JOHN HOARE'S FAMILY HISTORY
Were the Cheesman family Catholics?
updated 6.1.2011, reformatted 2011
My mother Vera has always said her father's family were Catholics. All my research has come up with Church of England connections, other than a short flirtation with 'The Duchess of Huntingdon's or Dissenting Protestants' in the late 1700's. This was a charismatic movement in the Brighton area.
Both my cousins have passed on that their mother said that the family were at one time Catholics. Furthermore one of my cousins says that her mother said that the mother's father's family was Catholic, and the mother had her children Christened when their father was away working in the Merchant Navy. My other cousin tells a similar story, but the known facts don't really fit this second story.
I have recently heard from Philippa Claiden, a descendant of my great-grandfather. She has been researching the Catholic connection and has come up with quite a lot of definitive information about the Catholic connection. Philippa's family story is that at one stage there was infectious disease in the family, and the only person to visit them was a Catholic priest. In response the whole family converted to Catholicism. The facts are that Cornelius Cheesman's wife Harriett converted to Catholicism in 1878 and the family followed. The family went to St. Bartholomew's Church (four of the children were baptised there) and in March 1878 two of the curates at St. Bartholomew's, Joseph James Greene and Philip Fletcher, converted to Roman Catholicism. Apparently, under their influence, many other people from St. Bartholomew's also converted in the following months, although some of them later returned.
My grandfather was about eight at the time, and his conversion doesn't seem to have been very deep rooted, but the younger children had deeper conviction. Further down the line can be found a Benedictine nun and possibly a missionary who worked in south America.
Philippa's family have a photograph taken in the late 1920's which confirms the story. It shows Helena Mary Harms, born 1880, daughter of Cornelius Cheesman seated in the middle of the photo with other members of the family and "Father Thomas". This picture was originally thought to have been taken on Brighton Beach, but it looks more likely that it is Worthing, just to the East of the Pier. On the original it is just possible to make out the words 'Pier hotel' on the building on the right.
We have found archive pictures in the West Sussex Past website , and they have an excellent picture of the Worthing seafront from 1921 which shows the Pier Hotel in the background.
The Pier Hotel also appears in page two of the Worthing Pubs website under its former name 'The Wellington Inn'. It was demolished in 1965.