Edward Porter, a plumber in 18th century Mile End

Last week I wrote about the will of my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Holdsworth, and her burial in the family vault at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. Elizabeth’s will mentions a number of her children, including her daughter Sarah.

At the time of her mother’s death in 1809, Sarah was married to her second husband, William Parker, who is also mentioned in the will. They had married on 13 August 1803 at St Matthew, Bethnal Green. Sarah’s brother, my 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth, was one of the witnesses.

We know very little about William Parker, except that he came from the parish of St Mary, Whitechapel. Similarly, we have had very little information – until now – about Sarah’s first husband, Edward Porter, whom she had married on 27 August 1786 at St Botolph Without Bishopsgate.

St Botolph Without Bishopsgate

Until recently, all we knew about Edward was that he (like Sarah) was ‘of the parish’ of St. Botolph’s. (We already knew about the Holdsworths’ links with the parish: Sarah’s brother William would marry Lydia Evans at the same church six years later, in 1792.) However, I have now found Edward’s will, which has provided important new information about him and at the same time suggested some intriguing new lines of inquiry concerning the Holdsworth family.

Searching for documents relating to Edward in the National Archives, I came across the will of Edward Porter, a plumber from Mile End. Taking a chance that this might be the right person, I  purchased it. Sure enough, the wife of this Edward Porter was named Sarah, and the will was dated 1799, four years before ‘our’ Sarah’s second marriage to William Parker.  The will must have been composed in expectation of imminent death, probably from a serious illness: it was signed and sealed on 11 September and proven on 29 September. I’ve also found a burial record that matches this information: Edward Porter of Mile End Old Town was buried at St Dunstan’s on 18 September 1799.

Besides Sarah, the will also mentions a child that we weren’t aware of before. Poignantly, in the light of what I later discovered, the writer of the will sets aside the sum of fifty pounds for his son Edward ‘as soon as he attains the age of twenty’. I’ve found a record of this child’s baptism, which took place on 19 March 1794 at St Dunstan, Stepney. The register confirms the parents’ names as Edward and Sarah, the former’s occupation as plumber, and their address as Mile End Old Town. Sadly, there is also a record of the same child’s burial, also at St Dunstan’s, on 25 January 1802, some two years after his father’s death and a year before his mother’s second marriage. Edward Porter junior would have been about five years old when he died. (My 4 x great grandfather, William Holdsworth – Sarah’s brother – would name one of his sons, born a year later in January 1803, Edward Porter Holdsworth: it now appears this could have been in memory of Sarah’s lost child rather than her departed husband.)

Interior of St Dunstan's, Stepney

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Edward Porter junior is his middle name. I found this difficult to read in his father’s will, but in the baptismal record it was crystal clear: Edward and Sarah Porter named their only child Edward Parker Porter. At the very least, this suggests that Sarah Holdsworth’s first and second husbands might have been related: perhaps Edward Porter’s mother was a Parker? But it also provides another possible twist in the longstanding connection between the Holdsworth and Parker families that I described in an earlier post.

Another Sarah Holdsworth, daughter of John Holdsworth (brother of the Sarah who married Edward Porter and William Parker), would marry silk weaver Thomas Parker in 1821. Their son, another Thomas Parker, would marry Eliza Roe, daughter of Daniel Roe and Eliza Holdsworth in 1853.

To add to this already complicated relationship between the Holdsworths and Parkers, it now looks as though the two marriages of the earlier Sarah Holdsworth might both have been to members of the Parker family. Whether (as I suspect) Edward Porter and William Parker were related to Thomas Parker, and if so, the precise nature of their relationship, remains to be determined.

St Mary, Whitechapel

Edward Porter’s marriage record describes him as being of the parish of St Botolph Bishopsgate, and he would need to have been born before 1770 to have married Sarah Holdsworth in 1786. I haven’t found a matching birth in that parish, but there are several possibilities in neighbouring parishes, including St Mary’s Whitechapel, coincidentally the home parish of Sarah’s second husband William Parker. Plenty of material there for future research.

Footnote

When I wrote the above, I had forgotten that Sarah Holdsworth’s younger brother, Godfrey, was also a plumber in Mile End Old Town. The earliest record mentioning this occupation is from 1796, when Godfrey’s first-born son John was christened, but it’s possible that he was working as a plumber before this date and that he worked with or for his brother-in-law Edward Porter. Godfrey worked as a plumber until at least 1811 (when his last child was born), and at least one record indicates that he combined this with work as a glazier.

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