William Anstey, a member of a currently unknown sub-branch, was born on 17 May 1835 in Cullompton, baptised later in 1835, to single mother Elizabeth (she also had another son George born in 1839 who died an infant). In the 1841 Census William and his mother were living at Colebrook Lane, Cullompton and by the 1851 Census William was an agricultural labourer lodging at Exeter Road, Cullompton.
On 28 July 1856 in Pembroke, William decided to enlist in the Army – he was first posted to the 23rd Regiment of Foot (1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers) as a Private (Service Number: 5421) and soon headed to India where he fought in the Indian Rebellion of 1857/58 (see below for more details on this).
According to his Service Record he was tried and imprisoned for “habitual drunkenness” in December 1859, released in February 1860 (he was also “tried and imprisoned” for numerous misdemeanours in 1868 and 1869). He was still a Private in Lucknow in 1861, then on 18 May 1866 at Jubbulpore in India, still with the 23rd Regiment of Foot, he signed up for another ten years of service.
On 31 October 1867 [or 1868] William was transferred to the 26th Regiment of Foot, still serving as a Private (Service Number: 1462). He immediately prepared for mobilisation as part of an expeditionary force sent to Abyssinia, where they landed in March 1868. They marched inland towards Magdala awaiting further instructions, and after a month of waiting received notice that hostilities had ended. The regiment returned to Bombay, arriving back there in June 1868, at which point they were diverted to Calcutta and garrisoned at Dum Dum. In early 1870 they were transferred to Faizabad, where William (still a Private) was stationed in 1871.
On 7 June 1875 William was discharged after “being found unfit for further service“. His Discharge Report reads thus: “his conduct has been fair. He is not in possession of any Good Conduct badges. He has the Indian Mutiny Medal with clasps for Lucknow and Relief of Lucknow & the Abyssinian Medal. He has no school certificate. His name appears twenty times in the Regimental Defaulter Books and he has been four times tried by court martial“. In total he had served nineteen years in the Army, of which eighteen years were in India, and two months were in Abyssinia.
By the time of his discharge William had “chronic bronchitis” – he indicated that he intended to live at New Frodingham in Lincolnshire.
Thirty years after his discharge, in October 1906, William had a medical examination as a Chelsea Pensioner (Number: 32288) in Hounslow. He was then stated to have “no evidence of any chronic bronchitis though he is very debilitated – permanent disability – incapable of earning any livelihood, was a labourer but has done no work for the last two years – his last employer was Mr Keen, Harlington“
As such we can be very confident that soon after his discharge William married Sophia Franklin in 1875 in Staines, having children Susan Elizabeth Anstey (b 1881 Staines, died an infant) and Alfred John Anstey (b 1882 Staines – see below).
In the 1881 Census the family were living at Mud End, Harlington where William was a bricklayer’s labourer (he put his birth location as “not known” which doesnt help). In 1890 William was a “costermonger of Harlington, summoned for having on the 18th of February driven a barrow on the footway in the Bath Road Harmondsworth“. In 1891 the family were still living at Mud End, Harlington where William was a chimney sweep (giving birth location ‘Devonshire’). In 1901 the family were living at Elms Cottage, Harlington, Staines where he was a labourer (giving birth location as ‘Harlington’ which is clearly incorrect).
On 10 August 1901 the ‘Ealing Gazette‘ reported “DEATHS. ANSTEY—On July 30th, at High-street, Harlington. Sophia Anstey, aged 49 years.” In 1902 William was still living at High Street, Harlington and by 1904 he was living at Hall Cottage, Harlington.
The ‘Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette‘ on 14 December 1907 reported on William’s plight, giving the following very detailed article. “The Harlington Veteran: Harlington is one of those localities so rapidly decreasing in number, which can boast a veteran of the Great Mutiny, which occurred with such calamitous results in India just 50 years ago. The name of this veteran is William Anstey an he is known throughout the length and breadth of Harlington. Like so many of his comrades of the dark 1850s, he has fallen upon hard times and it is to assist in providing him with a decent rig out for the forthcoming ‘Mutiny Veterans Dinner’ in London that his friends have arranged a concert on Saturday December 21st. Ansteys case is typical of hundreds of his day and it goes to show that lack of consideration for the men who win the countries battles was as prevalent then as it is now. Anstey joined the Monmouth Militia at Aberdare as a boy and after twelve months service in this regiment he joined the old 23rd Foot (Welsh Fusiliers) at the age of 18. He really volunteered for Crimea but when he reached his destination, peace was declared. His regiment was then ordered to China but had only reached Singapore when they were ordered back on account of the Mutiny. They landed in Calcutta on Sept 9th 1857 and marched up country for 1500 miles. They were ordered to Lucknow by forced marches, and although the heat was terrific and some fighting was experienced, few men fell out. At Cawnpore the renowned Outram took supreme command and then commenced the celebrated march to Lucknow which was practically 48 miles of fighting. Anstey took part in both the relief and final capture of Lucknow. He wears the medals for Lucknow and the relief of Lucknow and also for the Abyssinian Expedition. In 1868 he transferred from the 23rd to the 26th Foot (the Cameronians) and was under Lord Napier in the expedition mentioned above. From Abyssinia he returned to India where he remained until January 1875. Arrived in England he was discharged as ‘unfit for further service’ on the magnificent pension of 8d per day. Out of his 18 years 263 days of service 17 years and 4 months was spent abroad and he was still a young man when discharged. He came to Harlington in 1875 and has remained there ever since. Through the instrumentality of Mr Baldwin his pension was increased to 1s 6d per day but it is unnecessary to state that this is scarcely sufficient to do more than pay his rent. During his residence at Harlington, Anstey has lost practically the whole of his lower jaw through a tumour, but this disfigurement is almost invisible on account of the beard which clothes the chin. Please dont forget the 21st“.
We originally believed that William died in q4 1907 in Staines, “aged 73“, but this is probably not correct as the ‘Uxbridge & W. Drayton Gazette‘ on 4 January 1908 reported that “Among the old soldiers who assembled at the ‘Daily Telegraph’ Mutiny Veterans Dinner [on 23rd Dec] was Mr William Anstey of Harlington, in aid of whom a concert was given two days before the dinner took place [on 21 Dec].. [a next door neighbour] testified to the excellent and neighbourly qualities of his character, defying anyone to throw a stain upon Ansteys character…”
Having said that, given that the above reported dinner was on 23rd December 1907, he could have died in the week after that – research continues.
Additional Research Note:
William‘s son Alfred John Anstey was born in 1882 (some sources say 8 April 1881) in Staines. In 1901 he was a bricklayer living with his parents in Harlington. He joined the 29th Royal Engineers at Hounslow on 23 September 1902 as a Sapper (Service Number: 11694), however he was discharged on 9 December 1904 at Chatham “having been found medically unfit for further service“. In q4 1909 in Paddington he married Harriet Ward (b 1884 Chelsea) – they had children in Harlington Gladys Enid Anstey (b 1911); Edith M. Anstey (b 1912); Winifred M. Anstey (b 1914); Valentine R. Anstey (b 1917); Kathleen A. Anstey (b 1919); Margaret Anstey (b 1919 Torrington, Devon); Sophia B. Anstey (b 1921); and Kenneth W. Anstey (b 1925).
In the 1911 Census Alfred was a “married bricklayer” lodging at Broadmoor Road, Crowthorne – his wife Harriet and first daughter Gladys were living at 12 Appleford Road, Kensington with her brother John Ward. In the 1927 Electoral Register the family were living at 3 Shackles Cottages, Harlington. In the 1939 Register Alfred, Harriet and Kenneth were still living at 3 Shackles Cottages, Cranford Lane – he was still a bricklayer. Alfred died in 1964 in Uxbridge.