In the last post I wrote about Captain Michael Bonner (1733 – 1802), his wife Frances Gibson (1735 – 1802, the sister of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth), and their two sons, John William and Michael. I’m now moving on to set down what I know about the next Bonner generation, starting with the family of John William Bonner.

John William Bonner (1762 – 1817) and his wife Sarah Ford (1759 – 1833) had three children that I know of: John Harker (born in 1782), George (1784) and Mary Ann (1793). We know that Mary Ann married John Godfrey Schwartz, who was probably the son of Charles Gottfried Schwartz and Ann Gibson (the latter being another sister of John William Bonner’s mother Frances). I hope to have more to say about Mary Ann and the Schwartz family on another occasion. I haven’t been able to find out anything conclusive about George, though a child of that name was buried at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey on 4 October 1789. He was 5 years and 6 months old, which would fit with what we know about ‘our’ George Bonner. The family’s address is given as Five Foot Lane, which was a short distance from the address in Bermondsey where the Bonners could be found a few years earlier.

I’ve been more successful in researching the life of John Harker Bonner. On 5 February 1809, when he would have been about 28 years old, John was married at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. He was described as being ‘of this parish and hamlet of MEOT [Mile End Old Town]’: we know that his parents had moved there from Bermondsey some time before 1793. John’s bride, who was from the same parish and hamlet, was Mary Knight Christopher. The witnesses were John’s sister Marianne (or Mary Ann), his father John William, and a member of the Christopher family whose Christian name is difficult to read.

It can’t be Mary’s father Thomas Christopher, as he had died four years earlier, in 1805. He was a Citizen and gun maker in the Minories, Aldgate, which was where his daughter Mary was born in 1781 (making her a year younger than her husband John Bonner). Thomas Christopher had married Jane Roe (I don’t think there’s any connection with my own Roe ancestors, but you never know) at St Katherine by the Tower in 1751, and Mary was the youngest of their seven children. In his will, Thomas leaves money to his ‘half-sister’ Mary Roe, suggesting that his own wife Jane might have been a half-sister too (unless the term was used to mean ‘sister-in-law’?). Intriguingly, Thomas asks to be buried ‘as near to my late beloved wife as possible’ in the churchyard in Woodford: yet another connection between my family’s history and that village.

The language of Thomas Christopher’s will suggests that he may have been a Dissenter: ‘I give my body to the Earth, in the hope of a Joyful resurrection through the merit of our blessed Lord and saviour Jesus Christ’. Whether their Nonconformity derived from the Bonner or Christopher side of the family, John Harker and Mary Bonner were certainly Dissenters and associated with the Independent Meeting in Stepney.

Their first child, John, was born on 12 December 1809 in the parish of St Dunstan’s, Stepney, and the births of the other two, Thomas (1811) and Mary (1813) were recorded in the Protestant Dissenters’ Registry held at Dr Williams’ Library. Thomas Bonner was born on 15 July 1811 and baptised on 27 August at the Independent Meeting in Stepney.  The ceremony was performed by the pastor, George Ford.  All three children were born in Saville Row, Mile End Old Town.

Mile End Old Town, from Fairbairn's 1801 map, with Saville Row at top centre

To date, I haven’t managed to find any further records for John Harker Bonner. I don’t known when he died, or what his occupation was. However, I have found a burial record for his wife Mary Knight Bonner, who died of dropsy at the age of 51 and was interred at St Dunstan’s, Stepney on 11 August 1832.

I’ve been unable to discover any further information about the Bonners’ eldest and youngest children, John and Mary. However, I’ve been more successful with their middle child, Thomas. On 17 April 1842 he married Charlotte Langford, daughter of John and Charlotte Langford of Walthamstow, Essex, in her home parish church.

Baptismal records, whether from Anglican or Nonconformist sources, seem to be unavailable for the children of Thomas and Charlotte Bonner. The births of some of them are listed in the civil registration indexes, but our main source of information about the family is the census records. The 1851 census finds Thomas, 39, and Charlotte, 35, living at 11 Redgrave Road, Brixton. The record is extremely difficult to read, but the Bonners seem to have two children, a son aged 7 and a daughter aged 2. It doesn’t help that these are referred to only by initials – what looks like ‘T.H.’ and ‘C.E.’ respectively. The first child had been born in Clapham, the second in Dulwich. T.H. is  almost certainly the Thomas Henry Bonner whose birth was registered in Wandsworth in 1844, while C.E. is Charlotte Ellen. This census record is the first indication we have of Thomas Bonner senior’s occupation: he was a master baker.

Stockwell and Clapham in 1863

By 1861, the Bonners had moved to 11 Bedford Road, Clapham Rise, where their neighbours were a widowed corndealer and a butcher. By now, Thomas Henry was 16, Charlotte Ellen 11, and they had five younger siblings, all born in Lambeth: John William Langford, 9, Charles James, 7, Elizabeth Sophia, 5, George, 2, and Francis Christopher, 3 months.

I haven’t managed to find the Bonners in the 1871 census, but in 1881 they were still in Bedford Road, where Thomas senior, now 69, was still working as a master baker. Still at home were Thomas junior, 35, John, 29 and Francis, 20, all working (presumably with their father) as bakers, and Elizabeth, 24. All were unmarried.

Victorian bakery

Charlotte Ellen had married Albert Martin, a clerk and later a builder, four years earlier, and they were now living in Manor Street, Clapham, with their three children. I’m not sure where Charles and George were at this date: in fact, I’ve found no further records for them.

On 31 August 1881, Thomas Henry Bonner, aged 32 and described as a confectioner, married Eliza Jane Wilshire, 23, Somerset-born daughter of farm bailiff Abraham Wilshire, at St Mary’s, Marylebone. However, Eliza must have died shortly after the marriage: on 28 August 1886 Thomas, now a widower of 42 and described as a baker and confectioner, married Rosa Jane Pain, 29, daughter of deceased licensed victualler John Pain, at the parish church of St John, Clapham. Thomas’ brothers John and Francis were witnesses. By the time of the 1891 census, Thomas and Rosa were living in Market Street, Brighton, working together as hotel keeper and assistant, with five children, as well as five employees.

On 15 January 1882 John William Langford Bonner, also described as a confectioner, married Emma Collyer, Hampshire-born daughter of ‘gentleman’ Thomas Hopwood Collyer, at Camberwell parish church. By 1891, John and Emma were in Lewes, Sussex, where John appears to have made a similar career move to his brother Thomas: he was now proprietor of the Crown Hotel, coincidentally also situated in a road called Market Street.

Charlotte Bonner the elder died in 1885, at the age of 69, by which time the family had moved to 29 Bedford Road. Charlotte was buried at Norwood Cemetery. Her husband Thomas died three years later at the age of 77. His son Francis Christopher, also of 29 Bedford Road, acted as executor of his will. Thomas’ personal estate was valued at £339 13s 7d.

Terminus Hotel, Eastbourne

Francis Christopher Bonner married Yeovil-born Sarah Betterson Rendall at the church of St Paul, Brixton, in 1885. Six years later, in 1891, Francis and Sarah were still living in the house at Bedford Road, with their daughters Gertrude Frances, Ivy Elizabeth, Bessie and Ethel. At this date, Francis was still working as a baker, presumably carrying on his late father’s business. However, by the time of the next census in 1901, he had followed the example of his brothers Thomas and John and set up as a hotel proprietor in Sussex: in his case, at the Carpenters Arms (later the Terminus Hotel) in Terminus Road, Eastbourne. Francis and Sarah now had two more daughters, Gladys and Rose Langford, and they were joined by Sarah’s sister Gertrude, working as the hotel’s bookkeeper, as well as by four employees. Francis Bonner would live to the age of 73, dying at the Terminus Hotel in Eastbourne in August 1934 and leaving effects to the value £7275 6s 6d.

Elizabeth Sophia Bonner was married in Lambeth in 1888, but I haven’t been able to discover the name of her husband.