The Blanch family in 1818

Ancestry has just added some useful new records – from UK poll books and electoral registers between 1538 and 1893. Searching this archive for evidence of my Blanch ancestors, I came across this entry:

This listing can be found under the heading ‘London and Vicinity’ in the poll book for the 1818 general election in the City of Gloucester. The geographical discrepancy can be explained by the fact that, at this date, freemen of the city were allowed to vote in Gloucester elections. According to British History Online:

The expense of contested elections was much increased by the cost of tracing and canvassing the large number of outvoters, Gloucester freemen living in other parts of the country: of the 1,579 freemen who voted in 1816, only 562 lived in the city.

The same website notes that it was only with the Reform Act of 1832 that ‘freemen living more than seven miles from the city’ were disenfranchised, and that from that time only freemen qualifying by birth or apprenticeship were qualified to vote.

In an earlier post I reported my discovery that my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Blanch (1755 – 1840) was created a freeman of the city of Gloucester in 1789, at the same time as his brothers Thomas and William.  I also noted that in 1816 James’ son Thomas and Thomas’ son Alfred were made freemen. At the time, both of their fathers were living in Great Saffron Hill, Holborn.

Saffron Hill in the mid 19th century

James Blanch, patten maker of Hatton Wall, who is mentioned in this 1818 register, is almost certainly my 4 x great grandfather, while Alfred Blanch, patten maker of Saffron Hill, must be his nephew. As for the other names, I would suggest that Thomas Blanch, patten maker of Hatton Wall, could be either James’ brother or his son of that name.

Hatton Wall ran east to west between Saffron Hill and Leather Lane (see the map in this post). It was the western end of a road that bisected Saffron Hill, dividing Great from Little Saffron Hill. The eastern end was made up of Vine Street and Mutton Hill. James’ son Thomas would marry Ann Akerman Fletcher in 1820 and they would live first in Mutton Hill and then in Widnells Place, which ran off it.

The shared address in Hatton Wall may make it more likely that the Thomas Blanch living there was James’ son, rather than his brother (but see below). As for the John Blanch listed in the register, I wonder if this was another of James’ sons, my great-great-great-grandfather? After all, we know that he worked for most of his life as a shoemaker. In 1818 John would have been about eighteen years old: would he have been old enough to vote, or to be made a freeman? So far, I’ve found no record indicating that he was a freeman of the city of Gloucester, like his older brother Thomas (who would have been 21 in 1818). But if this is not him, then who is it?

As for Thomas Blanch, patten maker of Stepney: his occupation, and the fact that he is a freeman of Gloucester, makes it almost certain that he is a relative of the other members of the Blanch family listed here. I would suggest that he is either James’ son, or if not, then his brother. The last record that we have for the latter, before this one, is from two years earlier, when his son Alfred was made a freeman and Thomas was living at Great Saffron Hill. Could he have moved to Stepney in the intervening period?

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney

So far, I’ve found no further records of a Thomas Blanch in Stepney to indicate which Thomas this might be. However, we do know that ‘our’ Blanch family already had ties to Stepney at this date. Five years before, in 1813, James Blanch’s son, James junior, had married Sarah Empson at St Dunstan’s, Stepney: at the time, both were said to be residents of Mile End Old Town. In the following year, James would be convicted of theft while working as a Custom House Officer and transported to Australia. Three years after the Gloucester election, Sophia, James senior’s wife, would die and be buried at St Dunstan’s: she, too, was said to be a resident of Mile End Old Town, which suggests that she and James had moved there some time in the intervening period. (One wonders if their daughter-in-law Sarah lived with them, until she was able to join James junior in Australia in 1822?). In 1825 another Blanch son, William Henry, would marry Martha Sarah Stokes in nearby Limehouse, while two years later John (my 3 x great grandfather) would marry Keziah Holdsworth at the same location and set up home, initially in Mile End Old Town and later in Bethnal Green. Finally, when James himself passed away in 1840, he would be buried at St Dunstan’s (presumably alongside his wife Sophia), even though he died at the King Street, Soho, home of his son David.

There may be another reason for the Blanch family’s links with the Stepney area. Sophia Blanch’s maiden name was Atkins and it’s possible that she was the person of that name who was born in Bromley St Leonard in 1778, the daughter of maltster Joseph Atkins and his wife Anne Cartwright. My fellow researcher and distant relative Robin Blanch has discovered that Joseph was christened at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, in 1737 and the Atkins family seem to have had a strong connection with that parish. Perhaps, in moving to Stepney some time between 1818 and 1821, James and Sophia Blanch were moving close to the latter’s family and returning to the area where she grew up?

While containing no startling new revelations, the 1818 electoral register adds to our knowledge of James Blanch’s life in a couple of ways. We already knew from his children’s christening records that he and his family were living in Saffron Hill in 1802, and then in nearby York Street in 1805, 1807 and 1810 and that he was also in Great Saffron Hill when his son Thomas became a freeman in 1816. Now we know that, by 1818, James had moved to Hatton Wall, on the other side of Saffron Hill from York Street. We also learn from this record that in 1818, when he would have been 63 years old, James Blanch was still working as a patten maker.

Robert Bransby Cooper

There were three candidates for the Gloucester constituency in the general election of 1818: Edward Webb and Maurice Frederick Berkeley, both Whigs, and Robert Bransby Cooper, a Tory. Cooper was elected with Webb, while Berkeley was unsuccessful. If I read the electoral register correctly, then all of my Blanch ancestors voted for Cooper, which is surprising, given James Blanch’s votes for Whigs and radicals in earlier elections. The fact that they all voted for the same candidate is perhaps further confirmation that they belonged to the same family, or possibly evidence of successful long-distance campaigning (or patronage?) by Cooper.

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