In the last post I shared my transcription of the will of William Barlow, patten-maker of Compton Street, Soho, who died in 1779, and who I believe to have been the father of Jane Barlow, the first wife of my great-great-great-great-grandfather James Blanch.

Using the will, and our limited access to parish records (it’s frustrating that very few Westminster records are yet available online, though I understand that this will improve later this year), we can begin to reconstruct William’s family history.

Georgian family

For example, we learn from the will that William’s wife was named Elizabeth, and that she was still alive when he wrote his will in November 1778. I haven’t yet managed to find a record of their marriage, but it probably took place in the 1740s.

Six surviving children are mentioned in the will: five daughters – Mary, Jane, Ann, Hannah and Margaret – and a son, William. Making use of the available online sources, I’ve managed to find further information about some, but not all of these children.

As mentioned before, Jane Barlow was born in Westminster on 23 January 1752 and christened on 9 February. I’ve also found a record of the christening of William Roberts Barlow in Westminster on 17 October 1753. He was born two weeks earlier, on 3 October, the son of William and Elizabeth. His middle name may be a clue to his mother’s maiden name. Ann Barlow was born on 23 October 1759 and christened on 13 November. Margaret is likely to have been born after this date, since her father’s will refers to her as being, like her sister Ann, under twenty-one years of age, unmarried, and in need of funds for her ‘Maintenance and Education’.

I haven’t yet found christening records for Hannah or Mary, though William’s will tells us that both were married, so they must have been born by the mid-1750s at the very latest. We learn from the will that Hannah was married to Henry Davis of Little Tottenham Street (off Tottenham Court Road). Henry was a coach maker: I wonder if it’s just coincidence that a number of James Blanch’s sons would follow this occupation?

In January 1780, Elizabeth, wife of stone mason William Smith, ‘late of the parish of St Pancras’, was tried at the Middlesex Sessions ‘for making an Assault upon one Hannah the wife of Henry Davis on the 25th November last.’ The witnesses were Henry and Hannah Davis, and Ann Barlow – presumably Hannah’s younger sister. The jury found Elizabeth Smith not guilty.

William Barlow’s will also informs us that his daughter Mary was married to Thomas Gatton of Wardour Street, who was also the tenant of one of William’s properties there. Thomas and Mary were both said to be living in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields when they were married there on 17 August 1767 (this suggests that Mary was born at the very latest by 1750, and probably earlier). There are a number of references to Thomas, who was a cheesemonger, in contemporary trade directories.

As for William Barlow himself, we learn from the will that while his main address (and presumably that of his obviously profitable patten-making business) was in Compton Street, Soho, he also owned other properties in Westminster – in Wardour Street, Poulteney Street and in Cross Lane, off Long Acre – as well as ‘my Freehold Lands Messuages Tenements and Hereditaments situate and being at Castle Bear in the parish of Ealing’.

As I’ve noted before, the fact that (according to the Westminster pollbooks) James Blanch also lived in Compton Street and was also a patten-maker, is fairly convincing evidence of a link with William Barlow. From the same source we also know that in 1790 James, now married to Jane Barlow, was living in Cross Lane in the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields. In his will, William Barlow bequeaths properties in Cross Lane to his daughter Jane: perhaps it was in one of these houses that she and her husband James were living?

St Martin-in-the-fields

Although there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that William Barlow of Compton Street was James Blanch’s father-in-law,  in one respect his will raises doubts about that hypothesis. William names as co-executors his daughter Jane, who was unmarried and about twenty-seven years old at the time of his death, and ‘James Frith the Younger of Sheppards Market in the parish of St George Hanover Square in the … County of Middlesex Grocer’. Shepherd Market was then, as now, a narrow street and square off Piccadilly, on the original site of the ‘May fair’ that gave the district its name. There appears to have been no blood tie between James Frith and William Barlow: elsewhere in the will there is a reference to ‘my friend Mr James Frith the Elder’, presumably the father of the first-mentioned James Frith. Yet not only is the younger James made co-executor with William’s daughter Jane, he is also to inherit with her all of William’s freehold property in Ealing, as well as other properties in London.

The fact that no clear division is made in this joint bequest might lead one to suspect that James Frith and Jane Barlow were engaged to be married when William wrote his will, and that therefore he was inclined to treat them as a single beneficiary. I’ve seen a copy of the younger James’ will (he died in 1794) and it reveals that his wife’s name was in fact Jane, and that she survived him. Does this mean that he, and not James Blanch, was William Barlow’s son-in-law and that ‘our’ James married a different Jane Barlow?

On the other hand, James Frith’s will doesn’t include any mention of Barlow in-laws, or of the properties bequeathed in William Barlow’s will. Neither does the will of his father, James Frith the Elder, who died in 1783. The puzzle would be solved if we could find evidence of the younger James Frith’s marriage, but so far this has eluded me.

William Barlow signed and sealed his will on 2 November 1778. It was proven on 14 August 1779, so he must have died at some point in the intervening months, probably in July or August. In August, his daughter Jane was still being described as a ‘spinster’.  However, it may not be coincidental that less than a month later, on 5 September 1779, a Jane Barlow married my 4 x great grandfather James Blanch at St Anne’s church, Soho. Of course it’s still possible that this Jane wasn’t, after all, the son of William Barlow of Compton Street, but this seems unlikely. It’s also possible that she was, at some stage, engaged to be married to James Frith, but that (after her father’s death?) she switched her preference to James Blanch who (as I speculated in an earlier post) might have been her father’s apprentice. Only time, and further research, will tell…

Update: 27 March 2012

Now that Westminster parish registers are available (as of today!) at findmypast, I’ve been able to look up James Frith and see that the person he married at St George, Hanover Square, in 1779 was Jane Atkinson. This doesn’t solve the mystery of why James featured so prominently in William Barlow’s will, but it does reassure me that he didn’t, after all, marry William’s daughter Jane.