In the last post, I reported my discovery that my 3rd great grandfather, Charles Edward Stuart Robb, and his family may have lived at 63 Lincoln’s Inn Fields when they arrived in London in the 1830s, rather than the house at 29 Charing Cross where they could be found at the time of the 1841 census. Finding further confirmation of the Robb family’s addresses during this period is difficult. However, we do have information about the whereabouts of the Seager family, with whom they would be connected by marriage. Charles’ son, my great great grandfather William Robb, would marry Fanny Sarah Seager in May 1836, and the new information about the Robbs’ address in Lincoln’s Inn Fields makes it easier to understand how William and Fanny may have met (though see this post for an alternative theory of how it may have happened). Here, I’ll attempt to draw together everything we know about the Seagers’ movements in London in the early decades of the nineteenth century, with the aim of throwing further light on my ancestors’ lives during this period.
Samuel Hurst Seager and Fanny Sarah Fowle were married at St Margaret’s church, Westminster – which stands in the grounds of Westminster Abbey – on 15th December 1811. Samuel had been born in Birmingham in 1778, the son of another Samuel Hurst Seager and his wife Elizabeth Cash, while Fanny’s origins remain obscure, though it appears she was probably born in about 1781. This means that Samuel and Fanny were thirty-three and thirty years old respectively at the time of their marriage. Samuel and Fanny Seager were my 3rd great grandparents.
According to the New Zealand novelist Ngaio Marsh, another of his descendants, Samuel Hurst Seager was forced by a dramatic change in family fortunes to take ‘some extremely humble job in the Middle Temple’, and from other sources we know that he was a porter at the Inns of Court. However, some records describe Samuel simply as a ‘labourer’.
St Clement Danes
The next record we have for the Seagers after their wedding is from 2nd May 1813, when their daughter Mary Ann was christened at the parish church of St Clement Danes in the Strand. At the time Samuel and Fanny were said to be living at 5 Crown Place, as they would be when their second child, my great great grandmother Fanny Sarah Seager, was baptised on 18th December 1814. I assume that Crown Place was either identical with or very close to Crown Court, where the Seagers would be living in November 1817, when their daughter Mary Ann died at the age of three. Crown Court was a narrow alley, leading directly off the north side of the Strand, to the east of St Clement Danes church and west of Temple Bar, and forming part of a dense network of streets between the Strand and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. These streets were demolished – with a total of 450 houses disappearing – in about 1870 to make way for the Royal Courts of Justice, which now stand on the site of my ancestors’ home.
The Middle Temple, where Samuel was employed, was on the south side of the Strand, immediately opposite the entrance to Crown Court.
When Mary Ann Seager died the family was at No.6 Crown Court, which is where their next three children would be born: Elizabeth in 1817, Samuel in 1822 and Julia in 1823. However, when their son William was born in June 1826, and when he died shortly thereafter, the Seagers were said to be back in Crown Place, at No.3. This was also their address when their youngest child, Edward, was born in May 1828. When Samuel Hurst Seager himself died in November 1837, at the age of fifty-nine, the Seagers were once more in Crown Court, this time at No. 7.
These frequent changes of address within the same street, or neighbouring streets, suggest that the Seagers were probably in rented accommodation, and perhaps subject to the whims of a landlord who owned a number of properties in the same area.
Part of Horwood’s 1792 map of London, showing the area between Lincoln’s Inn and the Middle Temple (this map gives a much clearer image of the streets where my ancestors lived than later versions)
By the time their father died, the older Seager children had already left home. Fanny, now twenty-three, had married William Robb in May of the previous year (1836) at the church of St George the Martyr in Queen Square, Holborn. Bride and groom were both said to be ‘of the parish’. If Fanny was still living at home, this was not strictly true, though Queen Square was barely a mile from Crown Court. If the Robb family was indeed living at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, as suggested by the Freemasony records, then William’s home was less than half that distance away, though officially in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.
Fanny’s younger sister Elizabeth would have been twenty when their father died, and perhaps still living at home: she would never marry. According to his father’s death certificate, Samuel Hurst Seager junior, who was eighteen at the time and responsible for registering the death, was already living away from home at 33 East Street, which was close to Red Lion Square in Holborn. He had perhaps already started work as a carpenter and builder, which would remain his occupation, both in England and after he had emigrated, with his brothers, to New Zealand.
We can’t be sure where William Robb and Fanny Seager lived immediately after their marriage, but when their first child, Margaret Fanny Monteith Robb, was born in February 8th, they were at 6 Tavistock Street, to the north of the Strand in Covent Garden, about a ten-minute walk from Crown Court and Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The child died of croup two years later, in February 1840, at her maternal grandmother’s home in Crown Court.
By the time William and Fanny Robb’s second child, William Henry, was born, on 7th April 1841, they had moved to 12 Old Compton Street in Soho, though there is a suggestion that, like his two younger sisters, William junior may actually have been born at the City of London Lying-In Hospital.
The 1841 census was taken on 6th June in that year, when William Henry Robb would have been not quite two months old. I can find no trace of him in the census records and assume he must have been with a wet nurse, perhaps because his mother Fanny was unwell following the birth. That may also account for Fanny’s presence at her mother’s home, which was now in Hemlock Court, another in the network of streets between Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the Strand. Fanny Seager is described in the record as a laundress and her daughter as an embroideress. Meanwhile, Fanny Robb’s husband William was at his parents’ home in Charing Cross.
Plan from 1869, showing the intended location of the new law courts, between Carey Street and the Strand: the exact area where my Seager ancestors lived in the early decades of the nineteenth century
The other Seager siblings must all have left home by this time, but until now I’ve struggled to find them in the census records. However, I recently managed to track down Henry, Samuel and Julia, living together in a house in Carey Street, near the turning for New Court, which was very close to Hemlock Court. Both Samuel and Henry were said to be working as carpenters. Elizabeth Seager may be the young woman of that name who in June 1841 was working as a domestic servant for the Anderson family at Grove End Place in Lisson Grove. That leaves Edward as the only sibling whose whereabouts in 1841 remain uncertain.