• Sarah von Allmen

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 30.

Week 30 – Team.


George Edward Cordell, son of Thomas Cordell and Ann Purdom, was born in Shoreditch on 26 September 1854. His father was a plumber, but after Thomas’ comparatively early death, Ann managed an oilman’s shop, selling oils, paints, candles, hardware, brushes, cleaning materials, and so forth. George worked as a shop boy in his teens and later acted as assistant to his mother. He married Eliza Delliston (or Dalliston) in Hoxton on 20 March 1881. Eliza came from Suffolk and was about five years older than George: she died in London in 1888 after only seven years of marriage.


George then married my distant cousin Elizabeth Rose Higgs in South Kensington on 23 October 1892. Elizabeth was born in Brompton in 1868 and was the daughter of William John Higgs, a carpenter, and his wife Mary Constantina Jones. The couple had two sons, one of whom died in infancy. (There were no children from George’s first marriage.) They spent all their married life in Kensington, and while George worked as an oilman, Elizabeth may have carried on her pre-marriage trade as a dressmaker – female employment is badly under-reported on census returns, and she certainly returned to dressmaking in later life.


George died on 11 September 1909 at Chelsea football ground, Stamford Bridge. I have no idea what he was doing there: the Chelsea first team was playing away at Aston Villa on that day (and getting comprehensively beaten 4-1), while the reserve team didn’t have a match. Was he such a fan that he was watching training? I can’t think of any professional reason for him to have been at the ground, so perhaps the address was just a coincidence?


The Football League was founded in 1888, but Chelsea Football Club didn’t come into existence until 1905. They were elected to the league soon afterwards but spent their early years bouncing between the first and second divisions, and they finished the 1909-1910 season in 19th place, second from bottom, and were duly relegated. At the time, the reserve team played in the now-defunct South Eastern League, which they won for the first time that season. Aston Villa went on to win the first division and Manchester City the second division, thus switching places with Chelsea.


Unfortunately for those of us who are interested in more than just names and dates, we often know very little about our ancestors’ and distant relatives’ daily lives and interests, so tantalising snippets like this - unexpectedly discovered in a probate record – are always a pleasant surprise. I’ve found a handful of other relatives with sporting interests, but I think this is the only one with a link, however tenuous, to team sports.

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