Family History







An account of the close relationship that existed between the two families extending over 100 years.



I have often wondered what was the origin of the second name of my father - John Tanner Neve.  When he was alive I had asked him.  He had replied vaguely by saying it was a 'family name' without giving any further explanation.  Then in 1966 we lived for two years in Ditchling, Sussex.  The church there had graves with the name "Tanner" inscribed upon them in the churchyard and memorial inscriptions with the same name in the church.  I suspected there might be a connection but did not follow it up at that time.  It was not until nearly 30 years later that I was able to make the connections, after I had seen a notice in a genealogical magazine placed there by a Sarah Tanner, seeking family history information about Neves who lived in Kent. This resulted in an exchange of material and some light being shed as to the reason why.


If one examines the lives of the descendants of Edward Tanner and John Neve , what must have been a close association between the Tanner families of Wivelsfield and Ditchling in Sussex and the Neve family of Tenterden in Kent becomes evident.  The association started in 1786, or just before, when Mary Tanner , (born 1765) the daughter of Edward’s youngest son Laurence, a wheelwright in Catsfield, married John Neve of Tenterden, Kent.   John Neve was a grazier and was, as a tenant, living in an old house called Tiffenden Manor which lies just outside High Halden, Kent.  The manor is mentioned in the Doomsday book.  John Neve was born there in 1749 and had been married first, at the age of 18, to Ann Breeden.  She died, aged 34 in 1783 after 16 years of marriage, leaving John to bring up their four children Ann (aged 6 at her mother's death), John (4), Elizabeth (2) and Catherine (1).


We can only speculate on what brought Mary Tanner from Sussex to live at Tiffenden. Catsfield is about 25 miles from High Halden but possibly as a wheelwright Laurence was known to John or maybe she was working nearby or  perhaps it was to look after John's four young children and their relationship flourished thereafter.  It is recorded in the High Halden parish register that Mary Tanner had her first child, a baby daughter also called Mary, baptised there aged 12 months in December 1786.  In the language of the day the entry states that the baby Mary was "base born" and that the father was John Neve.  He had by then however married her, the wedding having taken place in the February of that year.  Also in November 1786, her brother John Tanner was married in Tenterden to Elizabeth Port and began raising a family and buying properties.  Another sister Hannah was married in Wateringbury.


John Neve's marriage to Mary produced a further five children, Thomas born 1789, Caroline (1791), Charles (1793), Harriett (1797) and William (1799). All except William, who died aged 14, will feature later in this account.  Fortunately Tiffenden is a large house, still lived in today, and was ideal for raising a large family.  John was well respected in High Halden and was churchwarden for many years; his name is still to be seen at the foot of a wooden noticeboard hanging in the church to this day.  He died there in 1816.


John and Mary's first child Mary Neve grew up at Tiffenden and when she was 26, married her second cousin Anthony Tanner , by licence at Tenterden on 11 February 1811.  She went to live in Wivelsfield, Sussex.  This was to be the first of the three Neve/Tanner weddings that were to take place in 1811.


Three months after Mary Neve's marriage to Anthony Tanner, her brother John Neve married Anthony's sister, Ann, on the 4th May 1811.  They set up home at Tiffenden where John helped his father farm.  This was a marriage beset by grief, they had three children, twins Mary and Ann who died at birth and a second Ann, who lived just 24 hours. Worse was to follow as Ann, John's wife, died in 1816 at the age of 29.  She is buried, with her babies, in a corner of High Halden churchyard.  Her father-in-law and husband were also to be buried there later in brick faced "oven graves" beside her.


The third wedding was in December 1811, when Sarah, another Tanner girl from Wivelsfield, the cousin of Ann and Anthony and the daughter of William Tanner of Morehouse ,  married Thomas Neve, the younger brother of Mary and John Neve.  Thomas Neve was to become a highly respected land agent and farmer and lived at Benenden, quite close to High Halden for most of his life.


In Wivelsfield, Anthony and Mary raised eight children between 1811 and 1824.  Mary died in 1827, aged only 41 and was buried in an altar tomb in Wivelsfield churchyard.  She left a family of seven (one son, John Neve Tanner, had died in 1820 aged 4), the eldest, a daughter called Mary, was 16 and the youngest Richard just two years old at the time of their mother's death. It is possible that soon after her death, her unmarried half-sister, Catherine Neve, moved from Kent to Wivelsfield perhaps to keep house and help raise her brother-in-law's young family.  In the 1841 census taken on the 6th June, Catherine was still in Wivelsfield and staying at More House with Richard and his sister, Jane Tanner.  She died aged 59 a few months later and she too was buried in an altar tomb there on 20th August 1841.




After the death of his wife Mary, Anthony drew up his will on 31 August 1827, when he was styled Gentleman of Wivelsfield.  He left as his executors his brother‑in‑laws John Neve of Tenterden, Kent, and Thomas Neve of Benenden, Kent, and his cousins William Tanner of Patcham, and Richard Tanner of Wivelsfield.  His will ran  to several pages which stated that they should:


"absolutely sell and dispose of all and singular my said messuages lands tenements hereditaments and premises either together or in parcels and by public sale or private contract ..... Sell everything and call in all rent etc equally divide the proceeds between my children William, Anthony, Richard, Mary Ann, Elizabeth, Maria and Harriett".


Thomas Neve's younger brother Charles at some stage also went to Wivelsfield, perhaps just to stay with his sisters or perhaps to help his brother-in-law on the farm.  He too died there aged 37 in 1829 and was buried beside his sister Mary, sharing the same altar tomb in Wivelsfield churchyard.


Tragedy was soon to befall Anthony Tanner as well for in 1832, he was killed late at night falling off his horse at the foot of Ditchling Beacon riding home after a long day out in Brighton.  He too was buried in the same altar tomb beside his wife and brother-in-law.


Over the next few years Thomas Neve, acting for the other Executors, disposed of all his property.  Anthony's house, The Tanyard, was lot ten of twelve lots on the particulars of Sale by Auction on June 4th 1833 by Verrall & Son at the Star Inn at Lewes at 4pm, by Direction of the Acting Devisee in Trust and Executor of the late Mr. Anthony Tanner is described as follows:


"a most desirable freehold property ...consisting of a roomy dwelling house, late the residence of Mr. A.Tanner, deceased, with Excellent Gardens, Orchards and Pleasure Ground, a Summer House, Chaise House, Stabling for five horses, Granary, Cart Lodge, Cow Lodge, Farm Yard, Bark Barn, Mill House, two Drying Sheds, Leather Beam, Lime House and Tan Yard, well supplied with water, and containing sixty‑five Pits, also five pieces of Rich Meadow land, 8a 3r 36p, subject to annual quit rent of 1 shilling to the Manor of Franklands and 6d to the Manor of Otehall.  The purchaser to have option of taking the Pits, Bark Mill, Stock in Trade and Implements at fair valuation".


The lot sold for £1,600 and the whole sale raised £11,935. A pound then is worth nearly £40 today.


When Anthony died in 1832 his children were aged as follows:  Mary 21, Elizabeth 19, William 18, Maria 14, Anthony 12, Harriett 10 and Richard Tuppen 8.  If Charlotte Neve was living indeed in Wivelsfield at this time, she did not assume responsibility for the Tanner children. They obviously left Wivelsfield by the middle of the following year when the farm was up for sale and moved up to live in London with their Aunt Harriett Neve, (their mother's youngest sister), to look after them.  She was aged 35 and living in Lambeth.  She was to raise them and to remain in close contact with them for the rest of her life.


Perhaps because of a shortage of money.  William got a job and in the 1841 census we find Harriett Neve and the Tanner family living at 9 Walnut Tree Walk, Lambeth, with William as the head of the family as a Publishers Clerk, his sisters Elizabeth, Maria and Harriett and his Aunt Harriett Neve as independent, and Richard as an apprentice.  By the 1851 census William is a Publishers Assistant, Richard a Stationers Assistant, Harriett his sister, and Harriett Neve his aunt still independent and his cousin George Dixon aged 20 a Tea Dealers Assistant.  Elizabeth was shown as a visitor staying at Ditchling, with her cousin Martha, the wife of George Dixon the Rector, the parents of the aforementioned George.  It seems likely that Maria died between 1841 and 1849 as when Harriett Neve drew up her will as she is not mentioned.


By the 1861 census the family had moved from Lambeth to 3 Upper Eaumont Terrace, Hampstead and Richard is shown as a Wholesale Stationer.  William, by then aged 47, had given up work and with his two sisters and Aunt Harriett Neve is shown as a Fundholder.  Presumably Thomas Neve had by then disposed of all the lands and estate of their father and the money had been invested and Richard had decided with his share to set up the business of Hunt and Tanner, later to become R.T.Tanner & Co. Limited.


Harriett Neve's will was dated 31 August 1849, when she was described as late of Tenterden in Kent and now of Lambeth.  She left £200 to her brother Thomas Neve of Benenden, £200 to her sister Caroline wife of  James Grant of Van Dieman's Land [now Tasmania] Gentleman, £200 to her nephew Thomas Montague Hammond son of her late sister Maria, wife of Thomas Mitchell Hammond of Brixton Surrey, and £200 to each of her nephews and nieces William Tanner, Richard Tuppen Tanner, Elizabeth Tanner and Harriett Tanner the sons and daughters of her late sister Mary wife of Anthony Tanner late of Wivelsfield in the County of Sussex Gentleman.  All the residue was also to be divided between them.


Probate was granted 25 June 1866, effects under £6000, when she was of 3 Upper Eaumont Terrace St. Johns Wood Middx.  spinster, who died 19 May 1866 to William Tanner and Richard Tuppen Tanner of 38 Marlborough Hill, St.John's Wood gents and nephews.


Between 1814 and 1829, Thomas and Sarah Neve had produced a large family in Benenden comprising  six sons and four daughters.  Their second son, William Tanner Neve was to become a solicitor and lived in Cranbrook, Kent and his second daughter was to marry a London accountant John Macnab, he also had one son, William West Neve.  Their fourth son Charles married Fanny Neame and lived at Amberfield, Chart Sutton, Kent.  These were all to become trusted friends of the Tanners.  And in a final interleaving of the family trees, their tenth and last child Richard married another Neame, Emma, whose brother Edwin three years later married Elizabeth Tanner, the daughter of the same Martha Tanner.


When Richard Tuppen's brother William wrote his will dated 1st September 1882 we find these next generations of Neves appearing as executors.  It was proved on 13 December 1886 to Executors Charles Neve of Amberfield, Chart Sutton, Kent and William West Neve of 5 Bloomsbury Square, Middx. .


On the death of William, Harriett and Elizabeth Tanner both wrote their wills 16 December 1887.  One of the executors was William West Neve.  Richard Tuppen Tanner now of 43 Belsize Avenue Hampstead, Middx. and No.8 Dorset St, Salisbury Square, Wholesale Stationer.  Wrote his will on 31 May 1880, one of the executors being a John Macnab.


"I bequeath unto my friends James Rogers of 21 Great St.Helens in the City of London Wine Merchant and John Macnab, 4 Harrington Gardens, South Kensington, Middx.  Accountant Executors £50."


John Macnab was married to Laura Jane Neve, daughter of Thomas Neve and Sarah Tanner.


Thus over a period of 100 years there were four marriages, and a large degree of friendship and mutual trust had developed.  From then on it diminished, but some traces continued, for example my father was named John Tanner Neve in 1902.  Links still exist however and much of the Tanner family history above has come from my distant cousin and good friend, Sarah Tanner, for which I am very grateful.


Copyright Sarah Tanner 2014