The Early Years

1500s & 1600s
The Reffell family surname is believed to have originated on the continent of Europe as Huguenots, although no firm evidence as yet been found, their are many of their characteristics in the family background. These were Protestants who became the centre of a political and religious upheaval in Catholic France and the Low Countries during the 1500s and 1600s. Most of the newcomers quickly adapted to their new country and within a few generations a large number had converted to the Church of England. Others kept their faith and remained Calvinists or other nonconformist religions, but all remained violently anti-Catholic.
One of the earliest references to the Reffell family is that on 25 March 1664, William Reffell pays Hearth Tax for one hearth at Ewhurst.

By the 1700s the Reffell family was well established in the area of Shere in Surrey. Other locations nearby known to have Reffell connections in this century are; Dorking (from 1735), Stoke D’Abernon (from 1755), Abinger (from 1771) and Albury (from 1782).
Settlement Certificates exist in the Surrey History Centre for the following families:-
Elstead – 17 November 1787 for Henry, wife Ann and six children (Mary 1777, William 1779, Henry 1781, Elizabeth 1783, Thomas 1785 and George 1787) from Peperharow.
Albury – 21 April 1781 for William, wife Hannah and one daughter Ann from St. Martha’s.
Stoke D’ Abernon – 27 March 1749 for Marmaduke, wife Mary and six children (Mary 1738, William 1740, John 1742, Marmaduke 1743 & Sarah 1745) from Cobham.

In the early part of the century, the family was still largely confined to the South East. Much the family at this time seems to be in the county of Surrey, particularly around the Shere area, this branch eventually becoming brewers. In 1811 John Reffell (1871-1838) was a pub landlord in Shere Surrey, running a pub in the village until moving nearby to Gomshall starting up the Black Horse public house and brewery. His younger brother Joseph (1786-1862) was also a landlord in Shere, running the White Horse there until at least 1826 before moving to Shepherds Bush in London. Other strands of the family were; Thomas & Mary Reffell who lived in Cobham Surrey with their eight children all being baptised at the church of St Andrew, and William & Hannah who lived in Albury with their seven children all being baptised at the church of St Peter & St Paul.

Henry Reffell was born to William Reffell and Hannah Smith in June 1792 at Albury. His parents were originally from Shere, but they had settlement in Albury on 21 April 1781. Henry married Amelia Fipps in 1815 at her parish of Ashtead, but two years later he obtained another settlement certificate that enabled them to move back to Shere. At this time they had one daughter Ceilia who was born in 1817. By 1830 the family had grown to three more daughters (Mary Ann 1820, Emma 1825, & Ann 1830) and two sons (William 1822 & John 1828), and there may be one other born around 1832. However, they are shown in the Shere list of paupers from 1830 to 1835. Ceilia had lately been ‘working in service’ at Epsom, but it appears that in some way she became chargeable to that parish. Therefore on 7 June 1834, a Removal Order was granted and she was removed back to Shere. There was salvation for her however on 10 November 1835 when she was married in the church of St James Shere to James Gilham. Henry Reffell died and was buried at the same church in 1863.

Joseph Reffell (1786-1862) and Elizabeth Hatch (1784-1864) had married the previous year in Totnes Devon and were now living in London where Henry Hatch Reffell was born on 1 March 1811. He was baptised at St. Marylebone eighteen days later. Little is currently known about Henry Hatch’s early life, and no record has been found of any brothers or sisters, unusual but quite possible. He would spend all of his life in London becoming a bookseller & stationer living in Great Portland Street. Joseph was born in Shere Surrey, but Elizabeth had been born in the small Devon village of Rattery. How they met after being born so far apart has yet to be discovered, but they were to spend the rest of their lives living in London. Joseph’s parents were dead by 1811, but Elizabeth’s mother was still living in Rattery where she would die twenty eight years later at the age of 81. Joseph’s younger brother Henry, also born in Shere, was also living in London with his wife Esther.

Also in London at that time was James Reffell who married Mary Ann Waghorn at the church of St Saviour Southwark on 14 February 1809. They were shortly to move down river to Bermondsey and would have eight children. The three boys (James John, Henry & William) who made it to adulthood were to be apprenticed as watermen, either to their father or to their uncle, James’s brother Emanuel. Similarly, all four of Emanuel’s boys (Emanuel, James John, George Bush & Henry William) were apprenticed as watermen. These two families lived in and around George Street Bermondsey, very close to the river and their trade which was often long and arduous in all weathers.

By the latter half of the 1800s branches of the family had spread to London, had become farmers in Buckinghamshire, were brewers in Kent and gun makers in the Midlands.

Henry Joshua Reffell was born, married and had his first two children in London. However around 1883 he took his family to South Glamorgan and established the branch of the Reffell family that is still going strong in Wales today. Others settled here were descendants from African seamen.

One individual would travel to an African country as a governmental representative and during his brief life leave a legacy of the surname that still exists until today. Joseph Reffell (1795-1829) was in His Majesty’s Foreign Service as the Colonial Secretary of Sierra Leone from 1814 until he died during the fever epidemic there in 1829.