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 museumoflondon.org.uk)

Cordwainers Hall, Distaff Lane (via museumoflondon.org.uk)

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.

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

Reflection on ten years in the life of Elizabeth Gibson

Setting out the events of my 5 x great grandmother’s life, in the years 1753 – 1763, in chronological order, as I did in the previous post, throws some light on her key relationships in this decade.

1786 map of the Epping area, Essex

1786 map of the Epping area, Essex

The births of a number of nieces and nephews, during these years of her first marriage to John Collins, are a reminder that Elizabeth would have had an extended family with her in Epping (if that is indeed where she and John lived), and also in London. Not only would she have had her brother-in-law and sister-in-law Richard and Ann Collins, and their two children, living nearby in Essex. Her older sister Jane would also have been close at hand. Like Elizabeth, Jane had married a local landowner, William Coates, from Theydon Mount, and during this period they would have three children, all born and baptised in Epping. We can imagine that Elizabeth would have been a frequent visitor to both the Collins and the Coates homes.

The timeline is also a reminder that Elizabeth’s other three sisters would also marry during this ten-year period, though all of them would remain in London, the site of the Gibson family’s original home. It’s likely that Elizabeth attended these ceremonies. A little over a year after Elizabeth’s own wedding, she would have seen the marriage of her younger sister Ann to Charles Gottfried Schwartz. We know that Elizabeth’s brother-in-law William Coates travelled from Epping for this event, since he was one of the witnesses. Although there are still many mysteries surrounding the Schwartz family, it seems likely that Charles Schwartz was a merchant of some kind, and was almost certainly of German origin. I’m also fairly certain that Ann Schwartz, as she now was, remained close to her sister Elizabeth. After all, Elizabeth’s daughter Frances would end up marrying the man I’m fairly sure was Ann’s son, John Godfrey Schwartz – her first cousin.

Ragfair, Rosemary Lane by Thomas Rowlandson, late 18th century

Ragfair, Rosemary Lane by Thomas Rowlandson, late 18th century

At one time I believed that John and Elizabeth Collins lived, or at least kept a house, at Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane, in London, since that’s the address given for the christening of their daughter Frances, at St Botolph Aldgate, in 1759. Then I wondered if, at the time of the birth, Elizabeth was simply staying with her sister Frances, who would be at the same address when she gave birth to her own first child, John William Bonner, in 1762. However, Frances didn’t marry her husband, Captain Michael Bonner, until 1761. I now believe that the Darby Street house was the home of the Gibson girls’ widowed grandmother, Mary Greene, since we know that she would be living there in 1764. However, the fact that Elizabeth gave her daughter the name Frances is surely an indication that she and her sister were close. I also wonder if Elizabeth’s choice of Bermondsey as the location for her second marriage, to Joseph Holdsworth, in 1763, might be due the fact that the Bonners lived there for some time.

As for Elizabeth’s other older sister, Mary, we know little about her marriage in 1760 to William Hunter, except that he, like Michael Bonner, seems also to have been a mariner.

If these ten years in Elizabeth’s life, when she was in her twenties, were generally eventful, then the last few years of the decade were particularly dramatic. Some time between 1759, when her daughter Frances was born, and 1763, when Elizabeth married for a second time, her first husband John Collins died. We don’t know the precise date or the cause of death, but given that he was not yet thirty years old, it must have come as something of a shock. Then, in February 1763, Elizabeth’s father John Gibson died, apparently intestate, leaving Elizabeth’s mother Mary to administer his complicated financial and business affairs.

It was only three months after her father’s death that Elizabeth embarked on a new phase of her life, as the wife of Joseph Holdsworth, another Essex (though Yorkshire-born) farmer, but one of seemingly more modest means than her first husband. The next decade of her life would be eventful in other ways, as she became the mother of seven more children.

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

Ten years in the life of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson: 1753 – 1763

I’ve been revisiting the life of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson, trying to solve some of the mysteries that still surround her story. In the past week or two, I’ve been researching the lives of some of Elizabeth’s immediate relatives in the Collins and Champain families. Now I want to turn the focus on to Elizabeth herself, and in particular a crucial ten-year period in her life, between 1753 and 1763, the period of her first marriage, to John Collins.

I’ve sketched out a timeline of this decade below, in the hope that putting events in chronological order will provide a better sense of how and why things happened. But in order to place this key period in Elizabeth’s life in some kind of context, it’s worth recapping the events of her life before 1753.

St Botolph, Aldgate, from the Minories

St Botolph, Aldgate, from the Minories

Elizabeth’s father John Gibson, who appears to have borne the rank of lieutenant, and who seems to have become a lighterman and coal trader of some wealth, married her mother Mary Greene, daughter of London goldsmith Joseph Greene, in 1729. Born at her grandparents’ house in the Minories and baptised at the parish church of St Botolph, Aldgate, Elizabeth was the third of seven, or possibly nine children, her birth being preceded by those of her two older sisters Jane and Mary. In the next decade or so, she would be joined by three younger sisters – Frances, Ann and Sarah – and a younger brother, Bowes John.

Elizabeth spent her early years in her parents’ London home at Tower Hill. In 1737, when she was four years old, her grandfather Joseph died and in the following year, from the proceeds of his will, her grandmother bought the manor house of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey, for Elizabeth’s parents. We can assume that Elizabeth spent much of her childhood at Woodredon, which was just a few miles from Epping, the home of the Collins family, who owned a number of farms in the area.

Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey, Essex

Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey, Essex

The decisive events of Elizabeth’s childhood, assuming that my speculations are correct, must have been her father John’s declaration of bankruptcy and arrest for fraud against the Crown, followed by his imprisonment in the Fleet and his later appeal to Parliament to clear his name, all of which happened in the early 1740s, when Elizabeth would have been nine or ten years old. We can only guess at the impact on her. Remarkably, the family appears to have been able to hold on to possession of Woodredon, perhaps by assigning its ownership to Elizabeth’s grandmother Mary Greene.

The ten years of Elizabeth’s life covered by the timeline below are bookended by her two marriages: to John Collins in February 1753, and to Joseph Holdsworth, my 5 x great grandfather, in May 1763. But Elizabeth was not the first of the Gibson siblings to marry. On 18th November 1752, four months before Elizabeth’s wedding, her older sister Jane married William Coates at Theydon Mount, near Epping. The parish register describes Jane as being ‘of Woodredon in ye parish of Waltham Holy Cross': in other words, at this date, Woodredon was still very much the Gibson family home, and we can only assume that it was while living there that Elizabeth, by now in her late teens, met John Collins, second son of Epping farmer and landowner Richard Collins, who was just a few months older than her. They were married   when they were both nineteen years of age, and the fact that they married at a church notorious for secret weddings (St George’s, Mayfair) suggests that they may not have had their parents’ consent.

Mayfair Chapel in the 18th century

Mayfair Chapel in the 18th century

The first column in the timeline gives the date of the event and the second column gives Elizabeth’s age at the time, assuming that she was born in May 1733, the month of her baptism.

21st Feb 1753              19       Marriage to John Collins

1754 (?)                      20       Birth of nephew Champain Collins

30th August 1754       21       Marriage of sister Ann to Charles Gottfried Schwartz

12 Jan 1755                21       Baptism of nephew William Coates

1st Feb 1756               22       Baptism of nephew John Coates

4th Apr 1756              22       Burial of John Champain

26th April 1757         23       Baptism of niece Ann Collins

21st Aug 1757            24       Baptism of niece Jane Coates

8th July 1759             26       Baptism of daughter Frances Collins

25th Mar 1760           26       Marriage of sister Mary to William Hunter

22nd Jan 1761            27       Marriage of sister Frances to Michael Bonner

1761                            27       Death of husband’s aunt Elizabeth Collins

17th Jan 1762             28       Birth of nephew John William Bonner

15th Feb 1763             29       Death of father John Gibson

20th May 1763           30       Marriage to Joseph Holdsworth

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

The children of Richard and Ann Collins

In the last few posts I’ve been exploring the lives of Richard Collins (died 1770) and his wife Ann Champain. Richard was the older brother of John Collins of Epping, the first husband of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809). I’ve come to believe that Elizabeth might have met her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth of South Weald, through her brother-in-law Richard, who lived in the same part of Essex towards the end of his life.

In this post, I’ll be summarising what I’ve managed to discover about the two children of Richard and Ann Collins: their son Champain and daughter Ann.

Passmores House in 1974

Passmores House in 1974

Champain Collins 

Our knowledge of Champain Collins is mostly derived from four records held at the Essex Record Office, the first three dating from 1778, eight years after his father’s death.

There is a document headed ‘Exemplification of common recovery’ dated 8th July 1778, relating to the manor of Passmores in Great Parndon, involving ‘Robert Bunyan v. John Windus’, with Champain Collins and Thomas Francis Martin as ‘vouchees’. Windus was one of the attorneys who witnessed the will of Champain’s father Richard in 1763, and I suspect that Thomas Martin was a relative of the senior attorney, Philip Martin, who was another witness.

The next two documents are both dated 10th July and relate to a mortgage for the ‘Manor of Passmores and capital messuage called Passmores and land (42 acres; field names) in Great Parndon’. The first is headed ‘Mortgage for £1500’ and involves ‘Champain Collins of Passmores in Great Parndon, gent. to Francis Bayley of Great Parndon, gent.’ The second is entitled ‘Assignment of a mortgage for a term of 1,000 years’ and its content is summarised as follows:

(i) Philip Martin of Theydon Garnon, gent.; (ii) William Lake of Epping, yeoman and wife Ann, formerly Ann Collins, daughter of Richard Collins and wife Ann; (iii) Champain Collins of Passmores in Great Parndon, son and heir of Richard Collins; (iv) Francis Bayley of Great Parndon, gent.; (v) John Gentery of Netteswell, tanner

As noted above, Philip Martin was a lawyer who witnessed the will of Champain’s father Richard; he was also one of the executors of the will of Richard Collins senior, Champain’s grandfather. These documents all relate to the purchase of Passmores by Francis Bayley whose family, we learn from another source, was still living there in the middle of the nineteenth century. The same source confirms that the manor of Passmores was owned from 1775 by ‘Mr Collins’: presumably this was Champain, and it suggests that this was the year in which he came of age and thus into his inheritance, which would mean that he was born in about 1754. In the next sentence we read that ‘Mrs Collins of Epping held the manor c. 1771’. This must be Champain’s widowed mother Ann, and it confirms both that she moved back to Epping from Shenfield after her husband Richard’s death in 1770, and that Passmores was part of her inheritance, held in trust for her son when he came of age.

A fourth document, dated 1812-14, is a useful source of information about Champain Collins’ later years. Headed ‘Feoffment and conveyance with related papers’, its scope and contents are summarised as follows:

1.Thomas Coxhead Marsh, esq of Wapping, Middlesex

2.Champain Collins, of North Weald Bassett, schoolmaster

Consideration: £1 1s

Property: piece of ground late part of the waste of the manor of Gaines Park Hall, Theydon Garnon

Rent: 9s p.a. to the lord of the manor

with related correspondence 1812-1814 including licence to Champain Collins to enclose the waste, 1812, a draft feoffment and conveyance between Thomas Coxhead Marsh of Wapping esq and William Lake, farmer, parish not given, for the same piece of ground but now with 2 tenements erected on it, for the same consideration of £1 1s and rent of 9s, 1814

The transaction described is of no great interest in itself, except in demonstrating that Champain Collins continued to have an interest in property in the Epping area. It greater usefulness is in confirming, firstly, that Champain was still alive in 1812-1814, when he would have been about sixty years old; that by this time he was living in North Weald Bassett; and that he was employed as a schoolmaster. We know that Elizabeth Collins, the maiden aunt of Champain’s father Richard, who died in 1761, had left property in this village, which was about three miles from Epping, to Richard’s younger brother William Collins. Perhaps this was inherited in turn by Champain?


Ann Collins

The sources quoted above are also our main source for information about the marriage of Champain Collins’ sister Ann. From one of the mortgage documents for Passmores we learn that, by 1778, she was married to William Lake, a yeoman of Epping.

On 10th November 1777 William Lake and Ann Collins, both said to be of the parish, were married at the church of St Benet Paul’s Wharf in the City of London. Ann’s cousin, Sarah Small, had married John Franklin at the same church in 1734. The witnesses were John Lake and George Markham. Apart from the two references in the documents quoted above, this is the only information I’ve been able to find concerning William and Ann Lake. If the William Lake, farmer, mentioned in the 1814 document about Champain Collins is the person who married Ann Collins, then we know that he too was still alive at this date.

So far, I’ve been unable to discover whether Champain or Ann Collins had any children, nor have I yet found a will for either of them, or for Ann’s husband William Lake.

Posted in Champain, Collins, Gibson, Holdsworth | Leave a comment

Reflections on the will of Richard Collins of Shenfield

What do we learn from the last will and testament of Richard Collins of Shenfield, Essex, who died in 1770? Firstly, we discover that, some time between 1757, when he and his wife Ann were living at Passmores in Great Parndon, and 1763, when Richard made his will, they moved to Shenfield, some eighteen or so miles away. The most logical explanation is that Ann inherited property in the area, following the death of her father John Champain in 1756. Alternatively, Richard may have used his considerable resources to purchase a house in this part of the county. However, the former explanation would fit with the decision of John Champain to be buried in the village of South Weald, just two or three miles from Shenfield. Indeed it’s possible, given the proximity of the two places, that Richard and Ann Collins’ residence was actually in the parish where Ann’s father John was buried.

Old map showing Shenfield and South Weald

Old map showing Shenfield and South Weald

There is no mention in the will of Richard’s younger brother John, which suggests that he might have died by January 1763, when the will was signed and sealed. This would make sense, since John’s widow, my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson, would marry her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth of South Weald, on 20th May in that same year. On the other hand, Richard’s will makes no reference to any other of his siblings: William, Sarah, Jane or David. It’s possible that they too had died by this time, but it’s also possible that Richard made a deliberate decision to devote his attention to securing the future of his immediate family – his wife and two children.

The will confirms the names of Richard and Ann Collins’ children – Champain and Ann. As I’ve noted before, we have a record of Ann’s baptism in 1757, but as yet no evidence of her brother Champain’s birth has come to light. Their father’s will is useful in confirming that neither child had come of age by the time he wrote his will in 1763: Ann would have been six years old, while Champain could have been anything up to fifteen years old, since his parents married in 1747.

We learn that, despite his change of address, Richard Collins still owned property in Lindsey Street, Epping: presumably this is the property that he inherited from his father Richard Collins senior. At the time that the will was written it was occupied by Joseph Enniver, who was one of the executors of the will of Richard’s father. This property is to devolve to Champain Collins, as is that at Epping Long Green, currently occupied by a John Severns: I wonder if this property had belonged to Richard’s father in law John Champain, who was living in that area when he died in 1756? We learn that Richard’s daughter Ann Collins is to inherit property in Epping town ‘known by the name or sign of the Black Lyon’, currently occupied by Thomas Madewell, as well as other properties there occupied by Richard Smith and John Neale. Richard Collins’ wife Ann is appointed as sole executor of his will and as guardian of their children and their estates during their respective minorities.

The witnesses to the will include Philip Martin, the other executor of the will of Richard Collins senior; a certain William Griffin; and a man by the name of John Windus. I’ve discovered that in October 1757 John Windus was apprenticed to Philip Martin of Theydon Garnon, Essex, an attorney. This would explain the latter’s name occurring in so many documents relating to the Collins family: he must have been the family’s lawyer. A little over a year after Richard Collins made his will, John Windus, a gentleman of the parish of Theydon Garnon, declared his intention to marry Ann Uffindall.

So Richard and Ann Collins had moved to the Shenfield area some time between 1757, when their daughter Ann was baptised in Great Parndon, and 1763, when Richard wrote his will. In doing so, they were moving close to the burial place of Ann’s father John Champain, at South Weald. We know that Richard’s younger brother John must have died some time between 1759, when his daughter Frances was born, and 1763, when his wife Elizabeth remarried. It would have been the most natural thing in the world for Elizabeth, newly widowed and with a very young child, to spend some time with her brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and perhaps it was through them that she met her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth, a South Weald farmer. The other important event in Elizabeth’s life around this time was the death of her father John Gibson in February 1763, soon after Richard Collins wrote his will. This might have impelled Elizabeth to spend some time with her widowed mother Mary in London, but equally it might have compounded her sense of loss and her need for financial security, especially as it appears that her father might have died intestate.

Posted in Champain, Collins, Gibson | Leave a comment

Email problems

The email account that I use for this site appears to have been hacked. Apologies to anyone who has received fake emails from me, appealing for money: this is NOT me. And my inbox has been emptied, so I have no record of previous emails. For now, please do NOT send emails to my usual account, but instead I’d be grateful if you could contact me at this address:


Martin Robb

Update: Monday 25th August. The problem seems to have been fixed. It’s now OK to send me emails at my usual address – mprobb@btinternet.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment