The Robert Tressell Society
(formerly "The Robert Tressell Centre")  
Tressell Timeline Part 1

Click here for Part 2

stile.jpg (9268 bytes)__________rt.jpg (6772 bytes)
37 Wexford Street, Dublin

Robert Tressell

Name: Robert Philip (possibly Phillipe) Noonan (Croker).

Born: 18 April 1870 in Dublin. Putative Son of Samuel Croker, who had two "wives": Jane Usher Croker (and children) and his "Liaison Lady" Mary Noonan; her children apart from Robert were Adelaide, Ellie and Mary Jane. Samuel Croker was an inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and then a magistrate. He was a  well-educated Irishman, of Dublin. Died about 1875/6. RT's mother then remarried, making RT very unhappy. His education was uncompleted.

37 Wexford Street, Dublin.  Tressell's birthplace. Fred Ball's Picture

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About 1890: It is believed that Robert possibly left for South Africa from London; the family probably having removed from Ireland some year previously.

15 October 1891: RT marries Elizabeth Hartel, age 18, at a Protestant church in Cape Town. He is a decorator. She dies (1895?) of typhoid fever.

17 September  1892: Daughter Kathleen born in Cape Town. Baptized at a Protestant church in April 1895.

1895(?): Wife dies.

August 1896: RT and Kathleen move to Johannesburg. RT is involved in pro-Irish groups there, and suggestions that he helped to form  the militant Irish Brigade, which fought with the Boers against the British forces. The main founder of the Brigade, John McBride, was executed in Ireland in 1916 by the British for his part in the Boer War. RT works as a foreman and very good signwriter for a company. Very attached to his child, who was at a residential school.

1898 or 9: His sister Adelaide Rolleston and her son Arthur join him at Cape Town from Chile, via London. (her husband had died). RT had invited them, to set up a home with him. He seemed to be earning well enough to help pay for their trip. The start of the Boer War at Joburg (11/10/99) means they leave the city and set up home in Cape Town. Arthur died in First World War; his name is on the Alexandra Park war memorial.

Posed in Cape Town 1896, with daughter Kathleen
(c) Joan Johnson

RT and Kathleen

1 Plynlimmon Road Hastings Top of the page

Early September 1901: The four people sail to England on the SS Galician.

Late 1901 or early 1902: The four come to Hastings to join sister Mary Jane at 38 Western Road, St Leonards. There is a gathering there with the two other sisters, but none of RT's brothers, who he never seems to see again.

Late 1901 or early 1902: The four move to 1 Plynlimmon Road. RT acquires a job at Bruce & Co, Electrical and Sanitary Engineers and Builders, of 2 York Buildings. RT needs this job apparently because his old good financial position seems to have gone. With Bruce he is a top-paid interior decorator, very skilled - this gives him virtually a class of his own. He had been a highly skilled self-employed man in South Africa, well- educated. Many of the RTP incidents are based on RT's  experience at Bruce apparently. Daughter Kathleen is sent to school in Deal.

1 Plynlimmon Road,

Late 1902 or early 1903: The four move to top flat in Grosvenor Mansion, 115 Milward Rd. Stay for four years or so. It has three attics. Kathleen is  sent to the Roman  Catholic school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Old London Rd. RT leaves Bruce and starts with Burton & Co, Builders and Contractors, Funeral  Directors, Decorators, of 88 Stonefield Rd. RT also writes coffin plates. The whole atmosphere of the RTP comes form Hastings rather than St Leonards, even though he wrote most of it there.

Plaque on 115 Millward Road
115 Milward Road, Hastings. (April 1999) The plaque is on the corner of the building, upper left of the front door

This card, above, posted in 1914 shows 115 Milward Road in the centre, just below the Queens Road Bridge.  Top of the page

Whrere Tressell Lived  1903-1905

This postcard, left, from around 1915 would have been similar to Tressell's view as he walked home uphill to 115 Milward Road - just out of shot, centre left of the picture, It shows the Milward Road Post Office and, No 86a a boot repairer


both pictures - Ion Castro Collection

88 Stonefield Road in April 1999. It would have taken Tressel a couple of minutes to come down the steps (just visible to the left of 115 Milward Road) to work here


Sept 1903-June 1904: RT and most of Burton's staff work at Val Mascal.

Easter 1905: RT completes for Easter the high quality artistic renovation of the chancel of St Andrews Church in Queens Rd - gift from Burton to the church.

88 Stonefield Road
Interior of St.Andrew's Church showing Tessell's work

The site is now occupied by a petrol filling station

Interior of St.Andrew's Church showing Tressell's work (more pictures on main page)

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15 January 1906: General election, the first since RT arrived in Hastings. This brought him into direct contact with politicians in the town, including socialists. Liberals were expecting to win Hastings, but it and Rye were the only Tory gains in the whole country. The national Labour Party was formed 15/2/1906, with 29 MPs. In Hastings individual socialists only began to organise after the election- but the town went back 25 years far its models, and repeated the whole socialist process locally. This throws light on the RTP. RT was a convinced socialist, being part of his nature. But until 1906 he was in some isolation in Hastings. "Only when the socialists finally began to organise independently did he find the organisation and comradeship to meet his need,and it seems to me no accident that this should have been the impulse needed to call out his particular kind of talent and give it direction". (Ball, p81).
September 1906: Initial meeting in the Cricketers pub in South Terrace of people wanting to set up a branch of the Social Democratic Federation; included RT, AIf Cobb and Edward Cruttenden (of 16 Wellington Sq). Followed on 12 October by first public meeting to form the branch, in Pelham St. Chairman there: F Owen. By the end of November the local papers Observer and Weekly Mail had started violent anti-socialist propaganda, a new source for RT's notebooks.
The Cricketers at the time that Tressel was there (1906)

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left "The Cricketers" South Terrace, just off Queens Road approx. 1906 and, above, the same view in June 2005

Perth Road, a fine example of Tressell's work


Late 1906: By then there were socialist and Labour groups all over the town. "I believe this local situation played a part in determining how Robert was to portray the role of socialism and socialists in the book". (Ball, p87).

Sometime in 1906: RT left working at Burton's (conflict and trouble?) and went to Adams and Jarrett's in Norman Rd and Alfred St. The four also left 115 Milward Rd, going to unknown addresses at Warrior Sq and St Johns Rd.


A superb example of Tressell's Work, Perth Road St.Leonards. This may have been still visible in the 1940's. The two little girls are Nora and Doris Bounds. On the right of the house, below the word "FITTERS" are Henry Bounds, Robert Tressell and Mrs Bounds

Warrior Square, about 1906
Warrior Square about the time that Tressell lived there. St.John's Road is behind the top right of the square, out of view
1907: RT threw himself into SDF work. Tough action against socialists by police and employers meant the SDF branch developed a hard core of militant socialists, among them RT

Click here for part 2

By Steve Peak, 1993. 36 Collier Road, Hastings TN34 3JR

Grateful thanks to Hastings Museum for all the non colour pictures on this page, from the Fred Ball Archive at Hastings Museum and are (c) Joan Johnson or the estate of the late Fred Ball.

Colour pictures (c) copyright Ion Castro 1999 except where stated


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