The various John Bodingtons of Stepney

John Bodington, the London apothecary whose will I discussed in the last post, lived in the hamlet of Ratcliffe. When he died in 1728, he was buried in the churchyard of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. The parish register doesn’t tell us how old Bodington was when he died, which is unfortunate, as it would have helped us to identify him in contemporary records and distinguish him from the various other John Bodingtons who lived in the area in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. There are a number of records relating to a John Bodington in the Stepney registers, going back as far as the 1630s, and at this stage I’m not sure which of them relates to the person who died in 1728. In this post, I’ll share what I’ve managed to find out so far, in the hope that things will become clearer as more information comes to light.

Barber-surgeon at work

Barber-surgeon at work

On 31st January 1638, John Bodington, a barber-surgeon ‘of this parish’ married Margaret Greene of the same parish at St Dunstan’s church. Five years later, on 7th April 1643, Anne, daughter of John Bodington of Shadwell, chirurgeon, and his wife Margaret, was christened at St Dunstan’s. On 5th January 1662, the same couple had a daughter named Elizabeth baptised. I’ve been unable to find any other children born to John and Margaret between these dates, but perhaps that’s because this period coincided with the Civil War, when parish registers were often interrupted, and many men were obviously away from home.

The next record associated with the name of John Bodington relates to the burial on 4th November 1673 of Margaret Bodington, daughter of John Bodington of Ratcliffe, apothecary. Ratcliffe is the next hamlet to Shadwell, and perhaps surgeons could also be apothecaries – so is this the same John Bodington? If not, could it be his son, naming his daughter after his mother? If the latter, then this John Bodington, apothecary, would need to have been born by the early 1650s at the latest.

There are christening records in the St Dunstan’s register for two children born to John Bodington of Ratcliffe, apothecary, in the early 1680s. On 23rd January 1682, Elizabeth, daughter of John Bodington and his wife Joan, was christened at St Dunstans Stepney. On 15th March 1684 the same couple had a son Richard baptised.

In 1690 a surgeon by the name of John Bodington served on board a ship called the Mehittable, whose commander was one Gilbert Bant. Captain Bant was a mariner and merchant of Boston, Massachusetts, who died there in 1732.

Ships in Boston harbour, 1723

Ships in Boston harbour, 1723

On 1st December 1691 John Bodington, son of John Bodington, citizen and apothecary of London, put himself apprentice to John Hemingway, another citizen and apothecary.  In 1696 a John Bodington (the same one?) signed the oath of the Company of Apothecaries. I assume this John Bodington would have been born some time in the late 1670s, and might therefore have been the son of John and Joan.

In February 1698, John Bodington of Ratcliffe, apothecary, was buried at St Dunstan’s. On 5th May 1698, Margaret Bodington of Ratcliffe, widow, was buried. Was she the widow of the John Bodington who died three months earlier, and perhaps also the person who married John Bodington in 1638? Unfortunately the will of the John Bodington who died in 1698, which was proved in 1699 and describes him as an apothecary and freeman of the City of London, is not available online. It is part of the Testamentary Records in the Commissary Court of London, which can only be viewed at the London Metropolitan Archives or at a FamilySearch Family History Center.

Apparently there are only two John Bodingtons buried in Stepney churchyard, one in 1698 and the other in 1728. The latter was the apothecary who wrote his will in that year, but who was the former: was it his father, his grandfather, or neither?

I want to return, finally, to the 1638 marriage of John Bodington, barber-surgeon, to Margaret Greene. This was the record that got me excited about a possible family connection with my 7 x great grandfather Joseph Greene, one of the executors of the Bodington will of 1728. If we assume that Margaret was somewhere between fifteen and twenty years old when she married, then she would have been born between about 1618 and about 1623. If we search the Stepney register for baptisms during this period, then there is really only one candidate. On 14th November 1619, Margaret Greene, daughter of William and Agnes Greene of Ratcliffe was baptised, having been born on the same day. We know from later records that this William Greene was a chirurgeon – i.e. a surgeon – the same profession as John Bodington. This seems more than a coincidence. What’s more, I’ve often wondered whether William Greene, chirurgeon, was the father of Captain William Greene, my 8 x great grandfather and the father of Joseph. After all, he and Agnes had a son named William baptised in 1623, and we know that my ancestor was born around this time.

I’m speculating wildly here, but if the Margaret Greene who married John Bodington was the sister of Captain William Greene, and the John Bodington who died in 1728 was perhaps her son – then the latter John Bodington and Joseph Greene would have been first cousins. There are two possible drawbacks to this theory. One is that Bodington’s will describes Joseph as a ‘friend’ rather than as a cousin or even a kinsman. The second is that the will of William Greene, chirurgeon, who died in 1656, makes no reference to Margaret or her husband. On the other hand, the only children mentioned in that will are described as ‘my four youngest daughters’, suggesting that he had other offspring still living who were older.

Could it be that my long digression into the history of the Byne and Manser families of Sussex has led me back, by a circuitous route, to the Greenes of Stepney, and will indirectly help me to solve the mystery that has been bothering me for so long – the family origins of my 8 x great grandfather, Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe?

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