After spending some time researching the Robb side of my family, I’ve turned my attention back to my mother’s family, and specifically to two rural branches – the Baileys and the Londors family – that have their roots in the Barking area.

My mother, Joyce Alma Londors (born 1933) is the daughter of George John Londors (1897 – 1960) and Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987). Minnie – my nan – was the daughter of Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1946) and Eliza Bailey (1865 – 1958). I’ve researched the Roe side of the family quite extensively, but I’ve written much less about the Baileys.

In future posts I’ll report on my latest researches into the Londors family, but here I’ll focus on the Baileys. In turning to these rural ancestors, with their generations of ‘ag. labs’ and scarce written records, I’ve realised how lucky I am that so many branches of my family were based in London – and in Scotland. For the latter, the Scotland’s People website has a comprehensive online database that must make those with only English ancestors green with envy. And since the digitisation of London parish records by Ancestry, it’s easier than ever to trace forebears who lived in the nation’s capital. By comparison, tracing rural English ancestors online is still a relatively arduous process, relying on census records backed up by certificates ordered from the GRO.

As I’ve noted before, my great-grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe married Eliza Bailey at St. Anne’s, Limehouse in 1883, when he was 21 and she was 18. As the marriage certificate indicates, Eliza was the daughter of labourer William Bailey.

My great grandparents: Eliza Bailey and Joseph Priestley Roe (undated)

The earliest record we have for William is the 1841 census, which finds him, aged 16, living with his parents and family in North Street, Barking (not far from Cowbridge Lane: both roads still exist). From this record we know that William was born in about 1824 in Essex and that he was the eldest of the four (listed) children of John Bailey (born in about 1801) and his wife Eliza (1802). Like his father, William worked as an agricultural labourer.  His younger brothers and sisters were Sarah (1828), John (1831), Mary (1834) and Louisa (1837).

Map of Barking in 1777 (Wall End visible at left)

William’s father John Bailey must have died before the 1851 census, which finds the widowed Eliza (48) living at Mumdays Rooms, close to Barking High Street. With her are daughters Sarah (22), Mary (18) and Louisa (14). All except Louisa are described as field labourers. We also learn from this record that, though the children were all born in Barking, their mother was born in Bishops Stortford.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of William’s younger brother John, who would have been 20 by this date, if he survived. However, I have found a record for William himself. In 1851 he was 26 years old and married to Elizabeth, 25. They were living at Wall End, Barking Road, East Ham, with their children Louisa, 2, and John, 1 month. William is said to have been born in Barking and his wife and children in East Ham, so it’s likely they had been living at this address since they were married, probably in about 1848. Both William and Elizabeth are described in the census record as agricultural labourers.

The Baileys’ immediate neighbours in 1851 were also agricultural workers, although a few doors way lived a police constable, and beyond him one Jabez Abbott, a farmer of 105 acres employing 11 labourers (was William Bailey among them?). At the time Wall End was a hamlet on the Barking border, linked to East Ham High Street by Barking Road.

Ten years later the Baileys were still in Wall End, though they appear to have moved house. Now they were two doors away from the Duke’s Head pub, separated from it only by the home of 48 year old Halifax-born Chelsea Pensioner William Barrand. The Duke’s Head still exists in Barking Road, though it was rebuilt early in the 20th century. In addition to Louisa (12) and John (10, who despite his young age ‘works in fields’), they now have two other children: Thomas (8) and William (4).

In 1871 William and his family seem to be at the same address, though the house between them and the Duke’s Head (where the lodgers include three unnamed circus performers) is now occupied by retired Norfolk fisherman High Campbell (whose household includes visiting Swedish tailor John Stare).  Besides William and Elizabeth (both 47), the Bailey household consists of John (20), Thomas (18), William (15), Joseph (10), all of these farm labourers like their father  – as well as Eliza, my great grandmother, whose age could be read as 5 or 8, but is almost certainly the latter, given that she is said to be 17 years old in the 1881 census. This means that she was born in either 1863 or 1864.

The most surprising revelation in the 1871 record is that Eliza was already working in a jute factory. Jute is a vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. The Barking Jute Works opened in 1866 and according to the local authority’s website:

The majority of the jute workers were young females, usually single and often away from the control of their families. Determined to enjoy themselves they developed a reputation for drunken brawling at weekends and bank holidays which made the town notorious in the 1880s and 1890s.

The webite claims that the youngest worker was 10 years old. However, Eliza’s youthful occupation may be explained by this note:

Outwork was provided for local Barking women and children in the form of sack sewing. The cloth was cut to size in the factory and carried home along with hanks of tarred twine. The sacks were sewn at home and then returned to the factory for payment.

By 1881 the Bailey family address appear to have moved house again. Their address is given simply as ‘Cottage, High Street, Wall End’. Chapel House and Abbotts Farm Cottage are to one side (the Baileys’ neighbour John Archer is said to be the foreman at Abbotts Farm), but there is no sign of the Duke’s Head. The Bailey household consists of 56-year-old William and Elizabeth, their son John, 20, a general labourer, and 17-year-old Eliza, who is still working as a jute spinner.

Two years later Eliza married Joseph Roe. By the time of the 1891 census, Eliza’s parents were living with her and her young family (she had already given birth to 6 surviving children) at 36 Denmark Terrace, East Ham (if this is identical with modern Denmark Road, then it wasn’t far from the Baileys’ home in Barking Road). Joseph is described as a dock labourer, but his 67 year old father in law appears still to be working as a farm labourer.

By 1901 Eliza and Joseph have moved with their expanding family (they now have 8 children) to 313 Barking Road, and Eliza’s parents, now 75, are still living with them (though described as ‘lodgers’). Interestingly, William is still working (like his son in  law and 16 year old grandson Joseph William) as a ‘general labourer’.

I don’t know when William and Elizabeth Bailey died, but they are no longer living with Eliza and Joseph by the time of the 1911 census, so I assume they died some time in the first decade of the century.

Joseph and Eliza Roe (undated)