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The Dennis Family of Essex

When I first started to investigate my family tree I had no idea that the DENNIS family existed or that our two families had any contact, but in the course of my research, Phyllis Burns, my aunt in Colchester talked about them. Following a couple of visits to my Dennis uncles and aunt I became aware of my new family. One of the intriguing subjects that they wanted to know was - why have so many of the Dennis family got "CHEVELEY" as their first, second or third names?

I embarked on a project to:

  • trace back the family as far as possible

  • endeavour to discover the significance of "CHEVELEY".

I have succeeded with both, having traced the family back as far as 1766. The interesting thing here is the very close association the family has with Essex, in particular, central Essex. Unlike the Dixons who have, over the last two centuries moved counties and countries, the Dennis family have stayed in central Essex. In fact when James Cheveley Dennis moved to Colchester it must have seemed like a move across the world.

The name Dennis is derived from the nickname given to the Danish invaders who settled in East Anglia (and other parts of England). Some of these invaders brought with them their own names – like Jernegan. Some took on Anglicized names and others picked up names along the way. Dennis is derived from "Danish" or "Danes". Over the years this derivation has spawned many types of spelling eg Denis, Dennis, Dennish, Denneys, Danish, Dynnis.

Content -  click on the link to scroll down to the generation

Generation 1:     Thomas Dennis

Generation 2:     Thomas Dennis & Elizabeth Saggers

Generation 3:     James Dennis & Harriet Cheveley

Generation 4:     James Cheveley Dennis & Susan Musson

Generation 5.1:  Jessie Dennis & Octavius Havelock Ricketts

Generation 5.2:  George Dennis & Alice

Generation 5.3:  Edgar Dennis & Alberta Law

Generation 1: Thomas Dennish and his wife Mary

They had a son

  • Thomas Dennis 1766-1816

Generation 2: Thomas DENNIS 1766 & Elizabeth Saggers

Thomas Dennis was born in Great Waltham and baptised 31 Aug 1766 at St Mary and St Lawrence, Great Waltham, Essex.


Great Waltham is also known as Church End — is a village and civil parish in the Chelmsford district and is situated 10 miles from Danbury

On 1 Jan 1788 he married Elizabeth Saggers, born in Mashbury, Essex in about 1766.  Mashbury is 4 miles from Great Waltham. Thomas was buried 7 Apr 1866 at John’s the Baptist, Danbury.  

I imagine that Thomas was a butcher and set the family business up in Danbury where the next generation grew up. On the other side of Chelmsford at the sleepy little Hamlet of Mashbury, George Cheveley lived at Mashbury Hall and had a number of children. Three of his children were destined to marry three of Thomas Dennis's children.

Thomas and Elizabeth had 12 children:

  • Charlotte Dennis 1780-1790 = W. Gage

  • William Wilson Dennis 1790-1827 = Sarah Neville

  • Joseph Taylor Dennis 1792 = Adah Jones

  • Henry Knight Dennis 1793-1891 = Elizabeth Blowes

  • Elizabeth Dennis 1794-1804

  • John Saggers Dennis 1797-1780 = Susan Cheveley. on 27th March 1821. Susan was born on l6th March 1794. ohn Saggers and Susan inherited Mashbury Hall when George Cheveley died. They are buried in Mashbury Churchyard and their inscription reads:  "In affectionate remembrance of John Saggers DENNIS who departed this life the 1st October 1870 aged 73 years. Also of Susan, wife of the same, who departed this life the 21st of October 1874 aged 79 years. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."   John and Susan had the following children:

    • Emily Dennis

    • George Chevely Dennis bap 30 Jul 1823 Sandon, Essex. Buried 24 Apr 1852 aged 24

    • Henry Mayers or Rogers Dennis b 1831 bd 4 Dec 1834. There was anither Henry baptised 2 Oct 1836, either this Henry was baptised again or died and there is a second Henry

    • John Dennis vap  7 Jan 1830 d 1901 Mashbury

    • Mary Elizabeth Dennis.

  • George Cheveley Dennis 1798-1887 = Fanny

  • Jane Dennis 1800 =1.Thomas Cheveley, This marriage only lasted three years, presumably Thomas died. = 2. Edward Simmons

  • David Dennis 1801-01

  • James Dennis 1804-1884 = Harriet Cheveley – see below

  • Deborah Dennis 1806-06

  • Mary Dennis 1836

Generation 3  James Dennis married Harriet CHEVELEY

James Dennis baptised 1 Oct 1804 followed in his father’s footsteps as a butcher. There are examples of other Dennis's who are butchers in the region - and I am convinced that they are related, but no proof as yet has come to hand. James, as we have learned was born in Danbury, where his father, his uncle and his eldest brothers also worked as butchers. James couldn't stay in Danbury - it is after all only a small place, even today and the town could not have supported numerous butchers, so he moved with his wife (Harriet Cheveley the daughter of George Cheveley and Mary Attridge) and set up shop in Billericay. There, he and his family lived and the next generation of butchers were born.

However James didn't stay in Billericay. Sometime between the birth of James, his son, in 1830 and 1846 he moved to Colchester - a much bigger town with greater scope for expansion.

I should imagine that James joined a practising butchers shop until he felt confident to branch out on his own. He probably chose No. 133 High Street as his first location. Whether he also had anything to do with No. 139 High Street is not known at this stage.

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Gen 3 James
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James and Harriet had the following children:

  • James Cheveley Dennis c 1830- 25 Jun 1899

  • Alfred Dennis 1832 - 1881.  Born c 1832 but only lived twenty-seven years. I have no records of marriage, but he was buried at St Runwalds Church on September 16 1859.

  • George Dennis 3 Feb 1835 - 16 Sep 1859. He broke from tradition and joined the clothing trade becoming a draper in Chelmsford. He did not  move to Colcjester until he got sick. He too was not a healthy man dying at the age of 46. He knew that he was not well and he sold up his interests in Chelmsford and moved to Colchester. George never married and he died in 1881. His net personal wealth at the time of his death was just under £2000 (£267,749 in 2022)

  • William Dennis 23 Jan 1837 -26 Nov 1913. William also stayed in Chelmsford when his parents moved to Colchester and concentrated on the grocery trade.  He lived a long time - compared to his brothers and died on 26 November 1913. His will is interesting.He is listed as a Gentleman, which means he made enough money to be abke to retire and live well.  He married Elizabeth and had three children:

    • Leonard William Dennis = Maud. Leonard must have had spending issues because in his fathers will it states that the remaining third of his monies were to be invested with the interest going to pay Leonard William Dennis, his son, for the course of his life, and upon his death to pay the same to his wife, Maud. On the death of both William and Maud (ntoe the absence of Leonard), the capital was to be divided between any children they may have that attain the age of 21. In the previous paragraph there is also this and I quote it verbatim: “I hereby declare that if the said Leonard William Dennis shall do or suffer anything to be done or in case any event other than an advance under the power of advancement hereinafter contained shall happen-the said Leonard ... would in the absence of this proviso be prevented from receiving all or any part of the income payable to him ... the income going to his wife Maud instead ... in the same manner as if Leonard .... were dead."  A bit later it says  "I declare that before my son Leonard ... shall take any benefit ... the amount of the advances made by me to my said son and of which I have made an entry in a book .. shall be brought into hotchpot and accounted for to my said estate."

    • Emily Cheveley Dennis = Stanley Arthur Martin, an auctioneer from Teddington

    • Florence Elizabeth Dennis who stayed single but inherited £500 from her dad's will (£67,000 in 2022)

  • Thomas Dennis 1840 - 10 Nov 1906. I knew very little about Thomas until Pat Waters turned up a census report of 1891 that shows him living at 135 High Street, Colchester - occupation butcher.  He and Victoria are buried in Colchester cemetery and the stone reads: "In loving memory of Thomas Dennis who fell asleep Nov 10th 1906 aged 66 years / Father in thy gracious keeping; Leave us now our loved one sleeping / Also of Victoria Adelaide Wife of the above Died March 29th 1931.  He married Victoria Hyam born 1842. The 1891 census shows the following children:

    • John Dennis (known as Jack) 1865

    • Ada Victoria Dennis1867-1926

    • Fanny Maria Dennis 1869-1944

    • Harriet Rhoda Dennis 1869-1942; b Lexden; a millner

    • Thomas Frederick Dennis 1871-1923 compositor printer

    • George Cheveley Dennis bom circa 1872-1955 a watchmaker

    • Maria Julia Dennis 1874-1958 drapers assistant

    • Ellen Dennis 1875

    • Alfred James Dennis 1878-1963

    • Samuel D Dennis 1886

    • Walter Simmons Dennis 1887

  • Fanny Mary Ann Dennis 1848 Fanny was the only girl born to this generation. In the 1871 census she is living with her brother, James Cheveley as "housekeeper” and looking after JC's son Edgar. JC's wife died leaving him to bring the children up on his own. It seems likely he sent the younger ones out to relatives. Fanny received £200 from her brother's will (£26,700 in 2022). Fanny never married.

Fanny Mary Ann & JC Dennis.jpg
Fanny Mary Ann.jpg
Gen 4 JC

Fanny Mary Ann Dennis                  Fanny Mary Anne & James Cheveley            Fanny Mary Ann Dennis

Generation 4:  James Cheveley Dennis and Susan Musson

JC was born in the sleepy little market town of Danbury. He learned his trade as a butcher  when he was apprenticed to a master butcher in Islington but by 1861 he was running his own butcher’s shop in Colchester High Street. The 1861 census is interesting as living in the house at this time are. The census gives us clues about the location of the business – it had a pub on one side and a stationers or newspaper shop on the other side.  James married a London girl – Susan Musson on 4 April 1858 at the Holy Trinity church, Islington. She was the daughter of John Musson, a baker. James left Danbury and set up a butcher shop in the High Stret of Wivenhoe which is where we find him in 1871. But he didn't stay there and moved on to Colchester and joined his dad.

James and Susan had 4 children, before Susan died in 1866 and JC was heartbroken and never married again. Children:

  • Jessie Dennis (Gen 5.1) Click on the link for more info

  • James Alfred Dennis (Gen 5.2) was born 12 August 1860 and baptised at St Runwalds church. He trained as a butcher and worked in the shop at 133 High Street.  He married Julia --?-- and they lived at 20 Beaconsfield Avenue, Colchester. James died in September 1900 only one year after his father, aged 40, leaving his entire estate to Julia –valued at £1029-15-1. Julia died a month later on  24 October 1900. There were no children.


  • Edgar Dennis 1865-1903 married Alberta Louisa Law 1865-1903.  They both died in 1903 and their young son, James Dennis, was brought up by his uncle George in Norwich. Alberta's sister, Fanny married Alfred Archer Dixon and it is this that links the Dennis family and the Dixon family together. Alberta died in 1903 and her will says "I leave my entire estate to George Dennis, brother in law of Norwich to sell to help raise my infant son." In the same year less than a month later her husband Edgar also died - in Brentwood Asylum. His will reads "I leave everything to my wife (already dead) and George Dennis my brother a grocer at Norwich." His instructions were to "sell my house at 133 High Street to help raise my infant children." Their children were:

    • James Dennis -Click on his name

    • Mary Dennis - brought up by Jessie Rickett


The family business was situated at the heart of Colchester at 133 High Street. It was a timber framed building when the Dennis’s lived here, probably ancient – but was pulled down and replaced with the modern building and is used as town council accommodation.     The trade of butchering by the Dennis family ended in 1903. However later generations went into surgery.

  • George Dennis (Gen 5.3) George, third child of James Cheveley and Susan Dennis was born the l3th March 1862 and baptised at St Runwalds. Like his uncle he was apprenticed to the grocery trade.    At the age of 16, George's father apprenticed him to the Freeman Brothers of Norwich to be trained as a grocer. The Freeman Brothers -James & Piddock Day Freeman, signed an indenture with James Cheveley Dennis and for the sum of £50, agreed that they would train George for 4 years, "supplying lodging, food and drink." James Cheveley had to ensure that George was supplied with sufficient clothing, washing and medicines. George in his turn agreed to abide by the rules of his indenture, which included:   "... faithfully serve his masters secrets, not waste or lend the goods of his masters, nor commit fornication, contract matrimony, play at cards, tables and other unlawful games, nor haunt taverns or playhouses, absent himself from his master"s service."  George eventually had his own grocers shop at 187 Prince of Wales Road. Pat Waters told me that he “lived at one point at 150 George Borrow Rd, Norwich and he owned numbers 150 and 152 of that road. I remember him living at 200 Thorpe Rd, Norwich, a large house on a corner site. He had a lovely old car – a Singer?. He had a large garden. Also had the reputation of being rather careful with his money, etc, or so I was told by my mother! His shop was in Prince of Wales Road, Norwich – latterly I believe it was a China shop.  George married Alice Anne Watson (the daughter of James Edward Henry Watson) on 9 Apr 1880 at St Peter Parmentergate church, Norwich.  George died 20 Nov 1943 and his estate (£13,498 - £677,000 in 2022) went to his daughter Lucy and husband Reg. George and Alice had two children:

    • George Dennis was bap 23 Sep 1890 at St Peter Parmentergate, Norwich. He was a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.  He married Kit (Catherine Lucy) Laxon, and at the outbreak of WW1 he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (53rd Field Ambulance). Service no 475422. he died of wounds 27 May 1918 aged 28. He is buried in the Acheu British cemetery Plot1, Row D Grave 14. The photograph (right) was taken shortly before he died. He and Kit had no children

    • Lucy Dennis. Lucy, married Reginald Browne. Reg worked for the GPO (General Post Office) in Norwich and they lived in one of her father’s houses for a time (152 George Borrow Road). Lucy died about 1954 and Reg a few years later. They had only one child:

      • Dennis Michael Browne 6 Oct 1928 - 11 Sep 1987.  Dennis married Betty Margaret Williment  b 25 Apr 1938 - Dec 2001. Their children are:

        • Susan Browne  b 9 Jul 1956 married Nigel Tenekoon. Issue:

          • Rosalind Tenekoon

          • Stevie Tenekoon

George Dennis.jpg
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George Dennis, grocer

Donated by Pat Waters

Sergeant George Dennis

Donated by Pat Waters

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Lucy Browne (nee Dennis and her son Dennis Browne c 1936/7 at 200 Thorpe Road, Norwich

Donated by Pat Waters

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Snapshots through time. Top left Building the Colchester Council offices; top right, High Street circa 1900; same stret 1990s. Below:  the Dennis butchers shop, sadly we have no pictures of the shop with Dennis on it. Wise bought the business from the Dennis family. The photo below was for the Christmas display in 1906.

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Old maps of the area show the buildings and thoroughfare to the back of the Dennis shop at 133 Hugh Street. Livestock from the markets would have been brought in this way. This timber-framed shop was demolished in 1989 but has been rebuilt in stone to look the same. It is now council accommodation

Dennis Yard.jpg

Ed: In the early years of my research in the early 1970s the shop was being gutted and I had a look around and still remember the delft tiles on the walls

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In the 1881 the census records that he employed 6 men. Only Jessie (his daughter) and Emily BELL, a domestic servant were living at the same address.   However by 1891, Alfred Dennis, his son aged 30ad joined the business and Fanny was an employed housekeeper. They had a servant - Emily Edwards.

James lived through some of the most interesting of times. As his butcher's trade grew, and he expanded his shops, so Colchester was expanding. "After 1770 the rising prosperity of rural Essex, due in large part to feeding London, produced in Colchester a quickening pace and rising population too." (Colchester 1800: a celebration 1189-1989 p 30).

Likewise, James would have seen great changes to the architecture of Colchester. During the 1800s some of its finest buildings were destroyed, for example the old Moot Hall, the picturesque St Runwalds Church and Middle Row. He would have been in town on April 27th 1884 (at 9:18 am) when Colchester was hit by an earthquake that caused a great deal of damage (more than £200,000).

James died on the 25th June 1899. In the Colchester Library the newspaper for that week has a very long obituary and I have reproduced it below, because the photocopy taken from the microfiche was not very legible. The archivist at Colchester Library told me that it was highly unusual for a tradesman to have such a long obituary in a newspaper. James must have been a very influential man with a great many friends.


The funeral of the late Mr James Cheveley Dennis of High Street, an old and respected tradesman, of Colchester, whose death is recorded elsewhere in our columns, took place on Thursday afternoon, and the drawn blinds and closed shutters at private residences and business establishments in High-street and vicinity together with the assemblage at St. Nicholas Church (where the anti-grave service was held), and at the Cemetary, testified to the high regard entertained for the deceased in the Borough. The mourners were:

First carriage.- Miss Dennis (sister), Mr. Alfred Dennis (son), Mrs Rickett (daughter), Mr. G Dennis (son).

Second carriage.- Mrs Alfred Dennis (daughter-in-law), Mr and Mrs Edgar Dennis (son and daughter-in-law), and Mr Rickett (sonin-law).

Third carriage.- Mr and Mrs Wm. Dennis, Chelmsford (brother and, sister-in-law), Mr and Mrs Thos. Dennis (brother and sister-inlaw).

Fourth carriage.- Mrs G Dennis, Mr J Dennis and Mr Watson.

The officiating clergy were the Reverand H.H.LEGH, Rector of St. Nicholas, and the Rev. G.G.BROWN Rector of All Saints, who met the coffin and the mourners at the west door of the Church and preceded them up the aisle to the chancel. The surpliced choir attended and the service was commenced by the singingof thehymn"Peace, perfectpeace," after which the Psalm was chanted. The lesson was read by the Rev. G.G. BROWN, following which the hymn "Rock of ages" was sung and after the prayers, said by the Rev. H. H.LEGH, another hymn, "For ever with the Lord" was sung. As the body and the mourners left the church the organist, Mr Edwin ADAMS played the Dead March in ??

Among those who attended atthe Church or at the Cemetary to pay a last tribute of respect for the deceased were Mr C.K. DENTON (deceased's solicitor), Dr. C.O.G. BECKER (medical attendant), Alderman W. BUTCHER, Councillor G. LITTLEBURY Councillor and Miss ASTER, Mr H.C. BROWN and Mr R. CHESHIRE (Churchwardens), Mr and Mrs A GRAY, the Misses HELLEN, Mr James BARBUR, Mr John BASTY, Mr William BASTY, Mr F.H. TURNER ?, Mr F.C.H. JONES, Mr W.H. NEWMAN, Mr T BATES, Mr James H-?-, Miss PARSONS, Mr and Mrs Wm. BOSTOCK, Mr and Mrs BUCKS, Mr F.T.GOSLING, Mr C.T.WRIGHT, Mr H. PARROTT, Mr Thos. GIRITUS, and Mr E.GIRLING (Frating), Mr A.A.ADAMS, Mr C.E.RICE, Mr, C.B.S. WEBB, Mr E.P.DANTELL, Mr G. CHINNAL, Mr Wm. CATER, Mr T.WYUBALL, Mr F.CROYDON, Mr Joss HUNWICK (Kelvedon), Mr Chas. FENN, Messrs C & W KEMBALL (Groton), Mr G FOLKARD, Mr John FELGATE (Wyvenhoe), Mr R.J. SAGE, Mr T.E. KING, Mr Geo. COMER, Mr DAMANT, Mr T.B. GREENWOOD, Mr W.H. COOPER & The Employees of the firm of A. & E. DENNIS also attended.

The floral offerings sent by relatives and friends were very numerous and handsome, and included wreaths, crosses &c.:- "To my beloved brother from his sorrowing sister; "In loving memory of dear Father from Jessie and Havelocle'; "In loving memory from Alfred & JulW'; "In kind rememberance from the Churchwardens of St Nicholas and St Runwalds"; "With Mr and Mrs GIRLING'S family's deepest sympathy" ~Frating); "With sincere sympathy, from CROYDON Bros"; "In loving memory of Uncle James from Florence, Emily and Leonard"; "In affectionate rememberance, Mr and Mrs BETTLES and family" (Lawford); "With deepest sympathy from Mr and Mrs H. LAZELU'; " In loving memory of our dear friend, Mr J.G. PARNONS (?) and daughter'; "In loving memory, of our dear cousin, John and Mary"; "From Mr and Mrs H W FARMER in remberance of our dear old friend"; "In grateful rememberance from George and Annie MORRIS" (Wyveith9e); "In deep regret, from Mr T B GREENWOOD and Song"; "In lovingrememberance of a dear and valued cousin from Mrs SIMMONS and Mr & Mrs STURT (??)"(Brentwood); "From Mr and Mrs C E PAGE, with deep sympathy"; "In loving memory of our dearfather, George and Alice"; "In loving memory, from Edgar and Bertha, and two grandchildren, James and Mary"; "In loving memory of a dear brother from William and Lizzie"; "In loving memory of dear brother James, from Tom and Vic"; "From Mrs James WATSON and family " (Norwich); "With the sympathy and regret from the employees";

With deep sympathy and regret from Mr and Mrs A GRAY"; "With deepest sympathy from John and Sarah MUSSON and family (London)"; "To dear grandpa from Chevlie, Ralph and Eva7; "For darling grandpa from Georgie and Lucy"; "With sincere regret from Mrs T W PAGE (43 Crouch Street)"; "In loving memory of my dear master from Rose".

Flowers were also sent by Mrs LEGH, Mrs LOVELL, Miss COOPER, Mrs RICE, Miss L. ROUND, and Mrs Henry FARMER &C. The funeral arrangements were satisfactorily carried out by Messrs GRIFFITHS and Co., under the personal supervision of Mr J G PARSONS.

In his will he gave   Fanny Mary Ann Dennis (his sister) furniture and household effects, all 5 tenaments in Princess Street and on her death they were to be sold and the proceeds divided amongst the children. James Alfred Dennis (son) and Edgar Dennis (son) got the shop and slaughterhouse at 133 High Street, Colchester - they were living there and running the business. George Dennis (son) got 134 High Street, Colchester (occupied by at the time by Messrs Croydon) and all the 4 cottages in Dennis yard.  From the sale of real estate & personal effects: Jessie Dennis (daughter) got £800 and James Alfred Dennis (son) £200  The remainder was be divided equally between rest of children.

Jessie was the only daughter born to James Cheveley and Susan Dennis and was also the first born child. She was born on 8th May 1859 at 133 High Street, Colchester and attended the local school with her brothers. Her father, being a butcher, mixed with customers from all walks of life - townsfolk and country-folk, farmers, cowkeepers, auctioneers, etc.  In those days butchers always bought their meat at the weekly or twice weekly livestock markets and it is probably in this way that Jessie became acquainted with her future husband - a farmer from Shopland Hall near Rochford, Essex with the impressive name of Octavius Havelock Rickett, known as “Have” and "Octs".

Jessie married Octs in June 1888 at St Andrews Church, Holborn in London. Reproduced right is a copy of their wedding breakfast menu. The breakfast was held at Wood’s Hotel, Furnival’s Inn, Holborn.  Pat told me that Octs was a farmer and after their marriage they lived at Hawkwell Hall near Southend. The children were born here. There was a fire at Hawkwell and since it wasn’t insured they lost all their money. After this they seemed to move around various farms. At one point they lived for a short time in Billericay, and in the Firs, Sudbourne in Suffolk, as well as Tunstall and Pond Hall, Gainsborough Lane, Ipswich. Octs worked as a farm manager. “Octs” died in 1908 and the family lived for a time in London Road, Ipswich – from where Gladys was married. Have and Jessie moved to Ipswich and they had three children:

  • James Cheveley Rickett b 29 Jul 1889 Hawkhill d 21 June 1934.  He married Ethel Knights. He served in WW1 and survived. Their children:

    • Jack Cheveley Rickett b 21 Aug 1915 Ipswich died 1991 Great Yarmouth - believed to have had 3 children

    • Jean Doreen Rickett b 23 July 1923 in Ipswich died 1987 north Dorset and married John McCracken and had issue:   

      • Shila McCracken

      • Margaret McCracken

      • Susan McCracken

  • Arthur Ralph Rickett born 24 June 1890 Hawkwell, died 16 January 1937 Ipswich. He married Enid Vera Riches in Jan 1929 and died without issue. He was in the grocery trade. Lived in Frinton 1911.

  • Gladys Ena Rickett born 24 June 1894 Hawkwell, married Raymond Ward Waters born 5 Feb 1893, died 10 Jan 1892 Ipswich. They had a daughter:

    • Patricia Dennis Waters. It was Patricia who sent me the photos in this section and gave me a lot of useful info

Besides bringing up their three children Jessie and Octavius took on the responsibility of looking after Jessie’s niece Mary, the orphaned daughter of Edgar and Mary Dennis, both of whom died in 1903

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Wedding: Gladys to Ray Waters 1924

Donated by Pat Waters

The Rickett family c 1922

L-R Jessie; Gladys; Oct. Top James Cheveley; Bottom:  Arthur Ralph

Donated by Pat Waters

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Jessie Dennis

Donated by Pat Waters

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Wedding Gladys & Raymond

Bridesmaid Mary Kemball; Jessie aged 70 (seated); Gladys behind; George Dennis (right)

Donated by Pat Waters

James Dennis, son of Alberta Law and Edgar Dennis was born on 27 May 1891. When he was seven years old both his parents died and he was raised by his uncle George in Norwich. He returne dto Colchester and in 1911 was living with his aunt Victoria at 25 Alexandra Road, Colchester.

According to his son Cheveley, James was a small built, slender and dapper man. He had a little moustache and very light blue eyes. He had a slight country accent (probably brought on by his upbringing with his uncle in Norwich, Norfolk. He had a terrific sense of humour. He went to boarding school in Beccles and left to train as a surveyor. Later he moved to Layer Breton and set up in business as a builder. (Ed: In the Hare and Hounds at Layer Breton in the summer of 1989 I met a man who remembered that it was James and his son Cheveley who had built their barn for them.)

He married Ada Eliza Tungate of Lexden who, at the time of their marriage, was working as a maid or house servant for his uncle, Alfred Archer Dixon, who used Seaview at Layer Breton as a summer holiday home. Family rumour has it that James got Ada into trouble and his sense of honour compelled him to marry her.

Later James became the undertaker at Layer Breton. He and his family lived at Heath House, in fact he built that house. He also lived at Seaview the, cottage built by Alfred Archer Dixon (Ed: and had been the home for this author's mum and dad and grandmother and where I was brought after being born in the nursing home in Feering). James died 6 November 1959 at Layer Breton, Essex leaving everything to his wife. His estate was valued at £5091.  Ada died March 7 1963.

Their children:

  • Cheveley James Dennis - see Generation 6.1

  • Audrey Mary Cheveley Dennis b 22 Dec 1915 Northampton d 2 Jul 2009 Colchester. Married Dr Herbert Davy in early 1964. Lived in Cambridge at 22 St Barnabas Road in 1962. Children:

    • Victoria Mary Davy b 18 May 1940 married Derek Wells. Victoria was a nurse. Victoria and Derek had two children:

      • Henry Richard Tagore Wells b 1964

      • Alexander Wells 1966 married Sharon M Morgan 2002 in Warwickshire

    • Audrey Helena Davy b Sep 1944

    • Richard William Davy b 1946 married Mary Doubleday

  • Patrick George Cheveley Dennis b 12 Oct 1918 d Jun 1980 Braintree. He was a motor fitter and a skilled joiner. In early 1948 he married Fay Chambers (b 30 Apr 1918) in Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Fay was a clerk shorthand typist in 1939 and living at 47 Westbourne Road, Luton in 1939, with her dad Horace, mum Rebecca and brothers Victor and Raymond Chambers. Fay died Apr 1966 in Colchester. Patrick and Fay had two children:

    • Timothy James Dennis b 7 July 1949 became a university lecturer at Essex University

    • Nicholas John Dennis b 25 May 1953 became a gunsmith d 1989 Colchester
















Generation 6.2 Cheveley James Dennis & Marianna Heyen

Cheveley James Dennis was born 12 January 1913 and followed his father's example and continued the tradition of building. He moved to Layer-de-la-Haye. He married Marianna Heyen from Germany on 2 March 1948. At the time Marianna was still a schoolgirl in Bremen, Germany. She met Cheveley in 1946 when he was in the British Army of Occupation. He was demobilized in June, but it took nearly two years of beauracracy and red tape before Marianna was given permission to enter the UK in January 1948. She says that “things were made difficult for war-brides at that time.”

Marianna wrote: “I met with no hostility from the Dennis family – especially not from father-in-law James. His wife Ada was rather more disgruntled and not just with me because I was German, also Fay from Luton. She really resented the fact that both her sons got married within a month of each other without places of their own. Understandable, I too would have been extremely put out had two mature sons billeted their brides on me. Accommodation (just after the war) was very hard to find at the time, so much having been destroyed by the Blitz."

In order to have some separate lives, Pat and Fay were given the breakfast room at Heath House, moved in a cooker, but still had to use the kitchen for washing dishes etc, and had, of course, one of the four bedrooms.

Family tradition said that when Cheveley returned from World War Two with Marianna his father was livid, and when Cheveley voted Labour at the elections after the War, James was so enraged he threw his son Cheveley out of the house and they had to live in the shed at the bottom of the garden at Seaview, that had previously been built to house Alfred Archer Dixon's pony and trap. This is all fanciful mis-information and I am grateful for Marianna putting the record straight. She points out that the election was in 1945, Cheveley was still in the Army , hadn’t yet met Marianna. “James was a fair and kindly man and would not have done anything so petty. Moving to the orchard was our own idea. Cheveley and I did indeed live in the beach huts at Heath House – not in the pony and trap stable at Sea View. Several dismantled beach huts were stored in the yard, they had to be removed from Mersea to make way for sea-defences at the start of the War. When Cheveley came out of the Army, he erected one of them in the orchard and made it into a den. He replaced one wooden gable end with a stone and stable brick wall, chimney and fireplace. Along one wall were shelves for books, radio,  and ornaments. It was carpeted and had a couch, armchairs, round table and was quite cosy. After we were married he put another hut against it to form an L-shape, cut a doorway through, connected mains water.  In it we had a cooker, sink, table, two chairs  and cupboards. We slept in one of the bedrooms in the house and had use of the bathroom."

Mariann also told me that ,,,"We found a house of our own fairly quickly, an old game-keepers cottage in Charity Wood, Layer-de-la-Haye. It was derelict – the Dennis firm had been instructed to pull it down and clear the site. We asked the owner – Colonel J Round of Birch Hall Estate, to buy it instead. After some hesitation (he didn’t really want outsiders in his wood), he agreed to sell it for £200. That was for one acre of land – the cottage was free. It sold for £140,000 in 1988. It took us over a year of hard weekend work to make it habitable. Early 1950 we moved in – though it still had no bathroom and only an outside loo – urgent jobs to be done! Later we added two bedrooms after Steven was born on 28 April 1951."

Cheveley died October 31st 1989 after suffering with an illness for some time.


On October 31, peacefully in St Helena Hospice. Cheveley James, aged 76 years.

Beloved husband, father and grandfather.

Funeral service at St John the Baptist Church, Layer de la Haye, on Wednesday, November 8, at 2.15pm. Followed by cremation at Colchester.

Family flowers only, but donations if desired for St Helena Hospice may be sent

to W.H. Shephard Funeral Directors, 93/94 High Street, Colchester

Cheveley and and Marianna had two children,

Stephen Gerhardt C Dennis (Generation 7.1)

Stephen is the eldest son of Cheveley Dennis and Marianna Heyen. He was born on the 28 April, 1951. He married Jane Berry on the 14 July 1973 but the marriage didn't last. He later married a second time to Moira Lavender, a pharmacist. Stephen is one of the world's leading cardiologists and is (?) presently working in South Africa. Stephen and Moira have two children.

Nichola Dennis born 7 November 1983

Kimberley Dennis born 13 December 1985.

No photographs and no contact have yet been made with Stephen.

Andrea Geraldine Dennis (Generation 7.2 )  17 July 1959 to 26 Jan 1962.

James family shot.jpg

L-R: James Dennis; Ena waters; Cheveley Dennis; Ada Dennis; Ray Waters; Pat Waters c 1937

Donated by Pat Waters

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