Background The earliest records of this family have them in the small village of Roydon in Essex. There, a farmer named Richard Darby had a son, also called Richard Darby which he baptised in December 1731. It is likely that these Darbys were not rich, just tenant farmers in this small village. It isn't known if Richard had any brothers of sisters; there seem to be none baptised in Roydon. At the young age of eighteen, Richard married a woman called Sarah Peachy in 1749, and over the next twenty six years had 12 children all baptised in the same church that Richard had been baptised and married in. At least six of these children grew up and had their own children. Richard eventually lived to the ripe old age of 90 years, and was known as the Darby patriarch.
One of Richard's children was Thomas Darby. Thomas wasn't so tied to Roydon, and after his first two children were baptised there had children that he had baptised in towns and villages close by; Stanstead Abbots in Hertfordshire and Great Parndon in Essex. However, he finished up in Hunsdon in Hertfordshire, evenutally owning property there and in Essex. Hunsdon is only three and a half miles from Great Parndon. Thomas had eleven known children and died at the age of about 76 in 1833. Richard seems to have followed his son to Hunsdon in later life.
A third child of Richard's was, in turn, a son called Richard Darby who married a woman called Anne Brett. This Richard, the third in this direct line, also favoured Roydon, married there and had four children. Like his father before him, he was married in the church he was baptised in, and his children were baptised there as well. Again, we have every reason to suspect they were fairly poor tenant farmers.
One of these children of the third Richard, George Darby, broke tradition and was not a farmer.
George breaks the mould From this family of farmers, George Darby embarked on a different life from an early age. Baptised in 1779 in Roydon, George became apprenticed to William Fincher, a millwright from Hertford, at the age of fourteen. Seven years later he married Elizabeth Aylott and they had at least twelve children over the next twenty years, whilst George established himself as a builder, millwright and brickmaker. George became quite prosperous and eventually owned a fair amount of land which he developed into houses - but it was heavily mortgaged.
Three of his sons (John, Thomas and Samuel) were indentured to him as apprentices, and all three emigrated to South Australia rather than carry on the family business. In addition, his son William emigrated but died at the age of forty. Similarly, two of his daughters - Ann and Martha - both emigrated with their husbands.
Whilst some children stayed in England, we now move our focus to Australia.
Son John emigrated to South Australia with his wife and brother Thomas, sister Ann and her husband and sister Martha and her husband in 1839. John and Thomas worked a farm together at Morphett Vale. After the death of his first wife, John remarried 8 years later to a Mary Leonard, a week before Thomas married.
John and Mary had a daughter who died young and two sons. John died when the boys were very young and Mary made the journey back to England in 1857 with her two sons, George Leonard Darby and James Darby. There they joined Mary's family. Whilst there, George married Martha Alice ('Patty') Miller, daughter of a prosperous cotton mill manager and had three daughters. He also began a life-long friendship with William Lever, who went on to become Lord Leverhulme.
Meanwhile, Thomas was going from strength to strength as a farmer in Morphett Vale and Noarlunga, and then later at Minlacowie. He established quite a large family. One of his sons, John, became a key member of the public service, serving as Secretary of the Marine Board for more than 30 years. After Thomas' death, another two of his sons remained in the area as farmers.
Less is known of Martha Darby's life but her husband died within 7 years of emigrating. Her son George Speller Wright also became senior in the public service as secretary to the Commissioner for Crown Lands and the Inspector General of the State Bank, only retiring after 50 years of service to the South Australian Government.
Ann Darby's husband Joseph Peck also made his name as a manufacturer of cricket bats.
George Leonard Darby returned to South Australia with his family in the 1880's and lived quite a long life as a public servant in the Forests and Lands Department. It can only be speculated on the extent to which these men were able to help each other's public service careers. George died in in his seventies just before the Great Depression. His wife Patty was very active in the Baptist church and in the Temperance movement, and died just a few years before him. By the early years of the 20th century, his youngest daughter Elsie Florence Darby had married a James Smith, a salesman.
Elsie and James also had three daughters, all of whom married. The middle daughter, Marjorie Jean Smith married John Hill in 1929. John had only just started his very successful management career with General Motors Holden.