John Holdsworth Blanch, the youngest child of John and Keziah, was born in 1844 in Bethnal Green. At the age of 16, in 1861, he was working as a ‘shop lad’, almost certainly in his father’s shoemaker’s shop in Great Crown Court, Soho.
Five years later, on 30th December 1866, John married Elizabeth Brooks at St Anne’s church, Limehouse. They were living in Salmon Lane, Limehouse and John was now working as a carpenter, a trade he would follow for the rest of his life. The two witnesses at the wedding were both from John’s side of the famly: his father John and his sister Emma Louisa.
Elizabeth Brooks was born in December 1845 in Kelmscott, Oxfordshire (famous for its associations with artist and writer William Morris), the daughter of farm labourer Richard Brooks from nearby Clanfield and his wife Jane. When she was 17, in 1861, Elizabeth was a house servant in Bampton, Oxfordshire. Some time in the next five years, she must have moved to London, though her family seems to have stayed behind in Clanfield.
John and Elizabeth’s first son, John Richard, was born in Clanfield , in 1867, suggesting either that the couple moved temporarily to Elizabeth’s home area, or (more likely) that she was staying with her parents at the time of the child’s birth. Their daughter, Flora Sophia, was born in Bromley by Bow in March 1869, and later that same year a second son, James Robert, was born in St James, Westminster, perhaps at the address in Great Pultney Street, Soho, where the family was to be found in 1871.
Another daughter, Elizabeth Kezia Jane Blanch (apparently named after her mother and both grandmothers, and later known simply as Kezia Jane, or just Jane) was born in 1872 in Clanfield. This suggests another visit home by Elizabeth, since their next four children, Emma Sarah (1875), Edith Eliza (1876), Sophia Alice (1878) and Walter Thomas (1880) were all born in Westminster.
By the time of the 1881 census the family had moved from Great Pultney Street to nearby Sherwood Place. This census record includes the mysterious descripton of Elizabeth, under ‘rank, profession or occupation’, as a ‘British Slave’. Among my fellow family historians, Ron Roe thinks this might be a joke on the part of the enumerator, while Robin Blanch believes it could be a transcription error. Either way, it’s distinctly odd, given that Elizabeth was born in rural Oxfordshire and slavery was abolished long before she was born. On the night of the census the household included Mary Brooks, 21, a visitor born in Kelmscott, who must be a relative of Elizabeth’s.
Mary Holdsworth Blanch was born in 1883, Flora Helen Blanch in 1888 and David Holdsworth Blanch in 1889.
In 1889 John Richard Blanch married Louisa (surname unknown) and they had a daughter Elisabeth Louisa two years later. It’s very likely that they were living with John’s parents throughout this time, since the 1891 census finds them all together in Sherwood Place. John senior and Elizabeth are now 47, and the census mistakenly gives Elizabeth’s birthplace as Bedfordshire. Their neighbours on either side are tailors: from Germany, Hungary and Poland. Their sons John, 24, and James, 21, are both carpenters and joiners like their father (they were probably working with him), while 16 year old Emma is working as a general domestic servant and 18 year old (Kezia) Jane (whose birthplace is also wrongly said to be Bedfordshire) is a tailoress.
This particular enumerator seems to have been prone to errors: he gives the birthplace of John Richard’s wife Louisa as Preston, Lancashire, when in fact it was Stafford, Staffordshire. Then there is the following curiosity. A male visitor, whose age looks to be 84 (though it could easily be read as 94), and whose name has been transcribed as Richard Norman (though it looks more like Archibald Holman) is staying with the Blanch family. He is described as a street inspector ‘par’ (parish?), and his birthplace is given as New York, USA. To date, I have no clues as to the identity of this person or his connection to the Blanch family. However, it’s possible that he was literally ‘visiting’ the house, in the sense of passing through at the time that the census official called, and had no family relationship with the Blanches. I understand that street inspectors or street-keepers were a kind of constable or watchman employed by the parish vestry, though I’d welcome clarification on this.
Ten years later, in 1901, John and Elizabeth, now 57, have moved out of central London and are at 163 Bollo Lane, Acton, not far from where John’s mother and sister had been living in Ealing (see this post). With them are their son David, 12, and granddaughter Edith,2, though I haven’t been able to work out yet who the latter’s parents were (perhaps she was another child of John Richard’s?)
John Holdsworth Blanch appears to have died in Uxbridge in 1923, at the age of 79. I’m not sure when his wife Elizabeth died.
This is what became of the children of John Holdsworth Blanch and Elizabeth Brooks, to the best of my knowledge:
As already mentioned, John Richard married Louisa in 1889 and they had a daughter Elizabeth Louisa in 1891. By 1901 the young family had moved, like John’s parents, to Acton, and in fact were living in the same street as them, at 135 Bollo Lane, where John was working (with his father?) as a carpenter.
I wrote about Flora Sophia in this post. For some reason, she seems to have lived with her grandmother Keziah from an early age, and then with her aunts. In 1917, at the age of 48, Flora married Walter Chater.
I don’’t know what became of James Robert Blanch, but someone of that name was married in Westminster in 1895.
Kezia Jane Blanch married William Hoffman in the parish of All Saints, Acton, in 1902, when she was 29 and he was 34. William described himself as a ‘traveller’ and both gave their address as 163 Bollo Lane – the home of Kezia Jane’s parents. Her sister Emma Sarah was a witness.
In 1891, as reported in an earlier post, three of John Holdsworth Blanch’s daughter – Flora Sophia, 22, Edith Eliza, 15, and Mary Holdsworth, 6, could be found at the same address in West Ham, with their aunts Emma Louisa and Eliza Maria. Flora was living there, while Edith and Mary are described as visitors. I haven’t been able to find any record of Edith after this date. Mary Holdsworth Blanch was married in 1906, at the age of 22, but I don’t know the name of her husband.
Walter Thomas died in infancy, in 1881, while Sophia Alice died in 1882, at the age of 4. I have no definite records for Flora Helen Blanch after her birth in 1888.
David Holdsworth Blanch, a carpenter like his father, married Ellen Elizabeth Pleasants in Acton in 1910. Both were aged 21 and living at 38 Colville Road, not far from Bollo Lane.