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Fasham Nairn




The following story was written by Corinne Hall (Stace) in 1997, with the assistance of her nephew Simon Hall:

Fasham Venables  (1827-1897)

When, in the 1920’s, my sisters and I were growing up, somewhere in Australia or New Zealand --  for we moved around quite a lot -- we often sat around the kitchen table on Saturday  morning, cleaning the special silver pieces which were kept in a special leather case.  There  was a silver snuff box;  some William IV silver servers with the King’s head and the date and silver Hallmark;  a hip flask with  a silver cover, and numerous other  little things; each had a story about Mother’s family in England, and we implored her to tell us more.   

She spoke of a bell foundry connected with her family; of her father’s legendary travels to Australia as a young man, years before his marriage, and how he broke his leg in a  wagon accident and had to be left by his mates in the bush by a creek for several weeks.   When help eventually came ...... he had recovered!   She spoke of a connection with Millwards, the needle manufacturers; in all these stories she was rather vague -- but they were exciting enough to linger in our memories and to wonder about our interesting forebears.   We never knew any grandparents -- they had died many years previously and Aunts and Uncles and Cousins were far away across the world.

Mother said her father’s christian name was Fasham.   We were puzzled.   How could a conventional family like ours, with conventional names of Richard and Luke and John come to have such a strange name?   But she didn’t know, and couldn’t explain.  She just accepted it as a matter of fact.

One thing we did know: Mother was immensely proud of her maiden name -- Venables.  We knew she had inherited, for her own use, some money from her family.  Her marriage to Arthur Hall produced seven children, of which five were given Venables as their middle name -- only Jean and I were left out: but we were compensated by having  three christian names each!   In fact, so much merit has been associated with “Venables” that it has persisted (as a given name) into the subsequent third generation, even when the surnames have changed.

Florence, my oldest sister by nearly twenty years, used to tell me that the Venables came over to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.   She said they were foresters whose task was to care for the king`s deer.   As a girl I imagined my ancestors dressed in lincoln green, each with his bow slung over his shoulder and with a quiver of arrows at his belt, keeping wolves at bay and protecting the fine stags for the king’s pleasure. --- A pretty story!

But the modern story of the name can be told.   Simon Venables Hall of Canberra,  grandson of my brother John Venables Hall, and Simon`s brother Justin, have made extensive  researches in England, following wispy leads from the memories of my sisters May and Jean, and particularly from Mother`s little Birthday Book which Jean had in her possession.   Starting from this web of names, addresses and birthday dates, Simon has back-traced names and dates in the Counties of Cheshire and Shropshire to a Richard Venables, born 1711 at Prees in Shropshire;  but that was as far as he could find.   It was from this Richard Venables, and from his wife Margaret (Pye), that our Venables name

has descended.  Was it their vigour and vitality which filtered and flourished to produce my

Mother`s comfortable inheritance?                                                                                                                          

OR WAS IT ..... ?

Research answers the question.   Yes, a Venables did exist in those early days. He established  himself in an estate  at Kinderton, Cheshire, where a memorial to him and his family rests in the village church,   His estate employed rural workers, some of whom may have assumed the name Venables as was the custom of allotting  surnames in times gone by.

When my husband and I were in Chester, in Cheshire in 1995, our host knew the name very well and declared that his old great-uncle Venables, who had been a blacksmith, was the inspiration of the old song “under the spreading chestnut tree”!!!  I consulted the local telephone book and found  no fewer than 32 Venables:  they lived and worked in the magnificent countryside  of  Cheshire and Shropshire, and in the various towns including Whitchurch and Prees.

Thus the earliest recorded  Venables that Simon  has found  in Parish Registers is Richard Venables of

Prees, born 1711 who married Margaret Pye.   Two generations later, a boy Cornelius was born; and

Cornelius became the patriarch of the family to come.  He and his wife Mary (Prince), both born in Prees, moved to the bigger town of Whitchurch in Cheshire where they opened a draper shop and reared a large family of 7 sons and 6 daughters.   Who would guess that this little draper shop in the North of England would start a commercial enterprise which was named in Charles Dickens’ dictionary of important 19th century London business houses, and which continued for nearly a century?

In 1825, the family moved to London, the hub of the commercial world.  London was abuzz with industry and commercial development. Ships from all over the globe went in and out of the dockyards; steam trains were just starting to transform the whole world, and to move goods and people with unprecedented speed.   There was a great influx of population into the city to meet and service this commercial expansion.   

The family lived in Whitechapel to be close to the docks on the Thames.   Here in 1830 William (born 1799) was able to raise enough capital, around thirty thousand pounds, to open a store as a silk merchant and draper.   William and his brothers were country boys whose only experience was in their father`s draper shop in little far-off Whitchurch, yet here they were trying their hand in this great commercial world where rogues and rogue lawyers  cruised the  scene like sharks.

Perhaps foolishly, William accepted a loan from his uncle (Mr Prince, his mother`s brother), as well as a loan from his own brother Richard (born 1808). In partnership with a Mr Warfield, he opened a warehouse and a shop employing several staff.   Something went wrong: Mr Warfield dissolved his partnership and removed his £1,500stg:  Uncle Prince called in his £600; and brother Richard, emigrating to USA, sought repayment of his £400.   Their staff lingered on for 6 months without pay until finally William was declared bankrupt in January 1834 and cast into debtors` prison.   Nasty accusations were made about fraudulent disposal of stock, but nothing dishonest was ever proved against him, except that his “Balance Sheet was incomplete”.   William employed an accountant to rectify this oversight to the satisfaction of the Commissioner, but by that time he had already served the full sentence of four months.  The affair was thoroughly publicised in at least four separate issues of the London “Times”. 

William and his brother Thomas had been over-bold, perhaps a little foolish,  but they were learning fast.   William continued with his draper shop.   The younger brothers Charles and  Robert and John opened another store in Aldgate Street, not far from William, as wool merchants and drapers.   It is quite possible that William`s stock had been bought at cost by the brothers.   The new store traded under the name of Thomas Venables and Son.

We now need to concentrate on John. His good business mind helped the firm to expand and to prosper, and before long he was the major director. He was unmarried; but in 1834 he became aware of a Mrs Ann King. 

Ann’s early life is of interest.  She also lived in Whitechapel, born in the late eighteenth century into the family of John and Elizabeth Millward.   John was a gun-maker, and for many years was the “Proofmaster” of the London Gunmakers Company. The Millwards lived next door to a warehouse owned by the East India Company which traded extensively with India and the far east.   No doubt Ann caught glimpses  of exotic  goods from distant parts of the world,  but particularly she would have seen the handsome men of the sea who sailed the ships which brought these cargoes to London.   She met and became friendly with a mariner named Charles Clippingdale King, and in 1823 they were married -- just one month before the birth of their daughter Ellen.   Charles King may have been at sea a lot,  or perhaps he was just not interesting enough to hold Ann, for she met another mariner; this time the handsome wealthy Captain Fasham Nairn, a gentleman of Sussex, with a London address, and descended from a long line  of learned men of the cloth who had the care of souls in various parishes  in England.   Strangely, there was a predominance of the name Fasham throughout the  Nairn family tree.

Captain Fasham Nairn had been twice married before he met Ann, but she seems to have been the girl he was looking for.   In 1827 Ann bore a son who was baptised Fasham Nairn King, and either Charles King or his brother John King signed the baptismal certificate.  Of course we cannot know for sure, but it seems almost certain that the boy was not the true son of Charles King.

Soon afterwards Charles King died.  Ann and Fasham Nairn appear to have kept domicile together until his death in 1834.   He was buried at Whitechapel:  his substantial fortune -- less any entailed money -- was left to Ann.

Ann was now a widow with two dependent children; Ellen King 10 years, and Fasham Nairn King, 7 years;   she had money but no home.   Like many a woman in similar circumstances, she offered herself as a respectable housekeeper to a gentleman’s home.   She entered into employment with John Venables as his housekeeper.   Perhaps it was her good management and her womanly  charm, or perhaps even her money,  but on  1st July 1837,  a lovely summer day, John Venables and Ann were married.  So John became stepfather to Ann’s two children.  

Young Fasham Nairn King was probably a bright child, responsive and eager to learn.   There is no real record of him as a lad, for he was not in the 1841 Census, nor is there any record of birthday celebrations. He was 7 years old when his own father, Fasham Nairn died, and 10 when he joined the Venables family; but he must have had lingering  memories of those days with his father and perhaps a longing to have adventures like the brave sea captain..   If the story of the Australian experience is true -- and our Mother was convinced it was -- Fasham would have started to think about going there when he was 18 years old (at least), around 1845.  We don’t know how long he stayed in Australia or what he did, but we do know that he was back in England for the 1851 Census, and that his name was then FASHAM VENABLES.

Back at home he may have known that John wanted him to work in the family firm;   perhaps he was swayed by the uncertainty of a life of adventure, or by his loyalty to his mother and gratitude to his step-father, or perhaps by the certainty of a city job;  for whatever reason, Fasham Nairn King rejected his birth surname and unconditionally  joined his adoptive family.   In 1859 he married Matilda Cutbush (1833 -1897). Their three children were John Luke Venables (1859-1934), Matilda Marion Venables, (1866 -1945) and my dear mother Ellen Beatrice Venables (1873 -1945).   

I was saddened to realise that Fasham was not truly a Venables; that my mother had not been descended from a long line of Venables; and that my own grandfather did not  carry the strain of that old patriarch Cornelius;  that the link with Cornelius and his little draper shop in Whitchurch was no longer mine to delight in.

In my grieving I fell into a reverie: I imagined I was standing on the shore-line of an ocean beach where waves alternately washed and receded over my feet with the ebb and flow of the tide and the wind.   In my imagination the moving sands beneath my feet were like the living building blocks of my life.  As I watched, the strong undertow of a wave drained all the soft sand dragging it far off to sea leaving my feet unsupported.   “My Venables genes have gone!” I wept -- but moments later a new wave rushed in forcefully bringing in fresh sand and debris to swirl around my feet.  I saw now that the new sand was like my new heredity.   I looked down and saw a tumbling shell.   I picked it up; it was new, it was unique, it was interesting, it was mine!  It was the NAIRN factor!

Fasham became the driving force of a family firm which was known by the best tailors in London as the suppliers of the finest woollen suiting for men.  They also provided the navy blue serge for the officers and sailors of the Royal Navy.  It was Fasham’s expertise which built up a fine business and with it his considerable fortune, one quarter of which my mother, his daughter, was to enjoy tenancy during her life.   It was Venables money which paid my school fees and helped me -- in part - through University, and it was Venables money which supported my family’s comfortable though frugal lifestyle through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. When mother died, her estate allowed all of her six surviving children to enjoy an infusion of capital when our families were young and growing, and for this we are ever grateful.



I realise now that Fasham had made a big sacrifice when he forsook his own family name to embrace his adoptive family, for he never referred to it and my mother seems to have been totally unaware of the change.   He and his wife were gentle godly people; they died within a few weeks of one another in 1897 and are buried in the church yard of St Johns, Old Coulsdon, in the south of London.  The Celtic cross marking their grave was still standing when we visited it in 1981.


Origin of the name Fasham Nairn


There appears to be a total of eight Fasham Nairns in the family history: four with direct lineage and another four in other branches of the family. 

The four directly-related Fasham Nairns pass from father to son from 1731 to 1897. To clarify which one is referred to in the text below, they are listed as Fasham Nairn I, II, III and IV although they are not referred to in records as such.

There remaining four Fasham Nairns who are related but not part of the direct lineage, are listed at the end of this section. 

Fasham Nairn I (1731 to 1810) 

Son of William Nairn and Susanna who had nine children in 11 years from 1727 to 1738. Fasham was their third child. 

Fasham Nairn I married Sarah, and they had three children: Fasham II (1757-1845), Sarah (b.1761) and John (b.1766). Fasham Nairn I was listed as a pawnbroker on his son John’s birth register:


Fasham Nairn I owned farm land at Barnett’s Place in Sussex about 30 miles south of London. On his death he left a will, and there were a number of court cases contesting it, including one which ended in the sale of some timber from the farm at Barnett’s Place. 


Reverend Fasham Nairn II (1757-1845) 


The son of the original Fasham Nairn, Fasham Nairn II had a long and illustrious life, working as a Reverend and Vicar until his death at age 88. 

He was a student of Emmanuel College, Cambridge University. He studied from 1782 to 1790 completing a BA (1786) and MA (1790). 


From 1785 he worked as a Chaplain at Charwelton. On completion of his MA in 1790 he became Reverend of Little Bealings in Suffolk and Vicar of Walton, until his death in 1845. 

The record below dates from 1835 in the Clerical Guide to Church of England:



Fasham Nairn II married Mary Chamberlain in 1793:


He had three children with his wife Mary Chamberlain: Fasham III (1793-1834), Mary (1798-1825) and Ann Francis (1799 to ?).  Below is Ann Francis Nairn’s birth extract:

And a death notice for daughter Mary in 1825:    

Fasham Nairn II appears to have owned land at Horsted Keynes (south of Gatwick Airport) and leased it to others (record 1798). It is not far from Barnet’s Place where other family land was located.  


Captain Fasham Nairn III Esquire (1793-1834) 


Like his father, the Reverend Fasham Nairn, Fasham Nairn III attended Cambridge University, but at St John’s College. He is sometimes referred to as Captain Fasham Nairn. 

Fasham Nairn III had a potted relationship history – his first wife (name unknown) had died by the time he was 27. He then married Mary Dixon Beal, with whom he had two children, but divorced in 1830. He also appears to have had a relationship with Ann Millward, who gave birth to a Fasham Nairn in 1827, before his divorce. 

Fasham Nairn III married his second wife, Mary Dixon Beal, at St Martin in the Fields in 1820. The marriage certificate lists him as an ‘esquire + widower’.

Mary and Fasham III had a child shortly after they married, Mary Anne Nairn (1820-1900).  In 1837 there is a marriage record of Mary Anne Nairn whose father is listed as Fasham Nairn. She married John Fisher Keyzar and moved to Wales after 1861, living to age 80. They had several children, one called Fasham Nairn Keyzer (b.1841) who went on to name his son Fasham Nairn Emery Kayzar (b. 1865 in London). See later section on additional Fasham Nairns.

Back to Fasham Nairn III: He and Mary had a second child, also Fasham Nairn. He died at just 5 weeks old (29 March 1823) and has a plaque erected in St Margaret’s in West Hoathly in Sussex, south-west of East Grinstead (about 35 miles south of London).

A few years later, Mary (nee Dixon Beal) divorced Fasham Nairn III in 1830. It is likely to have had something to do with his relationship with Ann Millward, who named her child Fasham Nairn King in 1827. He may then have taken up domicile with Ann Millward before he died in 1834 and she remarried in 1837 Fasham Nairn III is often listed as residing in Barnett’s / Barnet’s Place, Sussex, which was originally owned by Fasham Nairn I. This was the address quoted for Fasham Nairn III in 1825 when his sister Mary Nairn died age 27, and is noted in records of his own will. It is located 4 miles east of East Grinstead, about 30 miles south of London. 

Fasham Nairn III died at age 41 (1834), eleven years before his own father, Reverend Fasham Nairn, died. 


Fasham Nairn King IV (later knows as Fasham Venables) (1827 – 1897)

Fasham Venables was baptised Fasham Nairn King in 1833 when he was age six. It’s not clear who his real father was – John Clippingdale King, Charles Clippingdale King, or Fasham Nairn III? There is no explanation as to why he was given such specific name as Fasham Nairn King.

His mother was Ann Millward (1804-1849). She had married Charles Clippingdale King (b.1799) on 11

May 1823. She was 19 when she married and gave birth to Ellen King just one month later. Daughter

Ellen King wasn’t baptised until she was seven years old, where her father was listed as John

Clippingdale King (Master Mariner with Boat Builder crossed out above it). Perhaps John was Charles’ brother, or even his father. Ann Millward (now Ann King) had a second child named Fasham four years after daughter Ellen.

Her son, Fasham was baptised at age six. On the baptism record his father is listed at John

Clippingdale King (M.Mariner), the same as his older sister Ellen, and his date of birth 3 March 1827:


Fasham IV’s sister (or half-sister) Ellen King went on to marry Jebez Abbott. She lived to age 87 (1910).  She had nine children, the 8th of whom was named Fasham Abbot (1855-1935) who would have been Fasham Nairn IV’s cousin. 

 Meanwhile, Fasham IV’s mother Ann King (nee Millward) married John Venables in 1837, age 33, when her children Ellen King and Fasham IV were fourteen and ten respectively.  John Venables was a highly successful businessman with a woollen drapery business, Thomas Venables and Son. Ann and John had no children.

Fasham IV adopted his stepfather's family name Venables sometime between 1841 and 1851. There is a long documentary chain that proves beyond reasonable doubt that Fasham Venebles is Fasham Nairn King (please contact Simon Hall if you are interested in this documentation).

In 1851 (age 24) Fasham is listed in the census as a Venables, and a resident of Aldgate in London working as a woollen draper, the business owned by his stepfather John Venables.

In 1859 (age 32) he married Matilda Mears Cutbush. They had three children John Luke (1859-1934), Matilda Marion (1866-1945) and Ellen Beatrice (1873-1945).

In 1897 (aged 70) he died in Surrey, England. His wife Matilda Mears (nee Cutbush) died two weeks before him.  His youngest daughter, Ellen Beatrice, inherited a sizeable amount of property from the settlement of the will of her maternal grandfather, Thomas Mears. She is Corinne Hall / Stace’s mother.

Other Fasham Nairns


  1. If Fasham IV’s father was indeed Fasham III, then he would also have a half-sister Mary Anne Nairn when their father Fasham III was still married to Mary Dixon Beal. This half-sister had a son married John Fisher Keyzar, and had a son Fasham Nairn Keyzer (b. 1840) who later moved to Wales. This makes him the half nephew of Fasham IV (Nairn King / Venables). He married Emma Steward in York in 1863. They had a son Fasham Nairn Emery Keyzer  (1865 – St Pancras, London – 1931).  
  2. Thomas and Mary Aveling had sons named William Aveling Nairn (b. 1797) and Fasham  Nairn Aveling (b.1805). The name William Aveling comes up in some material relating to the  will of Fasham Nairn I [some requirement for an Aveling to change his name to Nairn?]


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