The Greene family of Ratcliff Highway in the 17th century

My last post was about the will of William Greene, mariner of Upper Shadwell, who died in 1634. I can’t prove it yet, but I believe that this William Greene is related in some way to my ancestor Captain William Greene, mariner of Ratcliff, who died about fifty years later. In this post, I’ll report on my research into the family of the earlier William Greene, which was prompted by my discovery of his will.

In his will of 1634, William Greene – who describes himself as ‘the elder’ – leaves money to two surviving sons, William (presumably ‘the younger’) and Bartholomew, both of them also mariners. He also leaves a legacy to his grandchildren ‘being the sons and daughters of my three sons’, suggesting that he had another son who was no longer living.

William Greene the elder gives his wife’s name as Elizabeth. It’s possible that she was the Elizabeth Baker who married a William Greene at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney on 14 January 1595 (when Elizabeth I was still Queen of England).

I’ve been unable to find any record of the births of William and Elizabeth Greene’s children. In fact, the only one of their sons for whom we have fairly reliable information is Bartholomew.  On 5 June 1628 (three years after the accession of Charles I), ‘Bartholomew Greene of Ratcliff mariner’ married Anne Linage ‘of the same, maid’. Assuming that men of the time were usually married by their early twenties, this would date Bartholomew’s birth to around the middle of the first decade of the century. I can’t prove that he was the son of William Greene of Upper Shadwell, but it seems fairly likely.

Bartholomew and Anne Greene had three children that we know of. Their son William was christened at St Dunstan’s on 10 October 1630, while their daughter Sara was christened at the same church on 21 April 1633, and on 19 June 1636 their son Bartholomew was baptised there. All three records confirm Bartholomew’s occupation as a mariner and his place of residence as Ratcliff: the record for Bartholomew junior is even more specific, giving the family’s address as Ratcliff Highway.

St Paul Shadwell

This second Bartholomew is almost certainly the ‘Bartholomew Greene of Ratcliff Mariner’ who married Martha Ballard, ‘mayde’, at St Mary Whitechapel on 7 December 1659 (at the tail-end of Cromwell’s Commonwealth). If it is indeed the same person, then he would have been 23 years old at the time.

Bartholomew and Martha had eight children for whom we have records. Bartholomew Greene, ‘sonne of Bartholomew Greene of Wapping mariner’, was buried at St Dunstan’s church on 3 June 1662; Frances Greene was buried on 17 June 1664; and Martha Greene was buried a month later on 14 July 1664: the family’s address is given in these last two records as Ratcliff Highway. (Note: the Great Plague was at its height in 1665; the Great Fire of London occurred in 1666). James Greene was christened at St Dunstan’s on 28 June 1668. The family’s address is now given as Shadwell, but I’d suggest that, since these locations are very close together, they probably refer to the same place (see map in last post). Sadly James died a year later and was buried on 22 October 1669.

The births of Bartholomew and Martha Greene’s remaining four children were registered at Stepney Independent Chapel: another Martha on 6 August 1670; Elizabeth on 12 August 1673; a third Martha (indicating that the second child of that name also died in infancy) on 22 January 1674, though she was buried at St Paul Shadwell on 6 April 1675 ; and Mary on 1 February 1675.

Stepney Meeting House in 1783

Stepney Independent Chapel, also known as the Stepney Meeting, was located in Bull Lane, close to Stepney Green and St Dunstan’s church.  It was built in 1674, though the congregation had been formed in 1644.

At least two of my Holdsworth ancestors (who would be linked to the Greenes when Elizabeth, great-granddaughter of Captain William Greene, married Joseph Holdsworth in 1763) would later be associated with the Stepney Meeting. Joseph Edward Holdsworth (1802 – 1880) was certainly a member of the Meeting, and Eliza Holdsworth (1798 – 1900) was a domestic servant in the household of Rev Joseph Fletcher, Independent minister at Stepney Green from 1822 to 1842.

Bartholomew Greene of Upper Shadwell, Mariner, died in 1676 and was buried at St Paul Shadwell on 11 April. He was 40 years old.

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