Joseph Edward Holdsworth (1802 – 1880)

In the last post I wrote about three of the children of Joseph Holdsworth (1770 – 1848) and Margaret Miller (1771 – c.1845): Sarah, Elizabeth and Godfrey. I’ve decided to discuss their fourth child, Joseph Edward, separately – both because there is a fair amount of information to convey, and because he’s an interesting case study in his own right. Most of my East End ancestors seem to have been struggling tradesmen or domestic servants, but Joseph appears to have made the transition to middle class prosperity. As reported in an earlier post, we know that Joseph was a member of the Stepney Meeting, so his story also exemplifies the experience of the self-made Nonconformist middle classes in London in the 19th century.

The first record we have for Joseph Edward Holdsworth, after his baptism at St. George’s in the East in 1802, is from 1824, which shows him to be a member of the Tallow Chandlers’ Company, resident at 235 Shadwell High Street (thanks to Adrian Holdsworth for this and other records for Joseph). These facts connect Joseph to other members of his family, and suggest that this branch of the Holdsworths was firmly rooted in Shadwell and that they passed on the skills of candle making and the oil trade among themselves.

Joseph appears to have been married twice. His first marriage was to Amelia Finch (born 1804) at All Hallows Barking (by the Tower of London) on Christmas Day 1828. Joseph and Amelia were living in Brick Lane and Joseph was working as an oil man when their first daughter Elizabeth was baptised at St. Mary’s, Whitechapel, in May 1830. Sadly, the baby died three months later. When their second child, Joseph Finch Holdsworth, was baptised two years later, the Holdsworths were living at 12 North Place in the parish of St. Mary, Haggerston, and Joseph gave his occupation as tallow chandler. They were at the same address when their daughter Sarah Crawshaw Holdsworth (named after Joseph Edward’s older sister: see previous post) was born in 1834.

St. Mary's Haggerston

Amelia gave birth to one more child – Elizabeth was born in 1837- before she died in 1838. Joseph got married again in 1840 in Hackney. His second wife was Emma Jane Webb, who was born in Thundridge, near Ware in Hertfordshire, in 1809. She was the daughter of Benjamin Webb and Elizabeth Hott. Joseph’s and Emma’s first daughter, Emma Amelia (presumably named after Joseph’s two wives) was born in December, 1841.

I’ve been unable to find a record for Joseph and Emma in the 1841 census, but at this date Joseph’s son by his first marriage, Joseph Finch Holdsworth, 8, was a pupil in the school run by Elizabeth Webb and daughter Martha in Wellington Place, West Hackney (which seems to have been close to Stoke Newington). As the 1851 census makes clear, Elizabeth (or it could have been Martha?) was Emma’s sister and therefore Joseph’s aunt.

Four more children would be born over the next ten years: Edward Webb Holdsworth was born in 1843, Henry Godfrey in 1847, Louisa in 1949 and Margaret Jane in 1851, all in Mile End Old Town, presumably at the address they occupied at the time of the 1851 census. At that time, the family was living in Crown Row, Mile End Old Town, the same road where Joseph’s sister Elizabeth and her husband John Moore (another tallow chandler) had been living in 1841 (given that by 1851 John was a ‘house proprietor’, might it have been the same house?).  Joseph is still working as a tallow chandler and now employing 15 men. Living with them are Joseph’s three children from his first marriage – Joseph, 18, Sarah, 16 and Elizabeth, 14 –  together with three of the children born to Joseph and Emma: Emma, 9, Louisa, 2, and Margaret, 4 months. They also have a servant, Caroline Lee.

Their other two children, Edward, 7, and Henry, 5, were living at the time in Somerford Grove, Hackney (just off Stoke Newington Road), where they were pupils of their aunt (?) Elizabeth Webb, 58, and her daughter Martha, 29, both of whom are described as ‘scholastics’ (teachers?). Elizabeth and Martha were born, like Emma, in Hertfordshire. There is only one other young pupil at the address, and a servant.

Ten years later, the Holdsworths are still at Crown Row, but now Edward, 17, and Henry, 15, are back at home and assisting with the family business. Elizabeth, 21, and Emma, 19, are also still living with their parents. Sarah had married James Scrutton, a ship broker, in 1857 and by this time they were living in Bromley, Kent, with their two year old son James Herbert, as well as a servant and a nurse. At the time of the census they also had a visitor: Sarah’s 10 year old sister Margaret. 13 year old Louisa was also away from home at the time, at a ladies’ boarding school in Thaxted, Essex, an indication perhaps of the success of Joseph’s business.

Crown Row, Mile End Old Town, from Horwood's 1792 map

Joseph Finch Holdsworth had married his wife Eliza in 1860 and in 1861 they were living in Bow and Joseph was working as a clerk to a tallow chandler (his father, perhaps?). Joseph died in December of that same year, at the age of 29. The Holdsworths lost another child in 1865, when their daughter Elizabeth died at the age of 28.

Adrian Holdsworth has found the record of a bankruptcy and deception case at the Old Bailey in 1869, in which Joseph Edward Holdsworth was a witness. In his evidence, Joseph says of himself:  ‘I am a wholesale  tallow chandler, carrying on business in the Mile End Road—I have been in business there twenty-four years’. However, the next few years brought big changes to the Holdsworth family. The 1871 census finds Joseph, Emma, and their children Edward, Louisa and Margaret, living at Roundcroft in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, together with a cook and a housemaid. Joseph appears to have left the oil and candle business behind and is now described as a tea merchant.

Joseph and Emma must have been in Cheshunt by 1870 at the latest, since their daughter Emma was married there on 11th January, to clergyman and Cambridge graduate Henry William Meeres. By the time of the census of the following year, Henry and Emma were living in Keele, Staffordshire, where Henry was the curate of Silverdale.

According to another record attached to Adrian Holdsworth’s family tree, Joseph Edward Holdsworth also appears to have taken possession of Little Hallingbury Mill, near Bishop’s Stortford (now a hotel) at some point. The record states: ‘The property passed to Joseph Edward Holdsworth (a tallow merchant) of Mile End Road who subsequently purchased various additional parcels of land; let or leased to varied tenants for such sums as 4/- (twenty new pence) per annum.’ In his will, Joseph bequeathed the property to the Scrutton family of 8 Gracechurch Street : presumably his daughter Sarah and her husband.

Joseph and Emma had at least one more change of address, as the former died in 1880 at Montfort House, Chigwell Row, Essex. He was buried at Abney Park, the Nonconformist cemetery in north London. He was 77. In 1881 Emma, who described herself in the census as a ‘gentlewoman’, was still living at Monfort House, with her son Henry, 34, an oil merchant (did he take over his father’s business?), and daughter Margaret, 27, another gentlewoman. They also had a cook and a housemaid, and a visitor named Walter Mart, a clerk. Next door was Montfort House Lodge, the home of (the Holdsworths’?) gardener, Alfred Freshwater, his wife and son.

Ten years later Emma was living with her daughter Margaret and her husband, violin maker Herman Eisenmann (they had married in Sydenham in 1885), and their children in Streatham. She was still living with them in St. Leonard’s, Sussex in 1901, but died later in that same year.

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