The Spinsters LEE | Victorian Photographs | Bristol

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I have had in my possession this pile of old Victorian family photographs since 1993. I was looking for a large, old book for a collage art project, and mum remembered she had an old photo album in the attic which would be perfect. The album was full of old Victorian family photographs, itself found in the basement of a flat my parents rented in Bristol in the early 1970s. We took out the photographs and placed them within a box, and I carried on with my art project. I seem to recall the album was a big brown padded leather thing, not very nice but perfect for my arty needs!

The photographs have remained with me where ever I have moved, safe in their little box and looked through regularly like a pack of cards, but never studied. They became part of my belongings, something so familiar that I never really thought to question their origins until Lockdown 2020 when I began tidying the work room and came across them once more. It dawned on me that although the faces in the photos had become like old friends, I didn’t know who they were (no writing on the backs) and couldn’t even recall why my mum had kept them in the first place!

Album Origins

The album was found in the basement of the ground floor flat at 29 Logan Road, Bishopston, Bristol. The flat was rented from one of two spinster sisters called LEE. One of the sisters had died by the time my parents moved into number 29, and the other sister was by then living in an old-peoples home. My mum recalled one of the sisters was a botanist, whose equipment was also found in the cellar.

I wondered what I could find out (if anything), so started by looking up 29 Logan Road in the 1939 register to see who was there and found a Miss Eva M Lee, a retired botanist!

  1. Sarah STONE – 09 May 1850 – Private Means – Widowed
  2. Eva M LEE – 09 Aug 1883 – Retired Lecturer M Sc Botanist – Single
  3. Rose Violet PIKE – 11 Jan 1888 – Domestic Duties – Single

After some research, I discovered that the widowed Sarah STONE (previously LEE, nee BUNGAY) was Eva Muriel LEE‘s mother, and Eva had a sister called May Lilian LEE born in 1885.

Eva graduated from Bristol in July 1910 with a second-class honours in botany and looks to have specialised in Bryology (the study of mosses, liverworts and hornworts). A mention in a society book confirmed her parents to be William John LEE (aka John William LEE) and Sarah BUNGAY, and that her father, a Butler by trade, died in 1884. It turns out that Eva was only fifteen months old when her father died, and her mother was three months pregnant with her sister May.

Members of the Moss Exchange Club (1896-1923) and British Bryological Society (1923-1945)

    • Eva Muriel LEE (1883-1976)
      Member: (no dates given)
    • Bryological activity: (no information added)
    • Herbarium: Miss Lee was a daughter of William John Lee (died 1884, a butler) and Sarah (née Bungay, 1850-1950).

From the information found above, I then formed a family tree for Eva and May.

But what about identifying any of the people in the photographs? Along with the photograph of the lady marked “Bungay” was a similar photograph of a man taken at the same portrait studio in London. This style of card back was used between 1876-81. As such, I believe the lady to be Eva and May’s mother Sarah BUNGAY (pre-marriage), and due to other photographs within the collection, the man to be their father John William LEE.

In 1871, John (age 22) was working as a Bootman for Sir Richard Paget at 16 Lowndes Square, Chelsea, London and Sarah (also age 22) as a domestic cook at Fisherton House Lunatic Asylum in Wiltshire. By 1881 John was a butler, and working at Charlton House, Wraxall, Somerset for the Gibbs family and Sarah was also working there as a lady’s maid. As both John and Sarah were employed by the same family in 1881, it’s not a stretch to assume they had worked for them for a little while and had photos taken whilst working from one of the Gibbs’ London properties.

Note that Sarah has a band on her ring finger below.

Also in amongst the photographs are two large properties, one of which is Tyntesfield, an estate near Wraxall in Somerset once owned by the Gibbs family and now owned by the National Trust, and the other is South Wraxall Manor in Wiltshire. Wraxall and South Wraxall are roughly 25 miles apart but are only connected by the similarity of name.

John and Sarah married on 16th April 1883 at St Andrew, Clifton, Gloucestershire. John lists his occupation as “Butler” and abode as “Clifton”, whilst Sarah’s abode was in Wraxall. She had no occupation listed and was five months pregnant at the time.

Barely four months later Eva was born in Staindrop, Durham (which was where Sarah and three siblings moved to after the death of their father James BUNGAY – but more on that later). Eva was baptised in October at St Luke’s Church in Shepherd’s Bush, Middlesex. Their address at the time was 7 Goldhawk Road, Shepherd’s Bush and John was still working as a butler. Sarah must have travelled up to Durham late in her pregnancy in order to give birth with her mother present, then travelled back down the country again.

These five photos were all taken by William Clarke of 27 Park Lane, Bristol. I’m guessing they were taken around April 1884 when Eva was about eight months old, and a few months before Sarah became pregnant again (c.Aug). Tragically, John died later that year in November at age 35 from “Phthisis“, aka tuberculosis. They were living in Wraxall at the time, and he was buried there on 27th Nov 1884. Sarah was three months pregnant with May at the time of her husband’s death, and Eva was just 15 months old.

May was born on 6th May 1885 in Portishead, Somerset and baptised there at the end of June. The baptism record stated her parents as “William John (late) and Sarah LEE”, and under occupation “domestic servant“. Sarah and her daughters were still living in Portishead in 1891, at 93 Routh Road. She was “living on own means“.

Baby Eva above has a very distinctive face, so I was able to identify her in these three photos. The blond girl is her sister, May.

Sarah married again in 1895, to George Gardner STONE which looks to be the date of the group photo above on the right (I don’t know who the young lady on the top right is, but is certainly related). George was age 39, a bachelor and working as an accountant. Sarah was 45 and living in East Clandon, Surrey at the time, whilst George’s abode was 19 Harleston Street, Stapleton Road, Bristol (he was still living with his parents). I wonder when and where they met.

By 1901 they were all living at 2 Broadway Road, Bishopston, Bristol. George, Sarah and Eva were still living there in 1911, and Eva’s occupation was noted as “Demonstrator Botany”. Her sister May was boarding in Saint Albans, Hertfordshire and working as a “Gymnastic and Games Mistress”. On 25th Nov 1916, Sarah lost her second husband. George died at age 60 in the Victoria Nursing Institute, Cambridge Road in Bournemouth, Hampshire but his probate record shows his address was 55 Logan Road, Bishopston (where several postcards from the sisters were sent). He left £2649 3s 1d (roughly £245k today), with Sarah and Eva as joint executors.

In 1939, Sarah and Eva were living at 29 Logan Road (as shown at the top), whilst May was still living in Saint Albans (Boro’gate School) and working as an assistant mistress.

The Lee sisters’ mother died on 26th Dec 1950 at the grand age of 100. Sarah had stumbled and fallen in her front room at 29 Logan Road just nine days previous and fractured her thigh, dying on Boxing Day from hypostatic pneumonia whilst at the Kingsway Nursing Home, Bishop Road, Bristol. Prior to her death, Sarah had remained quite active. A funeral service was held at her local church in Bishopston (St. Michael and All Angels) on 29th Dec and was then buried in Wraxall Churchyard with her first husband John William LEE. She left £3327 7s 4d (roughly £121k today), and daughter May was her executor.

May died 15th Nov 1964 in Chichester, Sussex at age 79, where she had been living at 48 West Street (a Grade II listed building). Eva died in Bristol on 12th Jan 1976 at age 92 and had been living in a Nursing Home at 132 Chesterfield Road in the St Andrews area. My parents moved out of 29 Logan Road shortly before Eva died and the house was put up for sale just after Eva’s death.

Maternal Grandparents | James BUNGAY & Jane Maria TROWBRIDGE

Sarah was the second of four children born to James BUNGAY, a gardener and agricultural labourer, and Jane Maria TROWBRIDGE.

Amongst the photographs is a picture of Jane’s gravestone, which reads:

In loving memory of
of Staindrop,
ate of Alberbury, Wilts,
ho died January 23rd 1892 aged 74 Years.
“Sorrow vanquished, labour ended, Jordan past.”

James BUNGAY was born in 1827 in Alderbury, Wiltshire and worked as an agricultural labourer and was the fourth of eight children born to James BUNGAY (a gardener) and Judith NORRIS, whilst Jane Maria TROWBRIDGE was born in 1816 in Donhead St Mary, Wiltshire and was the fifth of nine children born to Thomas TROWBRIDGE (an agricultural labourer) and Sarah SIMMS.

James and Jane married on 8th Aug 1848 in Fisherton Anger, Wiltshire and they had four children together:

  1. Jane Bungay (b.1849 in Alderbury, Wiltshire – d.1902 in Cleatlam, Durham)
  2. Sarah Bungay (b.1850 in Alderbury, Wiltshire – d.1950 in Bristol, Gloucestershire)
  3. James Bungay (b.1853 in Alderbury, Wiltshire – d.1931 in Sedgefield, Durham)
  4. Eva Bungay (b.1856 in Alderbury, Wiltshire – d.1925 in Darlington, Durham)

The family lived at Silver Street, Alderbury, Wiltshire for many years. In April 1871, James was noted as “invalid” on the census and was admitted into the Wiltshire County Lunatic Asylum in Devizes a few weeks later (3rd May). He died there on 5th Feb 1880 at age 54 after being there for nearly nine years, and was described as a “pauper“. Jane was still living at Silver Street in the 1881 census with her youngest daughter Eva (age 25 and a dressmaker). Her eldest daughter (Jane) was boarding at Manor House, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire and working as a “National School Mistress” (age 31, unmarried), and her middle daughter (Sarah, mother of the LEE sisters) was working as a lady’s maid at Charlton House in Wraxall, Somerset for the Gibbs family (age 30, unmarried). Her son James had moved up to Staindrop, Durham where he married in 1878 (the place mentioned on Jane’s headstone) to Elizabeth BRADLEY and was working as a market gardener. Wiltshire to Durham is quite a hike, but I discovered his James’s uncle William BUNGAY (his father’s youngest brother) was working as a farmer in Marske, Yorkshire in 1881 (about 16 miles from Staindrop), so perhaps he travelled up the country for work after his father was admitted to hospital and decided to settle there. By 1891 his mother and two of his sisters were also living in Staindrop, and amongst the photographs are three which were taken very close by (Bishop Auckland, Consett and Barnard Castle) – see bottom of page. Due to the timeline of events happening in Staindrop with this family, I believe the mother and two of the three sisters moved up there shortly after the 1881 census.

Following the children after 1881:

  1. Jane married Isaac THOMPSON, a quarryman, in 1885 in Staindrop, Durham. They didn’t have any children together, but Isaac had four children from his previous marriage and at least the youngest one lived with them. His first wife Sarah Elizabeth TURNER died in Nov 1884 and Isaac married Jane a few months later. Isaac and Jane lived in Cleatlam, Durham (about 2 miles from Staindrop) until she died in 1902 at age 54. He married for the third time c.1908 to Isabella TROTTER nee HODGESON and died in 1927 (age 83).
  2. Sarah married John William LEE (a Butler) in Clifton, Bristol on 16th April 1883 and they had two daughters together. Their first daughter (Eva Muriel LEE) was born just four months after they married up in Staindrop, Durham but they returned back south shortly afterwards as she was baptised in October in London. As Sarah travelled all the way from Somerset up to Durham to give birth, it seems likely that her mother was already living up there by 1883, along with her brother and both sisters. Coincidentally, her sister Eva’s second child was born just two weeks after Sarah gave birth and James’s wife gave birth to their son two months after that. Sarah’s husband John died in Somerset in November 1884 when she was three months pregnant with their second child. She continued to live in Somerset, then Surrey and finally Bishopston, Bristol after she remarried in 1895 to George Gardner STONE (an accountant). Her second husband died on 25th Nov 1916 aged 60 and Sarah died at age 100 on 26th Dec 1950.
  3. James and his wife Elizabeth had one son, William Henry BUNGAY, born 4th Oct 1883 in Staindrop. In 1901 James and his son William were living at Sadberge Lodge (of Sadberge Hall) in Durham. Elizabeth wasn’t present and I have yet to find her. By 1911 they were all living at Hardwick Gardens in Sedgefield, Durham.  Their son William married Esther SAYERS in 1907. They hadn’t had any children by 1911, nor have I found any in the birth index after this date. William also worked as a gardener and enlisted when war broke out as a private in the 13th Reserve Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He died in POW Camp, Friedrichsfeld, Wesel, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany 27th Jul 1918 aged 34. Elizabeth died in 1926 aged 82 and James died in Sedgefield in 1931 aged 78. Their son’s widow Esther never remarried and she died in 1970 at age 89.
  4. The youngest daughter, Eva, married John FAWCETT (a carpenter) in Staindrop, Durham just a few months after the 1881 census was taken. John was a recent widower of only a few months with five young children in the 1881 census (the youngest of which was 8 months). Perhaps Eva met John on a visit up to Staindrop to see her brother prior to 1881, or it was just a very quick meet and marriage! Eva and John had seven children together between 1882-1998, and their second child was Professor Charles Bungay FAWCETT, a Professor of Geography at University College London. Eva’s third child, also called Eva, died at only a few weeks old. Their sixth child (Alfred) died in 1904 aged 14, and they lost their youngest child Arthur at the end of WWI on 17th Oct 1918 in Neuvilly, France (age 20). Eva herself died on 22nd Sep 1925 at age 69 and her husband died a few years later on 21st Mar 1932 at age 86 (both in Durham).

Identified Photographs

I believe these two photographs are also of Sarah BUNGAY.

These look very similar to Sarah, so maybe of her sisters Jane or Eva. The three photos of the lady with her hair up could be Eva, due to the older photo of her found online.

Found online are the two photos of Eva FAWCETT, nee BUNGAY, aged 50-60. The chap is her husband John FAWCETT.

There are three studio photographs from Durham amongst the pile, taken in Bishop Auckland, Consett and Barnard Castle. Staindrop is about halfway between Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle. Barnard Castle to Staindrop is about 6 miles, then a further 9 miles to Bishop Auckland, and Consett is about 18 miles further north from there.

The photo on the left is who I believe to be Sarah’s brother James BUNGAY (1853-1931). The boy may be his son William Henry Bungay (1883-1918) but could also be either of Eva’s first two sons, John James FAWCETT (1882-1977) or Charles Bungay FAWCETT (1883-1952) who would be the right age and living nearby. The middle photo was taken in Bristol and looks like James again. It was taken in the late 1870s to very early 1880s, so after James had moved up to Durham. His mother and sisters (Jane and Eva) were still in Wiltshire in April 1881, so the photo could even have been taken just after this point if he came back to help them move up north after their father died. In 1881, James would have been 28, Jane 31, Sarah 30 and Eva 25. The lady in the photo isn’t Sarah, but could it be Jane or Eva, or even James’s wife (Elizabeth)? Sarah married in April 1883 in Clifton, Bristol where the photo was taken, so it could even have been taken then (Elizabeth was three months pregnant in April, just like Sarah).

The photo on the right was taken in Richmond, Yorkshire c.1873 and is a portrait of William BUNGAY (1833-1902), who was Sarah’s uncle. It’s most likely the older photo on the left is also of William, rather than Sarah’s father James.

William started his career in service in his home town of Alderbury, Wiltshire where in 1851 age 17 he was a Footman working for the Vicar. By 1861 he had moved up north to Aske in Yorkshire where he was working as the Under Butler for the Earl of Zetland (Thomas DUNDAS) at Aske Hall, and in 1871 he was his Valet. I was emailed these two wonderful photographs by John Place of the staff at Aske Hall early 1860s in correspondence about the photographer rather than William himself. He is quite easy to spot!

Thomas DUNDAS, The Earl of Zetland died on 6th May 1873 and was buried at Maske by the Sea, Yorkshire. I couldn’t ascertain whether members of staff such as William would have been kept on after the death of one Earl to then work for the next one, but the following year when he married Mary Jane DODDS of Hagg House he was described as a Farmer of Maske by the Sea. The land in question was owned by the Earl of Zetland. William also ran the Zetland Arms Hotel in Marske by the Sea for many years. The previous owner died in Landlord, John Charles BULMAN, died at the end of 1873 after which I suspect William took over. The 1881 census shows William was farming 196 acres of land, and employed four men and one girl. His wife Mary died in 1893 at age 60 and William died in 1902 at age 68. They didn’t have any children, and William left probate of his estate to his nephew (and Sarah’s 1st cousin) William Mortimer BUNGAY whom I have also been able to identify in one of the photos via his belt buckle. This is he:

William Mortimer BUNGAY (1849-1908) was an Iron Monger, a member of the Salisbury Detachment 1st Wilts Volunteer Rifle Corps for 36 years and the Drum Major for the Battalion Band for 14 years. He never married and died aged 59 in Salisbury.

Paternal Grandparents | Unknown Male & Eliza LEE

John states his father to be Edwin LEE on his marriage certificate, however, research proved that John was actually the illegitimate son of Eliza LEE. John was born in early 1849 in Wookey, Somerset (baptised 11th Feb) and seems to have been brought up by his grandmother after he was born. In 1851, his mother Eliza was working for the SHEPPARD family as a household servant (in Wookey). By 1861 she was in St Marylebone, London working for the LAMB family as a servant. After this, I have been unable to trace her. If she married I haven’t been able to find her and isn’t any of the Eliza’s of a similar age born in Wookey who show up in later census records. The other obvious option is that she died, but that’s more difficult to prove.

John’s grandfather died in 1848 so he never knew him. In 1851, it was just John and his grandmother living together in Wookey, and the same in 1861. His Aunt Mary married Robert WILKINS in Marylebone, London in 1846 and they lived in Paddington all their lives. His Aunt Tamar married John LOXTON in London in 1846 and they lived in Marylebone until 1852 when Tamar died. His uncle William married Eliza WEEKS in Somerset and was the only one to remain in the county. His youngest uncle, James, married Hester WILLS in Kensington, London in 1854 and they lived in Paddington, briefly moved to Birmingham, and then back to Marylebone in London.

John’s grandmother died in 1867 when he was 18, but he was most likely already in service by this time. Sir Richard PAGET, who John was in the employ of in London in 1871 as a “bootman“, also lived in Cranmore Hall, which is about 11 miles from Wookey. Perhaps this was where he started?

John’s grandparents were John LEE and Lydia REED, and they had six children. They lost their first child as a baby, and another at age 27 but all five surviving children had children of their own. Only one other photograph has a name written on which was Joseph Frank MARCHANT (born 1879), who turned out to be a great-grandson of John & Lydia and a second cousin to sisters Eva and May. Joseph’s maternal grandmother was Mary Anne LEE, daughter of John & Lydia. I have also found a couple of images of Joseph’s brothers Horace Lancelot MARCHANT and Sir Stanley Robert MARCHANT (Professor of Music). John LEE had been dead about 9 years when the photo of Joseph was taken, which suggests that Sarah maintained some sort of relationship with members of her husband’s family long after he died.


To aid with the dating of all the photographs, as well as for my own interest, I have created pages grouped by county where I can add any research details about the photographers, clothing and card back designs. I have also created a page with ALL the photos and organised it by decade (as best I can) and one with all the faces cropped to see if there are any family traits which may help place people into family lines.

I’d love to hear from you if you are able to help identify any more of the photos, or if you are related to this family. These are the descendent of the Lee sisters’ three sets of known great grandparents (surnames Lee, Bungay and Trowbridge). Many of the Lee side moved into London, whilst most of the Bungay and Trowbridge sides remained in Wiltshire (with one branch moving to Australia in the 1840s). They are very wide images, so are best downloaded to view.

Descendants of John LEE & Lydia REED

Descendants of John LEE & Lydia REED

Descendants of James BUNGAY & Judith NORRIS

Descendants of James BUNGAY & Judith NORRIS


Descendants of Thomas TROWBRIDGE & Sarah SIMMS

Descendants of Thomas TROWBRIDGE & Sarah SIMMS

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