I continue to be fascinated by the life of my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson. Born at Tower Hill, London, in 1733, Elizabeth was the daughter of coal factor John Gibson and his wife Mary Greene, and the granddaughter on her mother’s side of goldsmith Joseph Greene and his wife Mary Byne. Her great-grandparents included Sussex-born London stationer John Byne and his wife Alice Forrest, and Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe, who served as Warden of Trinity House under Samuel Pepys.

Woodredon House, now an equestrian centre

Woodredon House, now an equestrian centre

When Elizabeth Gibson was five years old her parents acquired the manor of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey in Essex, a gift from Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother Mary Greene, widow of Joseph. I assume that Elizabeth spent much of her childhood at Woodredon, and that was how she came to meet her first husband, John Collins, the son of a landowner from nearby Epping. In 1753, when they were both twenty years old, Elizabeth and John were married at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair, a church notorious for clandestine weddings.

We know very little about this first marriage of Elizabeth’s, and still less about her first husband John Collins, since he appears to have left no will and the date and cause of his early death remain a mystery. The only thing we know for sure is that the couple had a daughter named Frances, born in Darby Street, London, in 1759 and baptised at the church of St Botolph, Aldgate. Frances Collins would later marry John Godfrey Schwartz, who was probably her first cousin and almost certainly the son of Elizabeth’s sister Anne and her husband Charles Gottfried Schwartz.

John Collins must have died by 1763, when Elizabeth married for a second time. Her second husband, and my 5 x great grandfather, was Yorkshire-born farmer Joseph Holdsworth, who lived in the village of South Weald, Essex. I’ve often wondered how Elizabeth and Joseph met, but I’ve begun to think the answer might lie with Elizabeth’s relations from her first marriage to John Collins. For this reason, I want to spend some time, in forthcoming posts, revisiting the story of the Collins family, and the families whose lives intersected with theirs in the middle decades of the eighteenth century.