I now have a copy of the marriage certificate for my great grandparents – Charles Edward Robb and Louisa Bowman. They were married on 16 December 1877 at St. Luke’s, Victoria Docks, in the district of West Ham, Essex. Charles is described as a labourer. The address for both parties is given as 22 Buxton Terrace, but this may indicate a newly acquired marital home rather than any premarital cohabitation – I don’t know enough about the conventions of the time to be sure. Charles’ father’s name and occupation are given as William Robb, stationer’s clerk, and Louisa’s as John Bowman, umbrella maker. The witnesses were Matilda H. Robb and John W. Bond. I have no idea who the latter is: possibly Matilda’s fiance, or maybe a friend of the Bowmans? I’m also unsure about Matilda. William’s sister – and Charles’ older sister – Matilda would have been about 31 years old in 1877, but her middle name was Fanny. Perhaps there is a misprint in the certificate: if so, it provides the only information that we have about Matilda after the age of 14. The only other Matilda alive at the time was William’s older sister, and Charles’ aunt, but she married Frederick King in 1860 and presumably changed her name at the same time.
My great grandmother, Louisa (Bowman) Robb, husband of Charles Edward, was born in 1856, in the parish of St. George in the East, Middlesex. Her father was John Bowman, an umbrella frame maker from Bow, and her mother was Elizabeth J. Larke from Wapping.In 1851, five years before Louisa was born, the family was living in Somerset Court in Aldgate, but by 1861 when Louisa was 5 years old, they were living a short distance away at 15 Pell Street, with Elizabeth’s widowed mother Mary, a sweet shop keeper.Louisa had an older sister Caroline, and four younger siblings: John, Mary, Elizabeth and Charlotte.Louisa’s father John was born in 1829, the son of Robert Bowman, a labourer, and Caroline Reed, who appear to have been married at St. Mary, Whitechapel in 1818. The 1841 census has 12 year old John living with his mother, father and younger siblings Robert, James, Caroline and Mary, in Harrow Alley in Aldgate. I’ve been in email correspondence with Janet W., a descendant of Louisa’s sister Charlotte, who married David Day and moved to Cambridge. Janet says that her mother remembered going to London with her own grandmother (i.e. Charlotte) for a Jewish funeral. This raised the possibility of a Jewish connexion in the family. After all, ‘Bowman’ can be a Jewish name (naturalised from Bauer or Baumann), and the family lived in the heart of the Jewish East End, with many Jewish names among their close neighbours. It’s an intriguing possibility – or it may just be that Charlotte (Bowman) Day returned to London for the funeral of a family friend or neighbour. At any rate, Robert Bowman and Caroline Reed were married in a Christian church – St. Mary’s is the original ‘white chapel’ – as were their children.In 1901 John and Elizabeth Bowman were living by themselves in Pell Street. John, now 72, was still working: as a packer of furniture. He died in 1906, surviving his daughter Louisa by a year.
I’ve just received death certificates for Louisa Robb, nee Bowman, my great-grandmother and wife of Charles Edward Robb, and for their daughter Marion Fanny. I’d been intrigued by the fact that they died within two months of each other and wondered if there might be any connexion between the two events. Marion Fanny (who bore the names of Charles’ mother and his stepmother) died on 1st April 1905 at the London Hospital in Mile End New Town, Whitechapel. She was 16 years old. The cause of death is given as : ‘Pericarditis, 20 days. Myocardiac failure.’ In other words, Marion died of heart failure.Louisa died on 8th June 1905 at an Isolation Hospital. She was 48 years old. Her cause of death is given as typhoid fever. Her husband Charles was present at the death. My knowledge of medicine is slim, but it looks as though there is no connexion between these two deaths. However, one can imagine how painful a time this must have been for my great-grandfather Charles, losing both a teenage daughter and his wife, at a comparatively young age, in quick succession. Added to this, his son Charles William had died in Aden (serving in the army?) in the previous year.By my reckoning, Louisa’s death would have left Charles with the care of five surviving children. My grandfather, Arthur Ernest, would have been about 8 years old at this time. Obviously, neither my father or any of his siblings knew their grandmother, but I would welcome contact from other descendants of Charles and Louisa who might have any additional information that can round out the picture.