Archive for February, 2011

The Other Man from Snowy River


clip_image002On the wall of my grandparents’ lounge room was a large hand coloured photograph of an old man and his dog taken outside of a small cottage. I wondered who he was. Was he a real person or was it just a piece of décor?

Many years later I learnt that he was my great grandfather. His name was Billy Mercer; he died before I was born and had lived forty four years in one century and forty four in another. I learnt that he had run away from his family and hid at Berridale down in the Snowy Mountains. My mother said that his first wife had died and that he had remarried a German woman,( Emma Lydia Lather ) and with the coming of World War 1 he was so embarrassed he ran away. She also said that he was spotted by a man from Roma who happened to be down there buying cattle and who returned home and put him in to the wife he had deserted. This is most unlikely but makes for a good story. In actual fact he was growing old and wrote to his daughter, Marguerite to re-establish contact.

clip_image004 My grandmother and her brother, Arthur then journeyed to Berridale to bring him back.

There were photographs taken of the occasion. They journeyed to the top of Mount Kosciusko. There was one matter that had me intrigued; why Berridale? One could understand a man fleeing his wife but it was most unlikely for someone from Roma to travel a thousand miles to a small town. Normally people hide in cities like Brisbane where no-one notices and no questions are asked. Small towns ask too many questions.

It seemed that everyone knew him but knew little of him. My brother thought that he was employed on the property as a gardener and wasn’t related. My sister said that he drank tea from a saucer and was deaf.

A break through came when I found out that he had lived under the alias “West” in a cottage called “Bo Peep” and so I stated to investigate a Mr West who had lived in Berridale from about 1913 to about 1934. I wrote to the local historical society and my letter and photographs were displayed at a meeting. They came to the attention of an elderly gentleman by the name of Ellis Atchison who, as a small boy had lived next door and who used to take him dinner every night.

Some seventy five years after Billy West left Berridale I travelled there and met Ellis.


He is in his eighties but remembered my ancestor well but not as “Billy Mercer”; he remembered him as “Brickie West” because that was what he did; he was an itinerant brick maker. He knew the photographs well; they had been taken by his sister who also had to give up her bed for my grandmother. They travelled to the top of Mount Kosciusko with Harry and Kate Scarlett, Uncle and Aunt of Ellis. The dog was named “Nip” who howled at the sound of music.

He could tell me all about where he made bricks and how he hunted rabbits and prospected for gold with his Dad, Dan Aitchison. He mentioned that he was a keen gardener and grew English flowers like Sweet Peas. A passing lady complimented him on them and asked if he might spare some. His reply was “You can have three”.

Still even though I knew more of the man I could not understand why he went to Berridale. It was while Ellis ran through the names of the people that Brickie knew that he mentioned a fellow who lived across the road in “The Gardens”; his name was Edward Austin Tritton commonly known as “Ned Tritton” and he was the publican. Immediately I knew why he went to Berridale. I did not know the relationship but I did know that the first wife was Lydia Tritton and he was obviously family. He turned out to be a distant cousin to Bill’s first wife. Billy apparently knew him but not Emma Lather. Who better to hide a runaway than a publican? I can imagine it “Gentlemen, let me introduce a mate of mine from the old country; Billy West”. No more questions asked.clip_image008

“Bo Peep” no longer exists. The land passed into the ownership of Ellis’s mother, Vera Aitchison, some thirteen acres on the edge of Berridale and she sold on five acres. The cottage was demolished to make way for a caravan park in the sixties. The “Southern Cross Motel” now dominates the site. Ellis still owns the remaining eight acres.


So it was that I was able to spend a night on the site of “Bo Peep” if not actually in the cottage itself.

I then travelled to the old “Pine Valley Hotel” that stands near the Adaminaby turn off between Cooma and Berridale. Many years have passed since it was last a hotel. It is now a craft shop where Jenny purchased some items for her embroidery.

I now understood much about Berridale but still could not pin down the circumstances as to why he left Roma in the first place. clip_image014My cousin, Margaret Ball’s husband Brian Johnston had researched William Mercer and found that he had married Lydia Tritton in St Mary Chapel, Hastings East Sussex in 1884. The marriage produced three children all of whom died as infants. The couple were advised to travel to a better climate and so in 1885 they set off for Brisbane on the “Bulima”.

clip_image016They then had three children; William Jnr, Marguerite and Arthur.

At one stage it was believed that she was the daughter of a Dean of Westminster Abby and a great granddaughter of the Governor of India. None of this was true. She was the daughter of a laundress and he the son of a brickmaker/labourer though he does appear to have been involved with the army. The military buttons from his old greatcoat ended up as the eyes on Alice’s teddy bear. This is currently (March 2009) being investigated.

Lydia Mercer died on the twenty second of December 1890 aged thirty two leaving Billy with three small children. William Jnr born eighteenth of February 1886, Marguerite born twenty seventh of July 1888 and Arthur born twenty third of September 1890. He was unable to care for them in the economic depression so they were admitted on the eighteenth of November 1891 to the Diamantina Orphanage in South Brisbane. William Jnr and Marguerite were fostered with Mrs Boyd that day and Arthur was fostered with Mr Laing on the 23rd of January 1892. On the 16th of August 1892 he married Emma Lydia Lather who had two illegitimate children, one of whom had died. The day he married her he reclaimed his children. I see that it was a marriage of necessity.

clip_image018 The second marriage produced four children born between 1897 and 1907 though it was not apparently a happy marriage. Emma Lather favoured her own children and Marguerite left home at the age of thirteen, never to return.

In 1910 William Jnr was killed. He was a policeman and fell from his horse. This must have affected Billy. His first family was grown and had left home. At the same time Ned Tritton’s wife, Bethell Jane died at the age of thirty six so there came to be two men who were bound not only by family ties but by loss. Simply Billy had had enough and walked out the door and went to Berridale.


clip_image022In 2007 I returned to Hastings and visited Cliff Cottage where Billy was born. It still exists high on a cliff overlooking the English Channel.

In those days it would have been at least a mile from the town but Hastings has grown and it is surrounded by later houses.

St Mary Chapel is now derelict and marked for redevelopment.


I thought about all that had happened. Nowadays it would have been so different. It would be most unusual to lose three babies. They would most probably have not migrated. Lydia Tritton most probably would not have died and so on it goes but all those things did happen. I believe that he was a good man.

Billy Mercer spent perhaps the past ten years of his life on the farm at Fernside. In 1942 my grandfather received a phone call saying that Emma had passed away. Billy did not look up from his meal; he simply said “That’s one less wife I have”.

Article by Terry Hicks January 2009

Part of the British Raj in India

John Tritton Jnr was born on 7th September 1796 and baptised at St Leonard’s Hythe, some six weeks later, on October 23, I believe he was left in the care of his father’s older brother, William; I doubt if John Snr would have taken his young son to the military cantonments of India, considering that he was a widower at that time and would have been dependent on strangers to care for the boy.

John Jnr was only 16 yrs of age when, on January 14 1813, he obtained the commission of Cornet with the 24th Light Dragoons, no doubt with the help of his father. This was the beginning of a long and distinguished career that lasted more than 40 years and involved him in many of the major battles fought in India during that time. He was with the horse artillery of the 24th’s ‘Gallopers’ at the siege and capture of Hattras in 1817 (witnessing the terrible carnage and devastation that occurred when underground gun powder stores were blown up); afterwards, Hart’s Army List records that he served with the Centre Divison of the Grand Army during the Mahratta Campaign of 1817/8, when the British shattered a combined force of Mahratta and Pindari estimated at 200,000 men and 500 guns.

John’s military records seem to indicate that he did not accompany the ‘24th’ back to England in 1818. By October 1819 he had joined the 11th Light Dragoons and it was as a Lieutenant of his regiment that on November 1, 1821, at Cawnpore, he married Frances (‘Fanny’) the only surviving daughter of John Maxwell, who during ten years in Cawnpore had owned a rum distillery, cotton presses and an indigo factory and amassed a fortune. One of the witnesses at the wedding was Elizabeth Grant, wife of Robert Grant, father of Mary. John’s stepmother, John won a silver medal for his services at Bhurtpore, and although there is some doubt as to whether his father was there too, we know that his cousin William Tritton was there, serving as a Lieutenant with the 41st Bengal Native Infantry.

Four years later John, together with another cousin, Edmund (who was also his brother-in-law) having married Harriette Elizabeth in 1828) and Adam Maxwell (Fanny’s brother) acted as executors for John Snr’s Will.

On October 7 1836, John obtained his Captain’s commission with the ‘11th’ and within a year transferred to the 3rd Light Dragoons, possibly in order to remain in India when the ‘11th’s’ period of overseas service was over. He serviced with the ‘3rd’ in Afghanistan, including the historic forcing of the Khyber Pass on April 5 1842. John and Fanny’s second son, Robert Burnett, an ensign with the 31st Foot @Regiment, died in 1842, likely during the Afghan Campaign. John’s half-brother William Mills, mentioned earlier also took part in the forcing of the Khyber, with the 26th BNI. John was also involved in the storming of the Heights of Ingdulluck in September 1842. At the close of the actions in Fazeen and Huft Kotul he was sent in pursuit of the enemy and with a party of twelve men overtook and captured one of their guns. He and William were also part of the occupation force at Kabul. For his services in the Afghan Campaign John received another silver metal.

He next served with the Army of the Sutlej, action as assistant adjutant general of the cavalry. He captured an enemy standard during the Battle of Moodkee on December 18 1845, and in the Battle of Ferozeshah on December 22 and 23 he accompanied the ‘3rd’ in their celebrated charge on the enemy’s batteries and forced a passage through the entrenched Sikh position. At the battle of Sobraon on February 10, 1846, his horse was shot from under. Once again he was decorated for his actions, this time with a silver medal and two clasps. John’s youngest half-brother, Charles Hill Grant Tritton, also mentioned earlier, a Lieutenant with the 31st Foot Regiment, died of wounds received at Sobraon. His name is inscribed on a memorial in Canterbury Cathedral in honour of those who died in what proved to be a decisive victory.

Soon after the first Sikh War, John obtained the commission of Major with the 10th Hussars, a prestigious cavalry regiment commanded by Colonel Lord Henry Beauchamp and later known as ‘the Prince of Wales’ Own. It was with the ‘10th’ that John served his last seven years in India, mostly in Bombay. He became a Lieutenant Colonel on February 27, 1852. His various purchases of commissions would have cost him £6,175 and I wonder if some of this may have been paid from Fanny’s sizeable inheritance. John’s long and uninterrupted Army career in India came to a close on December 13, 1853. He died two months later on February 8, and was buried in the English cemetery, Somapur B Ward, Charni Road, Bombay.

All four of his sons (John Maxwell, Robert Burnett, Edmund Spry and Nicholas Bruton) died in India. John and Fanny also had four daughters, Charlotte Louise (who married Edward Stacey, a Captain in the 10th Hussars), Helen Margaret (who married Dr Samuel Currie, an Army surgeon who later became Hon. Physician to Queen Victoria), Fanny Georgiana (who married Alfred Stephen Chapman, a Major in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers) and Emily (who married William Fanning, a Lloyds underwriter). Fanny died at 13 Orsett Terrace, Paddington, London on June 24 1874.

A Family at War

Brian Green tells the story of his maternal 4 x great uncle, John Tritton and John’s son, two soldiers who were the first of several member of our family to serve in India during the British Raj

Captain John Tritton, the second son of Henry and Sarah (nee Mercer) Tritton, was baptised at St Leonard’s parish church, Hythe, Kent on September 15 1772. John’s early years were spend as a draper. This entry into trade is not surprising when one considers that as a younger son, he would not expect to inherit much, if any, of his father’s estate. Henry’s Will make no mention of any child other than John’s older brother, William (1768-1830). Who appears to have inherited Henry’s entire estate.

John married Mary Browning at Waltham, Kent on September 8 1795. They had two sons, John and Henry Ewell, but only John survived. Mary was buried on June 3 1798 at Waltham probably having died during or shortly after the birth of Henry Ewell (who was buried at Waltham on August 23 1798)

On April 3, 1801 John received a commission as a Cornet (the lowest rank of commissioned officer in the Cavalry, replaced by that of Second Lieutenant in 1871) with His Majesty’s 27th Light Dragoons. He may have purchased this himself from the profits earned as a draper but I believe his father likely helped with the required £840. John was the first of the Trittons’ of Hythe to go to India but he was not the first Tritton in India; one Thomas of Ashford, a member of the Tritton family of Kennington, died unmarried in Calcutta and his Will was proved there on January 25 1771.

The actual date of John’s arrival in India is as yet unknown. He was certainly there by 1804,. For in that year he married, at Cawnpore, Mary, a natural daughter of Robert Grant, for many years a Collector of Customs. By this time Cawnpore, on the south bank of the Ganges, had become the largest up-country military cantonment in India, seldom containing less than ten thousand soldiers. It was from here that the Bengal Army’s Commander-in-Chief, Lord Lake, set out on the campaigns known as the Mahratta Wars.

John and Mary’s first child, William Mills, was born at Cawnpore on May 23 1805; they were to have two more sons (Robert Henry Grant and Charles Hill Grant) and six daughters (Catherine Louisa, Harriette Elizabeth, Charlotte, Georgina, Mary Anne and Fanny Price) John’s service records state that he acted as an adjutant from November 1, 1807 to August 1, 1808. On January 22, 1812, John obtained the commission of Captain. An officer had to pay the difference between purchase price of the promoted rank and the value of his own commission, so John would have paid an additional £350 for a Lieutenant’s commission (obtained on August 20, 1803) and another £2,035 for his Captain’s commission; John total expenditure, including his Cornet’s commission would have been £3225.

During the latter part of 1812, he returned with Mary. The Hythe parish registers state that Georgina was born on December 11, 1812. The reason for John and Mary’s visit, I suspect, was so that John’s sons by his first wife could rejoin him. John Jnr had probably been raised by his uncle, William, during his father’s absence. During John and Mary’s stay in England, John Jnr received a Cornet’s commission in his father’s regiment. John and Mary remained at Hythe at least until March 1813 (Georgina was baptised at St Leonard’s on17th of that month) before making the journey back to India. The date of their arrival at Calcutta would appear to have been sometime in November 1813; in those days, long before the Suez Canal and the Indian railways were built, the route to the interior of India was via Calcutta, the sea journey from England taking five or six months.

Five years later Captain John was once again in England, having returned with his regiment, which had been reduced in strength on Christmas Day 1818, at which time John went on to half pay. His wife Mary and probably all their children, but not John Jnr, also made the long voyage home at this time. The family resided for a while at Hythe, were Mary Anne was born on June 14 1818 and baptised at St Leonard’s. Later the family moved to the Ashford area, ten miles from Hythe; cadet papers for William Mills, who also followed a military career, refer to him as a son of John Tritton of Lacton House, near Ashford. However, John did not remain in England, but returned to India. When he did so is uncertain, but it appears that he left Mary behind, pregnant, for in his Will he refers to ‘the youngest, born after I left England, whose name I believe to be Charles’. This was Charles Hill Grant Tritton, who was baptized in St. Mildred’s Church in Canterbury on 10th February 1846

Article reproduced from TFH Iss.1 by Brian Greene

Henry Tritton of Hythe–Customs Officer

Henry Tritton of HytheMeet “One Eyed Tritton” a character from the days when Kent was notorious for its smugglers. His real name was Henry and as a Riding Officer in HM Coastguard of Riding Officers he patrolled the Kent coast and country lanes, stopping and searching carts and wagons suspected to be carrying contraband.

Henry’s likeness was discovered accidently, when we were researching the life of Sir William Ashbee Tritton, inventor of the ‘fighting tank’ in the First World War. In his Will, Sir William left ‘my little crayon picture of One Eyed Tritton’ to the Major, Aldermen & Citizens of Hythe.

Henry and Sir William’s common forebears were Christopher and Elizabeth (nee Filmer) Tritton, who were Henry’s parents and Sir William’s great x 3 (great-great-great) grandparents. Henry was Mayor of Hythe on seven occasions between 1789 and 1813. He married three times and died in 1827, leaving three daughters and three sons (one of who is featured in our article ‘A family at war’)

Perhaps you are a descendant of this interesting character, whose life and career we are researching for a future article? Did he, we wonder, lose an eye in a fight with a gang of smugglers leading ‘five and twenty ponies’ to a secret hideout in the hills behind Hythe?.

Article reproduced from TFH Iss.1 by Paul Tritton

Welcome to the History of the Tritton Families

Well, finally after two years with the site down, I have spent some time to get it operational again. Part of the reason it has been down is because, I have been looking for a suitable plugin for WordPress so that anyone can search the family database.

I have for many years used the program Legacy Family Tree and was hoping that someone would write a plugin for that genealogy package. As at February 2011 this is not the case and subsequently I am still looking! I am though experimenting with a program called phpgedview which I hope will come to fruition later this year.

In the meantime I have created sub-directories for all the main branches and these are available under the Tritton Families link on the right. Not ideal but hopefully Google should index them as they are just thousands of html pages. These have all been automated and as I have a policy of not publishing details of living people, I apologize in advance should you accidentally appear. If so, just let me know and I will manually remove the page.

The family trees are basically details of hatched, matched and despatched which can be a bit boring. Therefore I have decided that a blog format is a better concept where stories can be written about those of our ancestors that have left records. Much better than boring old genealogy data!

Many of these stories will initially be taken from back issues of Tritton Family History, the magazine edited by Paul Tritton from 1989 till the last issue in 2005. The project started back in 1988 when I met Paul (my fourth cousin) and his wife Pat and it is thanks to Paul’s editing and Pat’s tenacity that the project ever got going. My input was just a small part having gathered many of the records over the previous ten years and writing the very occasional article.

Anyway I have left commenting open so if you feel that you have more to contribute to any particular story, then please do. If you want to contribute yourself then email me. I will happily add your photos of the family if you wish.

We are on Facebook and I will tweet the posts in Twitter so please feel free to visit and “Like” our page and pass the details on to any family members.

Lastly I hope you enjoy the stories