James Blanch and William Barlow in the Westminster pollbooks

Following on from my last post: I’m going to assume for now that my great-great-great-grandfather John Blanch (1801-1870) was the son of James and Sophia Blanch. Sophia Atkins was James’ second wife: they were married on 21 March 1792 at the church of St Anne, Soho.

Part of the parish of St Anne's, Soho, from Horwood's map of 1792

James Blanch’s first wife was Jane Barlow: their marriage took place at the same church thirteen years earlier, on 5 September 1779. I’m grateful to Jan Addison, my fellow researcher and a descendant of John’s brother William Henry Blanch, for sending me some interesting new information about Jane Barlow’s family.

The record of her marriage to James Blanch states that Jane was ‘of this parish’, and it seems likely that she was the daughter born to William and Elizabeth Barlow on 23 January 1752 and christened at St Anne’s on 9 February that year.

Some confirmation of this comes in the voting records that Jan has unearthed via the excellent London Lives website. Among the resources that can be searched at this site are pollbooks from Westminster elections between 1749 and 1820. These enable you to see not only which of your London ancestors were able to vote (the franchise was limited to male householders), but also the names of the candidates for whom they voted.

Early 19th century wood and metal pattens (via echostains.wordpress.com)

In the General Election of 1774, we read that William Barlow, a patten maker of Compton Street in the parish of St Anne, Soho (see map above), voted for Hervey Redmond, Viscount Mountmorres and Charles Mahon, Earl Stanhope. I understand that both of these men tended towards the liberal, reforming end of the Georgian political spectrum. As for William’s occupation, apparently pattens were ‘under-shoes of wood and metal which were worn strapped beneath the shoes to raise the wearer out of the mud and effluence of the streets.’ However, ‘with the advent of paved streets and efficient sewerage and drainage systems in the 19th century, there was no longer any need for pattens and the trade floundered.’

The Westminster election of 1784

In the election of 1780, James Blanch, also a patten maker of Compton Street, voted for the radical Whig politician Charles James Fox. In 1784, when still at the same address, he hedged his bets and voted for both the Tory Samuel Hood and the Whig Sir Cecil Wray. By the time of the 1790 election, James was living in Cross Lane in the parish of St Martin in the Fields: on this occasion he voted for the controversial politician John Horne Tooke.

John Horne Tooke

Besides providing an insight into their political opinions, these records also tell us that James Blanch and William Barlow followed the same occupation, and that they lived in the same street. This in turn makes it more likely that William was James’ father-in-law.  I wonder if James was William’s apprentice? Apparently about 20 – 30% of apprentices married their master’s daughter.

William Barlow, patten maker of St Anne, Soho, died in 1779. Jan Addison has purchased a copy of his will, which she has kindly shared with me. It’s a long document that provides a great deal of new information about the Barlow family. I’ll reproduce my transcription of the will in my next post.

I find all of this new information extremely interesting, not only for what it tells us about the Blanch and Barlow families. It’s also fascinating to see my own family’s history intersecting with the wider political and social history of the late eighteenth century, in which I have a particular interest. And I’m also intrigued by the coincidental links with the history of my father’s family (I’m descended from John Blanch on my mother’s side). My great-great-grandfather, stationer’s clerk William Robb, also lived in Compton Street, albeit half a century later than James Blanch, and his son, my great-grandfather Charles Edward Robb was actually born there, in January 1851.

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