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George Bird (1806 - 1881)

This is the story of my great great grandparents, George and Margaret BIRD of Chessington Court Farm, and their six children.

George BIRD, who was born in Lambeth in 1806 and baptized at St Mary, Newington, Surrey, married Margaret SPARKES on 28th September 1843 in The Parish Church, Gravesend, Kent. Margaret was born around 1819 in Oxford, Oxfordshire and her father John SPARKES was a “coach proprietor”.

They had six children :

  • Their eldest child, Eliza Margaret BIRD was born on 21st November 1841 at 38 Manor Place, Lambeth, Newington (one of the properties built by George’s father, William BIRD). George and Margaret were not married at the time which made his occupation of "Gentleman" on her birth certificate rather optimistic. Eliza went on to marry her cousin Henry Ross and cause the confusion surrounding 'The Ross Bird Mystery' which I eventually solved.

  • Sarah Harriett BIRD was born about 1845 in Rainham, Mackland, Kent. No other information is known about her apart from the fact she was living with her parents in 1851 (Swanscombe) and 1861 (Chessington Court Farm) and then again at Chessington Court Farm with her bereaved father in 1881.

  • Louisa BIRD was born in 1846 in Rainham. I only discovered her when I found the family on the 1851 census as she died, I believe, in 1856. I think I have a copy of her death certificate as, even in those days, it was not usual for a 10 year old with affluent parents to die.

  • Emily Margaret BIRD was born about 1850 in Rainham, Kent. She went on to marry Captain Jorgen WILDFANG (1848 - 1905), a German national, and had a child born in Chessington, Surrey.

  • George Coveney BIRD (Georgie) was born towards the end of 1851 in Chessington, Surrey. He was also living at Chessington Court Farm in 1881 with his bereaved father. Georgie was a fascinating character who was opposed to the new fangled motor car and was eventually run over and killed by one !

  • Henry Ross BIRD was born on 18th January 1854 in Chessington, Surrey and it was his son Percy Hyde BIRD who is my adopted grandfather. I have not yet discovered where the middle name “HYDE” came from and was initially looking into a Ceylon connection which would be fascinating if true but which is still unproved.

    The 1851 census (taken 30th March 1851) has George living at Sitton Street in Swanscombe with his family and two servants. By the time George Coveney BIRD (Georgie) was born (late 1851) the family had moved to Chessington Court Farm. On the 1851 census, the Farm was owned by William Robert Sutherland, "farmer of 160 acres, employing 1 man and 2 boys".

    The 1861 census says George is a “farmer of 150 acres, employing 8 men and 2 boys”. On the 1871 census he is a “farmer of 150 acres, employing 7 men and 2 boys”, but by the time of the 1881 census it has increased to a “farmer of 400 acres, employing 8 men and 4 boys”. The photograph above was taken just before the farm was cleared in January 1938 to make way for a housing estate and shows the barn from where they used to sell home grown produce.

    George died on 7th November 1881, 6 years after his wife. The tenant of the Farm on the 1901 census is Charles MOON. Who was tenant of the Farm on the 1891 census ? His wife, Margaret, died in December 1875 at Chessington Court Farm
    (as transcribed from the family Bible by Henry Ross).

    The Will 

    On George Bird’s Will dated 3rd June 1879, two years before his death, there is a paragraph in brackets :

    “and I desire my family expressly to understand that I have some time since given to my said two sons all my farm and agricultural implements and all my carts, horses and all other things whatsoever necessary to carry on the farm with and which business my said two sons now carry on together, I having given up all my interest therein to them and that therefore the lastly above mentioned things form no part and are not included in my residuary bequests.”

    He mentions “my two sons” and “my two daughters” – and names them in the bequests, BUT there is no mention of his daughter Eliza Margaret Bird who is now married to Henry Ross. Was she considered catered for or had they fallen out ?

    His daughter, Emily Margaret Bird, who is now married to Jorgen Wildfang, is referred to as Emily Saunders. Strangely, on her death, she is named as Emily Wildfang but probate is granted to George Maurice Saunders. Who is SAUNDERS ? She left £8,343 when she died in 1929.

    His estate was valued at £6,150. Today’s value would be about £484,000 using the retail prices index. This EXCLUDED the Farm which it appears he gifted during his lifetime. 

    I have managed to find the location of Chessington Court Farm, which was not easy as the Census reports were compiled in a different order each time without necessarily having adjacent addresses when transcribed. I believe that the entrance to the farm was exactly opposite The White Hart Pub, now the location of Holmwood Road. The White Hart, which has been rebuilt on the same site as when George would have been there, is on the main A243. It is at least half a mile north from the Bonesgate Pub which is where I originally thought the farm was.

     Apparantly Chessington North railway station, opened in May 1939, located nearby, and was originally going to be called Chessington Court, after George’s farm, but this didn’t happen.

    I have visited Chessington Church (photo on the left) to look for gravestones, especially that of Margaret BIRD who, according to the transcription by Henry Ross in the family bible, was buried in the church yard on 11th December 1875. Sadly, the graves are not in very good condition at all and I couldn’t find any “BIRD’s”.

    To do : Visit the Surrey History Centre in Woking (GU21 6ND) to find out more about the Chessington / Hook area and the farms and houses mentioned above.
    Also obtain copy of a letter sent by George Bird giving £10 (now worth £450) to the Church in 1870. ref 2473/2/37.


    Linked toEliza Margaret Bird; Emily Margaret Bird; George Bird; George Coveney Bird; Henry Ross Bird; Louisa Bird; Sarah Harriet Bird; John Sparkes; Margaret Sparkes

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