The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Philip Wagstaff – 1840-1922 and Ada Mosley (his wife) 1843-1908

Grave Number 262

Philip was born in Leighton Buzzard 29 August 1840 to Philip Wynter Wagstaff and Sarah nee Hopkins. He was their third child and eldest son. His father was a well-respected doctor and surgeon who had taken over his own fathers’ doctor practice in Leighton Buzzard (1). Whilst Dr Wagstaff was an orthodox physician he also practiced Mesmerism and was an advocate of homeopathy (2).

Philip’s parents had four further children and then in June 1848 Philip’s mother, Sarah, died aged 36 years. The following year his father married Eliza Hetty Hall in the Swedenborg Church in London, the couple went on to have 10 children. In total Philip had 6 siblings and 10 half brothers and sisters. The family lived in 27 Church Square, Leighton Buzzard. Whilst Philips father was a long serving doctor his step mother Eliza was a practicing clairvoyant medium, nurse, a phrenologist, and a lay homeopath. She had built a name for herself in this field and her client base included many familiar names from the 19th century, such as David Jones, William Forbes LawrieEdward Robert Lytton Bulwer Lytton (son of Edward Bulwer Lytton), Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin and Rose La Touche, Joan Severn, John Russell 1st Earl Russell and his wife Katharine Louisa Russell Viscountess AmberleyWilliam Francis Cowper Temple 1st Baron Mount Temple and his family, Paulina Jermyn Trevelyan, and Constance Lloyd Wilde. (3)

Little is known of Philip’s education and early adult years. He had certainly moved from his father’s home by 1861. He may well have already moved to India, as he cannot be located in the census for that year. We know that he was appointed to a position with the East Indian Railway company on 16 Mar 1865. (4)  This was most likely as an engineer. The East Indian Railway Company introduced railways to eastern and northern India. The company was established 1 June 1845 in London by a deed of settlement with a capital of £4,000,000, largely raised in London

On the 31 Aug 1876 he married Ada Mosley at Camden Road. (5) We do not know how they met but Philip and Ada were both Swedenborgian and married in a Swedenborgian church. (6) In 1881 Philip’s half sister Ellen Eliza married Ada’s brother Ernest Mosley, they were also both Swedenborgian. Ada was the daughter of Richard Mosley a Jeweller and pen maker in Hatton Garden. (7)

Ada moved to Calcutta where Philip was based and their first child Cyril Mosley Wagstaff was born there on 5 Mar 1878.

We know that Philip worked with Sir Bradford Leslie on the Jubilee Bridge, where he is listed as one of the assistant engineers. (8) The bridge ran between Naihati and Bandel in West Bengal, India. It provided an important connection between the Garifa and Hooghly Ghat stations. It served the railway for 129 year until it was decommissioned in 2016.

Philip went on to become the secretary to the Agent in 1878 a position he held until he retired in 1900, aged 60. (9) In 1880 he was listed as one of the highest paid employees of the East India railway. Of the 1480 names listed only 29 earned more than 800 rupees a month. He was listed as “Agents office Calcutta 1000 Rs plus 200 personal allowance” (10).

In 1894 Philip’s father died aged 83. He had served as a doctor for over 50 years and had recently passed on his practice to his son Ernest H Wagstaff.

Philip and Ada had a further three children: Dorothy Margaret born 1880 in Calcutta, Lewis Cecil born 23 Jan 1882 at Ada’s Mothers house in Islington and Marjorie Edith born 1884 in Calcutta. By 1891 Ada had returned to England with her four children and was living in Kitsbury Road, Berkhamsted. It is possible that she wanted the children to be educated in England and rather than sending them to boarding school she moved back with them. On the 1901 census the house is named as “Blendworth” a large Victorian Villa of 11 rooms at the end of Kitsbury Terrace. Philip has now retired and was living there with his wife and two daughters, they have two female domestic servants.

Ada died 1908 aged 65 and by the time of the 1911 census Philip was recorded as a widow, still living at ‘Blendworth’ with his two daughters. His youngest daughter Marjorie was following in the family occupation as a medical student.

Philip died on 28 January 1922, the probate records of 16 march that year show he left £14,779 9s 3d.

Philip and Ada’s memorial in Rectory Lane Cemetery is rather unusual. It shows two figures kneeling at the feet of Jesus. We know that they both followed the New Church (or Swedenborgian Church).  One of their key beliefs is that God would replace the traditional Christian Church, establishing a ‘New Church’ which would  worship God in one person as Jesus Christ. Perhaps their headstone represents that belief.

Their children all moved away from Berkhamsted:

  • Cyril Mosley Wagstaff Major General 1878 – 1934 – was educated at the United Services College and was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1897. He served in the North West Frontier of India and in the First World War with the Australian Army and is credited with creating the term ANZAC. He was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath, the Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George, The Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire and the Distinguished Service Order. He reached the rank of Major General and was the commander of the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich.
  • Dorothy Margaret Wagstaff 1880 – 1940 – Dorothy never married and was living at 99 Tuffnell Park in 1939. She died on 12 Nov 1940 aged 60 and is listed on the Commonwealth War Grave site as a civilian casualty of WW2. She was injured at her home by a High Explosive Bomb and died the same day at the Royal Northern Hospital.
  • Lewis Cecil Wagstaff 1882 to 1951- Also joined the army and reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Army. He served as a Major in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia in WW1.
  • Marjorie Edith Wagstaff 1884 – 1948 (passed medical examination in June 1903 and commenced studies at the London Medical School 2 Oct 1903 – UK Medical and Dental Students register Ancestry) Married Rowland Waters Rix Q1 1914 Berkhamsted. Rowland became a general medical Practitioner and by 1939 Marjorie was listed as a housewife.


  1. Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette 23 January 1894 – page 5
  2. The Zoist: a journal of cerebral physiology and mesmerism, Volume 9 – H Baillie 1852 page 19-25. Accessed 10 Aug 2018.
  5. Homeward mail from India 4 Sept 1876 – Find my past and England & Wales marriages Philip Wagstaff to Ada Mosley Q3 1876 Islington Vol 1 B Page 652
  6. Information supplied by Annie Wagstaff, Philip and Ada’s great great granddaughter.
  7. For detailed information on the Mosley family please read the attached link.

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