The Gibson-Slark connection

In the previous post about Elizabeth Aldridge née Gibson, daughter of my 5 x great uncle Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817) and widow of Richard Aldridge (died 1848), I noted that in 1861 she was living at No. 6 Barnsbury Square, Islington. I also observed that Elizabeth’s neighbours at No. 5 were a certain William S. Gibson, his wife Mary Ann, and their infant children Clara Elizabeth and William. We know that they were relatives of Elizabeth’s because, ten years later, Clara would be living with Elizabeth at No.6, the 1871 census record describing her as the latter’s great niece. According to the 1861 record, William S. Gibson was born in 1836 in Northumberland and his wife Mary Ann, who was about the same age, was born in Kingsland, London. Their two children were born in Barnsbury, Islington.

St. John at Hackney in the late 18th century

St. John at Hackney in the late 18th century

William Slark Gibson had married Mary Ann Higgs on 31st July 1858 at the parish church of St John Hackney. William, a mercantile clerk, was said to be resident in the parish of St Mary, Islington (perhaps in Barnsbury Square), while Mary Ann was from Dalston, which was also the home of the Aldridge family. Mary was the daughter of James Higgs, a stockbroker, while William was said to be the son of another William Slark Gibson, a gentleman.

Mary Ann Higgs had been baptised at St John’s, Hackney, on 29th June 1834. At that time her father was working as a linen draper and the family lived on Kingland High Street. By 1841 James and Mary Higgs were living in nearby Kingsland Green. Mary Ann was now seven years old; she had an older brother James, 9, and a younger brother Thomas, 5.

Even if William Slark Gibson had not been living in Barnsbury Square before his marriage, then he and Mary Ann must have moved there shortly afterwards. It was certainly their address when Clara Elizabeth was baptised at St Mary, Islington, on 22nd June 1860, having been born almost exactly a year earlier. Their son William was born in 1861, presumably at the same address.

If, as the 1871 census claims, Clara was Elizabeth Aldridge’s great niece, then her father, William Slark Gibson, must have been Elizabeth’s nephew. This means that William’s father was Elizabeth’s brother. His marriage record claims that William Slark Gibson’s father shared his names, but I wonder if this is an error on the part of the parish clerk? We know that Elizabeth had a brother William Henry, born in 1802. In an earlier post, I speculated that he might be the person of that name buried at the Wesleyan cemetery in Stepney in 1830. But what if I was wrong and William married – presumably somebody with the surname Slark – and they gave their son her surname as a middle name?

It’s irritating that I can’t find a birth record for William Slark Gibson, or any trace of a marriage between William Henry Gibson and a woman with the surname Slark. However, we know that there must to have been some connection to the Slark family since, as I mentioned in the last post, the 1871 census not only finds Clara Gibson sharing a house with Elizabeth Aldridge, but they are also joined by five visitors, all members of the Cope family. These were Ida Philippina C.A.E. Cope, 21 and Constance Catherine C. C. Y. Cope, 18, both said to have been born in Prussia; Carl Edward Hubert Maria Cope, 16, born in Islington; Mabel Agnes Blanche Ella Louise Cope, 14, born in Austria; and Cecil Ernest T. Cope, 9, born in Australia.

Old St Pancras church

Old St Pancras church

These elaborately-named children were the offspring of architect Frederick Charles Cope (1819 – 1885) and his wife Elizabeth Jane Slark. They had been married on 31st January 1843 at the parish church of St Pancras. Frederick’s father Thomas was yet another employee of Her Majesty’s Customs (see previous posts on the Aldridge family), while Elizabeth Jane was the daughter of William Slark, an ironmonger, and his wife Anna Maria, both of whom were witnesses to the marriage.

Elizabeth or Eliza Jane Slark was christened on 8th November 1821 at the church of St James, Clerkenwell. Her parents were William and Anna Maria Slark, her father was described as a gentleman, and the family’s address was Northampton Square. Eliza Jane was the second of the Slarks’ six children.

The records for William Slark and his wife Anna Maria Hancock are curious and contradictory. According to the parish register of St Luke’s, Finsbury, they were married there on 29th December 1818. But the register of St Botolph, Aldersgate claims they were married there on 20th May 1819, and then there is the entry in the parish of register St Pancras stating that their marriage took place in the Parish Chapel on 11th August 1819. Was it really possible for a couple to contract their marriage three times, in three different London churches?

One reason for this disregard for the protocol of the Established Church might have been that the Slarks were Nonconformists. William had been baptised on 22nd November 1797 at the Independent Chapel in the Barbican. His parents were another William Slark and his wife Elizabeth who lived at Old Change, Cheapside.

Clapton Road, from Weller's 1868 map of London

Clapton Road, from Weller’s 1868 map of London

Presumably it’s the same William and Elizabeth Slark, aged 76 and 75 respectively, who can be found living in Clapton Road, Hackney, at the time of the 1851 census. With them are their daughter-in-law, Anna M. Slark, and their grandson William, 19, an articled auctioneer, together with a number of servants. William had been born in 1831, the last of the Slark children: in addition to Eliza Jane, there had also been at least three other daughters born to William and Anna Maria Slark.

Since he was born in 1803, it’s possible that William Henry Gibson, son of Bowes John Gibson and brother of Elizabeth Aldridge née Gibson, married a daughter of William Slark senior and his wife Elizabeth. This would mean that Eliza Jane Slark, who married Frederick Cope, was a cousin of his son William Slark Gibson, thus helping to explain why the Cope children were staying with Elizabeth Aldridge in Barnsbury Square in 1871.

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