The Balls Family

Photo:Edgar Samuel Balls and his family

Edgar Samuel Balls and his family

Photo:Edgar Samuel Balls (centre)

Edgar Samuel Balls (centre)

Photo:Florence Hough selling ice cream for Mansi Bros. on the sea front

Florence Hough selling ice cream for Mansi Bros. on the sea front

Photo:Florence and daughter, I presume in Yarmouth.

Florence and daughter, I presume in Yarmouth.

A short insight in to my ancestors in the Gt Yarmouth area.

By David Ball

I live in Derbyshire and was born in Gleadless, Sheffield.  My Fathers side of the Balls family, originated in the Great Yarmouth area.  I have traced them back to c. 1796, to my Great, Great, Great, Grandfather George Balls, born in Gissing, Norfolk.  George had six children, Joseph, Ann, William, Sophia, Thomas and Sarah.  Thomas was my Great Great Grandfather, born in c. 1834.  He married Emily Godfrey from Gt Yarmouth on the 27th August 1860, in Gorleston Parish Church.

According to the census’ Thomas was a fisherman/mariner.  He and Emily lived at 4 Tower Cottages, Garden Lane, Great Yarmouth, which was to the left of Blackfriars Road, but now demolished. .  He and Emily had three children, Harriet, James and Edgar Samuel.  Edgar Samuel was my Great Grandfather, born in 1876.  I have his birth certificate and on it, it states that Thomas is deceased.  So, putting two and two together, I assume that sometime between Edgar’s conception and the registration of his birth, Thomas seems to have died, this would have made him about 41 years old.

What happened to Thomas?  Did he die of natural causes?  Was his death due to his very hazardous job as a fisherman?  I don’t know, I can’t find any record of his death apart from Edgar’s birth certificate.

Edgar Samuel seems to have been a mysterious character.  He must never have known his Father.   He was on the 1881 census named as just “Saml.” aged 5.  His Mother, Emily was still living at 4 Tower Cottages, but now with a man called John Vincent (born 1841) from Norwich and was calling herself Emily Vincent his wife.  This wasn’t true though, as they didn’t get married until 1893.  It seems evident that sometime after Thomas’ death, John Vincent moved in with Emily and the children.

The 1891 census, for some reason, lists Edgar Samuel as Samuel Vincent, son of John Vincent.  Sometime in the late 1890’s, Edgar Samuel must have somehow gone to Sheffield.  I would think that he went to find work in the iron and steel industry, as I have found later evidence to substantiate this.  There, he must have met Florence Hough, his future wife.  Florence must have returned to Yarmouth with Edgar and they were married in Saint Nicholas’ Church in 1900.  After they were married, Edgar or Samuel as he apparently liked himself to be known, must have joined what I think was the Prince of Wales' Own Norfolk Artillery Militia.  The 1901 census lists him as being in barracks in Colchester, which was their depot.  After this he was involved in the South Africa Campaign (the Second Boer War).  He was awarded the South African campaign medal.  Emily was listed as living with her in-laws at Tower Cottages.

After they were reunited, Edgar and Florence must have moved back to Sheffield, where my Grandfather, Edgar was born in 1903.   Edgar Samuel is listed as “steel labourer” on Edgar’s birth certificate.

In 1906, the year of the general election, Edgar Samuel, was back in Yarmouth, I don’t know if Florence and Edgar were with him, but they now had Alfred, born in 1905.  It is now that the “shady” side of Edgar Samuel’s character surfaces.  I have come across a witness document dated 27th April 1906.  It is the sworn evidence given by Edgar Samuel.  It appears that bribery was taking place in Yarmouth to influence the outcome of the election.  Edgar, along with a number of others, was paid the princely sum of 3s 6d to vote for a certain candidate in Yarmouth.  Sir Arthur Fell won the seat for the Conservatives and J Martin White unsuccessfully contested the result due to the bribery allegations.  Edgar Samuel was offered a “situation” where he would hang around South Quay and try to find others who would give a statement, for this he was paid 22 shillings for the week, a fair amount of money in those days.

After this date I can’t find any other information about Edgar Samuel.  The 1911 census list’s only Florence and the children.  They were living at No. 4, Row 119.  Row 119 has been demolished, but I think the entrance and a small part of it is still there on King Street.  There were five children now, the youngest, Eva, being born in 1910.  There is no sign of Edgar Samuel on the 1911 census, not in Yarmouth or Sheffield at any rate. I wonder what became of him?  Florence is listed as “wife” of head on the census, but the head of household isn’t listed.  Maybe he was working away in Sheffield, we may never know.

My late Father, he was called Edgar too, said that Edgar Samuel abandoned Florence and this may explain the reasoning behind my Grandfather dropping the “s” from Balls and calling himself Ball.  This is why my surname is Ball and not Balls.  If this was the case though, why did he name his first son, my Father, Edgar?  Very strange indeed, maybe he just named him after himself.

Emily, I’m pretty sure spent the rest of her life in Yarmouth and so I was told, sold ice cream on the sea front in Yarmouth.  I think she died in 1936.  I think the name of the ice cream company was Mansi Brothers (see photo)

Edgar, her son must have moved to Sheffield, sometime before 1928.  This is where he met and married my Grandmother, Teresa Breeze.  Edgar worked as a furnace man at Firth Brown.  They had four children, Thomas, Edgar (my Father), Florence (my Godmother) and Maureen.  Flo is the only one left out of the four of them.

As a kid, Mum and Dad used to take us on holiday to Yarmouth, we had some great times there.  At that time in my life, I knew nothing about the past generations that lived there.  Only now in later life and with the advent of the Internet, have I gained more knowledge of them.  I have been researching both sides of my family, the Balls and the Hancock’s, for the last ten or more years, with my late Mum.  She died in 2008, so I will carry on with my search alone, sad really, as she was always so enthusiastic when we found anything of interest.

Maybe some of you reading this have more information about my branch of the Balls family, you may even be distantly related. Looking through the phone list for Yarmouth, I see that Balls is still quite a common Norfolk name.  If you have any information at all please do not hesitate to contact me here.

This page was added by David Ball on 07/12/2010.
Comments about this page

Hi I'm Mike Wilks Looking For Arthur E Balls of Martham Gt Yarmouth if you can help out with a tel No, or email please let him know we new each other in the RAF Mountain Rescue Team in the 1960's Thanks MW

By Mike Wilks
On 17/02/2011

can anybody tell me if Roy Balls is still alive. We were friends pre 1939 war', living in Havelock Rd, we kept the Crystal Palace Pub

By william nicholls
On 11/03/2011

For: Mike Wilks I think we are both looking for the same person. I went rallying (me co-driving) with Arthur while at Swanton. Any news? Regards - John Name: Arthur Balls Rank: Junior Technician Trade: General Fitter From: Martham, Norfolk Stationed: RAF Swanton Morley, 1968

By John Lewis
On 03/05/2011

I have the surname Balls in my family tree my side moved to Newcastle upon Tyne from Great Yarmouth, my Mums gran was L ousia Balls who married Albert Curran her father was David Henry Balls

By michael kirk
On 25/10/2014

Re Roy Balls:  I think this is the son of Billy and Ada. of 64 Havelock Road.  Full name Roy Christmas Balls, he died in 1958.  Body found drowned in the river Yare.  I think I was told it was suspected suicide. Sorry it wasn't great news.

By George Balls
On 04/02/2018


I'm trying to research a Caroline Balls born approx 1811. She was married in 1836 to a Henry Dawson Johnson (a shipwright I believe) and laterapprox 1845 to Robert Martin a Fish Merchant.

I would appreciate any information anyone could give me

Kind regards


By Jeanette White
On 06/06/2018

Re Caroline Balls; she is my 3x Gt Grandmother.  I believe she was born in 1816. She was the daughter of John Balls and Sarah Calf. I do have more info re her maternal ancestors.

By Mandy Taylor
On 23/11/2018

I'm looking for an Arthur Balls, he was good friends with my mother (Valorie Evans/Coss/Matthews) when I was only young, sadly my mum died in around 1998, We lived on Ordinance Road before moving to Norwich before my mother passed and I got moved to live with my Grandmother in Newark, Nottinghamshire - I'd just love to know if he's doing alright and thank him for driving miles to come and see me when I moved to Newark.

By David Carter
On 08/07/2020

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