The Story of the Bromley and Coppard Families

Welcome to my family history website. All About My Father is, as the name suggests, about the ancestors of my late father, John Martin Bromley, whose parents were Stephenson Bromley and Nellie Coppard.

I started researching my father's family history in the late 1990s when there were no Internet resources and all the research had to be done in local libraries or at the former Family History Centre in London. I shared a ‘first edition' of the history to family members in 1999 but with the growth in Internet genealogy I have been able to fill in many of the gaps and to go back much further, particularly on the Bromley side.

In addition, thanks to the online genealogy community on the Ancestry website I have been in contact with some distant family members who have provided information that would have taken me a great deal of time to obtain myself. Thanks to the Internet – including this website – I have been able to track down some not-so-distant relatives who have provided photographs of people no one else in my family can ever remember meeting but which have subsequently enabled me to identify some of the mystery photographs in my family’s collection.

The main reason for creating this website is to see if I can fill in some of the remaining gaps and get in touch with some of the many distant relatives who I believe are still around. If you think you may be related do please get in touch via the Contact page as I would love to hear from you.

While none of my father's family achieved fame or glory, and there are no skeletons (at least none that would be considered as such today), I can only wonder what these people were like. Watching the lives of long-dead ancestors unfold before one’s eyes through public records and faded family photographs is a fascinating experience.
Alan Bromley

The Bromley family history begins in the villages around Cranbrook in Kent, while that of the Coppards has its origins in Burwash, Sussex. The former I found out from my great aunt, Emily Langridge (née Bromley), whose sketchy family tree and as-yet unpublished account of her childhood in the early years of the 20th Century were what stimulated my interest in genealogy. On the other hand, no one in the family knew much at all about the Coppards, except that they came from Newhaven - which is true - but their origins actually lie further afield in the Sussex weald.

According to Emily, farmer Samuel Bromley and his wife, Amelia, lived in Cranbrook in Kent in the early 1800s. Her story says that Amelia died and her three sons - John, Mark and Stephen - left home because they could not get on with their stepmother, and that Stephen emigrated to America.

Some of this is true: Samuel lived in Cranbrook and he had two sons called John and Mark, but he also had a daughter called Olive. Since it was Samuel who died, it must have been Amelia who remarried and one assumes that the children did not get on with their stepfather . Samuel did not have a son call Stephen, although that was the name of his father. There are possible clues to the emigration story in that Samuel’s aunt and uncle emigrated to Canada, via New York, with their family in the 1860s.
Bromley and Coppard are relatively uncommon surnames and that has made researching the family history a little easier. While most Coppards lived in the South East corner of England in the 19th century, the surname Bromley was more widely scattered. Steve and Nellie’s families mostly lived, married and died in the counties of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. Bromley is a habitation name which accounts for its wider spread, since there are towns with this name in Essex, Hertfordshire, Greater London, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and, of course, Kent. In fact, Bromley is a far more common surname in the north of England than it is in the south, while there are also a surprising number in Wales. There are many variations on the spelling and I have come across the following:

Bromilley Bromiley Bromily Bromleys Bromly Bromely Bromlea Bromlee Bromlay Broomley Broumley Brumley

Many of these variations are due to simple misspelling by the registrar. Widespread illiteracy in the early 19th Century meant that people did not know how their surnames were spelt and the registrars around the country sometimes did not fare much better.

Coppard (and its variations Coppeard and Copard) is a Sussex name and is derived from the word ’copp’ meaning ’hill’ or ’head’, with Coppard variously meaning living on top of a hill or ’big head’.
The main sources of my information have been public records, especially the 1841-1911 censuses; parish records; birth, marriage and death registers; wills; and the British Railways archives in the Public Records office in Kew and publications of the Bluebell Railway Preservation Society.

Additional information has come from various family members, some still living, others sadly now dead. We are fortunate to have a large collection of 19th century photographs and although many were previously unidentified, my research over the past 15 years has enabled me to put names to some of them. Through a certainly amount of luck I have also managed to trace a few very distant cousins, some of whom has given me photograph. I have been able to return the favour by giving them photographs they too have not seen before.
A family’s history is usually better told in reverse but I have arranged mine in chronological order by my direct paternal ancestors, starting with the earliest in a kind of vague ‘maybe-perhaps’ chapter for both Bromley and Coppard. Things start to become more definite after the early 1800s when the censuses and birth, marriage and death records begin. Maternal ancestors are included with their respective spouses for the most part; and exception are the Rhodes and Buckwell families, the maternal grandparents of Nellie Coppard. The siblings of members of the Bromley family have their own chapters because there is a fair amount of information on them.

Photographs are included where we have them, and I’m grateful to living distant relatives who have kindly provided them.

Family trees are difficult to draw and take up a lot of space, so are mostly shown in the same format as on Family Tree Maker. The whole tree can be seen on where it is called Bromley-Coppard. However, here is a brief summary of my father’s direct ancestors:
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