The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Underwood and Timson union

Grave Number 49

The Underwood and Timson family share a memorial – with an inscription either side.  What was their relationship?

Timson inscription

Underwood inscription










The Underwood family

Samuel Cope Underwood appears to have acquired his name from the marriage of his Grandparents Thomas Underwood and Dorothy Cope on 12 November 1774 at St Olave Church, Old Jewry, London.  Thomas and Dorothy then proceeded to have the following children:  Thomas baptised on 23 August 1775 at St Olave, Old Jewry; William baptised on 15 November 1776 at St Olave, Old Jewry; Robert baptised on 28 April 1779 at St Olave, Old Jewry – Samuel’s father; John baptised on 14 May 1788 at Chipping Barnet; Catharine Mary baptised on 7 January 1791 at Chipping Barnet; George Cope baptised on 6 August 1792 at Chipping Barnet.

Its not possible to know when the family moved to Berkhamsted, but Robert and Mary appear to have only had two children both baptised at St Peter’s Berkhamsted: Samuel Cope born on 22January 1811 and baptised on 17 March 1811;Sarah Catharine Cope born on 1 April and baptised on 30 May 1813. Sarah married Daniel Norris on 21st October 1833 at Abbots Langley. Daniel Norris died in 1840. So the widowed and childess Sarah returned home to her parents where she was listed in the 1841 census, along with her uncle George Cope Underwood.

At the time of his daughter’s baptism Robert in 1813 was listed as being a Cordwainer of Great Berkhamsted. In 1839 the Pigot Trade Directory lists both father and son as Berkhamsted tradesmen. Robert was a “Boot and Shoemaker” in the High Street, whilst Samuel was listed as living at Grubs Lane, Berkhamsted with the Trade of “Cooper and Vat maker”.   On 25th January 1844 Robert Underwood made his Last Will and Testament, describing himself as a cordwainer of St Peter’s Berkhamsted.

Despite living in Berkhamsted the family still appears to have retained links in London as Samuel Cope Underwood married Mary Rickard at St Andrew’s Church, Holborn on 19 November 1833.  The result of the marriage was: Elizabeth Anna born at Berkhamsted and baptised at St Peter’s on 31 July 1836; Catharine born on 28 September 1838, baptised on 28 October 1838, but sadly she died on 3 December 1839; Catharine born at Berkhamsted on 19 April 1840 and baptised at St Peter’s on 5 July 1840; Martha born at Berkhamsted and baptised at St Peter’s on 20 April 1845.

The year after Martha’s birth the household suffered a bereavement with the passing of Samuel’s bachelor uncle, George Cope Underwood. Below is his will that shows the beneficiaries to be just Samuel and his sister Sarah, with Samuel also acting as the executor.

In 1851 Samuel and Mary can be found living in Berkhamsted High Street with their three daughters and one live-in apprentice. Samuel was now not merely a cooper he also called himself a brewer.





Before continuing with Samuel Cope Underwood’s life there is an article online concerning Red Lion Yard in Berkhamsted ( It mentions Samuel’s widowed sister, Sarah Catherine Cope who had been living with him in 1841. The article states that’s “In Nov 1872, Sarah Catherine Cope née Underwood, widow of baker William Halsey, was about to marry Henry James Wood, gentleman. Part of the settlement of property on marriage included eleven cottages in Red Lion Yard, situated near and behind two messuages on the High Street (dwelling houses with outbuildings and adjacent land) belonging to Mrs Halsey.2 Seven of the cottages had been erected on garden ground and the other four had been completed out of the stables and wood houses on the property. On the far left of Bill Bailey’s painting, the property known to most of us as Figg’s chemist (now Claire Lloyd Properties) was identified as the oldest known urban jettied building in England.3 Taking the 1839 Berkhamsted parish tithe map as the basis for the layout of the High Street, it has been possible to locate the households in subsequent census records.4 The 1841 census shows William Halsey’s bakery situated opposite St Peter’s church, but by 1851 he had moved closer to the centre of town, to Figg’s. Sarah Halsey continued to run the bakery after William died in 1863.”


From this point onwards there is evidence to suggest that Samuel’s activities went far beyond Berkhamsted. Mary, his wife, died 5th December 1857 and their Headstone states that she was interred at Brompton cemetery. There now seems to be some conflict in the records. The public record office has the marriage of Samuel Cope Underwood to Jane Greenslades in the Marylebone Registration District in the September quarter of 1857 – before Mary’s death. Was this a bigamous marriage or an error on the Headstone?  That Jane was Samuel’s wife in not in any doubt as he was the executor of her will in 1871.

At first sight Samuel and Jane were either missing from the 1861 census or incorrectly enumerated.  The only Samuel and Jane Underwood listed in the 1861 census were living in Hammersmith with a daughter Elizabeth, but Samuel is given as being a joiner from Mitcham.  Just before Jane’s death in 1871, Samuel and Jane were living in Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan with a daughter Elizabeth Greensted. At this point Samuel gave his occupation as being an engineer.

Throughout the 1850’s, 60’s and 1870’s Samuel Cope Underwood is listed in another series of documents – the London Electoral Registers. The earliest entry is actually for 1847, and in every case Samuel is shown as owning freehold houses nos1-8 Jenken’s Row in the Parish of Shoreditch.

In 1875 Samuel was made an executor to a will for the third time. The testator in question being one John Greenslade of Hammersmith, probably the brother of his late wife Jane. Note the link to Hammersmith, this seems to tie in with the 1861 census.  

By 1881 the widowed Samuel had moved once again and was now living in Skidmore Street Old Mile End with his spinster daughter, Martha. A man of many talents, Samuel was enumerated as a retired brewer, whilst his daughter gave her occupation as a School Governess.

In 1882 Samuel Cope Underwood died in Berkhamsted leaving a personal estate of a mere £15. His will was proved by his spinster daughter, Catherine Underwood.

So far there is no link between Samuel Cope Underwood and the Timson family, to find the link you need to look into the records of Samuel’s daughter, Martha.


The Timson family

The Headstone states that “Martha Underwood, their youngest daughter, died 19th September 1891 aged 45. Looking through the National Archives shows that Martha left a will with a considerable personal estate of £358 12s 2d. So finally we find an Underwood/Timson link, as her executor was one Samuel Timson of Great Berkhamsted, vestry clerk.

But why would Martha Underwood, spinster, make Samuel Timson her executor?

Samuel Timson and his family are actually very well documented and their family tree has been posted on line by a couple of his descendants.  Samuel Timson was born 5 February 1832 and baptised on 8 April 1832, the son of John and Mary (nee Rolph) Timson.  John was a gardener from Marsworth. On 1 December 1853 Samuel Timson married Alice Rowland of Alperton in the Parish of Harrow, by banns at Hendon.

The result of this marriage was a family of sixteen children all baptised at St Peters Berkhamsted: Samuel Rowland Timson baptised 11 February 1855;  John Robert Timson baptised 13 July 1856; Alice Charlotte Timson baptised 14 February 1858, she died in 1858; Mary Ellen Timson baptised 6 February 1859; Charles Timson baptised 21 October 1860; Frederick Albert Timson baptised 6 April 1862; Arthur Bernard Timson baptised 24 January 1864; Florence Alice Timson baptised 11 July 1864; Ernest Alfred baptised 12 November 1865; Ada Beatrice Timson baptised 4 August 1867; Florence Alice baptised 11 July 1869; Harold Harvey Timson baptised 5 June 1870; Paulina Jane Rosalie Timson baptised 13 August 1871; Octavius Paul Timson baptised 8 December 1872; Percy Lionel Timson baptised 24 May 1874, he died 1874; Gertrude Lillian Timson baptised 25 July 1875; Ethel Millicent Timson baptised 1 April 1877.

Samuel Timson was Berkhamsted through and through appearing to have never lived anywhere else. In all the censuses he appears as living in Berkhamsted High Street. In 1861 he was a tailor employing two men and two apprentices. In 1871 he was working as a schoolmaster and by 1881 he was a master tailor employing one man and one boy, as well as Parish Clerk and Overseer. In 1881 he still had eight children living at home – Arthur, Ernest, Ada, Florence, Harold, Paulina, Octavius and Ethel, so it is not surprising that his wife required a live-in servant, Selina Redding.

Less than five years later Samuel’s wife Alice died on 30 January 1885 aged 52.   Extract from Bucks Herald, 7th February 1885: On Friday, 30th Jan, after an hour’s illness, the wife of Mr Samuel Timson succumbed to an attack of illness, leaving her husband and thirteen children to mourn their loss.  The family of the Timson’s is the most numerous in Berkhampstead, and much sympathy and concern was manifested at the sad and sudden occurrence. 

So Samuel was now left with a large family his youngest being just 8 years old, what would any respectable pillar of the community do ? He found himself a new wife. And this is the connection on the Headstone. In the December quarter of 1886 Samuel Timson married one Catherine Underwood.

Samuel and Catherine can be seen on the 1891 census in Berkhamsted where Samuel states that he was a “Tailor, Parish Clerk, Vestry Clerk and Insurance Agent”. Catherine never had any children being aged 46 when she got married, but I suspect she was a spinster of means having been executrix to her father’s will, that bought with her no extra mouths to feed and probably not having anymore either – the ideal second wife !! Her sister Martha was living in Berkhamsted and in 1891 was described as “living on her own means” which were sufficient enough for her to employ a nurse and a servant.

Not long after the census Martha died at Berkhamsted making her brother-in-law the sole executor to her will. Samuel himself passed away on 22nd August 1899 leaving Catherine his widow comfortably off as the family not only had Samuel’s personal estate but the recently inherited estate of Catherine’s sister Martha.

Catherine outlived her husband by 14 years as a widow of independent means and died at Berkhamsted on 27 December 1913. The index of wills and administrations held by the Public Record Office states that Catherine was a widow of Stoke Cottage Berkhamsted, and that probate was given to her stepson Samuel Rowland Timson Lieut-Col. Territorials (retired). Her estate was valued at £869 6s 9s.

So the mystery of our Headstone is solved!

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