Orr Family of Hove

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The Family of James Orr of St Aubyn's, Hove

[ABOVE] A portrait of James Orr (c1825-1902), photographed by William Hall & Son of 80 West Street, Brighton around 1888. James Orr was born in Cork, Ireland, around 1825. In his youth James Orr emigrated to Australia, where in New South Wales, he eventually established a sheep farming station at Garawilla on the Liverpool Plains. During the 1860s and 1870s, in partnership with his brother Eben (Ebenezer) Orr, he owned a number of sheep farms in New South Wales. James Orr served as a magistrate at Coonabarabran and  made his fortune rearing sheep in the Australian Colony of New South Wales.

Kit Houghton, the great grandson of James Orr, has inherited a large amount of documents relating to James Orr's large holdings on the Garawilla Plains and the business correspondence regarding the management of his sheep farming stations, including "a very abrupt letter from his bank manager demanding he reduce his overdraft". [ Kit Houghton observed that in today's money, James Orr's overdraft was somewhere around 3 million pounds in British sterling].

A long term resident of  Coonabarabran, New South Wales, Mrs Mary Jane Cain (1844-1926), remembered James Orr and his brother Ebenezer Orr with affection and respect. When she composed her "Reminiscences of Coonabarabran" in 1920, Mrs Mary Jane Cain recalled that during the 1850s, the Orr Brothers' white Australian workers left the sheep stations to work the recently discovered gold diggings. The Orr Brothers replaced their absent workers with Indian "Coolies", "Chinamen" and Australian Aborigines.  Mrs Mary Jane Cain noted in her distinctive fashion that "the Aborigenals (sic) those days were greatest favourites & they never forgot they had a good kind & generous master in Mr Orr or I should say Orr Bros". Mrs Cain was sad to see the Orr Brothers leave the Coonabarabran district adding "I must state that the (Orr) Brothers were greatly missed as I have stated before they were most generous & kind hearted to every one alike".

Around 1880, James Orr, then a bachelor in his mid-fifties, returned to England and went on to marry and establish a permanent home in Hove on the Sussex coast. On 20th December 1881, fifty-seven year old James Orr, married Mrs Constance Symonds, the 30 year old widow of Powell William Symonds (1845-1879). James Orr fathered two sons - James Spencer Orr (born 1882, Malvern, Worcs.) and Gordon Biddulph Orr (born 1886, Hove). A man of independent means, James Orr senior spent his retirement at his family residence in St Aubyn's, Hove. After twenty years as the owner-occupier of 42 St Aubyn's, Hove,  James Orr senior died in Hove on 22nd January 1902 at the age of 77.

PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton

James Orr senior (c1825-1902)

James Orr was born around 1825 in Cork, Ireland. When still young James Orr emigrated to Australia with his siblings. With the help of his brother, Eben (Ebenezer) Orr, he eventually set up a number of sheep farming stations in the colony of New South Wales. It appears that James Orr received some financial support in his sheep farming business from his brother-in-law Robert "Tertius" Campbell (1811-1887), an Australian-born tycoon who had amassed a fortune through gold trading in his native Australia. James Orr's older sister Anne Orr (born c1828, Cork, Ireland) had married Robert "Tertius" Campbell in Australia in 1835. Robert "Tertius" Campbell, the son of a prosperous Australian merchant, had secured 106,000 acres of sheep-grazing land in the Liverpool Plains district of New South Wales and the Moreton Bay district of Queensland. When Robert "Tertius"  Campbell left Australia for England in the mid-1850s to take possession of the Buscot Park Estate in Berkshire, thousands of acres of sheep pasture passed into the hands of James Orr and his brother Ebenezer Orr.

From the mid-1850s until the late 1870s, James Orr and his brother Ebenezer Orr acquired sheep-grazing land and sheep farming stations in several districts of the Australian colony. Mrs Mary Jane Cain (1844-1926) in her "Reminiscences of Coonabarabran", composed in 1920, recalled that the Orr Brothers were continually buying and selling property and purchasing sheep stations in the district: "Borah Station - a place about twenty six miles was owned by an old Pioneer by the name of Mr James Orr & Robert Campbell, his brother in law, who was a large merchant in Sydney at the time. Mr James Orr was unable to manage the property therefore he sent for his brother Ebenza Orr to Morten Bay which is now called Queensland. Orr Bros then purchased a place called Yaminabah from a Mr Charles & Matthew Fitzsimmmons, brothers. Mr Orr was also in partners with a Mr Collis of Bungle Gully. He, Mr Orr, then bought a place named Garrawilla from a Mr G. H. Cox that I should think would be in '64. He then bought another station Gooranawa from another Mr King Cox & from this same person he, Mr Orr, purchased another station call Ulamambri. Belar was another place purchased by Mr Orr from a Mr Tom Wangar".

The Orr Brothers' sheep-farming venture appears to have been a great success and when James Orr set sail for England around the year 1880, he was probably still a very wealthy man. At the time of the 1881 census of England, James Orr was living with his sister and brother-in-law at Buscot Park House in Berkshire. On the census return, James Orr is described as an unmarried man of 56 with the social rank of "Gentleman".

On 20th December 1881, James Orr married Mrs Constance Symonds (formerly Constance Biddulph), the thirty year old widow of Powell William Symonds of Pendock Manor, Worcestershire. At the time of her marriage to James Orr, Constance was the mother of a five year old boy named Powell Biddulph Symonds (born 1875, New Zealand), a son from her first marriage. During the first six years of her marriage to James Orr, Mrs Constance Orr gave birth to two more sons - James Spencer Orr (born 4th October 1882) and Gordon Biddulph Orr (born 23rd July 1886). According to his birth registration and the 1891 census, James Spencer Orr was born near Malvern in the Upton district of Worcestershire. Gordon Biddulph Orr, James Orr senior's second son, was born in Hove, Sussex.

James Orr and Constance Biddulph were married for twenty years, living most of that time at No. 42 St Aubyns, Hove. When the census was taken on 31st March 1901, seventy-six year old James Orr declared that he was "Living on his Own Means". James Orr senior died in Hove on 22nd January 1902 at the age of 77.

[ABOVE] A photograph by Maximilian Guillon of Westbourne Place, West Brighton showing a horse-drawn carriage outside No. 42 St Aubyn's, Hove, the family residence of James Orr (c1825-1902). James Orr, the owner of the house, was an Irish-born sheep farmer who had made his fortune in Australia before returning to England around 1880. On 20th December 1881, James Orr married Mrs Constance Symonds, the thirty year old widow of Powell William Symonds of Pendrock Manor. After their marriage Mr & Mrs Orr established a family home at No. 42 St Aubyn's, Hove. James Orr's wife had a young son from her first marriage, but over the next five years she gave birth to two more sons -  James Spencer Orr (born 1882) and Gordon Biddulph Orr (born 1886).

PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton


James Spencer Orr (1882-1910)

James Spencer Orr was born near Malvern, Worcestershire, on 4th October 1882, the first son of the union between James Orr senior and Mrs Constance Symonds (formerly Constance Biddulph). [The birth of James Spencer Orr was registered in the Upton district of Worcestershire during the 4th Quarter of 1882]. James Spencer Orr's mother Mrs Constance Orr had connections with the county of Worcestershire through her first marriage. Mrs Orr's late first husband, Powell William Symonds, a former army officer, had his family home at Pendock Manor, near Tewkesbury in the county of Worcestershire and her late husband's father, Rev. William Samuel Symonds (c1819-1887) was the Rector of Pendock and a Wiltshire J.P.

James Spencer Orr was educated at Eton College. After leaving Eton College, James Spencer Orr pursued a military career. During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), James Spencer Orr served under Brigadier-General Edward Brabant, the Commander of Colonial Troops in the Eastern Cape. In 1899, Brigadier-General Brabant raised two light cavalry regiments known as "Brabant's Horse". James Spencer Orr served as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Brabant's Horse Regiment. James Spencer Orr later joined the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters) Regiment as an "Honorary Lieutenant". The Sydney Morning Herald later reported that James Spencer Orr "fought through the South African War, first with Brabant's Horse, and then with the Sharpshooters". On 18th November 1902, was raised to the rank of full Lieutenant in the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters) Regiment. By 1905, James Spencer Orr had become a Captain in the 3rd County of London Yeomanry. [ The Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry Museum holds at Sharpshooter's House, Croydon, a photographic portrait of Captain James Spencer Orr in full military dress, which dates from around 1905].

On Tuesday 7th January 1903 at All Saints' Church, Hove, Lieutenant James Spencer Orr of the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters) Regiment married Florence May Barley (born 1881, Datchet, Bucks.), the 21 year old daughter of he eldest daughter of William Barley, a stock broker, who resided at 5 St Aubyns Gardens, just around the corner from Lieutenant Orr's home in St Aubyn's, Hove. This union was to produce two daughters -  Daphne Constance May Orr (born 1904, London) and Iris Diana Orr (born 1906, London).

Around 1905, Captain James Spencer Orr became involved with the Electric Motor Omnibus Company, a business concern which was trying to develop a public service vehicle called the "Electrobus". A 1906 edition of The Statist: A Journal of Practical Finance and Trade listed Captain James Spencer Orr of 7 Chester Street, Belgrave Square, S.W. London as a Director of the Electric Motor Omnibus Company. It appears that, after receiving reports on the technical limitations of the proposed 'Electrobus', Captain James Spencer Orr withdrew from the Electric Motor Omnibus Company. A letter from Captain Orr's solicitors to The Auto motoring journal, dated 18th May 1906, informed the magazine's readership that "Captain James Spencer Orr, had resigned his directorship prior to the issue of the circular by the company, as the electrical expert employed by him had reported unfavourably on the value of the Electrobus from a commercial point of view".

It appears that Captain James Spencer Orr had made some unwise investments in other business ventures. In December 1909, The London Gazette reported the bankruptcy of Captain Orr in a short notice: "BANKRUPTS - James Spencer Orr, 42 St Aubyn's, Hove, Sussex, Army officer."

On 13th July 1909, James Spencer Orr set off from Southampton for South Africa, embarking on the Carisbrook Castle, a steamship bound for Cape Town. After his arrival in South Africa, James Spencer Orr made his way to Robertstown, a settlement some 150 miles from Cape Town. Captain James Spencer Orr died in Robertstown, South Africa on 10th June 1910 at the age of 27.

[ABOVE] A portrait of James Spencer Orr (1882-1910), photographed by A. H. Fry of 68 East Street, Brighton around 1900. James Spencer Orr served as an officer in the Imperial Yeomanry, Brabant's 2nd Regiment of Light Cavalry (known as Brabant's Horse) and the 3rd County of London (Sharpshooters) Regiment. Lieutenant J. S. Orr saw action in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902).

PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton


Mrs Florence May Orr ( Miss Florence May Barley)

[ABOVE] A detail from the photographic portrait of Mrs Florence May Orr (formerly Miss Barley) taken by Frederick Oakes Devereux of 98 Western Road, Hove around the time of Florence's marriage to James Spencer Orr in 1903.

PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton

[ABOVE] A detail from the miniature portrait of Mrs Florence May Orr, painted by the artist and photographer    Arthur Esme Collings who operated a portrait studio at 120 Western Road, Hove, between 1893 and 1906.

PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton

Mrs Florence May Orr [ Miss Florence May Barley ] (1881-1937)

Florence May Barley was born in Datchet, Buckinghamshire on 7th April 1881, the eldest daughter of Emma May Day and William Barley, a stock broker. William Barley (born c1859, South Hampstead, London) married Emma May Day (born c1859, Lamarsh, Essex) in Kensington, London in 1880. When the census was taken on 3rd April 1881, Emma May Barley and her husband William Barley were residing at No. 3 The Avenue, Datchet, Buckinghamshire. Twenty-two year old William Barley informed the census enumerator that he was a "Member of the Stock Exchange". At the time of the census, William Barley's wife was heavily pregnant. Florence May Barley, the couple's first child, was born four days later on 7th April 1881. William and Emma May Barley remained in Datchet for the next seven or eight years, during which time there were three more additions to the Barley family - Cyril William Barley (born 1884), Sybil Edith Barley (born 1885) and Jack Charles Barley (born 1888).

By 1890, William Barley and his family had moved to Hove in East Sussex. The 1890 edition of Kelly's Directory of Sussex lists a "William Bailey" at 5 St Aubyn's Gardens, Hove, but this is clearly a misprint for "William Barley". William Barley, his wife Emma and their four children are recorded at 5 St Aubyn's Gardens, Hove, when the 1891 census was taken the following year. Florence's mother, Mrs Emma May Barley had died in Hove in 1898 at the age of 39. When the 1901 census was taken, William Barley, a forty-one year old widower who gives his occupation as "Stock Broker" is shown living at 5 St Aubyn's Gardens, Hove with his two daughters, nineteen year old Florence and 15 year old Sybil.

On Tuesday 7th January 1903 at All Saints' Church, Hove, Florence May Barley then aged 21, married Lieutenant James Spencer Orr (born 1882), the eldest son of the late Mr James Orr and Mrs Constance Orr of 42 St Aubyn's, Hove. The union between Florence May Barley and James Spencer Orr produced two daughters. Florence's first daughter, Daphne Constance May Orr, was born in London on 17th January 1904. Daphne's younger sister, Iris Diana Orr, was born on 29th October 1906.

In October 1909, Mrs Florence May Orr, accompanied by her brother-in-law Gordon Biddulph Orr, set off for South Africa to search for her husband James Spencer Orr who had made the journey to South Africa a few months earlier. After it had become clear that her husband had died in South Africa, Florence Orr returned to England. On the 1911 census return, Mrs Florence May Orr is described as twenty-nine year old widow living on "Private Means". At this time Florence Orr was residing at The Cottage, White Rose Lane, Woking, Surrey, with her two daughters, seven year old Daphne and four year old Iris, together with three female domestic servants.

In 1913, Mrs Florence May Orr married John L. Dixon, a London solicitor. Two sons were produced during Florence's second marriage - Peter J. Dixon (born 1914) and Alec Paul Dixon (born 1917). Mrs Florence May Dixon (formerly Mrs Florence Orr) died at Worthing, Sussex, in 1937, aged 55.

[ABOVE] Cabinet portrait of Mrs Florence May Orr (born 1881),  photographed by Frederick Oakes Devereux of 98 Western Road, Hove. This photographic portrait was probably taken in January 1903, shortly after Florence May Barley's marriage to James Spencer Orr (1882-1910). Mrs Florence Orr is wears an elaborate wedding ring and a pearl necklace - probably "the string of pearls, the gift of the bridegroom" referred to in a contemporary newspaper report of Florence's wedding. From February 1903 onwards, the couple were on their honeymoon, enjoying their "extended tour of Japan, Australia and New Zealand" (The Sydney Morning Herald, 7th March 1903). By January 1904, Mrs Florence May Orr was residing in the "St George, Hanover Square" district of London. Florence's first daughter Daphne Constance May Orr  was born  in London on 17th January 1904 and her birth was registered in the London district of St George, Hanover Square. Mrs Orr was still living in this part of London when her second daughter, Iris Diana Orr, was born on 29th October 1906.   PHOTO: courtesy of Kit Houghton

[ABOVE] Detail from an old map of Hove showing the proximity of the home of Florence Barley in St Aubyn's Gardens [marked with an olive green dot] and the home of James Spencer Orr, her future husband, in St Aubyn's [marked with a blue dot]






I am grateful to Kit Houghton, the grandson of Mrs Florence May Orr, for providing photographs and information relating to the Family of James Orr of St Aubyn's, Hove.

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