frederick Philip William. To confuse matters, he was registered with the Hollyer spelling. The problem is that there is no Elvira Holyer or Hollyer registered and nobody of that name appears in the 1881 census. Equally, there are no unaccounted for marriages between a Holyer and anyone who might have been called Elvira in the years between 1881 and 1895. So who is Elvira? The answer is in the next article.Back to top