Horace Nelson and Kemnal Warren

Horace NelsonHorace Harrington Nelson (HHN) was born to John Joseph and Mary Nelson in Bayswater on January 23rd 1843 and he is listed in the 1851 census, living in Lambeth, Surrey with the rest of his family. There is, as yet, no further trace of the family itself until 1871 when the 1871 census lists Mary Nelson, a widow, living in Chelsea with her three youngest children, Reginald, Charles Somerville and Emily Nelson. Emily was the youngest, aged 14 and borne in Chelsea. From this we can perhaps infer that the family of John Joseph Nelson was still in England up until 1857 and that their apparent absence of the 1861 census may be due to the family leaving the country (possibly to Hong Kong - why did HHN otherwise end up in Hong Kong??). It might be further speculated that the death of John Joseph Nelson, sometime between 1857 and 1871, caused the family (or part of the family) to return to England. There are, at present, no further records of the other siblings of HHN listed in the 1851 census (Marianne, Sophia, Horatio, Algernon, Alice and Miller).

However, we do know that HHN was in Hong Kong in 1864 as an article on the history of the Mercantile Bank Ltd, in describing a board meeting of the bank in 1918, does refer to HHN at the age of 21 being a staff member of the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China (CMBILC). The CMBILC was originally established in Bombay in 1853 but by 1864 had established a head office in London and opened branches across the Far East. The bank appears to have a relatively chequered career and was finally restructured in 1892 as the Mercantile Bank Ltd. It was this bank that was eventually to become part of the Honk Kong and Shanghai Bank. It appears that HHN was Secretary and possibly a Director of the Mercantile Bank Ltd but not the actual Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

Emma NelsonSo how long was HHN out in Hong Kong? Well, I would guess that he was certainly out there until 1883, when he is listed as a witness at the wedding of his younger brother Charles Somerville Nelson, but he might of course have been back for a visit to England. It should be noted that his future wife Emma Rostron Macaulay (pictured on the right) was probably back in England long before this date. Her father had died in Lee in Kent in 1879 and she is listed as a 12 year old school girl in Lee in Kent in the 1881 census. Therefore the probability is that HHN met her when he was back in England and this again suggests that he was back from Hong Kong for some time before his actual marriage to Emma in 1887.

Under what circumstances did HHN return to London? Did he come back to work at the London HQ of CMBILC? An examination of the listings of his occupation from several sources suggests that he had left the bank in a full-time capacity from some time in the late 1880's. He is listed on his marriage certificate as a gentleman only; no occupation is given on the census of 1891 and he is referred to as a retired banker on the birth certificate of John Harwood Nelson in 1892. So my guess is that he did not hold down a full time position with the Bank but may have been on or served the Board in some part time capacity from 1887 onwards.

In the 1890s we now know that HHN was acting in the capacity of a Liquidator in the winding up of companies such as the Mortgage Insurance Corporation Ltd, The Hemp, Yarn and Cordage Company Ltd and the Debenture Guarantee and Investment Company (entries in the London Gazette, 1893-1897). In addition, he acted as executor in the will of Edward Silva upon the latter's death in May 1899. I have one record of a Mr H. Nelson listed as a banker on the 'City of Chester' bound from New York to Southampton in June 1894.

In the 1901 census HHN is listed as a retired banker living in South Godstone in Surrey. JHN was born in Bickley, Kent in 1892 (Swallowfield, Bickley) so HHN must have moved from Southland Gardens (this is the address given in the 1891 census in Bromley and I have assumed it is the same as Swallowfield, Bickley but I need to confirm this - Horace M Nelson was born in Bickley in 1889) some time after 1896 (Marion was also born in Bickley in 1896). He was still in residence in August 1903 when the Letters Patent for the Nelson Coat of Arms was granted. We now know that he moved to Kemnal Warren in 1907 and stayed there until his death in 1930.


(Information and photographs provided by Dave Best, son-in-law of Pat Nelson, HHN's grandson)