The Foy Family: Merchants & Military

Today’s post is the result of weeks of work by project volunteer Mary Jessop, it is a lovely piece of research, not only because it is quite unusual to have images of an entire family, but also because Mary was successful in tracking down each of the sitters. Her weeks of work are also testament to the fact that the faces within these plates are so evocative that they capture the imaginations of our volunteers so wholeheartedly. We are very grateful to Mary, and to all of our volunteers for the hours they put into this work, which can sometimes be very convoluted and frustrating. In this case happily, Mary has successfully uncovered an entire family history, which though it has a short-lived connection to the local area, is fascinating nonetheless.


Mrs Foy & Family, undated.


Mrs Foy, photographed by Knights-Whittome in 1915

“The glass plate of Mrs Foy and her lovely children is damaged, perhaps by water. It appears to be a copy of a photograph and is probably a little older than the individual images taken by David Knights Whittome in July 1915. Looking at the later individual portrait, it could be imagined that Mrs Foy was not intending to have her photograph taken, as she seems to be wearing quite ordinary and rather crumpled day clothes and her hair, which looks as if it could be classed as ‘difficult’, is not beautifully curled and styled as in the group picture. Mr Knights Whittome’s female sitters have always made an effort to look their best, and consequently this image is refreshingly natural and one to which it is easy to relate. It also gives us a clue to the family’s status; this lady can afford to be talked into having her photograph taken.

In 1919 the family were living at Fairlawn House in Croydon Lane, Banstead. It was a large house with generous grounds now replaced by two cul de sacs, Fairlawn Grove and Lipsham Close. Although Cecil Andreas Foy and his wife Grace Lilian Edith (nee Morgan) were born and brought up in the outer suburbs of London they had been living in Canada since their marriage and had returned to the UK in 1914. Cecil and Grace had probably known each other since childhood because their fathers were in business together as wood-brokers, buying and selling hardwoods worldwide. Their company, Foy Morgan, was set up around 1880 and only ceased trading in 1992. The offices and timber yards were at West India Dock in London, in close proximity to other timber traders.


We cannot be not sure if this image, marked as a copy of ‘Mr Foy’ is of Cecil, but it seems likely.

As children Cecil and Grace had lived in very comfortable homes with both indoor and outdoor servants. Grace was brought up in Wilmington, near Dartford in Kent, the oldest of four children. Her father was twenty years younger than Cecil’s father and was in his twenties when the partnership of Foy Morgan was formed. The 1901 census tells us that Cecil’s home in Clay Hill, near Enfield, had 10 servants, one of whom was a cowman who lived in a cottage in the grounds. Perhaps the family was concerned about shop-bought milk carrying tuberculosis. Cecil was born in 1875, the eighth of nine children and both he and his older brothers Walter and Hubert followed their father and grandfather into the hardwood business. Cecil did not stay in London however, at the age of 23 he became Manager of Davis Mill, a newly built timber mill in Wellington Mills in the Ferguson Valley in Western Australia. This small settlement appears to have been three timber mills, the workers homes and a railway station and it is now a protected designated Site of Historic Significance. The forest in this area was mainly a species of eucalyptus called Jarrah by the native Australians. This very tall hardwood was and is valued for its beauty, durability, strength and water resistance, and has many uses from fine furniture to the underwater foundations of docks.

Cecil returned to London from Australia in 1903. He and Grace were married very early in 1905 and they sailed almost straightaway for Quebec on the ‘Teutonic’ on 22 February 1905. Cecil described himself as a merchant on his entry papers to Canada. Their four children came along in quick succession and were all baptised in the Anglican Cathedral in Quebec, Lilian Doris Edith in 1906, Reginald Cecil in 1908, Paul Edward in 1909 and Robert Arthur in 1910. The family lived at Scott Junction in Quebec. They all returned to the United Kingdom for visits on more than one occasion, but came back to live in England permanently, arriving in Liverpool in July 1914. The forms that Cecil completed on leaving Canada stated his reason for going to return home for war’. The war was not declared until two weeks later but he was clearly expecting it. He may have wanted to get his family across the Atlantic before there was danger to shipping. Cecil joined the Army and was deployed to France in 1915, but his army record indicates that he was frustrated to have been placed in the Army Service Corps and not the Royal Engineers where he felt his expertise could be best utilised. However, he was a Major in the Royal Engineers by the end of the war.

It seems likely that the family did not stay in the rented house in Banstead for many years. Cecil’s war records show his permanent address was in Perranwell, near Falmouth in Cornwall. In the years following the war there are numerous records of sea voyages for members of the family, especially for Cecil, who went to Australia, Canada, USA (East and West coasts), Africa and Borneo. He died in London on 25 November 1935, aged 60, shortly after returning from Vancouver by boat, his home was still in Perranwell and he left £2,395.19.9d. Grace remarried in 1936, her second husband, Henry Sich, was a director of a Brewery in Chiswick. Henry had fought in the Connaught Rangers in WW1. Both Grace and Henry died in Stratton in Cornwall, Henry in 1951 and Grace in 1954.


What of the children? Lilian Doris Edith, who seems to have been called Doris, married Lawrence Claude Lanyon in Cornwall in 1929. In 1938 and 39 she was on the electoral register in D’Oyley Road, Chelsea living with her brother Robert. Her marriage might have been dissolved at around this time as in 1942 she married again, to George Watson Smyth. Doris died in Cornwall in 1997 aged 90, Lawrence Lanyon had pre-deceased her by two years.

DKW_34191_Foy_LReginald, known as Rex, joined Foy Morgan and had a life of travel like his father. He served as a Lieutenant in the Army Ordnance Corps in WW2. Rex also married twice, to Aileen St George Taylor in 1936 and Joan Nott Bower in 1954. He died in Taunton Dene in Somerset in 1988.


Paul Edward, born in March 1909, made a career in the Royal Navy rising to the rank of Lieutenant. He presumably left the Navy in 1949 as that is the last year he appears in the Navy Lists. He was married to Elisabeth Foy Clover in 1938 by the British Consul in Bordeaux and possibly lived abroad as there are no later records in the UK.


Robert Arthur, born in April 1910, became a farmer in Lincolnshire and in 1941 married Kathleen Maltby in the historic church in Boston known as the Boston Stump. Robert was a Sapper in the Royal Engineers at the time of his wedding. He survived the war and died in Lincoln in 1976.”

Research by Mary Jessop


Ancestry : Electoral Registers, Births Marriages and Deaths, Ship Passenger Lists, Censuses, Quebec Cathedral Baptism records, Military records, Probate

Find My Past Newspaper Archive: Lincolnshire Echo 13/10/1941

History of Wellington Mills 

All images CC by NC


2 thoughts on “The Foy Family: Merchants & Military

  1. I am so interested to see this blog post which was passed on to me by my sister Juliet in Devon. We are the elder two of the three daughters of Rex and Joan Foy, so this post is about our paternal grandparents, father and cousins. We knew most of this but the photos are largely new to us, except the group one of which we have a better print. If the writer would lie to fill in some of the gaps, please do get in touch. Many thanks.


    • Hello – thanks for your comments. I am always so pleased to hear from living relatives of our subjects. Unfortunately the researcher of this piece is no longer with the project, so I do not have any further information, but I am glad you found the piece interesting.


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