Foreign names in foreign hands make strange names

I decided it was a good idea to do very little today. I spent the first bit in bed then, while Mirinda strummed her guitar at class then dined at the Holly Bush, I lay on the sofa watching Netflix and dozing. It was obviously the best thing to do given my delicate condition.

Late in the day (and before I made dinner) I decided to try a little research into why the Smallbones’ children were named after Russian battles (see yesterday). Sadly I was unable to find a definitive answer but I did unearth some more fun facts.

In 1859, William and Charlotte Smallbones had a son. He was baptised Ernest Inkerman Smallbones. The Battle of Inkerman was fought in 1854 and was a turning point in the Crimean war, resulting in the Siege of Sebastopol shortly afterwards.

(As a sidelight, the Thames Ironworks under the earlier name of Ditchburn and Mare, built a ship for the Russian government called Inkerman. It marked the first iron ship built by the company and was in about 1837-8…

“She was a small vessel of shallow draught of water, and was so great a success that the new firm immediately afterwards obtained orders for several small vessels to run on the Thames above London Bridge. – from Ditchburn’s obituary”

…and was so sleek and fast that she was successfully used by the Russian government to chase down pirates and other ne’er-do-wells in the shallow waters bordering the Crimea and Black sea. I have been unable to discover whether it took any part in the extensive sea battles of the Crimean conflict…it’s just interesting.)

Digging a little deeper (though still annoyingly shallow) I have found a few chaps called Smallbones who served in the Crimea. I have no idea whether they survived or died but I figure the name could be a good link. Anyway, my theory was that William Smallbones either served in the Crimea himself or one of his close relatives did (I have no evidence of either of these things) and, in honour of the British victory at Inkerman, decided to give his son a memorable middle name.

As romantic as that sounds it’s also possibly not likely. William and Charlotte had quite a few children and a number of them had significantly odd names. In order, they were: Nelson (1849), Albert (1851), Charles (1852), Alice (1854), Clara (1856), Alma (1858), Ernest Inkerman (1859) and the remarkably named Bonaparte (1861). (It’s important to note that most of the dates are generally approximate and taken from census returns.)

Nelson Smallbones gave all of his kids ordinary names but his son William called his first son Nelson, presumably after his own father rather than Horatio.

The most unfortunate child must have been Bonaparte. Imagine being a British child named Hitler (as his first name) not long after WW2. Well, I figure it would have been just about the same. Bonaparte was not the most popular of people in Britain at this time even though he’d died in 1821. So you can imagine what poor Bonaparte Smallbones must have gone through. Maybe it toughened him up: Maybe he went by the name of John.

However he managed survive, he also managed to get married, settle down and have a brood of his own, all with non-military names. I do have to wonder about the romantic sounding Eveline Sapphire Smallbones but Fred, Ada and Arthur were all pretty normal.

Of the other male children of William and Charlotte, only Ernest Inkerman Smallbones carried on the strange names ideal of his father (or mother). There was Balaclava (1896), Colenso (1902) and Sebastopol (1904) but they all came later. First up there were at least six others. They were Ernest Inkerman (1885), Margaret K, Mable, Grace A, Lily C and Agnes A.

That may seem a bit strange but not if you consider that the first male child was named after his father then the next seven children were all girls. Then come the final three boys, all named after battles. Balaclava and Sebastopol in the Crimea and Colenso during the 2nd Boer War (1899).

Of course all of them (including Inkerman) are also towns so they could be named after them but the battle link is a bit hard to ignore when three are in Russia then, suddenly, one of them suddenly points to South Africa.

Interestingly, both Colenso and Sebastopol joined the army after WW1 both within a week of one another. That was even though their big brother Balaclava had died during the conflict in 1918. Perhaps they figured they’d be safe.

Moving a lot further forward…Colenso managed to survive the army life then whatever else was thrown at him, eventually dying in 1992 at the age of 90 and still residing in Surrey. Sebastopol wasn’t quite as lucky. He died five years before his older brother in 1985. Both of them married – Colenso married the wonderfully named Edith Faithfull in 1927 at Send and Sebastopol married Lily Turner in Dorking in 1929.

And so, in conclusion, what do I have? No much, I admit. Perhaps William Smallbones was a military history nut. I can imagine him sitting young Ernest on his knee and telling him the history of his middle name, and the names of his brothers Nelson and Bonaparte. He may then have followed on with the history of the Crimean War. Then, in memory of his father’s ‘hobby’ Ernest decided to name his own sons after battles as well.

Of course, we’re never going to know but it’s fun nonetheless. One thing that I do know is that Smallbone is quite a popular name in Surrey. In fact our butcher in Downing Street is one of them.

UPDATE: Since writing this I have also discovered that they had another son called Alma, who was named after the eponymous battle during the Crimean War.

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One Response to Foreign names in foreign hands make strange names

  1. mum cook says:

    Wow fancy that wonder if he knows they might even be his family from all those years ago I found that very interesting thank you Gary Charles, bet you were glad dad and I didn’t call you some weird name. love mum xxxx

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