George was born 19 April 1827 at Ousden and baptised at Hargrave, 9 September 1827, a son of Robert Challis (husbandman) and Sarah formerly Cook (It is probable that she was baptised at Wickhambrook but there are two possibilities there and there is insufficient evidence to be able to choose between them, so further work on this line seems unlikely).
In 1841 he was at home with his parents at Ousden, aged 14.
The census of 1851 is missing.
George (X), aged 23, married Sarah Crack, aged 20 (she was actually 17) at Wickhambrook 15 October 1852. George was a bachelor and labourer of Ousden and Sarah was a spinster of Busses farm, Wickhambrook (father not stated). The witnesses were Thomas Sparrow (probably George’s cousin) and Eliza Challis (probably George’s sister).
In the 1861 census he, aged 31, was living with Sarah and their children at Farm Cottage, Little Ousden. Sarah was aged 25 and born at Ixworth.
In the 1871 census of Little Ousden he (farm labourer, aged 43) was with Sarah aged 35 and his children and next to the household of Nathan Challis and his father, Robert Challis.
In the 1881 census of Grocers Shop, Depden, George was a grocer aged 49, with his wife Sarah aged 45, a dressmaker, and their children. Also with them was Susan Meadows, aged 76, a widow and an annuitant and born at Whepstead. Susan was later found to be the mother of Sarah, even though the census indicated that she was the mother of George.
On 28 July 1886, Samuel Farrow, aged 16, of Depden, stole Sarah Challis’s purse containing £2.6s.6d from a till in the grocer’s shop. He had gone there specifically to steal and asked for some salt that he knew would cause the shop assistant (one of Sarah’s daughters, probably Anna or Kate) to leave the shop. Whilst the shop was unattended he stole the purse. Sarah quickly discovered her loss and as he was the only visitor to the shop between her putting it in the till and discovering her loss, he was the only suspect. He appeared at Thingoe and Thedwastre Petty Sessions at Bury, 4 August and pleaded guilty. In mitigation the bench heard that Samuel had recently become unemployed and it was his first offence. He was committed to goal for 21 days with hard labour. As a result of this conviction his father had received notice to leave the lodgings, in spite of the fact that his parents had reported the finding of the purse to Sarah Challis.
In the directories of 1888 and 1892, George was described as a shopkeeper and carrier (to Bury on Wednesday and then additionally on Saturday). 1896 is the first mention of Sarah Challis as postmistress, until 1908. In 1912 the postmaster was Ernest Edward Prewer.
In the 1891 census of Depden, Great Green, Grocers Shop, (next to the Rectory), George was a grocer, aged 61 and born at Ousden. With him were his wife, Sarah, aged 55 and born at Ixworth, his daughter, Kate Jane, aged 19, a dress maker, born at Ousden and his granddaughter, Beatrice, aged 4 and born at Bardwell. There was also a domestic servant, Jessie Talbot, aged 13 and born at Barrow.
In the 1901 census of By the Green, Depden, George was a farmer aged 72 and Sarah was the sub-postmistress, aged 65. With them was their unmarried daughter, Kate, aged 29, a dressmaker.
A family story is that Sarah Challis baked bread and lost her wedding ring in the dough but the ring was later found in a loaf and returned.
George Challis was buried at Depden and died 7 February 1910. He was aged 82. His gravestone reads “In loving memory of George beloved husband of Sarah Challis who died 7th February 1910 aged 82 years. Peace perfect peace”.
Kellys Directory (1900, 1904 and 1908) gives Mrs Sarah Challis as sub-postmistress and shopkeeper. She had left the Old Post Office by 1911 (in 1912 the postmaster and shopkeeper was Ernest Edward Prewer).
In 1911, at Old Workhouse Cottage, Depden, living in 4 rooms, Sarah was aged 75, a widow born at Ixworth. With her was her daughter Kate, aged 39 and a dressmaker in her own account, and born at Ousden.
Sarah died rather suddenly. Medical aid was called one day and she died the next. It was on a Thursday that she died and her funeral was held on a Tuesday. Her coffin was of oak with brass fittings and bore a plate which read ‘Sarah Challis died January 21st 1915 aged 79 years’. The principal mourners were Mr and Mrs Fred Challis (Stradishall) Mr – Challis (Stonham), Miss K Challis (Depden), Mr Robert Smart (Barrow) son-in-law Herbert Smart and Harold Smart (grandchildren) and Mrs Herbert Smart.
Sarah is buried next to George at Depden. Her gravestone is inscribed “In loving memory of Sarah the beloved wife of George Challis who died January 21st 1915 aged 79 years. At rest in peace. For ever with the Lord.”
Sarah’s will was dated 25 February 1910. She was a widow of Depden and appointed her children Frederick George Challis, Susan Challis and Kate Jane Challis to be her executors. She left everything in equal shares to her surviving children. Her witnesses were Arthur Nunn, farmer of Depden and Alfred George Hurrell, relieving officer, Barrow.
Probate of Sarah’s will was given at Bury St Edmunds, 6 February 1915, to Frederick George Challis, labourer of Wickhambrook, and Susan Challis of Eastbourne and Kate Jane Challis of Depden, spinsters. Sarah’s effects were £148 15s. 0d. She was of Depden, a widow and died 21 January 1915.
George and Sarah's children were: