Laslett family history

Ruffell and Eveline Laslett

Henry George Ruffell Laslett, or Ruffell as he was always known, was born on 30 October 1882 in Eynsham, Oxfordshire, the sixth child of Thomas Manger Laslett, an Outfitter and Haberdasher, and Rhoda Laslett née Ruffell (page 110).

It was from his mother, Rhoda Ruffell that he got his unquenchable intellectual curiosity. She used to read to him a good deal - he mentioned her reading Macaulay's essays to him. She encouraged him to read and fired him with the hope of finding his way to Oxford University. Alas, he never got there, but he did somehow manage to learn Greek from an Oxford scholar at Balliol College, Oxford, though I do not know how he did this. It was probably when he was employed in Oxford at a drapers firm, Webber's in High Street. He used, apparently, to walk along the road from Eynsham to Oxford dreaming of the hope that he would one day become an undergraduate.

He was a local preacher, a Baptist, and eventually went to train for the Ministry. In 1912 he married Eveline Alden, the daughter of Robert Rhodes Alden, a successful farmer and butcher. She was a lineal descendant of that John Alden who went to America in the Mayflower in 1620.

Eveline used to play the harmonium at village chapels while Ruffell was in the pulpit. Her father too was a local preacher and an eccentric in his way. He is still remembered in an Oxfordshire village, Standlake, because one cold day he took off his coat and gave it to a poor man. He refused to ration meat to his customers in 1916 and this caused some problems.

When Ruffell married he began his ministry in Bedford but went as a chaplain to the forces in Mesopotania when Allenby's forces were fighting the Turks around Jerusalem. He hated the experience.

In 1918 he went to Watford to a well established chapel, Beechen Grove, and stayed there until 1936. It was a most successful and popular ministry. In 1936 he came to Birmingham, but the War of 1939 made this a pretty awful time; after London, Birmingham had the brunt of enemy action in air raids. In 1941 he took a much smaller ministry in Faringdon, Berkshire, a small country town, and he retired in 1946, living at first in Oxfordshire, Oxford itself, and eventually Bedford.

He was a man of great dignity and noticeable good looks, with a marked sense of humour. He read on every possible occasion, but would never allow his children to read novels before lunch, that was the time for serious reading. He was extremely skilled at restoring old furniture, though not much good at the actual woodworking itself, but rather at recognising the value of furniture that most people, in those days would discard but which he would buy and spend hours at putting them into use. He could have been an expert faker, but his conscience prevented him. He had an enviable way of getting on with ordinary folk, and cultivated his friendships with village antique dealers who would consult him about the provenance of pieces in their shops.

There is a well-known family story of Ruffell and his antique dealing. When he was a parson, he argued, in suitably Christian terms, about the value of some piece the dealer thought genuine and worth more than Ruffell was prepared to pay, as he doubted its value. The dealer concluded the argument with: "Listen Ruffell, it is no good a young liar like you trying to tell lies to an old liar like me!"

One of his favourite tales, and it was true, concerned his poor gardener, Yates, who had served in the Royal Navy and fought in the battle of Jutland. Ruffell asked him why he had no pension as a veteran as the man was very poor. After a pause, Yates said, "Well, I can trust you, sir, not to let on, because I'm ashamed of what I done. We had a nasty captain, and when we were in Scapa Floe on Armistice night (1918) we had a bit of a party. We all got drunk, but I was the one who threw the captain overboard!" For this he was sentenced to two years in a military prison, discharged with disgrace and lost all pension rights. As he was a regular, this amounted to a good deal - he served eight years before 1918. Of course, he was fortunate that the captain was thrown in the sea after the war had come to an end, if only just so. Had it not he would have been in worse trouble, most likely facing a charge of mutiny.

The British Library holds the following publication by Ruffell:
Master Collett. The reflections of a village Nonconformist. LASLETT. G. H. Ruffell pp. 78. Kingsgate Press: London, [1930.] 8o.

Ruffell died in October 1963 and is buried in Oxford. Eveline died in 1970.

Family of Ruffell and Eveline Laslett


THOMAS PETER RUFFELL - (Peter) - born 18 December 1915 at Bedford. Historian, Reader in Politics and History, Cambridge, plus career in the BBC. In 1947 Peter married Janet Crockett Clark and they have two children. Peter died at Cambridge on 8 November 2001.

See chapter Peter and Janet Laslett of Cambridge on page 171.

KEITH ALDEN - born 20 September 1917, at Bedford. Captured at Singapore 1942 and made a Prisoner of War. In 1946 he married Patricia Doreen Mackness. Company Director, Builders & Merchants, Bedford. Keith died on 14 July 2000 aged 82 years. His death notice in the Daily Telegraph of 19 July 2000 states: ‘A dearly loved husband, father and grandfather and second son of the late Rev. and Mrs G H Ruffell Laslett. Former president and Secretary of the Bedfordshire Baptist Association and Deacon, since 1948 of Stevington Baptist Church. Private cremation followed by a Service of Thanksgiving … July 26th, 2000 at Stevington Baptist Church…’
Joy Patricia - born 31 July 1947. School-teacher. Married Peter Stearn and has two children.
Penelope Sara - born 19 December 1949. A nurse. Married Christopher Hamp and has four children.
ROBERT BRIAN - born 18 September 1923, at Watford. Schoolmaster, then Lecturer, School of Education, Birmingham University. Married Pamela Dorothy Straker in 1948.

See chapter Robert and Pamela Laslett of Birmingham on page 187.

JOHN HENRY MARTIN - born 7 May 1933, at Watford. Married Barbara Ruth Tauber (USA), a Sociologist. Divorced in 1983. Educated at Oxford University is now Associate Professor of American History (1974) at U.C.L.A., Los Angeles, USA. Has published a number of papers and books mainly dealing with historical analysis of American socialism. His WEB page states: "

John H.M. Laslett

Fields of interest: United States History: American labor and social movements; U.S., Asian, Black and Mexican immigration; comparative Euro?American history.

Education: D. Phil. Oxford University, 1962

Workingman in American Life (1968).
Labor and the Left, a Study of Socialist and Radical Influences in the American Labor Movement, 1881?1924 (1970).
Failure of a Dream? Essays in the History of American Socialism (1974), (1984), joint author.
Nature's Noblemen: The Fortunes of the Independent Collier in Scotland and the American Midwest, 1855?1889 (1983).
History of the ILGWU in Los Angeles, 1910?1988 (1989), joint author.
" Gender, Class, or Ethno?Cultural Struggle? The Problematic Relationship Between Rose Pesotta and the Los Angeles ILGWU", California History (1993).
The United Mine Workers of America: A Model of Industrial Solidarity? (1996), editor.

"My interests have broadened in recent years from U.S. labor and radical history to include immigration and working class formation in Los Angeles, as well as in Europe and America and a wide variety of other contexts.

Michael Alden - born 13 October 1962.
Sarah Helen - born 19 October 1964.


WINIFRED JOAN - born 30 October 1913. In 1936 Winifred married Howard Hine an agricultural engineer and soil scientist. Howard died on 11 July 1990. They have no children.
BARBARA ELIZABETH - born 22 November 1918. Lecturer Regent Street Polytechnic, London. In 1960 Barbara married John Diamond. Barbara died suddenly on 8 November 1990. She had luekaemia.
Hanna Elizabeth Diamond - born 14 April 1962.
Jonathan Diamond - born 2nd June 1965.
MARGARET - born 8 August 1922. Schoolteacher. Margaret married Frank Burgess in 1950.
Paul Burgess - born 7 November 1954.
Elizabeth Burgess - born 7 February 1957.
Ruth Burgess - born 27 June 1959.
Rachel Burgess - born 7 January 1963.