William and Ada Cox.

This is a copy of a letter written to my father John Humber Cox (snr) by his younger sister Emma Winifred (sent from Port Elizabeth in South Africa). In it, she tells John what she knows of the family story – their father William Cox and their mother Ada Humber. There are also some extra notes about the Humber & Cox families which I have left in to make the letter complete. Really all my own family history but the story might interest other folks. And I have the original Royal Navy records for William listing all the ships he was on and their sizes and history.

Arthur Cox


Dear John,

Now to answer your question to the best of my ability: I did write and tell you a certain amount some years ago, but perhaps you have forgotten.

I think this time I will go quite a way back as far as my memory takes me from what I was told over the years, mostly by our Mum: Dad was not very talkative: just a dear, quiet man.

Did you know that Dad ran away to sea as a young boy (teenager)? He and a cousin … HANSFORD were apprenticed to a relative owning a high class butchery: they ran away together but were caught and taken home: Grandpa Cox said “Very well, If William wants to go to sea, he can go, but he starts at the bottom”: which he did and ended up First class Petty Officer: (I have just remembered that I sent you all his papers years ago). His cousin was entered as a “Middy” and ended up as Captain Hansford. Naturally, they drifted far apart after many years, mostly in the Far East. Dad was invalided out and returned to England a very sick man. He went to work in London and was in not very comfortable lodgings.

I am not aware how he and Mum met up – years before when they were both young they knew each other in Bridport through relatives there. You do know that the two families orginated there – Humber and Cox both from around Bridport. They were married in 1892 at East Ham Old Church: Lived in rooms in London: (Now-a-days would be called a flat): You were born 1893: then tiny William Samuel in 1895 but he only lived five months, which was a mercy as he was very delicate. They eventually moved to East Ham, opposite Grandpa and Grandma Humber – in Mountfield Road : Dad got work at Beckton: All went well for a little while, then he was very ill. The Doctors told them he could not expect to live long in England: all the years in the East had sapped his strength.

With the help of “better off” friends, and through some sort of Society helping Immigrants they came to Port Elizabeth in 1897: They had been promised a wonderful position with a rich man: Dad as a handyman and in charge of the cellars: (He had worked for a big brewery in London at one time), Mum to help with domestic work in the house. Also promised fine accommodation for themselves and you. But, it was all false: they had a terrible time. The man and his wife were aggressive bullies: money but NO breeding whatsoever. He actually boasted of his shady ways of making his wealth. They were too vulnerable, and afraid to break their contract, being honest.

However, one day, the man said something, I do not know what, but it gave them the opening to get away… they packed up at once and left the house. Fortunately they had made the acquaintance of a few people who were able to help a little: went into lodgings for a few days: then found that a certain man was anxious to leave Norman Villa – his wife had died and he did not want to keep up the home: they were able to move in and I think they must have bought over most, if not all, his furniture; linen and crockery they had brought with them, and it did not take them long to get settled. The house belonged to the Kingsleys who lived next door and they proved to be wonderful friend so also some other folk round about. Dad got work on the Railways – mending the huge nets and tarpaulins covering the trucks: Mum had helped all along and now did women’s nursing. But the going was hard and they were, you were not strong and life was not easy for a delicate English child here in those days, with very few Doctors or other help. After a long struggle they yielded to appeals from the Grandparents and Aunt Mary and sent you back to their care. It was a heartbreaking decision. You do know this was never :intended to be permanent but somehow, some way, that what happened; it does not do for us to probe, especially after all this time but there must ,have been a good reason why,

You went in 1899 a few days after your sixth birthday and I was born that November – our sister came in 1904. Before this, in 1902, Mum took me with her back to England; she went to the famous City of London Lying-in-Hospital to take her Midwifery Certificate: have a very dim recollection of being with Aunt Mary: When she returned here Mum was one of the very few fully qualified midwives in the town and had many patients but it was hard work. When our sister was about two we left Norman Villa and moved to another house close by.

Previous to all this Grandpa Henwick had bought Norman Villa from Mr.K. He practically adopted us as part of his own large family: he was Godfather to Edith: (Mr K. was mine). Dad left the Railway and Grandpa Henwick got him work at the same large grocery – merchants where he worked. Eventually we went to live in his house at North End after his family had scattered. That friendship lasted many years: he sold the house (104 Perkin Strest) and we moved to Crawford Street round the comer: there for 36 years until Mum and I were left alone and came here to Joycelyn Court. It is ten years (26th March) since Mum ,went to her well earned rest., I was able to move into this much smaller flat where I comfortably settled and. Thankful for good friends and blessings. I think that it about all the family history I can tell you.


Now about the COX FAMILY in general – I have always understood that the HANSFORD and COX families were closely related: Mum also spoke of Howards but not sure of them.

I think Grandma Cox may have been a Hansford because I do know that one son, John, married Ellen Hansford and they were cousins. AUNT SUSAN was an elder daughter married to Bowden Collins: you could remember him as he used to visit 25 Mountfield Road. In 1911, Mum, Edith and I stayed with Aunt S. in Bridport. Uncle B. was a traveller so away from home a great deal. I loved Auntie S. but not him though I never said as much to her.

Aunt Ellen also had a sister Susan who was blind: we were told to call her “Aunt” out of respect. She lived with Aunt E. and was a wonderful person. We also stayed at Vann Farm with them: Uncle John had died some time before.

I told you that young Fred Cox – grandson to Aunt Ellen – is interested in the family history and doing some research-. I have told him what I know and have had another interesting letter from his mother, Dorothy: will be writing to them again.

This is a good place to end, hoping you will not be too tired after reading such a long epistle. I shall be glad to have your reactions some-time.

 Much love,

Your loving old sister

 Emma Winifred

 P.S.I wonder very much if any of this will be of interest to your family? You must please yourself what you do with it after reading.


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