Daniel Dix (1833 - 1880)
- Born North Walsham, Norfolk, England
- Died Williton, Somerset, England
- Married about 1861
- Four daughters
Jane Criglington (1846 - 1922)
- Born Cork, Ireland
- Died Brighton, Sussex, England
Being born into the poorest of the working classes was usually a life sentence. For most, it was almost impossible in the mid-1800s to move beyond the confines of what your parents did for a living. As a boy, Daniel Dix was confined in a workhouse for the poor. But he found a way to improve himself, and that way was the British Army.
DANIEL DIX probably never knew who his father was. Born in 1833 in the Norfolk market town of North Walsham, he spent at least some of his boyhood with his single mother and his aging grandfather in the workhouse at Upper Sheringham, near the north Norfolk coast.
Everything about Daniel's circumstances up to his late teens suggested his future would be the predictable lot of the Norfolk farm laborer in the mid-1800s - dependent as much on the rise and fall of crop prices and the fortunes of local farmer-employers as on the seasonal fluctuations of wind, earth and sky.
We don't know what prompted Daniel to leave the land - and his mother - to join the British Army. Becoming a soldier or running away to sea was sometimes the most viable option for a young man who yearned for a different future. Sometimes their departure might be prompted by other factors - a falling out with family or a crisis of some other kind. Daniel's mother had married a widowed farm laborer, William Pooley, when Daniel was 14, but William died within two years of the marriage so Daniel's departure could not have been because of relations with his stepfather. Maybe he was simply sick of being known as a pauper. Whatever the reason, the change in Daniel Dix's life by joining the army would be dramatic.
Sheringham workhouse as it is today. After its service as a workhouse, the building became a school before being converted to attractive homes.
Daniel and Jane Dix's world, 1851-1880: From England to India to Mauritius, then back to England, and from there to Bermuda and Nova Scotia, Canada, and a final return to England. In all, Daniel's overseas service with the British Army totaled 14 of his 21 years in the service.
The British engagement with the Indian Mutiny at the Kashmire Gate, Delhi, in 1857. The soldiers are from the 61st Regiment of Foot (Gloucestershire Regiment) in which Daniel Dix served at the time. The illustration is from a cigar card, issued in 1880.
Daniel left home some time around 1852. If he had stayed a farm laborer, his entire life might have been confined to a radius of perhaps 20 miles. But he was assigned almost immediately to the 96th Regiment of Foot and shipped out to India, literally half a world away and to an environment as alien to rural Norfolk as he could have imagined.
His army papers describe Daniel as just short of 5ft 10 inches, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a "fresh" complexion. After a little more than two and a half years as a private with the 96th, Daniel was assigned to the 61st Regiment of Foot, where he served again as a private for almost another three years. Then came promotion, earning his first stripes as a corporal, and just eight months later achieving the rank of sergeant, which he would retain for the rest of his army service. He was described as a "Hospital Sergeant" - which was a noncommissioned officer under the supervision of the post surgeon. His job was to make up prescriptions, administer medicines to the troops in the hospital and generally look after the sick.
Daniel would stay in India for seven years, which included the period when the 61st Regiment engaged with the Indian Mutiny. His character and behavior throughout was described as "very good," and over the course of his career he earned five badges for length of service and good conduct. Each badge, worn on the sleeve, earned him a penny a day in extra pay.
It was in India that Daniel met Robert Criglington and his young daughter, Jane. Robert had come out to India with the 61st, already married and with his daughter. But his wife had died on the five-month sea voyage, and Jane was brought up by the women of the regiment. Later she was sent to boarding school in India.
After Daniel had served for seven years in India, the entire regiment was transferred to the island nation of Mauritius, 1,200 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. It was essentially garrison duty, safer than India, and it seems that this is where Daniel and Jane were married, perhaps close to the end of their time on the island. She would have been only about 15 years old at the time. In the culture of the day, large numbers of women were traveling to India to find husbands in the army and it would not have seemed so unusual. We assume Jane's father knew enough about Daniel to approve.
The 61st stayed only a year in Mauritius before returning to England. Daniel is listed on the 1861 English census as a hospital sergeant living with twenty privates and two other sergeants with the 61st Regiment of Foot at Stoke Dameral, near Plymouth, Devon. The same census describes wife Jane as 15.
Following garrison duty in the Channel Islands and Ireland, they moved to Bermuda in 1866 and Canada in 1870. Nova Scotia was a command center for the British Army, and Bermuda was one of its outposts. Movements of soldiers between these and other locations, and even between regiments, was common.
All of this meshes perfectly with what we know about the birth of the first two of Daniel's four daughters. Alice was born in Hamilton, Bermuda, in 1871 and Edith was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1873. This is the year that Daniel's discharge papers say that he completed his army service, but he must have stayed in Nova Scotia for at least two more years because Gertrude was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1875.
There is some question about Lilah's birth - the 1881 census gives Williton, Somerset, as the birthplace, while the 1911 census says "born at sea." It seems likely that she was born on board ship, but the birth was recorded in the registration district of Williton, Somerset, after they landed in England. Either way, it seems that Daniel had decided not only to return to civilian life, but also to return to England and live in the West Country, with which he was already familiar.
Sometime around 1880 Daniel took over a public house in Somerset, a beautiful part of England, and became an innkeeper. The pub is believed to have been the Mason's Arms, which still stands today. But his business days were short-lived. On 16 July, 1880, he tripped and fell down stairs, fracturing his skull. The injury was fatal, and the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death. Wife Jane was still only 35 and was left with four daughters to raise.
Above: The Mason's Arms, near Watchet, in the English county of Somerset. Daniel Dix is believed to have been the innkeeper here, and to have died after falling down stairs.
Above right: St. Decuman's parish church in Watchet, Somerset, and, right, Daniel Dix's grave in the churchyard. Dating from 1880, his name on the stone is now barely readable.
Jane Criglington Dix - her story
Jane Criglington was born in Cork, Ireland, in May of 1846, the daughter of a soldier. Robert Criglington - who may have been known as Crickleton - is believed to have joined the army when very young. He ended up in the 61st Regiment of Foot, but his wife died on the sea voyage to India. Jane, then only a young girl, was raised by the women of the regiment until she was sent to a boarding school. We can reasonably assume that Robert and Daniel Dix got to know each other well. It's likely that Daniel came into contact with very many of the soldiers, given his position as the hospital sergeant.
After the regimental move to Mauritius in 1861, Jane married Daniel, though still in her mid-teens. It seems almost certain that Jane had children in the next few years, but no records have been found of them until ten years later when Alice was born in Bermuda. Then came the transfer to the command headquarters in Nova Scotia, and two more children - Edith May, born in 1873, and Gertrude, two years after that. Since Daniel's service papers show him completing his 21 years service in 1873, he and Jane must have stayed on as civilians in Canada for another six or seven years. The fact that the 1911 census shows that fourth daugthter Lilah was born "at sea" in 1880 suggests that this is the time when they returned to England and bought the inn near Watchet, Somerset.
When Daniel died from his accidental fall in 1880, Jane soon remarried. That marriage to schoolmaster Patrick McCaffery was short-lived, however, and the couple separated. There were no more children.
What became of the four daughters, born while their father was being posted around the world?
Insert: daughter Alice, Gertrude info.
Edith married Albert Avery in 1897 in Devonshire. For Edith and the next three generations, each couple had one daughter until the line ends with a second great granddaughter to Daniel Dix, born in 1953.
Of his four daughters, it is Lilah to whom we look for most of Daniel Dix's continuing posterity. From the photographs we have of her, Lilah was clearly a beautiful woman. Around the age of 21, she went to work for London-born timber businessman William Bonnell, looking after three children to a previous wife. The children were small - ages 3, 2 and one year - but help was needed in the home because the mother was incapable of looking after them. According to stories passed down through the family, the mother was an alcoholic, and later was committed to an asylum. Lilah, continuing to look after the children, became the common law wife of William, about 16 years her senior, and in 1913 while living in London they had a son, Robert Peter Bonnell.
In 1947, Robert Bonnell emigrated to Australia to work for the Department of Defence. Post-war Britain needed test ranges for its nuclear weapons, and the American ranges were not accessible. Robert - known as Bob - was on the senior staff at the Weapons Research Establishment in Salisbury, South Australia. He was involved in the development of the Maralinga test site, which between 1956 and 1963 staged seven nuclear tests. It was top secret work at the time. Later, all over the world, the whole issue of nuclear testing became controversial and international treaties put a stop to them. But in the early stages of the Cold War, the arms race was in full swing.
Robert had four children - three girls and a boy. The son sadly died, but each of the daughters married and had children. Today there is a flock of Daniel Dix descendants living in Australia.
It's sobering to think that in just three generations, this particular Dix story moved from Victorian workhouse to nuclear tests, from rural Norfolk to remote parts of Australia. Daniel Dix's decision to join the army had a profound effect not just on him, but on his posterity.
Thanks to Brenda Seymour Stone and Roberta (Bobbie) Bonnell Harries for research and photographs they contributed to this page. Both are Daniel Dix descendants.
Above: William Bonnell and Lilah Nora Jane Dix McCaffery, 1910.
Below: Lilah with the four children - three (John, Marjorie and William) were William's, the baby, Robert, was born to Lilah in 1913.
Top: Jane Criglington Dix with her eldest daughter, Alice, taken in 1875 when Alice was four years old, probably in Canada.
Above: The three oldest Dix daughters, left to right - Gertie, Alice and Edith - probably taken shortly before the family moved back to England in 1880 before Lilah was born.
Below: Jane, taken in Exmouth, Devon, about 1910, 30 years after Daniel Dix's death.
Above: Jane Dix McCaffery with 4th and last daughter, Lilah. Lilah was the only daughter to take the name McCaffery, apparently at the wish of her step-father. Jane also kept the name McCaffery after she remarried, even though the couple did not stay together.
Below: Jane in her later years. She died in 1922.