Roes, radicals and mystery names

My mother, Joyce Alma Londors (born 1933) married my father, Peter Ernest Robb (also born 1933) in 1955. Both my parents were born and grew up in East Ham. My mother’s parents were George Londors (1897 – 1960) and Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987). 

Minnie – my Nan – was the daughter of Joseph Priestley Roe and Eliza Bailey. Joseph was born on 27 July 1862 at 23 Great Windmill Street in the parish of St. James, Westminster (I have a copy of his birth certificate). His father was Daniel Roe (1829 -1870) and his mother was Mary Ann Blanch (1830 – 1870). Daniel was a boot and shoemaker, later a bootmaker master, and was born in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, the son of another Daniel Roe (1800 – 1836) and Eliza Holdsworth (born 1801). 

Daniel senior died when the younger Daniel was only 7 years old: the 1841 census has Eliza living with young Daniel and four siblings in Biggleswade. However, some time between 1841 and 1848, between the ages of 12 and 19 (when he married Mary Ann in Stepney), Daniel made his way to London. We can make the assumption that Daniel met his future wife through her father, John Blanch, also a boot and shoe maker, born in Clerkenwell in 1801. Perhaps Daniel was apprenticed to his future father-in-law? 

I haven’t been able to find the 1851 census record for Daniel and Mary, though Mary’s family were living in Green Street, Bethnal Green at this time, and Mary’s mother Keziah was working alongside her husband John as a boot binder. The 1861 census finds Daniel and Mary living at 2 Great Crown Court, Westminster, not far from where their son Joseph would be born in the following year. By 1861 they had four children: Kezia, Daniel, Mary and John, born in Hackney, St. James, St. Clement Danes and St. James respectively, suggesting that the young couple spent much of their early married life moving around, perhaps in search of work. 

Interestingly, Mary Ann’s family were now living a few doors away, at 8 Crown Court, suggesting that the extended family might have moved around together, and again that perhaps Daniel was working alongside his father-in-law. By this time, Mary Ann’s sister, Eliza, now 23, was working (presumably with her father) as a shoe binder, while sister Emma (20) worked as a needlewoman and brother John (16) as a ‘shop lad’ (in the family shop perhaps?).

The names that Daniel and Mary Ann Roe gave to their children are fascinating and prompt many questions. The names they gave to their first daughter – Kezia Eliza – are unproblematic, being the names of their own mothers (‘Keziah’ seems to gain and lose its final ‘h’ from person to person, and from census to census). The name ‘Kezia’ would be passed down through the family: Daniel’s son Joseph would name one of his daughters (one of my mother’s aunts) Emma Kezia. Daniel’s and Mary Roe’s second daughter – ‘Mary A. B. Roe’, the initials probably standing for ‘Ann Blanch’ – appears to have been named after her mother. Their second son, John Richard, took the names (presumably) of Mary’s father and of Daniel’s older brother. 

Their first son, Daniel Ellis, bears his father’s first name, as was usual – but the ‘Ellis’ is more intriguing. The only clue is in the 1851 census record for Mary’s parents. There, we find that, living in Bethnal Green with John and Keziah Blanch and their three children, is one Mary Ann Ellis, age 2, described as a ‘nurse child’, born in Soho. But whose daughter was she? The 1871 census has a Mary Ann Ellis, now age 21, living with one James Blanch, coach builder, and his wife Frances, in Chelsea, and described as James’ sister-in-law. Frances’ mother Marian Ellis and brother Henry Ellis are also living at the same address. Further investigation will be needed to determine the connexions between these different Blanches and Ellises, and to discover why Daniel and Mary Roe saw fit to give their own son the ‘Ellis’ surname as a middle name. Like ‘Kezia’, the name ‘Ellis’ would be perpetuated by Daniel’s son Joseph, when he and Eliza named one of their sons Walter Ellis.

As for Joseph Priestley Roe – my great grandfather – he appears to have been named after the great 18th century Dissenting theologian, scientist and political radical Joseph Priestley. Whether it was Priestley’s Unitarian beliefs, scientific discoveries or progressive politics that led Daniel to name his son after him, we can’t know. But we do know that shoemakers were a famously radical bunch in the 19th century, and it may be that Daniel Roe was expressing his political sympathies when he gave his son this unusual name.

Finally, something needs to be said about the Holdsworth link. Intriguingly, both Daniel Roe’s and Mary Ann Blanch’s mothers had the maiden name Holdsworth. This could be pure coincidence, and any connexion is made unlikely by the fact that Daniel’s mother Eliza was apparently born in Bedfordshire and Mary Ann’s mother Kezia in Oxford. But it’s the kind of coincidence that sets you thinking. When Daniel came to London from Bedfordshire some time in the 1840s, did his mother send him to stay with a cousin in Stepney – a cousin (or other relation) who was married to a shoemaker and who might help her son learn a trade?

Joseph Priestley Roe married Eliza Bailey at St. Anne, Limehouse on 25 November 1883. I have the marriage certificate, which tells us that Eliza had to sign the register with an ‘x’. But more about Eliza and the Baileys of Barking another time..

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One Response to Roes, radicals and mystery names

  1. Joyce Alma Robb (Nee Londors) says:

    My name is Albert George Londors (Born 16.03.1935) and I am the son of Albert Isaasc Londors brother to George Londors (your father). I have been trying to trace you and Vera’s whereabouts for a long while. I hope that I have struck lucky on this occassion. If you are who I think you are I would be pleased to hear from you.

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