Fritz Guye Browning Fritz Guye Browning, cultured Regimental Sergeant Major, and his strait-laced wife, Maude, were bywords for respectability in my mother’s family – in sharp contrast to her paternal grandfather, who was widely known to be a bastard by birth and by nature. So perhaps you can already guess what my research discovered….

The marriage certificate for Fritz Guye (he was always known by both names in the family) and Maude Angelina Chittock noted his father as William Browning (deceased) Licensed Victualler. This tied in with what I had been told about his background; that his father was a publican in Deal, Kent. An easy matter, then, to trace him in the census from 1881 onwards, I thought.

The only entry I could find that fitted was Fritz Browning in 1901 at Shoebury Barracks which was probably him but this soldier had been born in Newington, Surrey rather than in Deal. Fortunately the birth, in January 1879, was easily found so I sent off, all unsuspecting, for his birth certificate. I was dumbstruck when I read it: his father was not named and his mother was Mary Jane Browning of 9 South Place, Kennington Park.

Back to the census and I quickly established that William Browning, the publican, was Mary Jane’s father and she was the eldest of six children. In both 1861 and 1871 Mary Jane was living at home and going to school in Deal. In 1881, however, she was a watch spring polisher, lodging in Cook’s Road, Kennington, South London.

I also found what looked like her in 1891, living ‘on her own means’ as a boarder at 57 Doughty Street – the street that contains the Charles Dickens museum and, (from Wikipedia):

In the nineteenth century "It was a broad, airy, wholesome street - none of your common thoroughfares, to be rattled through by vulgar cabs and earth-shaking Pickford's vans; but a self-included property, with a gate at each end, and a lodge with a porter in a gold-laced hat and the Doughty arms on the buttons of his mulberry coat, to prevent any one, except with a mission to one of the houses, from intruding on the exclusive territory." (Page 181, "Edmund Yates, His Recollections and Experiences" 1885 Richard Bentley & Son).
One wonders where she found her own means to board in such a place….

There was no sign of her in the 1901 census, so the search went back to her son, Fritz Guye. Eventually, (bearing in mind that transcribers had trouble with both of his forenames), I found him in 1881. He was just around the corner from his mother, as a 2-year old ‘visitor’ in De Laune Street with a Mr and Mrs Castle. This, happily, linked him with the entry in the 1891 census in Deal, where (as the transcriber called him) Frity Castle, was a 12 year old boarder at his grandfather’s pub, the Druids’ Arms in Market Street.

I wondered, naturally, if his father really was a Mr Castle and searched for likely young men. Wider searching for Fritz Guye’s name, however, brought to my attention a Swiss watchmaker, working and living not far from Mary Jane’s London address in 1881, when she was a watch spring polisher. His name was Fritz Guye.

watch by P & A Guye

A helpful person on the Internet pointed me at the London Gazette, through which I discovered that the Guye brothers, Philippe, Auguste (see obituary below) and Fritz came from St Jean de la Tour near Geneva and their watch making firm, P & A Guye (of London and Geneva), seems to have faced bankruptcy three times, in 1879, 1888 and 1947. Fritz remained single until 1884 when he married Gertrude Percy Ashton-Glover in St George’s, Hanover Square. His son by Gertrude, Edward Fritz Guye, moved to Australia and was in WWI, later becoming a member of parliament.

Press cutting of Adolphe Guye's obituary

It is possible, of course, that Mary Jane admired Fritz from afar and named her son in honour of him but the more compelling theory is that he fathered her child but was too far above her, socially, to even consider marrying her.


Auguste Guye's obituary, left, is taken from La Liberte, 17 February 1893

Going back to Deal in 1891 – the fact that his grandparents recorded him as Fritz Castle, boarder, on the census return seems to imply that he was not brought up as their son, yet throughout his life he gave the name of William Browning as his father. However, in his army records we get an inkling; Fritz Guye joined the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1894 at the age of 15 and, until he married in 1903, his mother was given as next of kin, with an address off Norfolk Road in North London and the name Mary Jane Browning. So he must have known the truth about his birth, yet even here he seems to have resisted complete honesty, for his mother was married in 1893, I discovered, to Thomas Goldfinch Akhurst, a stationer, and no longer bore the Browning surname.

Friz Guye's army career sent him to Gibraltar with his Battery within six months of enlisting and he went on to serve in Malta and Jamaica before the turn of the century. He was in South Africa for the second Boer War and beyond (although presumably he was briefly back in Shoebury for the 1901 census) and later he served in Egypt.

Back at the barracks in Shoeburyness he met local girl, Maude Angelina Chittock and they married in 1903. They moved to Gosport in time for the birth of their first child, William Henry, in 1904. William died in 1911 and was never mentioned by the family. By 1905 they were in Scarborough where Florence Beatrice Maud (my grandmother, Flo) was born, as was her brother Albert Edward in 1907.

Shrewsbury barracks was Fritz Guye's last posting, where he was Regimental Sergeant Major and then later, as a pensioner, was the Barrack Warden, living at 7 Married Quarters. He died in 1931 of Syncope, which "Strictly means a faint or swoon. Syncope ... given as a primary cause of death, ....is also used to mean any sudden loss of consciousness. Here, it is a description of a mode of death rather than a cause of death" (http://www.encyclo.co.uk/define/syncope) with the underlying cause being Acute Leukaemia.

A postscript to Fritz Guye's (and his mother's) story arrived out of the blue in 2021 from yet another helpful researcher (an academic, I suspect, rather than an amateur): "Maria Castle was a midwife who operated a private lying-in establishment from 9 South Place between about 1871 and 1889 (she had previously done the same at another address). Essentially, women paid to give birth to illegitimate children at Mrs Castle's, where the whole shameful pregnancy would be kept secret. Here is one of Maria's advertisements from the Hackney and Kingsland Gazette, 13 October 1879:
Press cutting of Maria Castle's advert
The fact that these lodgings were in the house of a midwife and that she promised 'every attendance' would have tipped off newspaper readers about the true nature of Mrs Castle's business. It appears that Mary Jane Browning gave birth in her establishment in 1879.

When children were born in Mrs Castle's house their births were registered but details were often fudged to protect the father. Often, the name of the mother's father was substituted for the name of the baby's father.

At parents' request, Maria Castle often arranged for the babies who were born at 9 South Place to be nursed or adopted out. That way the parents would not be seen to be raising an illegitimate child under their own roofs. In Fritz' case, he seems to have been nursed out in the household of George Washington (!) Castle and his wife, who were Mrs Castle's son and daughter-in-law. This is why Fritz appears in George Castle's household in the 1881 census. George Castle and his wife would have received a weekly fee for raising the young Fritz. Later, as the 1891 census shows, it seems that Mary Jane's family took over care of Fritz, although they did not publicly acknowledge him as a blood relation.

I'm sure you're right that Fritz Guye the watchmaker was the father. Since Mary Jane worked in the same field of business, my guess is that she either met Mr Guye while working (perhaps in his employment) or that, after the birth, he set her up with some work in the trade. The fathers of the illegitimate children who were born at 9 South Place often paid (in part or in whole) the fees which Mrs Castle charged for accommodation, midwifery services, and nursing out. This is likely true in Mary Jane's case, since Fritz Guye Sr. was much wealthier than Mary Jane. I wouldn't be surprised, either, if Fritz Guye Sr. also paid to set Mary Jane up in lodgings at 57 Doughty Street, where she appears in the 1891 census."

Thank you, Megan, for all that extra information and corroboration of my theory!