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The BULLEY Family History

Click here to view the BULLEY Family Tree,
Charles Bulley
Great Torrington, the home of the Bulley family.
The Stevens Family History

The connection between the BULLEY family and the NEWMAN family was made when Edward NEWMAN married Hannah Louisa BULLLEY.

The only grandmother I ever knew, my father's mother, was a member of the BULLEY family. It was a name that I knew from very early in my life and accepted without question. It wasn't until a few years ago when I was telling one of my daughters about the family and she re-acted with, "Bulley, what a horrible name." that I ever thought about it. However investigation seems to show that the name has no connection with bullies but comes from something to do with bulls and possibly the leather trade.
"BULLEY, a surname of England, from the place name Bouille' (La Marche, Maine-et-Loire, Mayenne) or Bully-en-Brai (Seine-Inferieure), or Bulley (Gloucestershire), or Bulleigh Barton (Devon). "As it means 'bull-clearing', it was probably common" (Reaney). (Bardsley). It is widespread in Devon. The highest numbers are in Newton Abbott & Totnes. In 1881 it had strange high numbers elsewhere (e.g. Hertford) but is clearly a Devon Name. This is very appropriate, as it happens, as my grandmother's father, Charles Bulley, was a leather merchant.

On the death certificate of Charles Bulley I had learnt that his father's name was Nicholas and his mother's Mary, nee Wood. The profession of Nicholas was given as "artist" (On the marriage certificate of Charles it had been given as "portrait painter"). The place of birth for Charles was given as London, England and the time he had been in Victoria, Australia as 40 years.

Working from this information I was able to find the ship on which he travelled to Australia - "Eliza" - arriving August 1852. He is on the list of passenger as aged 30, although this cannot be correct as at the time of his first marriage in Melbourne, Australia his age is given as 27. I then wanted to find where he was born in London and the best way to do that was to find out more about Nicholas and Mary.

By searching through many of the mighty volumes of the death registers from 1851 to 1878, which were at that time, at St Catherine's House, London, I was rewarded in finding the death of a Nicholas Bulley on 11th May 1878, aged 78. His death certificate told me he was a "decorator". I thought this was probably some kind of artist and near enough to what was described as his profession on Charles' certificates. I then went to Somerset House where I found a will for Nicholas. The will gave his address as 60 Longton Grove, Sydenham but apart from that was fairly uninformative as it was a simple will leaving everything to his wife, Louisa. This was a bit of a worry as I knew that the mother of Charles Bulley was Mary, nee Wood, not Louisa. Still it could have been a second wife. I persevered.

I next searched the census at the Record Office. There was no mention of Nicholas at the Sydenham address in 1841, 1851 or 1861 but he was there in 1871 and 1881. In these censuses we find Nicholas Bulley living at Grove Villa, no. 60 (now 70) Longton Grove, Sydenham. He was married to Louisa who was 15 years younger than he. Living with them is a granddaughter of Nicholas called Emma Mary Bulley. (Through her birth certificate - born 23rd November 1844 - I found that she was the daughter of his son William - a brother to Charles). In the census Nicholas is named as a "lodging house keeper" but it does not say where. These census also give the place of birth of Nicholas as being Great Torrington, Devon.

In the Kent Street directory, held at the Greater London Record Office, the information given in the Sydenham section of 1866 had a list of residents under the title of Kent Court directory. I found Nicholas Bulley who named as a gentleman living at Grove Villa, Langton Park. He is also listed in the 1870 and 1874 directories. There is no mention of him being a painter. My next search (this time on film in the comfort of the Latter Day Saints' Family History Centre in Newport, Isle of Wight) was for the death of Mary Bulley, nee Wood.

There was more than one possibility but I was lucky enough to order the right certificate. Mary Bulley died on 20th August 1840, aged 40, at 33 Titchborne Street, Kensington, London. On her death certificate her husband, Nicholas was named as a painter. Unfortunately being an English death certificate and not a Melbourne one, it gave no details of her children.

So, I now knew that Nicholas and Mary Bulley had lived - probably with their children - at 33 Titchborne Street, Kensington, that Mary had died in 1840 and Nicholas had married Louisa and moved to Sydenham, Kent (now a suburb of London). Maybe it was the Titchborne Street house that was let to lodgers. I also knew that Nicholas had been born at Great Torrington, Devon.

I contacted the Devon Archivist who sent me the following information. "The parish registers of Great Torrington contain an entry recording the baptism of Nicholas, son of William & Frances Bully, on the 29th of September 1799. No other information is given in the entry."

Armed with this information I contacted a researcher in Devon to see if he could find out more about the family. I hoped to trace them a lot further back. One is always led to believe that people in the 18th century stayed put in one place. It certainly does not seem to be so with any of my ancestors. After some months the researcher, Mr K. Heale, returned the cheque of £20 which I had sent to him to do the research because he "had failed to find anything significant regarding your search for Nicholas Bulley and beyond". I was amazed as usually one pays whether there are results or not. I did return a cheque to him for, in spite of what he had said, he had found some information. William and Frances Bulley had had two other children in Great Torrington, Frances, baptised 20th Oct 1793 and Charles, baptised 16th January 1796. He had also found that William Bulley, like his son Nicholas, had been a "painter". No marriage was found for William and Frances so where were they before before the birth of the first child in Great Torrington? There are many Bulleys in the south of Devon, in fact Bulley is a name that originates there, but not many in the north of the county. There is no other mention of any Bulleys in Great Torrington. Mr Heale did find a birth of a William Bulley to a Michael and Elizabeth at Ilsington, near Newton Abbot, Devon on 4th December 1761 but as there is none of the usual pattern of family names here so there is certainly no proof that this is the father of Nicholas. So once again I had come to a full stop.

Another person I have been in contact with, Amanda Hilder, who is researching the same Bulley family, sent me the following message some time ago.

"It would appear that the Nicholas Bulley that you know about (born 1799) was a brother of my ggg grandfather, William Owen Bulley, born 1791 at Stratton. His parents were: William born 4.12.1761 and Frances Owens born 11.2.1768 in Chester. They were married on 12.11.1787 in St Sidwell, Exeter. Their four offspring were: William Owen, Frances, Charles and Nicholas. Frances Owen's parents were: George Owen and Martha Rodes from Cheshire.

This all seems very reasonable but she has never answered my letter asking her where she obtained these details and, so far I have not been able to check them. I have added the information to the Bulley family tree but it is still without verification.

So back to looking for the Bulleys in London. I bought an old Ordnance survey map and found Tichborne Street in a newly developed area of Paddington. The streets, some broad and tree lined, had been well laid out and rows of terraced houses built. On an old A to Z book of maps I had also I found Titchborne Street which appeared to be a rather narrow little street indicating that the houses there were smallish terraced houses. On 11th May 1994, on a visit to London, I explored the area of Kensington/Paddington where Titchborne Street was. Much of the area had been redeveloped although in some parts the original large Victorian houses, in the still tree lined streets, had survived. Titchborne Street had disappeared entirely under a large conglomeration of rather up-market flats called The Water Gardens.

Part of a 1872 map of Paddington, London.
Titchborne Street and St John's Church have been highlighted in orange.
William, a brother of Nicholas, lived in Cambridge Place, (coloured blue).

I next paid another visit to the Greater London Record Office where I looked for any marriages, births and deaths of Bulleys in the parish records local to Titchborne Street. There were no Bulleys mentioned so I expect that the children of Nicholas and Mary were either born elsewhere, christened in non-conformist churches or not christened at all.

I also went again to the Record Office in Chancery Lane to look up Titchborne Street on the 1841 Census. On this I hoped to find the Bulley family living there. I knew that Mary Bulley had died the previous year but hoped that Nicholas would still be there with his children. Charles Bulley would have been about 16 years old at the time. I was very disappointed to find that this part of the 1841 Census was missing - lost, destroyed, whatever - but in any case no longer in the Record Office. I found the census for 1851 and had a copy made of it. By this time Nicholas Bulley had his new wife, Louisa, but sadly for me none of his children, the family of Nicholas and Mary Wood, were living with them. His age was given as 50 (which ties up with his birth date) and hers as 35. An apprentice to Nicholas, called Henry Long, aged 19, was living in the house. Nicholas' occupation was given as "ornamental painter". So I am no closer to finding exactly where and when Charles Bulley was born.

1851 census of part of Titchborne Street, Paddington.

I had been very excited when I first discovered that the house where Charles Bulley lived in Hawthorn was named "Edgeware" as it seemed highly probable that he had named his home after a place where he had lived before he went to Australia. My father had always said that the family came from Edgeware also. However I have not been able to find any sight of him in Edgeware. He was certainly not there at the time of the 1851 census and that was the year before he went to Australia.

Longton Grove, Sydenham in the 19th century.
Grove Villa, or 60 Longton Grove, Sydenham is one of the houses on the left

On 8th April 1999 I went to Sydenham to see the house where Nicholas and Louisa Bulley lived. Sydenham is one of those suburbs of London that has seen better times. I imagine that when Nicholas and Louisa lived there it was a very pleasant and prosperous place to live. There are quite a number of very large and rather imposing houses, some of which are still well kept. There is also a very large church, the Church of St Bartholomew. Longton Grove, where Nicholas lived, still has some of the old, not quite as imposing, houses but many of them have been demolished and smaller "town houses" built in their place. The house that Nicholas had lived in had changed from number 60 to number 70 as I had already been informed by the Lewisham Local History Centre. In the census and directories the house had been named sometimes as Grove Villa and other times as number 60. I was relieved to see it was still there at the corner of Longton Grove and Longton Avenue. It had been a substantial, semi-detached house but was now in a sad state of neglect. It has been divided up into three separate dwellings - one in the basement and two others in the house itself. The garden was waist high in weeds and it looked as if the grounds had been much truncated to make room for more housing.

Nicholas Bulley died on 11 May 1878 of "epilepsy and old age" according to his death certificate. On this certificate he was named as "formally a decorator". This was a person who did decorative plaster work in public or private buildings and also gilt work.

Longton Grove, Sydenham as it was in 1999 when I visited it..

Through this website I have been contacted by a descendant of the Sewell family who tells me that Charles Frederick & George Sewell were heavily involved in building work in Longton Grove, Sydenham. He suggested that Nicholas may have been contracted for decorating these houses. It is also possible that the connection between Nicholas and the Sewell family may have begun in earlier building projects in which they were involved in Kensington. If he had been contracted for the decoration of these houses, over the years he would certainly have made enough money to afford to live in one of these highly sort after houses.

In his will he left everything to his wife Louisa. His estate was valued at something under £1500. I have a feeling that the words "artist" and "portrait painter" used by Charles Bulley when giving information at the time of his wedding and by his descendants for his death certificate could be giving his father a bit of extra status for in spite of intensive searches in the records of the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, from gallery owners and dealers in London and in Devon for any paintings done by Nicholas Bulley (or his father William), I have drawn a blank. Decorative Painter he may have been, but artist or portrait painter? I think not.

From information on his Melbourne marriage and death certificates, Charles Bulley was born in London in about 1827. Exactly when and where is still unknown.