Family Stories

Every family has some stories passed down through the years and the Reffell family is no exception. Sometimes such stories are based on real facts, albeit somewhat distorted over the years. Other stories can be the figment of somebody’s fertile imagination! Here we examine some of the Reffell family stories accumulated over the years.

The Reffell family were Huguenots – It is believed that the surname of Reffell is probably Huguenot in origin and originally came from the continent following the Protestant oppressions, perhaps as early as the 17th century. One of the trades that the Huguenots brought with them was brewing (see below). It was interesting that the Huguenot brewers from Europe were viewed with some suspicion for using hops as a foreign adulteration of English Ale, which at that time was brewed without them.

There were a number of breweries owned within the Reffell family – There were four Reffell breweries. A large portion of the family have made their living through the industry, either brewing or selling beer. The most substantial and successful was Reffell’s Bexley Brewery, although this had lost any members of the family very early on.

There was a Reffell who was assistant paymaster on the Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar – This is an often repeated story that has its foundations in two different people; James Reffell (1784-1842) of the Bermondsey Waterman branch who was an ordinary sailor on HMS Defence under Captain (later Admiral) Hope at the Battle of Trafalgar. There was also Edward Forrester Reffell who was an assistant paymaster on a number of ships, but that was over forty years later.

There used to be money in the Reffell family, where has it gone? – It is true that certain parts of the family have been quite wealthy for their time. The most affluent would be Madame Caballero (see below) and additionally some of the farmers left quite reasonable sums of money in their wills. However, some members of the family have been made bankrupt, whilst a substantial number have died in the workhouse. If you are aware of any outstanding estates seeking a beneficiary, please contact this website immediately!

There was a royal connection in the family – Unlikely, although there was Madame Caballero who was (ahem…) associated with some very prominent people including the Prince Regent. When she died in 1877 her estate of a number of large houses in London and Tunbridge Wells was valued at over £20m at today’s prices. This amazing amount notably went outside the Reffell family to her nephew John Leshley.