THE PENNEY LIBRARY, The Penney Family Book
Penney Library


Chapter 4


William Penney was bp. Monday, April 20, 1772, son of John and Elizabeth Penny (possibly original spelling of surname; see Chapter 3). At that time the family lived on the west side of Butt Lane, Deptford. He was the third of John's sons to survive to adulthood.

William attempted to begin a shipwright apprenticeship at Deptford Yard, Dec. 27, 1784, age 15. He was "refused, not being of age" (ADM 106/2993). If he had been b. in the same year in which he was bp., his age would only have been 12-1/2, so he may have been rushing things. By Dec. of 1795 and 96 his stated age provides a b. date of 1771, rather than 1769 as surmised from the incident in 1784, so this must have been the case. His height was given as 4" 10". One wonders whether his shortness may also have had something to do with the apprenticeship refusal. On Oct. 3, 1785 he returned to the Dockyard and was accepted to apprentice in the shipwright trade under his father's instruction. He was now 5' tall, or so the record states. Undoubtedly he continued to grow, but we do not know his full height as a man.

In the Lady quarter of 1790, William was 20 yrs of age and worked 77 days, 37 nights and 1 tide. For this he earned 16, 10s. The total including his father's wages was 36, 4s, 6d (ADM 42/580). By the first quarter of 1794 William was a journeyman shipwright earning at the rate of 2.1. For some unknown reason his wages were "paid to father John by order" in the third and fourth quarters of that year (ADM 42/584). This was the time during which James, his younger brother, was "servant" to his father. William earned nothing from the Yard in the first quarter of 1795, but was employed there during the other three quarters.

In 1796 William was 25 yrs of age. Although he worked 69 days and 31 nights, earning 16, 10s, 8d, it was stated that he had been "absent without leave 3 days" (ADM 42/586). There is no mention of his name in the pay lists for 1802, 1803, 1805, or 1810. It is unknown whether his absenting led to a dismissal action. He may have taken up work in a private yard nearby.

Marriage to Hannah: The Scarnell Connection

William Penney m. Hannah Scarnell, Dec. 22, 1792, "by Banns", at the beautiful church of St. Margaret's, Lee. This is a parish near Lewisham and Deptford, now part of South London. William and Hannah signed the register in the presence of Charles Scarnell and Margaret Phillips. Hannah Scarnell was bp. twenty years earlier on Sept. 13, 1772, at St. Paul's, Deptford, daughter of Charles and Mary Scarnell. Her older brother, Charles, was bp. Dec. 10, 1769 at the same church. Their address at that time was "New Row, Deptford". I wonder how many other children Charles and Mary had? Thus the witness Charles Scarnell could have been either her father or her brother, but was probably her father. Twenty-nine years later on Oak Apple Day 1821, Hannah's grandson would be given her maiden name (see Chapter 9), and 193 years later her 5-greats grand-daughter in America would be given her christian name. We owe Margaret Paine a debt of gratitude for sleuthing out Hannah's m. and bp.

Elizabeth Caroline and I visited St. Margaret's, Lee in July of 1987. The Church is strikingly beautiful, with its tall spire, so different from St. Nicholas, Deptford and St. Mary, Lewisham, with their rude stone towers. However, we were fooled! The old church of William and Hannah had been pulled down about 1813, and a new brick and stucco church built in its place. Yet after little more than 25 years the walls of that church were settling and leaning, so it too was demolished. The present much larger and more elegant structure was constructed across the road (Lee Terrace) from the old church and graveyard. It was consecrated March 11, 1841 by the Bishop of Rochester. An eerie graveyard now surrounds it.

The first church was small (56 ft. long), having a short, stout stone tower with peaked wooden roof at the west end. It was built about 1275 of chalk and flint. Although Henry Courtenay was the Rector from 1773 till 1803, H. Forrester, Curate, officiated at the joining of William and Hannah. Rectors were frequently absent from their "living" and employed a curate at much lesser stipend to do the day to day work in the parish. In fact, many Rectors were non-resident, often enjoying more than one living. The population of the parish was only 300 in 1801, and was presumably even less in 1792. Why the couple went there for the ceremony is unclear to me. Rev. Courtenay was eventually appointed Chaplain to George III, and in 1794 was made Bishop of Bristol. In 1795 he preached in Westminster Abbey before the House of Lords on the growing crisis in Anglo-French relations following the French Revolution.

Charles Scarnell, Sr., Hannah's father, b. in 1739, was employed at Deptford Yard as shipwright beginning between 1770 and 1775 (ADM 42/565). In 1780 (ADM 42/570) he held the rank of Quarterman. In 1785 (ADM 42/575) he'd advanced to Pro Quarterman and had one John Pike, age 21, as an apprentice. In 1790, Charles was 51 years old and his son Charles was employed alongside him as shipwright apprentice, being instructed by a Mr. Blackett. In 1802, Charles Scarnell, Sr. was 58 years old and still a Quarterman; his son, now a journeyman shipwright, was 33 years of age. A Charles Scarnell, shipwright, was also employed at Deptford in 1805, but it is not clear whether he was the father or the son. This information came from the Admiralty records at the Public Record office, and agrees exactly with the register data.

According to the St. Paul's, Deptford burial registers, "Mary, wife of Charles Scarnell, King Street, Shipwright", d. between 1791 and 1794. A "Charles Scarnell, Jun., King Street, Shipwright", d. Sept. 18, 1805. The "Jun." I interpret to be junior, son of Charles, Sr. and Mary Scarnell. No record has yet been found of Charles, Sr.'s d. Thus the Scarnells lived on the same street in Deptford as the William Penneys (see below); not too surprising, since King Street was probably the residence of many of the Yard shipwrights and other artificers. Until 1986 I had felt certain but lacked proof that these Scarnells were either 'family' or good friends - now we know for sure!

There were a few other Scarnells in the area: Charles and Frances Scarnell had twin boys, Esau and Jacob, b. in the Workhouse (at Deptford) and bp. April 7, 1788, at St. Paul's, Deptford. Nearby in Southwark, a bachelor, Thomas Scarnell m. a spinster, Jane Read, May 10, 1810, at Christchurch. Across the river in Stepney, a George Scarnell of West Ham (Essex), m. a widower, Elizabeth Hewitt, in 1776 at St. Dunstans. Two years later, another George Scarnell, m. a Mary Clark at St. Dunstans, Stepney. Finally, in Jan. of 1792, James Scarnell, a widower, m. Lucy Carr, a spinster, at Christchurch, Spitalfields. Our relationship to these Scarnells is unknown.

William and Hannah had eleven children that we have knowledge of; Charles, John, Thomas, Elizabeth Mary, Henry, Elizabeth, William, Joseph, Letitia, Benjamin, and Hannah Eleanor. The first nine were bp. at St. Paul's, Deptford, although bp. entries for Joseph and Letitia curiously also appear in the St. Nicholas registers. Benjamin and Hannah Eleanor were bp. at Sheerness Dockyard Chapel.

Charles, the eldest son, was bp. Dec. 8, 1793; and now it is clear why he was given this name - it was his maternal grandfather's name. So often do important clues to one, two or more previous generations reside in the children's names. John was b. in 1796 in Deptford and bp. March 13, 1796; named for his paternal grandfather (see Chapter 3). Thomas was b. Nov. 3, 1797 at Sheerness and bp. Nov. 26, 1797. He may have been named for his uncle Thomas Penney. Elizabeth Mary, the eldest daughter, was bp. Dec. 9, 1798. Clearly she was named for both her paternal grandmother and maternal grandmother. Henry was b. Dec. 24, 1800 at Deptford and bp. Jan. 18, 1801. I wonder who he was named for? Undoubtedly due to the d. of the first Elizabeth, another child bp. Sept. 19, 1802 was given the same name. The next son, William, was b. June 29, 1804 and bp. July 12, 1804. Joseph was b. May 2, 1806 and bp. May 25 of the same year. A daughter was bp., Letitia, June 20, 1808.

William and Hannah's last son, Benjamin, was b. June 20, 1810 and bp. July 9, 1810 at Sheerness Dockyard Chapel. Unfortunately, he d. and was bur. Aug. 27, 1810, in the churchyard of Minster Abbey, on the Isle of Sheppey. Hannah Eleanor, the youngest child was b. April 16, 1811 and was bp. April 28 (or Aug. 18), 1811 at Sheerness Dockyard Chapel. She only lived for 2 years and 2 months, being bur. in the same place as her brother Benjamin, May 20, 1814. As far as is known all the children lived to adulthood, excepting Elizabeth Mary, Benjamin, and Hannah Eleanor. It is my frequent and distinct impression that in large families at that time that the chances of dying young increased greatly for those children well down in the b. order.

It was reported that a "Thomas, son of William, shipwright, King Street, was bur. Jan. 27, 1800 at St. Paul's, Deptford". This is inexplicable, since we know that Thomas d. March 18, 1874, in his 76th or 77th year. Perhaps the dead Thomas was a child b. between Charles and John, since there is a gap of 2-3 years, and that his bp. was not recorded. Thus the Thomas who lived to adulthood was the "replacement"!

Their residence in Deptford

According to the St. Paul's bp. registers the family lived on King Street, now Watergate Street, from 1793 through 1802. This must have been on the west side of the street between Lower Road and Dock Street, as the east side and north end were in St. Nicholas parish. The 'rate books' however show a William Penney residing on New Queen Street in 1796, 1799 and 1803. I cannot explain the discrepancy, unless just possibly, the King Street and New Queen Street addresses were one in the same. On New Queen Street he paid an annual rent of 7, a poor rate of 12s, 10d, and a highway tax of 1s, 2d.

The family moved to Butt Lane in 1804 and the records suggest their annual rent was 17, poor tax 17s, and highway tax 1s, 5d. In 1806 they were living on Back Lane, the renamed northern end of Butt Lane. It is possible that this did not require a move at all. William's occupation here is given as "victualler". Although Dockyard employees were prohibited from selling ale, beer, etc. as a sideline, officials usually turned a blind eye to such practices, and this served to supplement a family's income. Whether his wife indeed ran a public house, or he was employed in the nearby Royal Victualling (later Victoria) Yard, is unknown. Personally, I favor the first explanation. Due to his absence from the Dockyard pay lists after 1802, he could well have been working in a private yard. This notwithstanding, the record of ship's launchings at the Dockyard suggests this was not a slack period. On Back Lane his rent was 16, poor tax 18s, 8d, and highway tax 2s, 8d. In 1808 the family was found residing on Copperfield Lane. While no record of a lane by that name can be found in Deptford, there is a Crossfield Lane which runs southeast from High Street just below St. Paul's. This may have been it.

There is no evidence that William and his family lived in Deptford later than 1808, although it is possible. At any rate, young John Penney almost certainly did not come to live permanently in Sheerness at 4 years of age, that is 1799/1800, as stated in a 1924 Sheerness newspaper article (see Chapter 8). However, the fact that William's third son Thomas was b. at Sheerness, suggests that the family was there for some period around 1797. There is increasing evidence that Dockyard men and even their families, travelled between the various Yards to a surprising degree at this time as work was begun and completed.

Deptford Dockyard eventually became more important than its near neighbor Woolwich, but the usefulness of both Yards declined throughout the 18th century as ships grew larger and the Thames silted up. By the close of the French Revolutionary wars, Deptford was little used, and by 1818 it was practically derelict. This, as well as the increased employment possibilities resulting from reconstruction of Sheerness Dockyard after 1814, may have been major reasons why William Penney and family departed Deptford for Sheerness. Whatever the reasons, they must have been compelling, as the Penn(e)y family had resided in Deptford for at least 85 years.

Other Penn(e)y in the area

During the time William and Hannah lived in Deptford (1792-1809), there were many other Penn(e)ys in the vicinity, and within Deptford itself were a number of families of unknown relationship. Timothy Penny, a butcher, m. Sarah Davis in 1790 at St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, and probably upon her d., m. Mary Grant at the same church in 1794. They were living in Broomfield, Deptford, in 1795. Two of their children, Timothy and Rebecca, were bp. at St. Paul's, Deptford, in 1795 and 1796. In 1792, Mary Penny (or Peney) who was probably a widow, was a tavern keeper in the town, while Frances Peney was a cheesemonger. Isaac, son of Isaac and Elizabeth Peney, living "on the Green", was bp. May 8, 1796, at St. Paul's. Edward Penny, a cooper and wife Hetty (or Netty) had four children; Samuel, Francis, Benjamin and Elizabeth Mary. All were bp. at St. Paul's between 1794 and 1801. Edward James Penney, progenitor of the large Blue Town (Sheerness) line, was b. in Deptford in 1802. His father might have been Edward Penny, the cooper, but evidence is lacking. There was also a William Penney, tallow chandler, who resided in Church Street. He and his wife Phoebe had three children; William, George and George all bp. at St. Paul's during the period 1789-96.

Next door in Greenwich were several families of Penn(e)ys: William Penny, a shoemaker, had seven children by his wife Ann between 1796 and 1807; Maurice J., Martha, Thomas F., Mary Ann, Harriot, Jane and Hannah E. George Penny there was a cooper. He and his wife Mary had a daughter Ann Jane, Jan. 10, 1802. Thomas and John were bp. at St. Alphage, Greenwich in 1806 and 1809, respectively, sons of William and Elizabeth Penny. Benjamin Penny was another shoe and bootmaker in Greenwich; his wife being Sarah. They had two daughters, Albertiner b. in 1808 and Amelia Ann b. in 1810.

Just a few miles south in Lee, William Penny m. Jane Jenkins, June 13, 1809, at the beautiful church of St. Margaret. Nearby in Lewisham, at St. Mary, two children of John and Zilpah (Smith) Penney, Eliza and George E., were bp. in 1808 and 1811, respectively. The parents had been m. at St. Botolph, Bishopgate (London) in 1791.

To the southeast in Bermondsey, a William was bp. in 1804, at St. Mary Magdalene, son of William and Rosetta Penny. Four years later an Elizabeth was bp. there, daughter of Charles and Sarah Penny. Nearby in Camberwell, four children of John and Ann Penny were bp. between 1805 and 1813, John, William E., George and Isaac. In Southwark, the son of William and Sarah Penney, William, was bp. at St. Saviour in 1795. April 22, 1800, Sarah Bathsheba was bp. nearby at St. Mary, Lambeth, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Penny.

To the west in Rotherhithe, Henry Penney m. Ann Harris March 25, 1804, at the church of St. Mary. Four children of Jeremiah and Ann Penney; Mary, John, Elizabeth Ann and Ann Maria, were bp. at the same church between 1806 and 1811.

To the north across the Thames in Stepney, several Penn(e)y families apparently resided at this time: John and Mary Penny, Joel and Mary Pinney, William and Susanna Penney, George and Elizabeth Penny, and Thomas and Sarah Penny. Their children were bp. at St. Mary Whitechapel, St. George in the East (Independent) or St. Dunstan.

The move to Sheerness

William Penney was present at Sheerness Dockyard by 1810 (ADM 42/1699). Moreover, Benjamin, his youngest son, was bur. at Minster Abbey, Aug. 27, of that year. In the first quarter of 1813 William Penney was listed as a shipwright. John and Thomas Penney were his "servants", each in their second year, while Henry Penney was an "ocham (oakum) boy". However, by the fourth quarter of 1813 John and Thomas were stated to be in their third years, so they must have entered in 1810. William Barling and John Bastard were two other shipwrights noted at that time.

This period saw much ferment in Europe: In 1812 Napoleon invaded Russia with his Grand Army, resulting in the battle of Borodino. The French occupied Moscow but were forced to retreat, losing 5/6's of an army of 600,000. This same year Britain began a war with the United States over shipping and territory disputes ('War of 1812'), which lasted until 1814. The following year, 1813, The Treaty of Kalisch was signed between Russia and Prussia against France; the coalition was then joined by Britain, Austria and Sweden. In the battle of Vittorio the French were driven out of Spain by forces under the Duke of Wellington. Shortly thereafter, the Allied forces invaded France, entered Paris, and early the next year Napoleon abdicated and was exiled to the island of Elba. In 1815, after Napoleon's escape and march on Paris, forces under him were decisively defeated at the battle of Waterloo by Wellington.

The June 27, 1815 Dockyard records are most interesting (ADM 42/1704). William Penney, then about 44 yrs of age, had been a shipwright for 31 yrs, inclusive of his apprenticeship. It appears that he started work at Sheerness Oct. 24, 1809. His second eldest son John, age 15, entered the Yard Feb. 23, 1811. However, rather than being apprenticed to his father, young John was trained by Abraham Barling. Strangely, it is not clear how Abraham was related to the other Barlings in Sheerness about whom we know so much. The Barlings were probably good friends of the family. Likewise, young Thomas, age 14, who later m. Margaret Barling, was apprenticed to T. Pearson Feb. 23, 1811. Their little brother Henry had now moved up from 'oakum boy' to shipwright apprentice. Nathaniel Barling, Thomas' future father-in-law, in 1815 was a proquarterman caulker, 22 yrs of age. Why John and Thomas were now apprenticed to other shipwrights when earlier (i.e. 1813) it appeared they were apprenticed to their father, is not clear.

William Penney d. Oct. 23, 1840. His d. certificate states the cause of d. as "visitation of God" (see below). He was given as a "shipwright", "68 years" of age. The informant was Robert Hinde, Coroner, from Milton. The Minster, Sheppey burial register says under abode, "Accidently Killed on board HMS 'Compendas'" (my reading, see below). Presumably this took place at Sheerness Dockyard, although his d. occurred at Minster.

According to Margaret Paine, the ship was actually "HMS 'Camperdown', a first rate, 3-deck line of battle ship of 104 guns, originally named 'Trafalgar' when launched in 1820 (became Camperdown in 1825). She began fitting out as a flagship at Sheerness, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 1840, so was in the proper place at the right time.... Unfortunately the Sheerness Dockyard records do not survive." A lengthy newspaper report of a Court Martial of someone accused of setting fire to the 'Camperdown' does not mention William's d. which occurred whilst the case was in progress. Furthermore, based on the following, Margaret believes that through hearsay, the parish clerk or vicar made an incorrect entry in the burial register in that, William did not die on the 'Camperdown' and not by an accident: The Kent Herald; Thursday, Nov. 5, 1840, under Rochester Chatham - "Sudden Death. On Friday, as Mr. Wm. Penny, a Shipwright in the dockyard, was standing in the Yard, talking to one of the policemen, he complained of his head, and instantly fell down and expired. Mr. Penny was nearly 70 years of age." The log book of 'Camperdown' survives for 1840 (PRO, Kew), but there is no mention of a d. on board; moreover, the ship was lying at anchor and was not actually in the dockyard, as the log book records that boats were dispatched each day to the shore for supplies of food, water, etc." He may have been engaged in work for the 'Camperdown', but was technically not on the ship at the time he d.

William was bur. Nov. 4, 1840, 68 years of age, in Minster Abbey churchyard and the register was signed by Rev. Turmine, author of a small rare book on the history of Sheppey. No monument to his grave is to be found there today. Early retirement of the able-bodied employed in Dockyard service was unheard of in those days!

His wife Hannah, d. May 8, 1852 at the Union Workhouse, Minster. Her d. certificate shows she was "79 years" old and a "widow" (see below). The cause of d. was "Debility Certified". "X" was given as "the mark of Maria Chapman, Present at the Death, Union Workhouse, Minster". Probably she too was bur. at Minster Abbey. Why she was at the Workhouse rather than with members of the large Penney family on Sheppey or in Rotherhithe at that time, we may never know; although it is possible that she had been acutely ill, since that institution did serve as a hospital, and that she was not a permanent resident of the Workhouse as were so many of the destitute. Or, is it possible there was a rift in the family and after William's d. none of her family would care for her in her old age? There is also the possibility of mental illness requiring institutionalization, as the term "debility certified" suggests; and/or did William divorce her and m. Jane Emmet?

Even though William continued living on the Island, his youngest sons William and Joseph, migrated back to the Deptford area (Rotherhithe), while the older ones, John, Thomas and Henry, remained at Sheerness. The explanation may have to do with the decline in building and repair work at Sheerness Dockyard with demobilization after Waterloo, as well as the loss of jobs after completion of reconstruction of that Dockyard in the 1820's. Both boys reached manhood well into this decline, while their older brothers were apprenticed and became journeymen at an opportune time. It is well known that construction of commercial ships by private 'yards' continued along the Thames in the Rotherhithe, Stepney, and Blackwall areas during this period, offering higher wages than the Royal Yards.

Charles Penny

He was the eldest son of William and Hannah Penney, bp. Dec. 8, 1793 at St. Paul's, Deptford. During the first quarter of 1810 he was an apprentice to Robert Burroughs, joiner quarterman at Deptford, age 38. He was age 16 at this time and his father was stated to be William Penney; however, he had entered Jan. 15, 1808 at age 14. Thus he must have been left behind when the family moved to Sheerness. Interestingly, Mr. Burroughs had another apprentice, James, son of William Hugill. This strengthens the notion that the elder Hugill was the husband of Hannah Penny, John's daughter. In 1815 Charles was 21 yrs old, having become a journeyman joiner Feb. 9, 1815. There is no further mention of him in the Yard records.

The 1835 Poll Book of Kent lists a Charles Penney residing in Lewisham, the Blackheath District. According to the 1841 Census, one Charles Baker Penny m. to Elizabeth, was residing in Lewisham, Kent. Their daughter Hannah was bp. July 28, 1816 at St. Mary's, Lewisham. However, a transcript of "Monumental Inscriptions at St. Mary's, Lewisham" (Ed. Kirby & Duncan) includes a stone "Sacred to the memory of Mr. Charles Penny of this Parish who died 15th May, 1837, aged 43 years". Is this our Charles Penny (Penney)? The date, age and location fit perfectly, so I am inclined to believe it is.

John, Thomas, and Henry Penney

As recounted above, these sons of William learned the shipwright trade in Sheerness Royal Dockyard. After reaching manhood, each m. and fathered the prodigious clan of shipbuilding Penneys on Sheppey, of which much more will be said presently (see chapter 8).

William Penney II

He was the fifth son of William and Hannah Penney, b. June 29, 1804. It is believed that he m. an Elizabeth and they had five children; Henry Taylor, William, Elizabeth, Mary Ann, and Sophia. The family resided in the parish of St. Mary's, Rotherhithe and all the children were bp. in that church. According to records at the Society of Genealogists, London, Elizabeth, age 37, and two of her children d. Jan. 27, 1839, cause unknown. William d. Jan. 9, 1841, 36 years of age, and was also bur. at St. Mary's, Rotherhithe.

William's Will written Jan. 6, 1841 is on file at the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, London (Prob 11/1947). As usual it was handwritten, and some 3-1/2 pages in length, this long undoubtedly because of the relatively large value of the estate. At this time William was a licensed victualler, of the White Horse Inn, Queen Street, parish of Rotherhithe, Surrey. The Will was "signed, sealed, published and declared by the said William Penney ........ E. Vitnstey, Surgeon, 61 Paradise Street, Rotherhithe ... Griffith Thomas, Solicitor, Mincing Lane". Henry Taylor Penney was given his father's "gold watch with appendages". Another son, William Penney (III), got William's "silver watch with appendages". His three daughters "received their late mother's wearing apparel and trinkets". Furthermore, instructions were given to "give and divide between said children all such plate, furniture, wearing apparel, articles, matters and things". His "real estate, household estates, lands, and premises, household goods and furniture, money, securities for money debts, etc. (went) to my youngest brother Joseph Penney of Chatham, Kent". William Clayton of Rotherhithe was instructed to sell the property, etc. within 18 months after his decease. The Will was "proved at London, June 8, 1841, before the worshipful John Danbany......"

The Death Duty entry at Chancery Lane adds some additional detail: William d. Jan. 9, 1841 at Rotherhithe, and the Death Duty was paid July 5, 1841. Interestingly, Joseph Penney's residence was given as Rotherhithe and his trade as a Tailor. 2000 was the value placed upon William's estate.

Henry Taylor Penney, "batchelor", m. Ann Whatley, "spinster", Oct. 12, 1851 at St. Mary, Rotherhithe (see below). She was the daughter of George Whatley, Esq. Henry Taylor was stated to be a "lighterman". Incidently, he was a witness at the m. of Walter John Penney and Mary Ann Twigg, Nov. 2, 1957, at St. Paul's, Deptford (see Chapter 13). He was also a witness at the wedding of Alfred Thomas Penney and Mary Evans, April 15, 1860, at the same church (see Chapter 14). Evidently relations continued between the Penneys in Deptford/Rotherhithe and those who went to Sheerness for more than fifty years!

Joseph Penney

Joseph was the sixth son of William and Hannah Penney, b. May 2, 1806. He was bp. May 25, 1806 at St. Paul's, Deptford. It is said he became a shipyard caulker. He m. Margaret Martin, April 21, 1828. They resided in Rotherhithe and had at least 10 children. The following extract is from Joseph's family Bible and was generously contributed by Ronald James Penney, of Ramsgate, a great grandson. I must admit that some of the entries brought tears to my eyes.

"Joseph Penney, Born May 2, 1806
Margrate Penney, Born March 1st, 1809
Married April 21st 1828
William John Martin, Born May 23th, 1829
John (Martin) ..... Born April 3, 1831
Hannah, Born Augst 26th, 1833
Letitia, Born Augst 2, (1836)
George Joseph, Born May 2, 18(3?)
Elizabeth, Born 15 July, 1840
Joseph, Born March 15th, 1842
Died Sept 15th, 1843, age 1 month
Joseph, Born March 9th, 1844
James, Born June 14th, 1846
Thomas, Born Sept. 7th, 1848

My Wife died July 26th, 1849 after

a few hours illness, age 41
My Son William was drowned
on Monday Night about 11
Oclock while engaged in his
Master Business, age 21 Months
Sept. 2nd, 1850
Thomas Penney died
April 26th, 1850, age 1 year and
seven month
Granfather died on the
13 of Nov., age 89 year
in the year 1895"

Thus, the first Joseph and the Thomas d. as babies, and the eldest son d. as a young adult. Since John Martin, the second eldest son, and Thomas the youngest were bp. at St. Mary's, Rotherhithe, it is apparent that Joseph, like his older brother William, raised their families in that Thames shipbuilding community. In July, 1841 Joseph's residence was given as Rotherhithe and his trade as that of a tailor (see above). However, just 6 months earlier in Jan. of the same year, his residence was supposedly Chatham, Kent. It is true that artificers such as shipwrights, caulkers, etc. would move from one shipyard to another as work demanded, but people seldom changed trades.

John Martin, the eldest surviving son of Joseph Penney, became a shipwright and worked in the Surrey Docks, Rotherhithe. He m. Eliza Jane Brown in 1854 at St. Nicholas, Deptford. They had at least three children, all b. in Rotherhithe; Henry, John and George Thomas.

James, the fourth surviving son of Joseph Penney, was b. June 14, 1846. He took up the same trade as his father, that of a caulker, but possibly later in life became a railway porter. At one point he was described as a signalman on the Southeastern and Chatham Railway, now British Rail. He m. Mary Pitfield Kell and they had six children: Edith, Helen Margaret Martin, Charles Joseph James, Sidney Percy Leonard, Maude, and May Elizabeth Hannah. The b. certificate for (Charles) Joseph James (below) shows that he was b. March 26, 1877 and that his father was a railway porter. The family were living at Cliff Court, Ramsgate in 1868, and at 1 South Eastern Cottages, Margate in 1877 when Joseph James was b. Joseph James Penney became a railway guard, m. Emily Selms Lawrence, and had four sons, amongst whom is Ronald James of Ramsgate.

James Penney was apprenticed to Henry James Smith of Rotherhithe, Surrey, a caulker, Aug. 1, 1861, for the term of 7 years. The indenture document was signed by Mr. Smith and James Penney of Rotherhithe. It acknowledged Joseph Penney of the same place as his father. His "master" agreed to provide working tools and pay the apprentice one-half of the wages he earned during the seven year term. Due possibly to the d. of Mr. Smith, James was apprenticed a second time to Henry Halt, caulker in the county of Surrey, Nov. 1, 1864, for the term of three years and nine months. Again, James was to receive one-half of his wages, the other half presumably going to his "master".

The following is the text of the first indenture document:

"This indenture witnesseth that James Penney of Rotherhithe
in the county of Surrey, doth put himself
apprentice to Henry James Smith of Rotherhithe
in the county of Surrey, to learn his art and with him after the
manner of an apprentice to serve from the first day of August,
one thousand eight hundred and sixty one, unto the full end and
term of seven years from thence next following to be fully complete
and ended, during which term the Apprentice his Master faithfully
shall serve his secrets keep his lawful commands every where gladly
do he shall do no damage to his said Master, nor see it to be done
of others but to his power shall tell or forthwith give warning to his
said Master of the same, he shall not waste the goods of his said
Master, nor lend them unlawfully to any, he shall not commit fornication
nor contract matrimony within the said term, he shall not play cards,
dice, tables or any other unlawful games whereby his said Master
may have loss with his own
goods or others during said term without licence of his said Master, shall neither
buy nor sell, he shall not haunt taverns or playhouses nor absent
himself from his said Masters service day or night unlawfully,
but in all things as a faithful Apprentice he shall behave himself
towards his said Master and all his during the
said term and the said Master for and in consideration of the time
and faithful services of the said Apprentice doth agree to learn his
said Apprentice in the art of caulking, which he
useth by the best means that he shall teach and instruct or cause
to be taught and instructed, finding unto the said Apprentice
working tools and paying the said Apprentice during the said term
of seven years one half of whatsoever wages he may earn during
his said apprenticeship. And for the true performance of all and every
the said covenants and agreements either of the said
parties bindeth himself unto the other by these presents,
interchangeably have put their hands and seals
the first day of August and in the twentyfourth year of the reign
of our Most Gracious Majesty by the grace of God of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Queen defender of the
faith and in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight
hundred and sixty one".

The Kells

Brian E. Kell, of Croydon, Surrey, has provided the following information about the Kells: Mary Pitfield Kell was bp. Dec. 23, 1838, at St. Marys, Rotherhithe, the daughter of Leonard and Johanna (Martin) Kell. Leonard and Johanna had been m. at St. Mary's, Lewisham, Oct. 20, 1833. The couple had several other children, all bp. at St. Marys; Johanna (1835), Jane (1837), Leonard (1841), and Elizabeth Ann (1843). In 1851 (census), the mother Johanna was living at 32 Paradise Row, Rotherhithe, aged 49, with her children, Jane aged 13, Mary aged 11, and Leonard aged 9. She described herself as a "charwoman" (domestic) and gave her place of b. as Wendron, Cornwall. Brian believes Leonard Senior was deceased at this time, because it was unusual for wives of Dockyard employees to work. Why she came from Cornwall to London remains a mystery. Possibly Leonard met her while working at Plymouth Dockyard?

An indenture paper for a Leonard Kell, probably Mary's father reads: "This indenture in three parts, is made the 16th day of August in the fifty-fifth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the Grace of God, of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith; and in the Year of our Lord 1815, between Leonard Kell of St. Mary's, Rotherhithe, in the county of Middlesex, of the first part, and Robert Nesbit Kell of the same place and County (the father of the said Leonard Kell), of the second part, and Mr. Richard Bawley, Master Joiner of His Majesty's Dockyard of Deptford and Bartholomew Tuckness, a Leading man of the Joiners in His Majesty's yard aforesaid, of the third part witnesseth, that the said Leonard Kell ...... " Thus, Robert Nesbit Kell was the father of Leonard Kell, and probably the paternal grandfather of Mary Pitfield Kell.

Based on Brian Kell's research, we know that Robert (Nesbitt) Kell was a "joyner" in Deptford Dockyard in 1793. His wife was Jane, and they lived in Flagon Row, Deptford. His eldest son, Robert Nesbitt Kell II, bp. in 1893 at St. Nicholas, Deptford, m. Jemima Perkins, April 7, 1822, at St. Marys, Newington. They had the following children: Jemima (bp. 1823), Elizabeth Anne (bp. 1826), Robert Nesbitt (bp. 1829), Caesar Davies (bp. 1832), Louisa (bp. 1834), and Emma (bp. 1836), all bp. at St. Mary, Rotherhithe. Leonard was a younger son of Robert Nesbitt and Jane Kell, bp. March 5, 1800 at St. Mary, Rotherhithe.

The Deptford Yard paybooks for 1808 show a Robert Kell, joiner, aged 17, an apprentice to Caesar Davis. This is probably Robert Nesbitt Kell II. At the same time, a Robert Kell, Senior, was a joiner in the yard, probably the Robert Nesbitt Kell I. Caesar Davis at this time was about 65 years old. Presumably the younger Robt. Nesbitt named one of his children after his former instructor. Instructors must have played a major part in the lives of the young apprentices to the extent that out of respect they sometimes named their children after them. Another Kell, Stephen, also a "joyner", and m. to Esther, lived nearby, in the Stowage (Deptford). Still another Kell lived in Deptford at this time, Henry, a blacksmith in New Street. It is likely all three men were brothers.

So all of William's sons and William himself eventually left Deptford! Charles came to live nearby in Lewisham; John, Thomas, Henry moved to Sheerness; and William, Jr. and Joseph relocated to Rotherhithe. Opportunities for work had badly deteriorated in Deptford by the early 1800's (see Chapter 6). How our family's history has been determined by economic necessity!

The women

As all genealogists know, female children are very difficult to trace, because they usually m., losing their maiden name. What became of William and Hannah's daughter Elizabeth, is not known. However, Letitia, their second to youngest daughter, we know lived to adulthood, and apparently did not m. She was bur. July 23, 1837, age 29, in Minster Abbey churchyard, Sheppey.


Thomas Penny

One Thomas Penny, a Quarterman Shipwright who apprenticed at Sheerness and Chatham, commenced work at Sheerness July 11, 1795. He was b. 1766 or 69, stood 5' 8" tall, was of "dark complexion", was said to be a "first class character as workman", and was m. with 2 children. At the time he had put in 8 years 11 mos. of service (apprenticeship journeyman). In 1796 and 1798 he was a quarterman, and his pay rate was "30". His apprentice was Thomas Snook. By the fourth quarter of 1798 Thomas Penny had been promoted to Acting Foreman Afloat at Sheerness. In 1800 he held the same position, now being paid at the rate of "36". John Hammond was his apprentice. This was also the case in 1802. An "ordinary" pay list (ADM 42/1555) for 1802 indicates he was "foreman of the new work", which probably explains why he wasn't on the "extraordinary" pay list for that year. Thomas Snook was now working as a journeyman Shipwright. Thomas Penny may have left Sheerness by 1804, although unfortunately I did not search the "ordinary" records after that time. However, the Royal Kalendar or Annual Register for 1812 states, "Sheerness Yard, Foreman of the New Work, T. Penney, 250 per annum".

I am of the opinion that this Thomas was the son of our John Penny (see Chapter 3), and that the stated site of his apprenticeship is an error. According to John's Will, our Thomas was residing in Sheerness in 1807 and 1811.

John Penny

One John Penny, shipwright, was present at Sheerness in 1799. He was age 36, had entered June 15, 1799 and had "16 yrs 7 mos. whole service (including his apprenticeship), and his apprenticeship was served at Deptford. He was 5' 9" or 5' 10-1/2" tall, "dark", was married and had three children, and was living in Sheerness (ADM 106/3625). In 1800 John was serving at a pay rate of "25", and William Tucker was his apprentice. On May 23, 1801 John was "dismissed from Sheerness Dockyard, because of (the) Navy Board".

In my opinion this John Penny is our John's eldest son, because the presumed b. date and place of apprenticeship are consistent with those of John II (see Chapter 3). In 1807 John Penney II was residing in Deptford, while in 1811 he had removed to Rotherhithe.

John Penny

A second John Penny appears at Sheerness in the third quarter of 1802. He was an apprentice to William Hadlow, Sub-quarterman Shipwright, and at this time was serving at the pay rate of "14". In 1804 he was still "servant" to Wm. Hadlow, now a Quarterman. By the fourth quarter Mr. Hadlow had d., so John became "servant to the executor of William Hadlow late Quarterman". About this time the spelling of John's surname was changed to "Penney". He continued serving the executor, and in 1807 his wages were paid "to Robert Smith for the widow Elizabeth executor". In 1810 John Penney was 23 years old and had finished his apprenticeship. Though there is no supporting evidence, I believe this John Penny (Penney) was either our John or Thomas' (above) son.

Thomas Penney

Also residing on Sheppey was Thomas Penney (or Penny), who had m. Mary Marchant-Castell (or Martin, Merchant, Marchant), April 21, 1778 (date correct?), at Minster Abbey Church. They had four children whom we definitely know of: Thomas, bp. April 19, 1797; William, bp. April 20, 1799; George Farrant, bp. Dec. 7, 1801; and Jane Elizabeth, bp. March 26, 1804. All were bp. at Sheerness Dockyard Chapel. Whether this Thomas was related to the Thomas or John above, is unknown.

William, Thomas and Mary's second son, d. in 1834. George Farrant Penney, their third son, became a shipwright and storekeeper in ordnance at Sheerness. He and his wife Mary Ann had three sons, one of which, George Farrant II, later reached positions of considerable authority in the Dockyards at Sheerness and at Chatham (Senior Foreman, 1869). John Merchant (or Marchant) Penney, a shipwright at Sheerness, who m. Susan (or Susannah), may have been an elder son of Thomas, as he was b. about 1790. He had many children, but after his d. in 1833, Susan living in Sheerness was variously described as a pauper, lodging house keeper, and boarder.


In the fourth quarter of 1796 I noted at Sheerness the name of William Shrubsole, a master mastmaker (pay rate of 36) and the locally famous lay Congregational preacher. His grave and monument are only a few feet from the door of Minster Abbey Church.



4A. Marriage entry in parish register, William Penney and Hannah Scarnell, 1792, St. Margarets, Lee; Greater London Record Office, London.

4B. St. Margaret's, Lee, the "old church", from Wood (1986).

4C. Death certificate, William Penney, 1840; St. Catherines House, London.

4D. Burial entry in parish register, William Penney, 1840, Minster, Sheppey; Kent County Records Office, Maidstone, Kent.

4E. Death certificate, Hannah Penney, 1852; St. Catherines House, London.

4F. From Pay Lists, Sheerness Dockyard, 1800, Thomas Penny (ADM 42/1688); Public Record Office, Kew, London.

4G. From Pay Lists, Sheerness Dockyard, 1800, John Penny (ADM 42/1688); Public Record Office, Kew, London.

4H. Marriage entry in parish register, Henry Taylor Penney and Ann Whatley, 1851, St. Mary, Rotherhithe; Greater London Record Office, London.

4I. Indenture certificate, 1861, James Penney; from Ronald J. Penney, Margate, Kent (1980).

4J. Birth certificate, Joseph James Penney, 1877; St. Catherines House, London

Note: an abbreviated version of this chapter was published in the journal of the North West Kent Family History Society, March, 1986 (pg. 13-15).

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