I’ve been revisiting my research into my Robb ancestors. In the last two posts, I reviewed the evidence for the claim that William Seager, a law stationer whom I discovered living in Holborn, London in the mid nineteenth century, was a relative of Fanny Sarah Seager, my great great grandmother. Fanny was the wife of my great great grandfather William Robb, a law stationer’s clerk, who I believe may have worked either with or for William Seager.

Reviewing the information about William Robb at Ancestry, I’ve come across records of his burial that weren’t previously accessible online. William, born in Richmond, Yorkshire, in October 1813, was the son of my 3rd great grandparents, Charles Edward Stuart Robb and Margaret Ricketts Monteith, who were originally from Scotland. After a number of years living in various locations in Scotland and then Yorkshire, they arrived in London, probably in the 1820s, and set up home at Charing Cross. Charles and his sons George William, Charles Edward, John and William, all seem to have worked as law clerks of some kind.

Covent Garden and St Clement Danes, from Greenwood’s map of 1827 (via users.bathspa.ac.uk)

Whether William Robb met his future wife Fanny Seager through William Seager, or found work with William Seager because of his relationship with Fanny, remains a matter for speculation. However, we know that on 23rd May 1836, when he was twenty-two years old, William Robb married twenty-one-year-old Fanny Seager at the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square in Holborn. This was just a few streets away from the home of William Seager in Little James Street, the same church having been the site of the second marriage of his father Thomas Seager some years earlier.

Fanny was the daughter of Samuel Hurst Seager, a porter at the Inns of Court, and her family lived in Crown Court, one of the narrow streets to the north of the Strand, in the parish of St Clement Danes. As noted in earlier posts, three of Fanny’s brothers and of one of her sisters would eventually emigrate to New Zealand.

William and Fanny lived initially in Tavistock Street, Covent Garden, not far from Fanny’s parents, which is where their first child, Fanny Margaret Monteith Robb, was born in 1838. However she died two years later, of croup, at her grandmother’s house in Crown Court (Fanny’s father Samuel Hurst Seager had died in the previous year). By the time their second child, William Henry, was born in 1841, William and Fanny Robb had moved to Old Compton Street, Soho. This was also where they were living when their daughter, Elizabeth Margaret, was born in 1843, though the actual birth took place in the City of London Lying-in Hospital in Old Street. Later census records suggest that their next child, Matilda Fanny, may also have been born there, in 1846.

We know that the Robbs continued to live in Old Compton Street, since this is where their son, Charles Edward Robb, my great great grandfather, would be born in January 1851. Sadly, his mother Fanny died just four days after giving birth to him. She was buried at Whitefield’s Tabernacle in Tottenham Court Road. This, together with the fact that William and Fanny’s first child had been buried at Spa Fields Burial Ground in Clerkenwell, is evidence of the Seager family’s Nonconformity. I believe that William Robb, whose family were originally Episcopalian / Anglican, became a Nonconformist, and specifically a Methodist, as a result of his marriage to Fanny. Certainly, after Fanny’s death he had his young son Charles christened at the Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Great Queen Street, which may have been the church attended by the family.

Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Great Queen Street, London (demolished 1910)

It may have been at the same chapel that William met his second wife, Marianne Mansfield Palmer, whom he married in June 1854. Marianne (or Mary Anne) was originally from Longton, Staffordshire, where she had been christened at the Methodist New Connexion chapel in 1831. Her father Enoch was a bookbinder who had brought his family south to London when Marianne was still a child. She was only twenty-three, and William forty, when they married.

William and Marianne seem to have moved almost immediately after their marriage to the new and growing suburb of Mile End, where their daughter Lydia Palmer Robb was born in 1855. Three more daughters – Alice Martha Stormont Robb (1857), Marianne Mansfeld Robb (1858) and Rose Emma Tunstall Robb (1860) – were born in the next five years, all in Mile End Old Town. We can’t be absolutely sure of the Robb family’s address during these years. However, it’s more than likely that they were living in the house that they would occupy at the time of the 1861 census. This was at 15 St. Ann’s Road, which was situated south of Mile End Road between Burdett Road and Rhodeswell Road.

Four more children were born to William and Marianne in the next ten years: David Enoch (1863), Eliza Annie (1865), Gertrude Constance (1867) and Alexander George (1870), all in Mile End Old Town. By the time of the 1871 census, William, fifty-seven, Marianne, forty, and their eight children, had moved to 31 Turners Road. This road ran from south-west to north-east from Rhodeswell Road across Burdett Road to Bow Common, parallel to the railway line. The north eastern section of the road still exists.

William and Marianne had two more children: Grace Amy in 1872 and Arthur Ernest in 1875. By the time of the next census in 1881, when William was sixty-seven and Marianne fifty, they had moved to another house in Turners Road – No.70. This is where Marianne would died two years later, from phthisis – or tuberculosis. William Robb died in 1888, at the age of seventy-four, from senile decay and exhaustion. On his death certificate, the place of William’s death is given as 25 Oxford Street, Whitechapel: I wonder if this was actually  the London Hospital? The informant was his son, my great grandfather Charles Edward, who at the time was living in Betts Street, St. George’s in the East.

Entry in the Register of private graves, City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery (via ancestry.co.uk)

The record of William’s burial at the City of London and Tower Hamlets Cemetery, and a register of private graces in the cemetery, are now available online at Ancestry. They reveal that he was buried in the same grave – No. 5362 – as his wife Marianne and her father Enoch Palmer. This suggests to me that Enoch was probably living with his daughter and son-in-law in Mile End at the time of his death. He was buried on 30th August 1867 in a grave that was ten feet deep and cost three pounds and three shillings. His daughter Marianne was buried on 13th July 1873 and his son-in-law William on 10th August 1888.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery is now a public park, and apparently the Friends of the park, together with the East London History Society, can offer help with locating graves. I really must find time to visit, and to see if the grave holding my great great grandfather, his second wife and his father-in-law, still exists.