James Ruff and Susannah Brockwell

James Ruff was born on 31 Dec 1809 in Stilton, Huntingdonshire, England and was baptised there on 12 January 1809. James was baptised privately, and was the son of King Ruff (1784-1841) and Elizabeth Bellamy (1781-1851). He was one of 12 children born to the couple.

James’ father King Ruff appears in the 1841 census living at Church Street in Stilton, working as an agricultural labourer. Living with him are his wife Elizabeth, and children Rebecca 24, Frances 13 and John 3. Unfortunately King died later the same year in October 1841 at the age of 57.

Belsize Farm, Castor

By the age of 17 years in 1826, James was working at Belsize Lodge Farm in Castor as a labourer.

James worked for Mr John Bark of Bellsize Lodge serving him in husbandry for one year, for a wage of five pounds. (Settlement and Examination Papers).


On 18 October 1830 at Stilton, Huntingdonshire, James Ruff married Susannah Brockwell in her home parish. The couple also appear in the Banns register for Marholme eight days earlier. Neither James nor Susannah could write and signed the register with their mark ‘x’.

Susannah Brockwell was born in Eye, Northamptonshire and was the daughter of Edward Brockwell (1787-1855) and Frances Rogers (1784-1811). Susannah was baptised at Eye on 15 January 1808.

James and Susannah had a large family –

  1. Fanny b 1831 Castor d 1915 Grantham. Marr John Andrew. 10 children.
  2. King b 1833 Castor d 1906 Hendon, Middlesex. Married Frances Popely. 8 children.
  3. Mary Ann b 1835 Castor d 1907 Melbourne, Australia. Married Isaiah Mead. 12 children
  4. Henry b 1837 & d 1837 Castor
  5. John b 1838 Castor d 1899 Radford. Marr Elizabeth Clay and Ann Birch. 3 children.
  6. Henry b 1840 & d 1841 Castor
  7. Sophia b 1842 & d 1842 Castor
  8. Rebecca b 1843 & d 1843 Castor
  9. George b 1844 & d 1845 Castor
  10. Emily b 1846 Castor d 1926 Chelmsford. Marr Richard Cragg. 5 children.
  11. Elizabeth b 1848 d 1924 Hamstead. Marr William Heard & Albert Deliege. 6 children.
  12. Harry b 1851 Castor d 1924 Denton. Marr Phebe Jane Birch.
  13. Annie Catherine b 1855 Grantham. Appears in 1861 census not in 1871 with James.

Sadly at least five of the children died in infancy.

In the 1841 census for Castor, James Ruff is now 30 and working as an agricultural labourer, and is listed with his wife Susannah, and children Fanny, King, Mary and baby Henry.

10 years later in 1851 the family is still residing in Castor, and James (ag lab) and Susannah now are living with Fanny, King (ag lab), John (errand boy), Emily and Elizabeth.

In May 1853, James Ruff of Castor had some property (pasteboard, scissors, saucepans and other articles) stolen and an article appeared in the local newspaper, the Stamford Mercury on 6 May 1853.

Susannah Ruff, nee Brockwell died in June 1855 at Castor, aged 47 and was buried at Castor on 5 June 1855.

With many children to look after, James Ruff soon married again, this time to Sabina Elizabeth Brown on 18 August 1856 at Grantham in Lincolnshire, 30 miles away from Castor.

James is described as a widower and Sabina as a spinster. Both are residing in Grantham, and James’ father King is a labourer and Sabina’s father William is a lacemaker. Their marriage notice appeared in the Nottinghamshire Guardian on 28 August 1856.

James and Sabina had four more children –

  1. Sabrina b 1857 & d 1857 Grantham
  2. Jessie Sabrina b 1859 & d 1860 Grantham
  3. Margaret Isabella b 1861 & d 1876 Grantham
  4. Agnes b 1865 Grantham d 1946 Romford. Married George Whiteman. 6 children.

Sadly only one of Sabina’s children survived infancy – Agnes.

In the 1861 census for Grantham, Lincolnshire, the family are now living at 8 Russell Court, and James is now aged 52 working as a labourer. His wife Sabina is 28, and living with them are children Elizabeth 12, Harry 10 and Annie Catherine 6.

Tragically James also lost his second wife at a young age. Sabina died in 1866 aged just 33 years and was buried at Grantham on 23 July 1866.

10 years later in 1871 a widowed,  62 year old James is living with his three children Harry, Margaret and Agnes in Russell Court, Grantham.

By 1881 James is living with his widowed daughter Fanny Andrews (char woman) and her children George, John, William, Edward, and Charles in Grantham at 2 Hands Place.

In the 1891 census James Ruff, now aged 82 is being supported by his 40 year old son Harry who is an excavator at the local Ironstone mine, and Harry’s wife Phoebe.

Sadly a few years later in 1895 James was found drowned in a canal, and was buried on 11 June 1895 in Grantham, aged 85 years. James is buried under a tree with no headstone.

Grantham Cemetery