The Nonconformist burial of Sophia Sarah Blanch

For some time I’ve been trying to find out what became of Sophia Sarah Blanch, who was the sister of my great-great-great-grandfather John Blanch. Both were the children of James Blanch and his second wife Sophia Atkins. Until now, the only record that we’ve had for Sophia is an entry in Pallot’s Baptism Index which notes that ‘Sophia Sarah Blanche’, the daughter of ‘Jas Blanche’ and ‘Sophia Blanche’, was christened at St Anne, Soho in 1799. According to the International Genealogical Index, Sophia was born on 2 February and baptised on 2 September.

The quest for further information about Sophia has come to nothing – until now. Searching the IGI today, I came across a burial record that seems to match what we know of Sophia, and at the same time throws important light both on the religious affiliation of the Blanch family, and on their movements around London.

Spa Fields Chapel, Clerkenwell

A Sophia Blanch, aged one year and six months, was buried at the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel in Spa Fields, Clerkenwell, on 21 August 1800. These details certainly match ‘our’ Sophia, but what makes it virtually certain that this is the right person is her abode: the parish of St Andrews (Holborn). Two years later my ancestor John Blanch would be born there, in Saffron Hill, as would his younger brothers William, Joseph and David. This new record confirms that the Blanch family moved from Soho to Holborn some time between Sophia’s baptism and her early death – in other words, in late 1799 or early 1800.

It also provides evidence, for the first time, that this branch of the Blanch family, at least, were Nonconformists. I’ve had occasion to mention the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel before: interestingly, the first sign of Nonconformity in my father’s family, the Robbs, is the burial there in 1840 of two-year-old Fanny Margaret Monteith Robb, daughter of my great-great-grandparents William and Fanny. Founded in the 1760s, the Spa Fields chapel was adjacent to the Countess’ home and was a key site for the Methodist revival.

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon

Although this is the first piece of evidence connecting the Blanch family with Nonconformity, this affiliation would certainly fit with our existing knowledge of them. For example, John Blanch married Keziah Holdsworth, whose cousin Eliza (my great –great-great-grandmother) was a Baptist, as were her parents William and Lydia.

Footnote: 13.07.11

When I posted this, I’d temporarily forgotten that my fellow researcher Robin Blanch first alerted me to this record concerning Sophia Blanch a few months ago. Robin was passing on information from Jan Addison, a Blanch family contact in Australia.

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