John Edward Foss Ford Ambrotypes

Still seems strange this year that I haven’t rummaged around in old boxes and stood at stalls sifting through dozens of old photos at Car Boots, Fleamarkets and Antique Fairs so thank goodness for online sellers!

I often now have a quick peek through new listings on EBay during the evening and one evening back in May I spotted this wonderful unframed Ambrotype, put a watch on it and continued looking through the other old photos of different sorts on offer, not finding anything else I liked, I took a better look at this young man and was astonished when I went through the photos on the listing that it was written on and named ‘My Father John Edward Foss Ford

I immediately started a quick family tree for him. A couple of weeks later going on the information Mark the seller very kindly gave me “came from a friend Peter Holloway from Acton in London” I was able to confirm that I did indeed have the correct family.

The following evening I had looked to see what else the seller had for sale, and was amazed to see a framed Ambrotype of the same person but as a child this time and what was just lovely was that the writing on the back had been done by his child again as it says ‘John Edward Foss Ford my Father’ I was determined I was going to have these two but I had a week to wait before the auction ended, but of course it was well worth the wait and was great when I finally received them both!

Back to building up the family tree, it wasn’t until later that second evening that I looked a little closer at the lady that John had married, her name was Elizabeth Ellen Cox and they had married 27 Feb 1865 at St John’s Church in Hampstead, Middlesex.

Stunning St John’s Parish Church, Hampstead, found this image on Visit London website
John’s occupation was a Grocer at the time of his marriage

I found them in the 1871 census and I looked to see where they were both born and I just couldn’t believe what I saw, Elizabeth was born in Beaminster, Dorset! For those of you that don’t know that’s exactly where I live. What are the odds of that I wonder, that an old photo that I felt so drawn to, had a strong connection to the small town where I live in Dorset.

As I have gradually researched more of this family I have found that not only did Elizabeth Ellen and her family live in Fleet Street just around the corner to me in the 1841 census when she was growing up, but generations of her family lived and worked in and around Beaminster. Her father Thomas Cox was a Tailor, as stated on their marriage certificate. He and his wife Elizabeth(Gerrard) had married on 26 February 1826 in Evershot, Dorset where Elizabeth‘s family came from, it’s a village about 7 miles from Beaminster, the second highest village in Dorset and the source of the River Frome.

Thomas and Elizabeth had six children, three boys and three girls, Elizabeth Ellen was one of Twin girls, the other being Ann, who were born to the couple either just at the end of 1839 or the beginning of 1840, they were baptised together at St Mary’s Church, Beaminster on the 18th January 1840. Ann sadly died at around eight months old, buried in Beaminster on the 4 October 1840, described as an infant. The other girl was Susan born to the couple in about April 1828, unfortunately I just haven’t been able to confirm for sure what happened to her yet, the last confirmed record is the 1841 census when she was with her family in Beaminster. In 1850 tragedy struck the family and life for them all changed drastically…….Mum Elizabeth had died in Beaminster in July 1850.

1851. The three sons had all moved to London with father Thomas, John the eldest born in 1826 was a Tailor like his father, married Grace Roberts Daniel on 25 Aug 1852, then later in life he became the Landlord and Publican of the Ship Tavern, Ship Tavern, Little Turnstile/Princess Street, St Giles in the Field, London (Below)

By Edwardx – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The couple’s son Thomas was born in 1829 also following his father being a Tailor in London, he married Emily Matilda Holloway around 1859 and stayed in London all his life. The youngest boy of the family was Daniel first an errand boy in London, then a Clerk and then coming back to Bradpole, Dorset in his later years with his wife Emma (Foulger)and children.

Elizabeth Ellen also moved out of Beaminster to live in London with her family when she was around ten years old and by the time of the 1851 census she is a Niece living with her Mum’s brother James Gerrard (also born in Evershot)and his wife Amy, James was a Cooper Journeyman. Elizabeth Ellen‘s father Thomas who was described as a Master Tailor in the 1851 census, employing 2 men, his sons John and Thomas were those two men and also living with him. The youngest boy of the family also living with Thomas was Daniel aged 14 he was an errand boy. 1851 Locations: Thomas and his sons lived at 24 Camera Place, Chelsea about 7 miles away from Elizabeth who was with her uncle living at no 6 Anchor and Hope Alley. See image below from the very wonderful London Picture Archive, a great resource:

1904 Image. The crossroads where Red Lion Street, Tench Street and Anchor and Hope Alley meet.

The names of the streets have changed, so today the crossroads is where Tench Street, Watts Street and Reardon Street meet.

By the time of the 1861 census Elizabeth Ellen was described as a Servant. But she was a servant living at the home of a John Edwards who was a Grocer and Wine Merchant. I think that she is highly likely to have met John Edward Foss Ford via the Shop in the household she lived. John Edward F F was described as a Tea Dealer/Grocer on the various records. Elizabeth Ellen was known as Ellen in the household and on the 1861 census so as not to cause confusion as there was another servant in the household called Elizabeth, easier to save confusion I think. Or maybe she was known as Ellen, on her baptism it says Ellen Elizabeth.

John Edward Foss Ford began his life on the 6 June 1841 in Marylebone, London the son of Mary Ann Chapple Foss 1811-1885 (Note: Mary Ann’s great grandmother was called Elizabeth Chappell born abt 1688 in Devon) and Robert Ford 1809-1886 who in the various census records is described as an Oilman: ‘One who deals in oils; one who is engaged in the business of producing or of selling oil. One who sold oil specifically used for lamps. A retailer who sells vegetable oils, and food preserved in oil. A person who sold the oil for lamps. Also a Colourman: Preparer and seller of colours. Mixed the dyes in the textile trade and also assistant to a house painter‘ Info found at

Both of John’s parents were born in Devon, Mary in Diptford, Devon as many of her ancestors were before and Robert in Dartmouth, Devon, his ancestors came from various villages around Dartmouth too, but they both moved to London and married on 11 April 1839 at St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, London (See image below) At the time of their marriage Robert was described as a Mariner. They lived in areas very near to each other growing up so I’m sure they must have known each other before they moved to London.

We went on a research trip to Diptford in Devon and I’m so glad we did, what a lovely village next to the River Avon and St Mary’s Church didn’t disappoint either as we were lucky enough to find some FOSS family gravestones in the Churchyard. Some could be related to Mary Ann’s family. The Churchyard is very uneven and overgrown. That pathway to the Church door is just beautiful, can you imagine how many people have walked that path. You can’t beat walking in the paths of Ancestors by visiting their villages and Churches and although these people are not my family it was still really lovely to visit the area. In 1870-72 it had a population of 659 with 142 houses.

So far I have found that Robert and Mary Ann had six children…
1)John Edward F F was the eldest born in 1841…..more to come. Then came 2)Clara born in Marylebone about October 1843, she never married and lived with her parents or her siblings in the various census records. In 1911 she was with her brother Robert Ford (a Widower) who was now a Shopkeeper and Clara and sister Emma (both unmarried) are also Shopkeepers with him at no1 Marylebone Street, London. Clara died in May 1921 in Marylebone, London.
3)Robert Ford was next, born on 4 December 1845 in Marylebone, London. In the 1861/71/81 census he is still living with his parents, occupation in the 1881 census is a Warehouseman. Then during the next ten years at some point he is married and also becomes a Widower. 1891 he is head of household, occupation a Dairyman (Milk) has sisters Emma and Clara both unmarried living with him. 1901 finds him as a Drapers Assistant, sister Clara living with him. In 1911 it’s all change again as he is still described as a Widower, Head and Brother to Clara and Emma who were helping in the shop, Robert was a shopkeeper, Fish Fryer. Fish and Chips! Known back then as Fried Fish and Potatoes. The trade started around the 1860’s and by 1910 there were over 25,000 shops in the UK.

4) Emma was fourth born on the 18 March 1848 in Marylebone. She like her sister Clara never married, the family seemed to all look after and kept in close touch. Living together in the census and Emma was with her brother and sister in the 1911 census in the Fried Fish business. I believe she died in April 1916 in Marylebone, it seems the most likely although I cannot be sure without a certificate. 5) Jeremiah Smith Ford was born on 10 August 1850, the birthdate was helpfully on the baptism record. Also on the baptism record it says ‘No Fee’ was this because he wasn’t expected to live? He sadly died aged just 7 months in March of the following year. I found 2 baptism records for Jeremiah but just one says no fee. The second is a copy in another book and this was not added.

Last of the six was 6) Henry William Townsend Ford born on 3 July 1852, now I have found him I think in the 1861 census as a boarder living at 5/6 Douro Cottages. It seems these were formerly called Cochrane Terrace, St Johns Wood, St Marylebone, Middlesex. It definitely looks like a School but I haven’t found any information about it yet. Has anyone come across this place? I would love to add a bit more about it, a private school? As the family didn’t seem to be short of money.

In the 1871 census Henry was living with his family, parents Robert and Mary Ann and siblings Clara, Robert and Emma, it looks like both the boys were Oilmen the same as their father. Henry was 18. Not being able to find out any more about Henry or any records that matched him in the UK I spread the net wider and found him sailing to Canada on the S.S.Medway on 13 April 1871, just 11 days after the census. He arrived in Quebec, Canada on the 4 May 1871, so what happened to him after this? So much more to research……

Henry is the top name on this part of the passenger list, I wonder if he went with friends, there are a lot of young men on the journey.

John Edward Foss Ford A Scholar not a servant as stated on Ancestry. There are Visitors at the address but not his own immediate family. They are William Ford, a retired Silk Mercer(Merchant)b Devon plus Mary Ann Ford(wife) and a child Warwick Ford and Henry Ford. So likely relations on his fathers side as they are Devon born. John Edward FF’s parents Robert and Mary Ann with little sister Emma were staying not too far away in Norwood, Southall Green at the home of Farmer Henry P Baxter, Robert is described as an Uncle to the Head. In 1861 John EFF is living as head of household at 29 Boundary Road, Hampstead sister Clara is living with him. He is described as a Grocer and Shipman.

John EFF and Elizabeth Ellen had just one daughter that I have found and they called her Fossina Emma Ford, she was born on 19 February 1866 a year after they married. So also the question concerning who wrote on the back of these Ambrotypes is answered, it was Fossina Emma.

In 1871 John EFF described as a Tea Dealer lived at 32 Boundary Road, Hampstead with his wife and daughter and a couple of lodgers. 1881 The family are living at 9 Steyne Road, Acton, Middlesex. John EFF a Grocer and they have no lodgers now. Fossina is now 15. 1891 finds Fossina aged 25 and still living with her parents at 9 Steyne Road, John EFF is a Grocer.Then on 21 June 1899 at St Mary’s Church, Acton she married John Willy. John had been born in the small hamlet of Sea, Ilminster, Somerset. As you can see below Tom Willy was a provision merchant, so likely Fossina met him through her fathers Grocer’s business……and so another chapter of the family begins……..

In the 1901 census the couple have an addition of their first child, a daughter aged just 8 months old and called Fossina Ellen. Tom Willy’s occupation is a Grocer and Butterman and his brother Gilbert is living with them as an assistant with the business. There is also an absent lodger mentioned on the census for the family who are living at 100 Churchfield Road, Acton. Meanwhile parents John EFF and Elizabeth Ellen are still living at Steyne Road, Acton but they have now moved to no 17. John EFF is a Grocer and has a shop.

In April 1902 Fossina and Tom had another daughter they called Dorothy Elizabeth. Then on 17 June 1904 another daughter this time called Mary Ford. Sadly John EFF wife Elizabeth Ellen died in August 1905 aged 65, they were living in Acton still at this time.

Then some happy news, Fossina Emma and Tom welcomed a son they called Thomas Ford on 6 April 1906. At sometime before his death on the 9 Jan 1910 John Edward Foss Ford had gone to live with his daughter and her family at 100 Churchfield Road. Happy to be with his four young Grandchildren I hope.

When he died he left £589.6s.8d to his brother Robert Ford a drapers assistant and a chap called Willy Jones a Railway Guard. In today’s money it’s worth £70,751.66, so that answers another question as to the future of his brother Robert and two sisters Clara and Emma. As after John EFF death with the inheritance money Robert obviously invested it in the Fried Fish Shop to give the three of them a secure income for the rest of their lives. I imagine that daughter Fossina Emma had likely been helped by her parents during their lifetime wouldn’t you think.

This is 100 Churchfield Road, Acton now, where John EFF was living at the time of his death with his daughter and family. I imagine it was very different in 1910.
Churchfield Road, Acton about 1910
Market Place, Acton about 1910.

Both of these wonderful old postcard photos I found on the very informative Acton History Website:

The family story continues through John EFF’s Grandchildren , although only two of them had children of their own. First we have 1) Fossina Ellen who married at the age of 20 on 7 May 1921 at St Mary’s, Acton to Harold Holloway who was working in a Leather Factory in the 1939 register. They had one child, a boy Peter Holloway 1926-2014. He was the person who had owned these Ambrotype photos, passed down through his Grandmother Fossina to his mother Fossina and then him, Peter never married nor had any children. So Had left lots of his ‘stuff’ to his friend who I bought from. 2)Dorothy Elizabeth married Stuart Bruce Wallace in 1938, she was 30 years old. The couple I have found via a public tree on Ancestry, no sources attached unfortunately. They had 3 children, a girl born in 1939, then two sons in 1941 and 1944. Stuart had been born in Africa and it looks very much like the three children were born there and likely still living there. I obviously haven’t named them on the family tree as they are most probably still alive. As I understood from Mark the seller, Peter Holloway didn’t have any family, I do wonder if he knew about his three cousins in Africa? We might never know.

Here’s the link to the Public Family Tree I have compiled on Ancestry for this Foss Ford family, if you can help by adding any more information please let me know.

After searching through the records again I was so lucky to find this record below confirming what I had found on the public tree was correct! Dorothy with husband Stuart Bruce Wallace 44 (A Chemist) and 3 children Mary Wallace 13, Alan Bruce Wallace 11, Tom Bruce Wallace 8. Going to stay at 77 Noel Road, Acton, London. This was the home of her brother Thomas and his wife Mary and Mum Fossina was living next door with her daughter Mary, how lovely that Fossina saw all the family from Africa before she died in December 1952.

I was thrilled with more searching to find the family of five on the passenger lists from North Rhodesia to Southampton arriving 22 June 1952.

I will try and research this part of the family another time as I would very much like to find out more and make contact, I will send a message to the owner of the tree and find out what connection they have to this branch first.

3) Mary Ford the third child never married or had any children, it seems her Mum went to live with her in her later years. She lived next door to her brother Thomas 4)Thomas Ford who was also a Grocer had married late in life at aged 45 to Mary Lilian Munton in Ealing, Middlesex in July 1951, I’ve not found any children born to the couple. The siblings lived at no’s 75 and 77 Noel Road, Acton, Middlesex respectively. They both died in 1990 and Thomas’s wife Mary moved to Brighton where she passed away in 1995.

No 75 on the left and 77 Noel Road, Acton on the right. Google Street.

The children father Tom Willy died on 6 May 1944 on a visit to his relations at Sea near Illminster in Somerset, where he was born. His two children Fossina Ellen and Thomas Ford were mentioned in his will. £1555.3s4d. left. His wife Fossina Emma died on 14 December 1952 at the home of her daughter Mary Ford. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I couldn’t resist sharing this photo from Google Street of Meerhay just at the top of Bowgrove Road, Beaminster it’s right up out in the country just out of the centre of Beaminster and it’s where Elizabeth Ellen Cox‘s Grandparents lived here in the 1841/51/61 census records. John Cox and his wife Susanna (Hoskins) were likely living here with several other families. John was a Land Drainer Master of 5 men. His sons Samuel & Johnathan also had the same occupation. Of course we know his eldest son Thomas became a Tailor, Elizabeth Ellen’s father.


These below are some Ambrotypes I didn’t buy…………

Till next time then…………..


  1. Oh what a wonderful post Lynn,and as always your research is just wonderful. Photo’s are stunning especially of the churches, and I love the one of The Ship Tavern. . The photo of the houses in Noel Rd Acton jogged my memory of what houses looked like in England,they are so different where I now live in Crete. Looking forward to your next post Lynn,I always enjoy reading your blog posts about past families. Hope all is well with you,stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

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