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Dummer families

My research started as a result of my step-children and their grandmother who are descended from Charles Dummer of Sussex. In the process of that research I made contact with Michael Dummer who had already done a lot of research because he had been handed down family papers. A lot of the information below is therefore kindly provided by Michael, but I have concentrated on the Sussex Dummers and their connections to other families - I have not reproduced all the information on the other Dummer families as this is available at, but simply given a brief outline.


The Dummer families would appear to have originated independently in England and Germany.  The following text deals mainly with the Dummers of English origin, which have been well researched.  For information on Dummers in the USA ( who could be of either German or English origin) the reader is referred to David Andrew Dummer of Washington who co-ordinates information on Dummers in America.  In England the earliest Dummers traced originated in Hampshire.  Other large groups in Sussex and Wiltshire may be descended from these Hampshire Dummers or may be of separate origin.  

The Dummers of Dummer

The Dummers of Dummer and Pendomer form the oldest of the English groups.  Dummer is a very small (but nowadays desirable) village in the northern part of Hampshire.  As was the custom of the day, the principal landowner and Lord of the Manor took his name from the that of the village.  The name of the village is said to be derived from Dun (meaning hill - Dummer Down is prominent there) and Mer (probably meaning lake or water - of which there is now no sign).  

The Pyldren Dummers

Although the mainstream of the Dummers died out with the death of William in 1593, it is highly likely that branches of the family continued to exist.  The ‘Pyldren’ Dummers may be one of them.  

The ‘Pyldren’ Dummers can be traced back to 1523 when Richard Pyldren alias Dummer appears at Owslebury married to Maude or Matilda Dummer.  Maude was probably the daughter and heiress of John Dummer, a freeholder and representative of the King at Overton, near Dummer village.   The Dummer name was obviously considered important enough for Richard Pyldren’s descendants to drop the Pyldren name in favour of Dummer.  The ‘Pyldren’ Dummers were to prosper in numbers and wealth over the succeeding centuries, and their descendants live today in Great Britain, Australia and the United States.

Stedham Mill

Charles was in many ways a remarkable man.  In 1857, in his early twenties, he married Julie Isaline Susanna Marie Martin from Belmont-sur-Lausanne,in Switzerland.  The marriage took place at Terwick, not far from Stedham. Julie was 6 years older than him.  It is not at all clear how they met.  It is hard to imagine Charles being able to  afford to travel to Switzerland.  Julie’s passport is dated 1854, 3 years before she married Charles.  Her father was a farmer.  It is likely that Julie was brought to England to work as a domestic servant, perhaps by an English family holidaying in Switzerland.  (Her passport describes her as having black hair,

grey-blue eyes, average mouth and natural complexion - there were no such things as passport Photographs in those days).  Their first child, little Julie Isaline was born in the January a year later at Stedham, and buried in the churchyard near the old yew tree a few weeks after.

The move to Portsmouth

Times must have been hard for Charles and Julie.  

He had taken up the trade of millwright, responsible for the maintenance and repair of mill machinery.  There could not have been a great prospect of work, and Charles needed to support his future family.  Not too many miles away at Portsmouth, however, the Navy was in the process of great expansion of the Royal Dockyard to support the new steam battleships then being built.  There must have been a shortage of men who were experienced in dealing with machinery.  A few months after the death of his firstborn, Charles moved to Central Street, Landport, Portsmouth, taking with him his wife, his father James and his mother.Old James died almost immediately, at the age of 65,just a few weeks before the birth of Charles' second daughter Susanna Marie.  Ten months later Charles' mother died.  It had been a traumatic 2 years.

Susanne Marie, John Saggers, Arctic Expeditions & the Royal Yacht

Young Susanne Marie eventually married to John Langston Saggers. John had been in the Navy since he was 16, and at.the time of the wedding he was having his second spell of duty on the Royal Yacht HMS Osborne.  Three years before he married Susanne he had experienced a dramatic and traumatic voyage on HMS Discovery, a wooden stores ship, when it escorted HMS Alert on Captain Nares’ Arctic expedition, attempting to trace the coast of Ellesmere Island and Greenland, and trying to assess the chances of reaching the North Pole over the ice of the polar sea.  The men suffered horribly from scurvy and the ice.

However, he and Susanne were able to produce 8 children, two of them bearing the names Charles Dummer Saggers and Benjamin Dummer Saggers.

In later years he is recorded in the 1901 Census as a shopkeeper at 61 Wingfield Street, Landport, Portsmouth. He died in 1921.

After Susanna Marie was born Charles and Julie were to have 3 more children, Lydie, Ebenezer, and Benjamin, Charles took over from his father James the interest in family history.  He also wrote poetry, though not of a particularly high standard.  His verses in honour of his wife are, however, particularly touching, especially the latter ones apparently added after her death (see Miscellanea).  He would cycle for miles on his old bicycle, one of his interests being the recording of religious verse from gravestones.  Later in life Charles and Julie travelled to Switzerland and visited the former home of Julie  It was an emotional visit, but sadly Julie’s parents were no longer alive to greet them, her old father having died but three years earlier.  

Julie died in 1897.  Two years later Charles married Emma Betinson.  In old age Charles conducted a correspondence on family history with Joseph Dummer, Secretary of the Sons of Dummer Academy in Massachusetts;   Mike Dummer holds his letters.

Charles' son Ebenezer followed his father into the Dockyard at Portsmouth, possibly working in the same gang as his father, a common practice in those days. Ebenezer was to live to the ripe old age of 82. Muke Dummer remembers him as a passive old man with a grey walrus moustache in a chair in the corner at the house in Gladstone Street, which by that time had been the family home for about 40 years.  By his wife Emma Suter he had produced 5 children, the fourth of which was Mike’s  father Charles(3060).

Ebenezer’s eldest child was Lydie, born 1880.  Lydie married Harry West, a railway policeman from Battersea.  Sadly, Harry was one of the many millions to die in that senseless holocaust, the Great War of 1914-18.

He served in the Royal Engineers as a Sapper and his details are recorded with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission:


Rank: Sapper              Regiment: Royal Engineers Unit Text: 509th Field Coy.

Age: 37                        Date of Death: 21/03/1918            Service No: 519658

Additional information:

Son of James Gibbons West and Mary Ann West; husband of Lydie Annette Louise West, of 102, Gladstone St., Mile End, Portsmouth.

Reference: Bay 1  


As the only daughter, Lydie eventually came to look after the aged Ebenezer and Emma (and for a short while

too, the 5 year old Michael Dummer and his brother). In 1941, in a later World War, Lydie and the widowed

Ebenezer were blitzed out of the family home in Gladstone Street and moved to a tiny ancient cottage in Portfield, Chichester.  Nearly twenty years later, before she died in that same cottage, she passed on to the author (Michael Dummer) the family history papers of her grandfather and great grandfather which were the foundations upon which this work is built.   Author: Michael Dummer

Interestingly, at the time that Lydie and old Ebenezer were blitzed out of Portsmouth Michael and his brother were living with them, their father being in the army and mother ill in hospital.  On the night the house was blitzed all of them, as  ’refugees’, had to go to a local cinema (The Savoy) and then on to a school where they were fed.  The next day Auntie Lydie took them to Chichester, where they spent the next 24 hours staying with a Mrs Ethel Cole and family.  Then Dad came and fetched us boys and took us back to Portsmouth to be looked after by our maternal grand-mother.  Michael never did know who Ethel Cole was - until recent years, when the author of this website contacted Michael in the course of researching family of his step children and their grandmother, descendants of one Susanne Marie Dummer.  Ethel Cole turned out to be the grand daughter of Susanne, and second cousin to Michael.

Susanne Marie DUMMER married John Langston SAGGERS. As he was in the Royal Navy they lived in Portsmouth, where their daughter Ethel Lydia Maud was born.

She married Edward John COLE – they lived in Sussex.They had 3 children - Grace, Ethel Louise Margaret and Edward (Ted).


His life and Family

The Sussex Dummers

The Sussex Dummers can be traced back to the end of the 17th century in the Midhurst area.  Although Midhurst is close to Hampshire and only 23 miles from Dummer village it is not possible to prove that they sprang from the Hampshire Dummers - they may have an independent origin.  No land owning Dummers these, but land workers - agricultural labourers, millers and millwrights, toiling in the villages around Midhurst.  For a while they were Catholics, influenced by the stronghold of that faith at Cowdray, ruled by Viscount Montague.  James , miller of Stedham, and his son Charles, millwright, were very active in tracing and recording family history.  The Sussex Dummers spread to Australia in 1874, (possibly even earlier in 1860).    In the UK the Sussex Dummers currently form one of the largest groups.

On 14 April 1691 John and Mary Dummer took their baby girl Elizabeth to be baptised at Heyshott parish church, near Midhurst in Sussex, about 18 miles from the South Coast and just 8 miles from the Hampshire border

As far as we can tell, young Elizabeth Dummer was the second child of John and Mary.  It is likely that she had a big brother called William, although where and when he was born we cannot say.  If she had any older siblings none of them have as yet been identified.  Elizabeth’s baptism is the earliest event that has been traced for what became an extensive family centred around Midhurst.  

Where her mother, and more importantly, her father, came from we are unable to say.  The earlier parish registers of Midhurst and the local villages record nobody of the name of Dummer.

Elizabeth’s father John fathered seven more children before he died in 1711.  His son William had by then turned twenty, and it was probably he that supported the widowed Mary and her still young family until she married again eighteen months later to John Browne of the same village.  William, by now described as a ’sivemaker' (sieve maker), stood as surety for his mother.

William himself married 20 months later, to Mary Oliver at Rogate, and started his own family.  Their daughter Mary(3011) died very young, but their son Richard(3010) lived to a grand age.  This was in spite of what must have been a hard life, for he was 'buried poor' in 1793.

Probably Richard worked on the Cowdray estate, because by this time the family was Catholic, the baptisms and confirmations of their eight children being recorded in the registers of the Cowdray chapel.  Catholics had problems at that time, and gaps in the registers are a direct result.

The fourth and last son of Richard was John, baptised at Easebourne where he was also confirmed in 1761 (indicating that the Catholic Mission was still operating there at that time).  John survived until 1811, by which time his wife Hannah had given him five offspring.

John had three other sons, William(3036), John, and James.  William died without issue, but was active with his brother James in trying to claim the Cranbury Estate from the Chamberlaynes (see Michael Dummer’s History “Miscellanea”).  It was William who dug up the lawn at Cranbury Park in an attempt to get arrested and obtain the desired publicity for the claim.  Later he cut down a tree at North Stoneham Park for which he was arrested but much to his frustration the magistrate discharged

James was born in 1793 and at the age of 23 James married Sarah Court, three years his junior, at Bramshott.  He was variously a miller at, Louden Mill Haslemere, North Mill Midhurst, Bex Mill Heyshott, and finally, at Stedham Mill.

It seems likely that James was the first of

the Sussex Dummers to become interested in his

ancestors, and attempted to seek out a link with

the 'Pyldren' Dummers

His input to the family history is worthy of note.

(Michael Dummer has a letter to him from Stephen

of Horton Heath, ancestor of the Australian branch of the

Pyldren Dummers, dated 1847


His detailed and lengthy paper on the rights of the

Dummer family reveal him to be an intelligent and

educated person, unexpected in a miller

James’ youngest child was Charles, born 1835 and baptised at Midhurst.  At the time of the 1841 census six year old Charles was living with his eldest brother and the latter’s new wife at Cocking, but no mention is made of the parents.  Could it be that they were living away from their children in Heyshott or Stedham Mill, or perhaps it was only for a night or two.