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What's in a name?

We have had some name changes over the past five generations of our nearest ancestors. The Powyses became Powys-Lybbe, the Busfeilds became Ferrand and the Browns became Trotter. In fact the only one of my great-grandfathers without a name change was John Salwey Hallifax, though even the Hallifaxes are said to have changed their name from Waterhouse around 1700.

The Powys name changes are the more interesting as it took forty-six years and four generations including the first name change to have the first ancestor to be born with the name Powys-Lybbe. That first ancestor was my father so my siblings and I are only the second generation of our line to bear this name from birth.

The genealogy needs to be stated, with each person's birth surname in capitals:

Henry Philip POWYS (1791-1859)
Philip Lybbe POWYS (1818-1897)
William Reginald Lybbe POWYS (1856-1888)
Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS (1881-1930)
Antony POWYS-LYBBE (1909-2004)
The principal events of the naming and name changes are:
1818, 12 June Philip Lybbe POWYS born to Henry Philip POWYS and Julia BARRINGTON at Broomfield House, Southgate, Middlesex.
1861, April In the 1861 census, Philip Lybbe POWYS, his wife Annie P POWYS and their four POWYS children were all living st St Thomas's House near Cowes, Isle of Wight. (This was an old Barrington property.)
1862, c. 15 Oct Philip Lybbe POWYS MP wrote an article (yet to be found) in the Standard, which brought this letter in response to The Times:

Sir,--Having lately read, in the columns of the Standard, a most savage and unprovoked attacked upon the masters of Eton College, made by Mr Philip Lybbe Powys M.P. for Newport, which would seem at first sight to bring down great discredit upon them, I think it is but right for me, being, as I am, an Etonian, to repudiate the charges brought against them, which I consider to be not only unfounded but simply untrue. What Mr Powys means by saying that the school is in a "pretty fix at present" it is hard to conceive. The school is at present in a most flourishing condition and as free from bullying propensities as any school in the kingdom, its excellent condition is mainly attributable to the excellent management of the head master and tutors, who have always most assiduously put a stop to every kind of bullying and oppression, and I may candidly state that during the six years during which I have been at Eton there has been but one single case of real hard bullying, and I need scarcely add that it was most promptly and severely punished. I happen to be acquainted with the circumstances of Mr Powys' son's case, and I can safely assert that he was not bullied at all, and the house in which he was is one of the best conducted in College. But if he expected to be fondled and pampered at Eton as he probably was at home, it would have been far better for him had he remained at home in the nursery, for which he was far more fit that for a public school.
  I am, Sir, yours &c.,
  Eton College, Oct 19.         ETONIENSIS

To which Philip Lybbe Powys MP responded on the 23rd October:

Sir, - I have just read the letter signed "Etonensis" in your journal of to-day. reflecting on a letter of mine which appeared in the Standard, and request you to insert in your next impression, this the sole answer I shall give to any correspondents, either with or without names, on this subject.
Had I been pleased I should have given the names of the boys who bullied my son, and of the tutor from whose house I removed him.
Is striking a boy on his head when lying sick on his bed with measles bullying or not? Are daily - nay hourly, acts of beating and kicking acts of bullying or not? For the sake of the boys' parents I refrained from giving names.
I can and will prove every iota of my statement before the Royal Commission, perhaps in the conviction of your correspondent (he might as well have given his name), who may live in Eton, but I am confident was never either a Colleger or an Oppidan at Eton,
  I am, Sir, yours obediently
  Bellevue Hotel, Bournemouth, Oct 21.
The Editor added this note to the foot of the letter:
*** The writer of this silly letter may rest assured that our correspondent is a gentleman now being educated at Eton College.

And Etoniensis wrote for a second time:

Sir,--I do not, it is true, board at the same house as did Mr Powys's son, neither did I see much of him while he was at Eton. I am, however, perfectly acquainted with the circumstances which led to his removal from the school.
  Mr Powys writes,--"Is striking a boy on the head when lying sick on his bed with measles bullying or not? Are daily and hourly acts of beating and kicking acts of bullying or not!"
  These questions I conceive to be made out of harmless curiosity, so I will content myself with saying in answer that the actions alluded to can be classed under the head of bullying, and oppression of a kind to which no Etonian in my recollection ever had to submit.
  If my conception, however, be a false one, and if Mr Powys believes that his son was hit while ill in bed, and had to suffer hourly beatings and kickings, he is most grievously mistaken. His son had to put up with no more rough usage than any other boy in the school. In conclusion, I should be inclined to think, judging from the style of Mr. Powys's letters, that if he was ever at Eton himself, either as Colleger or Oppidan, he certainly never got higher in the school than the fourth form.
  Eton College, Oct 23.      ETONIENSIS.

Additionally there is some extensive correspondence in The National Archives at Kew. I obtained a copy of all that concerned PLP and it was evidence before a Royal Commission on Public Schools and some correspondence related to that. It was obvious from his words and writing that he was enormously emotionally charged by the whole incident.

1863, 18 Feb Philip Lybbe POWYS got a Royal Licence (that is, organised by the London College of Arms and almost certainly signed by Queen Victoria) to "take and henceforth use the surname of Lybbe in addition to and after that of Powys”. [This is the wording of the Royal Licence, from the records in the College of Arms.]

While the wording of the Royal Licence included his issue, neither his wife, nor his two daughters nor his two sons shared this change.

1868, 5 Oct From his death certificate "Philip Barrington Lybbe POWYS" died at St Thomas', East Cowes, Isle of Wight, aged 20 and with the occupation of "son of Philip Lybbe POWYS Landed Proprietor".
1871,  April In the 1871 national census:
Philip P LYBBE, Head of household, was at Brighton in a hotel with Fanny LYBBE, Wife.
Annie POWYS, Wife, (no Head of her household) was at Clifton, Bristol with her daughters Julia and Elinor
William R L POWYS was down as Reginald Powys, aged 14 and at Twyford School, Berks (with thanks to Louise Staley for finding him).
Amy and Mabel LYBBE were at 47 Tregunter Road with a nurse, etc, and no head of household.
1875, 21 July William Reginald Lybbe POWYS married Christine HAYWOOD; he was under age. The register gives his father’s name as "Philip POWYS (deceased)". (Christine died in 1879 in Boulogne.)
1880, 25 Sept William Reginald Lybbe POWYS married Sarah Ann BARTHOLMEW in Boulogne. This time the register has his father as Philip Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE and with no mention of deceased. William's sister signed the register as Edith Mary POWYS.
1881, 12 Aug Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS born in Boulogne.
1882, 24 July William Reginald Lybbe POWYS has a notice posted in The Times to announce his change of name to POWYS-LYBBE. The notice was a record of a fairly standard Deed Poll change dated the 21st July 1882.
1882, 27 Sept William Reginald Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE’s daughter Olga Mary is born, the first person ever to be born with the surname of POWYS-LYBBE. This is announced in The Times and her baptism registered at Wallingford with her surname as POWYS-LYBBE. Two further sons were born after this with the name of POWYS-LYBBE, the elder of whom, Richard, was the first male ever with this birth surname.
1883, 20 Sept Julia Elinor Powys has her marriage notice in The Times in which she is described as "Julia Elinor Powys, eldest daughter of Philip Lybbe Powys Lybbe, Esq., of Hardwick, Oxon".
1901, April In the 1901 national census:
Annie P POWYS, widow and Head of household, was living in Hove with her grand-daughter Edith Hill.
Reginald C L POWYS-LYBBE was a Pupil at Cirencester Agricultural College.
Fanny LYBBE, widow and Head of household, was living in London with her unmarried daughters Amy and Helen.
1902, 2 Sept Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS has a notice posted in The Times to announce his change of name to POWYS-LYBBE. Again this was a fairly standard notice of a Deed Poll change dated 23rd August 1902. He was 21 years, one week and six days old at that time.
1904, 4 Oct The mother of William Reginald Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE, Ann Phyllis POWYS, wrote her last will, using this name.
1907, 12 Apr Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE obtains a Royal Licence signed by Edward VII that “he and his issue and the other issue of his father William Reginald Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE may bear the Arms of Lybbe quarterly with those of his and their own family”.
1908, 12 May Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS-LYBBE married Lilian Frances Gillett TROTTER.
1909, 29 June Antony POWYS-LYBBE born and so registered at birth.

Those are the bare facts. Let's have a look behind the scenes.

Philip Lybbe POWYS became estranged from his wife and they completely separated. She kept the children with her, confirmed by the 1871 census and by the fact that they all retained the name of Powys. What I do not know is when they separated. My grandfather wrote that this was in 1869, and he thought the Royal Licence to change his name was obtained in the same year; but in fact the Royal Licence was obtained in 1863 and the clue to the date is that Philip Lybbe POWYS' family, wife and children, did not share in that change. So the separation must be dated before 1863.

Philip Lybbe POWYS was elected MP for Newport, Isle of Wight in 1861 according to my grandfather but 1859 from other records. In the 1861 census the whole family was living at St James, East Cowes, Isle of Wight. This seems to place the separation sometime between 1861 and 1862.

I have a curious pair of letters between Philip Lybbe POWYS and Talbots, timber merchants of Caversham, Reading. From the few examples of his handwriting they have to be copies made by Philip Lybbe POWYS. The first letter is dated the 1st January 1870, on paper headed Holly Copse, which was a cottage on the Hardwick estate; the second was dated the 10th January 1870 on headed paper of 47 Tregunter Road, S.W. where he lived with his second family. Was he living on his own at Holly Copse? He signed one of these letters "PLPLybbe" and was addressed similarly.

In 1879 Philip's only surviving son William married for the second time with the name POWYS; both the church and the civil ceremonies have this clearly recorded. William's eldest son Reginald, my grandfather, was born with the name POWYS. If there had been any contact between William and his father Philip, I would think he would have adopted his father's name change. That William recorded his father as deceased at his first marriage to Christine Haywood was, I am sure, to get round the need to approach him to get his, Philip's, permission to marry as he, William, was under age.

In 1882 William changed his name to Powys-Lybbe and his other three children were born with that name. From a codicil to his will written about that time, it is evident that he had had some rapprochement with his father which also led to William receiving the principal family properties in two trusts. I think this 1882 name change was part of this rapprochement.

However in 1883 Julia Powys pointedly announced her marriage (or her new in-laws did this) with that name and referring to her father as "Powys Lybbe", both legally correct. She did not follow her younger brother's example by changing her name.

This left my grandfather, Reginald Cecil Lybbe POWYS, still with the name POWYS. From the 1891 and 1901 census he was commonly known as POWYS-LYBBE, but it is obvious from his own 1902 name change, that he thought he was still formally POWYS. Perhaps it was thought that a minor, under the age of 21, could not have his name changed by his father? If so, this is curious as my other grandfather, Guy Ferrand FERRAND does not seem to have undergone the same process after his father changed his name in 1890 from Busfeild.

But the more interesting question is why we had this name change in the first place. I am drawn ineluctably to the conclusion that Philip Lybbe POWYS had some crisis in his life which caused the name change. It could have been his relationship with his wife Annie, but I am not sure of this: there is every sign that she was both devoted to him and, even, heartbroken at the separation. Further by the 1901 census she was living in the same town in which Philip had been living until his death four years previously. From the poignant letter to the Times and the fierce response by the Editor, my strong suspicion is that Philip found the latter and other opprobrium too hard to bear. One may wonder why he showed an ignorance of the bullying that was rife at all schools in those times and which he must have experienced in his time at Eton. He would have known that you just don't complain in public about that sort of thing, for fear of being thought a 'wet'. To this I would factor in the letters that he and Annie wrote to his half-brother Edward, an army officer in England and later India where he died. Those letters have, remarkably, survived (but not the ones from Edward) and they show an strong affectionate relationship between Philip and Annie and that both were devoted to their children. It is in this light that the bullying at Eton might be seen; he would have defended his children to the death, almost. And he must have been crestfallen to have found that others did not share his attitudes.

[Discovered in November 2011] A confirmation of his taut state of mind can be seen in the case where had to pay damamges for assaulting a tenant. Be aware that this file is rather large at 369 Kbytes.

Philip almost certainly left Annie in 1862. Quite how and when he set up home with Fanny Worth we do not know but by 1870 he has set up house with her in Tregunter Road, W London. Philip and Fanny's first child Amy was born, from the census, around 1865 and Mabel the following year with Helen around 1872. In 1869 Philip had printed a pair of books "The First and Second of October" about a shooting party based on Holly Copse and "The Lay of the Sheriff" about hotel life while on judge's circuits (I think). Both books are rather indulgent, dreaming of good old times with good old friends who have no serious disputations. He ended both dedication pages with:

(Of the house and manor of Hardwick, bearer of a coat of arms)

He was not living at Hardwick, I don't think he ever did in his adult life. My view is that this indulgence is all part of trying to put behind him the trauma of the events, by then seven years previously, surrounding his son Philip's departure from Eton.

What of Annie's involvement in this? She also would have been horrified to have found that her eldest surviving son was being bullied at Eton. My over-active imagination has her insisting to her husband that he takes firm action to deal with this. He did so and it was fatal to their relationship as he ended up in a situation he could not handle and, possibly, into which Annie had encouraged him. Though he should have known better than to over-react.

In all, then, a tragedy of broken relationships and lack of parents that perhaps lingered on to affect at least the next three generations.

That said, Philip Powys did not just add LYBBE to his surname of POWYS. In all references to him subsequently, he was clearly known as Mr Lybbe and as such is referred to by his Australian descendants. Significantly in the Owners of Land Returns of 1873 all his holdings are down for "P L P LYBBE"; similarly the Post Office directories of London house owners of that time. His will and the 1881 census give further details. Perhaps he wished to dissociate himself totally from his previous life, his wife and all his acquaintances and showed this by completely dropping all public use of his original surname of POWYS? Interestingly Annie's death certificate has a note on it to say "Husband took name of Lybbe after marriage[.] Wife living separate not been known by that name."

Having said all the above, I have recently been fascinated by a letter in the Times (of London) on Monday 12th February 2007:

Sir, You feature high junks in the Eton schoolyard (picture, Feb 9), but I would lay money this was a pale imitation of snowball fights in bygone years.
This is a diary entry for Melville Lawford at Eton in February 1843: "Saturday 18th. A regular one. It was all up in pupil room. After twelve I learned my Greek testament.
"In the afternoon we had battles with the Tugs with snow-balls. We drove them up town, but broke so many shop windows that we came down again, and then fought in the school yard. I received several cuts but gave as good as I got.
"Tarver major, who fought the best of all the collegers, had his eyes so knocked about that he is perfectly blind and was obliged to be led home by one of the college servants. Several others, collegers and oppidans, have black eyes and swelled noses."
The day finished with prayers.
Farnham, Surrey

The date of this event would have been perhaps six years after PLPL left Eton and twenty years before his son PBLP went there.

The Busfeild and Trotter name changes were both tame by comparison. In both cases they were the result of "names and arms" clauses in wills by which they were left the property of some relative. In order to accept the properties they had to change both their name and their arms. In the Trotter case the change was for my great-great-grandfather in 1868, but his second son, my great-grandfather seems to have adopted the change uncomplainingly when aged 24. And in the case of the Ferrands it was my great-grandfather who changed his name in 1890 on inheriting what had been the Ferrand estates from his uncle, his father's elder brother, who also had to change his name from Busfeild to Ferrand. My grandfather, also a second son, was only 9 at that time.

February 2002: I have now received from the College of Arms transcripts of the three name-change Royal Licences. The Trotter one was for William Brown and his wife Mary Elizabeth Brown to change their name to Trotter and that such surname "may in the like manner be borne and used by the issue". The Ferrand one prays that "he and his issue may take and use the surname of Ferrand only in lieu and in substitution of that of Busfeild". The Powys Lybbe one is headed "Powys to Lybbe" and prays that "he and his issue may take and henceforth use the surname of Lybbe in addition to and after that of Powys".

These Licences changed the surnames of all the members of each of these families; but with the Powyses the members of the family did not make the change. Their texts are now available.

Tim Powys-Lybbe
originated c. 2001;
last revised Oct 2012

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