I’ve been searching for a long time, without success, for the will of my maternal 6 x great grandfather, John Gibson. Then, a few weeks ago, while browsing the National Archives site, I came across a reference to a ‘probate inventory, or declaration…with account’ of the estate of John Gibson of St Botolph without Aldgate, deceased, dated 1764.

St Botolph, Aldgate, from the Minories

I applied to the National Archives for a copy of the inventory, and at the weekend it finally arrived – a three-page document in the name of John Gibson’s widow Mary, witnessed by a lawyer. It contains some surprising revelations: for example, it turns out that John Gibson owned a brewing business, but was eventually declared bankrupt. Not only that, he was later arrested and spent a number of years in prison. Then, after John’s death, his widow Mary appears to have been involved in a bitter dispute with her own mother about his goods and property.

Section of Rocque’s 1746 map of London, showing Rosemary Lane and Darby Street (just north of Aldgate churchyard)

How can we be sure that this is ‘our’ John Gibson? Well, we know that my ancestor lived in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, and that he died in 1763, the year before this inventory of his goods was drawn up. We also know that his wife was named Mary, and that she survived him. The name of his mother-in-law, Mary Greene, with whom his widow was in dispute, also matches the information we already have. Finally, the disputed premises were in Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, an address with close associations for ‘our’ Gibson family (see map above). John and Mary Gibson’s daughter, Elizabeth Gibson (my 5 x great grandmother) was living there in 1759, with her first husband John Collins, when their daughter Frances was born. Three years later, Elizabeth’s sister – another Frances – would be living in the same street with her husband Captain Michael Bonner, when their son John William was born.

In the next post, I’ll share my transcription of the document. Firstly, though, it might be useful to recap what we already know about John Gibson. If the age on his burial record is correct, then John was born in about 1699. John, son of Benjamin Gibson and Mary Clarke, was born in Gravel Lane, Aldgate and christened at St Botolph’s church on 18th June 1699, though at this stage we can’t be absolutely sure that this is the right person.

We know nothing about John’s early life before he married Mary Greene on 8th July 1729 at All Hallows, London Wall (perhaps significantly, the same church where Benjamin and Mary Gibson were married). He was thirty years old, his bride nineteen. She was the only surviving child of my 7 x great grandparents, goldsmith Joseph Greene and his wife Mary; Joseph was the son of Captain William Greene, mariner of Ratcliffe and Warden of Trinity House – my 8 x great grandfather and (to date) my earliest confirmed ancestor.

Tower Hill and Little Tower Hill from Rocque’s 1746 map

Joseph and Mary Greene lived at the corner of the Minories and Little Tower Hill, where Joseph traded at the sign of the Golden Ball and Ring. Their daughter Mary and her husband John Gibson seem to have lived at Tower Hill for most of their marriage.  All seven of their children were born there and baptised at St Botolph’s. Their first daughter Mary was born in 1730, Jane in 1731, Elizabeth in 1733, Frances in 1735 and Ann in 1737.

Ann was christened in January 1737 and in December of that year, John’s father-in-law Joseph Greene died, aged 60, and was buried in the family tomb in the churchyard at St Dunstan’s, Stepney.  In his will, Joseph left one thousand pounds to his daughter Mary and her husband ‘Lieut. John Gibson’. So John was a lieutenant – a mariner? – at the time of his marriage, and for at least eight years afterwards. However, I’ve been unable to find any record of his service in the navy or on merchant ships.

We also know that, a year after Joseph’s death, his widow Mary Greene purchased the manor of Woodredon, near Waltham Abbey, Essex, from the Duke of Bedford and ‘immediately conveyed it to her daughter and son-in-law, Mary and John Gibson.’ However, the Gibsons must also have maintained their Tower Hill address, since two more children were born there in the next ten years: Bowes John in 1744 and Sarah in 1746.

Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey: home of the Gibson family

John and Mary Gibson’s daughter Jane was married from Woodredon in 1752, to William Coates of Theydon Mount. In 1753, Elizabeth Gibson married John Collins of Epping in Mayfair. In 1754, Ann Gibson married Charles Gottfried Schwartz at St George’s in the East. In 1761, Frances married Michael Bonner in her home parish of St Botolph’s.

John Gibson of the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, died of fever in early 1763 and was buried at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, on 20th February. He was 64 years old. Three months later, his daughter Elizabeth married her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth. In the following year, we learn that John (later Baron) Henniker ‘began to acquire’ the manor of Woodredon ‘from the Gibsons and their relatives’.