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One of my maternal great-grandmothers was Annie Sophia Wells (1870-1952). She was born at Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, the second child of Thomas Wells (1841-94) and Emma WOOD (1841-1908). Although born in Surrey she probably moved to Brighton, Sussex by the time she was a few months old.

Annie (1870-1952) married Edward OLLIVER (1873-1924) at St Lukes, Brighton, in 1902. They had four children at Brighton. In the 1901 census Annie was with her widowed mother in Newmarket Road, Brighton at the address where her first son was born about 18 months later. With them was Annie's niece Emily CLOUT (see below) but Emily's surname is incorrectly recorded as WELLS. I've seen the same mistake with different grandchildren elsewhere in other censuses. I guess the enumerators were careless about requesting the surname when the occupiers said that a child with them was their grandchild. They seem to have just assumed the surname was the same as the informer.

Thomas Wells (1841-94) and Emma Wood (1841-1908) married at St James, Croydon, Surrey in 1869. They had a daughter, Mary Jane (1869-?), there before briefly moving to Kingston-upon-Thames. Thomas was a bricklayer so he may have had to move wherever there was work. I tried looking for them in the 1871 census at Kingston or Brighton without success, a friend eventually found they were at Rusper in Sussex, nearby were Thomas's brother George and their mother Sophia. Thomas and family moved to Brighton by 1872 where they had three sons. With Wells being such a common name I have been unable to track any of their sons, they were: William James (born 1873), Tom (1875) and George (1877). George probably died as a child. Mary Jane married Arthur CLOUT at Brighton in 1891, they had four children at Brighton by 1901, the first was Emily Sophia Clout, presumably named for her grandmother Sophia BOURN. One of the witnesses to Emily's marriage in 1915 was Edward OLLIVER, husband of Mary's sister Annie Sophia. Arthur Clout usually appears as Arthur but his marriage entry was later altered to Alfred, no explanation is available. I am in contact with three CLOUT researchers and all agree that Arthur was Arthur!

Emma Wells (née WOOD) (1841-1908) has the distinction of being my only direct ancestor so far to have two entries in one census (I do have about eight other people with double entries in various censuses). In 1891 she appears with her husband Thomas at home in Lynton Street, Brighton and at the home of Walter CLARK in Rose Hill Terrace, Brighton. In her home entry her occupation is given as Monthly Nurse, in the other as Nurse, domestic. Presumably Walter Clark was her employer, she may have been looking after his widowed mother-in-law Ann ALDWICK, aged 67. But where did Emma actually spend census night?!

Thomas Wells (1841-94) was the youngest child of James Wells (1786-1862) and Sophia BOURN (1800-72). Thomas was born at Warminghurst in June 1841 but not baptised there until April 1842. Warminghurst is a very small place near to Washington in West Sussex so he often said he was born at Washington. Thomas had six older siblings but may well have been his mother's favourite as he was named after Sophia's father. My great-grandmother, Annie Sophia Wells, was named for her grandmother and Sophia may have lived with Thomas and his family when they moved to Brighton. Sophia's death at Brighton was registered by her daughter-in-law Emma.

James Wells (1786-1862) married Sophia Bourn in her home village of Balcombe in 1826. Their first known child, William, was born and baptised at Balcombe, the second, John, was also born at Balcombe but baptised at Washington, the rest were baptised at Washington or Warminghurst. Four of the other children of James and Sophia are known to have married and had children.
John Wells (1829-?) married Susan LILLYWHITE at Washington in 1857. John and Susan had five children at Washington and Ashington before moving to Broadwater (Worthing) where they had three more. Their known children were: George, William, Agnes, James, Sarah, John, Thomas, Annie. John and Susan were both still alive at Broadwater in 1901 and had Thomas and a grandson, Charles aged 17, with them. I don't know Charles's parents as I have failed to find any of the family at Broadwater in 1891. George (born 1857) is known to have married and was at Petworth in 1901 with his wife Emma Elizabeth [HOBDEN] and three children: Christopher, Emma and Herbert. Charles may also have been theirs. William (born 1858) is known to have married. He and his wife Emily were at Broadwater in 1901 with their daughter Florence.
Mary (1830-1902) married James GOLDS (1829-1921) and they had nine children at Washington. James and Mary originally married in "a hell-fire chapel" at Brighton in 1851 but later discovered that such marriages were not legal so they re-married at Brighton on 5th November 1869 while pretending to have gone there for the Bonfire Night celebrations.
Henry Wells (1838-?) married Elizabeth BROWNE at Shipley in 1861, they had seven children in the area and were living at Ashington in 1881. Henry and Elizabeth's children were: Jacob, Deborah, Ellen, Jane, Rose, James and Sarah. Jacob died aged 5, it's not known what became of the others.
George (1835-?) might appear at Greenwich, Kent in the 1881 census but the age and birthplace don't quite agree. That George was married to Mary Ann and had 3 children: George, William and Ann. If this was the correct George he was married to his second wife by then. His first was Jane HILLMAN, they married in 1864 and had Mary Jane baptised at Rusper, Sussex in 1866. Jane died in 1867, probably at Rusper as George, his daughter and his mother Sophia were there in 1871. Also near them at Rusper then were George's brother Thomas and his young family.
The other children of James and Sophia were William and James. William (1827-?) had not married by 1851, his fate is not known. James died before he reached one year.

The parentage of James Wells (1786-1862) was in doubt until the index to the 1851 Brighton census was published by the Sussex Family History Group. I had previously been given a choice of two; one was baptised at Warminghurst in 1788, the son of Peter (1754-1829) and Hannah [HILL] (1750?-1834). The other was baptised at Washington in 1786, the son of paupers James and Sarah Wells. My James gave very inconsistent ages at the censuses but this was probably because his wife was much younger than he was. These made it look as if he was more likely to have been born in 1788 but he always said he was born at Washington. My James lived at Washington as did Peter Wells junior (1792-1878), son of Peter and Hannah, most people assumed that James was the brother of Peter junior. This theory was disproved when I found the James Wells born at Warminghurst in 1788 was living at Brighton in 1851. This James married Elizabeth SCUTT at Thakeham in 1819 and Aaron, another son of Peter and Hannah, was a witness. Aaron had married Sarah SCUTT at Thakeham in 1807.

My James Wells (1786-1862) was thus the son of James and Sarah. Sarah was probably Sarah STENNING who married James Wells at Shipley in 1774. It's difficult to research this couple as there is no trace on the IGI of them having had any other children. They also aren't buried at Washington, Shipley has not yet been checked. It's possible that they both died young and my James was looked after by relatives at Washington.

This is totally unchecked but I suspect that the James Wells who married Sarah Stenning was a brother of the Peter Wells (1754-1829) who married Hannah HILL. This would make the James Wells junior and Peter Wells junior who lived at Washington first cousins. One of Peter and Hannah's daughters was Ann Wells (1786-1833) who married William DOWNER (1774-1839) in 1804. One of William and Ann's great-grandsons George Downer (1849-1974) married Annie Lyle DENNETT (1866-1960) who was the sister of my ancestor Emily Louise DENNETT.

My unproven ancestor, James Wells senior (1750-?), was the son of Robert and Anne who had children at Washington and Ashington. Robert's origins are not known but it is believed that he may have come from the Stopham area.

I have a lot of information about the Wells families in the Washington area and also some about those at Brighton in the 19th century. I am in contact with several other Wells researchers who have Wells families at Brighton and in West Sussex.
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