Sidney Alfred Parsons and his Ancestors

Sidney Parsons (1877-1924) and his family

Sidney Alfred Francis Parsons was the third son of John Parsons, a well known Southampton publican, and Harriet Boyes, a granddaughter of John Boyes of Owslebury who had achieved national fame following his role in the agricultural riots of 1830. Sidney was born on the 3rd of March 1877 in his father’s pub, the Blue Boar Inn, which was in East Street, Southampton. As a child he lived with his father, his mother Harriet, and his older brother William in a succession of Southampton pubs. His other brother, Ernest, had died before Sidney was born. Sidney’s father, John, came from a wealthy family who had farmed in South East Somerset and North Dorset, for centuries but his father Edward Parsons had not inherited any of the family’s wealth.

Sidney’s earliest known Parsons ancestor was Richard Parsons who farmed in Kington Magna in North Dorset and died there in 1713.

Sidney’s grandfather Edward Parsons had been brought up in the manor house in Marston Magna in Somerset where his father Charles Parsons owned land and several properties in the village including the shop. Edward was Charles’ eldest child but when Charles died he left almost everything to his second son with small legacies to most of his other children. Edward received nothing and lived as an ordinary working man. Several of his children, including Sidney’s father John, left Somerset and moved to Southampton. John moved to Southampton in about 1870 where at first he lived with his sister Elizabeth and her husband William Sly who was a publican. John soon became a publican himself.

Sidney’s mother Harriet came from Fair Oak, a few miles north of Southampton, where her father William Boyes was a farmer and timber-dealer at Crowd Hill in Colden Common.

The licensed trade seemed to be something of a tradition in the Parsons family. Sidney’s uncle, William Sly, was also a publican in Southampton and his aunt Elizabeth Sly later became one in her own right. Another uncle, Isaac Parsons, kept the Surrey Hotel in Southampton until his death in 1875 aged only 40. Sidney’s great uncle Uriah Parsons kept inns in Warminster and Frome. Sidney’s maternal grandmother Harriet was living with her mother Mary Slade, who kept the Anchor Inn in Bishopstoke (near Southampton), when she met and married Sidney’s grandfather William Boyes. Sidney’s wife Dorothy’s great-grandfather, Charles Light had been the landlord of the Clump Inn in Chilworth, near Southampton. Also, Sidney’s great-great-grandfather William Parsons who had owned much of the village of Holton near Wincanton had lived in the Old Inn there for more then 45 years until his death in 1837. The Old Inn is still a popular country pub today.

In South Africa during 1899 there was escalating tension between the British and two Dutch speaking republics, the Transvaal and the Orange Free State. It centred on disagreements over who should control the lucrative gold mines of the Witwatersand. Late in that year war broke out. The British government soon realised that they would need more troops than were available in the standing army so they launched a recruitment campaign for a volunteer fighting force called the Imperial Yeomanry.

The pay in the Imperial Yeomanry was good, volunteers received five shillings a day as compared to the one shilling a day that a private in the standing army received. Sidney joined the 50th Company (known as “the Hampshires”), which formed part of the 17th Battalion, as a private soldier. The Imperial Yeomanry were a cavalry regiment intended to match the fighting skills of the South African Boer commandos. Sidney joined them when he was about 23 years old and at that time many of the volunteers came from the middle or upper classes. There were supposedly strict entry requirements but men were often accepted even though their horsemanship and marksmanship skills were below the standard required. The 50th company trained in Aldershot where some of the less able volunteers were weeded out, but Private Sidney Parsons survived the selection process and travelled with them to South Africa.

The 17th Battalion arrived in Beira, in present day Mozambique, on the 4th of May 1900. Sidney served in Rhodesia, the Transvaal, the Orange Free State, and the Cape Colony. He was wounded on the 28th of March 1901 at Rondal. Later in the war he joined the 26th Battalion, known as Younghusband’s Horse, and he served with them until the Boer forces surrendered at the end of May in 1902 when the Treaty of Vereenigin was signed. The two Boer republics were then absorbed into the British Empire and the war ended.

The photograph on the left was probably taken at about the time Sidney was discharged. It shows him in the uniform typically worn by the Imperial Yeomanry, and wearing the Queen’s South African medal.

Sidney’s name appeared on two medal rolls. An excerpt from the later of them of them is shown below:

After his return to Southampton Sidney became a steward at the Polygon Villa where he met Dorothy Bennett who was working there as a domestic servant.

Sidney Parsons married Rose Dorothy Bennett, whose picture is to the left, on the 3rd of March 1907 at Saint Peter’s Church in Southampton. The witnesses were Sidney’s father, John Parsons, and Dorothy’s father, George Bennett, who was a coachman in Southampton.

Sidney left his job as a steward to work in the docks (he described himself as a “waterman”). The couple lived at 35 Upper Bugle Street which was conveniently close to the docks.

Four months after they were married they had a son whom they named Reginald.

Just over a year after the birth of his son Sidney and his family emigrated to Queensland in Australia, probably under the assisted passages scheme. It was on the 18th of September in the year 1908 that Sidney, Dorothy and young Reginald sailed from Tilbury, London, on the Ortona bound for Brisbane. An extract from the passenger list is shown below.

Sidney, Dorothy and Reginald arrived in Brisbane on the 5th of November 1908.

The picture to the left shows their ship, the Ortona, of the Orient Royal Mail Steamship Line, at Pinkenba Wharf in Brisbane.

During the Parsons family’s voyage the Ortona was commanded by Captain H. Collins.

Why did Sidney choose to take his family to Queensland? We may have an explanation. He had a distant relative called William Parsons who had emigrated from Horsington in Somerset to Brisbane in 1888 and had become a prominent member of the community of early settlers. Sidney may well have heard about William’s success and this might have influenced his decision to go there. Sidney found work on the wharves along the Brisbane river and he and his family lived at several addresses nearby in the town centre. 495 Boundary Street in Spring Hill, where they lived in early 1913, was an apartment. Later that year they lived in Proe Street in Fortitude Valley, not far from Boundary Street and also near the centre of the town and the docks.

The following excerpt from the voters register for North Brisbane in April 1913 shows the entries for Dorothy and Sidney Parsons.

During their stay in Brisbane Sidney and Dorothy had two more children, William and Dorothy. But by the time their son George was born (on the 24th of September 1914) they had moved out of town to Darra, near Oxley in the district of Sherwood about five miles south west of Brisbane along the river. Their son Frank was also born there (on September 4th 1916). The excerpt below from the 1919 voters register gives their address as the Oatland Estate and Sidney’s occupation as “dealer”, but three years earlier, at about the time that Frank was born, he had given his occupation as “wharf labourer”.

The photograph on the left shows Sidney and Dorothy’s home in the Oatland Estate, Darra. The type is characteristic of the region and there are still a few houses like this remaining in the Oxley, Darra and Sherwood suburbs of Brisbane.

When it was first laid out in 1885, the Oatland Estate was conveniently situated along a railway giving easy access to Brisbane, just a few minutes away. It consisted of plots to be sold by auction. Most of them were 16 perches (about 480 square yards) but a few were twice that size. The auctioneer’s advertisement in the Brisbane Courier described the land as fertile with a good supply of water and he also said “the lovely mountain and river views obtainable from the Oatlands can scarcely be equalled in the colony”. It said there were “no gullies or broken ground and owing to the elevated position of the Oatlands Estate a cool beautiful breeze is always blowing”.

The auctioneer’s glowing description of the site omitted to mention that it was subject to flooding. The whole area was badly affected by the Great Flood of 1893 (known as the Black February Flood) when there were a number of deaths in the area and the railway bridge to Brisbane was destroyed. The estate did not flourish. Much later, as Brisbane grew, the suburbs slowly expanded to cover it and today the only signs that it ever existed are a few road names. At the time Sidney, Dorothy and the children moved there, it must have been in a state of decline and most of the plots were probably unoccupied.

Sidney’s career in Queensland was not a great success and in 1920 the family returned to England. It is believed that relatives in England paid their third class fares (Sidney’s brother William, a bookmaker and boarding-house keeper, was fairly wealthy). They travelled on the Orsova from Brisbane to London stopping on the way at Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Freemantle, Colombo, Port Said, Toulon, Gibraltar and Plymouth. The passenger list showed them as “Parsons, Mr, Mrs, and five children and infant”. Once back in Southampton, Sidney became an assistant barman, probably working for his father, but the family soon suffered a series of tragedies.

On the 17th of August 1923 Sidney was present when his brother William died of pulmonary tuburculosis in their father’s pub, the Salisbury Arms, in French Street. Four weeks later, on the 13th of September, his wife Dorothy died of pneumonia in the Southampton Isolation Hospital. And just one year after that, on the 27th of September 1924, Sidney himself died of heart disease at the Royal South Hants Hospital. His father John reported the death.

Sidney’s estate was valued at just £108 7s 11d but his brother William had never married and had left a substantial legacy (£1896 11s 11d) to his father. So before John died just four months after his son Sidney he was able to make provision in his will for his orphaned grandchildren.

The two oldest boys were nearly old enough to fend for themselves (the eldest soon joined the merchant navy) and the girls were cared for by their mother’s parents, George and Rose Bennett. The two younger boys, George and Frank, were soon placed with foster parents who were paid from the proceeds of their recently deceased grandfather John’s estate.

The following transcription of John Parsons’ will is from the probate register.

THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of me JOHN PARSONS of Salisbury Arms West Street Southampton.
1.  I hereby revoke all previous wills made by me
2.  I appoint James William Perren of St Andrews Road Southampton EXECUTOR & TRUSTEE of this my will
3.  I give devise & bequeath unto my executor everything I may die possessed of or be entitled to in trust for all the children of Sidney Alfred Parsons my lately deceased son in equal shares on the youngest attaining 21 years of age
4.  Pending the youngest child attaining the age of 21 years I direct my executor and trustee to use the interest and profits of my said estate and if necessary a part of the capital for the benefit of the said children or either of them but so that as far as possible in the discretion of my executor and trustee they shall share equally
5.  I give and bequeath £25 to Elizabeth Carr provided she shall be in my employ at the time of my decease
6.  I direct payment of all my just debts funeral & testamentary expenses
AS WITNESS whereof I have hereunto set my hand this 22nd day of December 1924

Signed by the testator John Parsons as & for his last will and testament in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses
- CHAS W WHITE - Clerk to Charles Ansell Emanuel & Emanuel Solicitors Southampton
- DOROTHY HOWE - Clerk to Charles Ansell Emanuel & Emanuel Solrs Southampton

On the 21st day of March 1925 Probate of this will was granted to James William Perren the sole executor

The picture on the right shows Sidney’s mother-in-law Rose Bennet with the five youngest of Sidney’s orphaned children.

In the back row are Frank, George, William and Dorothy and next to Rose is the youngest child Evie who had been born just before her parents returned from Queensland.

One of the boys, Frank, became a naval officer and during a visit to Copenhagen met and married a Danish girl Sonja Lissie Nielsen whose ancestry is also described in these web pages.

Frank and Lissie (as she was known) were the parents of the author of this web site.

Ancestors of Sidney Parsons

Father — John Parsons of Southampton
Mother — Harriet Parsons née Boyes

Grandfather — Edward Parsons of Marston Magna in Somerset
Grandmother — Elizabeth Parsons née Taylor

Grandfather — William Boyes who lived for most of his life at Crowd Hill in Fairoak
Grandmother — Harriet Boyes née Slade

Great-grandfather — Charles Parsons of Marston Magna
Great-grandmother — Ann Parsons née Jukes

Great-grandfather — John Taylor, the village baker in Marston Magna who had married his wife in Yeovil
Great-grandmother — Rosanna Bond née Taylor, who was born in High Ham, just north of Langport in Somerset

Great-grandfather — John Boyes of Owslebury, who became a national celebrity due to his role in the 1830 “Swing” riots
Great-grandmother — Faith Boyes née Newlyn, who was descended from the Newlyn families of Tichborne

Great-grandfather — John Slade of Bishopstoke
Great-grandmother — Mary Slade née Diaper

Return to Sidney Parsons’ Ancestors

You are free to make use of the information in these web pages in any way that you wish but please be aware that the author, Mike Parsons, is unable to accept respsonsibility for any errors or omissions.

Mike can be contacted at

The information in these web pages comes from a number of sources including: Hampshire County Records Office, Somerset Heritage Centre; Dorset County Records Office; Southampton City Archives; the General Register Office; several on-line newspaper archives; several on-line transcriptions of Parish Register Entries; and several on-line indexes of births, marriages and deaths. The research has also been guided at times by the published work of others, both on-line and in the form of printed books, and by information from personal correspondence with other researchers, for all of which thanks are given. However, all of the information in these web pages has been independently verified by the author from original sources, facimile copies, or, in the case of a few parish register entries, transcriptions published by on-line genealogy sites. The author is aware that some other researchers have in some cases drawn different conclusions and have published information which is at variance from that shown in these web pages.