The Gibson family after the death of John Gibson

In the last post I produced a timeline for my maternal 6 x great grandfather, John Gibson (1699 – 1763), updated to include what I’ve discovered recently about his work as a coal factor and his imprisonment for fraud. John died in early 1763, in the third year of the reign of King George III, and was buried on 20th February at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. In this post, I want to explore what became of the Gibson family in the years following John’s death.

John Gibson was 64 years old when he died, while his widow Mary Gibson née Greene was 52. As I noted in the previous post, John’s appeal to Parliament for his release from prison mentions nine children, though I have only found records for seven. Of these, we know that Mary, born in 1730, had died by the time her mother wrote her will in 1788 (or at least, she is not mentioned in the will). Of John and Mary Gibson’s remaining six children three were already married, one was widowed, and two others were still single in early 1763.

When her father died, Jane, the eldest Gibson daughter, was 32 years old and had been married for eleven years to William Coates of Theydon Mount, Essex, which was a short distance from the Gibsons’ country estate at Woodredon, Waltham Abbey. They had three young children – William, 7, John, 6, and Jane, 5 – all of them christened in Epping, though we can’t be absolutely sure where they were living in 1763.

Old map (date unknown) showing Epping and Woodredon

My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth, John and Mary Gibson’s second surviving daughter, was almost 30 years old when her father died. She had married another Essex landowner, John Collins of Epping, twelve years earlier. We know that John and Elizabeth Collins had at least one child – a daughter, Frances, born in Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, Aldgate, in 1759. Some time between that date and early 1763, and almost certainly before John Gibson’s death, Elizabeth’s husband John Collins died, though a record of his death has yet to come to light.

Elizabeth’s younger sister Frances was 28 years old when her father died and had been married to mariner Michael Bonner for two years. They had a one-year-old son, John William, also born in Darby Street.

Another Gibson sister, Ann, had been married for 11 years to Charles Gottfried Schwartz when her father died, though since we have no further records for them, it’s impossible to say where they were living in 1763, or whether they had any children. However, if my theory is correct – that the John Godfrey Schwartz who would marry Frances Collins (daughter of Ann’s sister Elizabeth) was their son – then he would probably have been born by this time.

As for the two younger Gibson children, Bowes John Gibson would have been 19 years old when his father died. He wouldn’t marry for another three years, but we have no way of knowing if he was still living at home. Nor do we know whether he was already working for the East India Company, for which he would in time become a broker and auctioneer. Perhaps at this stage he was still apprenticed, possibly to a London merchant, as other male members of his family would be?  The Gibsons’ youngest child, Sarah, was only 17 when her father died: she never married and appears to have lived with her mother until the latter’s death.

Section from Rocque’s 1746 map, showing Rosemary Lane, with Darby Street running off it towards Aldgate churchyard

Turning to the question of where the Gibsons were living at the time of John’s death: my current theory is that their home was in Darby Street (see map above). This was where Frances Collins was born in 1759 and John William Bonner in 1762, suggesting either that their mothers continued living at home after their respective marriages, or that they returned home temporarily for the births of their children.

Darby Street was also the address of Mary Greene, mother of the widowed Mary Gibson, in August 1763 when she was declared bankrupt – thanks to her late son-in-law’s creditors pursuing her for his debts. As a widow herself of 80 or so years, it would not be surprising to find her living with her daughter and son-in-law. There is just one note of doubt introduced by this record, however: the bankruptcy notice states that Mary Greene was ‘late of Darby Street’. Does this mean that she, or perhaps the whole Gibson family, had left this address by the summer of 1763?

Three months to the day after her father’s funeral, on 20th May 1763, Elizabeth Collins née Gibson would get married for a second time, to Yorkshire-born Essex farmer Joseph Holdsworth. Why the marriage took place at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, is something of a mystery. However, the parish would later become home to Elizabeth’s sister Frances and her husband Michael Bonner, and also to her brother Bowes John Gibson – so perhaps there was already a family connection with the place? Whatever the truth of the matter, we know that after their marriage Elizabeth and Joseph Holdsworth made their home in South Weald, where their first daughter, Elizabeth, would be born in the following year. Presumably Frances, Elizabeth’s daughter Frances from her first marriage to John Collins, who would have been only four years old at the time, moved with her to Essex.

Old map of South Weald, Essex (date unknown)

It was in May, 1764, fifteen months after John Gibson’s death, that his widow Mary drew up a ‘declaration instead of a true and perfect inventory’ of her late husband’s goods and chattels. Among other things, we learn from this document that Mary’s mother, Mary Greene, was still alive at this date, and still being pursued by John Gibson’s creditors for the equipment from his brewing business in Rosemary Lane. I’m not absolutely sure when Mary Greene died, though I’ve found a burial record for a ‘Mary Green’, widow of Joseph Green, on 21st October 1765. The only drawback is that this burial occurred in the parish of St Mary, Hillingdon: perhaps this was where Mary was born and other members of her family were interred? Certainly, there is no definite evidence that Mary was buried in the Greene family tomb at Stepney: the inscriptions on the tomb there mention her late husband Joseph and three of their children, but there is no direct reference to Mary or to the date of her death.

If Mary Greene did die in about 1765 (and she must certainly have been a great age by that time), then this might have been the cue for her daughter Mary Gibson to sell the family home in Aldgate and move east to the suburb of Mile End Old Town. Certainly, there are records of a Mary Gibson paying land tax in Mile End Old Town in 1766. We know that Sir John, later Baron Henniker, ‘began to acquire’ the manor of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey, Essex, from the Gibsons in 1764, a process that would not be completed until after Mary Gibson’s death. Perhaps the proceeds from the early stages of this sale enabled Mary to buy her house in Mile End Old Town? We also know from her will that Mary continued to own premises in Little Distaff Lane in the City of London, from which she would have been in receipt of rents.

As local historian Derek Morris makes clear, Mile End Old Town in the late eighteenth century was a genteel, semi-rural suburb with a population that included a number of wealthy merchants and masters of Livery Companies: ‘Many families were linked to the coastal shipping trade and the major trading companies such as the Hudson Bay Company and the East India Company and to Trinity House’. I would suggest that Mary moved to Mile End with her unmarried children, Bowes John and Sarah, shortly after her mother’s death. It seems likely that her daughter Frances Bonner and her family had also moved out of the family home, if that is indeed where they had been living, by this date. Certainly by the time Frances’ second son, Michael, was christened in October 1768, the Bonners were living in Bird Street in the parish of St George-in-the-East.

Section of Horwood’s 1792 map, showing Mile End Old Town

A move by the Gibson family some time between 1763 and 1766 would explain why Bowes John Gibson gave Mile End Old Town as his address when he married Elizabeth Hendley on 13th October 1766, and why the marriage took place at the church of St Dunstan, Stepney (Elizabeth was from the parish of St Mary, Lambeth). The witnesses were Bowes John’s unmarried younger sister Sarah, and Edmund Affleck, about whose identity I speculated in an earlier post, and after whom Bowes John Gibson would name one of his children.

We know from a database of Mile End Old Town residents that ‘Mr John Bozey Gibson’, described as a ‘gent’, and his wife Elizabeth, occupied a house on the north side of Mile End Road and that, certainly by 1768, his mother Mary was living on the southern side of the same road. There is a note in the record stating that Mary’s was a new house. In that year she was paying land tax of £19, while in the previous year her son was paying £10, suggesting a smaller property. There is also a record from 1768 of a Mary Gibson paying land tax of £18 on a second house in nearby White Horse Lane.

Bowes John and Elizabeth Gibson’s first daughter, Esther, was born in Mile End Old Town and christened at St Dunstan’s church on 8th August 1767. However, by 1771 the family had moved from Mile End to Long Walk, Bermondsey: their second daughter Ann was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene in February of that year. Five more children would be born at the same address and baptised at the same church: Grey Dockley (1774), John (1776), Mary Ann (1780), a son whose name has been transcribed by Ancestry as ‘Silvamens’ but is virtually illegible (1781), and George Milsom (1782) – before the family moved back to Mile End Old Town.

St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey

Meanwhile Elizabeth Holdsworth née Gibson and her husband Joseph were still in South Weald, where the latter held appointments as a parish councillor, overseer of the poor and member of the leet jury. They would have six more children in the next few years, all born in South Weald: John (1765), Henry (1766), Sarah (1767), Joseph (1770), my 4 x great grandfather William (1771), and Godfrey (1773).

We don’t have any information about the whereabouts of Frances and Michael Bonner in the 1770s, except to note that in May 1776 their eldest son John William, then aged 14, was apprenticed to a merchant in Lime Street, London, by the name of Other (?) Winder . It may not be entirely coincidental that, in November of the same year, one G. John Godfrey Schwartz was apprenticed to German merchant Paul Amsinck at Steelyard, London. It’s my belief that the latter was the son of Ann Gibson and Charles Gottfried Schwartz, and that therefore the two young men were cousins. Moreover, I believe that this is the same John Godfrey Schwartz who would marry another of his cousins, Frances Collins, four years later. (To complicate things further: I believe that the John Godfrey Schwartz who would marry John William Bonner’s daughter Mary Ann in 1813 was the son of John Godfrey Schwartz senior and Frances Collins.)

John Godfrey Schwartz married Frances Collins at the church of St Botolph Bishopsgate on 17th Mary 1780, just a few weeks before the Gordon Riots brought mayhem and destruction to the city. Frances, 21, was the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, while John was the son of Elizabeth’s sister Ann and her husband Charles Gottfried Schwartz. John was said to be of the parish of Bishopsgate, while Frances was of the parish of Romford, Essex. I still don’t have a convincing explanation for the latter fact, except to say that Romford was quite close to South Weald, where Frances’ mother Elizabeth was living.

In December 1781, John William Bonner, 19, son of Captain Michael Bonner and Frances Gibson, married Sarah Ford at the church of St Mary Whitechapel. One of the witnesses was the groom’s uncle, Bowes John Gibson. He was also perhaps his neighbour for a time: certainly the newly-married Bonners were living in Bermondsey Buildings when their first child, John Harker Bonner was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene in the following October.

Mile End Old Town and Whitechapel turnpike in 1798

By 1785, however, Bowes John Gibson had moved his family back across the river to Mile End Old Town: his son John Thomas was born there and christened at St Dunstan’s in September of that year. He and his wife Elizabeth would have three more children, all born in Mile End and baptised at St Dunstan’s: Edmund Affleck (1785), Matilda Ann (1787 – 1789) and Carleton (1790).

The land tax records for Bowes John Gibson in the 1780s show him living on the south side of Mile End Road, closer to his mother, who we must assume had continued to live at this address, presumably with her youngest daughter Sarah, through the previous two decades.

Mary Gibson composed her last will and testament in April 1788. From it we learn that Mary still owned a property in Little Distaff Lane and that this was being used as a ‘sugar house’. The will also confirms that Mary’s five daughters – Jane Coates, Elizabeth Holdsworth, Frances Bonner, Ann Schwartz and Sarah Gibson – were all still living at this time. Mary leaves money to two of her granddaughters – Frances Schwartz, daughter of Ann (for whom I’ve yet to find any records), and Esther Gibson, daughter of her son Bowes John. The will was not proven until 1792, though it seems likely that Mary was the ‘Mrs Mary Gibson’ of Mile End Old Town buried at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 28th October 1790. She was 80 years old.

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney

In the meantime, however, Mary’s youngest daughter Sarah who, with her brother Bowes John, was supposed to be one of their mother’s executors, had predeceased her, being buried only twelve days earlier, on 16th October – her death the result of a ‘decline’, at the age of 44. Possibly aware of her deteriorating health, Sarah Gibson had drawn up her own will exactly a year before. In addition to her brother and sisters, Sarah also leaves money to her neice Esther Gibson, and to two other children of her brother’s: his daughter Elizabeth and his son Edmund Affleck Gibson, to whom Sarah was apparently godmother.

One of the witnesses to Sarah’s will was Thomas Lay, who was almost certainly the mariner of that name who would marry Esther Gibson at St Dunstan’s on 21st September 1790, a month before Sarah’s funeral at the same church. Esther’s parents Bowes John and Elizabeth were witnesses, as was Susanna Ford,  sister-in-law to John William Bonner.

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