The Gibson family in the memoirs of Charles Edward Horn

In my earlier post about George Milsom Gibson and John Thomas Gibson, sons of Bowes John Gibson, who was the brother of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth nee Gibson, I wrote about John Thomas’ marriage to Henrietta Elizabeth Horn, daughter of musician and composer Charles Frederick Horn.

In that post, I quoted from the memoir of Henrietta’s brother, Charles Edward Horn, extracts from which I had found online via Google Books. I’ve now obtained a print copy of the book, edited by Michael Kassler, which contains some additional references to the Gibson family. Charles Edward Horn (1786 – 1849) was a composer, singer and actor; he was a member of the English Opera House, Drury Lane, and other theatre companies, and became famous as a singer and composer of popular music.

In writing about his days as a weekly boarder at South Lambeth school, Charles mentions his friendship with George and John Gibson, as well as with Henry and John Laing. He notes that ‘the Gibsons and the Laings were our constant visitors as boys from school on Sundays, and this was continued till their departure from school for good and to become cadets for the Indian Service’ (p. 22). An editorial footnote to this page informs us: ‘John Thomas Gibson became an officer cadet in the Indian Army in 1800 (British Library, Oriental and India Office, Cadet Papers, L/MIL/9/111 f 625)’.

Charles goes on to describe his early training as a musician, mentioning that he and his sisters were ‘put to a school in Sloane Street, Miss Babington, and I, becoming now 15 or 16 years old, was employed to assist my father in instructing some of the younger ladies in their notes and commencement’ (p. 23). Among his pupils were ‘two Miss Cohens in Goodman Fields, for 5 shillings a lesson, two taking a lesson in one hour, twice a week’.  This would have been around the year 1800. Goodmans Fields is an area to the east of the City, on the borders of Aldgate and Whitechapel.

An early 19th century piano lesson (via

A few pages later (p. 25), Charles writes the following:

My teaching at Mr Cohen’s and Miss Babbington’s went on, and my visits in Goodmans Fields were often [di]versified by visiting old Mr Gibson and his daughters for, although my schoolfellows and associates were in India, it was delightful to go a[nd] see the old place we used to see our friends in. 

A footnote explains that the ‘old Mr Gibson’ referred to here is ‘Bowes John Gibson, bap 1744, father of John Thomas Gibson and George Gibson’. Bowes John would have been in his late fifties by this time (which was ‘old’ by contemporary standards, perhaps). I’m not sure which of his daughters would still have been alive and living at home at this date: his eldest daughter Esther Gibson had married in 1790; if they survived, Mary Ann and Matilda Ann from Bowes John’s first marriage would have been about twenty and thirteen years of age respectively, while Eliza from his second marriage would only have been two or three years old. Three more daughters, Elizabeth, Emily and Matilda Henrietta, would be born in 1803, 1805 and 1809 respectively.

‘The place we used to see our friends in’ was almost certainly Bowes John Gibson’s house in Mile End Old Town, assuming he had not moved from there since the last land tax record we know about, which was taken in 1790. It would have been a short walk from Goodmans Fields along Whitechapel High Street and Mile End Road.

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One Response to The Gibson family in the memoirs of Charles Edward Horn

  1. EdenSprings says:

    In researching my own collateral ancestor, Capt. George Milsom of the Madras Native Infantry, I kept running across your George Milsom Gibson, so thought it was only appropriate to share:

    Vizianagaram Cantonment Cemetery. [Describing a single, shared monument] fpr William Shaw & George Milson Gibson: “Lieut.-Col. WILLIAM SHAW and Major GEORGE MILSON GIBSON, 1st Battn. 10th Regt. N.I. This cenotaph is erected by officers of the corps. The former died at Gollapoliam on May 18th, the latter at Vizagapatam on 24th May 1814.” Noted under the transcript of the memorial inscription, the author adds, “Gibson who died at the age of 33, has a tomb in the old cemetery, Vizagapatam,” indicating that the men these officers served thought enough of them that they were willing to mark their memory where they had served together, as both officers were interred where they had died.
    –Cotton, Julian James. “List of Inscriptions on Tombs or Monuments in Madras.” Madras, India: Government Press, 1905. Page 362.

    Sep. 22. Major George Milsom Gibson**, 10th Native Infantry, & Miss Eliza Harriet Wilson.

    **Died at Vizagapatam, 24 May 1814, aged 33. Monument in Old Cemetery, Vizagapatam; also at Vizianagram.
    –The Genealogist (London, England); (New Series) Series 2, Volume 22; 1906. Page 191

    Both of the above publications (plus thousands more!) are available online for free at You can request a free account which will let you save titles to “My Collections” which saves time on later searching.

    Tons of material on India (search on “Allen’s Indian Mail,” “East Indies,” etc.) as well as published OPRs from all around Great Britain, ‘The Gentlemen’s Magazine,’ etc. Time saver hint: once you create your account, create a ‘Collection’ for, say, “INDIA” and shove all the titles into that collection you want. Then, you can search your individual collection rather than their entire site–it saves having to wade through keyword hits from North Carolina, or foreign language results. However, you can also search the entire HathiTrust catalog on a keyword or phrase like MILSOM (which is how I found your George when I was looking for mine!).

    Before I sign off, I have to say how much I LOVE your site! I think we’re kindred sisters, really. For me, so much of genealogy is being able to put my ancestors in the appropriate “frame,” which means learning about their lives and the world they lived in. It makes them more understandable and alive to me, and it also makes me be a better researcher as well. Who knew history was so interesting?

    Love your blog!

    –Barbara Haines
    Kentucky, USA

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