The Buxton family of Leytonstone House

Thomas Fowell Buxton (1821-1908) was the youngest son of a large and influential family who moved into Leytonstone House, near the Green Man at Leytonstone, when it was vacated by his eldest brother in 1847. He had married Rachel (1823-1905), daughter of Samuel Gurney of Ham House, the grounds of which now constitute West Ham Park, and they had fourteen children although three died in infancy. Four of his sons became leaders in their chosen field: John Henry Buxton (1849-1934) Director of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton Brewery, Chairman of the London Hospital; Geoffrey Buxton (1852-1929) Director of Barclays Bank; Alfred Fowell Buxton (1854-1952) Chairman of London County Council; Barclay Buxton (1860-1946) became a Christian missionary in Japan. They were cousins of Edward North Buxton of Knighton, Buckhurst Hill who fought to save Epping Forest, Hainault Forest and Hatfield Forest.

Ellen Buxton was the second daughter of Thomas Fowell Buxton and from the age of twelve she kept a diary in which she recorded details of their daily lives with many sketches of her family, and the outings they made. In 1964 extracts from the diaries were published by Geoffrey Bles of London as Family Sketchbook - A Hundred Years Ago by E. Ellen Buxton. This was followed by Ellen Buxton's Journal in 1967 and together they make a fascinating account of a well-to-do family living in a large house on the edge of London. The father, Thomas Fowell Buxton, spent his working life at the family brewery of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and at the London Hospital, where he was Chairman. Ellen was a bright, enterprising girl who spent much of her time helping to look after her four youngest brothers and sisters. The following extracts (with slightly more punctuation than in the book) give an account of their daily routine in 1862, when Ellen was fourteen.

"Early in the morning at six o'clock I generally wake up, so then I light a candle and sit and work or read till half past six; then I get up and when I am dressed I work again till half past seven; then we go down to Papa and Mama and do anything we like till eight o'clock. At eight Miss Smith [the governess] comes down, and she goes in to 'Early Breakfast' with Johnney, Arty, Geoffrey, Alfred and I. At half past eight we have prayers, and we always have a hymn for which Johnney, Lisa and I take in turns to play the music. After Reading the boys and Papa play Battledoor and Shuttlecock; and at a little before nine o'clock Mama, Papa and Lisa go in to Late Breakfast - and Johnney goes off with a hoop to his school - and Arty, Geof, Alfred and I generally go out in the garden or stay in and do anything we like. At ten we all come in to lessons, and they end at a quarter to one, then we all have luncheon together at one, and then go out in the garden or do anything we like. At four we come in again to afternoon lessons, and when they end at half past five we then all go down and have Schoolroom tea, except Lisa who has a music lesson so she waits and has dinner with Mama and Papa. After tea we all go up and dress, then the boys and I share the two pianos till seven o'clock, so we get all our practise done then. At seven Miss Smith reads us Macaulay's history till half past seven, then Mama, Papa and Lisa come out of dinner, and Alfred, Geof and Arty go to bed, Johnney, Lisa and I go to bed about half past eight, so we read and work with Papa and Mama till then."


Their routine on a Sunday included bible reading and hymns at home, church at eleven, luncheon at one and then the children were set texts to copy out. There was a further visit to church at three before visiting relatives or a walk in the nearby forest before tea.

Summer holidays were spent on one of the Gurney family estates near Cromer in Norfolk. The journey was easily made in a day with their own carriages taking the family and servants to Stratford Station where everyone, plus horses and carriage, were transported by train to Norwich. The family had a saloon carriage with easy chairs, a table and even a small nursery area. The last part of the journey was made partly in their own transport but carriages were also sent out by their relatives for servants etc. While on holiday they played more, had long walks and carriage rides, picnics, walks along the beach and often met up with their numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.