Frank Anstey, a member of the Kennford Ansteys, was born on 1 January 1863 to parents William Anstey and Ellen Philips; he was baptised in Kenton on 1 March 1863. His father died when he was very young so in the 1871 Census Frank was living with his grandparents John and Sarah Philips at Castle Street, St Lawrence, Exeter.
By the 1881 Census Frank was lodging at Cheddon Road, Taunton – he was a “Great Western Railway Locomotive Clerk born in Kenton“. Then in January 1885 Frank (as ‘Francis Anstey’) married Matilda Follet in Taunton, however the marriage was seemingly not long lasting, for in the ‘Bridgwater Mercury‘ newspaper on 15 September 1886 appeared the following:
“TAUNTON POLICE COURT – FIRST ACTION UNDER THE MARRIED WOMEN’S DESERTION ACT: Frank Anstey, a young man employed on the Great Western Railway was charged with unlawfully and wilfully deserting his wife Matilda Anstey on the 3rd of August 1885, being well able to maintain her…the parties were married [on 29 January 1885] and lived together at the house of the complainant’s mother at Sherford, Wilton until August 1885. The defendant then said he was too far from the station and took lodgings in Station Road. The complainant wanted to accompany him, but he said there was no room for her…it was a very hard case for the complainant as she was young in years and there was no probability as far as he could see that they would cohabit again…”
Another report at the same time added that Frank was an “engine driver, of Sherford, living in Canal road, lodging with Mrs Akerman, employed at the station“.
It is likely that in the 1891 Census Frank was a “railway stoker” boarding at Caledonian Road, St Cuthbert, Edinburgh, whilst his ‘wife’ Matilda Anstey was likely a “shirt maker” living at Cumberland Street, Bristol. In the 1901 Census we find ‘Matilda Anstey’ boarding at 59 Upper Cheltenham Place, Bristol – she was a “married shirt machinist born in Taunton, Somerset in 1866“, boarding with her sister Caroline Follet, also a “shirt machinist from Taunton“.
At some point post-1891 Frank must have emigrated to South Africa, because the next we find of him is in Cape Town, where he enrolled with the South African Army on 3 August 1901 as a Private. He was posted to the 3rd Battalion ‘D’ Company, Railway Pioneer Regiment (Service Number: 3222).
Per his Second Boer War Discharge Form, Frank was British; aged 38; Church of England by religion; and an ‘Engine Driver’ by trade. Crucially, his next of kin was given as “Mrs M. Anstey, wife, 59 Upper Cheltenham Place, Montpellier, Bristol“.
Frank was discharged from the Army in South Africa with cause “time expires?” (also “disch 5/3/02 c/s“) on 5 March 1902 in Johannesburg with character “very good“. We lose track of him completely after this, though in the 1911 Census his ‘wife’ Matilda Anstey and her sister Caroline Follet were living at 12 Duke Street, St James, Bristol – Matilda was described as “married for 25 years, a foreman in a shirt factory, born 1866 Taunton and had no children“. Matilda likely died in 1938 in Bristol “aged 72“.
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