The Reffell Family in 1811

The Regency era began in 1811 when George the Prince of Wales became Prince Regent because of the perceived insanity of his father King George III. The title was conferred by the Regency Act on February 5, 1811. Subject to certain limitations for a period, the Prince Regent was able to exercise the full powers of the King. The Regency lasted until the king’s death on 26 June 1830, and is noted for its elegance and achievements in the fine arts and architecture.

The first census to be undertaken on a national basis was in 1801 and then there was another one in 1811, but in most cases were little more than a headcount, with few details of individuals being recorded. However, the 1811 census reveals that the population of England and Wales has increased in ten years by over a million to 10.1 million. Genealogical research at this time is mostly based upon parish records including registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.

In the early part of the century, the family was still largely confined to the South East, with much the family in London or Surrey. The Reffell family had moved on from their Hugenot background and were firmly established in Britain.

London in 1811 was very small with a population of about 1 million, but only twenty years later it would have increased by over a half again and be the world’s largest city. There were no railways, no buses and most people walked or rode horses to travel.

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 18 days later. Little is currently known about Henry Hatch’s early life, no record has been found of any brothers or sisters and this is very unusual although not impossible. 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.

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.

Mary Ann Leshley (Madame Caballero) was born on 20 November 1788 at Chichester in West Sussex. Using the name Moll Raffles, she started her future role at the bottom although the name ‘Raffles’ was not actually a misspelling of Reffell(s), but rather came from a previous practice early in her career of being ‘raffled’ off to the highest bidding officer! Later she became a high-class courtesan to a number of famous people. These were to include Sir William Knighton (physician & secretary to the Prince Regent) & Lord Arthur Wellesley – the 1st Duke of Wellington. She became the talk of Regency gossip and it is believed that she was the model for the painting of Hebe serving nectar to the eagle Jupiter. William Reffell was born in Chichester Sussex during 1797 and it was alleged during the court of appeal into the will of Madame Caballero, that his father was the Richard Reffell who married Mary Leshley, being the widow of John Leshley and the mother of Mary Ann Leshley.

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, and when he died during the fever epidemic in that country of 1829.