Steers Study – Challenge Update

Searching FindMyPast’s recent addition, Sussex, Eastbourne Gazette Newspaper Notices: 1858 to 1931, only resulted in two entries for STEERS; a Mr. E STEERS who was a juror on the Inquest into the death of Miss Jessie Florence TOOLE, aged 10 months, in 1905 and Mr. John STEERS who was named as the father of Mrs Jane Matilda WHITTINGTON of Leytonstone who died at the age of 64. This notice was placed on 18 July 1898.

I had hoped to view the original images for these two at The British Newspaper Archive but the years they have do not match up i.e. The British Newspaper Archive hold 1906-1911, 1913-1917, 1928-1949 and 1951-1957.

The British Library do have copies, both issues are available so I’ll be adding that to my look up list next time I’m at the Library.

However, as I was looking at the Eastbourne Gazette I decided to do a blanket search for STEERS and this brought me many results, including the below which caught my eye. On Wednesday 12 July 1911 the Gazette reported that a ‘BRUTAL MAN’ was sentenced.

Savage Assault

Source: STEERS, Letitia. 1911. “Brutal Man Sentenced.” Eastbourne Gazette (Sussex). 12 July, 8d. : accessed 28 May 2017.




Yesterday (Tuesday) at the Eastbourne Police Court, before Arthur Mayhewe, Esq, (in the chair), and C. H. Evill. , William Jebbitt (23), of Fairlight-road, was charged with committing aggravated assault upon Letitia Steers on July 9. Complainant, whose lip and right eye were swollen and discoloured, said that Jebbitt was a lodger her house.


On Sunday evening defendant’s father called, and when they were all in the kitchen together Jebbitt commenced quarrelling with her father, and witness complained to him. Defendant then struck her, and witness’s husband went out to fetch a policeman. Jebbitt hit her twice more and threw cup, which broke and cut her to the bone of her skull. The blows were in the eye, mouth, and back of the ear. She went to Dr. McKechnie.


 Mr. Mayhew read a letter from Dr. McKechnie, who said that complainant was suffering from a punctured wound on the forehead extending to the skull and a severe blow at the back of the ear; her mouth was also swollen and her eye nearly closed. Had the blow on her forehead been behind the ear, in the doctor’s opinion it would have caused her death. Richard Steer, husband of complainant, said that they had all been out together and were friendly until they got home, when defendant commenced ’‘calling his father over”. Then the row began, and complainant had no chance because quickly had handful of hair in his hand.


 Defendant’s wife. Amy Jebbitt who was called by her husband, said that she did not the beginning of the quarrel. Defendant s cap, which had been torn up, was given her, and she then saw Mr. and Mrs. Steers at her husband’s throat. Mrs. Steers also threw a tumbler at defendant, but witness did not see how complainant got the marks. She admitted, however, seeing defendant throw a cup at complainant. Witness thought “they were all in fault.” Defendant remarked that Mrs. Steers ought not to be allowed to drink, when a woman rose in court and made though go towards defendant, calling him a “scamp”.  


Mr. Mayhewe said that defendant was guilty of a very brutal assault, and would be committed to gaol for two months’ hard labour.

Analysis leading to Further Investigation

Mr. William JEBBITT was sentenced on 11 July 1911. He was born c. 1888, was married to Amy, and lived in Fairlight Road, Eastbourne where he lodged with Richard and Letitia STEERS.

You can see in the report that Richard is called STEER at one point, but there are multiple references to STEERS and so it is most likely a typo. But it does demonstrate my frustration when trying to separate out STEER and STEERS families.  As this is in 1911 then next thing I do is go to the 1911 Census for Eastborne and attempt to locate

On 02 April 1911, Richard & Letita STEERS are living at 2 Fairlight Road with their two children, Richard and George.  Richard describes himself as working as a ‘stable man’ for a cab propitiator, and he was originally from Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Letitia was a Sussex girl, from Heathfield which is only seventeen miles from Eastbourne.

1911_Steers_SnipSource: 1911 Census. England. Eastbourne, Sussex. RG14; Piece: 4815; Schedule Number: 253. : accessed 28 May 2017.

Letitia WHEELER and Richard STEERS married in Tunbridge in the second quarter of 1896.

FreeBMD Marriage

Source: GRO Marriage Index. 1896. Q2. STEERS, Richard & WHEELER, Letitia. Registration District: Tunbridge; Volume: 2a; Page: 1275. : accessed 28 May 2017.

Going forward Letitia and Richard appear on the 1939 Register, residing at 30 Gilbert Road, Eastbourne. The 1939 Register is brilliant in that it gives us their (self-reported) birth dates. As you can see Letitia says she was born on 14 April 1872, whilst Richard says he was born on 27 November 1872. He gives his occupation as ‘furrier’, so he’s moved away from the stables. The register also shows George and his wife, Minnie.

1939 RegisterSource: 1939 Register. Eastbourne, Sussex. RG101/2469E/002/23. : accessed 28 May 2017.

Given the birth dates provided I have been able to locate Letitia’s birth registration in Halisham, Sussex.

FreeBMD Birth Letitia

Source: GRO Birth Index. 1872. Q2. WHEELER, Letitia. Registration District: Hailsham; Volume: 2b; Page: 73. : accessed 28 May 2017.

And Richard’s in Tunbridge. As STEERS is the focus of my study I would like to know his mother’s maiden name. Thanks to the GRO indexing this is now possible. His mother’s maiden name was the fabulous MALLCUMBER – so that can be added to my Family Historian tree and the generation taken back further

GRO Birth _Steers
Source: GRO Birth Index. 1873. Q1. STEERS, Richard. Registration District: Tunbridge; Volume: 2a; Page: 563; Mother’s Maiden Name: MALLCUMBER. : accessed 28 May 2017.

Letitia dies at the age of 90 in the first quarter of 1963 at Eastbourne. She didn’t leave a will.

FreeBMD Death LSSource: GRO Death Index. 1963. Q1. STEERS, Letitia. Registration District: Eastbourne; Volume: 5h; Page: 416; Age at Death: 90. : accessed 28 May 2017.

William and Amy Jebbitt are also shown in the 1911 census as residing at 2 Fairlight Road, Eastbourne. William is a butcher’s assistant and they have a one-year-old son, William.

Further Investigations

If I wanted to find out more about the trial I can consult the Assize papers, which are held at The National Archives (Kew).  It is much easier having the exact date of the trial (11 July 1911). The papers are organised at County level. Sussex falls within the Norfolk and South-Eastern Circuit, as such I would need to view

ASSI 32 Crown & Gaol Books, 1826-1971

ASSI 32/52           Second Court Crown Minute Book; 01 January 1885-30 November 1951

ASSI 32/41           Associate’s Minute Book (Civil Cases); 1911-1915

ASSI 94 Indictments, 1851-1971

Unfortunately both the indictments (ASSI 94) from 1892 to 1920 and depositions (ASSI 36) from 1890 to 1912 are described in Discovery (the catalogue of The National Archives) as being ‘wanting’. So this is a dead end.

Conclusions of the Challenge

Whilst it seems I chose the database to explore poorly, in that there were only two results and the transcriptions don’t provide much information, it did lead me back to further exploration of the title ‘Eastbourne Gazette’ and the digitised images on The British Newspaper Archive. From here I have bookmarked a further 45 instances of STEERS to check. The above has shown how one instance has led to me locating the birth of Richard and Letitia, their marriage, her death, two children, the marriage and spouse of one of the children, along with their residences on the 1911 England & Wales Census and the 1939 Register of England. In addition, I’ve also pushed back the STEERS line a generation by identifying Richard’s mother’s maiden name – as it’s an unusual name I should be able to identify his parent’s marriage and any possible siblings relatively easily.

This has definitely given me a push to dig out the old folder and continue with my data input, so that I can expand on the entries and provide insights into their day-to-day life.

It looks as though Letitia survived her ‘savage attack’ from a ‘brutal man’ and went on to live a long-life. I wonder if she raised a glass on her birthday and remembered the ‘scamp’ who attacked her and told her she ‘ought not be allowed to drink’?


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