I’ve obtained copies of the birth certificates for Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s third and fourth children, Mary Ann Blanch Roe and John Richard Roe. These confirm my impression of the family as constantly on the move. We already know that their first child, Kezia Eliza, was born in St. Thomas Square, Hackney in 1850, while their second, Daniel Ellis, was born at 8 Great Crown Court, Westminster, in 1853. When Mary Ann was born in October 1856 and her brother John Richard in April 1859, the family were living at 4 Herbert’s Passage, in the parish of St. Clement Danes. Herbert’s Passage was a short street that ran parallel to the Strand (on John’s certificate the address is given as ‘Herbert’s Passage, Strand’), crossing Beaufort Buildings, almost opposite Southampton Street, and more or less on the site where the Savoy Hotel now stands. The certificates describe Daniel as ‘shoemaker master’ or ‘bootmaker master’.
Two years after John’s birth, in 1861, the family would be back in Great Crown Court, and would have moved again – to Great Windmill Street – by the following year, 1862, when my great grandfather, Joseph Priestley Roe, was born.
Why Daniel and Mary Ann needed to move around so much, and whether Mary Ann’s parents followed them every time they moved, remains a mystery. Daniel’s status as a ‘master’, which meant he employed other men to work for him, suggests that the family was not penniless, but there may have been other reasons prompting their frequent changes of address.
Running off Herbert’s passage was another little street called Fountain’s Court, which was the final home of the poet William Blake, who died there in 1827. Blake was born in Broad Street (now Broadwick Street) Soho, not far from many of the addresses associated with my Roe and Blanch ancestors.