Jarman Family History

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Alfred Jarman in his thirties or forties (1870s/1880s)                   


This page covers Alfred John Jarman (also known as Alfred John Shelley Jarman or Alfred Shelley Jarman), son of Robert Jarman, Jun. (1801-1860) from about 1860. His earlier life is covered on Page 6.  Alfred Jarman was a solicitors' clerk and patent agent and lived in London.

Alfred John Jarman was 17 when his father died in the workhouse and was working as a ‘general clerk’.[1]  Four years later, in 1864, Alfred Jarman appears to have decided to emigrate to the United States. In May of that year, he sailed on the SS Atalanta to New York.[2]  This was the maiden voyage of the Atalanta, a newly built steam clipper, and took 17 days.[3]


It was possibly ambition rather than a poor economic situation that persuaded him to emigrate.  He travelled ‘second class’ and paid the considerable sum of £10, 10 shillings.[4]  (A much cheaper ticket was available in ‘steerage’.) It is surprising that he was, at the age of 21, able to pay such an amount.  The US was, at this time, in the latter stages of the Civil War:  the South was to be defeated within the year. Although the country as a whole had been severely impacted by the conflict, New York continued to be a rapidly developing and bustling commercial centre; and, in fact, the war had in itself generated much economic activity in the city. Alfred perhaps thought there was more opportunity for him there than in London.     


It is not known how long he stayed in the US , what he did when he was there or why he did not stay. However, he had returned to England by 1870. At the end of that year, Alfred Jarman married an Irishwoman named Mary Agnes Martin in Liverpool.[5]  He was 27 and she was 19.  He gave his occupation as ‘agent’ and he appears to have been living in a lodging house.[6]  It is possible that he was an ‘agent’ in the shipping industry as Liverpool was one of the world’s biggest ports at the time (and, indeed, there may be a connection with his time in New York in this regard.[7])


Over the next three years the couple frequently moved around the country - at least eight times.  Besides Liverpool, they lived in Birmingham, Islington, Southwark, Windsor, Slough, Eton and Southwark a second time.[8]  The moves were presumably associated with rapid changes in Alfred’s employment. By the end of 1871, Alfred was working for a solicitor as his clerk[9] and he remained in the legal profession (in various forms) for the rest of his life.


Alfred John Jarman and Mary had two children: Robert Alfred Jarman born in 1871[10] and Blanche Jarman (also known as Agnes or Daisy) born in 1873.[11]


Three months after the birth of their daughter, the marriage came to an end.  In March 1874, Alfred Jarman filed a petition for divorce on the grounds of Mary’s adultery with a man called Barrett.[12] Alfred alleged in the petition that the affair had taken place during February of that year. He also claimed that Mary had committed adultery “with diverse persons whose names are unknown to me”. At this time divorce was still considered unusual and scandalous and had only been available through the courts for the last sixteen years. Neither Mary nor Barrett defended or appeared in the case, despite Alfred issuing a sub poena, and the divorce decree was granted in 1877.[13]


Belleville Rd., Battersea today: one of these houses was 'Jarman Villa'


It is not known what happened to Mary; however, the two children stayed with Alfred.  He seems to have become relatively prosperous by the end of the 1870s, and living in a large house in the new suburban district of Battersea.[14]   The area was middle class and his neighbours had similar professional occupations to himself.[15]  The house was named ‘Shelley Villa’ and, about this time, he added “Shelley” as a middle name. His mother had been born in the Essex village of Shelley, and it is possible that there was a sentimental reason for adopting the name. Nevertheless, it is likely that he also did so for reasons of pretension. By 1881, he had  changed the name of his house to ‘Jarman Villa’.[16]


In late 1879, Alfred Jarman married Eleanor Mary Recknell, the daughter of James Recknell a “funeral feathers” maker - later an undertaker - from the East End.[17]   She was 17[18] and he was 36 (although he claimed he was 34 in the marriage certificate).  Their first child, Eleanor Beatrice Jarman (who they called ‘Queenie’), was born 6 months later.[19]   The marriage certificate gives her address as his house.  It seems probable, therefore, that he had employed her as a domestic servant and 'had to' marry after her getting her pregnant.


In 1884, they had a son, Edwin James Shelley Jarman.[20]   However, the following year Queenie and Edwin died within weeks of each other.[21]   The family, by this time, had moved to another large house, but in South Hornsey, a suburb in North London.[22]






Late Victorian Chancery Lane                  

 Around the same time Alfred Jarman set up his own practice as a Patent Agent.[23]  (He had presumably developed some experience in patent law in the firms of solicitors he had been working for.)  His offices were in Chancery Lane, in the centre of ‘legal’ London, although he later moved to the City.[24] 

The work of Patent Agents at this time was booming. The Patent Agent’s job was to prepare and submit applications to the Patent Office for patent protection for his clients’ technological inventions. It therefore required technical or scientific knowledge as well as a legal training.  Britain was a leading centre for technological development in the nineteenth century and this, coupled with two legislative reforms in 1852 and 1883[25] which improved the effectiveness of patent protection, meant that Patent Agents’ services were in heavy demand. The 1883 reform, in particular, dramatically increased work. In that year there were in total 5,993 UK applications (in 1852 there had been 4,256 applications).  By contrast, in 1884, this suddenly rose to 17,110 applications and the number continued to increase in subsequent years.[26]  Alfred may have set up by himself in 1884/5 to take advantage of this boom.


However, by 1887 he appears to be no longer in business.[27] It is not known what happened. About the same time he supposedly lost “all his money” by “standing surety for a man [who] let him down”.  This, together with losing Edwin and Queenie in 1885, was “too much” for him.[28]     He began to drink heavily and neglected his family and work.  His fortunes deteriorated and the family had to move to smaller houses in Brixton and Clapham at the end of the 1880s.[29]  Nevertheless, between 1886 and 1894, Alfred Jarman and Eleanor had four more children:  Ethel Lilian Jarman,[30]  Harold Jarman,[31]  Gordon James Jarman[32] and Jessie Dorothea Jarman.[33]  The change in Alfred was later referred to in a letter Robert Alfred Jarman, his eldest son from his 1st marriage, wrote to his half-brother, Harold Jarman, after their father’s death: “as a youngster I remember some happy days with him, but you had nothing but hard knocks.”[34]



                Eleanor Jarman nee Recknell in her early thirties

By 1896 Eleanor jarman had developed uterine cancer and, in the summer of that year, she died in the Memorial Cottage Hospital, Mildmay Park in North London aged 34. 35(Alfred was 53).  Alfred had failed to visit her while she was in hospital.[36]

After her death, Alfred drank even more heavily and apparently maltreated his children.  Eventually, the situation deteriorated so much that Eleanor’s family, the Recknells, took charge of them and brought them up.[37]   Alfred John Jarman died on 2 October 1904 in Lambeth Workhouse Infirmary of cirrhosis of the liver.[38]  He was 61 years old.


Mary Ann Edis (Polly), his sister-in-law, had apparently said that he “was a perfect gentleman when not drunk”.[39]  On hearing the news of his father’s death, Robert Alfred Jarman wrote to Harold:


“…still with all his faults he was our father and we must forgive him as we hope to be forgiven ourselves, and we must all hope that he is happier now than when he was here with us”.[40]


For Alfred John Jarman’s children and descendants see Page 8.




[1] 1861 census RG 9/237 f.74

[2] Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild, vol.6: www.immigrantships.net/v6/1800v6/atalanta18640528.html

[3]North Atlantic Seaway, by NRP Bonsor, vol. 2 p.597; vol.3 p.954

[4] See note 2 above

[5] 23 December 1870, West Derby and Toxteth Park Register Officer (Marriage Cert.)

[6] From the marriage cert. The address  is 57 Dale St. In the 1871 census (he was not resident by this time) the address is a lodging house.

[7] It is possible that he had gone to New York as a representative of his employer. However, this seems unlikely at the age of 21.

[8] Petition for Divorce in Jarman v. Jarman & Barrett filed 13 March 1874: the National Archives (TNA) J77/143/3157

[9] Birth certificate of his first child (see below) in which he is described as a solicitor’s managing clerk.

[10] 16 December 1871, born 247 Waterloo Road, Southwark (Birth Cert.)

[11] 14 December 1873, born Brocas Street, Eton (Birth Cert.),  although Alfred gave his address as Gardener Cottages, Windsor. Blanche was later referred to as Agnes (e.g “Agnes B.” in the 1881 census record of the family – TNA RG 11/647 f35.) and as Daisy (according to a letter from Robert Alfred to his half-brother Harold dated 14.6.1903 and to  Rose Jarman, Alfred’s daughter-in-law, in a letter dated 15.9.1982)

[12] Jarman v. Jarman & Barrett, petition filed 13 March 1874: TNA J77/143/3157

[13] 26 January 1877 decree nisi; 31 July 1877 decree absolute.

[14] Bellville Road according to Marriage cert. for Alfred’s second marriage in 1879 (see later) and the 1881 Census RG11/647 f.35

[15] 1881 Census as above

[16] 1881 Census as above

[17] 4 November 1879, Battersea Parish Church (Marriage Cert.)

[18] Born 5 August 1862 (Birth Cert.)

[19] Born in May 1880, based on the age at death as given (in years and months) in a surviving memorial card. The memorial card also refers to Elenor Beatrice’s nickname of Queenie.

[20] Born 24 November 1884 (Birth Cert.)

[21] Elenor on 6 February and Edwin on 28 February 1885 – according to a surviving memorial card

[22] 35 Digby Road: according to Edwin’s birth cert.

[23] He appears in Kelly’s London Trade Directory for 1885 and the Post Office London Directory for 1885 and 1887 as “Alfred Shelley Jarman, Patent Agent”. He does not appear  in any directories before or after these years.

[24] Victoria Chambers, 55/56 Chancery Lane in 1885 Kelly’s and Post Office Directories; 118/119 Newgate Street, EC in the 1887 Post Office Directory.

[25] Patent Law Amendment Act 1852 and Patents, Designs and Trade Marks Act, 1883

[26] Historical patent application data from the UK Patent Office website: www.patent.gov.uk

[27] That is, he does not appear in Kelly’s or the Post Office Directories after this date.

[28] Letter from Rose Jarman, Alfred’s daughter in law, dated 15 September 1982.  Rose never met Alfred. The information in this letter appears to have come from Polly Recknell (Alfred’s sister-in-law) who did know him.

[29] Children’s birth records and 1891 census (RG12/416 f.26)

[30] 31 Oct. 1886, Birth Cert.

[31] 18 March 1890, Birth Cert.

[32] 2nd quarter 1892, General Register Office Birth index

[33] 2 Sept. 1894, Baptism Register of St Matthew, Brixton; baptised 28 October 1894.

[34] Letter dated 8 October 1904

[35] 27 June 1896,  Death cert.

[36] Richard Jarman (Alfred’s grandson) had seen a letter from Eleanor to Alfred in which she had begged him to visit. The letter no longer exists.

[37] From memories of his son, Harold Jarman, as told to his grandson, Richard Jarman.  Confirmed in a letter from Robert Alfred to Harold dated 11 July 1902: “I am sorry to hear of the way our father has treated you and Jessie”.

[38] Death certificate

[39] Rose Jarman’s letter referred to above.

[40] Letter dated 18 October 1904.