What can we learn from the will of Mary Catherine Gibson?

My last post included a transcription of the will of Mary Catherine Gibson (1781 – 1826), widow of Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817). What can we learn from this will about the lives of the Gibson family in the early decades of the 19th century?

When Bowes John Gibson was buried at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, in August 1817, the family was still living in Mile End Old Town, presumably in the house on Mile End Road that I wrote about last week. It seems likely that his widow Mary Catherine moved soon afterwards to the address in the recently-built Claremont Place, on the edge of fashionable Bloomsbury.

Bloomsbury, from Greenwood's 1827 map, with Claremont Place visible close to top left, off Judd Street

None of Bowes John Gibson’s children from his first marriage to Elizabeth Hendly are mentioned in their stepmother’s will. Bowes’ eldest daughter Esther had been married since 1790 and by now had at least two children; Major George Milsom Gibson had died in India in 1814, predeceasing his father; and Major General John Thomas Gibson would have been married with children and also serving in India by this time. I don’t know what became of Bowes’ and Elizabeth’s other children, or indeed whether any of them would still have been living.

Mary’s will also fails to mention two of her own children with Bowes John Gibson: Eliza, born in 1798, and James Charles, 1800. We have to assume that this is because neither of them survived. Of the children mentioned in the will, Edward Gibson, born in 1798, would have been 28 years old at the time of his mother’s death. William Henry and Elizabeth, both born in 1803, would have been 23. Emily, born in 1805, would have been 21 – so just old enough to act as executrix of her mother’s will. Matilda, born in 1809, would have been 17, and Bowes Charles, born in 1817, would have been 9.

The property in (Little) Distaff Lane, referred to in the will, is presumably the ‘sugar house’ mentioned in the wills of another Mary Gibson, the mother of Bowes John Gibson, and of his sister Sarah, drawn up in 1788 and 1789 respectively. We have to assume that the property passed to Bowes, and thence to his wife Mary.

It’s interesting that Mary names her 21-year-old daughter Emily as executrix, alongside Richard Aldridge of Clayhall, Tottenham. This prompts the question as to why none of her older children – Edward, William or Elizabeth – was asked to fulfil this role. And why a non-family member as co-executor? My first thought was that perhaps Richard and Emily were engaged to be married, but I’ve failed to find a marriage record that might confirm this. However, I did come across a baptismal record for an Emily Aldridge, born in June, 1827, in Tottenham, to Richard Aldridge, ‘gent’, and his wife Elizabeth. Perhaps it was Emily’s sister Elizabeth that he married, then? Well, yes – but not until some years later. There’s a record from March 1842 of the marriage, at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, between Richard Aldridge, a widower and shipowner, and Elizabeth Gibson, spinster, and daughter of Bowes John Gibson ‘gent’. Elizabeth would have been 39 by this time. Richard is said to be the son of another Richard Aldridge: I suppose the executor of Mary Gibson’s 1826 will could have been either father or son? Further research is needed to ascertain the precise nature of the links between the Aldridges and the Gibsons.

I’ve discovered more information about the two youngest Gibson children, Matilda Henrietta and Bowes Charles, which I’ll share in another post. To date, I’ve been unable to find out any more about Emily, Edward or William Henry.  However, in my search for information about the latter, I came across an interesting coincidence. A record of the baptism of William Henry Gibson, which took place on 9 March 1803, can be found in the Stepney parish register, on the facing page to the record of the christening of Edward Porter Holdsworth, son of cordwainer William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia. William was, of course, my 4 x great grandfather, son of Elizabeth Holdsworth, nee Gibson, who was the sister of Bowes John Gibson. This means that the two Williams were actually first cousins.  Whether the two families were in contact, or were even aware that they were living in the same parish, is impossible to determine. But the contrast between the newborn William Henry, son of a wealthy broker, and his shoemaker cousin serves to highlight the very different fortunes of these two branches of the same family.

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