According to the 1911 census, Richard and Mary Ann Rolls of Bray, Berkshire, had been married 43 years and had produced a total of 15 children, 12 of whom were still living by that time. Richard, up to that time, had various jobs, including Builder's Labourer and Chimney Sweep.
The couple were married in 1867, and sadly it seems that the infant listed as "Female", who was born and died in the same quarter of 1868, was their first child. A year later a second daughter was born, surviving well in to adulthood, whom they named Ocean.
In 1871 they had a son named Benbow — a surname derived from bend bow, a medieval nickname for an archer — and, in 1873, another daughter, named Daisy.
Merging the oceanic and flowery themes of their elder daughters' names together, in 1875 they welcomed a baby girl whom they uniquely named Seaflower. So unique, in fact, that no other person has been given this name in Britain from at least 1838 to 2005.
1877 and 1878 saw two more florally-named daughters join the family: Bluebell and Snowdrop. Intriguingly, a marriage entry for Snowdrop in 1899, gives her name as "Snowdrop Jessamine". This is the only record of her having a middle name and, as it wasn't unheard of for people to give a slightly altered name on their marriage certificate, it is quite likely she added it in simply because she liked the name.
Another daughter, May, arrived in 1880. Her birth was registered in the April to June quarter, so she may have been named for the month in which she was born. Two more girls followed: Ivy was born in 1882, and Myrtle in 1883.
After a succession of seven girls in a row, in 1885, a boy, Hercules, was born. He was followed by more sons: Cecil was born in 1887, and Oscar in 1889.
1891 marked the birth of the couple's youngest child — a boy — listed as "Baby" in the 1891 census (above), aged two weeks old. The name they eventually settled on for their final child? Rover Rolls.
I have traced 14 children altogether, and accounted for the three children that died before 1911. (The first baby, Daisy, aged 17, and Hercules, aged 13). So where is the mysterious fifteenth child numbered on the 1911 census? I have a suspicion that the couple's first grandson, Percy Edward Jones, makes up the final number.
Born in 1889, in the same quarter as Oscar, Percy was Ocean's son from her first marriage. As a one-year old, he was living with Richard and Mary Ann on the 1891 census (above), and was still living with them on both the 1901 and 1911 census. He seems to have been brought up alongside his uncles, so it is highly likely that he was also counted among their brood.
Twenty-two years, fourteen children, and one heck of a sibset: Ocean, Benbow, Daisy, Seaflower, Bluebell, Snowdrop, May, Ivy, Myrtle, Hercules, Cecil, Oscar, Percy and Rover.