My Sussex Pelling Family History


Mary Ann Pelling married John Bowles in Brighton in 1834.  Mary Ann came from a long-established Sussex family; while John had moved to Brighton from Leicestershire.  In 1845, a son was born, Henry John Bowles, who was my mother’s grandfather.

But there is a mystery here.  The birth record clearly shows that he was the son of John Bowles and Mary Ann Pelling. Yet that was over ten years after they had married, he was 42, she 36, and their marriage up to that time had produced no children.  The 1871 Census showed the son Henry at 50 George Street in Brighton and established as the head of the household.  The parents were relegated to livers-in. And Mary Ann ended up in the Brighton workhouse where she died in 1874.

How could Henry have allowed this to happen?  Was he really her son?


From Horsted Keynes to West Tarring

My Pelling line goes back to the Sussex marriage of Henry Pelling and Frances Chapman in Horsted Keynes in 1629.  Around 1700 Henry’s grandson Henry married Cecilia Dearing from the village of West Tarring (now subsumed in the town of Worthing) and he and his descendants were to remain there for the next hundred years or so.

They appear to have been a family of some substance in West Tarring.  But things started to go downhill for Henry Pelling in the early 1800’s.  He was a shoemaker by trade.  After being brought up before the court in 1831 for being drunk and disorderly, he was later found getting by as a local gardener.  By this time two of his daughters had already gotten married and left home – Jane with Charles Bushby following his brother to Tasmania and Charlotte with Stephen Lorden, a publican, to Kent.


Mary Ann Pelling

The eldest daughter Mary Ann was soon to follow, marrying John Bowles in Brighton in 1834 and moving to Brighton where John had started a tailor’s shop.

John set up his tailor’s shop, first at 2 Steine Lane and then, from 1845 to 1862, in George Street.  Steine Lane has long since vanished.  But George Street remains much as it was; and you can still imagine their shop and them living upstairs or next door.

Mary Ann outlived her husband but ended up dying in a workhouse.


Mary Ann Pelling’s Family Tree
  • Henry Pelling (1606-1685) of Horsted Keynes m. Frances Chapman (1609-1692) in Horsted Keynes in 1629
  • – Richard Pelling (1637-1689) m. Susannah Wimborne
  • – John Pelling (1640-1723)
  • – Thomas Pelling (1642-1718)
  • John Pelling of Horsted Keynes m. Mary Giles nee Shove (1643-1681)
  • – Richard Pelling (b. 1671)  m. Jane Durrant
  • – Henry Pelling (1672-1743)
  • Henry Pelling of Horsted Keynes and West Tarring m. Cecilia Dearing (1678-1731) in West Tarring
  • – Francis Pelling (1701-1736)
  • – Henry Pelling (1703-1784)
  • – Dearing Pelling (1723-1773)
  • Dearing Pelling of West Tarring m. Martha Randall (1727-1806)
  • – John Pelling (1753-1811)
  • – Francis Pelling (1760-1821)


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