The newly-available London land tax records have provided me with important information about the movements of my Roe and Blanch ancestors in the 1850s and 1860s, supplementing what I’d already gleaned from census records and parish registers.

My maternal great-great-grandparents, Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch, were married at the church of St Anne, Limehouse, on 3rd July 1848. Born in Biggleswade, Daniel was the son of Daniel Roe senior, a Bedfordshire shoemaker, and his Stepney-born wife Eliza Holdsworth. Mary Ann was the daughter of Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch and his wife Kezia Holdsworth – Eliza’s cousin.

Daniel’s and Mary Ann’s first daughter, Kezia Eliza, was born in St Thomas Square, Hackney, in 1850, but by the time of the census in the following year, the young family was living in Patriot Row, Bethnal Green. Daniel was working as a bootmaker while Mary Ann worked alongside him as a boot binder.

Shoemaker’s shop, 1849 (via

Mary Ann’s parents, John and Kezia Blanch, were living in nearby Green Street at the time, with their 20-year-old son Joseph James, a carpenter, and two other children: Emma Louisa, 9, and John Holdsworth, 7. Their 17-year-old daughter Kezia Sarah had already left home and was working as a domestic servant in central London. Living with the Blanch family at this time was 2-year-old ‘nurse child’ Mary Ann Ellis, the daughter of Richard and Marianne Ellis of Richmond Street, Soho, who would later be linked to the family of John Blanch’s brother David by marriage.

We already knew that, some time in the next ten years, both John Blanch and Daniel Roe would move with their families from Bethnal Green to Soho. The birth records for Daniel’s and Mary Ann’s younger children gave us some clue as to their movements, but now the land tax records provide a much fuller picture.

In 1852, John and Kezia Blanch’s son Joseph married weaver’s daughter Eliza Philpot; their first daughter, another Eliza Kezia, was born in Green Street in the following year. (Joseph and his family would remain in the East End, though after Eliza died in 1879, Joseph remarried and moved to West Ham and later Bognor). It’s possible that the birth took place at the home of Joseph’s parents, suggesting that they were still in Bethnal Green at this date.

However, we know that John and Kezia Blanch, as well as Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, must have moved westwards in the next year or so. Daniel Ellis Roe was born on 7th March 1853 at 8 Crown Court, Soho. There are land tax records for John Blanch at this address from 1855, but it’s possible he was there two years earlier, initially as a sub-tenant perhaps, so that his name does not feature in the records. John paid land tax on this property every year from 1855 to 1870, at the rate of £1 2s 6d until 1865, and £1 3s 4d thereafter.

It’s not clear whether Mary Ann Blanch was staying with her parents temporarily when Daniel Ellis was born, or whether 8 Crown Court was also home to the Roe family at this stage. Certainly, by the time their daughter Mary Ann Blanch Roe was born, on 23rd October 1856, Daniel and Mary Ann were living at 4 Herberts Passage, on the south side of the Strand. There are land tax records on this property in Daniel’s name for the years 1858 and 1859.

In 1858, Daniel Roe was one of four occupants in Herberts Passage, and his land tax  – 16s 4d – was the lowest, the others all being at least twice that amount. The Roes were living at No. 4 – the other properties being numbered 5-8. The proprietor of all the buildings in Herberts Passage, and in neighbouring Beaufort Buildings, was Sir George Carroll (1783 – 1860), a stockbroker who had served as Mayor of London in 1846. (In an earlier post, I noted that Marianne Burbidge, wife of Richard Ellis, was born in Beaufort Buildings, since her father Robert had been proprietor of the Plough inn there.)

In 1859, Daniel was named as occupant of the same property, now paying a lower rate of 8s 2d – though since all the houses in the street were paying lower rate, perhaps this figure referred to only part of the year. By this time, the Roes’ landlord, Sir George Carroll was virtually a neighbour, occupying three of his own properties in Beaufort Buildings. On 15th April 1859 John Richard Roe was born at 4 Herberts Passage.

I don’t know where the Roes were in 1860, but certainly by the next year, when the census was taken, they had joined Mary Ann’s parents in Crown Court, Soho – though at No 2, rather than No 8. Daniel was a sub-tenant of greengrocer Richard Brown, who paid the land tax of 16s 6d on the property. In addition to Brown and his wife and children, as well as Daniel and Mary Ann and their four children, the property was also home to porter William Lee and his wife, broker Stephen Shuffle and his wife and son, groom Charles Rees and his wife and son, and whip-mounter William Gregory and his wife and five children.

Soho street: Victorian cartoon by Cruickshank

Meanwhile, at No. 8, John Blanch, his wife Kezia and their three children, all of them of working age – Eliza 23, a shoe binder, Emma 20, a needlewoman, and John,16, a shop lad – shared their property with clothes salesman Michael Thomas Fitzgerald and his wife and three children, and a number of lodgers – widower William Faringdon, a bootmaker, and his son Charles, 12, shopman George Strange, tailor Daniel Gearson and his wife, and bootcloser George Dowden, his wife and six children.  It’s a reasonable assumption that at least some of these were employees of John Blanch in his bootmaking business.

The precise movements of the Roe family become difficult to track after this date. We know that their youngest child, my great-grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, was born on 27th July 1862, around the corner from Crown Court at 23 Great Windmill Street. At the time of the 1861 census this property had been occupied by Joseph North, a clerk, who was still paying land tax on it in the following year, together with his wife and two children and a number of sub-tenants. It’s possible that the Roes moved here some time in late 1861 or early 1862, but it’s impossible to determine the reason.

As already noted, John and Kezia Blanch remained at 8 Crown Court throughout the 1860s. In 1866 their son John married Elizabeth Brooks at St Anne’s, Limehouse, though by 1871 they too would be living in Soho – in Great Poulteney Street. In July 1869 John and Kezia’s daughter Emma married carpenter Walter Trader, also in Limehouse: they would live in Stepney, then Shoreditch, and later West Ham.

According to General Register Office records, John Blanch died in the parish of St James, Westminster, in the last quarter of 1869, at the age of 69. Nevertheless, he was still registered to pay land tax of £1 3s 4d for 8 Crown Court in the following year, suggesting that his widow Keziah remained there after his death, at least for a time. Curiously, another Blanch (no first name given) was paying tax on No. 4 at the same date. However, by the time of the 1871 census, No 4 was occupied by bootmaker Charles Richardson and his family, while No 8 was the home of two other bootmaking families and a master carpenter.

Mary Ann Roe née Blanch died from phthisis (tuberculosis) at the age of 34, on 7th September 1870, at 10 Dufours Place, off Broad Street, Soho. According to the land tax records for that year, the tenant at No 10 was William Otto (?).  However, he was not mentioned in the census of 1871, and indeed by that date there are no familiar names to be found at No 10. The house seems mostly occupied by tailors and their families.

The date of Daniel Roe’s death remains a mystery, and no record of it has yet come to light. Mary Ann’s death certificate describes her as his wife, but does not say that he was deceased, though perhaps significantly it was their 19-year-old daughter Kezia Eliza who registered Mary Ann’s death. At the time of the 1871 census Kezia and her three younger siblings can to be found living with their grandmother, the widowed Kezia Blanch, at 52 Broad Street, another building occupied mainly by tailors and their families.