Who were the Windles?

My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth née Gibson died on 1st March 1809 at the age of 76 and was buried a week later in the churchyard of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. In her last will and testament, signed and sealed on 11th February, Elizabeth appointed Sarah Parker as her executrix and Richard E. Windle as executor.

Sarah Parker was Elizabeth’s daughter from her second marriage, to Joseph Holdsworth, who had died fourteen years before in 1795. Born in South Weald, Essex, Sarah had first married plumber Edward Porter at St Botolph’s church, Bishopsgate, in 1786, when she was nineteen. Edward died in Mile End Old Town in 1799 at the age of 33, leaving Sarah with a five-year-old child, also named Edward, who died three years later in 1802. In the following year, Sarah married William Parker of Whitechapel at the church of St Matthew, Bethnal Green.

William Parker was one of the witnesses to his mother-in-law Elizabeth Holdsworth’s will, as was Sarah herself, together with her younger brother, my 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth. The fourth witness was Richard Windle, the same person that Elizabeth had appointed to act as executor of the will.

Who was Richard Windle? The question is made more interesting by the fact that another person with the same surname, Thomas Windle, had been appointed as co-executor of her will by Elizabeth’s unmarried sister, Sarah Gibson, some twenty years earlier, in 1789. So who were the Windles, and what was their relationship to the Holdsworths?

Early photograph of Wellclose Square

Early photograph of Wellclose Square

I’m reasonably certain that the Richard E. Windle named in Elizabeth Holdsworth’s will was Richard Eykyn Windle, a surgeon and apothecary who lived in Wellclose Square, Whitechapel. He was born in 1782 in Claverley, Shropshire, the son of another Richard Windle (1721 – 1786) and his wife Anne Eykin (1746 – 1786). The Windles and the Eykins, rather like my Byne and Manser ancestors, seem to have combined rural, landowning roots with a foothold in London and in ‘trade’. Richard Windle senior and Anne Eykin had married at the church of St Sepulchre, Holborn, in 1779: at the time, he was a widower of 57 while she was a spinster of 33.

Like the Windles, the Eykin family had their origins in Shropshire. Ann was the daughter of John Eykin of Ackleton and Martha Pitt of Astley Abbotts. However, at least one of her siblings had also been married at St Sepulchre’s, Holborn: four years earlier her younger brother John had married Elizabeth Browning there. John Eykin junior remained in London, living at Smithfield Bars and working as an oil merchant.

Church of St Sepulchre, Holborn

Church of St Sepulchre, Holborn

Richard Eykyn Windle was the fourth of five children, his siblings being Thomas Hattam Windle (born 1779), John Hattam Windle (1780), Ann Hattam Windle (1782) and Edward Whitmore Windle (1784). Thomas, the eldest son, appears to have remained in Shropshire and inherited the family farm at Claverley. The 1851 census describes him as a farmer of 126 acres employing 11 labourers. His younger siblings all seem to have moved to London. Ann Hattam Windle married James West, a widower from the parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe, in 1801. Edward Whitmore Windle married Anne Jones at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, in 1804, and then followed his sister to Rotherhithe, before settling in Stepney.

Parish church, Claverley, Shropshire

Parish church, Claverley, Shropshire

As for John Hattam Windle, he followed a similar profession to his cousin John Eykin, working as an oil and colour merchant. In 1811 John married Jane Byron at St Mary’s church, Whitechapel. She was the daughter of John Byron of 50 Whitechapel (High Street), who may also have been an oil and colourman. Certainly his son George was, and he and John Windle went into business together at the same address: they insured their premises together in 1826.

However, before setting up shop with his brother-in-law, John Windle had been be involved in another partnership, a few doors away in the same street. On 1st July 1812, this notice appeared in the London Gazette:

The Copartnership existing between us, and carried on under the firm of Parker and Windle, Oil and Colourmen, at No. 47, Whitechapel, in the County of Middlesex, was this day dissolved by mutual consent.—Witness our Hands,

William Parker. John Hattam Windle

Could this be the William Parker who married Sarah Porter née Holdsworth in 1803? After all, we know from the marriage record that he was from Whitechapel. And if so, does this help to explain the connection between the Windles and the Holdsworths?

It may not be a coincidence that a month after he dissolved his partnership with John Hattam Windle, William Parker took out a patent for an improvement in the manufacture of green paint. His fortunes were shortlived, however: six years later, in June 1818, William Parker of High Street, Whitechapel, Middlesex, oilman and colour manufacturer, was declared bankrupt.

Colourman's shop

Colourman’s shop

I’ve found the will of a Whitechapel oil and colourman named William Parker, but he died in 1799. At first, I thought that the William who was in partnership with John Windle might be his son. However, the will fails to mention any children. On the other hand, there is a reference to a nephew named William, as well as a niece named Sarah. William’s mother Mary is also mentioned, which should help in tracing the family.

According to the Whitechapel parish register, William Parker of High Street was buried on 11th August 1799. This fits with the dates on the will: it was signed on 26th June and proved on 13th August. Helpfully, the register tells us that William was 50 years old when he died, so he was born in about 1749. The cause of death seems to have been dropsy. Interestingly, on the very same day, Mary Parker, aged 82, from the same address, was buried; she died of old age. I assume this was William’s mother.

Church of St Mary, Whitechapel

Church of St Mary, Whitechapel

We now need to find a William Parker born in about 1749 to a mother named Mary, who was herself born in about 1717. We then need to discover another son born to the same parents, who had children named William and Sarah. Perhaps doing so will help to solve some of the mysteries surrounding the connections between the Parkers and the Holdsworths. For the link did not begin with the younger William Parker marriage to Sarah Porter in 1803. Nine years earlier, when married to Edward Porter, Sarah had given her son the name Edward Parker Porter, suggesting an already-existing association with the family, perhaps through Edward senior. Then there is the question of whether the Thomas Parker who married another Sarah Holdsworth, daughter of my 4 x great grandfather William, in 1821, was a member of the same family.

I’ll be following the trail of the Parkers and the Windles in future posts. I’m still not sure how, if at all, the Thomas Windle who witnesses the will of Sarah Gibson in 1789 was connected to Richard Windle and his family.

To return finally to Richard Eykin Windle. He died less than two years after witnessing the will of Elizabeth Holdsworth, at the age of 28, and was buried on 5th January 1811 in a vault, presumably one belonging to his family, at the church of St Sepulchre, Holborn. According to the parish register, his address was Smithfield Bars, though in his will, he states that he lives at Wellclose Square. Perhaps he spent his final days being cared for by his uncle and aunt, John and Elizabeth Eykin, who lived at the former address? Certainly his will was signed and sealed there, and makes prominent mention of his uncle and aunt, as well as his now-widowed sister Anne West and his brother John.

Richard’s younger brother Edward Whitmore Windle died seven months after him, at the age of 27, and was buried in the same vault at St Sepulchre’s. John Hattam Windle died at Montague Street, Whitechapel, in 1833 at the age of 52 and was buried at St Mary’s church, Whitechapel. At the time of the 1861 census, his widow Jane, now 75, could be found living in Osborne Street, Whitechapel, with her two unmarried daughters Jane and Elizabeth, her son Hattam, a clerk in a London bank, her 80-year-old brother (and her late husband’s erstwhile business partner) George, and three servants.

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