Tragically, Emma Chambers died on February 21 2018 at the age of only 53. Her passing was mourned by her fellow actors, many others she worked with and millions of fans who loved her screen appearances, her humour and the joy it brought them. I decided to retain this chapter of my blog online as a tribute to her immense talent and as a lasting memory of a much-loved actress and human being.
Top row: Emma in her popular role as “dippy” Alice Tinker, the dim but loveable verger in The Vicar of Dibley; centre, larking about with Dawn French who played the Rev. Geraldine Granger. Bottom row: Emma with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in the film, Notting Hill; as Honey Thacker, Hugh Grant’s younger sister in Notting Hill; Emma (right) as Charity Pecksniff in the BBC’s 1994 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, with Julia Sawalha as her sister, Mercy.
WHEN you mention the name Emma Chambers, the immediate reaction of just about everyone who’s ever seen her television and film appearances must surely be “Isn’t she lovely?” Her role as “dippy” Alice Tinker, the dim but loveable verger to Dawn French’s female vicar in The Vicar of Dibley”, in which she never understood the Rev Geraldine Granger’s jokes, won her millions of fans. Her numerous other successful roles include as Charity Pecksniff in the BBC’s 1994 television adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, and in the 1999 romanticv comedy film, Notting Hill, in which she appeared with Hollywood stars Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant as Grant’s sister, Holly Thacker.
Usually when I research a celebrity, I tend to concentrate largely on just one line, mostly the direct male line. However, in Emma’s case I decided to look at all the branches of her family tree and trace as many of her great grandparents and great great grandparents as I could. In this I was largely successful, finding all eight of her great grandparents and most of her 16 great great grandparents.
What was interesting was how widespread her ancestors turned out to be in their places of birth. Ten counties feature in Emma’s ancestral tree: Cumberland, County Durham, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, Middlesex (London), Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset. Their stations in life were an interesting mix, too, varying from tradesmen and apparently well-off farmers to her paternal grandfather and father, who both became doctors and surgeons.
Emma Gwynedd Mary CHAMBERS was born on 11 March 1964 at Western Hospital in Doncaster, Yorkshire. The hospital was a former workhouse until designated an NHS hospital in 1950. Since she had no prior Yorkshire ancestry that I have been able to discover, I must assume that her father, John Samuel William Chambers, a consultant obstretician and gynaecologist, was in practice in the town. Her birth certificate shows that her parents were residing at 53 Bawtry Road, Doncaster, when Emma was born. The house, a large detached property near Doncaster Racecourse, is now a care home.
Emma’s first middle name of Gwynedd is interesting. It appears to have been handed down from her maternal grandmother, Violet Gwynedd Strange, and the same middle name was also borne by her mother. Presumably it has Welsh origins but I have yet to take the ancestry far enough back to discover the roots.
John Samuel William CHAMBERS was born in 1926 in Southampton, Hampshire. He was a Doctor of Medicine, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist. Noelle Gwynedd STRANGE and John Samuel William CHAMBERS were married on 12 Aug 1950 at the Parish Church of Boldre, St John the Baptist, in the New Forest, Hampshire.
Noelle Gwynedd STRANGE was born in 1925 in the South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire.
Samuel Bacon CHAMBERS was born in 1888 at Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. He died in 1968 at the age of 80 in Doncaster, Yorkshire. He was a doctor and surgeon, qualifying in 1921. Samuel served as a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps in World War I. Mary Ann CAREY and Samuel Bacon CHAMBERS were married in 1925 in the Croydon registration district, Surrey.
The entry for Emma’s grandfather, Samuel Bacon Chambers, in the Medical Register in 1939.
Mary Ann CAREY was born on 2 February 1892 in Bitterne, Hampshire. She died in 1972 at the age of 80 in Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Eustace Cecil STRANGE was born in 1872 in Fritham, Hampshire. He died in 1950 at the age of 78 in Romsey, Hampshire. He was a farmer. Violet Gwynedd LLOYD and Eustace Cecil STRANGE were married in 1921 in the New Forest registration district, Hampshire.
Violet Gwynedd LLOYD was born in 1897 in Southampton, Hampshire. She died in 1995 at the age of 98 in the New Forest registration district, Hampshire.
William CHAMBERS was born in 1857 at Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. He died in 1947 at the age of 90 in Mansfield registration district, Nottinghamshire. He was a joiner and carpenter. Eliza BACON and William CHAMBERS were married in 1887 in Basford registration district, Nottinghamshire.
Eliza BACON was born in 1859 in South Normanton, Derbyshire. She died in 1897 at the age of 38 in Mansfield registration district, Nottinghamshire. William subsequently remarried to his second wife, Florence May TAYLOR, in 1900.
William CAREY was born about 1862 in Staffordshire. He died in 1942 at the age of 80 in Southampton, Hampshire. He was an oil merchant and coal dealer, according to census returns. Frances WAKE and William CAREY were married on August 1 1889 at the parish church of St Saviour, Bitterne. The marriage certificate says that William was a “Soldier in the medical staff” and he gave his address as “Netley in the parish of Hound”. I must therefore assume that William was probably a medical orderly at Netley Military Hospital, once the largest military hospital in the world.
Netley Hospital, Southampton, where William Carey probably worked on the staff.
Frances WAKE was born in 1849 in Bitterne, Hampshire. She died in 1927 at the age of 78 in Southampton, Hampshire. Frances Wake was first married to Joshua Wake in 1873 at Chertsey registration district, Surrey. Possibly they were cousins. Joshua died in 1886, aged 56, and Frances remarried to William Carey in 1889. She was about 13 years older than him.
Frederick Joseph STRANGE was born in 1840 in Piddletrenthide, Dorset. He was baptised on 19 April 1840 at Winterborne Clenston, Dorset. He was elected a member of Minstead Parish Council in 1894 when he was farming at Manor Farm, Minstead, in the New Forest, Hampshire. Frederick died in 1913 at the age of 73 in South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire. Alice TRUBRIDGE and Frederick Joseph STRANGE were married on 23 September 1868 at St Paul’s Church, Fisherton Anger, Wiltshire, in Alderbury registration district.
Alice TRUBRIDGE was born in 1848 in Great Wishford, Wiltshire. She died in 1911 at the age of 63 in the South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire.
William or Wilfred Griffith LLOYD was born in 1866 in Darlington, County Durham. His death has not been found. Wilfred appears to have been a bit of a man of mystery! In the 1901 census he was a colliery agent living in Bath, married but with just a female servant present. It’s believed he was born as William but changed his Christian name to Wilfred at some stage. He is not found on the censuses of 1901 and 1911 living with his wife and daughter; in fact, I couldn’t find him in 1911 at all. It’s also believed he went to Canada and served with Canadian forces in World War I. Kate CREW and William or Wilfred Griffith LLOYD were married in 1896 in the South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire.
The birth date and birth year of Wilfred’s wife, Kate CREW, is something of a mystery also, arising from some confusion in the GRO indexes and censuses over two different women. Her given age and birth place in the censuses of 1901 and 1911 indicate that she was born between 1871 and about 1873/4 in Blandford, Dorset. However, the GRO birth indexes show there were two females called Kate Crew born within a few years of one another in Dorset! The first Kate was born in 1863 in the registration district of Blandford and the second Kate was born in 1871 in Sturminster registration district. My online researches indicate that the younger Kate married a William Cox at Wincanton registration district in 1889 and they subsequently lived at Kingston Magna, Dorset.
The marriage certificate for Wilfred Griffith Lloyd and Kate Crew shows they were married on 11 January 1896 at the Parish Church of Portswood, Southampton, Hampshire. However, Kate gave her age as 25, four years younger than her husband. But if she was the Kate Crew who was born in 1863 (and I am virtually certain she was), then she knocked seven or eight years off her age! In the 1871 census Kate, aged seven, was living with her parents, James W. Crew and Mary Ann Crew at Iwerne Courtney. She was still there on the 1881 census, aged 17, with her mother who was by then a widow and keeping an inn in the village. Kate also told another fib on the marriage certificate, for she gave her father’s occupation as “Gentleman” when, in fact, he was a master blacksmith!
Marriage certificate of William Griffith Lloyd and Kate Crew. Kate, Emma Chambers’ great grandmother, appears to have told two “little white lies” on the certificate, falsifying her age by a few years and also disguising her father’s occupation.
Great great grandparents
William CHAMBERS was born circa 1810 at Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. He died in 1874, aged 64, in Mansfield registration district. In the 1871 census he was a farmer of 71 acres at Sutton-in-Ashfield. Rebecca MACHIN and William Chambers were married in 1841 in Mansfield registration district.
Rebecca MACHIN was born about 1821 at Riddings, near Normanton, Derbyshire. She died in 1894 at the age of 73 in Mansfield registration district. In the 1881 census she was a farmer of 85 acres at Sutton-in-Ashfield, so took over the running of the farm after her husband’s death.
Samuel BACON was born in 1839 in South Normanton, Derbyshire. He died in 1920 at the age of 81 in Mansfield registration district, Nottinghamshire. He was firstly a coal miner and later became a butcher.
Isabella MARRIOTT was born in 1841 in South Normanton, Derbyshire. She died in 1895 at the age of 54 in Mansfield registration district, Nottinghamshire.
George WAKE was born circa 1821 in London, Middlesex. He died in 1888 at the age of 67 in Wokingham registration district, Berkshire. He was a painter and glazier. Frances Matilda RANDALL and George WAKE were married in 1846 in South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire.
Frances Matilda RANDALL was born circa 1822 in Bitterne, Hampshire. She died in 1893 at the age of 71 in South Stoneham registration district, Hampshire.
Simon STRANGE was born about 1800 in Buckland Newton, Dorset. He was baptised on 18 May 1800 in Buckland Newton, Dorset. He died in August 1855 at the age of 55 in Stalbridge, Dorset. Simon Strange was thrown from a pony and died from injuries. The accident was reported in several provincial newspapers. In the 1851 census Simon was a farmer of over 500 acres, employing 19 labourers in Stalbridge, Dorset. Susanna COLE and Simon STRANGE were married on 11 Nov 1833 in Bedminster, Somerset.
Susanna COLE was born circa 1810 in Turnworth, Dorset. She died in 1879 at Fordingbridge, Hampshire.
Thomas TRUBRIDGE was born circa 1793 in South Newton, Wiltshire. He died in 1866 at the age of 73 in Wilton registration district, Wiltshire. In the 1851 census he was a farmer of 543 acres employing 8 men and 2 boys. Maria Elizabeth A BRACHER and Thomas TRUBRIDGE were married on 4 December 1833 in Great Wishford, Wiltshire.
Maria Elizabeth A BRACHER was born about 1813 in Wishford, Wiltshire. She died in 1886 at the age of 73 in New Forest registration district, Hampshire.
William LLOYD was born circa 1831 in Worcester, Worcestershire. In the 1891 census he was a colliery agent. He died after 1901 and before 1911, probably in Liverpool. Elizabeth CHISAM and William LLOYD were married in 1864 in Cockermouth registration district, Cumberland.
Elizabeth CHISAM was born circa 1843 in Workington, Cumberland. I have not found her death date for certain but she may have died in Liverpool.
James Woolfrey CREW was born about 1815 at Child Okeford, Dorset, and baptised on 23 July 1815 at Child Okeford. He died in 1880, aged 65, in the registration district of Blandford, Dorset. On the 1871 census he was a master blacksmith at Iwerne Courtney, Dorset. Mary Ann Adams and James Woolfrey Crew were married on 28 October 1838 at Shillingstone, Dorset, at the Church of the Holy Rood.
Mary Ann Adams was born about 1818 at Lulworth, Dorset. She died in 1897 in the registration district of South Stoneham, Hampshire, aged 79. In the 1881 census she was an inn keeper at the White Hart, Iwerne Courtney.
Sources of research
I have drawn upon numerous sources in compiling this blog on the genealogy of Emma Chambers, including the following…
FreeBMD (http://www.freebmd.org.uk/cgi/search.pl) which has many millions of birth, marriage and death records from the General Register Office for England and Wales.
Findmypast (http://www.findmypast.co.uk/) a major genealogical website which carries all the census records and images from 1841 to 1911.
FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/), the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Dorset Online Parish Clerks website, http://www.opcdorset.org/, for extracts from Dorset parish registers.
The British Newspaper Archive, http://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
Photo of Stalbridge Park Farm by courtesy of Mike Finding, http://www.dufosee.com