Every now and then the amateur family historian makes an exciting discovery entirely by accident. As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been trying to trace the movements of the Roe and Blanch families in the 1850s and 1860s. I was poring over contemporary maps of the parish of St. James, Westminster, when I remembered that I’d also found other people in my tree living in the area.

Searching through my records, I remembered that Richard and Marianne Ellis, together with their children Frances, David and Alfred Henry, nephew Richard Metcalf and visitor Maryanne Harrison, were living at Richmond Street in St. James at the time of the 1851 census. Googling Richmond Street 1851 led me to a family history web page which included extracts from the Illustrated London News for that year, where I came across the following:

On 27 May 1851 Bankruptcy Annulled R Ellis, Richmond st, Soho, carpenter.

It’s always exciting when you find someone from your family tree mentioned in contemporary records. This was barely 3 months after the census was taken (on 30th March), which means that at the time of the census the Ellis family were in dire financial straits. Could this help to explain why 2 year old Mary Ann Ellis was being cared for by the Blanches in Bethnal Green?

I haven’t managed to locate Richmond Street on the 1851 map, but the census record tells us it was in the Berwick Street area, just south of Oxford Street. This increases the probability that the Sophia Ellis whom we found working as a nurse maid in Oxford Street in 1861, is Sophia Sarah, daughter of Richard and Marianne.

The other people who lived in this area were the family of David Blanch, two of whose sons would marry two of Richard Ellis’ daughters. In 1841 David and Sarah Blanch, with their sons James, William and David, David senior’s widowed half-sister Maria Rodbard, his widowed sister Mary Harrison, and 15 year old Elizabeth Higham, probably a servant, were living in King Street, in the parish of St. Anne’s, Soho, Westminster. King Street is not far from the general area where I suppose Richmond Street to have been, and close to the Great Windmill Street area where David’s brother John Blanch, together with Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, would later be living. David senior was working as a coachsmith.

I’ve yet to find out where Richard and Marianne Ellis were living in 1841. They appear to have been married on 25th March in that year in the parish of St. James (though I’m waiting for the certificate to confirm that the record refers to them). The census was taken on 6th-7th June, but so far I’ve been unable to find any census record that has the two of them together. It seems likely that they were living in the parish where they were married. Is it possible that they lived close to the Blanches and that Richard, a carpenter, was working with or for David, the coachsmith? And is this how the two families became intertwined?

By the time of Richard’s bankruptcy, in 1851, the Blanches have moved to Chelsea and appear to have achieved a higher social status. Elizabeth Higham is now explicitly described as a servant, and their neighbours include clerks and governesses.  By 1861, when they are living at 35 Church Street, Chelsea, David is described as a ‘coach maker and smith employing 7 men and 2 boys’. Sons William and Thomas are working as coach smiths and David junior as a engraver. Elizabeth Higham is still with them as a ‘house servant.’

Meanwhile, the Ellis family has moved to nearby Kensington – to 2 Clifton Place – and David’s son James, a coach painter (for his father?) is lodging with them. Given what we know about David Blanch’s position, it seems likely that it was the presence of his future wife, Frances Marianne Ellis, rather than financial or work circumstances that led to James’ change of address.  By this stage, of course, Richard and Marianne would have had financial support from their children Frances and David, now old enough to work – both, it seems, in the dying industry. If my hunch is correct, then at this stage their daughter Sophia was still in Westminster, working as a nurse maid, though a couple of years later she would marry David Blanch junior and emigrate to Australia with their young son Walter.

Ten years later, Richard Ellis is dead and his widow Mariann, daughter Mary Ann and son Henry are living with James and Frances, now married, in Kings Road, Chelsea. James is now a coach builder in his own right and 20 year old Henry is working as a coach painter, presumably alongside him.

It looks as though Sarah Blanch may have died in 1863 and David in 1866. Their son Thomas married Ellen Flack in 1864 and seems to have taken over the family coachbuilding business in Church Street.  Their daughter Maria Jane married Joseph Alder Cheshire, a draper, in 1866. The 1871 census finds the Cheshire family living in Fulham Road in Kensington. Living with them is the now 77 year old Mary Ann Harrison, who has ended up here after living with David Blanch and family in the 1840s, and with the Ellises in the 1850s and ’60s (possibly).