THE WARNER FAMILY BACKGROUND
The particular branch of the Warner family recorded here were well-known citizens of the Bristol area in the 18th Century. Certain members of this family, in common with thousands of other British people, came out as settlers to the Eastern Cape in 1820 and so this is largely the record of the Settler Henry Warner and his descendents in Southern Africa.
It certainly seems appropriate to begin the history of this family in South Africa with a few words about Mrs Irene Toye Warner-Staples because, without her efforts in compiling a family tree in the early part of this century, little of the information on the preceding generations of the Warner or Blacker families would have been available to us at the time this collection was started. She was a remarkable woman, particularly for her era when most women refrained from playing an active part outside their own homes. Some further information regarding her noteworthy activities and character will be found in the section of this record pertaining to the branch of the family headed by her father, Wiclif Warner.
The original tree drawn up by her is lodged in the Archives of the Albany Museum [there is also an enlarged and updated hand-written one drawn up in approximately 1972 by Mr and Mrs P. A. May kept there.] together with a number of documents and personal letters from the correspondence that took place between the family in Bristol and the Settlers in South Africa, which Irene brought out to that country and deposited with the museum.
In the Albany Museum can also be found a number of other things, which are of particular interest to members of the Warner family, including an oil-painted portrait of the mother of Henry Warner the 1820 Settler.
A more recent donation was made by Mrs Ruth Hall, of Butterworth in Transkei, and the following quote from a letter written to her by M. D. Nash, the then Acting Head of the History Division of the museum concerns this. He wrote:
'We have a number of other articles of Georgian silver in our collection that belonged originally to the Warner family, donated by Mrs Warner-Staples, who has been a very generous friend to this Museum. We have several letters in our archives from Joseph Warner to Ebenezer Warner, dated 1860 - 1864, which make reference to gifts of silver, pictures, etc., sent to South Africa from England. Joseph Warner's letters refer to the 'grinding and crushing poverty' experienced by his parents prior to emigrating, so it seems unlikely that they brought many articles of value with them to the Cape in 1820.'
Mrs Ruth Hall herself donated, in 1963, a set of silver knives and forks, which were a family heirloom, and to quote from the same letter: -
'... the knives and forks are in excellent condition and form an important part of a display of Georgian and Regency silverware and porcelain in the entrance gallery of the 1820 Settlers Memorial Museum. They are a fine example of late 18th century stamped silver cutlery with pistol-butt handles. (The forks, incidentally, are three pronged, although we do have other specimens of a similar type and date with two prongs only.)
They are an important part of our silver collection, and doubly so because of their association with a well-known and historically interesting settler family.'
During the last few years of her life, a number of family items that belonged to Ruth Hall, were purchased by Phillip and Ruth May (as a means of keeping them in the family at the same time as assisting her financially to a small degree) and these included a tiny vinaigrette (silver marked - Birmingham 1808), initialled 'HW', which belonged to the Settler, Henry Warner; a George III tankard (silver marked - London 1762) with engraved 'W' and another initial which may have been a 'C' for Claude Warner; an elegant silver milk/cream jug (which may have been of Cape silver and has been repaired.) It too was monogrammed 'EMW' for Henry's wife, Elizabeth Warner and was reputed to be part of a silver tea service belonging to her; plus a couple of family silver serviette rings, one marked 'EMR' and the other 'HGR', which had belonged to my grandmother's sister, Eliza Maria Warner, called 'Gypsy', who married Hubert G. Rogers.
In addition to these Warner family heirlooms, Ruth May also received a set of six large sized teaspoons monogrammed 'EW' for Elizabeth Warner as a gift from her Aunt, Gladys Milton nee Howard, who recalled visiting the home of Ebenezer Joseph Warner and his wife, Emma Ruth Jenkins Warner nee Bradfield in Queenstown and admiring the family silver from the Howard and Warner families displayed on their dining room sideboard. Later, according to Gladys, this was all inherited by Walter Ernest Warner who sold it after the death of his wife, Florence Warner nee Howard.
As already mentioned, those interested in the history of this family or able to spend time looking around the Albany Museum can also see an attractive oil painting of the mother of the Settler, Henry Warner and in a letter dated 28.11.1952, presently in the archives of the museum and written by Irene Toye Warner-Staples (Address: Oak Hall Hotel, Wynberg, Cape Town) to Mr Hewitt, she stated:
'I am the last of my family in England and shall probably be buried here in an unknown grave!!! That being so, as a small memorial of me, will you kindly have a tablet put on the portrait stating that it was "presented by great-great-grand-daughter, Irene Toye Warner-Staples, nee Warner, of Bristol, England." I suppose her description above portrait will be "Hester Warner nee Toye, wife of Henry Warner of Bristol, and sister of William Toye, British Judge at Gibraltar. Died 7.11.1783 and buried at St Mary-le-Port Church, Bristol, England." [See after section on W1/5.D[E] Samuel Blacker Warner for the full transcript of her letter.]
It is interesting to know that this picture so appealed to Mrs Helen Relly nee Stanford, the granddaughter of Joanna Rosina Warner, that she commissioned a copy, slightly smaller, in oils and this now hangs in what was the Relly home on the farm 'Waterkloof' , (now the property of the Anglo-American Co.), which lies between Somerset West and Sir Lowry Village, beside the Helderberg mountain and near the Hottentot Holland mountain range.
Some time after her father, Wiclif Warner's, death Irene came out to South Africa, where she undertook a long tour around the country, visiting and getting to know various relatives, then finally marrying a cousin, Albert Warner Staples, a man thirty years her senior, who was the grandson of Mary Toye Warner.
The earliest ancestor of this family recorded by Irene was a B. Warner (no Christian name was given) born in 1731, who died in Iron Acton on 20.3.1795. His wife was not named, but her date of death was 1732 and she lived until 7.2.1802, dying in Chipping Sodbury. Their children were Henry (1757-1804), Isaac and Abraham (b.1768). It was their grandson, Henry Warner, who immigrated to South Africa in 1820.
On the other hand, the female line, that is the Blacker family, who were the ancestors of Elizabeth, the wife of the Settler Henry, although only shown as far back as Alice Blacker, in Midsomer Norton (born 1611), does have a most impressive family tree, dating back to 872 AD to Ivor, King of Northumbria. Thence, (possibly/probably tongue-in-cheek ?) through the Royal families of Denmark, to that of Jutland and Zealand, to Asgardia and ending with Eric, King of Scandinavia in 2000 BC!
When visiting Midsomer Norton on 19th October, 1978, next to the door to the parish church of St John the Baptist, we found a sarcophagus, carved with the names of a good number of the departed members of the Blacker family, giving the dates of their deaths and their ages, all of which were extremely interesting, as was the history of this small country church.
In 1987, I received from Mrs Ruth Hall, as a gift a book, which had belonged to Ebenezer Joseph Warner (my great grandfather). At the time when the book was in his possession he was living at Enqobo, Tembuland, Eastern Cape and this book was sent to him by his cousin, Wiclif Warner, from Bristol in May, 1907. A note on the flyleaf reads: 'This book contains many references to friends of their common ancestor, Henry Warner 1757 - 1814. The author, M. Tilling is an old friend - Enclosed are a few newspaper comments.' The title of the book is 'Bristol and its Famous Associations' by Stanley Hutton and the printer's names, etc. are given as: Bristol - J.W.Arrowsmith, 11 Quay Street, London - Simpkin, marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co. Ltd. and the date given is 1907. Some time later I handed this book on to one of Brian Warner's sons, Timothy, as I felt it should remain within the Warner family's possession and he had expressed some interest in genealogical matters.
In addition, perhaps mention should be made of a story that has come down through the family, but which may or may not be authentic, but claims that Henry Warner (the Settler) stood guarantor for a friend, who let him down over the debt. This led to his moving to Manchester, (where his daughter, Caroline Elizabeth, was born in 1817) and thence, to responding to Sir Charles Somerset's call for emigrants to the Cape Colony. The implications of this would explain the comments in the letter of his son, Joseph Cox Warner to Wiclif Warner, of the 'grinding and crushing poverty' of his parents, while the family who remained in Britain continued to live a relatively well-established life in comfort.
Coincidently, the original meaning of the name Warner comes from the old English for 'Warden' and that of Howard from 'High Wardon' in the days when it was necessary to have someone in authority over the large English country estates and the names of these positions have been corrupted down the years to the present names of Warner and Howard.
In 1957, an extraordinary and interesting, if rather far-fetched article appeared in the American magazine 'Look', at the time of Queen Elizabeth's visit to the United States of America, showing that Her Majesty is related to both George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The connecting link to this rather bizarre family tree was one, Augustine Warner, who settled in Virginia, U.S.A. in about 1650. Just for the fun of it details from this genealogical chart is included herein. One or two cogent points arose from this article - first, from certain books in the library of the College of William and Mary, situated near the York River, it appears that Augustine Warner was a gentleman born in England or Wales, presumably on 23rd September, 1611, and that he emigrated to Virginia when he was 39, with his wife, Mary, his son (the ancestor of George Washington, through the female line), and his daughter, Sarah, who married Lawrence Townley, and she was to become the ancestress of Robert E. Lee. We also learn that he used the coat of arms of an English family and this coat of arms is shown on the picture of a locket at the head of the tree. Unfortunately. 1681 marked the end of this branch of the Warner family in America, with the premature death of his son, Augustine II, who left only two daughters.
Although not a great deal is known of the very early history of the Warner family, it appears that from about the mid-17th century, some members of the family started moving from Britain to the U.S.A. and, later, to various other outposts of Empire, so that today one encounters Warners in most parts of the English-speaking world - one has only to recall Warner Bros. in Hollywood and various businesses and companies to be found in many parts, to observe this world-wide dispersion of the family.
Note: 1820 Settlers names shown in this collection are designated with an * before them