John and Susannah Blanch of Cripplegate and Holborn

In my last post I wrote about Daniel Blanch, a leather seller in early 18th century Clerkenwell, who I suspect might be connected in some way my own Blanch ancestors. My searches through the records have also turned up another Blanch family in the same area at around the same time. Labourer John Blanch was originally from the parish of St Giles Cripplegate, but he spent much of his adult life in the Holborn / Clerkenwell area.

St Giles Cripplegate

On 23 June 1720, John Blanch and Frances Snow, both of Cripplegate, were married (like Daniel Blanch, who was married there three or possibly four times) at the Fleet Prison. It’s possible that John was the person of that name christened at St Giles Cripplegate on 14 April 1700 : he was the son of shipwright William Blanch and his wife Sarah. I’ve yet to find a convincing birth or baptismal record for Frances.

As far as I can tell, John and Frances Blanch only had one child, Thomas, who was christened at St Giles on 6 January 1722. Frances died in 1723 and was buried almost a year to the day from her son’s baptism, on 5 January 1723. (On 5 October that year, a child by the name of John Blanch, son of another John, was buried at St Giles Cripplegate: he died of convulsions. This might refer to another child of John and Frances: but John senior is referred to here as a ‘gent’, which hardly seems compatible with his occupation of ‘labourer’ in the previous year’s record.)

Left with a young son, John Blanch remarried a year and a half later, on 13 July 1724, once again at the Fleet Prison. His second wife was Susannah Golen, about whom I’ve been able to discover very little, despite her distinctive surname (which may, of course, be a misspelling).  The register again describes John as a labourer of St Giles Cripplegate, but Susannah was from the nearby parish of St Sepulchre, Holborn, which is where the couple would live and bring up their family.

John and Susannah Blanch’s life together was marked by a succession of tragedies and misfortunes. As far as I can tell, none of their seven children survived to adulthood. Their first child, Mary, was christened at St Sepulchre on 11 June 1725 but was buried there on 1 March 1726. Their second child, John, was christened on 1 June 1728 and buried less than three months later, on 22 August. A third child, Elizabeth, was christened on 9 September 1729 but died on 30 April 1731.

A fourth child, Sarah, baptised on 6 September 1731, appears not to have survived either, since another child with the same name would be born to John and Susannah five years later. For the first time, the parish register tells us where the Blanch family was living: in Sharps Alley, which snaked around the area between Cow Cross and Chick Lane, a little to the east of Saffron Hill (see map in last post). John and Susannah’s fifth child, Charity, was christened on 23 February 1734, the address being given as ‘Cow Cross’ which (as we’ve seen before) was used by the parish clerk to designate the area around this thoroughfare. A second Sarah Blanch was baptised on 28 November, 1736, also at Cow Cross, and the same address was given when John and Susannah’s final child was christened on 17 December 1738.

Two years later, in 1740, John Blanch himself died, in the notorious Blackboy Alley, which connected Sharps Alley with Chick Lane. It was probably his death, and the subsequent loss of income, which threw the family into the Chick Lane workhouse, which is where Charity and Sarah Blanch died, aged 7 and 5 respectively, in 1741. Their younger sister Elizabeth died in the following year, but at least by then the family appears to have been out of the workhouse: their address at the time of her burial is given, once again, as Cow Cross.

Typical housing for the poor in 18th century London

This means that Susannah Blanch had no surviving children of her own when she was widowed: just, possibly, a stepson Thomas from her husband John’s first marriage. On 10 July 1743 Susannah remarried, again at the Fleet, to Daniel Moses, a husbandman. I’ve yet to find any further records of them.

As for Thomas Blanch, it’s just possible that he survived and prospered. The Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices Indentures, now searchable at Ancestry, mentions a Thomas Blanch ‘Citizen and Gold and wire drawer of London’ (wire drawers embroidered with gold and silver thread), master to an apprentice named John Edinbury: the payment date is 1761. I wouldn’t have made the connection with John and Frances Blanch, had I not been exploring Frances’ background and discovered that at least one of the Snows of Cripplegate – Richard, who married Sarah Arnold at the Fleet in 1737 – was also a wire drawer.

Was Richard a relative of the Frances Snow who married John Blanch, perhaps her brother, and is it too fanciful to imagine him taking his orphaned relation – nephew? – under his wing and passing on to him his trade?

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