John Anniss Mary Ann Anniss Silas Anniss Emiline Anniss Edwin K. Anniss Harry Anniss Ada Anniss Ellen Anniss Alice Anniss Edwin Anniss Hanna Anniss Laticia Anniss Lucy Anniss Susannah Kent William Anniss Arthur Anniss Elizabeth Anniss Mary Baskerville Mini tree diagram

Silas Rendle Anniss

1st Oct 1831 - 1914

Life History

1st Oct 1831

Born in Plympton St Mary.

13th Jul 1851

Married Susannah Kent in Plympton St Mary.


Birth of son Edwin K. Anniss.


Birth of son Harry Anniss in Stonehouse, Devon.


Birth of daughter Ada Anniss in Stonehouse, Devon.


Birth of daughter Ellen Anniss.


Birth of daughter Alice Anniss.


Birth of son Edwin Anniss.


Birth of daughter Hanna Anniss.


Birth of daughter Laticia Anniss.


Birth of daughter Lucy Anniss.

16th Feb 1914

Died in Plympton St Mary.

Silas's signature from the 1911 census


In 1831: Silas Rendle Anniss is baptised in Plympton St Mary.

In the 1851 census: Silas R Anniss, in his early 20's, is unmarried and working as a groom, in the house of John Coad, General Practitioner, who is (I guess) an ancestor of one of the Plymouth Brethren's foremost historians F. R. Coad.

In the 1881 census: age 50, Occupation: Inspector Metropolitan Police (see below)
In the 1901 census, Silas is 68, living in Plympton St Mary, 'Retired From Metropolitan Police'. (see below)

Silas married Susannah Kent, who appears to be his his step-sister.
In the 1851 census, Silas's father, John Anniss (sr), is married to his second wife, Betsy, almost certainly Betsy Kent (a widow, nee Gullett) - a step-daughter, Emily Kent, is listed in his household.
Betsy Kent is the mother of Susannah Kent whom Silas marries in June, 1851.
At the time of their marriage, Silas and Susannah share a half-sister 7, and a half-brother John 4 yrs old, children of his father and her mother.

Chris Forester, a police historian researching a book on the Metropolitan Police in Devonport Dockyard says that:

"Silas Rendle Annis was Inspector of Police in Devonport Dockyard, in charge of the Water Police unit responsible for the application of the Contagious Diseases Acts.  His duties were to regulate Prostitution in the area around the Dockyard.  Apparently he was not a popular man and was feared and detested by many working class women who may have been accused by him of Immoral practices, i.e. Prostitution.  Such was his reputation that people would use his name to warn their children to behave some 20 years after he left the Force."

Chris also believes that he may have been in the Plymouth Brethren sect and wishes to know more of his character and if any pictures of him exist.

Judith Walkowitz (See below) says that: "It would be consistent with his professional demeanor if he were a Plymouth Brethren - it would explain a lot."

Census data:

Some of the family seem to get younger as the years pass!

1841 England Census, Venton Farm, Plympton St Mary
(The spelling is as in the transcript!)

John Annis40FarmerDevon
Silias Annis8Devon
William Annis7Devon
Authur Annis5Devon
Mary Annis15Devon
Emlin Annis11Devon
Elizabeth Annis2Devon

1851 England Census, 99, Yealmbury Cottages

John J Coad39General Practitioner
Susan J Coad36Wife
John F Coad 15;William H Coad 13; James Coad 11; Henry Coad 9; Kate Coad 8;
Leo Coad 6;Elizabeth Coad 5; Mary Coad 3; Arthur Coad 2; Priscilla Coad 1 Mo
Elizabeth Harvey26General Servant
Agness M Luscombe18Child's Maid
Silas R Anniss21Groom

From FreeBMD

Marriage: Sep 1851, Anniss, Silas, Plympton S. M 9 505
Marriage: Sep 1851, Kent, Susannah, Plympton 9 505

1861 Census, 27, Hobart Street
(There are other families living in the house: Starling, Kent (included here), Pearse, Snell, Harper)

Silas R AnnissHead31Detective, H.M. DockyardPlympton St Mary
Susan AnnissWife29Plympton St Mary
Edwin K AnnissSon8ScholarPlymstock, Devon
Harry AnnissSon5ScholarDevonport, Devon
Ada AnnissDaughter3Stonehouse, Devon
Ellen AnnissDaughter1Stonehouse, Devon
Jane KentWife33Seamans WifeSt Mary, Cornwall
Thomas KentSon2East Stonehouse, Devon
Mary GyreMother59Shoe Makers WifeSt Mary, Cornwall

1871 Census, Octagon, St Andrew, Plymouth

S R AnnissHead M 39 Inspector. Metrp. PoliceDevon
Susan AnnissWife M 39 WifeDevon
Edwin K AnnissSon U 18 ScholarDevon
Harry AnnissSonU 15 ScholarDevon
Ada AnnissDaughterU 13ScholarDevon
Ellen AnnissDaughter U 11 ScholarDevon
Alice AnnissDaughter U 8 ScholarDevon
Wm Arther Bismark AnnissSonU 3 mths Devon

1881 Census, 3, Flora Pl, Plymouth St Andrew

Silas R. AnnissHead50Inspector Metropolitan PoliceDevon, Plympton St Mary
Susan AnnissWife 48Devon, Plympton St Mary
Alice AnnissDaughter19Devon, Stonehouse
Hanna AnnissDaughter9Devon, Plymouth
Latatia AnnissDaughter7Devon, Plymouth
Lucy AnnissDaughter7Devon, Plymouth
Betsey AnnissMother75WidowDevon, Shaugh

1891 Census, Solomons Lodge, Plymstock, Elburton

Silas R. AnnissHead57Living on his own meansDevon
Susan AnnissWife 56Devon
Alice AnnissDaughter27Devon
Hanna AnnissDaughter19Devon
Lucy AnnissDaughter17Devon
Latitia AnnissDaughter15Devon
Betsy AnnissMother85WidowDevon

1901 Census, Retreat, Elburton

Silas R. AnnissHead68Retired from Metropolitan Police
Susan AnnissWife 67Devon, Plympton St Mary
Alice AnnissDaughter38Devon, Stonehouse
Lucy AnnissDaughter27Devon, Plymouth
Laetitia M AnnissDaughter25Devon, Plymouth

1911 Census, The Retreat, Elburton

S. R. AnnissHead78 Retired Chief Inspector Police
S. AnnissWife77Married 58 yrs, 14 children, 8 still alive, 6 died;
Alice AnnissDaughter48Singleb. Plymouth, Devon
Lucy AnnissDaughter36Single b. Plymouth, Devon

From freeBMD

Marriage: Sep 1851, Anniss, Silas, Plympton S. M 9 505
Marriage: Sep 1851, Kent, Susannah, Plympton 9 505

Death: Mar 1914, Anniss, Silas R, 82, Plympton 5b 315



Silas and the Contagious Diseases Acts

In 'Prostitution and Victoria Society (Women, Class and the State)' Judith R. Walkowitz examines the Contagious Diseases Acts and describes Silas as a major, if not the principal, local enforcer of the Acts.

In 1864, 1866, and 1869 Parliament passed three pieces of legislation, the Contagious Diseases Acts, "to control the spread of venereal disease among enlisted men in garrison towns and ports .. Under the acts, a woman could be identified as a 'common prostitute' by a special plainclothes policeman and then subjected to a fortnightly internal examination. If found suffering from gonorrhoea or syphilis, she would be interned in a certified lock hospital .. the definition of common prostitute was vague and consequently the Metropolitan police employed under the accident had broad discretionary powers." While the legislation on one level appeared sensible, and necessary, on another it was seen as a "blatant example of classic and sex discrimination".
The first group who organised opposition to the Acts were all men but very soon women became a driving force. "The participation of middle-class women in the repeal efforts fascinated and shocked many contemporary observers, who regarded this female rebellion as an ominous sign of the times. One troubled member of Parliament was moved to remark to Josephine Butler, the feminist repeal leader, 'we know how to manage any other opposition in the House or in the country but this is very awkward for us - this revolt of the women. It is quite a new thing; what are we to do with such an opposition as this?'"

Plymouth was, as it is now, a major naval base and the 'water police' were responsible for enforcing the Acts. Walkowitz says:
"As servants of power, held in mild contempt by their masters and generally despised by the poor, the 'water police' (as they were called by the poor) occupied a difficult position. .. Some, like Inspector Silas Anniss, played their official part brilliantly. Anniss was a perfect symbol of an emerging state bureaucracy, cold, self-righteous, authoritarian, and efficient in his duties. As a member of the dockyard police, he had distinguished himself in the apprehension of naval deserters, receiving a reward for each man brought in. His talent for espionage and surveillance work seems to have helped him in his new responsibilities.
In his official capacity, Anniss was notably disdainful of women and working people. Yet he was never accused of bribery or official corruption, but of brutal and callous mistreatment. A target of repeal propaganda over a period of sixteen years, he was a clever propagandist himself; for example, he tried to steal repealers' thunder by distributing religious tracts to prostitutes in the examination room.
An ambitious man, Anniss used the Acts to advance his own career. He found a loyal and powerful ally in Thomas Woollcombe, who regularly put him forward as a tireless and disinterested civil servant. In the end, Anniss proved to be an embarrassment for the many Liberal doctors who preferred to look upon the acts as a sanitary rather than a police measure. And he was bitterly resented by local police officials and even some Devonport borough magistrates who regarded him as an arrogant and power-hungry competitor. Few Metropolitan police carried out their duties with the professional aplomb and detachment of Anniss
." (p. 163)

Walkowitz identifies Anniss as "the principal local antagonist of repealers in Plymouth. For repealers and the local poor, he came to represent the 'evil genius' behind the local operation of the acts in Plymouth. As late as 1900, fourteen years after repeal, antiregulationists were still talking about his 'sinister presence'. 'It was there, (Plymouth) that there reigned a petty tyrant, the chief of the spy police, Mr Anniss, whose name may still convey a thrill of horror to those few now living who remember his cruel methods, his mendacity and the credence given to him by the Government and officials at the time'.
However melodramatic their characterisation of Anniss, repealers were none the less accurate in assessing his strategic importance. It was Anniss's statistics concerning registered women that advocates of regulation 'always paraded' as evidence of the social and moral benefits of the Acts. Because of his efficient supervision and because of the kind of cooperation he received from local authorities, Plymouth became the 'model station' of the Contagious Diseases Acts." (p.173)

"The 'water police' made daily visits to known brothels; there they obtained the names of new arrivals and endeavoured to place these women on th register. In many ways, they resembled both an occupying military force billetted on a subject population as well as a general morals police. Inspector Anniss actually lived above the examination house on Flora Street in Plymouth." (p.203)

(All above quotes are from Prostitution and Victoria Society (Women, Class and the State)', Judith R. Walkowitz, 1980)

The following quotes are from "We Are Not Beasts of the Field": Prostitution and the Poor in Plymouth and Southampton under the Contagious Diseases Acts" a paper by Judith R. and Daniel J. Walkowitz in Feminist Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3/4, S pecial Double Issue: Women's History. (Winter - Spring, 1973), pp. 73-106.

"The Metropolitan Police concerned themselves with diseased prostitutes and juveniles. While they had no legal power to enter and search dwellings, until 1877 they did so with impunity. Perhaps their greatest weapon, in the case of the Plymouth area, was their power to inform against governmental employees and naval pensioners who let out rooms to prostitutes. If a pensioner proved uncooperative, his pension could be stopped, dock laborers and artisans could be dismissed, and pubs and beershops harboring diseased prostitutes could be placed 'out of bounds' for the men in service. Since Plymouth and Devonport (exclusive of Stonehouse) numbered 10,618 men, or 34.4 percent of the men over 20, who were in military service or worked in governmental installations, Anniss's power of intimidation was formidable."

"The Metropolitan Police were supposed to be concerned exclusively with seeing that the women appeared for examination, and if diseased, went directly to the hospital. In reality, the ten special police in the Three Towns and the three men stationed in Southampton provided a supplementary force for street control. They knew the women much better than the local police. For example, Inspector Anniss, who directed the Plymouth operations, resided above the examination room at Octagon and Flora Lane, around the corner from Granby and Central Streets (the most notorious Plymouth streets).
The neighborhood must have felt his presence twenty-four hours a day. Previous to 1864, he had distinguished himself in the apprehension of naval deserters, where he received a reward for each man brought in. His bounty-hunter's appetite seems to have carried over to his new responsibilities.
Over the years, the ubiquitous Anniss could be found testifying at affiliation cases, divorce cases, petty-theft trials where a woman's character had to be ascertained, white slavery cases and brothel prosecutions.

"Popular hostility toward the Metropolitan Police was one of the most persistent themes in the records of resistance. Much of the community intervention on behalf of the women had its origin in the intense dislike of interlopers like Inspector Anniss. Anniss was himself twice summoned, once for breaking and entering a woman's room, and once for assaulting a respectable working woman. In the first case, the complainant never proceeded beyond the summons. In the second case, which involved a chapel-going draper's assistant, the court decided it was a case of mistaken identity: someone had impersonated Anniss."
Local newspapers reported that:
"The decision was at first received with slight applause, which however was immediately followed by a violent and emphatic outburst of dissent from all parts of the Court. As the police did not make any effort at once to suppress this ebullition of feeling, in a very short time it increased to a perfect storm of indignation, and the Bench was literally hissed and howled at from all parts of the Court, and particularly from the crowded gallery. Men and women - indeed, the women seemed ten times more fierce than the men - stamped their feet, shook their fists and fairly grinned at the magistrates, and the Court ultimately broke up in confusion. Such a scene was never before seen or heard of in Plymouth Police Court, and it was surprising that no arrests were ordered. The excitement and disapproval soon spread to the vast mob outside, and on Anniss leaving the Court he was set upon by an excited crowd, and hissed and hooted at with all kinds of execrations and threats and even pelted with missiles"

Some References from "We Are Not Beasts of the Field"

Inspector Anniss's testimony before the Royal Commission of 1871, P.P., 1871 (c. 408-1). XIX: Minutes of Evidence, Q. 661,662.
Inspector Anniss's testimony before the 1882 Select Committee, P.P., 1882 (340): IX, Minutes of Evidence, Q. 3898-3900.

References from the pages in "Prostitution and Victoria Society" where Silas is mentioned:

P.159: Public Records Office, Home Office papers, H.O 45/9 April 1870;
The Shield, 14 Oct. 1870, 4 Nov. 1871; PP, 1882,IX, Q.54 pp.481-3.
P.163:Public Records Office, Metropolitan Dockyard Correspondence, Mepol. 1/58, 25 Jan. 1860.
'Religion in the Examination Room,' The Shield, 17 Jan. 1874.
Public Records Office, Mepol. 1/58, 1867.
P.171:The Shield, 8 Aug. 1870; Western Daily Mercury, 29 July 1870, 3 Aug. 1870
P.173/4:The Shield, August 1900.
P.178:'An Exposure of the False Statistics of the Contagious Diseases Acts' (London, 1871)
P.181:'Illegal Detention of a Woman at the Royal Albert Hospital, Devonport', in Abolitionist Flysheets, Butler Collection.
P.185:'NA Minutes' 2 (10 Nov 1873), no 1012; 2 (24 Nov 1873), no 1032, Butler Collection.
P.187:William Sloggett, Public Records Office, Adm. 1/6253, 17 June 1872.
P.203:Western Daily Mercury, 19 December 1871, 25 March 1872, 21 August 1872, 28 February 1874;
Western Morning News, 4 May 1874.
P.206:Devonport Independent and Stonehouse Gazette, 7 Oct, 14 Oct 1876.
P.209:Public Records Office Adm. 1/6428 30 Oct. 1873; The Shield, 20 Sept. 1873.
P.220:Thomas Woollcombe, Public Records Office Adm. 1/6122 16 Jan. 1869.
P.225: Note in 1883 Admiralty index: "Inspector of Devonport Police Recommends Anniss for Promotion - approved - afterwards cancelled." Public Records Office, IND. 18 332.
P.226:Western Morning News, "Escape of Hospital Patients" May 1883.
P.240/241:Josephine Butler to Joseph Edmonton, 30 Oct 1882, Butler Collection.

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