The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Norris, Frederick (1856/7 – 1940) and Frances Mary Elizabeth (1863 – 1950)

Grave Number 1023

Frances Mary Elizabeth Atkins was born on 17th September 1863 at Yardly Gobion, the younger child of John Webb Atkins and Mary Ann Atkins (nee Beard). She lived until a young adult in Aberdare , Glamorganshire. On the death of her father in 1882 the family moved back to Yardly Gobion. At some point she moved to Berkhamsted and there she met Frederick Norris and they eventually married at St Peters Church, on 8th September 1886.

Fred and Frances in 1887

Fred was a native of Frithsden and has the distinction of being the first baby to be Christened at Potten End Church.  From the age of 13 he worked as an iron-worker for Messrs Woods of Berkhamsted.  He was also a keen bell ringer and hand bell ringer at St Peters Church.

Handbell ringers (Fred third from left)

On 27th December 1886 Frances gave birth to their first daughter Mabel Elizabeth. By 1891 Fred, Frances and Mabel, plus Frances’ widowed mother Mary Ann Atkins, were living at 17 Montague Road Berkhamsted. By 1901 Fred and Frances had three more daughters who survived into adulthood (Millicent, Daisy and Thirza) and two sons who didn’t (Frederick and Gordon). His parents, Daniel and Ann Norris were also living in that tiny house. 

The Norris family

Millicent, Mabel, Daisy and Thirza Norris

In the 1950s I remember it well as a child. Have no idea how so many could live there. Were just 2 smallish downstairs rooms and a scullery  and 2 bedrooms and 1 small room upstairs . Was a pan toilet in an out house. Was a gas range  & a stone sink in the scullery. No idea how washing was done and dried as don’t remember there being any hot water system.  I remember it as a cold house.   It had a long narrow garden.

Another daughter, Aunt Violet, was also born  in 1905.  Mabel married Gilbert Leah at St Peters Church in 1904. They later became canal lock keepers at Far Cotton, Near Northampton.

Fred visiting his lock-keeper daughter Mabel at Far Cotton Lock

The Norris family were at the centre of Berkhamsted life, as can be seen in this photograph of Fred, Frances and Vi in Berkhamsted High Street circa 1911.

Coming out of church

Daisy married  John William Bellis from this house in 1914.  Thirza married Bertrand John Bellamy and with daughter Doris, lived  across the road at 14 Montague Road. Millicent married  Nimrod Baker and lived in Ashley Green.  Violet married James Fisher and lived in Edgeware.

Frederick Norris died at the age of 84 on 14th April 1940.  He had worked up till the age of 75 at Woods and was bellringing for most of that time.  The Gazette at the time reports: “It was in the bell-ringing world that he was best known, as for 65 years he had been a member of the team at the Parish Church of St Peter, Berkhamsted, and bore a wonderful record for punctuality and keenness to duty.  Up to the time of his death he was the Leader of the Team and was actually ringing at the Parish Church twelve weeks ago.  He was intensely proud of the record that for 64 years he had tolled-in for the Good Friday services, and that in all his long service with the ringers he had missed only one end of the year ringing.  A cheery man, he was liked by all who knew him in both chuch and town life.

Fred Norris (far left) rang the bells at St Peters for 65 years

St Peters Handbell Ringers (Fred second from right)

His widow, Frances, lived on for another ten years, dying at the age of  87  on 27th June 1950.   At that time Fred and Frances left five married daughters, 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.


Researched by Margaret Morters, NSW Australia,    Gt. Gt. Granddaughter of  John Webb Atkins, father of Frances Mary Elizabeth Atkins

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