Susannah McClatchie, a Nonconformist midwife in Georgian London

Thanks to the assiduous research of my distant relative and fellow family historian Ron Roe, we have a copy of the birth record for my great great great grandmother, Eliza Holdsworth:

The record reads as follows:

These are to Certify, that Elizar Holdsworth, Daughter of William Holdsworth and Lydia Holdsworth his Wife, who was daughter of Francis and Elizabeth Evens, was Born in Mile End road in the parish of Stepney and Mile end in the Hamlet of mile End old town in the County of Middlesex the Nineteenth Day of April in the Year Eighteen hundred and one at whose Birth we were present.

Susanh McClatchie  Midwife

Sarah Parker

There’s a similar record for the birth of Eliza’s older sister Phoebe, whose story I explored in an earlier post. Phoebe was born on 19th December 1796 in Marmaduke Street in the parish of St. George’s in the East and the witnesses on this occasion were Elizabeth Holdsworth (almost certainly Phoebe’s mother) and the midwife, Susannah McClatchie once again.

Both births were registered on the same day: 25th September 1805, by Thomas Morgan, at Dr. Williams’s Library, Redcross Street, near Cripplegate, London. The General Register of Protestant Dissenters was originally held at the library but is now in the National Archives. The inclusion of the births of Eliza and Phoebe Holdsworth in the Register confirms the family’s Nonconformist identity. From other sources, we know that their parents, William and Lydia Holdsworth, were members of Little Alie Street Baptist Meeting in Whitechapel (see this post).

I’m unsure of the precise identity of the Sarah Parker who witnessed Eliza’s birth. As mentioned in an earlier post, there are multiple connections between the Holdsworths and the Parkers, but none of the Sarah Parkers that I’ve come across so far would have been alive at this date.

Noticing that she was named as the midwife at both births, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about Susannah McClatchie. Researching neighbours and associates can be a useful, if indirect means of throwing light on the circumstances of one’s ancestors lives. It turns out that the McClatchies, like the Holdsworths, were Dissenters, though I’m uncertain whether they were Baptists or belonged to the same congregation.

Susannah was born Susannah Hunter, in 1734, the daughter of Thomas Hunter and his wife Mary. She was baptised at St. Katharine Creechurch in Leadenhall Street, London. She married Alexander McClatchie in 1753 at the church of St. Margaret Pattens in Eastcheap. They had nine children: William (1753), James (1756), Mary (1758), Susannah (1761), Alexander (1762), Ann (1763), Jane (1765), Martha (1768),  and Elizabeth (1777). All of these children were born in the parish of St Gabriel Fenchurch: the church of this name was destroyed in the Great Fire and the parish was united with that of St Margaret Pattens. We know that the McClatchies were Nonconformists, since the births of all of these children were recorded (like those of Phoebe and Eliza Holdsworth) in the Protestant Dissenters Registry.

If my information is correct, then Susannah McClatchie would have been around 70 years old when she delivered Phoebe and Eliza. We know that the person named on the birth record is not her daughter Susannah, since she was married by this date (to Thomas Bros) and so her surname would have changed. I’ve yet to come across a record of Susannah senior’s death.

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