Last week I claimed to have discovered new information about the background of Sarah Dickson, who married David Blanch at St Anne’s, Soho, in 1835. David, a coachmaker, was the younger brother of my great-great-great-grandfather, shoemaker John Blanch. I believe that Sarah was the daughter of Holborn baker John Dickson and his wife, Sarah.

I suggested in the same post that the maiden name of the latter might be Sarah Rodbard, and that she was probably the person of that name who married a John Dickson of Holborn at the church of St. Lawrence, Little Stanmore, in 1805.  This is of interest because David Blanch’s older half-sister, Maria, married a John Rodbard, also of Little Stanmore, in 1811. (To recap: David and John Blanch were both sons of James Blanch by his second marriage to Sophia Atkins, whereas Maria was James’ daughter by his first marriage to Jane Barlow.)

After further research into the Rodbards, I’ve come to the conclusion that Sarah was the daughter of Joseph Rodbard and Mary Whittle or Whittel. The record of Sarah’s burial in Holborn in 1825 gives her age as 50, which means she was born in about 1775. Sarah Rodbard, daughter of Joseph and Mary, was christened on 27 December 1774 at Chipping Barnet. Although just over the county border in Hertfordshire, this was only about five miles from Little Stanmore (see map below).

Victorian map of Hertfordshire (Stanmore, Chipping Barnet & South Mimms all visible, close together, in bottom centre of map: click to enlarge)

Joseph and Mary Rodbard had at least one other child, Alice, born in 1769, also in Chipping Barnet. The witnesses to Sarah’s marriage to John Dickson include Joseph Rodbard and Alice Rodbard: probably her father and her sister.

Joseph Rodbard married Mary Whittle at St Giles, South Mimms, on 18 August 1768. South Mimms is about four or five miles north of Chipping Barnet (see map). Other records reveal Joseph to have been a brazier. For example, a record in the Luton archives notes that in 1776, Joseph Rodbard, a brazier of Chipping Barnet, was the sole executor of Robert Paddon, gent, of Houghton Regis.

Chipping Barnet parish church

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable so far to find any records connecting this family with the John Rodbard who married Maria Blanch, though I’m sure there must be a connection. Indeed, I’ve failed to find any record of a John Rodbard being born in the London/Middlesex area around this time. However, I’m intrigued by the fact that a John Rodbard, Esq, bachelor, and Mary Making, widow, both ‘of the parish’, were married at St Paul’s, Covent Garden on 15 August 1807.  I’m even more intrigued to find that the same couple (he a bachelor and an ‘esq,’ she a widow), were married again two and a half years later, on 13 December 1809, at the parish church of St. Pancras. How can one explain this? Meanwhile, another (presumably?) John Rodbard, a widower, married Mary Mills on 29 September 1811.

‘Our’ John Rodbard married Maria Blanch at St Luke, Chelsea, on 11 February 1811. We know nothing about John except that, like the Sarah Rodbard who married John Dickson, he came from Little Stanmore, and at the time of his marriage he was a bachelor.  The Chipping Barnet and East Barnet parish archives acknowledge the contributions of a Mr Rodbard to the upkeep of the church around this time, but for now I have no way of knowing if this was John or another member of the family.

The marriage is the first and last definite record we have of John Rodbard. The next we hear of Maria is in 1841, when  she can be found, a widow of 60, living in the household of her younger half-brother David in King Street, Soho. (If my theory about Sarah Dickson is correct, then it was also a household with connections to her late husband’s family.) Her status is said to be ‘independent’. I’ve yet to find any record of John’s death or burial, nor evidence of any children from the marriage.

Maria was still with her brother’s family ten years later, following their relocation to Chelsea. She is described as an annuitant, so presumably John left her enough money to live on. Maria appears to have died in 1859 at the age of 80. Her burial record states that she died in Brompton, but she was buried on 10 April in Edgware, suggesting that she might have been interred alongside her late husband in his home parish.

Also in the household of David Blanch in 1841 and 1851 was another person with links to Edgware, of whom I’ve taken little notice until now. Elizabeth Higham was said to be about 15 in 1841, born in Middlesex, and also of independent status. She is still with the Blanch family in Chelsea in 1851, where the more accurate age of 30 is given, though now she is described as a servant, and her place of birth is described more precisely as Edgware. These details match the Elizabeth Higham born in 1821, the daughter of labourer William Higham and his wife Sarah, and baptised at St Lawrence, Little Stanmore, on 13 May of that year. Might Elizabeth have been a personal companion-cum-servant to Maria, who moved with her into the Blanch household after John’s death?

Elizabeth seems to have spent much of her life with various members of the Blanch family, and most of it in service. At the time of the 1861 census, two years after the death of Maria, Elizabeth, now 40, is still working as a house servant in the home of David and Sarah Blanch in Church Street.

Sarah Blanch nee Dickson died in 1863 and David Blanch in 1866, and the 1871 census finds Elizabeth, 51, further along Church Street, at no 71, where she is a lodger in a house occupied by four separate families. Her place of birth is now clearly stated as ‘Stanmore’. Elizabeth is described as a housekeeper, and it’s likely this was in the home of her next-door neighbour, David Blanch’s son Thomas, his wife Ellen, and their children. Thomas appears to have taken over the family coach-making business on his father’s death.

By 1881, Elizabeth has moved into the expanding Blanch household (they now have ten children) at 69 Church street. She is described as a servant, and Ellen Blanch’s sister Georgina Flack, 43, who was working as a chambermaid ten years earlier, is now described as (Elizabeth’s?) ‘assistant in household duties’.

Elizabeth Higham died in Chelsea in 1888, aged 67. I’ve yet to find a record of her burial.