In my recent posts I’ve been revisiting the Bonner family, and specifically the children and grandchildren of Captain Michael Bonner (1733 – 1802) and Frances Gibson (1735 – 1802), the latter being the sister of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, nee Gibson. In the last two posts I wrote about the children of Michael’s and Frances’ elder son, John William Bonner (1762 – 1817). In this post, I want to set down what we know about one of the children of their younger son, Michael (1786 – 1811).
The Thames at London in the 18th century
As I’ve noted before, Michael Bonner the younger, a mariner like his father, married Eleanor Trantum Sayle in 1792 and they had eight children. Of these, we know most about their third child, William George Bonner, and it’s from him that the Bonner family researchers with whom I’m in contact are descended. Once again, I’m grateful to them, and especially to Jill Crawford, for much of the information in this post. William’s life, and those of his children, are of interest because they throw light on the context in which my more direct ancestors, the Gibsons and the Greenes, also moved: the world of mariners and merchants in the City of London and the East End at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries.
William George Bonner was born in Paradise Row, Rotherhithe, in 1795. He was married twice. On 13 August 1816, when he was 21, he married Caroline Drew at St George, Hanover Square. Also born in 1795, Caroline was the youngest of the seven children of John Drew and Mary Cole Akid. Among her older siblings was Andrew Drew, a naval officer who rose to the rank of admiral and in 1837 achieved fame (or notoriety, depending on your loyalties) for commanding the party that seized the US vessel Caroline and cast her adrift over the Niagara Falls.
'The destruction of the Caroline steamboat by fire, on the Falls of Niagara, Upper Canada, on the night of Friday the 29th Decr. 1837' by George Tattersall
By the time that Caroline Drew was born, the family had settled in the parish of All Hallows the Less in the City of London. Although her father John is described in contemporary records simply as a lighterman, this belies his wealth and status. According to Jill Crawford: ‘When he died [in 1808] he had ships, barges, lighters, wharves and warehouses on the river. He also owned a number of properties in Southwark and Bermondsey including a Mustard Manufactory.’
Two weeks after William George Bonner married Caroline Drew, the latter’s sister Georgina married Thomas Eastman Price at St George the Martyr, Southwark. Described in parish records as an oilman, Thomas was more accurately (to quote Jill again) ‘an oil and colour merchant who took out a patent on a dye containing indigo “to refresh fading black fabrics”.’ Following their marriages, the two Drew sisters initially lived near each other in the Kent Road in Southwark. The close relationship between the two couples is evident in the names they gave their children. William George and Caroline Bonner had four children together: Caroline Emma (born in Southwark 1817, but died the following year), William Price (Camberwell, 1819), Ellen (Camberwell, 1821) and Mary Price (Horselydown, 1824). The first three baptismal records describe William as a ‘gentleman’, while the fourth gives his occupation as merchant’s clerk.
Caroline Bonner, nee Drew, died at Bermondsey Terrace in 1825 at the age of 29 and was buried in the parish of All Hallows the Great. William George Bonner remarried two years later, to Anna Miller, who was described as being of the parish of St Mary, Rotherhithe, but had in fact been born in St Luke’s, Middlesex. Their daughter Anna Maria was born in New Church Street, Horselydown, in 1828, and their son George Schröder Bonner, in Paradise Row, Rotherhithe (the street where William himself had been born) in 1831. George’s middle name may have a family significance, perhaps from Anna’s side of the family, or it may suggest yet another link with German-born merchants.
William is now described in the parish records as a ship broker. According to Jill, William went into partnership with Thomas Eastman Pryce and Hugh Eastman, a Fenchurch Street ship broker: ‘They had several ships that imported (amongst other things) indigo, spices and oil’.
When the 1841 census was taken, the Bonners were living in Grosvenor Place, Camberwell. William was described as a merchant, and William, 21, his son by his first marriage, as a broker. Also at home were William senior’s two surviving daughters from his first marriage, Ellen, 19 and Mary, 16, as well as the two children from his second marriage, Anna, 12, and George, 10. There was also a female servant, Susan Davenport, age 20.
William Price Bonner, a broker of Fenchurch Street, was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1841. In June 1843, William gave Grosvenor Place as his address when he married Martha Gardner, daughter of Robert Gardner (like William’s own father, a ‘gentleman’) at the church of St George, Camberwell. I can find no further records for the couple, until William’s father’s probate record of 1863.
In May 1852 Anna Maria Bonner married Thomas George Rance, a clerk, and son of another Thomas Rance, a gentleman, at the church of St Paul, Canonbury. The fact that Anna gave her home address as St Paul’s Road (Thomas lived in Victoria Road, Holloway) suggests that the Bonners had moved to Islington in the interim, though I’ve yet to find them in the 1851 census. Thomas and Anna would have three children together: Annie Louise (born in 1853), George (1855) and Florence Marion (1862). The first two were born at Compton Villas, Camden Road, Islington, where the Rances could be found at the time of the 1861 census: Thomas was now working as an accountant for the Sun Fire Office. Besides a servant and nursemaid, the family also had a visitor: Enos Miller, a fund holder aged 55, born in St Luke’s, Middlesex, who I believe was Anna Maria’s uncle. At the same date, we find William George Bonner, his wife Anna and their two unmarried daughters Ellen and Mary, also living in Camden Road at 2, Lower Hillmorton Villas. Florence Marion, the third child of Thomas and Anna Rance, was born in Bromley, Kent, where the family could be found at the time of the 1871 census, together with a cook and a housemaid: by now, 16-year-old George was working with his father, as a clerk at the Sun Fire Office.
Also married in 1852 was William George Bonner’s other child from his second marriage, George Schröder Bonner. In the summer of that year he married his cousin, Septima Price. They had one child together, William George Schröder Bonner, born at Albert Terrace, Islington and baptised at St Mary’s church on 21 November 1855. Sadly, Septima died two years later, at the age of 25, and in September of the following year (1858) George married her sister Georgina at All Hallows the Great: the parish register describes the groom as a merchant. The couple would have two children: Mary Gertrude Howard, born in Peckham in 1867, and Horace Percy, born in 1868 in Bexley Heath. In 1871 the Bonners were living in St Ann’s Road Stockwell: George was now firmly established as a ship broker, like his father.
Victorian ship brokers
William George Bonner died on 24 October 1863 in Camberwell, leaving effects under £4,000. The entry in the National Probate Calendar describes him as a ship broker, formerly of Hillmorton Villas, Camden Road, Holloway, and of 6 Rood Lane, Fenchurch Street, in the City of London (presumably his business address), but late of St Mary’s Terrace, Queen’s Road, Peckham. His son William Price Bonner, a merchant of 68 Mark Lane in the City, and Thomas Rance, a gentleman of the Sun Fire Office, Threadneedle Street, were cited as two of the executors. Anna Bonner, nee Miller, died in 1865 at the home of her daughter, Anna Maria Rance, in Bromley, and was buried at Nunhead Cemetery.
William Price Bonner died on 8 February 1876 at St Mary’s Road, Peckham, leaving effects under £9,000. Anna Maria Rance, nee Bonner, died in Bromley in 1888. Her husband Thomas would live for another sixteen years, dying in Bickley, Kent, in 1904 and leaving effects worth more than £9000 to his daughters Annie and Florence.
William George Bonner’s daughters Ellen and Mary Price Bonner remained unmarried. In 1871 the sisters, aged 49 and 47 respectively, were living on their own means as lodgers in the home of bank cashier Alexander Thomson and his family in Hungerford Road, Holloway. Ten years later, they were lodgers, living on ‘funds’, in the house of accountant William Sunley and his wife in Loraine Road, Highbury. In 1891, they were living on their own means as lodgers in the home of Elizabeth Hamilton, a widow, in Crayford Road, Upper Holloway. Ellen died in 1897, at the age of 76, and Mary in the following year at the age of 73, both at Warren Road, Leyton, Essex. Ellen left effects worth around £348 to James Henry Jennaway, secretary to a public company, and to her nephew William George Schröder Bonner, a solicitor’s clerk, while Mary left more than £815 to the same beneficiaries. Jill comments: ‘My great great grandfather George Schröder Bonner (WGB’s son) was ill for a long time in later life and spent a great deal of money on trying to get well, so much so that his two maiden aunts left money in their wills “to help pay his medical expenses”.’
I’m grateful to Jill Crawford for pointing out a couple of minor errors and omissions in the above post – now corrected – and for supplying this photograph (via Elizabeth Cherry), which is almost certainly of William George Bonner: