Yesterday’s announcement by findmypast that they have published more than 1.3 million parish records from Westminster online is a huge cause for celebration among those of us with London ancestors.  As the announcement says:

The records cover the vast period 1538-1945, making them a historical goldmine for those with London ancestors. We have made these records available online for the first time.

More than 50 Westminster churches are included in the records published today, including St Anne, Soho, St Clement Danes, St George Hanover Square, St James Westminster, St Margaret Westminster, St Martin-in-the-Fields, St Mary-le-Strand and St Paul Covent Garden.

I have ancestors living in these parishes on both sides of my family, and until now, the search for information about their births, marriages and deaths has been frustrating, to say the least. Since the Westminster collection went ‘live’ yesterday, I’ve already found the burial record for my great-great-great grandmother, Margaret Robb née Monteith, who died at Charing Cross on 1 December 1843 and was buried at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 7 December. And I’ve begun to locate records for my Seager ancestors in the parish records of St Clement Danes.

St Clement Danes

That parish, covering the eastern end of the Strand and surrounding streets, has been among the most difficult to research until now. On my mother’s side of the family, the new collection at findmypast has already made it possible for me to locate the origins, and family, of Marianne or Mary Ann Burbidge, something I’ve repeatedly failed to do before. She was the wife of Soho carpenter Richard Ellis: their daughters Frances and Sophia married two of the sons of David Blanch, while their younger daughter Mary Ann lived for a time with my great-great-great grandparents John and Kezia Blanch.

We already knew from census records that Marianne Burbidge was born in the parish of St Clement Danes in about 1812, and from her marriage certificate that she was the daughter of Robert Burbidge, a victualler. But until yesterday, all my searches for further records of the family had been in vain. Now, however, I’ve discovered that Marianne was born at the Plough, a tavern in Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand, where her father Robert was the publican. She was christened on 14 November 1813 at the nearby church of St Clement Danes.

Marianne’s mother’s name was Ann, and it’s possible that her parents were the Robert Burbidge and Ann Perkins who were married at St George, Hanover Square, in 1812. This would certainly fit with the date of Marianne’s birth, and we know that she was the eldest of Robert and Ann’s children. She had two siblings that I’ve been able to identify: Charlotte, born in 1816, and John Robert, born in 1818: both were born in Beaufort Buildings and both baptised at St Clement Danes.

Beaufort Buildings, view towards the Strand

Beaufort Buildings was on the southern side of the Strand, roughly where the Savoy Theatre and Hotel stand today. One of its famous former occupants (in the 1780s) was the novelist Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones.

The National Archives have records from the Sun Fire Office for 27 February 1822, noting the insurance policy of ‘Robert Burbidge Beaufort Buildings victualler’. There’s also a note of ‘other property or occupiers: the Turks Head in Charlotte Street Portland Place (victualler)’ which appears to suggest that Robert owned or leased more than one establishment.

The London Lives website includes records from the Westminster Ratebooks, giving details of the property values of Westminster Electors. There are two entries for Robert Burbidge of Herberts Passage, St Clement Danes and St Mary-le-Strand, for 1818: for one, the rack rent value is 45, for the other 34 (pounds). This suggests either that the Plough stretched across two buildings, or that the Burbidges occupied two properties in the same street.

Herberts Passage was the narrow street that intersected Beaufort Buildings, running parallel to the Strand. It may be simple coincidence that my great-great-grandparents, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe (née Blanch) were living at 4 Herberts Passage in 1856 and in 1859, when their children Mary Ann Blanch Roe and John Richard Roe were born. I believe that Robert Burbidge had died by this date and that the Plough was under new ownership, but perhaps the Burbidge connection helps to explain why the Roes moved to this address from Great Crown Court, Soho, where they had been living in 1853, and where they would be found again, together with Mary Ann’s parents John and Kezia Blanch, in the 1861 census. We know they were in Great Crown Court in 1853, as this was where another son, Daniel junior, was born: perhaps significantly, he was given the middle name Ellis.