Thomas Forrest, a citizen and haberdasher who lived at Little Tower Hill and who was buried at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate on 12th January 1679, was my 9 x great grandfather, and my earliest confirmed London ancestor. His daughter Alice, my 8 x great grandmother, married citizen and stationer John Byne, and their daughter Mary Byne and her husband, citizen and goldsmith Joseph Greene, were my 7 x great grandparents.

St Botolph, Aldgate

St Botolph, Aldgate

I’ve been trying to find out more about the origins of Thomas Forrest. What do we know about him with any degree of certainty?  We know that, besides Alice, he also had a son named Thomas, who is mentioned in his will and was in fact appointed co-executor with his mother Anne. However, I’ve yet to find any further records for Thomas Forrest junior.

It seems likely that Anne Forrest’s maiden name was Borrowes or Burroughs, and that she is the person, from the parish of St Andrew, Holborn, who married Thomas Forrest at the church of St Bartholomew the Great on 18th June 1650. The parish register notes that Thomas was from the parish of St Botolph, Aldersgate, but this might be an error for Aldgate, since all other records place him in the latter parish.

On 27th April 1652, a child named Thomas, son of Thomas and Anne Forrest of the Minories, was buried at St Botolph, Aldgate. I haven’t yet found christening records for Alice, or for the Thomas junior who survived, but they were probably both born some time in the 1650s. By the time of Thomas senior’s death in 1679, Thomas junior was old enough to be named as an executor, while Alice was already married with at least one child.

I’m fairly certain that Thomas Forrest senior had a brother William who survived him. This is the person who died in Badsey, Worcestershire, in 1700. Although he describes my 8 x great grandmother Alice Byne née Forrest as a ‘cousin’, we know from other documents that she was actually his niece. William’s absence from Thomas’ will of 1678 is something of a problem, but the will only leaves money and property to immediate family and does not mention any Forrest relatives.

In other posts I’ve described at length my theory about the links between the Forrests and the Boulton family of London and Worcestershire. Briefly, I believe that William and Thomas Forrest had a sister named Alice who married a member of the Boulton family – probably named William – and that they had a number of children, including East India Company merchant Richard Boulton and gunsmith Peter Boulton.

The Worcestershire connection initially led me to believe that the Forrests, like the Boultons, had their roots in that county. While that may still turn out to be true, more recently I’ve been exploring the theory that Thomas Forrest was actually born in London. I’ve found evidence of other Forrests living in Aldgate who might be related to him. For example, I’ve discovered a couple named William and Susan Forrest who had children named Thomas and Alice, born around the time when one might expect ‘my’ Thomas Forrest and his sister to have been born. On 14th January 1626, Alice Forrest, daughter of William, was christened at St Botolph’s church. On 7th December 1628, William and Susan Forrest had a son named Thomas baptised at the same church, but he died and was buried there nine days later. The same couple buried a daughter named Elizabeth on 10th September 1630, a daughter named Anne on 21st March 1631, and another son named Thomas on 9th April 1632.

It seems likely that if William and Susan Forrest had another son after this, they would also have named him Thomas, though if he were born in 1632, he would have been only eighteen years old in 1650 when I believe ‘my’ Thomas was married. Would this have been too young for a seventeenth-century man to marry? If William and Susan then had another son, there’s a strongly possibility that he would have been named William after his father. And the Alice Forrest who was born in 1626 would certainly have been about the right age to marry (William) Boulton in the 1650s.

All of the parish records for William and Susan Forrest give their address in what looks like an abbreviated form – ‘Esd’ (see below)? Does this stand for East Smithfield?

Alice Forrest daughter William Esd

William’s occupation in these records is also rather difficult to make out, but looks like ‘porter’. I don’t know enough about seventeenth-century occupations to determine what status this job had, but I wonder if the son of a porter would have become a haberdasher, and if his daughter would have married a merchant?

Tower of London and Tower Hill in late 17th century (Johann Spilberg II) (via

Tower of London and Tower Hill in late 17th century (Johann Spilberg II) (via

A number of other families with the surname Forrest can be found living in the parish of St Botolph, Aldgate, in the middle of the seventeenth century. I was particularly intrigued by John and Mary Forrest, who lived – like my ancestor Thomas – at Tower Hill. On 18th June 1665, when living at this address, they had a son named Peter christened at St Botolph’s.  Some seven years earlier, on 5th December 1658, they had buried a son named Thomas at the same church: their address then had been (what looks like) Bedlam Street.

At this stage, I can’t confirm that any of these Aldgate Forrests were related to my ancestor Thomas, but their presence in the same area, at around the same time, perhaps strengthens the evidence for ‘my’ Forrests having their roots in London.