Last week I wrote about James Blanch (1784 – 1841), who was transported for an offence of theft but went on to become a prominent and wealthy Australian. James was the half- brother of my great-great-great-grandfather John Blanch (1802 – 1869). In this post, I want to write about another of John’s brothers, Thomas. Like John, Thomas was the son of James Blanch senior (1754 – 1840) by his second wife Sophia Atkins (1778 -1821).
Like his brother John, Thomas Blanch was born at Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell. He was christened on 26 December 1797 at St Andrew’s church, Holborn. Thomas was James and Sophia Blanch’s second child, born three years after his older sister Mary Ann. Their father James already had three other children – Maria, Elizabeth and James – from his first marriage to Jane Barlow.
On Christmas Day 1820, when he was 23 years old, Thomas married Ann Akerman Fletcher, who could only have been 16 or 17 at the time, at St Anne’s, Soho, the church where his parents were married twenty-eight years earlier. It seems to have been a double wedding. The witnesses to the marriage of Thomas and Ann were Henry Johnson and George Fletcher. On the same day, in the same church, George Fletcher married Ann Wing: the witnesses were Henry Johnson and Thomas Blanch.
My current theory is that George Fletcher was Ann’s brother, and that both were the children of George and Ann Fletcher. We know from other records that Ann Fletcher, whose maiden name might have been Akerman, was born in Bristol in about 1784.
George Fletcher junior worked as a surveyor. To date, I’ve only found evidence of one child being born to him and his wife Ann: Charles Oxley Blanch Fletcher was born on 11 August 1824 at Mutton Hill, also known as Vine Street, between Saffron Hill and Clerkenwell Green, and christened at the local parish church of St James on 29 August. At the time of the 1841 census, we find a Charles Fletcher, described as an apprentice smith, aged 15, living in Church Street, Soho (which ran parallel to Compton Street), together with Harriet Fletcher, 12, and Ann Fletcher, 55, described as ‘independent’. The age and location matches what we know from other records about Ann Akerman Fletcher’s mother. Was Harriet Charles’ younger sister, and were both staying, or even living permanently, with their widowed grandmother? I haven’t managed to find any record of Harriet’s birth, but a later census record gives her place of birth as Clerkenwell.
I’ve found no further records for George and Ann Fletcher. I know that their son Charles died in Westminster in the third quarter of 1872, but I haven’t managed to discover anything about his life in the intervening years. As for Harriet, she turns up again later, as I note below.
Thomas and Ann Blanch also lived in Mutton Hill, Clerkenwell, after their marriage. Their first child, Thomas George, was born there on 18 November 1821 and christened at St Andrew, Holborn, on 7 April of the following year. Thomas senior’s occupation is given as coach smith, the same as his brothers’, David and William Henry. Thomas George died in infancy and was buried at St James, Clerkenwell, on 14 September 1823.
On 15 May of that year, Thomas and Ann Blanch’s second child, Mary Ann Sophia, was born. She was christened at St Andrew’s, Holborn, on 2 June. By this time, the Blanch family were living in Widnalls Place, just off Mutton Hill (see map above). A third child, William Henry, was born at the same address on 20 January 1825 and baptised at St Andrew’s on 20 February.
I’ve been unable to find any trace of Thomas and Ann Blanch or their family in the 1841 census records. However, I think there’s a strong chance that at some stage they were living in the parish of St James, Westminster, since this is where their daughter Mary Ann would get married, and also where their son William Henry’s wife was born. Moreover, Thomas’ brothers David and William both lived in the area for a time, and their coach-making business was based there, in Ham Yard off Great Windmill Street. If Thomas and Ann were living in this area, it would explain why there is no trace of them in the census, since we know that the 1841 records for this part of Soho are missing.
In 1843 Thomas’ and Ann’s daughter Mary Ann Sophia married market gardener Thomas Bagley in the district of St James, Westminster. Born in the Fulham Road in 1822, Thomas was the son of another market gardener, William Bagley, and his wife Ann.
I’ve found out from other family trees at Ancestry that Thomas’ and Ann’s son William Henry married Emma Ann Wilson at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 23 November 1847. From this starting-point, and making use of census and other records, I’ve discovered that Emma was born in the parish of St James, Westminster in 1827, the daughter of farrier Joseph Wilson and his Essex-born wife Emma Elizabeth. The family’s home was in Rupert Street, only a few streets from St Anne’s, Soho, but officially in St James’ parish. Emma had an older brother, Martin William, born in 1825, who would remain in Rupert Street and follow the same occupation as his father, and two younger siblings, Joseph Alfred (born in 1830) and Mary Ann Josephine (1833).
Like Thomas Blanch and his family, the Wilsons have proven difficult to trace in the 1841 census, and probably for the same reason. However, we know that Emma Elizabeth Wilson was a widow by 1851, when she would be living at No. 11 Royal Terrace, Richmond, and working as an ‘Eating House Keeper’. Living with her was her 18-year-old daughter Mary Ann Josephine. Her other daughter Emma, who had married William Henry Blanch four years earlier, was visiting at the time of the census. There was one other person in the household: 20-year-old Clerkenwell-born Harriet Fletcher, described as a house servant, who I believe to have been the daughter of George and Ann Fletcher (see above), and therefore William Henry Blanch’s cousin.
As for William himself, he could be found sharing a house in South Parade, Fulham, with a police constable’s family, and working (like his father) as a coach smith. It might be that Emma was only temporarily absent on the day of the census, and that the house in South Parade was her and William’s marital home. Thomas and Ann Blanch had also moved to Fulham by this date (perhaps father and son were working together?), sharing a house with their daughter Mary Ann Bagley and her family in North Row. By this date Thomas and Mary Bagley had three children: Thomas, 6, (Marian) Louisa, 3, and William Henry, 1, all born either in Fulham or Chelsea. Also living with them was Ann Blanch’s widowed mother, Ann Fletcher, now 67.
Thomas Blanch died in the last quarter of 1858 in the district of Kensington. He was 61 years old. In 1861 his widow Ann (wrongly described in the record as a ‘stepmother’, rather than mother-in-law) was living with the Bagleys at 18 Grove Road, Fulham Fields. Thomas Bagley was still working as a market gardener, while the eldest Bagley child, Thomas junior, 16, was now working as a farrier. Was this just coincidence, or was there some connection with the Wilson family’s business? There were now two additional Bagley children: Helena Ann, 5, and Emily Sarah, 2, the latter apparently born in Isleworth.
Thomas Bagley senior died in 1866 at the age of 44. In 1871 his widow Mary Ann, 47, can be found working as a needlewoman and living at 12 St Thomas Road, Fulham, with her widowed mother Ann Blanch, 67, and her daughter Louise, 23, who is working as a domestic servant. Daughter Emily Sarah, age 11, was boarding at an Industrial School in Wimbledon: these were schools for poor and neglected children, as well as those found guilty of juvenile delinquency.
A curiosity about the 1871 census record is the presence of Ernest Hawkins, age 2, described as a boarder and born in Fulham. Whatever his origins and parentage, by 1881 Ernest, now 12, has become a Bagley and is now described as Mary Ann’s son. Her daughter Lousia, now 33, is still unmarried and living at home (they are at the same address as ten years before): both mother and daughter are working as dressmakers. Mary Ann’s mother Ann, now 76, is also still living with them.
Ann Akerman Blanch, née Fletcher, died in 1882 at the age of 77. Her daughter Mary Ann Sophia Bagley, née Blanch, died in 1888 at the age of 64.
I’m not sure what became of Thomas Bagley junior or Helena Ann Bagley. William Henry Bagley seems to have followed in his father’s footsteps, working as a market gardener. His wife Anne was born in Soho (her middle name was ‘Ager’, but I don’t know what her maiden name was), prompting the question as to whether she was connected to the Blanch or Fletcher family in some way. The first record I’ve found for William and Anne is the 1891 census, when they were living at Millshot Farm, Fulham, with their teenage sons Charles and Horace. In 1901, William and Anne are at the same address, though Horace is no longer there and Charles seems to have changed his name to Claude. In 1991, Anne, now a widow of 61, and her son Claude, 38, a painter, can be found at 8 New Kings Road, Fulham.
What became of William Henry Blanch after 1851 is something of a mystery. I’ve found no further records for him, and no evidence of any children born to him and his wife Emma. I’ve been unable to trace either William or Emma in the 1861 census. However, in 1871 we find Emma Blanch, age 44 and born in St James, Middlesex, living at the Shakespeare Head in Wych Street, between the Strand and Drury Lane, and working as a sempstress. Apparently this pub, in an overcrowded and rather down-at-heel area, was patronized by Charles Dickens and other literary luminaries of Victorian London. Some of my Seager and Palmer ancestors, on my father’s side of the family, were living in the same area at around the same time.
At this stage, Emma is still described as a ‘wife’ and married, though there is no sign of her husband at the same address. However, William must have died before 1871 when Emma, now 54, and working as a laundress, can be found lodging at 32 Wych Street: she is now described as a widow. In both this and the previous census record, there is an entry in the final column describing Emma as deaf.
It may be coincidental that William and Emma are never to be found living together. On the other hand, one wonders why she was living in a pub off the Strand when her husband was last recorded working as a coach-smith in Fulham. Everything points to some kind of separation and to a childless and possibly unhappy marriage. I’ve yet to find a record of William’s death, but Emma may be the person whose death was recorded in Bromley, Kent, in 1888. If so, she would have been 61 years old.
I’m grateful to Robin Blanch for answering my question about Thomas Blanch’s connection with the Blanch family coach-making business. Robin has found three entries in the London Directory in the Guildhall Library indicating that Thomas and his brother David were in business together in the 1830s and early 1840s. Apparently entries for 1835, 1838 and 1840 mention “Blanch, Thos & David Coachsmiths Ham Yd, Gt Windmill St.”
Robin also includes another ‘tantalising piece of evidence’ from an announcement placed in The London Gazette on 17 July 1846:
We hereby agree to dissolve the partnership now existing between us in the business as Coach Smiths, now and for some years past carried on by us in Ham-Yard, Great Windmill-Street, Saint James’s, Westminster from and after Saturday next the 18th instant.
I think this new information supports my theory that Thomas and Ann Blanch moved from Clerkenwell to Soho some time in the late 1820s or 1830s, and that their absence from the 1841 census records is due to the fact that they were living in that part of the parish of St James, Westminster, for which records for that year are known to be missing.
The dissolution of the partnership with David, and his subsequent move to Chelsea, would also explain Thomas and Ann Blanch’s relocation to Fulham, to live with their daughter-in-law Mary Ann and her family.