Alice Flindell (1801-1887)


Alice was either named after her paternal grandmother (wife of Thomas I) or her father’s sister Alice who married Patrick Reilly. The practice of carrying on family names continued throughout the generations. Alice herself named her first child Alice. She did not, however, live in a “wonderland”. Her life had many sad moments, but she seems to have been a woman of deep faith who lived until she was 85.

From Cradle to Grave

Alice Flindell

Alice was born in Falmouth on February 28th 1801. She was the sixth of fourteen children born to Thomas Flindell II and Mary Brunton. Her father published the first edition of Cornwall Gazette and Falmouth Packet in the week after her birth. When she was just 20 months old the paper foundered for lack of funds and her father was gaoled for the debt incurred. Fortunately, wealthy supporters subscribed in order to clear his debt and shortly after her second birthday the family moved to Truro, where Thomas launched The Royal Cornwall Gazette. Alice and her younger sister Elizabeth were baptised in Truro on August 20th 1804, which might have signalled a period of stability, but the family moved again at the end of 1812, this time to Exeter where her father established The Western Luminary. Each new publishing venture seemed to result in trauma and in 1820 her father was gaoled for nine months, this time for libel to Queen Charlotte. We do not know how these emotional roller coaster years impacted the maturing of Alice, but by this time she certainly needed a positive, significant event in her life. This was to be her marriage to Charles Edward Quarme at All Hallows, Goldsmith Street Exeter on October 7th 1823. Fate had yet another sadness to deliver. On July 11th 1824, her father died a broken man.

Charles Quarme

Charles Edward Quarme was born about 1795 in Falmouth, Cornwall, and it is likely that the Quarme and Flindell families knew each other and there may even have been a closer association. It is not known when Charles and Alice moved to Preston[1] or what he did there, but they would have moved between 1823 and 1827, most probably 1824[2]. Alice and Charles had seven children while in Preston:

  • Alice Quarme, baptised at Preston, Lancashire on June 24th 1827,
  • Mary Quarme, baptised at Preston, Lancashire on September 1st 1828 and died at Lancaster September 1st 1848,
  • Charles Edward Quarme, baptised at Preston, Lancashire on May 14th 1830,
  • Adelaide Quarme, baptised at Preston, Lancashire on March 30th 1832,
  • Eldon Quarme, baptised at Preston, Lancashire on November 8th 1833,
  • Catherine Mary Quarme, baptised at Halton, Lancashire on July 3rd 1837 and died in Lancaster March 1900,
  • Richard Quarme, baptised at Halton, Lancashire September 26th 1838

While the trade Charles learnt is not known, it is likely there was a printing connection as in 1834, the family moved from Preston to Lancaster where Charles had acquired the Lancaster Gazette. How Alice felt about this can only be imagined given the memories of her father, but one would assume the purchase of the paper and the move was done with her acquiescence.   They moved to Marine Lodge, Hest Bank, Lancaster[3] in 1838 where they remained until 1841, so the business and their relationship must have been sound. During their time at Hest Bank they had two more children:

Ann Esther Quarme, baptised at Lancaster, Lancashire September 20th 1828 and died in Lancaster March 1914,

George Quarme born 1840.

Charles sold the Lancaster Gazette in 1848 and the family moved to Sandyfield Cottage, Scotforth[4], Lancashire. This was about the time their daughter Mary died and this may have influenced their decision.

Nothing else is known of Charles Edward Quarme other than that he died at Lancaster in September 1879 aged 84. Alice, blind and cared for in her old age by her devoted eldest daughter Alice, also died in Lancaster on December 1887, age 85

Letters from Alice to her brother Francis Bassett Shenstone Flindell give a deeper insight. These letters have been shared with David Hodgson, a Quarme descendant, and his comments are interesting. He notes:

“Alice says that she had 5 sons and 5 daughters, whilst I had only discovered 9 children (1 son missing). I also note that she declares that she is left with 3 daughters, which is in agreement with the 1881 Census (Alice, Catherine Mary and Anne Esther).  What is perplexing is that none of the 4 sons that I found are recorded as marrying or dying in the GRO[5] indices, which usually means that they emigrated (perhaps to Australia?).  Equally surprising is the fact that none of Alice’s ten children appear to have married, and therefore produced no issue, and so with the death of Anne Esther in 1914, the Quarme name died out in England (and probably worldwide) as Charles Edward Quarme was the last remaining Cornish Quarme (Mary Quarme having died at Mylor, Falmouth in 1846[6]).”

Letters from Alice

It is difficult to date the first letter from Alice, but given her words that sixty years had past since she left home and last saw 14-year-old Shenstone, the letter would date to about 1874. However she also referred to Alice and Betsy seeing Shenstone in London[7] so that would have to be before September 1857 when he and his family sailed for Western Australia. A strong desire to be independent is evident in this letter, as it appears to be in her hand and shows the result of her failing eyesight.

The other letter was written the year before her death, by which time she was blind and relied greatly on her eldest and devoted daughter Alice.

Undated letter

My dear Shenstone

To think that sixty years have passed since we last saw each other or heard from each other and now that I am writing to you is more of a dream than reality. I had written to Matilda for your address and when she replied she said you would be glad to hear from me. How many dear souls have gone to their rest since we last looked at each other or heard of each other’s welfare but years ago? When my daughter Alice was in London with Betsy she saw you and spoke of your appearance so that I might have almost seen you. Remember dear Shen you were but 14 years old when I left home and have never been back since – and living in Lancashire so very far from the old home I have not heard of the whereabouts of any – and now I am a widow. What changes a long life brings. I have mercifully and wonderfully brought along and let us praise God for it. Once I had five boys and five girls – now three girls and a quiet little home in the country founds my belonging. If you can find time to send me a word or two think how gladly we shall read it.

God bless you my dear Shenstone and grant us both a happy ending to a life somewhat chequered is the prayer of your,

Affectionate Sister,

Alice Quarme.

September 9th 1886

My Dear Shenstone,

Bless your name it calls up old memories, times when you and I were young – what years have passed. I am nearer 90 than 80 and you dear Shen no longer a boy. I thank God I have been blessed in life and in circumstances. We shall not meet again in this world but let us trust we may meet above. Alice, my oldest, has seen and described you to me. That must suffice for me. I am very blind and that must cover blunders. God bless you my dear brother and believe me ever affectionately yours,

Alice Quarme.

[1] Preston is a large town about 33 kilometres South of Lancaster.

[2] In a letter to her brother who was born February 9th 1810, she states he was 14 when she left for Lancaster.

[3] Marine Lodge was described as a “grand house”. Hest Bank is an elevated ridge overlooking the sea (Morecambe Bay) about 5 kilometres north of Lancaster.  The nearest churches to it are at Bolton-le-Sands and Halton, which was where Catherine Mary and Richard were baptised.

[4] Scotforth is a small village about 3 kilometres south of Lancaster.

[5] GRO is General Register Office.

[6] This is not Mary, the daughter of Charles and Alice. This Mary was an innkeeper at Mylor. She was Cornish-born and therefore probably related to Charles Edward Quarme

[7] She may have been confused about Francis Richard Flindell, grandson of Shenstone who was living with his aunts in London at the time. (See Matilda’s letter referring to him.) In a separate letter to Mr. George Simpson, Frank mentions Alice who was caring for her elderly and blind mother.