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Edmund Penny

30 Fox Street, Chatham, Kent
Byron’s Passage, High Street, Chatham, Kent
HMS Blanche, HMS Newcastle, HMS Flora, HMS Comus
Chatham Barracks, Kent
3 Osborne Cottage, James Street,  New Brompton
7 Vale Cottages, North Barrack Road, Walmer
Napier Terrace, Southsea

Admiralty Mews, Deal The former Royal Marines Depot, East Barracks

Occupation: Royal Marine Light Infantry

During research on her maternal great, great grandmother, Madeline Webster, Sharon came across the interesting fact that although originally born in Barbados, Madeline had married a Royal Marine , Edmund Penny, and whilst living in Walmer her youngest child, Lilian Madeline Penny, died, and was buried in Hamilton Road Cemetery in April 1893 at the age of 1 year. We know the little girl was buried in unconsecrated ground but with no headstone we were unable to find exactly where she was buried. 

So who was Madeline’s husband and what was his role at the Depot?

Chatham Dockyard Main Gate

Edmund Penny Senior

Edmund Penny jnr. was born in Chatham, Kent in 1857 where his father, also named Edmund, was then serving in the Royal Marines. Two years later, in 1859, Edmund senior, after twenty one years, was discharged from the service. By 1861 he was an Able Seaman later though he found employment as a labourer possibly in Chatham’s Naval Dockyard.

Edmund Penny Junior

Our Edmund decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and joined the  Royal Marine Light Infantry, at Chatham,  enlisting on August 24th 1872. His service record tells us that he was then 15 years and 5 months old, was only 5 foot tall, with a fair complexion, blond hair and brown eyes and that  during the next few years that he grew by 6 inches. 

Commanders with Links to Deal & Walmer

After his initial training at Chatham Dockyard,  where the Royal Marines colonel-commandant  was then George Brydges Rodney who had spent some time as the commander of the Royal Marine Depot at Deal

Edmund set sail aboard HMS Newcastle on 23 September 1874 under the command of  Captain Robert Gordon Douglas who in 1870 was resident in Walmer where, during a heavy storm, he helped to rescue men as their ships were washed ashore.

Image of RMLI Corporal

Royal Marines Service

On 1 May 1875 Edmund transferred to HMS Flora returning to Chatham Dockyard by June the following year. 

The life of a Royal Marine obviously suited Edmund and in recognition of this his Commanding officer at Chatham,  Colonel Peregrine Henry Fellowes, describes his character as ‘Excellent’ and, at the age of nineteen, he was promoted from Private to Corporal.

Maybe it was a coincidence but in July 1877 Edmund was awarded the Good Conduct Medal then almost immediately, August 8 1877, his rank was ‘Reduced’ back down to Private. This we found somewhat surprising especially as his conduct was described as ‘Excellent’.

Then the next day on August 9 1877 Edmund’s record tells us he ‘Embarked’ upon  HMS Blanche. This suggests that the post of Corporal had already been filled on the Blanche so the only option for Edmund would be to accept a lower rank. Edmund remained a Private until 1882 when he was again promoted to Corporal.

HMS Blanche


His social life must have perked up whilst on shore as on March 10 1883 as he met and married widow, Madeline Harney nee Webster, at the Chatham Registry Office. Madeline was not a local girl though, she was actually born in the parish of St Michaels in Barbados where her grandfather William Nicholas Gibbs owned Neils sugar plantation in Black Rock.  Madeline had married her first husband James William Harney, in Barbados on 14th July 1881. Hampered by the lack of surviving Barbadian documents we couldn’t find anything about James including what he was doing in Barbados and when and where he died. We also couldn’t find out why and how Madeline ended up in Chatham.   


Egypt Medal with Suakin clasp

Following the abandoned attempt to relieve Khartoum from Suakin Sir Gerald Graham withdrew the troops, leaving behind the Royal Marines and the 3/60th to garrison Suakin. The latter too were soon withdrawn.  In May they were replaced by two Egyptian battalions, and Royal Marines reinforcements sent from Britain.  So in January 1884 a  month before the birth of his first child, Eugenie Emma, Edmund embarked for Egypt to defend Suakin under Lt Colonel Ozzard. 

Khedives Egyptian Star

Temperatures in their living quarters were documented as being between 110 degrees to 125 degrees. Over 200 of the marines were  ill with disease, wounds or heat exhaustion. 

Edmund survived and was rewarded with both the Egypt Medal with Suakin Clasp and the Khedive’s Egyptian Star. 

Return Home

Edmund must have acquitted himself very well during the Egyptian war as on his return to Chatham in May 1885 he was promoted to Sergeant. The raise in pay would have been very welcome as during his absence Madeline gave birth to a son in Portsmouth, who she named Edmund Philip, after his ‘father’ and his Barbadian grandfather. As Edmund was never stationed at the Marines Eastney Barracks in Portsmouth,  Madeline could have been staying with either her mother or sister who both lived in the town. 

As Edmund Philip does not appear to have resided with his mother and father it seems probable that our Edmund was a little ‘sceptical’ about this baby being his and was therefore, happy for his mother-in-law to raise him ! 

Final Voyage

Edmund, Madeline and Emma remained in Chatham until on April 6 1886 when Edmund embarked to North American and West Indies Station on the newly rearmed and partially rebuilt HMS Comus. HMS Comus was tasked with an exciting journey transporting scientists to observe the total eclipse of the sun off western Africa.  It was during this mission that Edmund was either wounded, suffered an accident or contracted an illness. His record tells us that he was  transferred to HMS Bellephero where he was ‘Paid Off’ due to being ‘invalided’ in August 1889 . Previously we discovered that ‘Paid Off ‘ usually meant that he could take leave or look for another ship. This time it gave him the opportunity to seek medical help and move to a role on board a training ship in Chatham harbour.

HMS Comus (1878) by William F Mitchell

Return Home

On his return from North America he would have probably guessed that the baby girl, named Chloris Lilian, who was also born in Portsmouth was the result of Madeline’s infidelity, once again, whilst he was abroad!

Quite what Madeline’s mother thought about this, let alone our Edmund, we obviously will never know.  But in December 1891, Edmund welcomed the birth of William James. Swiftly followed,  in April 1892, by  Lilian Madeline. Lilian was only 8 months old when the family left Chatham for Walmer where Edmund’s service record tells us he had taken the post of a ‘teaching assistant’ at the Royal Marines Depot in Deal. 

This may seem a rather odd move but the Royal Marines, like the other military services, had been running schools or at least providing education for their  ‘boy’ recruits as well as the children of their serving men. 

From the 1870s the Government had passed a series of Educational Acts to ensure that the future workforce for the nation was educated to a certain standard and so compulsory education was introduced into England. By 1893, when Edmund would have taken up his teaching post in Deal,  legislation had extended the leaving age to 11. This must have resulted in more teachers and assistants being required. 

In 1872 ,  with a view of bringing uniformity to the Royal Marines Schools,  a Sub-Inspector of RM Schools was appointed and the Schoolmaster’s position was established with the rank of  Sergeant-Major. Provision was also made for NCOs and Marines, like Edmund, to be employed as School Assistants; 

Edmund would, we think, have been the ideal candidate to be given the position at the school on the site of Deal’s  North Barracks; he must have had a reasonable standard of education, he had over twenty years service always with good conduct, plus for the last ten years of that service he had been an NCO so he would have carried some authority in the classroom.

The family moved into 7 Vale Cottages, North Barracks Road, Walmer. During the first few months of their arrival little Lilian fell ill and died on April 2 1893 of ‘convulsions’. She is buried in Hamilton Road Cemetery. 

Lillian M Penny Death cert.

Discharged from Service 

In July 1896 Edmund, after twenty four years, was discharged from the service of the Royal Marines. Rather than staying in Walmer they returned to the Portsmouth area. Perhaps this was for Madeline to be near her mother, as by this time he was already seriously ill with tuberculosis. In July 1897 he was forced to admit himself into the Portsmouth Workhouse where he may have received treatment for his worsening condition. After discharging himself in August he returned to his mother in law’s crowded house in Napier Road, Southsea where he died on 27 October at the age of 40. 

Madeline did not remarry, remaining a widow and earning her living as a seamstress until her death in Southsea, in 1923. She is buried in Highland Road Cemetery, Southsea in a grave along with her mother and William James. She did not choose to be buried with her husband who lies elsewhere in the cemetery. 

Penny Children

Emma Eugenie married Albert Vincent Edwards in 1915 she sadly died in 1923 in Hospital for Infectious Diseases,  Portsmouth.
Edmund Philip married Florence E Clarke in 1915 he served in WW1 with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps but after that there is no definitive trace.
Chloris Lilian married  Joseph Edward Holman, in 1912. She died in 1971 and was Cremated at Portchester Crematorium. On her marriage certificate Chloris had changed her name to May Lilian Penny and gave Edmund Penny, Sergeant in the Royal Marines, as her father. We have already proved that Edmund could not have been her father but, maybe, this action by Chloris indicates that she was aware Madeline Penny nee Webster was her mother.

Name Born Baptised Married Died Buried
Edmund Penny July 25 1957 Madeline Harney nee Webster
March 10 1883
Medway Register Office, Kent
Born 1856
Died 1925 
October 1897 Southsea, Hampshire Highland Road Cemetery,
Southsea, Hampshire

The Children of Edmund Penny & Madeline Harney nee Webster

Name Born Baptised Married Died Buried
Emma Eugenie March 18 1884
Eastney, Hampshire
June 26 1884
Eastney Central Hall, Wesleyan Church
Albert Vincent Edwards
Hospital for Infectious Diseases.  Portsmouth
Edmund Philip March 5 1885
Brompton Road, Eastney, Hampshire
May 8 1885
St. James’ Church
Brompton Road, Milton, Hampshire
Florence E Clarke
 19 July 19 1915
Chloris Lilian (May)
October 1889 Portsmouth Joseph Edward Holman
August 21 1912
November 20 1971 Cremated
Porchester Crematorium
William James December  5 189o
3 Osborne Cottages, St. James Street, New Brompton
February 18 1891
Manor Street Methodist Church, Gillingham
Highland Road, Southsea

Same plot as Mother and Grandmother

Lilian Madeline April 1 1892 June 15 1892
Old Brompton, Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, Kent
April 22 1893
Walmer, Kent
27 April  27 1893 Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1861 Byrons Passage, High Street, Chatham Maria Penny Head
Jane Daughter Scholar
John Son Scholar
Edmund Son


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1871 30, Fox Street, Chatham, Kent Edmund Penny Head Labourer
Maria Wife
John Son Messenger
Edmund Son Scholar


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1881 HMS Blanche Edmund Penny Crew Royal Marine Light Infantry man


Year Address Name Relationship Occupation
1891 Osborne Cottage, 3 James Street New Brompton Edmund Penny Head RM Sergeant
Madeline Wife
Emma Daughter
William Son
Sources and further reading:
Edmund Penny RMLI Service Record  National Archives  ref:  ADM-159-36-551
Image of Corporal William Brown (1820–1899), Royal Marines (1837–1855), Royal Marine Light Infantry (1855–1859) – by R. H. Brown
© Royal Marines Museum. Photo credit: Royal Marines Museum