My research into the different branches of my family’s history has drawn me back time and again to Mile End Old Town, and to the parish of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. Recently, my distant relative Robin Blanch and I have attempted to clarify the connection between our Blanch ancestors and this area. I was already aware that my Holdsworth forebears had strong links to this part of east London, though the precise nature of those links still needs to be determined.

Mile End Old Gate (Whitechapel Turnpike) 1798 by Rowlandson & Schulze. Copyright: Museum of London

In the past few days, I’ve been trying yet again to unravel the relationship between the Londors family and Stepney. As I’ve reported before, I was intrigued to discover that my great-great-grandfather John Schofield Londors and two of his siblings were married in the Stepney area, despite all of them being born in (then) rural Barkingside and spending almost the whole of their lives there. In the case of John and his sister Elizabeth, their partners were also from Barking; their brother William married a woman from Shadwell, but there’s still a question mark over how he came to meet her.

A quick recap: my mother was born Joyce Londors, the daughter of George John Londors, who was in turn the son of another George Londors, the son of John Schofield Londors (1827 – 1915). The latter was the eldest son of John Londors (1785 – 1876) and Mary Anne Schofield (1802 – 1887). For at least three generations, the men in the family all worked as farm labourers in the Barkingside area.

John Schofield Londors married Sarah Ann Brown at St Dunstan, Stepney on 29 June 1851. On 23 November 1851, John’s sister Elizabeth married George Smith at St Mary, Stratford-le Bow. On 5 September 1852, John and Sarah Londors’ first daughter, Sarah Ann, was christened at the nearby church of St Mary, Bromley St Leonard. On 7 February 1864, William Londors married Caroline Harriet Feller at St. Thomas, Stepney.

So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in my efforts to find a direct connection between the Londors family and this part of the East End. My 3 x great grandfather John Londors, father of John Schofield, Elizabeth and William, was born in Woodford, Essex, though it’s possible that one or both of his parents came from the Stepney area and that he still had surviving relatives there in the 1850s. Another possible link is through the Schofield family. Mary Anne, John’s wife, was the daughter of William and Sarah Schofield of Barkingside. Sarah is said to have been born in Aldgate; William was her second husband and her surname at the time of their marriage was Hone: there are a number of Hone families to be found in the records for the Stepney area.

However, the most likely explanation I’ve come up with so far, for the Londors link with Stepney, is their association with the area via the Orgar family, whom I’ve written about in previous posts. To recap briefly: Mary Anne Schofield’s older sister, Sarah Anne, seems to have married tobacco pipe-maker John Orgar some time before 1818, when their first child was born, though I’ve yet to find a record of their marriage. For convenience, I describe this person as John Orgar (2), since he was the son of another tobacco pipe -maker with the same name: John Orgar (1). We know from census records that the John Orgar (2) who married Sarah Anne Schofield was born in Stepney in about 1799, and that he’s almost certainly the person of that name who was born in Mile End Old Town on 2 October 1798 and baptised at St Dunstan’s on 17 March following. His parents were John and Sarah: unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find out any more about them or their other children.

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, in 1797

John Orgar (2) and his wife Sarah Anne Schofield were thus the uncle and aunt of John Schofield Londors and his siblings. As described in an earlier post, John and Sarah moved around a fair amount during their married life. Their children were born in Barking (John, 1818), Richmond-on-Thames (Mary Ann, 1826), Barking again (Sarah Ann, 1832) and Bunhill Row (Elizabeth Ann, 1838). When the 1841 census was taken, the Orgars were at the Woodman Inn on Archway Road, Highgate. However, by the time of the 1851 census, they were in Stepney: at 34 White Horse Street, which seems to have been home to a community of tobacco pipe makers.

By this time, two of their children had married. John Orgar (3) – a pipe maker like his father and grandfather before him – must have either stayed in, or moved back to, Barking, where he married Sarah Hippisley Shean of Southwark in July, 1840, though by 1851 they were firmly established with their young family in Meeting House Court, Shoreditch. John’s sister Mary Ann had married pipe-maker Joseph Hopkins at St Dunstan, Stepney, in September, 1847, and in 1851 the young couple were living and working alongside Mary’s parents in White Horse Street.

This means that my great-great-grandfather John Schofield Londors and his siblings had an aunt, uncle and a number of cousins living in Stepney and Shoreditch by the early 1850s at the latest. We know that the two families must have remained close, since John Schofield Londors’ daughter Sarah Ann would marry William, the eldest son of his cousin John Orgar (2) in 1873.  Whether this is sufficient to explain John Londors’ decision to get married in Stepney, not to mention his sister Elizabeth’s marriage some miles away in Bow, is debatable.

What is certain, though, is that the Orgars’ roots in Mile End Old Town were deep and of long duration. The 1841 census for White Horse Street, though it doesn’t feature any members of the Orgar family, includes a large number of tobacco pipe-makers, including some who would be neighbours of the Orgars ten years later. It’s at least possible that this was where tobacco pipe-maker John Orgar (1) lived with his wife Sarah, and where his son John (2) lived before his move to Barking and marriage to Sarah Anne Schofield. White Horse Street is a continuation of White Horse Lane, which runs south from Mile End Road, and features on maps of the area going back to the middle of the 18th century.

Mile End Old Town from Rocque's 1746 map, showing White Horse Inn and start of White Horse Lane

Mile End Old Town from Horwood's 1792 map showing start of White Horse Lane

Although, as mentioned above, I’ve yet to find any definite records for John Orgar (1) and his wife Sarah, it’s possible that John is the 65-year-old tobacco pipe-maker to be found at the time of the 1841 census living in the home of another pipe-maker, Thomas Longstaff, in Rochester Row, Westminster. This John Orgar would have been born in about 1776 (always allowing for the approximate nature of ages in this particular census), but not in county.

I’ve yet to find a birth record that fits this date, even approximately, nor have I come across any evidence of John’s marriage to Sarah. However, we know from other sources that there were other Orgars in Mile End, going back to the 1750s. I’ve recently obtained the East of London Family History Society’s CD database of Mile End Old Town Residents: 1741 – 1790, which uses land tax records to catalogue householders in the areas during this period. Between 1757 and 1759 the inhabitants of Mile End Road (north side) included a baker by the name of John Orgar, possibly from Hertford, and his wife Frances. I’ve since found out from the IGI that they had four children, all born in Mile End Old Town and all christened at St Dunstan’s. These were: John (1757), Susannah (1759), Hannah (1761) and Elizabeth (1764).

1757 is probably too early for the birth of the John Orgar (1) who married Sarah, but might this be his father? However, there are other Orgars in the local records for this period, too – for example, a John Orgar was born to William and Mary Orgar of neighbouring Bethnal Green in 1767 – so perhaps one shouldn’t be too hasty in jumping to conclusions.

What is clear, however, is that the Orgar family had a long association with Stepney, going back at least three generations and including a presence there in the 1850s, which might help to explain (if nothing else can) the attraction of the area as a place for their Londors cousins to marry. I still hope, however, to discover a closer Londors link, at the same time as I continue to research the Mile End Old Town associations of the other branches of my family.

Searching for information about Mile End Old Town during this period has proved extremely frustrating. As Derek Morris points out in his introduction to the database of Mile End Old Town residents, ‘modern historians seem to have difficulties in describing the area’. Derek attributes this partly to a failure to distinguish between the physically sepaate hamlets of Mile End Old Town and Mile End New Town. Although both were in the parish of Stepney, Mile End Old Town, perhaps confusingly, was further out from the centre of London than its near namesake. It also had a more mixed population, including a number of wealthy merchants as well as those employed in the brewing and rope-making industries.

Besides Derek’s own pioneering book on Mile End Old Town in the mid-18th century, which I have just ordered, there have been very few detailed studies of its history. Perhaps the work of family historians can make a small contribution to remedying that situation.