When Rotherhithe mariner Michael Bonner the younger died in 1811, at the age of 43, he left a wife and at least six dependent children. Frances, probably his eldest surviving child, would have been 15, William George 14, Henry 11, Eleanor 8, Mary Ann 7 and Susan 3. (There were two other children: Charles, born in 1794, and Michael, 1801, but I can find no further records for them after their baptisms.) Michael’s wife Eleanor Trantum Bonner, who was 46 when her husband died, would live for another thirty-four years.

I wrote recently about Michael’s and Eleanor’s eldest surviving son, William George, who worked as a ship broker. Some time ago, I wrote about his sisters Frances and Susan, who remained unmarried and worked as schoolmistresses.

My information about another sister, Eleanor, comes principally via one of my Bonner family contacts, Teresa Fairbairn in Australia, who is a descendant of hers. On 16 April 1833, when she was thirty years old, Eleanor Bonner the younger married mariner John Arnold Burchett at the parish church of St Mary, Rotherhithe. Her brother William George was one of the witnesses. John and Eleanor Burchett had two sons: John Arthur, born in 1834, and Michael Thomas, born in 1835. Both were born in Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, suggesting that the Burchetts may have lived with Eleanor’s widowed mother.

Section of Greenwood's 1827 map of London, with Paradise Street, Rotherhithe at bottom left (click on image to enlarge)

John Arnold Burchett died in 1838, at the age of 37, after only four years of married life, and was buried in his home parish of Shepperton, Surrey. I’ve been unable to find any trace of his widow Eleanor in the 1841 census, but she was clearly unable to support her family alone: John Burchett, age 7, can be found in the London Road Orphan Asylum in the parish of St Leonard, Bromley-by-Bow, at this date. His younger brother Michael, 5, was in a similar institution in the district of St John, Hackney. Perhaps their mother was in the workhouse? I’ve been unable to find Michael in the 1851 census, but John, now 17, was working as an assistant to an ivory turner in Marylebone Lane. His mother Eleanor was in the same area, working as a housekeeper for a silk mercer in Vere Street near Cavendish Square. (Ironically, all of this happened around the same time that Eleanor’s older brother, William George, was achieving considerable wealth and status as a merchant and ship broker.) Eleanor Bonner died five years later, at the age of 53, in west London.

Emigrants on board ship to Australia, 1872 (from the collection of Maggie Land Blanck)

Within a year of their mother’s death, both of Eleanor’s sons had emigrated to Australia (in the same way that the Seager brothers, my ancestors on my father’s side of the family, had left London for New Zealand a few years earlier, on the death of their mother Fanny). As Teresa Fairbairn commented on my earlier post about the Bonners:

In 1857 John Arthur and Michael Thomas left England on board the Roxburgh Castle arriving in Port Phillip in Dec 1857. Michael Thomas died in Melbourne in 1859. John Arthur married Theresa Sarah Ingram in 1883, they had four children. John Arthur Burchett died in 1922. The family lived in the Western District of Victoria in Harrow and Goroke. Theresa Sarah Ingram was my great great grandmother’s sister.

The children born to John and Theresa Burchett were Arthur (1883), Mary Ann Helena (1885), Louisa Ada (1887) and Harriet Maud Adelaide (1890). Theresa died in 1890, but  John lived until 1922, dying in Ararat, Victoria at the age of 89.

Eleanor Trantum Bonner the elder, mother of Eleanor Burchett and grandmother of John Arthur and Michael Thomas, had predeceased her daughter, dying in Paradise Place, Rotherhithe, in 1845. In her will she left ‘the sum of nineteen pounds and nineteen shillings’ to her son William George, who was also to act as her executor. Eleanor bequeathed ‘to my dear daughter Eleanor Burchett late the wife of John Arnold Burchett…the sum of ten pounds’.

She left a similar amount to another daughter, Mary Ann, who we learn was ‘the wife of John Goodwin’. The only marriage between a Mary Ann Bonner and a John Goodwin that I can find records for took place on 14 January 1828, when ‘our’ Mary Ann would have been twenty-four years old. The location – St Leonard’s, Shoreditch – is puzzling, as is the fact that both parties are said to be of the parish, but perhaps they were working in that area temporarily. The groom’s full name is given as John William Goodwin, and this matches later records for the baptisms of the couple’s children, all of which took place in Rotherhithe.

John’s date and place of birth mean that he is almost certainly the son of Rotherhithe lighterman John Joseph Goodwin and his wife Sarah. However, there is an indenture record stating that on 4 March 1820, John William Goodwin ‘son of John Joseph Goodwin of West Lane Rotherhithe, Surrey, Lighterman’ was apprenticed to Christopher Nockells ‘Citizen and Vintner of London, to learn his Art’ (my emphasis). Although the end of the seven-year term coincides neatly with John’s marriage to Mary Ann, it’s odd that later records describe him as a lighterman like his father, not as a vintner. Even more bewilderingly, there’s an indenture record dated 1 December 1841, stating that William Smith Hunter, son of William Smith Hunter of Bankside, Southwark, waterman, was apprenticed to John William Goodwin ‘Citizen and Vintner of London’. I wonder if the explanation is that the two occupations – lighterman and  vintner – sometimes went hand in hand?

On 1 March 1829 Mary Ann, daughter of John William and Mary Ann Goodwin, was baptised at St Mary, Rotherhithe. The family was living in Lower Queen Street and John was working as a lighterman. On 4 March 1831 the same couple had another daughter, Eleanor (also known as Ellen), christened at the same church; however, by now they were living in Bass Street, Horselydown. When their son George was baptised on 15 March 1837, the Goodwins were in East Lane, Bermondsey, while their youngest child, Sarah, was born in 1840 in Rotherhithe.

The 1841 census finds the Goodwin family living in Dodds Place, Rotherhithe. I’m not sure what happened to the children over the next ten years – certainly some of them must have married or moved away – but John and Mary Ann appear to be by themselves at the time of the next census. Aged 44 and 46 respectively, they were living in Paradise Street: possibly in Mary Ann’s late mother’s house? John Goodwin appears to have died in 1855, at the age of 48; I haven’t been able to discover the date of Mary Ann’s death.

A house in Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, from the webiste ideal-homes.org.uk, which states: 'Paradise Street was an ancient road of distinguished large terraced houses many of which had elaborate wooden door eaves.'

Returning to the will of Eleanor Bonner: she also leaves her son Henry ‘the sum of two pounds as a token of my affection for him and to buy a ring in remembrance of me.’ She adds: ‘I would give him more but he has already had money of me equal in amount to what I intend leaving his brothers and sisters’. I wonder if the reason that Henry had already received money from his mother was that (like his sister Eleanor but unlike his brother William George) he was quite poor. In 1841, someone who matches his details was working as a labourer in Marylebone (not far from his sister Eleanor perhaps?): I haven’t been able to find him after that date.

Eleanor Trantumn Bonner left the residue of her estate ‘to my daughters Frances Bonner and Susan Bonner spinsters equally share and share alike’.  Given the small amounts of money bequeathed to their siblings, I doubt there was very much left for the two sisters to enjoy.