In the previous post I wrote about two of my maternal great-great-great-grandmothers who were first cousins: Keziah and Eliza Holdsworth. In this post I want to tell Keziah’s life story, and in another post I’ll set down what we know about Eliza’s life.

Birth and early life in Oxford

Keziah Holdsworth was born in St Clement’s, Oxford, in about 1804. We know this from later census records. Although the 1841 census claims that Keziah was born ‘in county’ – i.e. in Middlesex (she was living in Stepney at the time) –  the 1851, 1861 and 1881 records clearly state that she was born in Oxford, while the 1871 census gives her birthplace more specifically as ‘Oxford St Clements’ – a district to the east of the city, its main street linking the centre with Headington Hill.

As I noted in the last post, Keziah was the daughter of Essex-born carpenter John Holdsworth (born 1765) and Mary Webb. It’s not entirely clear how many siblings Keziah had, though we know that her parents had at least two children before Keziah, when they were living in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire: Eliza in 1798 and William in 1800. No further records are available for William, who may not have survived, but later census records confirm the date and place of Eliza’s birth. She would have been about six years old when her younger sister Keziah was born. The Holdsworths, who must have moved to Oxford some time between 1800 and 1804, remained there until at least 1809, when their youngest son, Joseph, was born in the city. This was also the year when Keziah’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Holdsworth, died in Stepney, and the event may have prompted the family’s move to London. Family records also suggest that John Holdsworth had another daughter, named Ann, who remained in Oxfordshire, marrying a Mr Morley or Mosley.

A Stepney childhood

We know that John Holdsworth and his family were in the Stepney area by 1812, when he began to pay land tax on a property in William Street, which appears to have been the family home for a number of years after this.  Contemporary maps remind us that Stepney was still a semi-rural suburb at the time, though it would grow rapidly in the ensuing decades. When the family moved to the area, Keziah would have been surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins. Her uncle Joseph, a cordwainer or shoemaker and later a tallow chandler, was still living in William Street in 1809 and may even have shared a house with his brother John.  By 1812 Joseph and his wife Margaret had at least four children: Sarah, Elizabeth, Godfrey, and Joseph. As for Keziah’s uncle William, another shoemaker, he had once lived with his brother Joseph in nearby Marmaduke Street, but was now living a short distance away on the borders of Mile End Old Town and Bethnal Green. By this time he and his wife Lydia had five children: Samuel, Phoebe, Eliza, Edward and Sarah. A third uncle, Godfrey Holdsworth, worked as a plumber, and he and his wife Diana were living in Mile End Old Town with their eight children: Joseph, Sarah, John, Godfrey, Diana, Edward, Elizabeth and Charles.  Finally there was an aunt, Sarah, also living in the Mile End area, with her second husband, William Parker.

Mile End Old Town, from Horwood's map of 1792

Mile End Old Town, from Horwood’s map of 1792

We don’t have any other records that throw light on Keziah’s childhood and youth in Stepney. Does her Christian name suggest that her parents were Dissenters, and did they belong to one of the Nonconformist areas in the Stepney area, like her Baptist uncle William?  As a young woman, did Keziah work as a domestic servant, like her sister Eliza  and so many other female members of the Holdsworth family? 

Marriage to John Blanch

The next definite date we have for Keziah is that of her marriage.  On 5th July 1827, when she was about 23 years old, Keziah Holdsworth married 25-year-old John Blanch at the parish church of St Anne, Limehouse. Both bride and groom appear to have signed their own names in the register. It’s not clear why this church was chosen, given that Keziah lived in the parish of St George-in-the-East and she and John would live in Mile End and then Bethnal Green. But it seems to have been a favourite in the family: their daughter Mary Ann would marry Daniel Roe there in 1848, and their son Joseph Priestley Roe, my great grandfather, would marry my great grandmother Eliza Bailey there in 1883.

John Blanch was a shoemaker, like two of Keziah’s uncles, and perhaps that explains how she came to meet him. Perhaps he was apprenticed to one of those uncles? We don’t know where John had been living before his marriage, but it’s probable that his family had moved to Stepney from their home in the Holborn area, where John had been born in 1802. John’s mother Sophia had died in Mile End Old Town six years before his marriage. As I noted in the last post, John was the son of Bristol-born patten maker James Blanch, from an old west-country Quaker family, and his second wife Sophia Atkins. John’s older brothers owned a coach-making business in Soho in the West End of London. His half-brother James, a customs officer, had been convicted of theft and transported in 1814 to Australia, where he became a successful and wealthy maker of mathematical instruments.

There were two witnesses to the marriage of John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth: Thomas Harrison, who would marry John’s half-sister Mary Ann in the following year, and Thomas Howard junior, who seems to have been the son of a well-to-do carpenter in Bethnal Green. If the parish records are correct, there were barely five months between John and Keziah’s marriage in July 1827 and the baptism of their first daughter in December. Perhaps this was a shotgun wedding? Mary Ann Blanch was christened at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, the location for countless baptism, weddings and funerals in my maternal family tree, stretching back to at least the seventeenth century. The parish register gives John’s occupation as ‘cordwainer’ and the family’s address as ‘MEOT- Mile End Old Town.

Mile End Old Town and Bethnal Green

It seems odd that there is no record (or certainly not any that I’ve come across) of other children being born to John and Keziah in the intervening six years. The next child for whom we have a christening record is Joseph James, who was baptised at the same church in 1833. The family’s address was as before, and they were still in Mile End Old Town when their daughters Keziah Sarah and Eliza Maria were christened in 1837, though there is a suggestion that the former may have been born some three years earlier. Another daughter, Sophia Holdsworth Blanch, was baptised in 1839.

Sophia appears not to have survived, since the 1841 census finds John and Keziah Blanch living in Wellington Street (which had been perhaps been their address since their marriage) with their children Mary, (Joseph) James, Keziah and Eliza, as well as an eighteen-year-old apprentice named James Woodwell, suggesting that John Blanch was now a master shoemaker. In the same street, though in the household of midwife Sarah Eliot, we find a 75-year-old carpenter named John Holdsworth. The details certainly match those of Keziah’s father, who presumably a widower by now: perhaps he was actually living with his daughter and her family, and merely visiting a neighbour when the census was taken?

Keziah’s younger brother Joseph had married  Eliza Cuzens at the family’s favoured church, St Anne’s, Limehouse, in August 1835. Keziah’s husband John Blanch had been one of the witnesses. In 1841, Joseph, Elizabeth and their sons Joseph and John, were also living in Mile End Old Town. The census record describes Joseph as a builder and his wife as a haberdasher.

Keziah’s older sister Eliza remained unmarried and in 1841, at the age of 43, she was living in Cottage Grove in Mile End Old Town, where she was a servant in the household of Joseph Fletcher, described in the census record as a ‘dissenting minister’ . He was, in fact the minister of the Stepney Independent Meeting, and perhaps Eliza’s occupation is evidence of a family connection with this, one of the oldest congregational assemblies in the country? (I believe that my Greene ancestors had been associated with this congregation since its beginnings in the seventeenth century.)

Keziah and John Blanch would have two more children. Emma Louisa was born in 1842, but not christened until 1858, when she was 16, and John Holdsworth Blanch in 1844. By the latter date, the family was living in Bethnal Green.

Bethnal Green in 1827: from Greenwood's map

Bethnal Green in 1827: from Greenwood’s map

In July 1848, the family returned to the parish church of St Anne, Limehouse, for the wedding of John and Keziah’s eldest child, Mary Ann, now aged 21, to her second cousin Daniel Roe. As I explained in the last post, Daniel was the son of Keziah’s cousin Eliza (not to be confused with her sister of the same name), the daughter of her now-deceased uncle William Holdsworth. Daniel and Mary Ann were my great-great-grandparents. Eliza’s husband, Daniel Roe senior, had died in 1836 and by the early 1840s she had moved back to London from Bedfordshire, with three of her four children. Eliza had herself remarried in 1845, to John Sharp. Since Daniel Roe junior was (like his father) a shoemaker, I’ve always thought it likely that he was apprenticed to, or at least worked alongside, his father-in-law, John Blanch.

In October 1850 Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s first child, and John and Keziah Blanch’s first grandchild, was born. Named after her two grandmothers, Keziah Eliza Roe was born in St Thomas Square, Hackney (see these posts) and christened in January 1851 at St Dunstan’s in Stepney, by which time Daniel and Mary Ann were said to be living in ‘Green Street Globe Lane’. This was, in fact, the home of Mary Ann’s parents: John and Keziah Blanch can be found living there at the time of the census later that year. John is described in the record as a boot and shoemaker, while Keziah is working with him as a boot binder and their son Joseph, now 20, is employed as a carpenter. Also still at home are Emma, 9, and John, 7. The final member of the household was one Mary Ann Ellis, aged 2, described as a ‘nurse child’. I’ve written elsewhere about Mary Ann, her parents, and their ties with the Blanch family. At the very least, this indicates a close relationship between the Stepney and Soho branches of the Blanch family.

John and Keziah’s other daughter, Keziah Eliza, now 16, was working as a housemaid alongside her aunt Eliza. The latter was still working for the Fletcher family, as a cook, though Rev Fletcher had since died and his widow Mary and son John were living in Regents Terrace, near Regents Park. As for Keziah’s younger brother Joseph, he and his wife Margaret and their children were now living in Devonshire Street, Stepney, which was not very far from Green Street, though the family would soon emigrate to Australia.

In 1852, John and Keziah Blanch’s son Joseph married weaver’s daughter Eliza Philpot; their first daughter, another Eliza Keziah, 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 to Bognor.


It’s not clear why John and Keziah Blanch, together with their daughter Mary Ann and her family, moved west to Soho. We know there was a family connection with the area: John’s brothers had maintained their coach business in Ham Yard off Great Windmill Street, though by the mid-1840s they had moved to Kensington. However, we know that John and Kezia Blanch, as well as Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, must have moved westwards by 1853. 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, when 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.

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.

Part of Westminster, from Horwood's 1792 map

Part of Westminster, from Horwood’s 1792 map

Meanwhile, at No. 8, John Blanch, his wife Keziah 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.

John and Keziah 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 Keziah’s daughter Emma married carpenter Walter Trader, also in Limehouse; they would live in Stepney, then Shoreditch, and later West Ham.

Deaths in the family

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.

Keziah’s daughter Mary Ann Roe, my great-great-grandmother, died from phthisis or 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 her husband was deceased, though perhaps significantly it was their 19-year-old daughter Keziah Eliza who registered Mary Ann’s death.

At the time of the 1871 census the orphaned Keziah Eliza and three of her younger siblings were to be found living with their grandmother, the widowed Keziah Blanch, and her unmarried daughter Eliza, a laundress, at 52 Broad Street, Soho, another building occupied mainly by tailors and their families. Keziah Eliza Roe,19, was working an ironer, her sister Mary Ann Roe, 15, as a laundress, and her brother Daniel Ellis Roe, 17, as an engineer; while the youngest sibling present, John Richard Roe, was only 12 years old.  (Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s youngest son, my great-grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, now 8, was living with his aunt Eliza Parker in Camberwell.) Also living with Keziah was another granddaughter, two-year-old Flora Blanch, the daughter of John Holdsworth Blanch and his wife Elizabeth.

My widowed great-great-grandmother Keziah Blanch née Holdsworth was now 67 years old. By this time her brother Joseph Holdsworth and his family were living in Australia, while her unmarried sister Eliza Holdsworth was still working for the Fletcher family: in 1871 she was a nurse in the Hampshire household of Joseph Fletcher junior, a Congregational minister like his late father.

What of Keziah’s other children? Her son Joseph James Blanch had lost his first wife Elizabeth and married a second wife, Ann, with whom he was now living in West Ham. Another son, John Holdsworth Blanch, a carpenter like his older brother, and his wife Eliza and their children, were in Poultney Street, Soho. Keziah’s daughter Keziah Sarah Blanch, still unmarried at 34, was still in service, working as a housemaid in the home of landowner George Pollock in Grosvenor Street off Hanover Square. As for Emma Louisa Blanch, she had married butcher Walter Trader in 1869 and they were now living in Shoreditch.


Some time in the next ten years, Keziah Blanch moved from Soho to Ealing. The census of 1881 finds her, now 77 years old, living at 11 Cumberland Terrace. Her daughter Eliza, now 44, is still living with her and still working alongside her as a laundress. For some reason, Keziah’s granddaughter Flora, now 12, was also still with them, as were her great grandchildren Leonard and Ruth Kew, children of Mary Ann Blanch Roe (daughter of Daniel and Mary Ann Roe) and her husband Leonard Kew, who were travelling the country as entertainers.

Ealing Broadway

Ealing Broadway

What was it that brought my great-great-great-grandmother to Ealing? Perhaps it was the fact that Leonard and Mary Ann Kew had been living there, and Keziah came to look after the house and children while her daughter and son-in-law were away? Perhaps it was the fact that her daughter Eliza was now working as a servant in the house of Mary Combe in Sandringham Gardens, Ealing, where her aunt (and Keziah’s sister) Eliza Holdsworth, now 83, was a visitor at the time of the census. Ironically, this was the part of London, then semi-rural, where Keziah’s father-in-law James Blanch had owned property during his first marriage, before the later decline in his fortunes.

Whatever the reason, this would be the last move that my 3 x great grandmother would make. She died in Ealing in September of the same year. Born in the year before the Battle of Trafalgar, Keziah died in the month that the first electricity supply was installed in an English town. Both her sister Eliza and brother Joseph outlived her, the former dying in Ealing in 1890 and the latter in South Yarra, Melbourne, Australia, in 1905.