Important update: 21 April 2011

Following recent research by my distant relative Robin Blanch, it now seems unlikely that James Blanch, the father of my ancestor John Blanch, was the son of William Blanch. However, I will leave  this post in place until further information becomes available.

Earlier this year I wrote about the family of my 3 x great grandfather, Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch (1802 – 1869). Since then, new records have become available and more information has come to light. In the next few posts, I want to record what I’ve been able to piece together so far. I’m indebted, as always, to the sterling work of my fellow family historians, especially my distant relative Robin Blanch (a descendant of John Blanch’s brother David).

If the information I’ve gathered together here is correct, then the Blanches are the branch of my family for which I have the earliest records. They are also the branch with the longest history of residence in London. The two things are not unconnected, since the records for London available online are far more comprehensive than for any other part of the country (with the possible exception of Scotland).

Saffron Hill, Holborn in the mid 19th century

First, a reminder of my connection to the Blanch family. My maternal grandmother, Minnie Louisa Roe (1902 – 1987), was the daughter of Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947), who was the son of Daniel Roe (b. 1829) and Mary Ann Blanch (1827 – 1870).  Mary Ann was the daughter of John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth (who, to complicate things, was the cousin of Daniel’s mother Eliza Holdsworth).

One of the newly available records at Ancestry is of John Blanch’s baptism. He was christened at St. Andrew’s Holborn on 2nd August 1802. The record notes that he was born at Saffron Hill to James and Sophia Blanch. Running north to south between Clerkenwell and Holborn, Saffron Hill was notorious for its brothels and thieves’ rookeries: writing three decades after John Blanch’s birth, Charles Dickens would place Fagin’s den there.

Saffron Hill in Horwoods 1792 map of London

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

John’s father James Blanch (1755 – 1840) was the son of William Blanch (1721 -1763), who was himself the son of another William Blanch – my 6 x great grandfather. That’s as far back as the Blanch family tree goes at present, though some of the new information that I’ll post below may help us to push the story back further in time.

To avoid confusion, I’ll start with William senior and work forward, adding in the new information along the way. The first definite record that we have for William, and for the Blanch family as a whole, is of his marriage to Ann Cushee on 14 September 1712 at St. James, Clerkenwell.

Ann appears to have been the daughter of barber Thomas Cushee and his wife Elizabeth. There’s a record of a marriage between a Thomas Cushee and an Elizabeth Beech or Booth (Ancestry transcribes it as the former, but in the original document it could easily be read as the latter) at St. James Duke’s Place in the City of London in either 1687 or 1688. When their first son William was born in 1689, Thomas and Ann were living in Cow Cross Street. Ann or Anna was their second child, born in 1692 or 1693 and baptised either at St. Sepulchre, Holborn, or at the church of St. Alfege, Greenwich, depending on which source you choose to believe. A third child, Mary, was baptised at St. Sepulchre in February 1694.

St. Sepulchre Holborn

Intriguingly, there is a record of a Thomas Cushee marrying a Hester Blanch at St. Sepulchre on 2nd April 1700. Since all three of their children had been born by this date, it’s possible that Thomas’ first wife Elizabeth had died by this time and this was his second marriage. Hester would need to have been born around 1680 at the latest, but searching for a birth or baptism for that period throws up no records for the London area.

In fact, the only records that offer anything like a match are from Gloucestershire. At least four Hester Blanches were born in the county towards the end of the 17th century. The most likely candidate was christened in Painswick (between Gloucester and Stroud) on 3rd December 1670, and was the daughter of James Blanch and his wife, also Hester. Perhaps coincidentally, James and Hester also had a son William, born in 1675, but a number of other William Blanches were also born in the same area in later decades. Is it possible that the Hester Blanch who married Thomas Cushee in 1700 was related to the William Blanch who would marry his daughter Ann twelve years later? Might they both be members (siblings? cousins?) of a branch of the Blanch family that moved to London from Gloucestershire some time around the turn of the century?

Thomas Cushee and Hester (or Esther) Blanch had three children: twin daughters Mary and Sarah, born in 1700, and a son Thomas in 1703. When the twins were baptised at St. Sepulchre the family was living at Plowman’s Rents, off Turnmill Street. Thomas junior was baptised at St. James Clerkenwell.

Astonishingly, it’s possible that Thomas Cushee may have married for a third time – and to another Hester, at that. On 30 August 1710 Thomas Cushee of the parish of St. James Clerkenwell married Hester Barnett at Lamb’s Chapel, Monkwell Street. The only baptismal record I can find for a Hester Barnett is for 1647 in St. Giles Cripplegate, which would make Hester over 60 when she married Thomas; but given his previous two marriages, he would probably have been about the same age. (A fourth marriage involving Thomas Cushee – at St. Dunstan in the West in 1735 – is almost certainly his son, Thomas junior. The bride was Elizabeth Cushee: a cousin perhaps?)

William Blanch and Ann Cushee had three children. When their first child George was baptised at St. Sepulchre on 15 November 1713 they were living in Cow Lane, Holborn.  George would die less than a year later, on 6 September 1714. Their second child William was born on 24 April 1721 and baptised on 4 May at St. Sepulchre. A daughter, Ann, was born on 22 April 1724 and baptised on 13th May, but died on 30 April 1725.

Section from Horwoods 1792 map, showing St. Sepulchre church, Cow Lane, Snow Hill and Saffron Hill

I don’t know when William and Ann Blanch died. Their surviving son, William, married Ann Yalden at St. Sepulchre on 10 July 1753.  Ann Yalden had been born on 21 May 1730 and baptised five days later at St. Sepulchre. She was the only surviving child of James Yalden and Ann Neve who were married at St Benet Paul’s Wharf  on 11 November 1727. They also had twins, James and Elizabeth, who were born on 26 Jan 1731 but died on 6 February that year. At the latter date the Yaldens were living at Snow Hill.

William Blanch and Ann Yalden had two children. James was born on 13 July 1755 and baptised on 27 July at St. Sepulchre. Ann was born on 5 March 1758 and baptised on 12 March. Robin Blanch has recorded on his family tree that William Blanch can be found living in Seacoal Lane (just to the south of the above map) in November 1760 and working as a baker. This is the same address given in the record of his burial, which took place at St. Sepulchre on 11March 1763; William would have been 42 years old when he died.

It appears that William’s widow Ann married again. On 9 March 1764, a year after William Blanch’s death, an Ann Blanch married Martin Yalden (another instance of marriage between cousins?) at St. Bride Fleet Street. The description of Ann as a widow of the parish of St. Sepulchre makes it almost certain that this was ‘our’ Ann. It seems likely that Ann died some time in the next five years, since on 25 July 1771 Martin Yalden,  a widower of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, married Ann Jeff at St. Mary’s Whitechapel.

I’ll write about the lives of William and Ann Blanch’s children – James and Ann – in separate posts.