Jane Robb and George Forbes

At the end of my last post about George Robb (1806 – 1879) and his wife Jane Sharp Thomson (1814 – 1884), I mentioned that I had discovered new information about their daughter Jane. Until recently, I assumed that the last record we had for Jane was the 1851 census, when, aged 17, she was living with her parents and siblings in Hope Street, Glasgow.

I had thought that, unlike her brother George and sister Penelope, Jane did not follow her parents when they retired to Essex some time before 1861, as she appeared to be absent from all the census records for the family from that date onwards. I wondered if she had stayed in Glasgow and married there, or perhaps (like so many of her family) she had died at a young age.

In the course of reviewing what I knew about George’s family for the last post, I searched at Scotland’s People for details of a marriage involving a Jane Robb, after 1851. There were a number of possibilities, some of which proved to be obvious dead-ends. However, one marriage looked more likely than the others. On 15 June 1854, George Forbes, a banker in the parish of Marylebone, London, married Jane Robb, residing in Barony parish. The wedding took place at Graham Castle, Ardrossan, and was officiated by Rev. John Thomas Boyle, curate of Trinity church, Ayr. (Two points of interest there: Ardrossan is next door to Saltcoats, where Jane was living with her parents in 1841, and Holy Trinity, Ayr, is an Episcopal church. If the Robbs were Episcopalian, this might explain why their baptisms are absent from the old parish registers.)

Graham's Castle, Ardrossan, in 1972, when it was being used as the town hall

I then searched on Ancestry for census records for George and Jane Forbes, and the first one I found was for Little Friday Hill, Chingford, Essex in the 1861 census: the same address as Jane’s parents. When I first found George and Jane Robb at this address, and saw that the next entry was for George Forbes and his wife Jane, I assumed they were simply next-door neighbours and their Scottish origin was simply a coincidence. Looking at the record again, I realised that these were in fact two households in the same building. One household consisted of George and Jane Robb, their two children George and Penelope, a housemaid and a cook; the other of their daughter Jane, her husband George Forbes, and their housemaid.

The Robbs’ move to Essex might be explained, in fact, by Jane’s marriage to George Forbes, and by the latter’s occupation, since by this date he had risen to the status of Deputy Cashier at the Bank of England.

The Bank of England

I now knew that George Forbes had been born in Scotland: but where? Some further internet searching revealed George to be the son of Rev. Patrick Forbes, D.D. of Aberdeen, and to have been born in 1825. This helped me to find George’s baptismal record. Rev. Dr. Forbes, minister of Old Machar and Professor of Humanity and Chemistry at King’s College, Old Aberdeen, and his spouse Mrs. Mary Glennie, had a son born on 2 January 1825, baptised by the Rev. Dr. Glennie (Mary’s father) in the presence of Dr. Ogilvy, Old Aberdeen, and Dr. Knight, Marischal College.

How did George Forbes, born in Aberdeen and living and working in London by the time of his marriage, meet Jane Robb of Glasgow? The clue might lie in a record from the 1851 census, which finds 24 year old writer’s clerk George Forbes of Aberdeen, lodging at a house in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, just a few minutes’ walk from the Robbs’ home in Hope Street. It’s easy to imagine how a promising writer’s clerk might meet the daughter of a former ‘writer’, a number of whose relatives worked as lawyers and merchants in the neighbouring streets of the city.

George Forbes did not remain Deputy Chief Cashier for long. By the time of the 1871 census, he had attained the enviable position of Chief Cashier of the Bank of England. In fact, he was the first person in that role whose signature and title appeared on bank notes. By that time George and Jane were living at Thornton House in Bromley, Kent. They had no children but could afford to employ a parlourmaid, a housemaid and a cook.

I understand that George may have been ill for some years, and it seems that he and Jane returned to live with her parents, now at Mistley Abbey, Essex, at some point. It was there that George died, at the age of 49, on 25 May 1874. He left effects to the value of less than £1500.

The 1881 census finds his widow Jane, a person of independent means, as a visitor at the Grange, Elstree, Hertfordshire, the home of banker Frank May and his family. May was George Forbes’ successor as Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, holding that position from 1873 until 1893, when he was forced to resign after certain ‘irregularities’ came to light.

I haven’t been able to find out when Jane Forbes nee Robb died.

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2 Responses to Jane Robb and George Forbes

  1. Please get in contact with me via my email address regarding George Forbes who is buried in our village churchyayd.

    Regards
    Nigel

  2. K Sumner says:

    Commemorative plaque in St Machar Cathedral, Aberdeen. I have photo if you wish to contact me.
    K Sumner

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