Laslett family history

Thomas and Rhoda Laslett of Eynsham

Thomas Manger Laslett born at Hole Farm, Sturry near Canterbury on 9 February 1839 the sixth child of George Laslett, a Farmer, and Charlotte Laslett née Manger (page 54).

Thomas was a Draper at Eynsham, Oxfordshire running his own business as an outfitter and haberdasher but not very successfully as it seems pretty clear that he went bankrupt. Thomas's grandson, Robert, writing in 1988 said that as far as he knew the shop is still there in Eynsham, but what goes on there he does not know.

The business must have been kept up no matter how marginal its profitability as with a large family to support Thomas could not afford to go under.

Perhaps as a result of these difficulties Rhoda inspired her children to intellectual curiosity and used to read to them a good deal. In later years her son Ruffell could remember her reading Macaulay's essays to him. Most unusual reading for a Draper's wife in Oxfordshire.

Writing in 1988 Robert Laslett remembered Rhoda's influence: "For us, I think that my father's mother began a strain of academic interests which have continued in my brothers Peter and John, and I suppose to some extent in myself and indeed in my sisters Barbara and Margaret. I refer to this with some diffidence, not to claim anything out of the ordinary as families go across the generations, but to emphasise the point that she, Rhoda Ruffell must have been rather an exceptional person in that she pursued this interest when married to a rather ineffectual husband without money, and inevitably very busy as a mother of eight children in a very small house at Eynsham. When I met my father's brother Gilbert I remember that he had with him a copy of Hammond's The Village Labourer (a classical history text) which he had brought to read in the train. I have also a photo of grandmother reading to all of us when we were young - she put great importance on reading and set the example."

Thomas died on 19 January 1899 and is buried in Eynsham. I have no details on when Rhoda died but she appears to have still been alive at the start of WWI.

Family of Thomas and Rhoda Laslett


SAMUEL GILBERT - (Gilbert) - born 26 September 1880. A Draper, Fleet, Hampshire. Married Bessie Balcome. Had four sons and three daughters, Margaret, Kathleen, and Greta.
Gilbert was more successful than his father, Thomas, at running a draper's business and did well. He had a chain of shops in the Aldershot area and had the slogan "Laslett's Value" on his shops.

His son Emerson was an RAF pilot and had the unfortunate distinction of being among the very first prisoners of war. He was shot down in the raid on the Kiel canal in September 1939 and spent the war in captivity. He is now dead (1988).

His daughter Greta married a German Foreign Office official and lived in Berlin. Robert Laslett thinks she left her husband in Germany just before the 1939 war, and he just disappeared - probably in an air raid on the city. Greta was still alive at the time of writing (1988).

We know nothing about the rest of that family.

HENRY GEORGE RUFFELL - (Ruffell) - born 30 October 1882, a Baptist Minister at Oxford. Married Eveline Alden in 1912. Henry died October 1963 while Eveline died in 1970.

See chapter Ruffell and Eveline Laslett on page 145.

CECIL H. R. - born December 1883. Died an infant.
CHRISTOPHER PHILLIP - born 8 May 1888, draper's assistant (pre-WWI). Rhoda writing to her niece Bessie in 1915 reported Christopher's enlistment and confided in Bessie that she considered Christopher just like his father. He later became a Congregational Minister, and was in some ways, a smaller edition of his brother Ruffell. He was more retiring and diffident - he too served in the Mesopotania campaign and by strange chance, met Ruffell in the desert. Christopher lived for many years with his sister Charlotte.


PRISCILLA EDITH - born 1 July 1873. In partnership (1911) with Miss Hare in Boarding School, Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire. Died about 1970.

Robert Laslett remembers Edith Priscilla as a formidable person who shared his father's intellectual interests. Today she would be well described as a "blue stocking". She was extremely well read and could hold her own in any academic company. She visited his sister Barbara in London in the sixties and he remembers she was most critical of him when he went with her to a concert in the Festival Hall wearing a coloured shirt! She was an engaging companion, but had strong views on most topics of conversation. She too was encouraged in her intellectual interests by her mother. Like her mother she too read whatever she could find - mostly literature - she certainly displayed a vast knowledge of 19th century novelists in the short time of Robert's meeting with her. She was imperious and rather intolerant but she was a sweet person underneath.

NORAH CHARLOTTE - born 15 November 1874, died in 1890. Buried at Eynsham
FLORENCE RUTH - born August 1876.
Married John Burr, Reigate, Surrey, Grocer.
Irene Laslett Burr
Winifred Burr.
CHARLOTTE RHODA - born 17 February 1879, a draper's assistant. Died about 1965.

Charlotte left the Eynsham shop and served in the 1914-1918 equivalent of the ATS - Auxiliary Territorial Services - which was the women's army. She rose to the rank of Captain, and was a very successful manager. She was a great talker too and is chiefly remembered for this. We do not know the details of her career in business after the Great War but she did for many years live with her brother Christopher.