James Blanch in the London land tax records, 1787-89

The past week has seen another useful addition to Ancestry’s online collection: London land tax records between 1692 and 1832. This makes it possible to identify or confirm the exact addresses for one’s London ancestors – particularly useful for the pre-census period.

I’ve already found a number of my ancestors in these tax records, and I’ll be reporting on my findings in the coming days. My first search was for records of my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Blanch (1755 – 1840). Some time ago, I discovered that, as well as maintaining property in Compton Street, Soho, James also owned a house in Castle Bar or Bear, in Ealing. This was almost certainly part of the inheritance of his first wife, Jane Barlow, from her father William who died in 1779, just before James and Jane were married.

We already knew that James Blanch used Castle Bar as an address, from the records of the Freemen of the City of Gloucester, which inform us that ‘Jas. Blanch, patten-maker, of Castlebar, Ealing, Mdx., son of Thos., patten-maker, of Bristol’ was made a freeman in 1789. The land tax records confirm that James was living in Castle Bar two years earlier, in 1787. He is named as the occupier of a property there, the amount of tax being £1. Curiously, the proprietor is said to be ‘Mr Barlow or Blanch’, but this confusion might be due to the fact that the property formerly belonged to his late father-in-law – or it might have been registered originally to Jane Barlow’s maiden name. There are also records for the same property for 1788, when the proprietor is clearly James himself and the tax is still £1, and for 1789 when the figure is 17s 6d.

The records are useful in confirming that James Blanch’s brother William, who we know (from the Gloucester freemen records) was in Castle Bar in 1789, must have been living with James, since his name is not mentioned in these documents.

These records show that James Blanch’s property was one of only nine in the village of Castle Bar. Three of the proprietors, including James, were plain ‘Mr’, while the others were ‘Esquire’, i.e. fully fledged ‘gentlemen’. I wonder if one of them, Francis Burdett Esq, was the reformist politician of that name? Another neighbour was Mr Thomas Scotland: there was an attorney with that name active in London at this time.

In searching for records about Thomas Scotland, I discovered that he was still in Castle Bear in 1790, whereas James Blanch was no longer there. I wonder why? We know from the Westminster poll books that James’ London address had changed from Compton Street to nearby Cross Lane by this date. We also know that, some time between 1784 and 1792, his first wife Jane died, but we don’t know if there is any connection between this event and his relinquishing the Ealing property.

I’ve yet to find any definite evidence of James Blanch in the land tax records after 1789. If such records could be found, they would help to establish the movements of the Blanch family in the next decade, before they settled in the Holborn area in the late 1790s.

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