The French connection: more shoe makers in the family

My father Peter Ernest Robb’s parents were Arthur Ernest Robb (1897 – 1979) and Mary Emily Elizabeth Webb (1898 – 1965).

Mary E. E. Webb, my grandmother, was born on 10th June 1898 in Mile End Old Town. Her parents were George Webb (born in 1873) and Mary French, born 1874. Apparently both my grandmother and her mother were known by the name of ‘Polly’.

At the time of the 1901 census the family was living at 32 Coutts Road, Mile End Old Town. George is described as a ‘gas works labourer’. Besides 3-year old Mary Emily Elizabeth, the family also included her baby sister Jessie, who was 10 months old. 

I haven’t been able to find out much about George Webb’s family yet, or to confirm details of my grandmother’s other sisters and brothers. However, I have managed to discover quite a lot about the French family – in part thanks to a family tree on the Ancestry site, created by Patricia Drake, who is the daughter of my grandmother’s cousin Seth (son of her aunt Jessie).

My grandmother’s mother Mary French was born in 1874 in Stepney (or Mile End: the two place names seem to be interchangeable in many of the census records), the daughter of Frederick French and Emily Hindley. Mary’s brothers and sisters were: Emily, Frederick, Seth, Jessie, Caroline, Katherine, Grace and William.

Mary’s father Frederick was born in Limehouse in 1847 and married Emily in Poplar in 1867. In the 1861 and 1881 censuses he is described as a shoe maker and in 1871 as a cordwainer. However, by 1901, when the family is living at 92 Burdett Road, Mile End Old Town – described as a bootmaker’s shop – Frederick is described as a ‘bootmaker – employer’. Mary has obviously married George Webb by this time and left home, but her brothers and sisters are all described as working ‘at home’ – the boys as bootmakers or ‘workers’, the four girls as tailoresses.

Frederick’s father was another Frederick French, also a shoe maker, born in 1810 apparently in Dorset, who married Sarah Ann Bonner from Horsely Down, Surrey. Their children – besides young Frederick – were Sarah, Seth, William, Susan, Caroline and Charles. In 1841 they were living in Limehouse.

As in my last post about the Roes and the Blanches, it’s interesting to see certain names being passed on through the generations of one family. Thus names such as Seth, Jessie, Emily, Frederick and Grace are repeated in the French line. My grandmother named her two daughters (my aunts) Grace Mary Emily and Katherine Jesse May – all (apart from May) popular Christian names in the French family.

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