The Cabeldu family in Japan

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Cabeldu family in Japan


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The foreign settlement of Kobe where Philip Cabeldu and his family lived


Jersey-born Philip Samuel Cabdeldu travelled to Japan in 1870 at the age of 28 with his wife of three years, Letitia. It would be 50 years before they returned to England


Philip Samuel Cabeldu was the fourth son of tailor Jean Cabeldu, of St Mary, and his French wife Jeanne Sebire. He was born in about 1842 and by the time of the 1861 census he was living and working in Lambeth, London.

Departure for Kobe

He was back in Jersey by 1867 when he married Letitia Briget Caroline Anthoine, then aged 20, at St Saviour's Church. Three years later they left for Kobe, the sixth largest city in Japan on the south of the main island of Honshu.

By 1871 Philip had followed in his father's footsteps and established his business, Cabeldu and Company, Tailors and Outfitters, and he and his wife had also started a family with the birth of the first of their three sons Philip. He was followed by Walter and Horace and their sisters Letitia and Evelyn.

The three sons worked in their father's business at various times, but life was not without its difficulties in the foreign environment. An attempt to open a branch of the business in Osaka was a short-lived failure, and Philip had problems trying to get money out of his customers.

Not long after he started his business he began to experience problems dealing with Japanest merchants, and took one to Court when he refused to pay him. He had obtained security for the contract by having the merchant put up five godowns (warehouses) and their contents as collateral.

When he tried to claim them the matter stalled in the Japanese courts and it was later 1872 before he was authorised to sell them. But the Japanese insisted that anyone buying the buildings would have to demolish them within a month. The final ouctome of this dispute is not recorded.

An advert for the Kobe business

Old Victorians

Philip's sons Philip Arthur and Walter were sent back to Jersey to be educated at Victoria College and when they returned to Kobe in 1890 the worked for their father before going into business in 1893 as W and A Cabeldu and Co, scientific coutters, practical tailors and outfitters, in Yokohama. The undertaking only lasted two years. Philip Arthur returned to Kobe and went into partnership with Charles Thwaites as Cabeldu, Thwaites and Company, import and export merchants and sole agents in Japan for the Waverly Bicycle Company of Indiana.

Philip Arthur married Lilian Eliza Thornbrough in Kobe in 1901

Walter returned to England and married Ellen Margaret Newman in Kingston on Thames in 1899. They had a daughter Violet in Hampton Wick, Middlesex in 1903 and a son Frederick Norman there two years later. They all travelled to Japan in March 1908 and another son, Edward Horace, was born there soon after their arrival in June.

Philip and Letitia's eldest daughter Letitia Jane was also sent to school in Jersey, attending Ladies College. In 1891 she was living as a boarder in St Helier. On her return to Kobe she married her brother's partner Charles Thwaites, and they had a daughter Vera Jane in 1904.

Letitia's younger sister Evelyn Matilda was also sent to Jersey and was living with her grandmother, Caroline Anthoine, nee Jenkins, in Colomberie, St Helier, in 1891. She, too, returned to Kobe eventually and accompanied her parents when they returned to England in 1920.

War death

The Cabeldus' third son, Horace, died during the Second Battle of Ypres in the Great War.

He was born in Jersey in 1883, but this and a record of Philip arriving in New York in 1905 are the only evidence that Philip and Letitia returned to their native island from Japan. They must have left after Evelyn was born in 1881, but we do not know how long they were there; they certainly went back to Kobe to continue their business, because we have seen that Philip Arthur and Walter were working for them there by 1890.

Horace stayed in the British Isles. At the time of the 1901 census, at the age of 17, he was living with his brother, now known simply as Arthur, and sister-in-law Ellen, in Hampton Wick and his birthplace in the census return was given as St Helier.

He travelled to Kobe on the ss Malacca in October 1902, and worked for his father for a few months. There is no further trace of him in Japan, but he must have gone next to Canada, because in 1814 he enlisted with the 1st Canadian Contingent and by the following year he was listed as missing, presumed dead, in the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

Philip Samuel Cabeldu and his wife Letitia finally left Japan with Evelyn, in 1920. Philip was 79 when they set sail from Hong Kong to Vancouver on the Empress of India. They crossed the American continent to New York where the boarded the Empress of France to continue their journey to London.

Letitia died in Middlesex in 1929, and Philip followed some four years later. Walter and his family left Japan in 1921, a year after his parents, and appear to have settled in Canada, where Walter died in 1928. They had a number of cousins already living in the country.

Philip Arthur Cabeldu left Japan in 1922, also for Canada, and died the following year.
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