Frederick WilliamTolcher 1869-1901
and Henrietta Tolcher b 1873
Frederick William Tolcher was born in Salcombe Devon on 8th March 1869. He was the son of Adams
Hannaford Tolcher, a sea captain who sailed from the West Country to the Mediterranean and Portugal in
the fresh fruit trade. His mother was Elizabeth Hosking Tolcher (nee Lidstone), also from South Hams in
They had eight children, four boys and four girls, but the two eldest boys (William Adams and Frederick
Hannaford) died in infancy.
Unlike their Father neither of the boys went into the seafaring trade, Albert became a builder in North
London, and Frederick became a Drapers assistant. He is variously described as Draper's assistant and
Drapery Manager in various documents, marriage certificates and birth certificates.
He married a Henrietta Dawson on the 8th June 1892 in Bristol. They had four (possibly five) children. Iris
Margaret (9th Jan 1893) born in Camelford in Cornwall but registered in Bitton Gloucestershire (now
Keynsham in modern Bristol), suggesting that Frederick William was working in the area when he met
Henrietta, and also that she must have been pregnant when they got married. He is described on the birth
certificate as a linen draper's manager. Their second child is also born in Camelford Henrietta Mary on 17th
Feb 1894. She died in infancy on 1st August 1894 in Wooburn Town Buckinghamshire. Here Frederick is
described as Drapery Manager. On 2nd Sept 1896 my grandfather Leslie Stephen Campbell Tolcher was
born in Camelford again. On 3rd January 1897 his brother Cecil Robert Tolcher was born in Rickmansworth
Hertfordshire. He was later killed in action Merville France 1st Mar 1917.
Henrietta was born in Leith (Edinburgh) on 1st March 1873. Her mother was a Margaret Paton of whom I
have no records. It is possible that she was either from Aberdeen or from Edinburgh, in any event her
husband Robert Campbell Dawson was born in Aberdeen 3rd Sept 1848. He became an engineer and seems
to have moved to Edinburgh and later to Bristol where he worked as a millwright and engineer. They had
four children born in Edinburgh, Henreitta, Alexander, Robert Campbell and Mary E. They lived at Station
Road, Bitton - Oldland, Gloucestershire. Bitton -Oldland is not a place but two places now part of modern
Frederick and Henrietta have a chequered and colourful story.
On the 31st Dec 1901 Frederick William died in Plymouth at the age of 32 from cerebral meningitis. He was
at the time of the 1901 census (April 1901) living in Plymouth as a 'single man' at 79 Clifton Place Plymouth.
The death is registered by his uncle William Hannaford Tolcher from Kingsbridge. Frederick's father had
died almost exactly three years before. The three children lived with their widowed maternal grandmother in
Salcombe Devon. Frederick was buried at Shadycombe Road cemetery in Salcombe Devon, in a grave which
also contains his mother and a commemoration of his father who died in Portugal. Where was Henrietta??
This mystery involved two years of unravelling and only when the 1901 census went on line was I able to find
I discovered that she re-married on 22nd February 1902 - less than two months after her husband's death, to
a Joseph Squire Morse. He was the son of a jeweller and watchmaker in Watford Hertfordshire, and was
also a watchmaker. One of the wedding witnesses was her brother (or her father) Robert Campbell Dawson
and another L S Dawson, so clearly the Dawson's approved of her new match even if the Tolcher's may not.
So where were they in the 1901 census. I found them eventually living as man and wife in rented rooms in
Hampstead North London. They were clearly intent on not being traced as they were recorded as 'Male
Morse' and 'Female Morse'. Henrietta was described born in Croxley Green Hertfordshire which is a
suburb of Watford today but was then a small village. She had also given a false age. Joseph however was
described correctly as a watchmaker.
The give away was that they had with them an 18-month-old child described as their 'nephew', one
Alexander James Tolcher. I got his birth certificate. He was recorded as the child of Henrietta and
Frederick born on 20th Sept 1899. He was registered as born in Croxley Green, Rickmansworth
Why did they have Alexander with them but had left three other small children in Salcombe? Why were they
hiding away in April 1901? Clearly she had run off with Joseph Morse and I believe that Alexander was
probably really Joseph's child. You can picture the Tolcher's of Devon looking for her so she had to hide
away with her new lover.
Frederick's death was convenient, but not suspicious. Eventually their mother takes the other three children
back. The evidence that the family settled in the London area is that Cecil Robert joined a London
Regiment not a Devon one, and clearly did not know his Devon background as he gave his place of birth as
The reasons for the break up of the marriage and Henrietta's running off with another, much younger, man
can only be the cause of speculation but at the time it must have scandalised the families. The Morse's were
a well-established business family in Watford High Street and Joseph was the eldest son.
Elizabeth Tolcher would obviously have to explain why the three children were not living with their mother
and father, and later, after Frederick's death why they did return to their mother and her new husband. They
would also have had to explain away a fourth child obviously born before Frederick's death but not living
with the other three. The Dawson's were probably less affected by the scandal and maybe that is why they
were willing to witnesses at the second marriage.
Camelford Cornwall 1895
Rickmansworth Hertfordshire 1897
Wooburn Buckinghamshire 1907
Watford High Street 1921
Croxley Green Hertfordshire
Salcombe Fore Street 1907