Monday, December 17, 2007

William Wheeler Yelf - One Man's Downfall - Part 1

Anyone interested in researching the Yelf family history will at some point or another hope to obtain a copy of "Printers Pride 1816 - 1966" by A.N. Daish. This tells the story of Yelf & Son Printers at Newport, Isle of Wight. It's a good read too, although some of the early family history is a little bit suspect (the author confuses several Robert Yelf's, which is easily done, and also latches on to some incorrect family legends such as the Dutch connection). Of course the sections we can treat with a great deal more respect are those dealing directly with the dynasty of printers themselves. Except, it seems, where there might be a whiff of scandal in the air...

When I first read the book many years ago the following passage concerning the second and third generation of Yelf owners had nothing in it to suggest that anything out of the ordinary
The business plate of William Wheeler Yelf, son of the first William, remains in place today on the front door of Number 15 Holyrood Street. The second W is overstamped with an R recording the succession of William Richard to the business in 1856 on the death of his father. Although William Richard may not have been able to afford a completely new business plate (or was he possessed of a keener sense of historical values?) he appears to have prospered since by the 1880's he was using the imprint Isle of Wight Steam Printing Works
Pretty innocuous really, and not much to raise the suspicion of anything wrong. However the succession from William to Richard took place following William Wheeler's death in a London prison whilst awaiting deportation! The 'keener sense of historical values' takes on a slightly different connotation in this light and suggets to me that the author might well have had some inkling of the traumatic events that rocked the business at this time, although it is now impossible to know for sure. Certainly writing in the '60's he would probably not have had such easy access to the records that we of the internet age enjoy so let's give him the benefit of the doubt.

So who exactly was William Wheeler Yelf? Well, he was born in about 1801, the son of William Yelf who founded the printing business in Newport, Isle of Wight. He married Elizabeth Jane Outridge and they in turn had six children - William, Harold, Elizabeth, Agnes, Gertrude and Clara. Although his main business lay with the printing, he had other interests, as a look through the trade directories of the time shows
Piggots Directory 1831 - Newport Isle of Wight
Savings Bank - Guidhall (open every Monday morning from nine till ten) Wm Yelf, Secretary
Bookbinders - Yelf William W. Holyrood St.
Fire & Office Agent - London Union William W. Yelf Holyrood Street
Printer - William W. Yelf Holyrood Street
Misc. - Willington & Yelf Law Stationers and Stamp distributors, Holyrood Street
The Yelfs were also staunch followers of the Wesleyan movement and the first William Yelf founded the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School in 1810. In 1816 William Wheeler Yelf became a teacher there and eventually became a superintendent between 1826 to 1839. Not surprisingly he also seems to have attracted more than his fair share of religious printing jobs! William Wheeler was also secretary of the Blue School, a girl's charity school in Newport, subscriber to the relief of the poor and prominent in the list of charitable donations. All in all he seems to have been a respected, religious and successful businessman. In fact as Daish notes
It may be suggested from his prompt payments that W. W. Yelf had a sound business awareness
Sadly that image wasn't to remain untarnished for long as his 'business awareness' was found not only to be sound, but unscrupulous as well!

To be continued

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yelf Family - Publicans!

This post consist of a couple of items from 'Yelf's Taps', Ryde on the Isle of Wight. The first of these consists of some beer bottles that I shamelessly requested when I visited about 20 years ago. I had seen 'Yelf's Taps' in about 1984 and was fascinated by what was obviously a pub that hadn't been touched since the second world war. Trying to get into it was a bit of an adventure as the entrance led on to several corridors that eventually led me to a 'snug' with a coal fire and the walls covered with badges donated by all the units that had passed through Ryde, presumably on their way to Normandy and beyond. By the time I re-visited a few years later this seemed to have been swept away and a new downstairs bar was up and running. This bar had the legend of the two Dutch Yelf brothers and a secret tunnel supposedly joining the Hotel and the Pub! Anyway, I was lucky enough to be given a couple of the old beer bottles that were behind the bar that were embossed with the Yelf name. Very nice mementos they were too!
The second item is one that turned up on ebay recently, but which I wasn't quick enough off the mark to nab. This was a beer-mat that must have graced one of the tables in Yelf's Taps at some point before somehow ending up on ebay for avid beer-mat collectors to fight over. Still, I was able to grab the photo which was a bonus I suppose...
I'll be updating this entry if I come across any more brewery related items in the future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The One That Got Away – Robert Edward Burnet Yelf

Medals seem to be a re-occurring theme at the moment as does Ebay, and it was interesting that the two came together over the weekend. I had been alerted to the fact that a WW1 medal and ribbon was up for sale engraved with the name of Lieut. R. E. B. Yelf. I had a look and already there was a bid for £5, just to get the ball rolling. The bidder seemed to be a medal collector so I was confident that I would be willing to go the extra to obtain it and I decided to leave it for a day or two as the auction had only just begun. The next day there was a new leader and then a third a couple of days after that. Judging by their recent purchases all three seemed to be either collectors or dealers and as I would be prone to forget to bid I decided to put in a maximum reserve of £25. This type of medal seemed to go for about £20 so I hoped that should be enough. Then I had an email from my brother telling me that I was bidding against him… Ooops! Anyway he crashed out at £16 so I hoped that would be that.

Sadly on Sunday and just before the end of the auction a new bidder took the price up to £25. I took it up a bit further – and so did they… In fact the bidding war finally went up to about £80 before I thought ‘enough is enough’ and sadly backed out, loosing the medal.

I then contacted the vendor and asked them if it was at all possible for them to send me some photos of the medal before they sent it off to the new owner. They very kindly replied, sending me some pictures and remarked that they were amazed that the medal went for so much – I guess I was unlucky in getting a competitor who hated to loose at auctions!

As you can see the photos are of very high definition and show up the detailing really well. Robert Edward Burnet Yelf was in the Royal Army Medical Corps and was a surgeon aboard the Hospital Ship HS Valdiva which was present at Gallipoli, so maybe the collector had a special interest in this campaign. Ah well, guess I’ll never know but it was interesting to get so close. Better luck next time!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Cheques of Robert Yelf Jnr (1797 -1882)

Last year my brother was fortunate to spot someone on e-bay selling a cheque issued by Robert Yelf in 1838. After successfully winning the auction he was talking to the previous owner about where they had acquired it and found that it was part of a stash that had been dumped when Kirkpatricks Bank (or rather it's eventual successor) was having a clear out. As it happened they had a few more and would my brother be interested? As a result my brother bought a handful of very well preserved documents, all apparently from around 1838, which show that Robert Yelf was regularly dealing with considerable sums of money. I believe that this particular Yelf was Robert Yelf Jnr (1797-1882) and were in relation to his businesses, notably in the Wine Trade. I have scanned the twelve cheques and include images below with basic information beside them. I'm not to good at deciphering the copper-plate writing so if you are interested I would suggest you CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO SEE A CLOSER VIEW. Maybe you'll have better eyesight than I do! I seems that Kirkpatricks were a Newport Bank and would be interested to discover if any of the payees are known, either as local big-wigs in the business world or as tax collectors (at least one mentions payment of tax)
Cheque 1 - August 30th 1838 Mr Gordon Knight £41- 17-6d
Cheque 2 - October 25th 1838 Pay J. Chippes or bearer the sum of £123-11-0
Cheque 3 - December 13th 1838 'A bill at ten days after the date payable to Mr/s? Rogers to the order of Messrs George Hathorn for £60'
Cheque 4 - January 18th 1838 Payments to several individuals - Geo Ridell or Riddett £32-15-6d, Edn Harrington £14-14-6d, J. Dempster £22, Waldo Silthorp £25 and cash £25. Also a bill after that dat to J G Ramsay for £51-0-09d
Cheque 5 - May 5th 1838 Pay Robert Baker for assorted? taxes £46-16-11d
Cheque 6 - 23rd June 1838 Southampton. Mr Robert Yelf Wine Merchant (payee indecipherable by myself, but might be ??? of the exchequer) £2-1-0. Cheque is also crossed but I can't read that either.Cheque 7 - September 13th 1838 Mr J. King or bearer £99-2-0d (interesting note that might say 'West Dean Solicitors' but obviously doesn't. The cheques is also crossed with the name of ' Something Hector'. Any ideas?)
Cheque 8 - August 28th 1838 Mr Robinson or bearer £7-3-6dCheque 9 - November 30th 1838 Gordon Knight £42-6-0d
Cheque 10 - Undated Jos. Prestwich £69-8-0d (check name for spelling)

Cheque 11 - December 13th 1838 Self or Bearer £100

Cheque 12 and 12a - June 30th 1838 Mr Evans £21-15-3d ( the obverse side mentions Mr Evans and Southampton but is very difficult to read.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yelf's Hotel

You might overlook any obvious Yelf connection in this postcard but if you click on the photo to increase the size you might be able to make out the legend 'Yelf's Hotel' on the front of the barrow being pushed up the hill. The Hotel itself would be on the left of the picture as we look at it and I would assume that the two porters are returning after having dropped luggage off at Ryde Pier in the background. There was a regular steamer between Ryde and Southampton which put Yelf's Hotel in an ideal position to capitalise on the booming holiday trade. It looks as though the pavements are covered in snow but being hand-tinted it's a little difficult to tell!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Frederick Yelf and the Imperial Yeomanry

This particular piece of research was triggered by one of my periodic googlings of the name YELF. A chance search had revealed a new reference to a site that seemed to consist of names of soldiers, including one referring to Frederick Yelf. This site was owned by Kevin Asplin and seemed to focus on the IY (whatever that was…) However, of more immediate interest was the entry for Yelf, Frederick 4673, Trooper 41st Coy., 12th Bn. I.Y.’

Now I have a couple of Frederick Yelfs on the file, in fact recent articles have dealt with Freddie Yelf and Frederick Steane Yelf, but I wasn’t aware of any regular army service from any of them, so at first I was rather intrigued as to what sort of dates I was looking at in this particular instance. Trooper meant he was in a cavalry regiment, but the initials IY didn’t ring any obvious bells. Looking at the rest of the site though, especially the home page and it was soon obvious that IY stood for Imperial Yeomanry, units of mounted infantry that served during the Boer War in South Africa from about 1899 to 1908. They were disbanded soon after the conclusion of that particular war so their history was a short, although fascinating one.

I was able to do some background reading on the Imperial Yeomanry on Wikipedia and other specialist sites and found out that they were initially a response to the obvious lack of mounted, mobile infantry required to campaign across the veldt of South Africa. The British government turned to the local units of Cavalry Yeomanry, a sort of 19th century Territorial or part-time local militia, as a means of raising troops quickly. These Yeomanry units had tended to attract the reasonably well-off sons of the middle-class who had undergone some basic military training and turned out for shooting competitions and parades. In the heady atmosphere of patriotic fervour large numbers volunteered for service in South Africa but their terms and conditions of service were not the same as their regular army compatriots. In the first place they only signed on for a year and in the second place they supplied both their own horse and their own uniform! No doubt they hoped that a year would be enough to see off the Boers, serve the Queen and have a bit of an adventure at the same time and they signed up in large numbers.

The different Companies of the Imperial Yeomanry were drawn from specific Yeomanry regiments. The 41st Company of the 12th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, Frederick’s company, were drawn from the Hampshire Carabiniers (a carbine being a shortened musket for use by mounted troops) and they seem to have been based in Southampton, but who no doubt had sections over the rest of the county as well). As it turned out, the Frederick in question was Frederick Yelf, son of Richard Yelf, wine-merchant of Sandown, Isle of Wight. Frederick was born in Brading in 1878 and was 22 years and 9 months old when he signed his short–term Attestation papers in Newport on 8th January 1900. This document is preserved in the National Archive Office along with those of Frederick’s colleagues, and gives information about Frederick at the beginning and end, of his service. From the document we know that Frederick was 5’8” tall and weighed 144lbs, of fair complexion with blue eyes and brown hair and was declared fit for service by Lt. Col. Will Woods following his successful medical. The attestation documents broke Frederick’s service down into three sections; 24 days in England, 1 year 23 days in South Africa and a further 36 days back in England before his final discharge on 31-3-1901. His conduct over this period was described as ‘very good’ and his campaigns were recorded as ‘S. Africa, Senekal, Biddulphsberg’

I spent some time looking up these campaigns and found a very informative and descriptive set of accounts of the battle of Biddulphsberg as well as another showing the battlefield as it is today (complete with Boer anthem!). It is impossible to know what experiences Frederick had in the campaign but the note of his medals and clasps on the Attestation papers – namely the Queens South African medal and four clasps (the bars with names on attached to the ribbon) pinpoint exactly when and where he served. The following information is taken from the North-East Medals website where I was able to find out just what these clasps refer to. Frederick’s four clasps consisted one campaign clasp, two regional clasps and one date clasp, namely;

Wittebergen : All troops who were inside a line drawn from Harrismith to Bethlehem, thence to Senekal and Clocolan, along the Basuto border, and back to Harrismith, between lst and 29th July, 1900, both dates inclusive.
Cape Colony : All troops in Cape Colony at any time between 11th October, 1899, and 31st May, 1902, inclusive, who had not received a clasp for a specific action in the Cape Colony, or the " Natal " clasp.
Orange Free State : All troops in Orange River Colony at any time between 28th February, 1900 and 31st May, 1902, inclusive who had not received a clasp for a specific action in the Orange River Colony.
South Africa 1901 : All troops who served in South Africa between 1st January, 1901, and 31st December, 1901, both dates inclusive, who were not eligible for the King's South Africa Medal.

By all accounts the Boer’s choice of guerrilla tactics left many of the Imperial Yeomanry with only routine and boredom for much of the time and when their time was up they either applied for release or a transfer to the more exciting life of a mounted policeman. Frederick seems to have preferred to return to his life in the wine-trade and his documentation notes that he was

“Discharged at his own request from further service in connection with the War in South Africa”

He was finally paid-off on the 31-03-1901 having attained the rank of corporal after one year and eighty-three days of service. Fredericks’s South African adventure was over, but the war was to drag on for a further eight years.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yelf Service Medals from the First World War

(Picture shows the 1914 Star, British War medal and the Victory medal)

There were a number of Yelfs who served in the forces during the First World War, including a number of Canadians, one of whom was killed. These however are the service medals awarded to those serving in the British forces. The abbreviations are as recorded.

YELF Alfred Robert
Labour Corps - 2nd Lt. / Capt.
Victory Star, British War Medal and Emblems

YELF Francis William
D of Cum.L.I. - 2 Lt./Capt.
Victory Star, British War Medal France

YELF Norman
6th Lond. Rifles
Victory Star, British War Medal, 1914-1915 Star France

No. 1320320115

YELF Robert Herve
L.N.Lan.R. - 2Lt./Lieut.
Victory Star, British War Medal, 1914 Star France

6th London Rifles - C.S.Maj.
Victory Star, British War Medal, 1914-1915 Star

(also D.C.M.) France

YELF Frederick C.
Hampshire Rgt. / M. G. C. - Cpl.
Victory Star, British War Medal, 1914 Star

YELF Jack Robert
R.E./ Comm. & Staff - Lieut./Capt./Maj./Lt. Col.
Victory Star, British War Medal/1914-1915 Star

YELF Robert H.
Northn. R./ Y. and L. R. - Pte.
Victory Star, British War Medal Killed 1916

YELF Albert V.
Hampshire Regt. / M.G.C.* - Pte.
British War Medal

(*IND. GS.A?GN. NWFF. 1919 [Roll 17917-183])

YELF Geo. Henry
R.D.C. - Lieut

YELF Robert Edward Burnet
R.A.M.C. - Lieut
Victory Star, British War Medal H.S. Valdivia

(Valdivia was a hospital ship present at Gallipoli, amongst other places)

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Oldest Man on the Isle of Wight - Walter Frederick ‘Freddie’ Yelf

Freddie Yelf and family in his days as a coachman

For some of the sixties a Yelf was officially the oldest Isle of Wight inhabitant. At the grand old age of 106 Freddie Yelf had seen the reign of Queen Victoria, two World Wars and one World Cup before dying in November 1966. The following photographs are scanned from poor quality photocopies but I hope they give a flavour of the life of one of our more illustrious Yelfs, not many of whom could have been presented to the Queen!

"Mr F. Yelf of Warwick
Cottage, St Lawrence, is on the right of the above picture. He will be 96 years old in March. With him is Mr Fred Shepherd, another nonogenarian who lives in Southampton Road, Lymington. The picture was taken over 18 months ago when Mr Yelf was in Lymington talking over old times with his former school chum. They were both educated at Lymington Congregational Church School. Mr Yelf left at the age of 12 to come to the Island, later becoming a coachman, a position he held for almost 50 years. He served the St. Lawrence ward faithfully and well on the Ventnor U.D.C. Mr Yelf is a prominent member of the local Baptist Church. The picture is reproduced by courtesy of the New Milton Advertiser and Lymington Times."

Caption to the picture on the
right reads "The pictures of Mr Yelf of St Lawrence in this issue are by Mr Weighell and the blocks are loaned by the Evening News, Portsmouth. Mr Yelf, who was 104 last week, asked the Mercury to express his grateful thanks to all kind friends for his gifts, cards and messages of congratulation. He had 130 birthday cards, 11 telegrams and numerous presents, including money, and he particularly appreciated a letter from Alderman Woolnutt, the Island Member of Parliament, and cards from Australia and New Zealand. Mr Yelf told us "It is not so much the gift as the love and thoughts behind them".

July 1965 "The Queen had a long chat with the oldest inhabitant of the Island, 105 year old Mr Frederick Yelf"

"After 105 years his crowning day"
Ventnor Park was looking its very best for the Queen's visit to the holiday town which was crowded with sightseers and ablaze with flags and flowers. On arrival at the park, the Governor presented Mr Albert Payne, Chairman of Ventnor Council and also his daughter Mrs D. Ross. Also present were Mr Charles Davies council clerk and his wife and Mr Frederick Yelf of St. Lawrence. aged 105, the oldest inhabitant of the Island. Mr Yelf was accompanied by his daughters who are both in their eighties and he insisted on standing to meet the Queen and Prince Philip. They spoke to him for several minutes.
...the Queen said she was amazed at the vitality of Mr Yelf and described Ventnor as a charming place that she would like to visit again..."

"Mr Fred Yelf, 106, Dies"
The Islands Grand Old Man Mr Walter Frederick yelf of Warwick Cottages, St Lawrence died on Tuesday night at the age of 107 and seven months. He had been in very poor health for about a month.
The funeral service is tomorrow at the Baptist Church with the Rev. B. R. Pinches officiating. Former Minister the Rev. F. Glover, now at Bournemouth will also take part and internment will follow at St Lawrence.
Born at Carisbrooke and the son of a dyer for Bright & Minns, Mr Yelf went to school at Lymington when his family moved to the mainland. He was a groom for Mr Lane then Mr Langton at Gatcombe, later Mr Mew, the brewer, of Newport, earning £8 a year. His early days of drinking and smoking changed radically as he would put it "when he saw the light" and then throughout his life he assisted in various churches and brotherhoods. About 1900 he went to St Lawrence as a coachman to Mr Spindler of Old Park and later for the Rev. Brent who built Warwick Cottage for him. Mr Yelf served on the parish council 25 years and was overseer for 12 years before St Lawrence was annexed to Ventnor. He represented the village on Ventnor council and was vice-chairman, also opening the first council house to be built at Lowtherville after the war. Cottages completed at St Lawrence in 1955 are named after him. He represented St Lawrence on teh Assessment committe; was the Chairman of the Agricultural Labourers Union at Whitwell; and also in charge locally of the County Hospital contribution scheme. He spoke at many men's meetings and church gatherings; served on the Co-op Education Committee; and organized various concerts, in his younger days being a popular singer. He was also in the chopir at St Lawrence church and on two occasions painted the exterior. Mr Yelf later became a Deacon at the Baptist Church.
Up to a few months ago he had been remarkably active and last year was presented to the Queen. Mr Yelf has been devotedly cared for by two of his three daughters and his son. Mr Fred Yelf, a former postman, lives at Ryde. Mrs Yelf died in 1930."

Monday, July 30, 2007

Amor - A suitable name for a Yelf?

It’s strange how these things work. It only takes a couple of individuals to insist on doing a certain thing in a certain way and before you know it the original reasons are forgotten or lost in the mist of time and suddenly we’ve a ‘tradition’ on our hands That seems to have been the case on our particular branch of the Yelf tree with the middle name of ‘Amor’ (and that’s to rhyme with door not the French word for love!). It’s been around for a few generations now. It’s my son’s middle name and was also that of my youngest brother. The name missed my father but was the middle name of my grandfather and my great-grandfather before him. I had always wondered where it had come from and why I felt obliged to pass it down the genetic line like a hot potato, so I was intrigued when I saw a copy of Frank Amor William Yelf’s Birth Certificate of 1864. Did that elegant copperplate writing say Amor or (as it looked to me) Amos? Had generations of Yelfs named themselves after a spelling mistake? When I thought about it this didn’t really seem likely but I didn’t think to pay it much more attention until a month or two ago when I received an email from Carole Cumber in Canada.

Carole has being doing large amounts of research on the Yelf name and as it happens she is also from our ‘Amor’ branch of the family. She had obviously decided to look a little deeper and had succeeded in uncovering the origins of the Amor middle name and the results were far more interesting than a simple spelling mistake.

To summarise Carole’s findings (and it really is a summary, as Carole has much supporting documentation) we have to go to back to Salisbury in Wiltshire in the 1830’s where Francis WILLIAMS married Eliza AMOR. They eventually had seven children, Eliza, Francis, Catherine (‘Kate’), Maria, Emma, Henry and Mary. In the 1841 census they are still living in Salisbury but the 1851 census shows them living at ‘Above Bar’ in Southampton, Hampshire. But this is not the only change to the family’s circumstances obvious from the return. It seems that the pressure of having so many mouths to feed led the family to the fairly drastic step of asking Eliza’s sister, Maria AMOR, to take in the older children. Maria was a shoemaker living in Salisbury who employed a couple of workers in her business. She was single and obviously happy to take in her sister’s children as the 1851 census shows that Francis, Kate and Maria are all living with her whilst still attending the local Salisbury school. Presumably on completion of their education the children returned to their parents in Southampton.

The WILLIAMS family were not the only ones living at ‘Above Bar’ at this time – the YELF family were also living in the same area of Southampton and, as these things go, Catherine (Kate) WILLIAMS married her near neighbour Robert YELF. In 1864 they had a son called Frank Amor William YELF who might now possibly be seen to have been named for the following reasons - Frank (Possibly a version of Francis?) Amor (after the aunt who had been so important to Catherine?) William (a traditional Yelf name, but also near enough Catherine’s maiden name) Yelf (father’s name). Of those it is interesting that it is the Amor that has come down to the present day and become a family tradition, presumably because of its unusualness. None of us had an inkling that it was all due to the kindness of a maiden aunt who made shoes for a living but for what its worth my twelve year old Amor-named son seemed quite pleased with the result of all Carole’s hard work!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

“Reader, I married him..” – Yelfs in fiction

Let’s be honest here, this is not the sort of article you would expect to see written on a site dedicated to anyone researching the Browns, Bakers or Bartholomew family. Any attempt to look at the range of any of these names in fiction would be futile because, … well, there are just too many! If this is the case with these common names then the opposite is true with Yelf though. A name given to a few hundred individuals in a small corner England would be extremely unlikely to crop up in a work of fiction and you’d think that the chances of anyone deliberately choosing it were nigh on zero and if by some strange coincidence they did use it, you’d have to wonder where they heard it originally. Still, I thought it was worth a look so off I went…

Well, much to my surprise I found that there were a couple of fictional Yelfs. None recently it’s true and both the examples I found coincidentally occurred in children’s books, but it was intriguing nevertheless and it is possible (and quite amusing) to hazard a guess at connections between the Yelf family and the authors.

First up is “The Story of Dickwritten by Ernest Gambier Perry. This seems (and I have to confess I haven’t read it) to be a typical uplifting Victorian story of an orphan or poor relative moving in with a new family. There’s tension action and adventure and at last the youngster is seen to have been a positive force for all those around him. But don’t take my word for it as I found a short extract from “The Review of Reviews” by by William Thomas Stead in 1936

Without exactly intending to be unkind, Mrs. Yelf—a somewhat milder edition of Hannah Grieve – resented the coming of her brother-in-law’s ten year old soldier-like child to her home fearing that he would influence her own little son, whom she coddled and spoiled. In some respects the story reminds me of “Tim” but it is far happier and quite as pathetic. .Dick himself is a fine, honest, manly little chap and he soon strengthens the farmers girlish boy. The scene in which he reads the burial service over the soldier-suicide’s grave is very pretty. This is a story that will delight children and “grown-ups” alike.

Ernest Gambier Perry seems to have come from a wealthy and artistic family. His father, Thomas Gambier Perry was a notable art collector of Renaissance works whose collection now forms part of that belonging to the Courtauld Institute in London. In 1915 Ernest inherited much of his fathers collections in 1915, along with the Highnam Court Estate. Ernest also wrote articles, notably one on sport and sportsmen for the ‘New Review’ in1894 but I have not, as yet, found any evidence of other books. So where did he come up with the name of Yelf for the family? Well a look at the map shows that the Highnam Court Estate is just by Gloucester and about 45 minutes from another Gloucestershire town, Moreton-in-the-Marsh and in 1891 this was the home of one of the few Yelf families outside of Hampshire. (see the 1891 Yelf distribution map to the right). My guess would be that Ernest had either heard of or read of the Yelfs or possibly, as they were doctors and surgeons, met them in a professional capacity. He was looking for an interesting and unusual name for his protagonist family and Yelf fitted the bill nicely. OK, there’s no proof and this is wild speculation on my part, but it is a possibility. The only direct quote I could find for this book was

‘Mrs. Yelf prided herself upon the training of farm-servants’

which is always a useful skill to be able to fall back on!

The next book, or series of books really, is not quite so close to home. Here Yelfs appear in a series of Boy’s adventure stories known as the ‘Elm Island’ adventures written by a prolific American author and preacher called Elijah Kellog (and no, I’m not sure of the relation, if any, to the cornflakes Kellog’s). Elijah still has a church named after him in his town of Harpswell in New England and his books span the 1860’s and 1870’s, including such titles as “The Ark of Elm Island”, “Charlie Bell – The Waif of Elm Island” “The Boy Farmers of Elm Island” and “Lion Ben of Elm Island”. Elijah is included on a list of prominent Maine authors at the Waterboro Public Library site and There’s lots more on Elijah and his renowned father on the Bowdine library website. I’ve been able to see a few tantalising glimpses of these fictional Yelfs through partial quotes and they seem to be recurring characters throughout the books, albeit with the death of Mr Yelf after a few books and his wife taking on the mantle of Widow Yelf. Interestingly the first mention of a Yelf is in the opening chapter of The Ark of Elm Island

Seth Warren was indeed called second mate by which was merely meant that he took charge of the Captain’s watch whenever he saw fit to go below for Captain Rhines stood his own watch. In the larboard watch were Robert Yelf and Sam Edwards

I am again having to scratch around for on-line references, but the quotes I did find give a general indication of the Yelf’s progress through the novels

“The sponge they obtained by diving ; and Yelf brought up one that had attached itself to a conch” The Ark of Elm Island

“Father knows all about vessels, and Mr. Yelf is a regular shipwright. ... Ben and Yelf made the same criticism as Uncle Isaac” Young Shipbuilders of Elm Island

“…Yelf could ride when altogether too drunk to walk” Lion Ben of Elm Island

“…old Mrs. Yelf, was staying with me (she was a Dinsmore before she
married Sam Yelf)” Boy Farmers of Elm Island

“Yes ; tell us," said Charlie. “Well, I'll tell you, and see what you think of it.
Mr. Yelf is going to be put into the ground to-morrow, ...” Charlie Bell the Waif of Elm Island

So where might Elijah have picked up on the Yelf name? I’m not aware of any Yelf’s in America at that particular time but I think the very first reference to Robert Yelf is quite revealing, as Robert is such a strong family name. Could it be that there is a religious connection that bought the name to Elijah’s notice? Possibly he had read Dyson’s ‘History of Methodism on the Isle of Wight’ which features a good few pages dedicated to Robert Yelf of Newport? Or even the annotated version of Wesley’s Journals which notes that Mrs Yelf of Freshwater, ‘wife of the late Mr Robert Yelf’, recalled seeing Wesley himself step ashore. It’s impossible to say but I like to think of him having a small ‘Eureka!’ moment when stumbling across Yelf and deciding it fitted his drunk,shipbuilding sailor to a tee!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Frederick Steane Yelf, his house, another Yelf and a Hundred year gap!

The Yelfs are a very small, select family. In the 1890’s there probably were not more than two hundred Yelfs in the world. Now, there are probably about eighty to a hundred. When you think that historically the vast majority of those Yelfs were to be found on the Isle of Wight you would think that the chances of associating two Yelfs with a single house, outside the Isle of Wight, over the span of a hundred years must be pretty remote. Or put it this way – pick any house in England and ask yourself what the chances are that a Yelf might have crossed its threshold – then try to calculate the odds that two Yelfs have crossed the threshold, but separated by almost 100 years. Well as it happens I stumbled over one of these rare beasts not a week ago.

I live not far from Wimbledon and actually work in South Wimbledon (Colliers Wood if you are not an Estate Agent) so I was quite intrigued to find that a couple of Yelfs had made their homes there at different times. One was Marcia Yelf, the widow and second wife of Robert Yelf one of the Ryde Yelfs, of Yelf’s Hotel fame. The other was an individual who first came to my notice on various census returns – Frederick Steane Yelf, third son of the same Robert Yelf of Ryde, but from his first wife, Sarah

Frederick was born in 1831 on the Isle of Wight. His parents were Robert and Sarah Yelf and the 1841 census return for shows Frederick and his brother Leonard attending the Play Street Academy under the tuition of Mr Browne. Leonard Keatley Yelf went on to become a notable GP living in Moreton–in-the-Marsh in Gloucester but Frederick seems to have opted for a career in the Civil Service. The War Office List of 1863 records Frederick as being a 3rd class clerk in the ‘Director of Works’ branch responsible for Barrack and Hospital Repairs and Construction. To quote part of his entry,

“YELF F. Clerk 3rd class, War office. Appointed a temporary clerk in the late Ordnance Office, Jan 1856 and promoted to the Establishment of the Consolidated War office in 1856”

By 1883 both Frederick and his brother both appear as executors on his fathers will and at this time he is living in Hammersmith. In the same year his War Office returns reads

“YELF FREDERICK S. Late junior Clerk, War Office. Appointed a temporary clerk in the late Ordnance Office, Jan1856 and promoted to the establishment of the Consolidated War Office, April 1856. Retired, on-reorganization, March 1880 on a pension of £226 13/4d a year with gratuity”

Which means he retired at about 52 years of age.

My first mention of Frederick at Wimbledon is in about 1887 when he seems to have moved into his new house in 34, Queens Road Wimbledon, a road of three story villas laying alongside the railway track and only three or four minutes from the station. Frederick’s wife Ellen seems to have died by about 1880 so for the whole of the twenty odd years he was living in Wimbledon it was with his daughter Florence Steane Yelf. By 1907 he has evidently de-camped to Hove in Sussex for the latter part of his retirement where he died in 1911, followed by his faithful daughter Florence in 1935.

Unearthing all this information was enough to persuade me to hop on my bike one lunchtime in order to see if the house was still there. In truth I was half expecting to find that the site was now a retail development but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the building itself was still there. Not unchanged though, as in it’s original state it had been a semi-detached building like the rest of the road around it, but both 32 and 34 Queens Road had been purchased and combined into a single building which, with suitable extensions, was now an exclusive retirement home! The pictures show the building as it now is - Fredericks house was originally the right hand side of the building with the single porch being the site of two front doors. All the neighbouring houses retain their original layout so it was easy to compare and to imagine the original layout.

So where’s the coincidence then? Well, when I showed the photograph to my wife she knew the house straight away. As an Occupational Therapist who specialised in wheelchairs she had visited the house in its current role as a retirement home, to assess some of the occupants ability to use powered wheelchairs. Little did she realise that she was by no means the first Yelf to have trod those floorboards (not, to be honest, would she particularly have cared - I seem to be the only one in the house who finds this sort of thing remotely interesting). And her verdict on the new building? - “Very nice!”. Well in truth you’d expect no less from a Yelf dwelling, even if the last one moved out just before the First World War!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Yelf Wills (1948 - 1979)

This is the last section of the Will listings, although I do intend to post any details I have of other pre-1800's wills that I've come across over the years, but that may not be for a while.

1948 FRANCES HIND YELF Spinster, probate to Frances Sutton and Robert Sutton
London £4000

1950 ETHEL ALICE YELF Probate to Norman Yelf, husband

1951 SARAH JANE YELF (widow) probate to D.Turner £1946

1952 ANNETTE FRANCES YELF Of 15 Bramham Gardens, Earls Court, spinster, died 5 Nov 1951. Probate to National Provincial Bank £4285

1953 ANNIE LOUISA YELF Of Shirley, Kenion Rd, Wells, Somerset, widow, died 8 Dec 1952 at 'The Infirmary' Glastonbury Wells. Probate (save and excepted settled land) to John Gamble Deeming, chief financial officer and George Bertram Gibson Hand, rtd insurance manager £678

1954 FLORENCE LOUISA YELF 20, Wycombe End, Beaconsfield Bucks, spinster died 24 June 1954 at Islington, Bovey Tracey, Devonshire
Administration (with will) to Lloyds Bank Ltd £7207

1955 FRANCES WILLIAM YELF OBE, of Dream Tor, Hay Tor, Newton Abbot, Devonshire died 11 may 1955 at Louis Trichardt, Transvaal, South Africa. Probate to Lloyds Bank Ltd £16,237

1956 ERNEST WAY YELF Of 38 Cumberland Ct, Festing Road, Southsea
died 23 Dec 1955 at Portsmouth Hospital, Commercial Road. Probate to Frances Alice Yelf, widow
IOW £1245

1957 JOHN HIND YELF Of 10 Worsley Rd Newport died 16 Jan 1957. Probate to George Patrick Kiarney poulterer and Edward Leslie Barnham, poulterers assistant IOW £385

1957 KATHERINE HESTER CASTLEY HARBRIDGE YELF Of 'The Bungalows', Buxhalls, Lindfield at Brooklands Nursing Home Probate to Henry Wilkinson rtd Civil Servant, Dorothy R.M. Wilkinson (wife), Kathleen M. Griffith (widow) £1267

1958 ELIZABETH ADELAIDE ANNIE YELF Of Whitbank, Whitbank Gardens, Shanklin.
IOW £7612

1958 GEORGE ALFORD FRANK YELF Of Lea Bank, Clatterford Road, Carrisbrooke died in the County Hospital, Ryde. Probate to Alice Agnes Ella Gustar Yelf (widow) £12,087

1959 FRANCES ALICE YELF Of 8 Cavendish Road, Southsea. Probate to Olive Targett £1239

1960 WINIFRED ELLEN YELF Of Gurney Cottage, Selsey, widow. Probate to D. Marsh, spinster £10,360

1964 PETER YELF Of 5 Broyle Paddock, Ringmer. Probate to Margaret Yeldon, widow £389

1967 FRANK AMOR WILLIAM YELF Of 29 Doddington Road, London SW11 died at St Stephens Hospital. Probate to Rose Leary £1142

1967 FREDERICK CHARLES YELF Of 4 West Hill Rd, Ryde. Probate to Jean Mary Frampton (married woman) and Hugh David Dryer
IOW £3388

1968 EDWARD GEORGE YELF Flat 3, Ventnor Villas, Hove

1968 EMILY MARY ANN YELF Flat 3, Ventnor Villas, Hove

1970 JANET OLGA YELF 1, Bonner Road, Selsey, Chichester d.15 May 1970 £28,315

1971 MABEL ELIZABETH YELF 1, Neville Street, London SW7 d. 8 January 1971
Probate London 14 April £14,854

1973 EVA MARY INGRAM YELF 41 Wordsworth Rd, Worthing d.16 Feb 1973 Probate Brighton 6 March £1,565

1975 WALTER HARRY YELF 109 Calvert Rd Greenwich London SE10 d.28 Jan
Probate Brighton 10 April £595

1976 ALFRED JOHN LOOS YELF 60 Longfield Road Horsham d. 14 July Administration Brighton 26 August £3019

1977 GERTRUDE MARY YELF 1 Warwick Cottage, St Lawrence Ventnor IOW 28 August
probate Winchester 25 Oct £1626

1977 HILDA MARY YELF Hillcot Green End Rd, Boxmoor Herts d.30 March
Probate Ipswich 16 Dec £60,531

1979 DOROTHY MARY YELF Seven Hills Nursing Home, St Margarets Torquay
13 July Probate Bristol £38,872

1979 NORMAN YELF 7 Walberton Clo. Bognor Regis. Admin with will

Brighton 26 April £1493

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Yelf Wills (1916 - 1948)

1916 LEONARD LANE YELF Of Little Compton Warwickshire Gentleman d.6 Dec 1915 at Cottage Hospital Moreton in the Marsh Gloucestershire Probate 22 March to Alice May Yelf widow Birmingham £5276

1917 GEORGINA MARIA YELF Of Lyndale Head St Sandown IOW (wife of Richard Adolphus Yelf)d.14 Nov 1915 Probate 2 Jan to Richard Yelf retired wine merchant

1918 FRANK YELF Of 60 Rathmore Rd Charlton Kent d. 11 June 1918 Probate to Eliza Jane Yelf widow London £361

1919 ROBERT YELF Of 142 Wellmeadow Rd Catford Kent d.25 August 1919 Probate to the Public Trustee £567

1921 MARCIA YELF Of St Leo 22 Raymond Rd Wimbledon Surrey widow d.22 FEB 1921 Probate to Amy Percival Yelf spinster and Reginald Yelf Marvin clerk
London £4009
(resworn £4495)

1922 RICHARD ADOLPHUS YELF Of Lyndale Leed St Sandown IOW d.30 Dec 1921 Probate 25 April to Frederick Yelf Fishmonger and Beauclerc Bennett Beckinsale solicitor
Wells £3040 (resworn £3239)

1922 ROBERT YELF Of Burcoat Rd Wells rtd. Insurance Agent d.18 March 1922 Probate Elizabeth Yelf widow
Wells £791

1923 EDWARD GEORGE YELF Of 26 Queens Rd Salisbury d.22 Dec 1922. Probate to Louisa Yelf (widow)
Salisbury £156

1924 ALICE MAUD YELF Of Hazelmount, Shide Cross, Newport IOW, wife of Francis Herbert Wheeler Yelf, died 25 Dec 1924. Probate to Francis Herbert Wheeler Yelf company director and George Alford Kingwell farmer
IOW £2627

1925 JANE ADAM YELF Of Leasingham, Moreton Avenue Harpenden Hertfordshire, widow, died 28 Feb 1926 Probate to Robert Edward Burnet Yelf MRCS £217

1926 JOHN BURNET YELF Of Kay A Lami, Roughdown Rd Hemel Hempstead died 28 Feb 1926 Probate to Blanche Mary Yelf widow and Robert Edward Burnet Yelf, surgeon £3441

1928 AMY PERCIVAL YELF Of 5 Craven Gardens Wimbledon Surrey, spinster died 11 Oct 1928. Probate to Janet Hardy (wife of Basil Edward Hardy) and Ada Joel, spinster £1481

1931 THOMAS HARRY YELF Of 9 Riverside Rd Norwich died 31 Dec 1930 at Sea Probate to Edith Theresa Yelf, widow £413 10/6d

1932 LOUISA YELF Widow, of New Malden Surrey Probate to Florence Yelf

1934 CATHERINE FENWICK YELF Of 81 Exeter St Salisbury, widow died 23 June 1934 to Clara Elizabeth Manning, spinster
Winchester £4854 17/5d

1934 ELIZABETH YELF OF Shirley Wells, widow, died 2 March 1934 at Avalon Margate Road, Ramsgate. Probate to Alfred Robert Yelf, Water Works Inspector.
£949 2/1d

1934 ROBERT HERVE YELF Of Gurney Ct Norwich died 15 July 1934 at the Cottage Hosp. Horley Surrey. Probate to Robert Edward Burnet Yelf rtd. Medical practitioner
London £7031 19/9d
(Resworn new grant 6 May 1947 £7011 19/9d)

1935 EDITH HIND YELF Spinster, probate to Frances Hind Yelf IOW

1935 FLORENCE STEANE YELF of Central Hotel 123/125 Cromwell Road Kensington Middlesex, spinster, died 20 Jan 1935 at the Bishop Hannington Memorial Hall, Holmes Av., Blatchington, Hove, Sussex. Probate to Basil Edward Harvey rtd solicitor
London £1017 11/2d

1935 GEORGE HENRY YELF of Stanway, Laural Drive Brundell, Norfolk died 26 Jan 1935 at 32 Surrey St. Norwich¹ÉProbate to Cyril George Brown accountant and Edward Ernest Lofts, secretary
London £3354 8/7d
Resworn £4580 18/7d

1936 ERNEST GEORGE YELF Of 31 Helena Rd Norwich died 30 Sept 1936 at the Norfolk & Norwich Hospital. Probate to Edith Elizabeth Yelf widow
£2728 15/5d

1939 BLANCHE YELF Probate to Hilda Mary Yelf, spinster £567

1940 ELIZA MARY YELF Of 151 Earlham Road Norwich. Wife of Cecil William Yelf died 16 Nov 1940 at the Private Patients Home, Norfolk & Norwich Hosp. Probate to Cecil William Yelf architect
Norwich £867 10/-


1942 CHARLOTTE ELIZABETH YELF widow, of Newport, IOW. Probate to Mabel Elizabeth Yelf, spinster Lewes

1942 CLARA MARY FLEMMING YELF Otherwise Clara May Flemming, Otherwise Clara Marie Flemming otherwise Maria Clara otherwise Mary Clara Flemming of Clayton Croft, Hillfield Road, Selsey on Sea Sussex, spinster. Probate to John Forbes Burnet Wing Commander R.A.F.V.R. £4831 18/9d

1943 ALBERT VICTOR YELF OF 34 Oak Hill, Hollesley, Suffolk died 17 Nov 1942 at East Suffolk & Ipswich Hospital. Probate to Dorothy Maud Fanny Yelf, widow. Peter Yelf tool maker appointed an additional administrator.
Ipswich £499 19/9d

1943 CLARA ANN YELF Of 104 St James Sq Newport (wife of Gerald Hind Yelf) 28 Jan 1943. Probate to Gerald Hind Yelf baker
Winchester £255 15/8d

1944 CECIL WILLIAM YELF Of 31 Earlham Road Norwich died 2 Oct 1944 at Brunswick Rd Nursing Home. Probate to Lorna May Alway (wife of George William Alway) and the said Reverend George William Alway, clerk
Norwich £7113 2/7d

1944 ELIZA JANE YELF Of 62 Rathmore Rd, Charlton, London. Probate to Walter Harry Yelf, bottle sorter
Llandudno £571 16/8d

1945 ALFRED ROBERT YELF Of Shirley, Kennion Rd, Wells, Somerset died 15 July 1945É- Probate to Annie Louisa Yelf widow¹
Gloucester £1869 9/2d

1945 EDITH THERESA YELF Of 9 Riverside Rd Norwich died 9 Sept 1945. Probate to Barclays Bank Ltd
Norwich £7130 4/9d

1946 ROBERT EDWARD BURNET YELF To Winifred Ellen Yelf (widow)
Sussex £14,000

1947 FRANCIS HERBERT WHEELER YELF Of Glenfield, Newport IOW died 27 Jan 1947 (1?) Administration (with will) to George Alford Frank Yelf (see 1941), printer and Alice Agnes Ella Gustar, widow
Winchester £3476 14/6d

1947 JOHN LEONARD YELF Of Hillcot Green End Rd, Hemel Hempstead, Herts d.6 March 1947 Probate to Edith Priscilla Yelf widow and Frederick Hancock solicitor.
Birmingham £3657

1947 ROBERT HERVE YELF Of Gurney Ct Norwich d. 15 July 1934 d. at the Cottage Hospital Horley Surrey £2972

1948 FRANCES HIND YELF Spinster, probate to Frances Sutton and Robert Sutton
London £4000