There are few things more exciting for a family historian than discovering a whole new branch of your family tree. I’m grateful to Wendy Christie, via a comment on this blog, for providing me with new and intriguing information about my maternal ancestors, the Holdsworths, and for solving a longstanding mystery about one of their number, as well as throwing new light on the story of the family as a whole.
To begin with a recap: John Holdsworth was my 4th great grandfather. Born in 1765, he was the eldest son of my 5th great grandparents, Yorkshire-born farmer Joseph Holdsworth (1735 – 1795) and Elizabeth Collins, née Gibson (1733 – 1809), who were married in 1763. As I’ve related elsewhere, following Joseph’s death in South Weald, Essex, his widow and adult children all moved to London, Elizabeth’s home city, settling in the expanding suburbs of Whitechapel and Stepney.
An early photograph of Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire (via chippingnortonmuseum.org.uk)
All, that is, except John, a carpenter and builder, who would eventually make his home in London, but only after spending a number of years living in Oxfordshire. John Holdsworth, by then in his early thirties, married twenty-two-year-old Mary Ann Webb in the north Oxfordshire town of Chipping Norton on 22nd September 1797.
Thanks to the research shared with me by Wendy Christie, we now have more definite information about the children born to John and Mary Holdsworth while they were still living in Chipping Norton. Their eldest daughter Eliza was born there in 1798, William in 1800 and Keziah in 1804. This latter information contradicts the claim made in later census records that Keziah, who was my 3rd great grandmother, was born in the parish of St Clement’s, Oxford. However, the Holdsworths must have moved there shortly afterwards, since their daughter Mary and son Joseph were christened at St Clement’s church in November 1806 and March 1809 respectively.
St Ebbe’s church, Oxford (via oxfordhistory.org.uk)
However, the truly novel information supplied by Wendy relates to the Holdsworth family’s move to yet another Oxford parish, St Ebbe’s, by the time their youngest child was born in 1810. Sarah Parker Holdsworth was baptised there on 22nd December 1810. I already knew that John and Mary Holdsworth had a daughter named Sarah, but I didn’t have a definite date for her birth, nor was I aware until now of her middle name. I’ve written elsewhere about the links between the Holdsworth and Parker families: John Holdsworth’s younger sister Sarah married oil and colour merchant William Parker in Bethnal Green in August 1803. However, this was not Sarah’s first marriage: until his early death in 1799, she had been married to plumber Edward Porter, and they had named their son Edward Parker Porter, hinting at a much earlier connection between the two families. There would also be later marital links between the families. Another Sarah Holdsworth, the daughter of John Holdsworth’s brother William, would marry a Thomas Parker in Stepney in 1821, and their son, another Thomas Parker, married Eliza Roe, William Holdsworth’s granddaughter, in 1853. By giving his daughter the middle name Parker, John Holdsworth was confirming this longstanding family connection, as well as signalling that he remained close to his siblings sixty miles away in London.
Baptismal record for Sarah Parker Holdsworth, St Ebbe’s church, Oxford, 22.12.1810 (via ancestry.co.uk)
Wendy’s research has also uncovered two burial records for the Holdsworth family in St Ebbe’s parish. The first is for William Holdsworth, on 9th November 1809; he was nine years old. The second is for Mary Holdsworth, on 30th December 1810. She was thirty-five years old, so this must have been John’s wife. Since Mary was buried only eight days after giving birth to Sarah, she presumably died from complications following childbirth. This is the first information we’ve had about Mary’s death. It perhaps explains why John returned to London around this time: he was certainly in Stepney by 1812, when records show that he was paying land tax on a property in William Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East.
Most of John’s children went with him to London, and they stayed and made their lives there. Eliza would spend her life working as a domestic servant, firstly to the family of a Congregational minister and later to a wealthy widow; she never married. Joseph would work as a carpenter, like his father, marrying into a devout Dissenting family and later emigrating with them to Australia. Keziah married shoemaker John Blanch and they lived firstly in Bethnal Green and then in Soho. Their daughter Mary Ann married her second cousin Daniel Roe, son of Keziah’s first cousin Eliza, daughter of John Holdsworth’s brother William; Daniel and Mary Ann were my great great grandparents.
However, one of John Holdsworth’s children would remain in Oxford, or perhaps return there as a young woman. Until now, it was believed that John and Mary Holdsworth had a daughter named Ann, who married a ‘Mr Morley’ and settled in Oxford. This was certainly the claim made in notes left by members of the Holdsworth family towards the end of the nineteenth century. But Wendy Christie’s research finds no trace of Ann Holdsworth. Instead, there is clear evidence that it was actually John and Mary Holdsworth’s daughter Sarah who married a Mr Morley.
The marriage of Thomas Morley and Sarah Parker Holdsworth in the parish register of St Clement’s church, Oxford (via ancestry.co.uk)
On 6th May 1832, Thomas Morley, of the parish of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, married Sarah Parker Holdsworth at the parish church of St Clement’s in the same city. When their first child (or at least the first child we have records for), Anne, was christened at the same church on 29th November 1835, the couple were living in Cowley Road. The parish register describes Thomas as a bookbinder, an occupation that he would pursue for the remainder of his life and pass on to two of his sons. Three years later, when a second daughter, Elizabeth, was born, the family was living in Penson’s Gardens, in St Clement’s, though the baptism took place in the parish church of St Ebbe’s, where Sarah had been christened. A son, William, was also born at the same address, and christened at the same church, in 1840. Another son, Henry, was born in 1842. His younger brother Thomas was born in the parish of St Giles, Oxford, in 1845. Another move preceded the birth of Mary Morley, in 1848, in Adelaide Street, on the edge of the Jericho district to the north of the city; she was christened in the parish church of St Paul’s. Thomas and Sarah Morley’s youngest child, Martin, was born in 1851 in Oxford, but I’m not sure where he was baptised.
I haven’t yet managed to find the Morleys in the census for 1841 or 1851, and it’s possible that there are missing sections in the records, but in 1861 they were living at 24 Walton Street, Oxford, not far from Adelaide Street. Thomas and Sarah were now both 49; Elizabeth was 22 and working as a milliner; William and Henry 20 and 18 respectively and both working as bookbinders, presumably alongside their father; Mary and Martin, at 12 and 10, were too young to be working. As for Thomas Morley, junior, then aged 16, he was already working, as an organist. The Morleys also had a boarder: 72-year-old Hannah Godfrey from Cumnor, then in Berkshire.
A nineteenth-century woodcut of a bookbinder’s workshop
By 1871 the Morleys had moved again, to 17 Long Wall (now Longwall Street) in the centre of the city, close to the High Street. Thomas and Sarah were now 59. Thomas was still working as a bookbinder and employing one man. Their neighbours on one side were a clergyman ‘without cure of souls’, and on the other a retired bookbinder (perhaps a former colleague or partner?) and his family.
The only one of their children still living at home with Thomas and Sarah was Mary, now 21, though she would marry tobacconist William Nicholson in 1874 and they would settle in the village of Watlington with their son Hubert. Mary’s sister Anne, who would have been 39 in 1871, worked as a school mistress. At that date she was a lodger in the home of bargeman Henry Ashley in Victor Street, Oxford. In 1869, another daughter, Elizabeth, had married Wiiltshire-born house carpenter Henry Moxham, and by 1871 they were living in Streatham, south London, with their first child, Henry junior. [I now realise that this information about Elizabeth’s marriage is incorrect: see this post for the correction.] William Morley had married Mary Ellen Hutt in 1864 and in 1871 they were living at 27 St Giles, Oxford, with their son Frederick William, as well as a female servant and a young boarder. William was now a master bookbinder in his own right.
William’s younger brother Henry had married printer’s daughter Caroline Osborn, also in 1864, and in 1871 they were living at 18 Cowley Road, where Henry was working as a book finisher. I can’t find Martin Morley in the 1871 census records, but we know that he would also work as a bookbinder in Oxford, and in 1873 he married Ann Simmons, with whom he had a number of children.
In 1866, Thomas Morley junior had married Fanny Ann Wilkins, the daughter of a London harness-maker, in Holborn, where he was organist at St Alban’s church. By 1871 they had moved to 3 Barrack Street, Perth, Scotland, where they were living with their three young sons, Arthur, Frederick and William, and a domestic servant. Thomas was working as an organist for a local aristocrat, though I’ve misplaced the details of this appointment. By 1881, Thomas had returned to England, where he was now working as a professor of music, and was living in Harmondsworth, Middlesex, with Fanny, their three older sons, their daughters Elizabeth, Ellen and Grace, all of whom had been born in Scotland, and their youngest son Henry, born three years earlier in Tunbridge Wells.
St John, New Brunswick, Canada, in the 1890s (via new-brunswick.net)
Fanny would die shortly after the census was taken, in Battersea, and four years later Thomas remarried, to Sarah Elizabeth Tipton, in his home city of Oxford. Their daughter Nora would be born in Headington in 1887, and in the same year the family would emigrate to Canada, arriving at the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia in July. The Canadian census of 1891 would find the Morleys living in St John, New Brunswick, where another daughter, Ella, had been born in the year after their arrival in the country. Apparently Thomas served as organist at the Mission Church, Paradise Row. A city directory of 1889 finds Professor Thomas Morley living at No.15 Coburg. Thomas did not live for very long after arriving in Canada. The Musical Times of 1st December 1891 announced the death on the 13th November that year of Thomas Morley, ‘organist and composer’, at the age of 46.
As for the other children of Thomas Morley senior and Sarah Parker Holdsworth: Anne was already retired from schoolteaching by the age of 46, and in 1881 and 1891 was living with her parents in Long Wall. She was still with them, at the same address, ten years later. After her parents’ deaths – Sarah died in 1893 and Thomas in 1897– she continued to occupy their house, living on her own means. However, by 1911, when she was 76, Anne was living in Cowley Road, Oxford, with her nephew Frederick William Morley, the son of her brother William. Following in the footsteps of his late uncle, Frederick was also employed as a professor of music.
William Morley and his wife Mary would remain in Oxford, until Mary’s death in 1907 and William’s in 1931. In 1911 William was sharing a house in Headington with his widowed sister Mary Nicholson, née Morley. Henry Morley and his family would also remain in Oxford. In 1911 they would still be living in Cowley Road, with their unmarried daughter Gertrude, the head teacher of an elementary school. The same year found Henry’s brother Martin also still in Oxford with his wife Ann and their unmarried daughter Ethel, a milliner. I don’t know when Ann died, but Martin passed away in 1925 in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, at the home of his son Arthur, a tax inspector.