The children of Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817)

A few days ago I reported my discovery of a new ancestor – Bowes John Gibson, younger brother of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, and son of my 6 x great grandparents John and Mary Gibson. As noted in my last few posts, finding out about Bowes John has led to other discoveries about the Gibsons and has helped me to solve some of the mysteries surrounding this branch of my family tree.

In the course of those other discoveries, I’ve found out more about Bowes John Gibson himself, and particularly about his children, to the extent that the information in my first post about him is now seriously deficient. In this post, I want to update what we now know about him and his family, in chronological order.

Bowes John Gibson was born at Tower Hill, London in 1744 and christened on 7 November at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate. Six years earlier, his parents John and Mary had been given the property of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey, Essex, by Mary’s mother. So it’s likely that Bowes John, like his older siblings, spent some of his childhood on this country estate to the north of London.

The next definite date we have for Bowes John is his marriage to Elizabeth Hendry at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 13 October 1766: he would have been 21 or 22 years old at the time. I’ve found records of at least ten children born to Bowes John and Elizabeth Gibson. I say ‘at least’ because I haven’t yet found a baptismal record for his son Edmund Affleck Gibson, the godson of Bowes John’s younger sister Sarah, who is mentioned in her will of 1788.

The couple’s eldest child was Esther, christened at St Dunstan’s in August 1767. However, by the time their daughter Ann was born four years later, the Gibsons were living in Long Walk, Bermondsey, and the child was baptised at the church of St Mary Magdalen. Bowes John Gibson’s unusual first name seems to have inspired him to give similarly original names to some of his children: a son by the name of Grey Dockley Gibson was christened at the same church on 10 July 1774. Another son, with the more conventional name of John Gibson, was baptised there two years later on 21 July 1776.

Bermondsey, from Horwood's 1792 map, with Long Walk visible below parish church and close to Bermondsey Square

A daughter by the name of Mary Ann was christened at St Mary Magdalen on 28 February 1780. Just over a year later, on 15 April 1781, Bowes John and Elizabeth Gibson had another son baptised there. His name, which is very faint in the original, has been transcribed at Ancestry as ‘Silvamens’, which sounds too eccentric even for this family. A closer examination of the register seems to indicate two forenames, but I’ve laboured in vain to decipher them (see image below: all suggestions gratefully received).

The names of the Gibson’s next-born son, George Milsom, are much clearer in his christening record for 7 January 1782, also in Bermondsey. By the time his younger brother John Thomas Gibson was born three and a half years later, the family was back in Mile End Old Town and the child was baptised at St Dunstans on 13 September 1785. Matilda Ann Gibson was christened at the same church on 8 October 1787, as was a son by the name of Carleton on 17 May 1790. (The latter may have been named after Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Carleton, the British Army officer who led the eponymous raid of 1778 against American revolutionary forces and was presumably something of a national hero: he died in Quebec in 1787.)

Carleton Gibson is the last child associated with Bowes John Gibson’s wife Elizabeth, who probably died in 1793. However, some confusion surrounds the next two children of Bowes John, both of them christened at St Matthew, Bethnal Green, on 28 October 1797. Edward Gibson was said to have been born on 15 November 1796, while his sister Eliza was born on 1 October 1798. Both were said to be the children of Bowes John and Mary Gibson. However, Bowes John wouldn’t marry his second wife Mary Catherine Bretman (at the same church where these baptisms took place) until 6 April 1799.

Besides Edward and Eliza, Bowes John and Mary Gibson would have another six children, all born in Mile End Old Town and baptised at St Dunstan, Stepney. James Charles was christened in October 1800, William Henry in March 1803, Elizabeth in 1804, Emily in 1805, Matilda Henrietta in 1810, and Bowes Charles in 1817.

Bowes John Gibson died in August 1817, at the age of 73, barely a month after the christening of his youngest son. It’s unclear how many of his eighteen or so children survived to adulthood. Certainly, only a handful are mentioned in Bowes John’s will of 1804, namely Esther (now married to Thomas Lay), George Milsom (described as his eldest son still living from his first marriage) and John Thomas.

In another post, I’ll set down what we know about the surviving children of Bowes John Gibson.

A footnote on the Gibsons in Bermondsey

From the above records, we can conclude that Bowes John Gibson and his family were definitely resident at Long Walk, Bermondsey, between 1771 and 1782. Interestingly, Bowes John’s nephew, John William Bonner, was living in Bermondsey Buildings, a few streets away, from 1782 to 1784, and perhaps longer.

This Bermondsey connection might help to explain why my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson married her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth, at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, in May 1763 – a choice of location that until now has seemed quite random, given Joseph’s residence in South Weald, Essex, and Elizabeth’s birth in Aldgate and first marriage to John Collins of Epping.

Given that marriages normally took place in the bride’s parish, it might indicate a Gibson family home in Bermondsey, to which Elizabeth returned on the death of her first husband – and which later made it the natural place for both her younger brother Bowes John and her nephew John William Bonner to establish their families.

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