A new partnership between family history company Findmypast and the National Trust has uncovered stories from the 1921 Census - which includes the tale of scandalous A la Ronde resident.

The 1921 Census was digitised and published online by Findmypast last year. The 38 million individual records offer a treasure trove of stories and secrets about people living in inter-war Britain, which were locked away for a century due to data protection laws.

Researchers uncovered disreputable facts about former resident Reverend Reichel. The team at A la Ronde will also collate and share this new research online.

The 1921 Census revealed that the Reverend and his wife Julia (who was 23 years younger than him) lived at A la Ronde in 1921. Oswald listed his occupation as a Clerk in Holy Orders, though he stated he was 'out of work but receiving neither Old Age nor Unemployment pension’.

Despite his religious standing, the records show he was at the centre of a scandal in 1885, when he stayed at a Bristol lodging house with his housemaid Caroline King, posing as a married couple. When the lodging house’s owner, Mrs Niblett, reportedly tried to extort Oswald upon discovering the truth, he took her to court for libel and blackmail. His plan backfired when she was found not guilty and the full extent of Oswald’s two-year affair with Miss King was revealed – including the fact he allegedly fathered two children with her.

Now disgraced, the Reverend resigned, and attempted to sue the Bishop for misinformation, and even appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury for vindication. He maintained his innocence, but his cases were eventually dismissed due to the weakness of his arguments. Scandal didn’t stop the Reverend from having strong opinions, with researchers able to uncover a host of letters he sent to local and national newspapers over the course of his lifetime, weighing in on everything from old age pensions to the Boer War.

In addition, his ownership of A la Ronde is mired in controversy. The property itself was built by two Parminter cousins, Jane and Mary.. Jane Parminter (b. 1750) died in 1811, leaving her cousin Mary (b. 1767) as the home’s sole owner. When Mary herself died in December 1849, her will stipulated that the house be passed to the nearest unmarried woman in her family and that they were only allowed to live there as long as they didnt change it. 

A la Ronde was then occupied by various female members of the extended family over the following decades, until it ended up in the possession of the family’s last eligible unmarried woman - who stated that she didn’t want the house. Consequently, Reverend Reichel took the opportunity to use legal means to purchase the property. Even though the Parminter cousins wished that their house was only owned by unmarried women, the Reverend and his wife Julia carefully renovated and improved the house.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the 1921 Census and Findmypast’s extensive collections to reveal new stories about the people of A la Ronde,” said Jane Birdsall, Senior House and Collections Officer at A La Ronde “We’re delighted to be partnering with Findmypast to tell these rich and fascinating stories – including that of Reverend Reichel and the Parminters – as well as the wider community connected with A La Ronde. We’re hoping to tie the stories of A la Ronde more closely with the local community of Exmouth today, and that sharing our research will lead to more local people discovering their own A La Ronde family stories.”

Alongside the 1921 Census, the team has drawn extensively on data from Findmypast’s collection of over 14 billion historical records and connected family trees to trace the stories of these places, including national Census data, parish records, directories, military and migration records, electoral rolls, photographs and British newspapers.

“The 1921 Census has already revealed countless untold stories for people across the globe. We’re so excited to work with the National Trust to delve into these records and offer new perspectives on the people who lived and worked at their sites,” said Jen Baldwin, Research Specialist at Findmypast. “Using Findmypast’s extensive data and our millions of inter-connected family trees, we can reveal the details of peoples’ lives in more detail than ever before – from heiresses to millworkers. We might even find some new connections to the properties, and I hope that this partnership will inspire people to research the history of their own families and the places they lived.”