In the last post I noted that I’d inexplicably overlooked Diana Holdsworth (1802 – 1884), daughter of Godfrey Holdsworth and Diana Cam, in previous posts. Time for another confession: I almost completely forgot about another of their children, Charles. In my first post about Godfrey’s family, I had followed other Ancestry family trees in placing Charles’ birth in 1800, and this had led to a brick wall. However, further searching at Ancestry and Family Search led me to conclude that Charles had actually been born in 1811, and suddenly a gap opened up in the wall. Not only that, my research into Charles’ family has also led to some fascinating discoveries, which I’ll report on in the next few posts. In this post, I’ll focus on Charles himself, and in subsequent posts on the lives of his children and grandchildren.

Charles William Millrow Holdsworth was born in Mile End Old Town on 23rd December 1811 and christened at the church of St. Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney on 2nd February January 1812. The baptismal record describes him as the son of Godfrey Holdsworth, a plumber, and his wife Diana. The name ‘Millrow’ might provide a much-needed clue to the origins of his mother, Diana Cam: was it her mother’s surname, perhaps? (My current theory is that Diana was born in Gloucestershire in 1772, the daughter of James Cam and his wife Anne.)

The next we hear of Charles Holdsworth is when he marries Elizabeth Hart at the church of St. Anne and St. Agnes, Aldergate, in 1834. (The church, now St. Anne’s Lutheran church, is in present-day Gresham Street, formerly St. Anne’s Lane, off St. Martin le Grand. It was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of London.) We have a record of the banns of marriage for 3rd August that year, which tells us that the witnesses were Abiah Hart and James Fry. Abiah was Elizabeth’s widowed mother and James would soon become her second husband.

Elizabeth Hart was born on 26th September 1809 in Samuel Street in the parish of St George in the East, where she was christened on 17th January 1810. She was the daughter of carpenter William Hart (born 1784) and his wife Abiah, the latter having been born in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, in 1786. It’s possible that Abiah’s surname was Higgison, and that she was the person who married a William Hart at St. Leonard’s Shoreditch in 1813. The only possible problem with this is that two of their children were born before this date: Elizabeth, and her older sister Ann, who was born in the city of London in 1807.

William and Abiah Hart had three other children: Caroline (1821), William Henry (1824) and George (1928), all born in the city of London, the younger two at 9 Bull and Mouth Street, to the west of St. Martin le Grand, where the family are to be found in later records.  (This street, named after the Bull and Mouth Inn, was later built over.) William Hart senior seems to have died in about 1831, at the age of 47.

Bull and Mouth Inn, St. Martin le Grand

Abiah Hart married her second husband, James Fry, a widow and another carpenter, at St. Leonard’s Shoreditch in the autumn of 1834, soon after the marriage of her daughter Elizabeth to Charles Holdsworth. James had been born in Dorset in about 1801. In 1822 he married Sophia Bennett in Salisbury, Wiltshire, but they must have moved to London shortly afterwards. Their first son, George Bennett Fry, was born in that same year and baptised at the Countess of Huntington’s Sion Chapel in Union Street, Mile End Old Town in 1823, confirming that either the Frys or the Bennetts (or both) were Nonconformists. (It’s likely that Abiah was also from a Nonconformist family, given that her Old Testament-derived Christian name was popular among Dissenters.) By the time their second child, Mary Bennett Fry, was born in 1825, the family had moved to the City of London: she was baptised at St. Giles Cripplegate in May 1829, on the same day as her brother Joseph, who was born in that year. It would appear that Sophia Fry died in 1834, at the age of about 37.

James Fry and his children seem to have moved in with Abiah, at 9 Bull and Mouth Street, after the marriage. What’s more, Charles and Elizabeth Holdsworth appear to have joined them there soon after their own wedding in the same year. On 20th October 1835 Charles and Elizabeth’s first child, Charles William, was born. He was christened at St. Anne and St. Agnes on 2nd November. The baptismal record notes that Charles senior’s profession is bookbinding (a trade shared by the Palmer family, whom I wrote about in another post). A second child, Elizabeth, was born on 13th December 1836 and christened at the same church on 15th January 1837; and another daughter, Caroline, was born on 13th February 1839 and christened there on 13th March that year.

The 1841 census finds James Fry, carpenter, and his wife Abiah, at 9 Bull and Mouth Street, with a motley household consisting of bookbinder Charles Holdsworth and his wife Elizabeth; two of their children, Charles, 6, and Elizabeth, 3 (there’s no trace of 2 year old Caroline); James’ son Joseph Fry, aged 12; Abiah’s son George Hart, 14, from her first marriage; a 24 year old ‘M. Hart’, a female, who is working (presumably with the Holdsworths) as a bookfolder; and various non-family members with the surnames Moore, Stracher and Baker.

Part of Horwood's 1792 map, with Bull and Mouth Street and Four Dove Court in top left-hand corner


(click on image to open in new window, then click again to enlarge)

By the time of the 1851 census, the Frys and the Holdsworths have moved a couple of streets away to 4 Four Dove Court, which they share with two other families. Living with James and Abiah Fry are James’ son Joseph, who is now working (again, probably with Charles Holdsworth) as a book edge gilder; Abiah’s sons from her first marriage: William, a carpenter, and George, a news  vendor; and an Irish lodger – widower and Chelsea pensioner Edward Morrison, aged 83. Charles Holdsworth is described as a bookbinder’s journeyman while his wife Elizabeth is working with him as a book folder; with them is their daughter Caroline, now 12. I’m not sure where their son Charles was at this date (he would have been 16), but their daughter Elizabeth, 17, was working as a servant in the home of ivory and pearl worker George Staight in Bull Head Court.

James Fry must have died some time before 1861, as the census of that year describes Abiah as a widow of 80. She is still living at 4 Four Dove Court with Charles and Elizabeth Holdsworth and their adult children Charles and Caroline.  Ominously, Charles senior’s occupation is ‘not known’.

In 1865 Charles and Elizabeth Holdsworth’s daughter Caroline married artist’s brush maker Charles Reynolds (born at Westbury, Wiltshire) at St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch.  The 1871 census finds them living in Forster Street, Shoreditch with their children Elizabeth, 10, Rosa, 8, and Florence, 4. Caroline’s brother Charles was also married around this time, to Emily, and in 1871 they are living in Cross Street, Islington, where Charles is following his father’s occupation as a bookbinder. They have four children: Ellen, 6, Ada, 4, Beatrice, 3, and Emily, 1. (I will have more to say about Charles and his family in the next post.) I haven’t been able to discover where Charles and Elizabeth Holdsworth’s third child, Elizabeth, was living at this date.

City of London Union Workhouse

Sadly, the 1871 census finds Charles Holdsworth senior fallen on hard times. Now 60 years old, he is resident in the City of London Union Workhouse in Bromley St. Leonard, leaving his wife Elizabeth alone in Great Lion Court, Aldersgate. (I assume that her mother Abiah had died by this time, though I’ve yet to find a record of her death.) Things hadn’t improved much by 1881, when Charles is still (or again?) in the workhouse. He appears to have died a year later in Poplar, which is also where Elizabeth was living when she apparently died in 1884, though I can’t be absolutely sure that these are ‘our’ Charles and Elizabeth Holdsworth.