John Blanch was one of my great great great grandfathers. His daughter Mary Ann (1827 – 1870) married Daniel Roe (born 1829) and their son Joseph Priestley Roe (1862-1946) was the father of my maternal grandmother Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 -1987).

Tracing John Blanch’s story through time and space throws some light on the tangled connections between the Blanch, Holdsworth and Roe families and their movements around London, as well as giving an insight into the lives of London artisans in the early 19th century.

Of all the branches in my family tree, the Blanch family are probably the most rooted in London. John Blanch was born in 1802 in Clerkenwell, the son of James Blanch and his second wife Sophia Atkins, and baptised at the church of St Andrew, Holborn. James had been baptised at St Sepulchre, Holborn in 1755, and had married Sophia at St Anne, Soho, in 1792. John’s older sister Mary Ann was born in Southwark, his brothers James and Joseph in Holborn, sister Sophia Sarah in Soho, another brother William in Clerkenwell, and youngest brother David in Soho.  This indicates that, although they had strong historical roots in central London, the Blanch family also had links to Soho and had even ventured south of the river for a time. James Blanch was himself the son of William Blanch (born 1721) and Ann Yalden (1730) both of whom were born in Holborn, while William’s father  (another William) was born in London in 1690.

The one part of London which did not have associations for the Blanch family was the East End, but this is where John Blanch ended up, working as a boot and shoemaker. We don’t know what his father James’ profession was, but it seems likely that he was a coach builder and it was perhaps he who began the long-running family business. According to Robin Blanch, who is descended from John’s brother David, the family business was established in 1798, and we know that it was managed by David and Thomas in the 1830s and 1840s, first from Ham Yard, Great Windmill Street, Soho, and later in Chelsea.

St. Dunstan's church, Stepney

Why John Blanch did not become a coach-maker like his brothers remains a mystery. As for why he moved eastwards, perhaps we went to be apprenticed to a shoemaker. In any event, our first record for him, after his baptism, is from 1827, when he was about 25 years old. This was when he married Keziah Holdsworth, daughter of carpenter John Holdsworth, at St. Anne’s church in Limehouse. We don’t know where John was living at the time, but in December of that year their first child, Mary Ann, was baptised at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney (above) and the address is given as Mile End Old Town. John is described as a cordwainer: the first we hear of his trade. In 1833 John and Keziah’s son Joseph James was baptised at the same church, as were their (twin?) daughters Kezia Sarah and Eliza Maria in 1837. In 1835, there is a record of John acting as a witness at the marriage of his brother-in-law Joseph Holdsworth to Elizabeth Cuzens, at St. Anne’s, Limehouse.

The next record we have of John and Keziah is the 1841 census, by which time they were living in Wellington Street, Mile End Old Town, a few houses away from Keziah’s widowed 75 year old father John. It’s possible they had been living at this address since their marriage. I haven’t been able to find Wellington Street on maps of the period, but I assume it’s identical with or close to Wellington Place, not far from St. Dunstan’s church (click on map below to enlarge).

Bethnal Green and Mile End Old Town in Greenwood's 1827 map

Another daughter Emma Louisa (or Louisa Emma) was born in 1842 in Stepney, and their youngest son, John Holdsworth Blanch, in 1844 in Bethnal Green – probably at the Green Street address they had moved to by the time of the 1851 census. At this time John is described as a boot and shoe maker and Keziah is working with him as a boot binder, while their 20 year old son Joseph is a carpenter. This is the record, which I’ve discussed at length in earlier posts, in which 2 year old Mary Ann Ellis, born in Soho, is living with the family as a ‘nurse child’.

By this date, their daughter Mary Ann had married Daniel Roe, son of Keziah’s cousin Eliza Holdsworth (they were married at St Anne, Limehouse, in 1848). In 1851, Mary Ann and Daniel, with their baby daughter Kezia, were living not from John and Keziah, in Patriot Row, Bethnal Green. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Mary Ann was also working alongside her husband as a boot binder.

Of John and Keziah’s unmarried children, one was absent from home at the time of the 1851 census. Their 14 year old daughter Kezia Sarah can be found in St Pancras, working as a housemaid, alongside her aunt Eliza (her mother’s sister).

A year later, in 1852, their eldest son Joseph, 19, married Eliza Philpot. He gave his address as 2 Green Street, Bethnal Green – the same as in the census of the previous year  – while Eliza was at No.4.

By the time of the 1861 census, John and Kezia, both now in their sixties, had moved away from the East End, and can be found living at 8 Great Crown Court, Soho, in the parish of St James, Westminster.  Their 23 year old daughter Eliza Maria is working with them as a shoebinder, while 20 year old Emma Louisa is described as a needlewoman and 16 year old John Holdsworth Blanch as a shop lad. They also have a number of lodgers, at least some of whom were probably working in John’s shoemaker’s shop: widowed bootmaker William Farringdon and his 12 year old son Charles, shopman George Strange, tailor Daniel Gearon and his wife Catherine, a needlewoman.

I haven’t been able to discover where their daughter Kezia Sarah was in 1861, though ten years later she was working as a housemaid in the home of landowner George Pollock in Grosvenor  Street, near Hanover Square. So it’s likely that in 1861 she was in service somewhere in London

We don’t know why John and Keziah Blanch made the move westwards across London, but we do know that their daughter Mary Ann, husband Daniel and their family were living in the same street, at No.2. Whether Daniel was working in his father-in-law’s shop is unclear. The motive for the move was in all probability economic, but of course John had family connections with the area, his brother’s coach-building business having been based in nearby Great Windmill Street.

This section from Horwood’s 1792 map shows quite clearly Ham Yard, Great Windmill Street and Crown Court, clustered together in the top right-hand corner (click on the map to enlarge):

Part of Westminster, from Horwood's 1792 map

We know that John and Keziah were in St. James’, Westminster by 1858 at the latest: that’s when their daughter Emma Louisa was belatedly baptized in the parish.  We also know, from their children’s birth records, that Daniel and Mary Ann were in Great Crown Court as early as 1853, though for some reason they were living in Herbert’s Passage, off the Strand, in 1856 and 1859. In these records Daniel is described as a bootmaker / shoemaker master.

By 1862, Mary Ann and Daniel had moved the short distance to Great Windmill Street, where their youngest son, Joseph Priestley Roe (my great grandfather) was born. In 1866 John and Keziah’s youngest son, John Holdsworth Blanch, now working as a carpenter, married Elizabeth Brooks in Limehouse, where he appears to have been living at the time (the couple gave their address as Salmon Lane), though by 1871 they and their two children would be back in Soho, living in Great Pultney street, near Golden Square.

John Blanch died in the parish of St. James, Westminster in December 1869, at the age of about 67. His daughter Mary Ann, then living in Dufours Place, Soho, died a year later (it’s probable that her husband Daniel died at about the same time, though I’ve been unable to find any record of his death). This left Mary Ann’s mother – and John’s widow – Keziah, together with her daughter Eliza, looking after the Roe children in nearby Broad Street at the time of the 1871 census.

Keziah Holdsworth Blanch died in Brentford ten years later, at the age of 77.