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My home page and information about my wider genealogical interests is here.
The rest of this page is dedicated to my own Holyer/Hollyer family. A One Name Study encompasses all families, whether related or not, which use the name(s) in question. Many earlier researchers of the Hollyer name were convinced that all people with this surname must be related. But back in the 1950s and 1960s, researchers did not have access to all the collated and indexed information we have now. Also, many of the earlier researchers lived in North America and worked largely from information provided by living families. Few attempts were made to systematically collect birth, marriage and death data. But I owe these early researchers a great deal.
I now know that my own family, which I call the Kent Hollyers, descend from John Holyer of Woodchurch, Kent who lived between 1714 and 1772. All Holyers living today and many Hollyers too, are connected to this family. So far, no link has been found with the Hollier/Hollyer families that originated in North Warwickshire in the 14th century and in all probability, the Holyer name arose separately in Kent. Although I, and many before me, have been unable to ascertain where John Holyer came from, we know that close by to Woodchurch, Holyers had been recorded from early times, for example, the Canterbury Cathedral Communicants list of 1569 includes a John Holyer from Appledore, which lies a few miles south from Woodchurch across Shirley Moor. This page describes my descent from John Holyer of Woodchurch.
The first hard fact we know about John Holyer is that in 1737 he married Elizabeth Gregory in Canterbury Cathedral by Licence. How he came to marry in such an illustrious place we don’t know, but we might assume that Elizabeth’s father had the right contacts. At the time, both John and Elizabeth were shown as being of Faversham. We can speculate however, that John might be the John Hollier shown as being baptised at about 8 years old in Egerton, Kent in 1722/3. Since no parents were mentioned and given the age at which he was baptised, it could be he was an orphan under the control of the parish. It is likely that he was descended in some way from earlier Holyers in Kent. Here is John and Elizabeth’s marriage allegation of 1737.
In this allegation, he states his age as 23, which points to a birth date of 1714. Once married, John and Elizabeth seem to have initially settled in Frittenden but by 1739 he became a butcher at Woodchurch, establishing a link with the village that went on for many generations. He had his own land, suggesting that the Gregory family may have ‘set him up’. It seems that John’s land lay to the east of the village close to where Highlands Farm is today. John and Elizabeth had 7 children. Interestingly, the Woodchurch baptism registers describe John and Elizabeth as being 'of Faversham' on Susannah's baptism of 1738 and 'of Frittenden' on John's baptism of 11th December 1739. However, on 1st June 1739 John obtained a Settlement Certificate from Frittenden Parish to enable him to settle in Woodchurch. ("To Woodchurch ... We the churchwardens and Overseers of Frittenden do hereby certify, own and acknowledge John Hollier Butcher, Elizabeth his wife and Susan their daughter to be inhabitants legally settled in Frittenden"). By 1741 and the baptism of their 3rd child William, it appears they were living in the parish. They had another four children: Thomas (1742-1744), Abraham (1745-1815), George (1746-1748) and Elizabeth (1748).
In 1755, John is shown as paying Poor Relief tax of 3 shillings on his land and property assessed as worth £4 rent, but in 1758 he paid 4s and 2s each for his tenants Peter Illenden, Stephen Jewhurst and James Venner.
In 1772, just a few days before he died, John made his will. He asks his Executors to sell off the majority of his land of 41 acres, comprising Highlands and a wood adjacent to Wightwick Wood, to repay the mortgage on these lands and distribute the money remaining to is children John (of Egerton), William and Elizabeth. His remaining land of around 8 acres passed to his son Abraham. His house was divided between Abraham and Elizabeth, the former part being that rented by Peter Illenden and his mother. Elizabeth also got 2 acres of woodland adjacent to Highlands.
Of his children, John went to Charing and later Egerton and was a butcher. Although he himself had 6 children, no further Holyers are known to descend from John. Elizabeth married John Comber in 1775. William and Abraham carried on as butchers in Woodchurch and many Holyers descend from them both.
Although William's father seems to have left all the land to William's brother Abraham, both carried on as butchers at Woodchurch. In 1776/7 William was a Churchwarden, while in 1779, he is shown as one of the landowners at Woodchurch nominating the Overseers for the Poor.
William married Sarah Batchelor in 1763 and they had 9 children, although only 4 lived to adulthood. His son William Gregory Holyer carried on as butcher after William (though seems to have become bankrupt in 1826), while his other surviving son John became the butcher at High Halden.
William made a will in 1810, leaving some of his immediate land and property to William Gregory Holyer, while the balance of 14 acres was sold and divided in 5, one fifth going to John. Another fifth went to James Holyer, the illegitimate son of William's daughter Sarah. This James went on to marry Hannah Morris in 1819 and thereby started a long line of Holyers who used the name Morris or Maurice.
William's shaky signature on his will.
John's baptism at Woodchurch is missing from the parish registers at Woodchurch and from the Bishop's Transcripts, but everything points to his having been born around 1766. He married Sarah Pearce in 1792 and moved to be the butcher at High Halden, where the first 8 or their 9 children were born. Around 1810, the family seems to have moved to Dover, where their last son Robert was born. John is the first Holyer in my line that starts to use the double L Hollyer spelling. That is certainly the spelling adopted when he arranged an apprenticeship for his son Joseph just before he died. John died in Buckland by Dover in 1823, after which Sarah stayed with her son in law John Down at Canterbury, where she died in 1841. Notable amongst John's family was Josiah, who became a Hotel Keeper at Rye (George Inn), Dover (Shakespeare Hotel) and Cliffe, Lewes (Bear Inn). Their last son, Richard Roberts, was governor (with his wife as Matron) of the Workhouses at Battle, Sussex; Bletchingley, Surrey and Aylesbury, Bucks.
John's signature on an Indenture for land at High Halden, 1806.
Joseph Hollyer was born on 26th June 1809 in High Halden, but his parents travelled 12 miles to the Wesleyan Chapel in Rye for his baptism just two days later. The chapel baptism register shows his parents recorded as Holyer even though earlier family baptisms there had started using the Hollyer spelling.
Joseph didn't follow in the family tradition of butchering, but was instead apprenticed to William Rouse, a Coach Painter of Dover to learn the trade of Coach Painter and Coach Trimmer. During his apprenticeship, he married Amelia Perring Mannings at Hougham, Kent in 1828. She was the daughter of a Dover pilot. They continued to live in Dover. After his 7 year apprenticeship, Joseph specialised as a Herald Painter, much of which would have been on Coaches.
In 1843, Joseph was elected a town councillor and served one term of office. But family stories that he became Mayor of Dover and designed Dover's Coat of Arms are pure fiction!
In 1851 the family moved to South London, first at Kennington and then various nearby places in Lambeth and Camberwell. What prompted this move is not clear, but one might imagine that working as a highly specialised artist demanded a market larger than rural Kent could supply. Just after their arrival, for some reason, the family then decided to have 6 of their children baptised at the local church, though they were all well past the usual age for baptism. Evidently, they hadn’t been baptised as babies, though at least two others were. On this occasion, the register incorrectly records Amelia Perring Hollyer’s name as Julia Perrin.
Gradually the business changed from being Heraldic Artists to Artists on Glass. This involves the use of a strong acid to etch patterns and writing onto glass. There was a great demand for this during the 19th century, especially for the glass windows and dividing screens in public houses. Some heraldic work was still done. He ran the business with several of his sons who took up the trade: George, Joseph Wilson and Charles Greig. Their skills were passed on to several of their children and grandchildren, so that over several branches of the family we find Glass Artists or Signwriters over 4 generations.
Joseph and Amelia had no less than 14 children plus two still births, as is recorded in the family bible put together by their youngest daughter Mary Edith.
Joseph died in 1887 and along with Amelia, who died just a year later, is buried in Beckenham Crematorium, originally the Crystal Palace Cemetery.
Aside from his sons who kept the Glass Artistry business going, Joseph and Amelia's family also included William Perring Hollyer, a noteworthy painter of animal scenes.
On the far left is a family photograph which has not been positively identified, but may well be George Hollyer. Compare with the photograph on the immediate left, of George as a young lad with his father Joseph.
As mentioned above, George was one of the three sons of Joseph who followed their father in the trade of Artists on Glass. It is said that George made the etched glass for The Angel pub at Islington, sadly now closed, but which gave its name to this area of London.
George married Elizabeth Reed, the daughter of a Sawmaker, in 1863 and they too had a large family of 13. But unlike Joseph and Amelia, only 5 survived to adulthood. In 1875, they lost three children to diphtheria in just a single month.
The family seemed to move frequently, though staying always in the Camberwell and Walworth area, close to the family workshops at Lorrimore Road. He was a proud man, believing his self employed status put him a cut above the common man. However, the trade was always “boom and bust”, which together with the family’s misfortunes perhaps explained his frequent moves. In his adulthood he was a far sterner individual than the youngster portrayed left. Elizabeth was said to be the power behind the business and George turned too often to drink, which may have contributed to his relatively early death in 1902. He passed on his business to his sons Stanley and Adrian Cecil (“Bob”), while his other Glass Artist son, Charles George, had set up his own business in North London at Enfield.
The other child to make adulthood was their eldest daughter Mary Louisa who married John Thomas Graffy, a German and they later emigrated to Canada.
Charles George Hollyer's family in 1901
Top: Beattie, Emma (with baby Wally), Charles George, Lilly and Charles Stanley.
Bottom: Bert, George and 'Bob' (Henry)
Charles George Hollyer (1865-1930) was George’s eldest son. As mentioned above, he became a Glass Artist like his father, but it seems that there must have been quite a bit of tension in this family. Around 1891, Charles George, his wife Emma and their first 3 children moved well away from their South London roots and moved to Enfield, north of London. There he carried on a trade as a Signwriter. This was much in demand for shop signage and later on for motor vehicles.
Charles married Emma Haynes in 1887. They had their first two children, Charles Stanley and Emma Beatrice ('Beattie') in South London and the remaining 5 in Enfield.
When three of his sons, Bert (Herbert Edgar), Bob (Henry James Rasbury) and Wally (Walter Cecil) were grown up, he formed Hollyer & Sons, Signwriters and Motor Body Builders. The signwriting on vehicles had blossomed into the actual construction of customised vehicle bodies on the chasses provided by the motor manufacturers. Another major line of work was the advertising boards often then found outside shops such as newsagents. The work involved the skilled use of fine 22 carat gold leaf for the gilt lettering then popular for signs, not to mention a steady hand for freehand painting.
Their eldest son Charles Stanley emigrated to Canada, where he eventually got permission to marry his cousin, Mary Elizabeth Graffy. The second son George died in the Great War, serving as a ship's stoker.
Charles George died in 1930.
Henry was always known as 'Bob'. His third name Rasbury recognises the Rasbury family, ancestors on his mother's side. Bob followed in his father's footsteps to become a Signwriter. During the Great War, he was wounded three times at Ypres, which may actually have saved his life, as he was recuperating from his wounds when his regiment, the 12th London, was slaughtered at the Somme. He rose to be a Sergeant.
After the war, he married Nelly Whale, daughter of a Brass Finisher, in 1921 at Tottenham, where they then settled. It was a double wedding, with Nelly's sister Eva marrying the same day to close friend of Bob's. They had two daughters, Nellie in 1922 and Marjorie in 1924. He worked for Hollyer & Sons, his father's firm, and he was capable of doing both the signwriting and motor body building. The firm almost went under during the General Strike of 1926, but his mother in law assisted the firm get back on its feet. After the death of his father in 1930, the family moved to Enfield to be nearer his work. The family enjoyed the amenities of a modern house and Bob built his own wireless sets. But his main passion was gardening.
During the Second War, the firm managed to keep going, as most of the employees were too old to sign up. Bob acted as an Air Raid Warden and helped raise money for the troops by running raffles at his local pub. After the war, in 1951, the three brothers decided to sell the business and retire. Bob wanted to acquire a country pub, but all that was on offer was a pub in London's East End at Dalston. The pub lost huge amounts of money and closed in 1959. After this, Bob and Nelly retired first to Harold Hill, where they looked after a Working Men's Club, then Rainham and finally moved out to Gorleston in Norfolk. He died in 1973.
Marjorie (Molly) married Jim Aimer in 1946 and emigrated to Rhodesia in 1955. They later retired to South Africa. Molly died in 2005.
Bob and Nellie in 1966
Nellie was born in 1922. After the family moved to Enfield, she passed the 11+ exam and went to Enfield County School. She joined the Guides and at the young age of 13 started to meet friends, including some boys from the nearby Enfield Grammar School. Amongst these was her future husband Douglas Walker. She and her sister Molly formed a strong friendship with this group. Nellie and Molly also liked dancing. Nellie started work at the local Education Department of Enfield Council.
When the war came, everything changed. The boys all went off to war and Nellie volunteered for special war work which she had heard about on the radio. She thought anything would be better than ending up being conscripted into the Enfield Small Arms Factory. The job turned out to be testing newly-made tanks at Broom & Wades factory in High Wycombe, which meant being away from home during the week. But she was one of only 6 women in the country qualified to test drive tanks.
Her close friend Douglas joined the Royal Artillery and was at Dover during the Battle of Britain. But he was later to be posted to India and Nellie and Douglas became engaged before he departed. When he returned in September 1945, they were married within 3 weeks.
The had three children: Robin in 1947, myself in 1949 and Alan in 1953. In 1959, once the children were old enough, she went back to work for Enfield Council and after the local government reorganisation of 1965, she and Douglas were able to work in Enfield in the same building. They dedicated themselves to their 3 sons, getting them through both school and university. They had hardly got them 'out of the nest' when they were forced to have Nellie's mother live with them, after she had had a stroke. This created a great strain on Nellie and holidays became almost impossible to take. Nellie retired in 1982 and Douglas decided to retire early to be with her, but sadly Nellie died just a year after retirement in 1983, having outlived her own mother by only a year.
Of all the family photos, I think this photo is quite remarkable. It shows three generations of Hollyer ladies. On the left is Elizabeth Hollyer, née Reed (1843-1928), widow of George Hollyer. On the right is Emma Hollyer, née Haynes (1864-1931), wife of Charles George Hollyer. In the middle is Emma’s eldest daughter, Emma Beatrice (1890-1944). The photo was probably taken just after the Great War. The ladies appear almost unposed, preparing the vegetables in the kitchen of their house in Bush Hill Park, Enfield, using only the available light from the window.Back to top