The last will and testament of Richard Aldridge (died 1848)

In the last post I wrote about Elizabeth Gibson (born 1803), daughter of my 5 x great uncle Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817) and his second wife Mary Catherine Bretman. Elizabeth married ship owner and widower Richard Aldridge in 1842. He died six years later. In this post, I’m reproducing my transcription of Richard Aldridge’s will. Much of it is legalistic detail, but it also provides useful confirmation of some of the facts of Richard’s life, and the lives of his children. For example, the will confirms the married names of his daughters Mary Jane Reynolds and Esther Holliday. It’s also touching that Richard Aldridge describes William Price Inglis, his son-in-law and the husband of his recently-deceased daughter Emily, as a ‘friend’.

Custom House, London, in about 1840

Custom House, London, in about 1840

It’s interesting to note that Richard Aldridge describes himself as a lighterman, the same occupation that I believe was followed by my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson, father of Bowes John. Richard’s association with Trinity House recalls that of my 8 x great grandfather Captain William Greene (grandfather of John Gibson’s wife Mary Greene), who was an Elder Brother and at one time Warden of that institution. And Aldridge is not the only person in my family tree to have served as a Custom House Agent: my 4 x great grandfather James Blanch was described as such at the time of his death, and his son, another James, was a customs officer until his transportation to Australia, having been convicted of stealing from one of the ships he was inspecting.

John Dalston Jones, named in the codicil to the will as a new executor after the death of Captain Joseph Short, was a Welsh-born surgeon and neighbour of the Aldridge family in Dalston.

In the transcription that follows, (?) indicates doubt about a transcribed word, while (???) stands for words that were illegible or otherwise impossible to understand.

This is the last Will and Testament of me Richard Aldridge the elder of Old Trinity House Water Lane Tower Street in the City of London and of No. 20 Dalston place Dalston in the County of Middlesex Lighterman and Custom House Agent as follows (that is to say) I direct my executors as soon as conveniently may be after my death to carry into effect the provisions in the deed of partnership executed by me and my sons Richard Aldridge the younger and Thomas Aldridge and bearing date on or about the nineteenth day of October one thousand eight hundred and forty six contained in the event of my departing this life before the expiration of the partnership term of twenty one years And in particular I direct my executors to do what may be proper of expedient to enforce the execution and delivery to my beloved wife Elizabeth Aldridge of a proper Bond or covenant for securing to her the payment of an annuity of one hundred pounds during her life as stipulated in the seventeenth clause of the said deed of partnership. I give to my executors hereinafter named the sum of three thousand four hundred and fifty three pounds four shillings and nine pence three per cent consolidated Annuities now standing in my name in the Books of the Governor and Company of the Bank of England Upon the Trusts following (that is to say) Upon trust to pay the dividends interest and annual proceeds of the said consolidated bank annuities into the proper hands of my said dear wife during her natural life for her sole and separate use free from the control debts or engagements of any husband she may hereafter marry and so as not to be anticipated or allowed by her and from and after the decease of my said wife then as to and concerning the said consolidated bank annuities and the dividends interest and annual proceeds thenceforth to arise therefrom Upon trust for the equal benefit of my four children hereinafter mentioned as tenants in common (that is to say) my daughter Mary Jane (now the wife of Jonathan Reynolds) my daughter Esther now the wife of John Holliday the younger my son Richard Aldridge the younger and my son Thomas Aldridge And I declare that the respective shares in the said trust fund of my said daughters shall be held upon trust for their respective sole and separate use free from the control and engagement of their respective present or any after taken husbands provided always and I so further declare that in case either of my said daughters shall die in my life time or in the lifetime of my said wife leaving a husband her my said daughter surviving then from and after the decease of my said wife the share of each of my said daughters so living shall go to and be held in trust for all or any one or more of the children Grandchildren or other issue of such daughter (such Grandchildren or other issue to be born in her lifetime) for such interest or interests and in such proportions and subject to such conditions restrictions and limitations over in favor of any other or others of their said children Grandchildren or other issue and with such regulations for a maintenance duration and advancement and to be paid or transferred at such age or ages either absolutely or upon such contingencies as such daughter of mine as aforesaid notwithstanding coverture shall at any time or from time to time by any deed will or other Testament in writing with or without power of Revocation direct or appoint And in default of such direction or appointment and subject to any appointment or appointments which shall not be a complete disposition of the whole of the said trust funds constituting the share of such daughter of mine as aforesaid then as to the said stocks funds and securities and the dividends interest and annual produce to arise therefrom In trust for all and every the child and children of such respective daughter of mine who being a son or sons shall attain the age of twenty one years or being a daughter or daughters shall attain that age or marry if more than one in equal shares as tenants in common for the absolute use and benefit of such child or children respectively and if there shall be no child of my said daughter who shall live to acquire a vested interest in such daughters share of the said trust provided In Trust for such person or persons in such manner in all respects as such daughter as aforesaid shall not withstanding coverture by any deed will or other testament in writing with or without power of revocation direct or appoint and for want of such direction of appointment and subject to any appointment which shall not be a complete disposition of my said daughters share of the said trust provided then in trust for the person or persons who would by virtue of the Statutes of distribution be entitled to the personal estate of my said daughter at the time of her decease if she has died intestate and without leaving a husband or child and if more than one in the like shares. I give and bequeath the several Legacies next hereinafter mentioned (that is to say) To my foreman William Thomas Fyfe the Legacy or sum of one hundred pounds To my said daughter Mary Jane Reynolds the sum of nineteen Guineas for mourning To my said daughter Esther Holliday the sum of nineteen Guineas for mourning To my said son Richard Aldridge the younger the sum of nineteen Guineas for mourning To my said son Thomas Aldridge the sum of nineteen Guineas for mourning and To my said friend Mr William Prince Inglis of the General Post Office the sum of nineteen Guineas for mourning and to my friends Captain Joseph Short of Rosalind Cottage Deptford Road and Thomas Hastings of Clements Lane Lombard Street Shipping Cheesemonger (?) the sum of ten pounds a piece for mourning provided also and I further declare that it shall be lawful for the trustees or trustee for the time being of this my will at any time and from time to time with the consent in (???) of my said wife (notwithstanding any future coverture) during her life And after her decease then in the discretion of the said trustees or trustee to sell and dispose of all or any part of the said Consolidated Bank Annuities hereinafter settled as aforesaid and to invest the money to arise from such sale in any other of the stocks or funds or other Government Securities of the United Kingdom or on mortgage of freehold copyhold or leasehold estates in England or Wales but not in Ireland and to vary of transfer the same as occasion shall require or as shall be thought fit provided also and I do hereby declare that in case the said trustees hereby named or either of them shall die in my life time or shall renounce the execution of the trusts hereby created or in case the said trustees or either of them shall die or shall be absent from the United Kingdom for the space of 6 calendar months at one time or shall otherwise become unwilling or unable to act in the aforesaid trusts then and so often as the same shall happen it shall be lawful for my said wife during her life notwithstanding any future coverture and after her decease for the surviving or continuing trustees or trustee or if there shall be no such trustee them for the retiring or remaining (?) trustees or trustee for the time being or if there shall be no such last mentioned trustee then for the executors or administrators of the last deceased trustee to nominate any fit person or persons to supply the place or places of the trustee or trustees respectively so dying residing abroad or becoming unwilling or unable to act as aforesaid and that immediately after such appointment the said trust estates monies and effects stocks funds and securities shall be converted or transferred in such manner that the same may (???) in such new trustee or trustees jointly with the surviving or continuing trustee or trustees or in such new trustees or trustees solely as the case may require And such new Trustee or Trustees shall have and be capable of exercising all the powers and authorities whatsoever hereinbefore contained in the same manner to all intents and purposes as if he or they had been appointed as a trustee or trustees by this my will provided also that the trustees for the time being of this my will shall be charged and chargeable only with such sums as they respectively shall actually receive by virtue of the trusts hereby reposed in them notwithstanding their joining in any receipt of receipts or doing (?) any other act for the sake of conformity and that they or any of them shall not be answerable or accountable for involuntary misfortune loss or damage which may happen in the execution of the aforesaid trusts or in relation thereto provided also and I hereby further declare that it shall be lawful for the said trustees or trustee for the time being by and out of the money which shall come to their or his hands by virtue of the trusts aforesaid to deduct retain and reimburse for themselves respectively or himself and also to allow to each other all costs charges damages and expenses and fees to counsel for advice which they or any of them may sustain disburse or incur in or about the execution of the aforesaid trusts or in relation thereto I give to my said wife my leasehold dwelling house No. 20 Dalston place Dalston aforesaid together with all my household furniture plate pictures prints glass china and other household effects and also all the housekeeping provisions wine spirits linen and consumable stores and also any bank notes and other ready money which shall be in my said dwelling house at the time of my decease and I bequeath to my said wife all the balance of cash which shall be standing to the credit of my private account with my bankers at the time of my decease subject nevertheless and charged with the payment out of the said Balance of cash of the several pecuniary legacies hereinbefore by me bequeathed and also with the payment of any housekeeping debts I may be owing at the time of my decease and of my funeral expenses and of the expenses of proving this my will and I declare that all the provisions hereby made for my said wife shall be held by her for her sole and separate use free from the control of any husband she may hereafter marry And that the same shall be accepted by her in full satisfaction of all dower (???). or free (???) to which she would otherwise be entitled in or out of any freehold or copyhold hereditaments now or heretofore belonging to me And as to All the Residue and Remainder of my estate and of effects real and personal not hereinbefore bequeathed I give and devise the same to my said sons Richard Aldridge the younger and Thomas Aldridge their heir executors administrators and assigns in equal shares as tenants in common And I give to my said two sons and their heirs and equals in right as tenants in common all real estates which may be vested in me at the time of my death upon any trust or by way or mortgage Upon the trusts and subject to the several rights or equities of redemption affecting the same real estates respectively And I appoint my said wife Elizabeth Aldridge and my friends the said Joseph Short and Thomas Hastings to be Executors and Trustees of this my will and I revoke all other wills by me at any time heretofore made In witness whereof I have to this my will contained in this and the four preceding pages or sheets of paper set my hand this nineteenth day of July one thousand eight hundred and forty seven – Rd. Aldridge – Signed published and declared by the said Testator Richard Aldridge the elder as and for his last will and Testament in the presence of us being present at the same time who in the presence of each other and of the said testator have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses – Hugh Shield Sol. 26 Queen Street Cheapside. Richd. Snelling Junr. his Clerk

This is a Codicil to the last Will and Testament of me Richard Aldridge the elder of Old Trinity House Water Lane Tower Street in the City of London and of No. 20 Dalston place Dalston in the County of Middlesex Lighterman and Custom House Agent Whereas since the date and publication of my said will Joseph Short one of the Executors and Trustees therein named hath departed this life Now I do hereby nominate my friend John Dalston Jones of Queens Road Dalston aforesaid Surgeon to be an Executor and Trustee of my said will in the room of the said Joseph Short and I declare that the said John Dalston Jones shall have and exercise all power trusts rights and interests whatsoever which he would have had and been entitled to exercise respectively in case the name of the said John Dalston Jones had been used throughout my will instead of the name of the said Joseph Short And I give to the said John Dalston Jones a Legacy of ten pounds for mourning and I declare the Legacy of ten pounds in my said will bequeathed to the said Joseph Short to be lapsed and no longer payable In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this fifth day of September one thousand eight hundred and forty eight – Rd. Aldridge – Signed published and declared by the said testator Richard Aldridge the elder as and for a codicil to this last will and testament in the joint presence of us present at the same time who in the presence of each other and of the said testator have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses –Hugh Shield – Rich. Snelling Jnr. 

Proved at London with a codicil 7th November 1848 before the Worshipful Frederick Thomas Pratt doctor of Laws and Surrogate by the oaths of Elizabeth Aldridge widow the relict and Thomas Hastings the executors named in the will and John Dalston Jones the executor named in the codicil to whom admon was granted having been first sworn duly to administer.

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Elizabeth Gibson and Richard Aldridge

Continuing with my exploration of the lives of the children of my 5 x great uncle Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817), in this post I’m returning to his daughter Elizabeth, whose story I first discussed two years ago.

Elizabeth Gibson was the fifth of eight children from Bowes John Gibson’s second marriage, to Mary Catherine Bretman. Born in Mile End Old Town on Christmas Day 1803, Elizabeth was christened in May of the following year, at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. She might have been named in memory of Bowes John’s first wife, who had died in 1793, or in honour of his sister, my 5 x great grandmother.

Clay Hill Farm, Devonshire Hill, Tottenham (Copyright Bruce Castle Museum)

Clay Hill Farm, Devonshire Hill, Tottenham (Copyright Bruce Castle Museum)

When her father Bowes John died in 1817, Elizabeth was thirteen years old, and she was twenty-two when her mother Mary Catherine died in 1826. As I noted in the last post, Elizabeth’s younger sister Emily was appointed as executrix of their mother’s will, together with a certain Mr Richard Aldridge of Clay Hill, Tottenham, as executor. Clay Hill was a country estate in the Devonshire Hill area of Tottenham: then a rural retreat to the north of London, now absorbed into the sprawl of the modern city.

Mary Catherine Gibson signed and sealed her will on 3rd June 1826. One year later, a daughter named Emily was born to Richard and Elizabeth Aldridge. She was baptised at the church of All Saints or All Hallows, Tottenham on 4th July, her father being described in the parish register as a gentleman.

All Hallows Church, Tottenham by John Bonny (1890), via

All Hallows Church, Tottenham by John Bonny (1890), via

One might be tempted, then, to suppose that the reason Richard Aldridge was chosen as executor of Mary Gibson’s will, is that he was engaged to be married to her daughter Elizabeth, that the wedding took place soon after Mary’s death, and that the couple named their first child after Elizabeth’s younger sister. However, not only have I failed to find a record for a marriage to Elizabeth Gibson at this date, but the couple would in fact be married some fifteen years later, in 1842.

The picture is complicated by the 1841 census record, which finds 60-year-old lighterman Richard Aldridge and 40-year-old Elizabeth Gibson living at Dalston Place, Hackney, with another Richard Aldridge, aged 25, also a lighterman, Emily Aldridge, 15, Esther Holliday, 30 and Elizabeth Holliday, 4.

Dalston in Greenwood's 1827 map

Dalston in Greenwood’s 1827 map

If we trace these names back through the records, we find that on 10th November 1820, Richard and Mary Aldridge had three children baptised at the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark. Esther Aldridge had been born on 4th September 1813, Richard on 14th December 1814, and Thomas on 24th February 1817. Richard Aldridge senior was described in the parish register as a mariner. On 20th February 1803, a couple with the same names had had a daughter named Mary baptised at St Andrew, Holborn. Their address was given as Fetter Lane.

If all of these children were born to the same couple, then Richard and Mary must have been married by 1802, which places Richard Aldridge senior’s birth some time around 1780. This would match the age given in the 1841 census (remembering that in that census officials tended to round ages up or down).

The reason for Esther’s changed surname in the 1841 census is that she had married John Holliday at the church of St John at Hackney on 2nd July 1836. Richard Aldridge (either her father or her brother) and her sister Emily were witnesses. The 4-year-old Elizabeth Holliday in the census record was the daughter of this marriage – baptized on 25th August 1837 at the same church. The parish register describes John Holliday as a ship owner, the same description that would be given to his father-in-law Richard Aldridge in other records.

Victorian ship owners, with captain and first mate (via

Victorian ship owners, with captain and first mate (via

Mary Aldridge, daughter of Richard senior, seems to have been the person who married Jonathan Reynolds, described in later records as a gentleman,  at St James Clerkenwell on 13th October 1823. They had a son, also named Jonathan, baptised at All Hallows Tottenham on 18th February 1825 and a daughter Esther christened on 4th April 1827 at St John Wapping.

In 1830, Richard Aldridge junior was apprenticed by his father to Thomas Freeman, citizen and merchant tailor, for a period of seven years. If the 1841 census record is correct, then he must have reverted to his father’s profession at a later date. On 6th August 1837 his younger brother Thomas, a lighterman like his father, married Elizabeth Mary Chew at St Dunstan’s, Stepney. Born in Wapping in 1821, Elizabeth was the daughter of Robert Ford Chew and Caroline May. Thomas and Elizabeth Aldridge would have four children: Emily (born in 1838), Richard (1842), Ruth (1842) and Thomas (1844).

From all of this we can conclude that Richard Aldridge senior had been married at least once before he married Elizabeth Gibson, that his first wife was called Mary, and that he had four children with her: Mary, Esther, Richard and Thomas. We also know that Richard’s first wife Mary must have died by about 1826, since in 1827, when his daughter Emily was born, Richard was married to a woman named Elizabeth.

There are two possible explanations. Either Richard Aldridge was married three times, and both his second and third wives (the third being Elizabeth Gibson) were named Elizabeth. Or he contracted some kind of marriage to Elizabeth Gibson in about 1826, and this was confirmed in an Anglican ceremony in 1842. But in the latter case, the question arises as to why they had no more children after Emily in 1827? On the other hand, is it really possible that the first Elizabeth died between the 1841 census being taken, and the marriage of Richard and Elizabeth Gibson in the following year?

Interior of St Dunstan's, Stepney

Richard Aldridge and Elizabeth Gibson were married at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, on 24th March 1842. Richard was described as a widower and a ship owner, and Elizabeth as a spinster. Richard was said to be the son of another Richard Aldridge, a smith, while (as we know) Elizabeth was the daughter of Bowes John Gibson, a gentleman. Both Richard and Elizabeth were said to be living in Charles Street at the time, the former at No. 46, which adds a further layer of confusion, since Richard at least had been resident in Hackney in the previous year. One of the witnesses to the marriage was Emily Grove née Gibson, Elizabeth’s sister.

Richard Aldridge senior died at 20 Dalston Place, Hackney, in 1848, six years after his marriage to Elizabeth Gibson. In his will, which I’ll discuss in another post, Richard describes himself as a lighterman and custom house agent of Old Trinity House, Water Lane, Tower Street in the City of London.

Richard Aldridge junior must have married his wife, Hannah Armstrong, some time between 1841 and the birth of their daughter, also Hannah, in 1845, though I’ve yet to find a record confirming this. At the time of Hannah’s baptism at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, the couple were living at North Place and Richard was working as a commercial clerk. By the time of the 1851 census, they were living in nearby Kingsland and Richard was once again described as a lighterman.

On 13 April 1845, Richard Aldridge senior’s youngest daughter, Emily, married William Price Inglis, a gentleman, at St Mary’s church, Finchley. William, born in Chelsea in 1819, was the son of Thomas Inglis, a physician and army staff surgeon, and his wife Maria. Thomas Inglis’ profession obviously involved overseas travel, since his wife was from Portugal and another son, Thomas, was born in Spain. Emily appears to have died within a year of her marriage to William, perhaps in childbirth.

The 1851 census finds Elizabeth Aldridge, née Gibson, a 45-year-old widow and annuitant, still living at 20 Dalston Place, Hackney. As well as a general servant, Priscilla Maria Ward, Elizabeth has three visitors: Maria Inglis, 50, described as a lady, born in Portugal but a British subject; Thomas Inglis, 32, a clerk in Her Majesty’s Customs, born in Spain but similarly a British subject; and William Price Inglis, 36, a widower and a clerk in the Post Office, born in Chelsea. William was the husband of Elizabeth’s late stepdaughter, Emily; Thomas was his brother; and Maria was their mother.

By 1861, when she was about 58 years old, Elizabeth Aldridge had moved to Vernon House at No 6 Barnsbury Square, Islington. Elizabeth’s household includes both a servant and an attendant, suggesting both that she had ample means to support herself and also (perhaps) that she was growing infirm with age. I’ve written before about Elizabeth’s brother Bowes Charles Gibson and sister Matilda Henrietta Gibson, who died in 1837 and 1845 respectively, both of whom lived in Barnsbury Square. It seems likely, then, that the Gibson family had retained ownership of at least one property in this fashionable square.

House in Barnsbury Square (via

House in Barnsbury Square (via

Next door to Elizabeth, at No. 5 Barnsbury Square, we find a certain William S. Gibson, a mercantile clerk, his wife Mary Ann, their daughter Clara Elizabeth, who is one year old, and son William, only a month old, both of them born in Barnsbury. This is William Slark Gibson, who I deduce from other sources to have been Elizabeth’s nephew, and probably the son of one of her brother William Henry. I plan to return to the intriguing story of the Gibsons and the Slarks in another post.

The 1871 census finds 11-year-old Clara Gibson with her great aunt Elizabeth Aldridge, now 67 and described as an annuitant, at 6 Barnsbury Square. There are also five visitors present, all members of the Cope family: Ida, 21, and Constance, 18, both born in Prussia; Carl, 16, born in Islington; Mabel, 14, born in Austria; and Cecil, 9, born in Australia. These were the children of Frederick Charles Cope and Elizabeth Jane Slark, whose precise relationship to William Slark Gibson I’ve yet to discover.

Frederick Cope (1819 – 1885) was an architect; he had married Elizabeth Jane Slark on 31 January 1843. Frederick and Elizabeth Cope seem to have delighted in giving their children multiple Christian names: the full names and initials of the children visiting Elizabeth Aldridge and Clara Gibson in 1871 were Ida Philippina C.A.E. Cope, Constance Catherine C. C. Y. Cope, Carl Edward Hubert Maria Cope, Mabel Agnes Blanche Ella Louise Cope, and Cecil Ernest T. Cope.

I can’t find Elizabeth Aldridge in the 1881 census, so I assume she must have died before then. However, I’ve yet to find a record of her death.

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Emily Gibson and John Godfrey Grove

I’m continuing to explore what became of the children of my 5 x great uncle Bowes John Gibson, who died in 1817. In the previous post, I concluded that three daughters, Elizabeth, Emily and Matilda Henrietta, survived from Bowes John’s second marriage to Mary Catherine Bretman. Matilda did not marry and died in 1845 at the age of 32. Elizabeth’s life story is complicated and will be discussed in another post. In this post I want to share what we know about the remaining sister, Emily.

Emily Gibson was born on 12th August in 1805 in Mile End Old Town and baptised at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints on 22nd November that year. She was the sixth of eight children born to Bowes John and Mary Catherine Gibson. When her father died in 1817, Emily was twelve years old, and when her mother died in June 1826 she would have been not quite twenty-one.

Despite her youth, and the fact that at least three of her surviving siblings were older than her, Emily was appointed as executrix of her mother’s will, together with the executor Richard Aldridge of Clay Hill, Tottenham. We shall have more to say about Mr Aldridge, who eventually married Emily’s older sister Elizabeth, in another post. I assume that Emily played the piano, since her mother bequeathed her a pianoforte, as well as various items of jewellery.

St Helen's Bishopsgate

St Helen’s Bishopsgate today

On 18th November 1835, when she would have been thirty years old, and therefore past the normal marrying age for the period, Emily was married at the church of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in the City of London. Her husband was John Godfrey Grove. It only struck me recently, on revisiting these records, that his Christian names are the same as those of Emily’s cousin, John Godfrey Schwartz, the son of her father’s sister Ann Schwartz née Gibson, who married another cousin, Frances Collins; and also those of his son, her second cousin, who married another second cousin, Mary Ann Bonner. (I wrote about these tangled relationships in a recent post; I should add the caveat that I don’t yet have conclusive evidence for some of these relationships.)

As I’ve noted before, the Schwartz family are elusive and difficult to trace in the records available online. Might John Godfrey Grove provide a clue that would help me to track them down? Perhaps one of his parents was connected in some way to the Schwartz family? As well as his first names, there is also the fact that he and Emily were married in Bishopsgate, a part of London associated with the Schwartz family (the first John Godfrey Schwartz married his cousin Frances Collins there in 1780, albeit in the nearby church of St Botolph).

London docks

London docks

Emily’s husband John Godfrey Grove is almost certainly the person of that name who was baptized at the church of St John at Hackney on 25th January 1807; he had been born on 10th December 1806, so was just a little younger than Emily when they married. His parents were John and Susanna Grove, for whom I have yet to find any other children. They had been married at the same church on 21st July 1803.

One of the witnesses to that marriage was Matthias Walton, who was almost certainly Susanna’s father. He would die in 1808 and be buried at St Thomas’ church in Hackney. Matthias seems to have been a bricklayer, originally from Bethnal Green, but this almost certainly means that he owned a building business, rather than that he was a manual labourer. He was married to Susanna Walker, originally from Hackney. There is no mention of a daughter named Susanna in his will, suggesting that she may have predeceased him; this may explain why there were no Grove children after John Godfrey.

Hackney in 1840

Hackney in 1840

Matthias Walton gives his address as Well Street, Hackney, the same street where John Grove would be paying land tax between 1810 and 1816. Could he also be the John Grove who was paying land tax in Bethnal Green between 1799 and 1812? And if he remarried after Susanna’s death, as one might expect of a young husband with an infant son, is he the John Grove who married Martha Timmins French at the church of St Matthew, Bethnal Green, in August 1807 (ten months after the birth of his son John Godfrey)? This John Grove can be found in census records in 1841, 1851 and 1861, where is he described variously as a retired clerk in the Naval Office, a house proprietor and fund holder. Still alive at the age of 90, he is said to have been born in about 1771. Unfortunately, there is no hint of any connection with the Schwartz family.

John Grove senior’s profession seems to be echoed in his son John Godfrey’s occupation. When his and Emily’s only child, Emily Elizabeth Grove, was baptized at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 22nd March 1842, John Godfrey was described as a ‘clerk in the docks’. At the time, the couple were living in Mile End Old Town. If the 1851 census record is correct, then Emily Elizabeth was actually born five years earlier, in about 1837, about a year after her parents’ marriage. The reason for Emily’s baptism being scheduled for this later date, and for her middle name, is that her aunt Elizabeth Gibson was marrying shipowner Richard Aldridge on the same day at the same church, perhaps in the same ceremony.

A Victorian National School

A Victorian National School

I have a note somewhere that John Godfrey Grove died shortly after his daughter’s birth, but I can’t now find a record of this. Nor can I find any of the family in the 1841 census, though I assume they must still have been in Stepney at this time. Emily Grove née Gibson was certainly a widow by 1851, when the census finds her and her daughter Emily Elizabeth,  aged 14, living at the National or Charity School in Keston, near Bromley in Kent. Emily senior, now 43, is working as a governess and her daughter as a monitor or ‘adjutrix’ (a female helper or assistant).

And that is the last record I’ve managed to find for either Emily Grove or for her daughter Emily Elizabeth.

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The surviving children of Bowes John Gibson

In the previous post I noted that, in his will of 1804, my 5 x great uncle Bowes John Gibson, a broker and auctioneer for the East India Company, mentioned three surviving children from his first marriage to Elizabeth Hendly. These were his daughter Esther, who had married mariner and shipbuilder Thomas Lay in 1790; his son John Thomas, who would marry Henrietta Elizabeth Horn in 1811; and another son, George Milsom Gibson. Both sons would serve as army officers in India, and George would die there in 1814, at the age of 32. I’ve found no further records for Thomas and Esther Lay, after the births of their two sons, Bowes John and William Henry Lay, in 1792 and 1797 respectively.

The East India Company, by Thomas Rowlandson (1808)

The East India Company, by Thomas Rowlandson (1808)

As for the children of Bowes John’s second marriage to Mary Catherine Bretman, the latter’s will of 1826 mentions Edward, Emily, William Henry, Elizabeth, Matilda Henrietta and Bowes Charles. We know that another son, James Charles Gibson, had died in 1819, at the age of 19: he was buried in Chelsea, so I assume he was living there at the time. We also have to assume that Eliza, born in 1798, had predeceased her mother.

As for William Henry Gibson, someone with that name was buried at the Wesleyan Burial Ground in Globe Fields, Stepney, on 12 December 1830. He was 28 when he died, making him the same age as the son of Bowes John and Mary Catherine, and his address was said to be Charles Street, just a short distance from the original Gibson family home in Mile End Old Town. If this is the right person, then presumably he had undergone a Methodist conversion in his youth, leading him to depart from the staunchly Anglican habits of his family.

Barnsbury Square, Islington

Barnsbury Square, Islington

I’ve written before about Bowes Charles Gibson, the youngest child of the family, who died in 1837 at the age of 24. When he died he was living in Barnsbury Square, Islington. Bowes Charles left everything to his sister Matilda Henrietta, who I believe lived at the same address. She was certainly resident in Barnsbury Square, with a female servant, at the time of the 1841 census. Matilda died four years later, at the age of 32.

I’ve failed to find any further reference to Edward Gibson, who would have been 24 years old when his mother died in 1826. Someone with the same name was buried at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, in 1842, though he was said to have been born in 1796.

That leaves Elizabeth and Emily, who would have been 23 and 21 years old respectively when their mother died. I plan to revisit what we know of their adult lives, as well as that of their half-brother John Thomas Gibson and his family, in future posts.

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The life of Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817)

As part of my continuing effort to understand the life of my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, I’ve been revisiting the information I’ve managed to gather about her younger brother, Bowes John Gibson. I only discovered Bowes John’s existence a few years ago, and the discovery provided a gateway to a wealth of new information about the Gibson family. I continue to be intrigued by the difference in experience between Bowes John, a wealthy broker whose sons served as military officers in India, and Elizabeth, whose sons worked as tallow chandlers, builders and shoemakers in London’s East End.

My latest research into Bowes John Gibson and his family has also been prompted by a renewed interest in my ancestors’ connections with the East India Company. I’ve written before about the Boulton family’s involvement with the Company (a subject to which I plan to return in due course), and more recently I posted about the Champain family and their link with the East Indies. In forthcoming posts, I intend to explore the lives and careers of Bowes John Gibson’s children, but in this post I’m collecting together what we know about the man himself, in more or less chronological order.

Early life

Bowes John Gibson, my 5 x great uncle, was born at Tower Hill, London in 1744, in the seventeenth year of the reign of George II and one year before the Jacobite rising. He was christened at the parish church of St Botolph, Aldgate, on 4th November. As far as I can determine, he was the only son of my 6 x great grandparents John and Mary Gibson. Bowes John had five older sisters – Jane, Mary, Elizabeth, Frances and Ann – and a younger sister, Sarah, who would be born two years after him. My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson would have been eleven years old when her younger brother was born.

St Botolph, Aldgate (from London Lives website)

St Botolph, Aldgate (from London Lives website)

The reason for Bowes John’s unusual first name is still something of a mystery. He was obviously given the name ‘John’ after his father, but ‘Bowes’ could be a family name – perhaps the surname of John Gibson’s mother? – or it might be a tribute to a friend, business associate or even hero of John’s. As we shall see, Bowes John would himself give a number of his children the names of naval or military heroes, at least one of whom I believe he knew well. Discovering the ‘Bowes’ connection might, in fact, throw some much-needed light on John Gibson’s own origins, but that particular quest will have to wait for another time.

Six years before he was born, Bowes John Gibson’s parents had taken possession of Woodredon, a country estate near Waltham Abbey in Essex, a gift from Mary Gibson’s widowed mother Mary Greene. Although, like his siblings, Bowes John was born in the family’s London house at Tower Hill, it is likely that he spent much of his childhood at Woodredon. If my speculations about John Gibson’s career are correct, then the early years of Bowes John Gibson’s childhood would have coincided with his father’s bankruptcy and conviction for fraud. One of the reasons I remain uncertain as to whether John Gibson, the coal factor who was imprisoned in the Fleet, was identical with my 6 x great grandfather, is that he and his wife Mary had two children (Bowes John and his sister Sarah) during these years, and that they managed to keep possession of Woodredon until after John’s death in 1763. Not only that, but their children did not seem to be unduly affected financially by these supposed disasters. Their daughters all made ‘good’ marriages: that is, they all married men of either property or respectable professions, even if one of them (my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth) appears to have contracted her first marriage, to landed gentleman John Collins, in secret. And Bowes John himself, as we shall see, was not held back from launching a profitable career with the East India Company.

Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey, Essex

Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey, Essex

Given that later career, it’s almost certain that at some stage Bowes John was sent away to school, probably in London: possibly at Merchant Taylors, where a number of his forebears had been educated. I’ve found no record of his attendance at a university, and given what we know of the family’s history, it seems more likely that Bowes John would have been apprenticed, perhaps to a London merchant, as his nephews John William Bonner and John Godfrey Schwartz would be some years later. In the absence of records covering these formative years of his life, we can only speculate.

What is certain is that during his later childhood and youth, Bowes John would have seen all five of his older sisters married – Jane to William Coates in 1752 (when Bowes John was eight), Elizabeth to John Collins in 1753, Ann to Charles Gottfried Schwartz in 1754, Mary to William Hunter in 1760 and Frances to Michael Bonner in 1761. Jane and Elizabeth both married Essex farmers, but the husbands of Ann, Mary and Frances all appear to have been mariners or merchants. If my theory that their father John Gibson was a lighterman and coal factor is correct, then there would surely have been good reasons for Bowes John pursuing a maritime career. What we don’t know, since the records are unavailable, is the precise route that he took to reach the position that he had attained by 1790, when London directories described him as an auctioneer and broker in the service of the East India Company.

First marriage

The first definite record that we have for Bowes John Gibson after his baptism dates from 13th October 1766, when he was almost twenty-two years old. It was on this date that he married Elizabeth Hendly at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, the location suggesting that he, and perhaps his mother Mary (who had been widowed three years earlier) had already moved from Tower Hill and Woodredon to Mile End Old Town. Certainly the first tax records that we have for Mary in Mile End Old Town date from that same year. Elizabeth was said to be from the parish of St Mary’s in Lambeth, but to date I’ve been unable to find out anything more about her.

Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Affleck (via Wikipedia)

Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Affleck (via Wikipedia)

There were two witnesses to the marriage. One was Bowes John’s younger sister Sarah Gibson. The other was a certain ‘Edmd. Affleck’. Two decades or so later, when Bowes John Gibson’s sister Sarah came to write her will, she would leave twenty pounds to ‘my godson Edmond Affleck Gibson son of my … brother Bowes John Gibson’. I’ve yet to find a baptismal record for Edmond, but since he must have been born some time between 1766 and 1789, he was definitely the child of Bowes John’s first marriage to Elizabeth Hendly. It also seems likely that he was named after the Edmund Affleck who witnessed Bowes John’s and Elizabeth’s marriage. However, the more interesting question is whether that person was the Sir Edmund Affleck, later baronet, son of Gilbert Affleck of Dalham Hall, Suffolk, who served as a naval officer, attaining the rank of Rear Admiral in 1784, two years after distinguishing himself in the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean, and who served as M.P. for Colchester from 1782 till his death in 1788? He is certainly the only Edmund Affleck that I can find in the records. Affleck would have been in his early forties at the time of Bowes John Gibson’s marriage and probably still a naval captain. Is it possible that Bowes John Gibson served under Affleck (there was a difference of about twenty years in their ages), or that they had encountered each other through the former’s work for the East India Company? Alternatively, might Affleck have been an associate of Bowes John’s late father John Gibson?

The next record that we have for Bowes John Gibson is for the baptism of his first child with Elizabeth – a daughter named Esther or Hester – at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 8th August 1767. Bowes John is described as a gentleman and their address is given as Mile End Old Town. As I’ve written before, we know from a database of Mile End Old Town residents that ‘Mr John Bozey Gibson’, described as a ‘gent’, and his wife Elizabeth, occupied a house on the north side of Mile End Road and that, certainly by 1768, John’s mother Mary was living on the southern side of the same road. There is a note in the record stating that Mary’s was a new house. In that year she was paying land tax of £19, while in the previous year her son was paying £10, suggesting a smaller property. There is also a record from 1768 of a Mary Gibson paying land tax of £18 on a second house in nearby White Horse Lane.

The baptismal record for the next Gibson child is intriguing, both because it indicates a change of address, and because it seems to suggest that Bowes John was not at this stage working for the East India Company. Ann Gibson was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, on 9th February 1771. (This was the church at which Bowes John’s sister, and my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth had contracted her second marriage, to my 5 x great grandfather Joseph Holdsworth, some eight years earlier, and where members of his sister Frances Bonner’s family would christen their children a decade or so later.)

Bermondsey, from Horwood's 1792 map, with Long Walk visible below parish church and close to Bermondsey Square

Bermondsey, from Horwood’s 1792 map, with Long Walk visible below parish church and close to Bermondsey Square

The Gibson family’s address was said to be ‘Grange’, which might mean Grange Road, or it could denote a general area, in which case it could be the same house that they were living in three years later when their address was Long Walk, on the other side of Bermondsey Square (see map above). When Ann was christened, her father’s occupation was given as ‘brewer’. How are we to interpret this? Had Bowes John retired from a maritime career by this stage, or was he yet to begin his association with the East India Company? The occupation is intriguing because we know that, towards the end of his life, his father John Gibson had also set himself up as a brewer, with the support of his mother-in-law Mary Greene. Did Bowes John inherit his father’s business, or at least his brewing equipment?

When his third child, a boy, was baptised at the same church on 10th July 1774, Bowes John Gibson was once again being described simply as a ‘gentleman’ and now the family’s address was definitely Long Walk. The name that Bowes John gave to this first son – Grey Dockley – might be a tribute to another relative or friend. There was a Dockley family living in Bermondsey around this time, and Edmund Dockley, a gentleman of the parish of St Mary Magdalene, made his will in 1789, though he makes no mention of the Gibsons nor of any relative with the first name Grey. (As we shall see, the Dockley name would be kept alive by Bowes John Gibson’s son John Thomas, who named one of his sons Charles Dockley Gibson, but this may have been in memory of his brother, rather than a tribute to the Dockley family.)

The Gibsons were still living at Long Walk when their son John was born two years later. He was christened at St Mary Magdalene on 21st July 1776, three weeks after the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. A daughter named Mary Ann was born at the same address, and baptised at the same church on 28th February 1780.

A year later another son was born at Long Walk and christened on 15th April 1781. Despite my best efforts, I’m still unable to make sense of the child’s name in the parish register. There seem to be three names: the first beginning with ‘S’ has been transcribed by Ancestry as ‘Silvamens’, the second might begin with a ‘C’ and be something like ‘Crossen’ or ‘Crosser’, and the third might be ‘Hood’. Given Bowes John Gibson’s habit (as we shall see) of naming his sons after military and naval heroes, I wondered if ‘Hood’ might be a reference to Sir Samuel Hood who took part, with Edmund Affleck, in a famous encounter with the French navy in the Caribbean at about this time?

Less than a year had passed before another son was born to Bowes John and Elizabeth Gibson. George Milsom Gibson was christened at St Mary Magdalene on 7th January 1782. From what I can gather, the original George Milsom was an officer in the Madras Native Infantry: interestingly, the same force in which George Milsom Gibson would later serve. (I’m grateful to Barbara Haynes for this information.) I haven’t come across any information suggesting that Milsom was a national figure, so once again it’s possible, as with Edmund Affleck, that Bowes John Gibson knew him personally, perhaps because of his own service either in the military or with the East India Company (if the two can be so easily differentiated). Might George Milsom have been George Milsom Gibson’s godfather, and have guided and supported him in his later military career?

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney

St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney

By contrast, the name of Bowes John Gibson’s next son, John Thomas, appears quite pedestrian. By the time this child was born, in 1785, the Gibsons seem to have moved back across the Thames. John Thomas Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 13th September 1785, when the family’s address was given as Mile End Old Town. A daughter, Matilda Ann, would be born there two years later and christened on 8th October 1787. Three years later, Bowes John Gibson’s last child with his first wife Elizabeth was born. Carleton Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s on 17th May 1790. As I’ve noted before, this child may have been named after Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Carleton (the unusual spelling seems to suggest so), the British Army officer who led the eponymous raid of 1778 against American revolutionary forces: he died in Quebec in 1787. Once again, even if this is the case, it’s difficult to determine whether Bowes John named his son as a tribute to a national hero, or in memory of a friend or comrade in arms. At the very least, Bowes John’s naming habits for his children suggest a fierce patriotism and a close interest in military and naval affairs.

I’ve yet to find records for two other children who we know were the product of Bowes John Gibson’s first marriage. The will of his unmarried younger sister Sarah Gibson, made in 1789, mentions her nephew and godson Edmund Affleck Gibson (see above) and her niece Elizabeth Gibson, both said to be the children of her brother Bowes John Gibson.

We know that at least two of the children from Bowes John’s marriage to Elizabeth died in infancy: Matilda Ann in 1789 at the age of two and Carleton in 1794 at the age of four. Both were buried at St Dunstan’s. Grey Dockley Gibson also died in 1794, but he would have been twenty years old at the time. There is a burial record for him from Brading, described in the record as being in Hampshire but actually on the Isle of Wight, on 31st July that year. The name is so unusual that it must be the same person, though why he was living in Brading is a mystery: is there a naval connection, perhaps?

The only child of Bowes John Gibson mentioned in his mother Mary Gibson’s will of 1788 is Esther, his eldest daughter (also named in Sarah Gibson’s will of the following year). However, this need not be significant, since very few of Mary’s other grandchildren are named in her will. Esther was the first of the Gibson children to marry. On 21st September 1790 she married Thomas Lay at St Dunstan’s church. Bowes John and Elizabeth were both witnesses, as was Susanna Ford, the sister-in-law of Bowes John’s nephew John William Bonner, who had married Sarah Ford nine years earlier (Bowes John was one of the witnesses). Thomas Lay was a mariner and perhaps also a shipbuilder. He and Esther made their home in Mile End Old Town and would have at least two children, the first named Bowes John after his grandfather being born in 1792, and the second, William Henry, in 1797.

Bowes John Gibson’s first wife Elizabeth died in the early days of 1793 and was buried on 12th January at St Dunstan’s church. No information is given in the parish register about the cause of death, but one imagines that she must have been exhausted after giving birth to at least twelve children in the course of twenty-seven years of marriage.

Second marriage 

Six years after the death of Elizabeth, and when he himself was already fifty-five years old, Bowes John Gibson married for a second time. He married Mary Catherine Bretman on 6th April 1799 at the church of St Matthew, Bethnal Green. I assume that this was Mary’s home parish, but if so, that’s all I’ve managed to find out about her. I suspect that Bretman is a German name, and that Mary might have belonged (like Charles Gottfriend Schwartz, who married Bowes John’s sister Ann) to the burgeoning community of German merchants and manufacturers in East London.


There’s a curiosity about the births of Bowes John Gibson’s next two children. On 28th October 1798, Edward and Eliza Gibson, described as the son and daughter respectively of Bowes John and Mary Gibson, were baptised at St Matthew, Bethnal Green, the same church where Bowes John and Mary would be married a little less than six months later. Edward was said to have been born on 15th November 1796 and Eliza on 1st October 1798. If it weren’t for the birth dates of these two children, one might imagine that they had actually been born to Bowes John’s first wife Elizabeth, and that their baptisms had been delayed for some reason. As it is, either the date of Bowes John’s second marriage is wrong, or we have to imagine that they had two children out of wedlock, albeit when they were engaged to be married. Alternatively, perhaps Bowes John and Mary were initially married in a different kind of ceremony (in a German church, perhaps?) and the wedding at St Matthew’s was by way of an Anglican blessing on an existing union. This would certainly explain the relatively long delay between Elizabeth’s death and Bowes John’s second marriage: one imagines that a middle-aged man with a large number of children, at least two of them under ten years old, might have been in a hurry to marry again.

Mary Catherine Gibson would be almost as prolific in childbearing as her predecessor Elizabeth, producing a further six children in the next twelve years or so. James Charles Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s on 20th October 1800; William Henry on 9th March 1803; Elizabeth on 25th May 1804 (presumably her namesake from Bowes John’s first marriage had died by this time); Matilda Henrietta on 25th July 1810; and Bowes Charles on 30th July 1817, though he was actually born six years earlier in 1811.

Charles Edward Horn, brother-in-law of John Thomas Gibson

Charles Edward Horn, brother-in-law of John Thomas Gibson

The second of Bowes John’s children to marry was John Thomas Gibson, who married Henrietta Eliza Horn on 20th February 1811 at the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square, in Bloomsbury. As discussed in an earlier post, Henrietta was the daughter of the noted German-born composer Charles Frederick Horn (another German connection) and the French-born Diana Arboneau Dupont. Henrietta’s brother Charles Edward Horn, a musician, singer and actor, had been at school in Lambeth with John Thomas Gibson and his brother George, and from his memoirs we gain a fascinating insight into their early lives, which I’ll return to in another post. On leaving school, both John Thomas and George Gibson entered military service in India, while their old schoolfriend  Charles Horn trained as a musician and earned money as a music teacher. Among his pupils were ‘two Miss Cohens in Goodman Fields, for 5 shillings a lesson, two taking a lesson in one hour, twice a week’. He writes:

My teaching at Mr Cohen’s and Miss Babbington’s went on, and my visits in Goodmans Fields were often [di]versified by visiting old Mr Gibson and his daughters for, although my schoolfellows and associates were in India, it was delightful to go a[nd] see the old place we used to see our friends in. 

Three years after his brother’s marriage, George Milsom Gibson died in India. The inscription on his grave in Vizagaptam reads as follows:

Sacred to the memory of Major George Milsom Gibson Commandant 1st batt. 2nd Reg. N.I. who departed this life 5th of May 1814 Aged 33 years.

‘N.I.’ refers to the Madras Native Infantry. It’s unclear whether George died in battle or of natural causes. Either way, one imagines that news of his son’s death was a heavy blow to Bowes John Gibson in his declining years.

The ‘old Mr Gibson’ of Charles Horn’s reminiscences – i.e. Bowes John – died at the age of 73 in 1817 and was buried at St Dunstan’s church on 28th August, four weeks after the baptism of his youngest son Bowes Charles. The parish register records that Bowes John Gibson died of old age, and was buried in the family vault. In his will, made some thirteen years before his death, Bowes John notes that the children from his first marriage have all been ‘handsomely provided for’ and only mentions by name his daughter Esther and sons George Milsom and John Thomas Gibson. This suggests that, in addition to the children already mentioned who died in infancy and youth, five other children – Ann, John, Mary Ann, the mysteriously named ‘Silvamens’, Elizabeth, and Edmund Affleck – probably did not survive to adulthood.

Posted in Bonner, Collins, Gibson, Holdsworth, Schwartz | Leave a comment

A property passed down through five generations

On 24th January 1689, just a few months after the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’ that deposed King James II and put the Dutchman William of Orange on the throne of England, my Sussex-born 8 x great grandfather John Byne, a citizen and stationer of Tower Hill, London, signed and sealed his last will and testament. In his will John made reference to ‘all those my fower Messuages or Tenements with their and every of their appurtenances Situate lying and being in or neere Distaffe Lane in the parish of St Margaret Moses in Fryday streete and St Nicholas Coleabbey or one of them neere old Fish streete within the City of London And all my Estate Right Tytle and Interest of in or to the same or any of them or any part of them either for Terme of yeares or otherwise howsoever’.

Section of Rocque's 1746 map of London

Section of Rocque’s 1746 map of London

Distaff Lane was close to St Paul’s in the City of London, between Old Change and Friday Street, with Little Distaff Lane running off it, down to Old Fish Street (see the map above). Some or all of the property in Distaff Lane would remain in the family for at least 137 years after John Byne’s death, being passed down through five generations. We can trace the changing ownership of this property by analysing references to it in a succession of family wills.

John Byne’s will decreed that his property in Distaff Lane should be shared between his five children – John, Alice, Mary, Magnus, and Thomas – after the death of his wife Alice. John died in March 1689, at the age of 38, but his widow Alice lived for another forty years or so, dying in 1738 when she was about 80 years old. She appears to have outlived all of her children except Mary (my 7 x great grandmother), who had married goldsmith Joseph Greene in 1701, and Alice, who was herself by now a widow, having lost her husband Thomas Bouts in 1716.

The deaths of her children probably explain why at least some of the properties in Distaff Lane seem to have reverted to Alice Byne. In her will, made in 1733, five years before her death, Alice bequeaths to her daughter Alice Bouts ‘all that my freehold Estate with the appurts Situate and being in Distaffe Lane London and in the parishes of Saint Margaret Moses Fryday Street and Saint Nicholas Coleabby or one of them and now or late in the Tenure or Occupation of William Ashurst Gentleman his undertenants or assigns for and during the Term of her natural life and from and after her decease.’ Alice also leaves the same property to her granddaughter Anne Bouts ‘for and during the term of her natural Life’, presumably following the death of her mother. However, if Anne dies without issue, then the estate is to pass to ‘my […] Grand daughter and God daughter […] Mary the […] Wife of […] John Gibson and to her heirs for ever’.

Alice’s granddaughter Mary Gibson, my 6 x great grandmother, was the daughter of Joseph Greene and his wife Mary née Byne. The younger Mary had married John Gibson in 1729. Apparently Anne Bouts had no children of her own – in fact, I can find no further records for her – and the property in Distaff Lane thus passed to Mary Gibson, who also survived her husband and reached the age of 80, dying in 1790.

In her will of 15th April 1788, Mary Gibson bequeaths ‘all that my messuage or tenement and premises with the appurts used as a sugar house and situate in Little Distaff Lane London let on lease to Mr Nathaniel Jarman at the yearly amount of forty pounds’ to her unmarried daughter Sarah Gibson, but only on condition that ‘she my said daughter shall and do within three calendar months next after my decease pay off and discharge the sum of three hundred pounds now due and owing from me to Sir John Henniker baronet as mortgage of the said premises and not otherwise’.

18th century sugar refinery

18th century sugar refinery

As I noted in an earlier post, Nathaniel Jarman, one of the founders of the New Fire Office, owned a sugar refinery in Little Distaff Lane. Sir John Henniker was the person to whom the Gibson family sold their country estate at Woodredon in Waltham Abbey, after the death of my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson in 1763. To quote British History Online:

In 1764 John Henniker began to acquire the manor from the Gibsons and their relatives. This process does not appear to have been completed until 1792. Henniker, who succeeded to a baronetcy in 1781 and was created Baron Henniker in the Irish peerage in 1800, died in 1803.

Presumably the mortgage on the properties in Distaff Lane was part of the larger transaction with Henniker. ‘Their relatives’ probably refers to Mary Gibson’s mother, Mary Greene, who I suspect took back ownership of the estate to protect it when her son-in-law John was made bankrupt in the early 1740s.

Another condition attached to Mary Gibson’s bequest is that her daughter Sarah should pay annuities out of the income from the property in Distaff Lane to her four married sisters: Jane Coates, Elizabeth Holdsworth (my 5 x great grandmother), Frances Bonner and Anne Schwarz. After the deaths of any two of these sisters, their annuities should be paid to ‘Esther Gibson alias Hester Gibson the daughter of my son Bowes John Gibson’. If I read the will correctly, Mary also decrees that Bowes John should inherit the property and that it should then pass to Esther and ‘all and every other the child and children of my said son Bowes John Gibson’ to be divided between them.

Mary Gibson died in Mile End Old Town in 1790 and was buried on 26th October at St Dunstan’s church in Stepney. However, she was predeceased by just ten days by her daughter Sarah, to whom she had bequeathed her property in Distaff Lane. Sarah had made her own will in October 1789, a year before her death at the age of 44, and a year after her mother Mary made her will.

In her will, Sarah Gibson notes that she is entitled ‘to the sum of five hundred pounds to be paid to me by the bond of Sir John Henniker Baronet within one month after the death of my mother Mrs Mary Gibson’ and that her mother ‘is indebted to the said Sir John Henniker in the sum of three hundred pounds to him by a mortgage of a messuage or tenement sugar house and premises with the appurtenances situate in Little Distaff Lane London’. Sarah directs her executors, from the five hundreds pounds payable to her on the death of her mother, ‘to pay off and discharge the said sum of three hundred pounds due and owing to the said Sir John Henniker from my said mother as aforesaid upon having an assignment of the said mortgaged premises made to them’. She further directs her executors to pay the interest of two hundred pounds from this three hundred pounds to her sister Frances Bonner and to her pay her sister Elizabeth Holdsworth one hundred pounds, being the residue of the said three hundred pounds.

Cordwainers Hall, Distaff Lane (via

Cordwainers Hall, Distaff Lane (via

At least some of the property in Distaff Lane must have passed to Mary Gibson’s youngest son Bowes John Gibson, a broker and auctioneer for the East India Company. He died in 1817 and although his will of 1804 makes no mention of his property, he appoints his second wife Mary Catherine as ‘wholesale legatee and executrix of all my worldly estate’.

In her own will , made in 1826 (the year after the first commercial railway line opened in England) Mary Catherine Gibson states that ‘having purchased my son William Henry’s and my daughter Elizabeth’s shares in the freehold premises in Distaff Lane’, she directs that ‘the rent of the said premises be for the use and benefit of my daughters Emily Gibson and Matilda Henrietta Gibson and of my son Bowes Charles Gibson’. She also decrees that the freehold on the property be sold ‘on the youngest child’s attaining his or her twenty first year’ and the product of such sale ‘to be divided equally between my daughters Emily Gibson and Matilda Henrietta and my son Bowes Charles Gibson save and except thirty pounds to my oldest son Edward Gibson thirty pounds to my son William Henry Gibson and the like sum of thirty pounds to my daughter Elizabeth Gibson’.

And that’s where, for now, we lose track of the property in Distaff Lane, which had been in the same family for more than 130 years and had been passed down through five generations. More research is needed to trace the children of Bowes John Gibson after their parents’ death. We know that, of those who were mentioned in Mary Catherine Gibson’s will, Bowes Charles Gibson died in 1837 and Matilda Henrietta in 1846. I don’t know what became of Emily, Edward, William Henry or Elizabeth. Was the freehold on the Distaff Lane property sold, or did one of these children pass it on to yet another generation of the Gibson family?

Posted in Bonner, Byne, Coates, Gibson, Greene, Holdsworth, Schwartz | Leave a comment

Revisiting the Schwartz family

Reflecting on a crucial ten-year period in the life of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, has reawakened my curiosity about some of her close relatives. In the previous post, I noted that Elizabeth’s younger sister Ann married Charles Gottfried Schwartz in 1754, a year or so after Elizabeth’s own first marriage to John Collins. I also repeated my theory that it was Elizabeth’s daughter Frances who married John Godfrey Schwartz, who I believe to have been the son of Charles and Ann.

In this post I want to revisit the Schwartz family and summarise what we know about them. There are huge gaps in our knowledge of the family, and the records for them are few and far between. In fact, the information we have about them can be divided into three sections, relating to three male members of the family and their wives.

(1) Charles Gottfried Schwartz and Ann Gibson 

The first evidence of a connection between the Schwartz and Gibson families, indeed the earliest reference of any kind that I can find to the Schwartz family, is the record of Ann Gibson’s marriage to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. This took place at the church of St George-in-the-East in Stepney on 30th August 1754. Born in 1737, Ann would have been just seventeen years old at the time. The witnesses were John Gibson, undoubtedly Ann’s father, and a certain William Bates. Curiously, given the Gibson family’s longstanding residence at Tower Hill in the parish of St Botolph Aldgate, the parish register notes that Ann was of the parish of St Mary-le-Bow in the City of London.

St. George in the East (via geograph)

St. George in the East (via geograph)

Charles Schwartz was said to be ‘of this parish’. In 1759, five years after this marriage, a man by the name of Carl Frederick, otherwise Charles, Schwartz, a mariner from the parish of St George-in-the-East, made his will. It was proved in the same year. Frustratingly, the testator makes no reference to any family members in his brief will, leaving everything he owns to friends.

However, it seems likely that Charles Gottfried Schwartz may have been a merchant of some kind, perhaps with maritime connections. This was certainly true of the husbands of two of Ann’s sisters – Mary and Frances – who both appear to have married mariners. Perhaps these spouses were found through business connections of their father John, a lighterman and coal factor. His name clearly identifies Charles as having German connections, and it’s possible that he was born in Germany.

I’ve found no further references to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. As for Ann, the only other record I’ve come across that mentions her explicitly is her mother Mary Gibson’s will of 1788, in which she leaves an annuity of five pounds to ‘my daughter Mrs Ann Schwartz’, as she does to her other married daughters Jane Coates, Frances Bonner and Elizabeth Holdsworth. So we know that Ann was still alive in 1788, forty four years after her marriage, when she would have been 51 years old.

Mary Gibson leave a similar sum ‘to my grand daughter Frances Schwartz the daughter of the said Anne Schwartz for and during the term of her natural life’. This is the only information we have about any children born to Charles and Ann Schwartz. Why Frances, of all Mary Gibson’s grandchildren, is singled out for a legacy is unclear: perhaps her father had died and she was the only grandchild without a male provider? Perhaps the Schwartz family had fallen on hard times, or perhaps Frances was simply a favourite grandchild.  The fact that no record of Frances Schwartz’ birth or baptism (or that of any other child born to her parents) has come to light could mean that they lived in one of the parishes whose records have yet to be digitised. Or it might be that they attended one of the German Lutheran churches in London whose records or less easy to access.

When I first read Mary Gibson’s will, I wondered if Mary Gibson had got her facts slightly wrong. Because, of course, I was already aware of a Frances Schwartz who was another of Mary’s grandchildren, except that Schwartz was her married not her maiden name. She was the daughter, not of Ann but of her older sister Elizabeth. And that brings me on to the second set of records.

(2) John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins 

The second set of records relate to the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins. On Wednesday 8th May 1776, ‘G John Godfrey Schwartz’ was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck, a merchant of Steel Yard, London. As I’ve noted before, Paul Amsinck belonged to a family of London merchants of German origin. A number of contemporary records describe him (or possibly his father, who bore the same name) as the London agent for the Hanse towns, that is to say the Northern European trading centres of the Hanseatic League. He seems to have traded in tobacco with the American colonies, and also acted ascommissary for the Royal Wine Company at Oporto in Portugal. In 1812 it was reported that Mr Paul Amsinck had died at Norwich, in his 79th year, meaning that he was born in about 1733 and was of the same generation as my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson and her sister Ann Schwartz.

Steelyard, London, 17th century

Steelyard, London, 17th century

I’m almost certain that G John Godfrey Schwartz, apprentice London merchant, is identical to the John Godfrey Schwartz who, on 27th May 1780, married Frances Collins at the church of St Botolph Bishopsgate. As I mentioned above, my theory is that Frances was the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and her first husband John Collins. Frances was born in Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, and christened at St Botolph Aldgate in 1759. She would have been 21 years old in 1780, a fairly normal marriageable age. I also believe that John Godfrey Schwartz was her first cousin, the daughter of her mother’s sister Ann and husband Charles Gottfried Schwartz. However, since no record of John Godfrey’s birth has come to light, I can’t yet prove this.

The only evidence we have is circumstantial. Charles Gottfried Schwartz and Ann Gibson were married in 1754, so if John Godfrey was their son, he could have been anything up to 25 years old. A lot depends on his age when he started and finished his apprenticeship. If , as seems likely, he is the same person who was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck in 1776, then it must have been a short apprenticeship, and perhaps he was 21 or 22 when he was married in 1780, meaning he would have been born in about 1759. So the groom’s age certainly fits with the theory that he was the son of Charles and Ann Schwartz.

Other circumstantial evidence includes the fact that Elizabeth, the mother of Frances Collins, would name one of her own sons (from her second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth) Godfrey, a fairly unusual name at the time. Then (as we shall see) there is the fact that a John Godfrey Schwartz married a granddaughter of another Gibson sister, Frances, the husband of Captain Michael. And the fact of this later marriage demonstrates that marrying one’s cousin was a common enough occurrence at the time, certainly in this family.

As I’ve noted before, the home parishes of the bride and groom are of some interest. John Godfrey Schwartz is said to be ‘of this parish’ – i.e. St Botolph Bishopsgate, which is not remarkable, given that presumably he was now working as a merchant in the City of London. However, it might provide us with a clue as to where his parents had been living. Frances Collins’ home parish – Romford – is more intriguing. By this date, 1780, her mother Elizabeth had been married to her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth, for seventeen years, and was now living in the village of South Weald in Essex. Romford, still at that date a small country town, was only seven or so miles away. If this really is Elizabeth’s daughter, it raises the question of where she lived after her mother’s second marriage. To begin with, Frances must surely have lived in South Weald with her mother and stepfather, since she would have been only four years old. But what about later, when she was a young woman? Might she have gone to live with a relative with a house nearby? Did her father John Collins bequeath her property of her own? Or were her parents’ circumstances such that she had to seek work as a governess or even, like young women in later poorer generations of the Holdsworth family, as a domestic servant?

The records for John Godfrey Schwartz and Francis Collins begin and end with their marriage. I’ve come across no record any children born to them, nor are they mentioned in any tax records, or in any family wills that I’ve come across. In fact, the Schwartz trail goes completely cold for another thirty years, until the next batch of records.

(3) John Godfrey Schwarts and Mary Ann Bonner

We pick up the scent in 1813, when, on 26th September, a John Godfrey Schwarts (sic) marries a certain Mary Ann Bonner at the church of St George the Martyr in Southwark. Mary Ann was almost certainly the daughter of John William Bonner and his wife Sarah Ford. She was christened at St Dunstan’s Stepney on 6th October 1793, meaning she would have been twenty years old when she married John Schwarts or Schwartz. John William Bonner was the son of Michael Bonner and his wife Frances Bonner née Gibson, the sister of Ann Schwartz née Gibson.

So who is this John Godfrey Schwartz? When I first came across this marriage record I thought that, given the identical name, it might be a second marriage for the person who married Frances Collins in 1780. But if my calculations are correct, that John Schwartz would have been in his early fifties by the time he married the twenty-year-old Mary Ann Bonner. This wouldn’t have been unheard of at the time, but it’s certainly less likely, especially as the marriage record and record of the banns both clearly describe this John Godfrey Schwartz as a bachelor. And let’s not forget that the first John Godfrey Schwartz, the man who married Frances Collins, would have been Mary Ann’s uncle. It’s much more likely that John Godfrey and Frances Schwartz named one of their children John Godfrey after his father and that he was born some time in the 1780s or even the early 1790s. And, as we’ve seen, marriage between first cousins was by no means unusual in this family.

Fortunately, there are more records for this John Godfrey Schwartz and his family than for the man I assume to have been his father. On 5th August 1814, John Godfrey and Mary Ann Schwarts had a daughter named Marianne Frances baptised at the church of St Mary Whitechapel. The child appears to have been named after her mother and either her grandmother, Frances Schwartz, or her great grandmother, Frances Bonner. We learn that the couple live at Roadside which, as I’ve noted before, means a section of Whitechapel High Street, and that John Schwarts worked as a clerk.

The family seems to have moved rather frequently. Two years later, in 1816, they were living in Limehouse when their daughter Sarah, obviously named after Mary Ann’s mother Sarah Bonner, was christened at St Anne’s church. By now, John Schwarts was describing himself as a gentleman. By 1818 the Schwarts family had crossed the river and was living in Graham Street, Walworth, when their son John Edward was born. He was christened at St Mary Newington in June of that year, and again John Godfrey Schwarts described himself in the record as a gentleman.

Bethnal Green in 1827: from Greenwood's map

Bethnal Green and Mile End Old Town in 1827: from Greenwood’s map

Yet another move preceded the birth of a fourth child, this time to Patriot Square in Bethnal Green. Emma Schwarts was christened at St Matthew’s church on 9th April 1820. Of course, Bethnal Green was very different at that time to the place it would be even a few decades later: it was still semi-rural and there are a number of other ‘gentlemen’ mentioned in the parish register. By the time their last child, Francis Daniel, was christened at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney, in September 1822, John and Mary Ann Schwarts had moved to Mile End Old Town, which was also a very respectable address at that period: Bowes John Gibson, great uncle to both John and Mary Ann, and a wealthy East India Company official, had died there four years earlier. The Schwarts family was still living there when Emma died, aged 4, in 1824.

Mary Ann Schwarts was buried on 5th October 1829 at St Dunstan’s church, Stepney. Her burial record states that she was thirty-six years old when she died, confirming that she was born in 1793 and providing further evidence that she was the daughter of John William and Sarah Bonner.

I haven’t found a burial record for John Godfrey Schwarts, but it seems likely that he survived his wife and that he moved house yet again before his own death, some time before 1834. On 5th May in that year, his son John Edward was apprenticed to George Sparks, a loriner (see this post). He was said to be the son of John Godfrey Schwarts, ‘late of 17 Swan Street, Minories, dec’d’.

I’ve written about the children of John Godfrey and Mary Ann Schwartz before. In 1841 their daughter Marianne was working as a governess and lodging in Well’s Yard, Whitechapel. Interestingly, the seaman in whose house she was living was said to have been born in foreign parts. His first names was Charles and his surname, though difficult to decipher, looks distinctly Germanic: it might be Konhertz. That’s the last record I’ve found for Marianne. Nor have I come across any trace of John Edward after his apprenticeship in 1834. Their sister Sarah is supposedly the Sarah Swatts (sic) who married Lancashire power loom weave Mitchell Rothwell Ramsden in 1836. They eventually emigrated to Utah.

That leaves Frances Daniel Schwarts, about whom we know rather more. In 1851 he was a twenty-eight-year old painter lodging in Wentworth Street, Whitechapel. Five years later, on 1st September 1856, when he was thirty four, Francis married twenty-six-year old Bath-born Sarah Eliza Boice, daughter of a carpenter named William Boice, at St Philip’s, Bethnal Green. The marriage record gives an insight into the career of Francis’ late father, John Godfrey Schwarts: he is described here as an ‘interpreter of languages’.

Francis and Sarah Schwarts had five children and moved almost as often as Francis’ parents. In 1861 they were living in Green Dragon Yard, Whitechapel, where Francis was still working as a painter. He was in the same line of work ten years later, when the census found them living in Little Guildford Street, Bloomsbury. In 1881 they were back in Whitechapel, in Finch Street, but Francis was now working as a cellarman. His son George worked as a porter, daughter Miriam as a milliner and youngest son Daniel as a machine boy. Clearly, John Godfrey Schwarts had not been able to leave enough money to set his younger son up in a profession, and certainly not to describe himself, as his father did, as a ‘gentleman’. It’s interesting that the Schwarts family had a boarder in Finch Street, a German-born widow and former nurse, aged 72, by the name of Gracie (?) Vogell. Was this another sign of a continuing connection with the London German community?

A further decline in status seems in evidence in the 1891 census record, which finds the family at St George’s House, Whitechapel, where Francis, now 68, is working as a port messenger, his wife Sarah as a dressmaker, son George as a general labourer, daughter Miriam as a ‘stamp looker through’ at a station and Emily as a waitress in an inn. By this time Daniel had married his wife Amelia and was living in College Buildings, Whitechapel, and working as a drapery packer. They had a young son: John Francis Godfrey Schwartz.

Frances Daniel Schwartz died in 1894, at the age of 71, in Whitechapel. That seems an appropriate point at which to bring the curtain down, for now, on the Schwartz family. If my speculations have any substance, and the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Mary Ann Bonner was the son of the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins – and if he was the son of the Charles Gottfried Schwartz who married Ann Gibson – then the family experienced a steep decline in its fortunes in the course of three or four generations. Ann Gibson was the daughter of a London coal factor (my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson) who owned a country estate in Essex, and it’s likely that her husband Charles Schwartz was also a merchant. Certainly their son John Godfrey was apprenticed to an important German-born merchant, Paul Amsinck. His son, the second John Godfrey Schwartz, married the daughter of John William Bonner, who had also been apprenticed to a merchant and was described on his tombstone as ‘late of His Majesty’s Ordnance Office, Tower’. But John, despite describing himself as a gentleman, would have one son apprenticed to a trade and the other end up working as a messenger, with the latter’s children employed in various menial occupations in the Victorian East End.

I suppose it demonstrates that the downward mobility experienced by the family of my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth Gibson, was by no means unique. She would experience a childhood divided between a London merchant’s home and a country estate, but live to see her children employed as shoemakers and builders.

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