Robert Wilding Brazenor, baptised 25 April 1818, at St Alkmunds Church, Shrewsbury, Shropshire was the eldest son of Thomas and Ann Brazenor, nee Wilding. By 1823, his family had moved to Oswestry, Shropshire, where most of his siblings were born and raised. In 1841, Robert was living with his parents at Cross Street, Oswestry, where he and his father were saddlers but in the following year Robert was listed in Pigot’s Directory as a bird preserver. He married Sarah Maria Pearce, daughter of John and Margaret Pearce of Penrhos, Montgomeryshire, at Oswestry, in about May 1843. On 6 March 1844, their first child Mary Jane was born at Oswestry. Sometime after they moved to Gloucester, where their son John Brazenor is recorded as having been baptised on 7 January 1847, at St Aldate’s Church. John is pictured above, standing in the doorway of his shop, with his son Albert Edward on the left side.
In 1848, things turned sour for Robert, for on 19 October he was convicted of Larceny by Servant, at Warwick Borough Court and sentenced to six months imprisonment, to be served presumably at Warwick Gaol. He had been taken into custody on 19 August, on a charge of stealing items, the property of Mr Edward Terrill, saddler, of Warwick. The situation went from bad to worse as the last quarter of 1848, saw the death of his wife Sarah, at Oswestry, and also that of his daughter Mary Jane, in Birmingham. It can be surmised that Sarah expired when visiting or staying with her parent’s in Oswestry, during Robert’s imprisonment. The tragedy continued with the death of their daughter Mary Jane, at Birmingham, where she and her brother John were probably being cared for by Robert’s relatives.
Robert Wilding Brazenor married again on 29 July 1850, this time to Rhoda Ferris, at Aston, Warwickshire. They have not been found in the 1851 Census, but Rhoda had been born in about 1826, at Biddestone, in Wiltshire (1861 Census). They evidently moved location quite frequently as their son Charles Ferris was born in Brecon, Wales in 1853; their daughter Sarah Ann in Reading, Berkshire, in 1855; their daughter Rhoda Clara in Shefford, Bedfordshire, in 1858. In the 1861 Census, the family was living at Knights Cottage, St Marys Redcliffe, Bristol, and included Robert, Rhoda, John, Charles, Sarah, Clara and Frederick, who was only three months old and had been born at Worcester. In 1863, their son Harry Ferris was born at Kensignton, London, but by 1868, they were living at Lewes Road, Brighton, Sussex, where Alfred Ferris, their last child, was born.
On 30 March 1868, Robert was declared bankrupt for the first of several times but was discharged on 28 May 1868, so someone or something came to his rescue. It could well be that Robert had been running away from debts when making his tour of the country. Bankruptcy certainly ran in this branch of the Brazenor family as Robert’s father Thomas and brother George were concurrently in bankruptcy in Worcestershire at this time; earlier, Robert’s uncle William had been bankrupt and later Robert’s son Harry was to become bankrupt. That same year his son John, by his first wife Sarah Pearce, married Johannah Avis, daughter of James Avis, farmer, at Kensington, London. Also that year it is recorded that Robert, whilst out shooting with two sons, shot dead a black headed bunting on Brighton Racecourse and sent it to the renowned ornithologist, John Gould, for identification.
In the 1871 Census, Robert and Rhoda were at Brighton, where they were to stay for the remainder of their lives. Robert described himself as a zoological artist and naturalist though in reality he was a taxidermist. Soon after, on 31 August 1871, he became involved in a notorious poisoning case, appearing as a witness for the prosecution. He described himself in court, under oath, as a bird, reptile and fish stuffer of Lewes Road, Brighton. He had worked on the carcass of the poison victim’s pet dog and had recognised from the condition of the carcass that the dog had also been poisoned. The case was reported around the English speaking world.
In 1873, a Mr Brazenor (probably Robert) had attended a meeting of the Brighton & Sussex Natural History and Philosophical Society and distributed specimens for inspection by the members. In 1875, Robert and Rhoda’s daughters Sarah Ann and Rhoda Clara were somewhat belatedly baptised together, at Brighton, their ages being 19 and 17 years, respectively. One can assume that their parents were never in one place long enough to have them baptised when they were younger. By 1878, Robert had reverted to being a saddler as he is listed as such in the Post Office Directory for Sussex. The following year he advertised for sale a collection of circus costumes and also items of saddlery in “as new or better condition”. May be they had been working with a travelling circus, that might explain their frequent relocations.
The family was still at Lewes Road Brighton in 1881, and consisted of Robert, Rhoda, Charles, Sarah, Frederick, Harry and Alfred. Robert and Charles were taxidermists and Sarah and Harry were taxidermist’s assistants. Frederick, perhaps the smart one of the family, had seen the trend, for instead of stuffing dead animals he was stuffing furniture and had become an upholsterer, later having his own carpeting business. In the 1881 Census, an R.C.W. Brazenor (Clara) was boarding in Scarborough, Yorkshire. She was a 22 year old dressmaker, whose place of birth was Shefford, Bedfordshire. That same year her brother Frederick married Phoebe Porter at Brighton. In 1882, Robert went into bankruptcy again.
In 1888, Rhoda Clara Wilding Brazenor married at Wakefield, Yorkshire, to Ben Brook, of Bradford. In 1889, Robert her father, now a furrier, was bankrupt yet again. In 1890, he was listed in Kelly’s Directory of Sussex, as a naturalist of 39 Lewes Road, Brighton. That same year his taxidermist son Harry, married Mary Ellen Smith, at Manchester. Robert, Rhoda, Charles, Sarah and Alfred were still together at 39 Lewes Road in the 1891 Census. Robert was a taxidermist and furrier, Charles a taxidermist, Sarah a furrier and Alfred a taxidermist and osteologist. The following year Robert was listed in a trade directory as a bird and animal preserver of Brighton. By 1893, Robert was possibly out of bankruptcy as his trustee and official receiver Arthur S Scully, was released from his duties. His son Charles, now aged forty three, married Evelyn B L Pratt, that same year, at Brighton.
In the 1901 Census, Robert, Rhoda, Sarah and Alfred were still together at their Lewes Road home. Robert had retired and only Alfred was employed, his occupation being taxidermist. Sarah was probably occupied in taking care of her elderly parents. Robert Wilding Brazenor died at Lewes, Sussex, in 1901, aged 83. His son Alfred married Lisa Kate Hedges at Brighton, in 1909, just three months before his mother Rhoda died there, also aged 83.
Robert & Rhoda’s daughter Sarah remained a spinster and died at Brighton in 1929. The Brazenor name was continued by their sons John, Charles, Frederick, Harry and Alfred.