Continuing with my exploration of the Roe family of Luton, and following on from my last post about the family of Peter Roe, in this post I’ll summarise everything I’ve managed to discover about the family of William Roe, another nineteenth-century Luton shoemaker, who I strongly suspect was Peter’s brother.

William Roe was born in Luton in about 1811, according to census records. We know from the record of William’s second marriage, in 1852, that his father was John Roe, a Luton shoemaker – as William himself would be. On 26th January 1831, when he would have been about 20 years old, William Roe married Sarah Huckle at St. Mary’s church in Luton. Born in Luton in 1813, Sarah was one of the ten children of John Huckle and his wife Mary Boston. William and Sarah Roe’s first child, John Huckle Roe, was born about ten months after their wedding, on 6th November 1831. A second son, Daniel, followed in March 1834, then daughters Sophia and Mary Ann in 1836 and 1838 respectively, and son Isaac in 1840.

At the time of the 1841 census, the young family was living in Barbers Lane, Luton, where William was working as a shoemaker. As well as their five children, Sarah’s mother Mary Huckle, aged 55 and working as a dressmaker, was also living with them. Sophia Roe died in 1842, at the age of six, while 1844 brought the birth of another son, William junior. 1847 saw the death of Mary Huckle, the mother of Sarah Roe née Huckle; it was William Roe who registered his mother-in-law’s death.

A Luton girl plaiting straw (via historicengland.co.uk)

In 1851, William Roe, 40, now a shoemaker master employing one man, was still in Barbers Lane with Sarah, 38, who was working as a straw bonnet maker, John, 19, and Daniel, 17 (both journeyman shoemakers, presumably working alongside their father), Isaac, 10, Mary Ann, 13, and William, 7. Also at the same address were Sophia Fensome, 14, described as a niece and a straw bonnet sewer; William Fensome, 20, a married nephew and journeyman shoemaker (presumably William senior’s employee); and Sarah Fensome, 22, a married niece and also a straw bonnet sewer. All are said to have been born in Luton. Sophia and William Fensome were the children of Joseph Fensome and his wife Mary Huckle, who was the sister of Sarah Roe née Huckle. William Fensome had married Sarah Costin on 13th May 1848 at St. Mary’s church, Luton; presumably she is the Sarah Fensome mentioned in the census record.

Sarah Huckle Roe died in January 1852, aged 39, leaving William a widower with five children. This may explain the speed with which William found and married a second wife: his wedding to Elizabeth Maddocks, who had been born in the village of Shillington and who seems to have been a widow, took place at St Mary’s church on 7th June 1852, just six months after Sarah’s death. Elizabeth already had two children, a son James and daughter Sarah.

Illustrated map of Foxboro, Massachusetts, in 1888 (via knowol.com)

In the course of the next few years, John and Daniel, William Roe’s two eldest sons from his first marriage to Sarah, who were now both in their early 20s, emigrated to America. Daniel Roe seems to have been the first to depart, arriving in Boston in 1855. He settled in Foxboro in Norfolk County, Massachussetts, where on 3rdJuly 1857 he married fellow immigrant Margaret Dixon, who had been born in 1835 in Glasgow. In 1859 their first child, Joseph, was born. John Huckle Roe left home for America a year after his younger brother, arriving in New York in 1856, with his wife Eliza Cain, whom he had married in Luton two years earlier, and their infant son John junior. William and Eliza also settled in Foxboro, where their son William Thomas was born in 1859.

The United States Federal Census of 1860 finds the two brothers and their families living as close neighbours in Foxboro. John is maintaining the family tradition and working as a boot maker, while Daniel is employed in another familiar industry, working as a labourer in a bonnet shop. Daniel and Margaret Roe would have three more children sons, Robert Frederick (1861), Daniel Percy (1863), and Irving Adamson (1866), before Margaret’s death from consumption in 1874 at the age of 39. In 1876 Daniel married his second wife, Louisa Emily Hewins. As for John Roe, his wife Eliza had died in 1861 and in 1865 he married Sarah Jane Beatty, who was originally from Ireland. They would have ten children together. John would die in Ashland, Massachusetts, in 1898, and Daniel some time after 1900.

John and Daniel were not the only members of their extended family to emigrate to the United States. Their aunt Susan or Susannah Huckle – their mother Sarah’s older sister – had married shoemaker Daniel Attwood in Luton in 1831, and for a time worked alongside him as a shoe binder in Luton. In 1857, when Daniel and Susan were already in their 40s, they set off for America with six of their children, and ended up living in Foxboro, Massachussetts, close to their nephews John and Daniel Roe.

We left John and Daniel’s father, William Roe, and his second wife Elizabeth, in Luton in 1852.They would have one child together: Henry, who was born in 1856. In 1860 William’s son Isaac from his first marriage married Eliza Chantry and at the time of the 1861 census they were living in Chobham Street, Luton, where Isaac was following the family tradition and working as a cordwainer. They would have one daughter, Rose or Rosa, born in 1863. Isaac’s remaining siblings, Mary Anne, 23, and her brother William Roe junior, 17, another shoemaker, were living together at this time in Back Court, Luton. Both were as yet unmarried.

As for William Roe senior, in 1861 he and Elizabeth and their infant son Henry were still in Barbers Lane, together with Elizabeth’s two children from her first marriage, 16-year-old Sarah and 14-year-old James, both now given the surname ‘Roe’. Sarah was working alongside her mother as a bonnet sewer, while James was employed as a stationer’s lad. The family also had two boarders, both bonnet sewers: the aptly named Harriet Straw, 25, and Charlotte Odell, 17. I’m keen to find out more about Charlotte: the surname Odell occurs in the history of the Pirton Roes, and I’m intrigued by the fact that she was born in Northill, near Biggleswade, where my own Roe ancestors lived.

I haven’t been able to find any trace of William Roe after 1861, and there’s a record that shows someone of that name dying in Luton in 1863, when he would have been 52. His second wife Elizabeth seems to have died in Luton in 1878.


Providence, Rhode Island, in the late nineteenth century

At some point between 1861 and 1867, William’s daughter from his first marriage, Mary Ann, joined her older brothers John and Daniel in America, where she married Irishman James Dingwell on 15thAugust 1867 in Foxboro. However, the couple seem to have settled in Providence, Rhode Island, which is where their son Charles would be born in the following year. However, some time before 1881 James Dingwell must have died, and Mary and her son returned to England, since the census of that year finds them back in Luton, where Mary, now 43 and a widow, is working as a straw hat finisher. In 1891 and again in 1901 she would once again be sharing a home, in Elizabeth Street, Luton with her brother William Roe junior, still unmarried and still working as a boot maker. William died in 1910 at the age of 66, but in 1911 Mary, now 73, would still be in Elizabeth Street, sharing the house with her son Charles, now 42 and working as a labourer. Charles is said to have a naval pension, so I assume he was away at sea in the intervening years. Mary Ann Roe would die in 1916, at the age of 78.

Mary’s younger half-brother Henry Roe had married Kate Emma Rush in Luton in 1877. They lived for a time in Greenwich in south London, where Henry was employed as a grocer’s shopman, before moving back to Luton, where he worked as a straw hat maker. He and Kate had two sons, Henry and William, and two daughters, Lillie and Daisy, before Kate’s death in 1897 at the age of 39. Henry married a second wife, Sarah Jane Draper, in the same year. However, I understand that he was committed to an asylum in Biggleswade in April 1900, where he died in October of that year.