A Family Disintegrates                                                 

John Blyth Rogers 1801-1860                                       Emma Cobden 1800-1836                                      Paternal great-grandparents of Valdis Muriel Skidmore

Family backgrounds

John Blyth Rogers and his twin Charles Fletcher Rogers were born in 1801 at Gad’s Hill in Kent to Mary Ann (nee Blyth) and George Vining Rogers of West Meon, Hampshire. Mary Ann was on the way to visit her uncle at the Sheerness dockyard when her twins were born. The twins were baptised at Portsea. John was the second of sixteen children, but many of his siblings died young. Two went on to become prominent citizens – Dr. Joseph Rogers, a Poor Law reformer and James Edwin Thorald Rogers, agricultural historian, Member of Parliament and Oxford Professor. John’s father was a medical practitioner and John also followed in that profession. He was probably educated at Bishop’s Waltham where other family members went to school.                                                    

Emma Cobden was born on December 11th 1800 at Heyshott near Midhurst in Sussex where her parents William and Millicent Cobden (nee Amber) lived at their farm Dunford. Her brother Richard Cobden became wealthy from his calico printing manufacturing firm in Manchester, and later famous for his strong stance in favour of free trade, international peace, and a leader of the Anti-Corn Law League. He became an M.P. and a negotiator between England and France on economic issues. Emma’s grandfather Richard Cobden was a maltster and farmer at the Dunford farm and on his death in 1809, the farm was sold and Emma’s family moved to Gullard’s Oak near Midhurst to farm. A few years later in 1814, this farm failing, the Cobdens moved to Westmeon where they were tenants of the Rogers. Perhaps this is how John and Emma met. Emma’s brother Richard became a close friend of John’s brother James.


The Cedars West Meon in 1902 - the home of the Rogers’ family and where John Blyth Rogers spent his childhood.                                                                                              Source: Family Papers of James Edwin Thorold Rogers

Marriage and children

Nearby in Farnham, Surrey, John and Emma married on October 16th in 1827. Emma’s sister Millicent was a milliner and had a shop there at that time. Witnesses to the marriage were Emma’s father William and her eldest brothers Frederick and Richard. John and Emma had five children between 1827 and 1833: Richard Charles (who died in infancy); Frederick William 1829; Willoughby John 1830; George Vining 1832 (who emigrated to Australia); and Emma Millicent 1833. All children were born at Droxford, Hampshire where John carried out his medical practice following his grandfather William Rogers who had practised there before him from 1769 to 1804.

Church at Farnham, Surrey, where John and Emma married in 1827.                              Source: Paul Jackson flickr.com

DroxfordDroxford, Hampshire where John and Emma Rogers spent their married life.                 Source: John Sparshatt southern life.org.uk

Emma’s early death

At the age of 36 in 1836, Emma died of consumption (tuberculosis), leaving John with four small children to bring up, their ages ranging between 7 and 3 years old. She is buried in the Droxford Churchyard.


Droxford churchyard - the grave of Emma Rogers and son Richard. Also John Blyth Rogers’ unmarked grave to the right.                                                                                   Photo: Euan McGillivray 2018

The 1841 census shows Frederick and Willoughby, aged 11 and 10 respectively, as pupils at John Eggar’s Grammar School in nearby Alton. It also shows 8 year old George with his grandmother Mary Ann Rogers at Westmeon, and 7 year old Emma as a pupil at a boarding school in Alton under the instruction of her aunts Louisa and Elizabeth Rogers. At the same school is a Mary Cobden age 25 who is likely to be the sister of the late Emma Cobden. I have not found a definitive record for John in this census.


John Eggar’s Grammar School, Alton where John’s sons Frederick and Willoughby were at school in 1841                                                                                                                       Source: http://www.eggars.net/schoolhistory

Apart from losing his wife and baby son Richard, there were many other premature deaths in John’s family over his lifetime. His brother Frederick Heather died at the age of 20; his sister Mary Ann Heron died at the age of 25; brother Alexander died at the age of 28; in 1846 his father George Vining Rogers died aged 69 from Apoplexy. John’s twin brother Charles Fletcher and his youngest brother Edmund Lyne both died in 1849 and in 1851 his brother Alfred was murdered at sea. In 1856 his eldest brother George Vining died aged 56.

One happy event however would have been the wedding at Droxford in 1853 of daughter Emma Millicent to William Henry Cooper, a brewer from Kent. However, John’s youngest son George Vining, emigrated to South Australia in 1854, it is said, to escape his alcoholic father. Willoughby John was not heard of after 1849, and I have found no record of Frederick William after the 1841 census.

John’s death

John Blyth Rogers died on February 1st 1860 at The New Inn, Old Turnpike, Fareham, Southampton. Cause of death was given as “general decay”. He was 59 years of age. Julian Rogers states that John was buried in Droxford churchyard next to Emma. The only beneficiary from John’s will was his daughter Emma Cooper. Emma Cooper was also remembered in her grandmother, Mary Ann Rogers', will. She received her grandmother’s rosewood tea caddy, her linen sheets and all her shifts, night-gowns, and under-petticoats, as well as any money remaining after payment of funeral expenses.


The New Inn (on the right) Old Turnpike, Fareham c1920, John Blyth Rogers died here in 1860.                                                                                                                                      Source: Hampshire Library and Information Service

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