In this post I want to ‘flesh out’ the timeline for the Holdsworth siblings, in the closing years of the 18th century and the first decade of the 19th, that I set out in a recent post. Viewing the events of our ancestors’ lives in chronological order, and against the background of contemporary events, can sometimes help us to better understand their movements and the relationships between them.

My great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Joseph Holdsworth (1735 – 1795) and Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809) had six children, all born in South Weald, Essex, in the 1760s and 1770s. How the family came to be in South Weald, and why they might have migrated to London, is a subject for another time.

Joseph and Elizabeth’s oldest child, Elizabeth, died in 1780 at the age of 16. In Elizabeth Holdsworth’s will of 1809, she mentions her surviving daughter, Sarah, and ‘my five sons’. About one of these sons, Henry, we know very little, and more research is needed to determine the course of his adult life. As for the other four: Joseph, William and Godfrey all lived and worked in the Stepney/Mile End Old Town area, while John and his wife and children lived in Oxfordshire but later moved to the same part of London.

As I’ve noted before, William and John Holdsworth were both my great-great-great-great grandfathers: William Holdsworth’s daughter Eliza married Daniel Roe, and their son, also Daniel, married Mary Ann Blanch, daughter of John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth, the latter being the daughter of John Holdsworth. Daniel and Mary Ann’s youngest son, Joseph Priestley Roe, was my maternal great-grandfather.

In the following timeline, the historical events that form the context of my forebears’ lives are highlighted in italics:


1780 Gordon Riots in London 

1786 Sarah Holdsworth, 19, marries plumber Edward Porter at St Botolph Bishopsgate.

1788 King George III’s mental illness brings about Regency crisis

1789 French Revolution begins – storming of the Bastille


1791 Repression in Britain: restrictions on freedom of press

1792 London Corresponding Society formed

1792 William Holdsworth, 21, marries Lydia Evans at St Botolph Bishopsgate.

Joseph Holdsworth, 22, marries Margaret Miller at Christ Church Spitalfields

1793 Britain declares war on France

1793 Godfrey Holdsworth, 20, marries Diana Cam at St Paul Covent Garden.

Joseph and Margaret Holdsworth’s daughter Sarah born at St George Terrace in the           parish of St George in the East: Joseph is working as a cordwainer.

1794 Habeas Corpus suspended – reformers charged with high treason 

1794 William and Lydia Holdsworth’s first son, Isaac, born in Marmaduke Street in St                George in the East: William is working (with Joseph?) as a cordwainer.

Edward and Sarah Porter nee Holdsworth have a son, Edward Parker Porter: they             are living in Mile End Old Town and Edward is working as a plumber.

1795 Famine year

        Riots in West End – attack on coach carrying the King

1795 William and Lydia Holdsworth’s son Samuel born in Marmaduke Street.

Joseph Holdsworth – father of the Holdsworth siblings – dies in South Weald,                    Essex, age 60.

1796 Joseph and Margaret Holdsworth’s daughter Elizabeth, born in Marmaduke Street.

William and Lydia’s daughter Phoebe born in the same street: Elizabeth Holdsworth         (presumably William’s mother) is a witness.

Godfrey and Diana Holdsworth’s first son John Henry born: they are living in Mile             End Old Town and Godfrey is working as a plumber.

1797 John Holdsworth marries Eliza Ann Webb in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.

1798 Nelson wins Battle of the Nile

1798 John and Eliza’s daughter Eliza born in Chipping Norton.

Joseph and Margaret Holdsworth’s son Godfrey born in Mile End Old Town.

William and Lydia Holdsworth admitted to membership of Little Alie Street Baptist Chapel, Whitechapel: address given as Marmaduke Street

1799 Sarah’s husband Edward Porter dies in Mile End Old Town, aged 33.

1799 Combination laws against political associations – London Corresponding Society            outlawed


1800 John and Eliza’s son John born in Chipping Norton.

1801 William and Lydia’s daughter Eliza born in Mile End Road: William’s sister Sarah a          witness to the birth.

Godfrey and Diana’s son Godfrey born in Mile End Old Town.

1802 Joseph and Margaret’s son Joseph Edward born. They are now living in William                Street and Joseph is working as a tallow chandler.

Godfrey and Diana have a daughter, Diana.

Sarah’s son Edward Parker Porter dies in Mile End Old Town: he is eight years old.

1803 William and Lydia have a son, born in Mile End Old Town, whom they name                         Edward Porter Holdsworth, presumably after their recently departed nephew.

William is a witness at his sister Sarah’s second marriage, to William Parker, at St             Matthew Bethnal Green.

1804 John and Eliza’s daughter Keziah born in St Clement, Oxford.

1805 Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar

1806 William and Lydia’s daughter Sarah born. Little Alie Street Baptist Chapel Meetings Book gives William’s address as Wilmot Street (Bethnal Green?)

Godfrey and Diana’s son Edward James born.

John and Eliza may have been in Bethnal Green at some point in this year, for the               birth of their daughter Sarah.

1808 Godfrey and Diana’s daughter Elizabeth born. Godfrey working as a plumber and               glazier.

1809 John and Eliza’s son Joseph born in Oxford.

Elizabeth Holdsworth – mother of the Holdsworth siblings – dies, aged 76, and is               buried in the Greene family vault in St Dunstan’s churchyard, Stepney. Her will is               witnessed by William, Sarah and Sarah’s husband William Parker. The money for               Elizabeth’s funeral expenses is held by Joseph, who is still living in William Street,             while Sarah is appointed as executrix.