The King Family
There have been Kings in Melbourn since at least the seventeenth century. The earliest mention of the family in the parish registers is in 1641, when “Francis, son of James & Ann” was buried on 21st May.
I have traced my own family back to March, 1761, when James King married Mary Ellis of Meldreth. Their eldest son, James (1762-1839), became a publican, keeping the Chequers in Melbourn. They had three other sons, Robert (b. 1765), John (b. 1768) and David (b. 1770).
James King married Mary Hicks in Melbourn in 1796 and their son, Joel (1806-75), began his career as an agricultural labourer, set up in business as a carrier and eventually took over the Rose in Melbourn from his cousin Elizabeth Gilbey (née King). He married Mary Day in Melbourn on 27th October 1829. Their daughters settled all over the country, but Charlotte King remained in Melbourn, marrying local horse-dealer William Stockbridge, and Jane Day King married Orwell farmer William Aleph Palmer, brother of George Palmer of Meldreth.
After Joel’s death, Mary continued to keep the Rose with their second son, James Joel, who had been born on 26th January 1846. When Mary died in 1881, James took over the business, which he operated for the rest of his life, becoming something of a local character. He married twice: firstly to Martha Augusta Wootten (1843-77), daughter of a local farmer; then to Mary Elizabeth Nicholls (1859-93), a teacher at Melbourn school.
James and Martha were married on 11th June 1873. They had three daughters: Rosa Mary was born on 2nd August 1874; Lizzie followed on 16th December 1875, and the youngest, Martha Augusta, was born on 19th October 1877. Martha did not long survive the birth of her youngest child, succumbing to peritonitis and pneumonia less than a month later.
James married Mary Nicholls on 21st June 1883. They had three more daughters: Grace May (1884-1939), Mary Ella (1886-1912) and Annie Margaret Nicholls (1888-1969) known as Margaret. Their youngest child was a son, James George Joel (1890-1960) known as George.
By 1901, James’ eldest daughters had begun to branch out. Rosa continued to assist her parents at the Rose; Lizzie had qualified as a nurse and was working at Cuddington Isolation Hospital near Sutton, a centre for the treatment of infectious diseases. Martha had married Abbis Worland in February 1897, and was living with her husband and their two children at the Green Man in North End, Meldreth. The wedding had taken place in Wimbledon. This had probably been done to avoid a scandal, since their daughter, Lily, was born there later the same month. A son, Abbis Kenneth Wootten, was born the following year.
Two tragedies were to cause the Kings to relocate to Meldreth. Mary died from tuberculosis in 1893 and James died from the same disease in 1902. TB would continue to plague the family until the 1940s, when George’s son caught it in Karachi and survived. James died at the Rose and became the last person to be buried in the churchyard at Melbourn, the Local Government Board having deemed further interments hazardous to public health. The Rose was given up and James’ estate sold at auction, ending the family’s long involvement with the inn. Margaret kept an auction brochure that is still in the family. It seems likely that the younger children moved in with the Worlands at the Green Man. Mary Ella was still with them after they had moved to Valley Farm in Station Road, Meldreth where she was living in 1912 as governess to Lily and Kenneth. Sadly, her life was to be cut short that same year. She contracted tuberculosis and died on 16th June at the London Chest Hospital, Bethnal Green. George King reported her death.
Also in 1912, on 2nd April, Margaret had married Edwin Adcock, who ran Topcliffe Mill with his brother. Edwin and Margaret lived at the mill until 1917, when they bought Court Lodge in Meldreth High Street. Their eldest two children, Gwendoline and Eric, were born in the cottage that was attached to the mill.
Rosa King worked in the hospitality trade for the rest of her life. By 1911, she was the assistant manageress at the Bath Hotel in Bene’t Street, Cambridge, which is now a public house. The owner was a Scottish-born Irishwoman named Marion Frend, who had lived in Canada and the United States and had family on both sides of the Atlantic. In February 1916, the two ladies left Liverpool on the Allan Line steamer Scandinavian to visit Mrs Frend’s son in Montreal. This trip was to last for most of the year, and they returned via Falmouth on the Cunarder Ascania on 15th November. Rosa gave her occupation on their landing documents as “Hotel Manageress” and her address as “Topcliffe House, Meldreth”. At the time of her death, Rosa was acting as Mrs Frend’s paid companion.
George had moved to East Dulwich by 1915, when he enlisted in the army. At his medical, he was diagnosed with a heart murmur and declared unfit for active service (class B2). Later, in 1918, he was accepted into the London Electrical Engineers, a territorial branch of the Royal Engineers that operated London’s searchlight defences. While serving with the Engineers, he married Edith (“Edie”) Malpress, daughter of a local speculative builder, on 23rd November 1918. Gwen Adcock, was a bridesmaid, and Rosa was one of the witnesses.
Grace was also in London during the war. She served at the newly opened King George V Hospital, Waterloo. George listed her as his next of kin when he enlisted, at which time she was living in the nurses’ quarters there. On 9th October 1919, she married Sydney Julian Osbourn, a fitter at the airship works at Cardington and they settled in Bedfordshire. Later they moved to Chesterton with their daughter, Marjorie Grace. Grace King died there from ovarian cancer and peritonitis on 9th July 1939. Lizzie King stayed with the Osbourns in 1939, probably to nurse her sister in her final illness.
As the youngest daughter in her family, Edie Malpress had been expected to remain unmarried and live with her parents to care for them in their old age. Although she married in defiance of their wishes, as a compromise the top floor of the Malpress house in Dulwich was converted into a flat for the Kings. During these early years they cared for Edie’s parents while George worked as a warehouseman. Although the house was left to all of the Malpress siblings, only George, Edie and their son, Leonard, continued to live there, only leaving during the Second World War. After a near miss from a high-explosive bomb, Edie’s brothers insisted – very much against her wishes – that the family’s houses in Dulwich be sold, at a significant loss, for fear that they would be destroyed by further bombing. George and Edie lived with the Adcocks at Court Lodge for the remainder of the war (Leonard was serving overseas with the RAF) before moving to Penge in 1945. The Malpress houses, all built by Edie’s father, are still standing. For many years, the family had a grandfather clock that had been damaged by the bomb.
Once the Adcocks had bought Court Lodge and it became a family home for the Kings. Rosa had lived with them at Topcliffe Mill and continued to live at Court Lodge for the last few years of her life. She died from tuberculosis on 9th September 1920, at the same hospital as her sister Mary. Martha lived at Valley Farm for the rest of her life, dying there on 25th April 1927. George and Edie would visit from London after living at Court Lodge during the Second World War, and Lizzie, too, would live with the Adcocks in her retirement, from 1945 until her death on 22nd April 1954.
After George retired, he and Edie moved to Budleigh Salterton with Edie’s sister Maud and her husband, Percy Brown. Edie’s mother had been born near Budleigh and they had moved there to be nearer to her cousins. Of these, they were particularly close to Winifred Hart (née Freeman), who ran the local bus company and was their near neighbour. This resulted in a fair amount of discounted bus and coach travel for members of the family. Although George King had died from a heart attack on 22nd May 1960, Margaret and Gwen Adcock continued to visit Edie in the summer months until Margaret herself died in 1969, the last of the Kings to live in Meldreth. Her descendants continued to live in the village until 2016.
For more photographs of the King and Adcock family, please see our Adcock Family Photograph Album