Roofe Family

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I have been researching the history of my family and have found your excellent website  I am a direct descendant of Samuel Roofe (1853), and I have found your work on the Roofe family very useful in filling in the blanks on Roofe/Nobes side.
The workhouse evidence you have unearthed is particularly interesting as my Grandfather - Samuel Roofe's Grandson - spent a few nights in the Belper workhouse himself as a child, when the family were homeless.
As my family is based in Derbyshire and I live in West Yorkshire, if anyone in the Itteringham area is able to add anything to the Roofe/Nobes story, such as gravestones or baptism records, I'd be very interested to hear further.

Sarah Wilson - 1st February 2013

I am descended from Samuel Roofe and Margaret Nobes, via my Grandfather.

My Grandfather, who is now 91, is the son of John Lawn (born 1869 in Wreningham, Norfolk) and Harriet “Hettie” Roofe (born on Ber Street in Norwich on 5 December 1881). John Lawn and Harriet Roofe were married on 4 April 1901 at Aylsham Registry Office. Harriet lists her father as Samuel Roofe, Dealer (deceased), although we are now quite sure he was alive at this time. Themarriage is witnessed by Agnes Lawn (John's sister) and Edward Gladden, the shopkeeper in Marsham.
When the census was taken on 31 March 1901, Hettie was living with Margaret and Edward Gladden in Marsham and is listed as a “visitor”. Margaret Gladden is actually Margaret Roofe nee Nobes – wife of the older Samuel Roofe. She married Edward Gladden in Marsham in the first quarter of 1897 as “Margaret Roofe”, according to FreeBMD. So Hettie is living with her
grandmother at this point.

Your work on the Roofe family takes Samuel Roofe up to 1881 in Marsham. We have had a great deal of difficulty tracking him down, but some hints have come from his partner, Harriet Blair's side.

Samuel Roofe Jnr (hereafter, just Samuel Roofe) set up home with Harriet Blair, originally fromLeicester. The couple never married. On the 1911 census, we have found Samuel Roofe, aged 56, living with Harriet Blair, aged 58, living at 3 Wash Lane, Beccles. Samuel Roofe gives his birthplace as Itteringham, Norfolk, and his trade as Dealer and Farmer. Harriet is entered on thecensus form as “Harriet Roofe”, “Wife”, but this is then crossed out and corrected to “Blair” and “Housekeeper”. The number of years marriage is also crossed out and “No card” written on the form. Harriet (or maybe Samuel, if he filled in the form), lists her birthplace as Norwich. The census states they had five children, of which three survive. My grandfather remembered that the

family came from the Lowestoft area, and has heard mention of Beccles.
Harriet Blair seems to have come from a gypsy family, or at least a family who were closely related to the gypsy lifestyle at this time. We have a photograph of Harriet Roofe with a gypsy caravan, and of another Blair with his family and their caravans. Others in the Blair line are listed as living in “Gypsy Caravans” on census records. My grandfather remembers playing in the old family caravan as a child, and also visiting his elder brother and his wife in their caravan parked on the Common at Ilkeston, Derbyshire.

It's easy to get romantically carried away with the “Gypsy” thing, but in this case, I think it helps explain why Samuel Roofe and Harriet Blair and their family are so hard to track down.

Harriet Blair was born in 1855 in Leicester. She is the daughter of Thomas Blair, a Hawker, and Mary Ann Gregory. The family lived at Royal East Street in Leicester, according to the 1861 census. Mary Ann Gregory died in Leicester on 20 August 1866. Thomas Blair did not notify her death, and no records for Thomas Blair are apparent after 1861. By the 1871 census, Harriet Blair is living in a boarding house in Louth, Lincolnshire with her younger brother, George, her older sister, Mary Ann, and Mary Ann's husband, William Sanderson Jarvis.

The first clue we found was a criminal register from Norwich, 13 March 1877. “Samuel Nobes” is

up for Larceny, but his name on the register has been corrected to “Samuel Roof”. It turns out, Samuel had previously been tried but acquitted of Larceny in Norwich on 4 August 1876 under the name “Samuel Roofe”. Perhaps someone at court recognised him from his previous appearance - either way, this time he was convicted and given 6 months imprisonment.

Directly under the entry for “Samuel Nobes Roofe”, in 1877 there is a conviction of a “Harriet Saunders”. She is given three month's imprisonment for Larceny. This seemed familiar and we wondered if it was Harriet Blair, similarly trying to use a false name. Perhaps the Saunders was related to “Sanderson”?

Further searches revealed that on 7 April 1876, “Harriet Saunders” appears again at Court in Norwich, and is given one month's imprisonment for Perjury.

The reason the Saunders name turned out to be familiar is because there is a 'Hetta Saunders' listed as a granddaughter of Margaret Roofe on the 1891 census in Marsham. This turns out to be Samuel Roofe's daughter Harriet Roofe – who for some reason was using the name Saunders at that time.

The 1901 census shows “Samuel Rolfe” aged 42 and born in Itteringham, living at Wash Lane in Beccles. With him is “Harriet Rolfe”, shown as his wife, aged 45 and born in Leicester. We also have two of their children - Uriah aged 18 and born in Aylsham, and Matthew aged 16 and born in Felthorpe. Their daughter, Harriet Roofe is living with her grandmother in Marsham at this time, so that leaves two children unaccounted for.

Searching for Uriah and Matthew in the census of 1891 has brought up a record for the Union Workhouse in Felthorpe. This lists Margaret Saunders, aged 12, Uriah Saunders aged 6 and Matthew Saunders aged 4, all shown (incorrectly) as born in Felthorpe. The 1881 census, which has Samuel Roofe as head of household in Marsham, Harriet Blair is shown as his “companion”, along with “Maggie Blair”, aged 1 and “Samuel Blair”, aged 3. They are listed as “son” and “daughter”.


So, we have established the five children of Samuel Roofe and Harriet Blair as:

• Samuel Edward Roofe (born Norfolk, possibly Wymondham, Forehoe district). Registered on FreeBMD as Samuel Edward Saunders, born Apr-Jul quarter, 1877. Died 17 February 1965 in Beccles (death registration as Samuel F Roofe, probate as Samuel Edward Roofe).

• We cannot find a freeBMD birth registration for Margaret, but a Margaret Lucy Roofe Blair is buried in Beccles, Suffolk on 26 Jan 1898 aged 17.

• Harriet “Hattie” Roofe (my great-grandmother), born 5 December 1881 in Ber Street, Norwich, died in 1955 in Derby as Harriet E. Lawn.

• Uriah Roofe's birth is registered in Aylsham second quarter 1883. Probably died in Pembrokeshire in 1905, according to a FreeBMD entry.

• Matthew Roofe, birth registered as Matthew Saunders in St Faith's district, Norfolk (likely Felthorpe), 1886. Died on 18 May 1916 in Cuincy, France, buried in Bethune Military Cemetery as Matthew Edward Roofe.


This gives Samuel Edward, Harriet and Matthew as the three living children in 1911, and Maggie and Uriah as the two deceased.

We cannot find an 1891 census record for Samuel Roofe or Harriet Blair/Roofe/Saunders, nor Samuel Edward Roofe. They seem to have left the younger Harriet Roofe with her Grandmother, where she may have lived until her marriage, and the three other children in Felthorpe Union Workhouse. Samuel Roofe is listed in a County Directory for Norfolk, 1888, in Felthorpe as a Farmer. On 9 April 1890, a “Harriet Saunders” is in court in Norwich for “Receiving Stolen Fowl” and acquitted. Did Harriet and Samuel go on the run after this?
Sarah Wilson - 1st February 2013

We have found FreeBMD and probate records that suggest Samuel Roofe died on 5 June 1925 in Beccles and Harriet Blair died on 5 February 1937 in Beccles.
Out of the five children it would appear that only Harriet Roofe had any surviving children. The family finally settled in Derby and during 1930 after yet another brush with the Workhouse they ended up living in a cow shed resulting in an article and picture in the Derby Telegrasph dated 15 Apr 1930.
Harriet and John Lawn had nine children in total, of whom only my Grandfather, George, survives. THe young boy held by Harriet in the photograph is the youngest child, Dennis Lawn, born 1927.

Sarah Wilson - 1st February 2013

Derby Telegraph 15Apr1930
THE OLD SHED on top of the quarries at Morley, in which the Lawn family live. It was once used to shelter horses, and is divided into bedroom and living room by sacking hung from the rafters. The family are unable to get better accommodation.
Derby Telegraph - 15th April 1930

Derby Telegraph 15Apr1930
Mrs. LAWN with her youngest child at the door of the old stone shed, roofed with galvanised iron, in which she and her husband and three of their family live at Morley.
Derby Telegraph - 15th April 1930

Derby Telegraph 15Apr1930

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