Thomas and Lydia Farley, residents of Nelson Square 1815-1824

By Catharine Mackenzie

On January 26, 1788 England was expanding its colonial influence to Australia when Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the first fleet at Botany Bay, later moving to a better harbour at Sydney Cove.

Later that year, in August 1788 Thomas Farley was born to John Farley and his wife, Elizabeth Palmer. Thomas’ two youngest sons would later emigrate to Australia. When Thomas Farley was born his parents lived in a ward of the City of London named Cornhill and Thomas was subsequently baptised at St Peter’s Upon Cornhill. Cornhill is one of the three ancient hills in London, the others being Tower Hill and Ludgate Hill. Not much else is known of Thomas’s early life other than his older brother died before he was born and the rest of his siblings were seven younger sisters, leaving him as the only male heir.

It is not sure what Thomas was heir to exactly, as the origins of John Farley have been hard to establish and yet to be confirmed. Though, Thomas Farley, did have distant connections to the Palmer family of Berkshire, one of whom was James Palmer, treasurer of Christ’s Hospital London, an uncle to Thomas’ mother.

Thomas Farley was living at Skinner-street, Snow Hill in the parish of St Sepulchre when he married Miss Lydia Nix on October 11, 1814. Lydia Nix was the daughter of John Parfitt Nix, of Rose precinct in the Tower Hamlets of the City of London. Lydia was from Walworth in the Parish of St Mary Newington, Surrey. It is not certain where the couple first lived but they are soon located at Nelson Square in Southwark, Surrey. Though, Thomas Farley was still paying land tax at Snow Hill with a partner, John George Barnard in 1818.

Thomas Farley listed his occupation in 1815 as being a “Letter Press Printer” which he continued to be until 1818. During this period Thomas Farley and his growing family were living at no. 8 Nelson Square. Some neighbours, or at least owners of the buildings, at Nelson Square were: John Wood at no. 2, Edward Biggs at no. 5, Thomas Costellow at no. 7, John Pritchard (a smith) at no. 12, Thomas Lund at no. 14, Augustus Boyson (Gentleman) at no. 15, Augustus Applegarth (Printer) at no. 23, Thomas Lillo at no. 26, John Gate at no. 28, Benjamin Hall (Gentleman) at no. 29 and Samuel Kentish at no. 30, William Hughes at no. 32, John Lloyd (engineer) at no. 33, William Todd at no. 34, William Yeates (Gentleman) at no. 36, Benjamin Farmer (Gentleman) at no. 38, Robert Ostell (engineer) at no. 39, Samuel Smith at no. 45, Nicholas Newberry at no. 46, George Hicks at no. 48, Charles Burrell Driver at no. 50, George Cross at no. 51, Borough Maltby at no. 58, George Penny at no. 59, Henry Stables at no. 60 and Charles Fleet (victualler) not listed with a number.
(see records relating to 1814-1819 Freeholders Lists 1696-1824QS3/10A/1-9 Digitized images, Surrey History Centre, Woking, Surrey, England)

It is Thomas Lillo at no. 26 who had a famous tenant in the person of Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet, from 9 November 1814 till 7 February 1815.

Still living at Nelson Square in 1819, Thomas Farley changed his occupation and listed himself as a Merchant, and by 1821 he listed his occupation as Gentleman but by 1823 he was shown as a Tunbridgeware-man.

According to the 1822 Pigot’s Directory of London (Compendium) page 138 under Printers – Letter-press, Thomas Farley is listed at no. 6 Nelson Square, Blackfriars. No. 6 was one of the buildings in Nelson Square to be demolished before 1939 and does not exist today (2017). While Thomas is changing his occupations in the records of Christ Church baptismal register he is still listing himself in published directories as working with Letter-press.

By 1825 he has publicly changed his occupation, again listing in Pigot and Co’s London Directory under Brush Makers at 32 Great Surrey-street, Blackfriars. His occupation of brush maker is also reflected in the Christ Church baptismal record of one of Thomas’ sons. It is possible no. 32 Great Surrey-street was located directly opposite the site of Christ Church and its gardens.

According to Christ Church baptism records Thomas and family were living in Great Surrey-street from 1823 to 1833 but the records do not indicate where in the street his residence was. During this period, Thomas was working as a Dealer in Toys, as reflected by his 1829 listing in the London Post Office Directory where he stated he was in Turnery & Toy-warehouse at 32 Great Surrey-street.

In 1827 Thomas Farley inherited land at Twickenham from his father, John Farley Esquire of Clapham Common. It is likely, but not certain, that Thomas sold the land he inherited and purchased a property at Underdown-street, Herne Bay, Kent, as he appears to be living there with the family by about 1840.

The 1841 Census for Herne Bay is not available but in the 1851 Census Thomas and Lydia Farley, and their youngest son, William Nix Farley and a granddaughter, Sarah Lydia Farley is shown living in Underdown Street, Herne Bay, Kent. Thomas is noted as being “late a druggist” and his son is a “mariner”. In the 1847 Post Office Directory Thomas Farley is listed under the Gentleman category as living at Underdown Street, Herne Bay, Kent. Thomas Farley died on May 8, 1858 aged 69 years and was buried in the crypt of Herne Bay’s Christ Church. Thomas wife Lydia Farley died January 24, 1880 aged 86 years at Croydon and is buried at St Peter’s Church in Croydon, Surrey. This memorial was visited in July 2013.

Two sons of Thomas and Lydia Farley immigrated to Australia. One was James Palmer Farley who was born in 1830 at Southwark, Surrey and tragically died in 1876 age 46 years old, by falling over rocks near the gold mining area of Hill End, New South Wales known as Tambaroora. According to the reports of his death in the Sydney Morning Herald James was about to leave Australia and return to England as the “two brother’s Messrs Farley had money left them at home, on which one determined to leave this colony, for England.” James Palmer Farley had worked in Australia in the printing industry in Sydney having learnt his trade in Canterbury, Kent. James Palmer Farley Will was probated in Australia in 1876 and in England in 1878 and 1880, apparently his mother, Lydia left a portion of his estate un-administered which had to be dealt with on her death.

The youngest son, William Nix Farley was born May 10, 1833 at Southwark, Surrey, England and he married in 1855 at Herne Bay, Kent, England to Elizabeth Swain, the daughter of Gayler and Elizabeth Swain who operated a bakery business in Herne Bay. William and Elizabeth Farley immigrated to Australia first living in Sydney then moving to Hill End where William used the money of his inheritance to buy land to settle and farm. William was also out working as a miner and followed the gold rushes around New South Wales but not making a fortune from this he eventually went back to Sydney and while here he sold his land at Hill End. After his wife, Elizabeth died in 1883 William Nix Farley went to Western Australia where he died on the gold field at Coolgardie in July 1893. William Nix Farley was found dead and his death certificate stated his cause of death as “unknown”, he was 60 years old.

The above is information about my three x Great Grandparents Thomas and Lydia Farley. On the 2nd September 2016 I paid a visit to Nelson Square wishing to see in person the place where they lived and I was pleased that Nelson Square and the gardens are still there to be a part of its resident’s lives. I hope you have enjoyed reading a little about a one time resident of Nelson Square over two hundred years later.

Thank you to the website owners for allowing this story to published on line.



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