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The children of Joseph and Eliza Roe

My great grandparents Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947) and Eliza Bailey (1863 – 1959) had ten children between 1884 and 1902. All were born in East Ham, on the eastern edge of London, and though all of them except my grandmother Minnie were born in the nineteenth century, the main events of their lives fell in the twentieth. So strictly speaking, their stories fall outside the remit of this blog. Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, and to bring our tale to a conclusion, in this post I’ll summarise what we know about each of their lives.


The Roe family at 92 Oakfield Road in 1911 (via ancestry.co.uk)

Born in 1884, Joseph William Roe was Joseph and Eliza Roe’s eldest child. In 1901, at the age of sixteen, he was already working as a general labourer. Four years later, at the age of twenty, he married Maud Eleanor Cuthbert, the Whitechapel-born daughter of a fruit porter. In 1911 Joseph, who gave his name as Joe to the census enumerator, was working as a builder’s labourer and living with Maud and their children Joey, Walter, Albert and George at Cleves Road in East Ham. The couple would have three more children – Charles, John and Mary Eleanor – before Joseph’s death in 1923 at the age of thirty-eight.


Jim Abbott and Maud Roe née Cuthbert (via ian2309 at ancestry.co.uk)

Maud married again in 1929, her second husband being widower James (Jim) Abbott, who already had nine children from his first marriage. Hackney-born Jim, who described himself in the 1911 census record as a ‘general dealer’, had experienced dire poverty early in his life: at the age of seven he was living in Homerton workhouse with his widowed mother, a laundress, and his sister. Jim Abbott was something of an entrepreneur: in the 1920s he set up a printing business from his home in Katharine Road, East Ham. Apparently Jim was an expert tap dancer who also performed in pantomimes.  A relative of his, Frank King, lived next door to Vera Margaret Welch, who later became better known as Vera Lynn. Through Frank, Jim Abbott got to know Vera and taught her how to tap dance. Apparently this was mentioned on the This is Your Life programme for Vera Lynn, broadcast in the 1970s (my thanks to ian2309 on ancestry.co.uk for this story). Jim Abbott died in 1952 and his widow Maud in 1969.

Also born in 1884, Mary Elizabeth Roe married Mile End-born builder’s labourer William Henry Herbert in 1905. However, she died two years later, possibly from complications after giving birth to their son Henry Joseph William Herbert in 1906. William Herbert married again, to Lottie Mine, who was also originally from Mile End, in the following year. In 1911 William, Lottie and five-year-old Henry were living at Seaton Street in Plaistow.  Henry would marry Laura Isabella Tunmer in 1931. 

Born in 1886, Emma Kezia Roe married general labourer Frederick Wernham on Christmas Day 1906. In 1911 they were living at 68 Oakfield Road, not far from Emma’s parents at No. 92, with their three-year-old daughter Violet and one-year-old son Frederick Thomas. Frederick and Emma would have two more children: Joseph William, born in 1912, and Mabel Dorothy in 1916. When Frederick enlisted with the East Ham Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, also in 1916, the Wernhams were living at 68 Katharine Road, East Ham.


Frederick Wernham’s First World War enlistment record (via ancestry.co.uk)

Frederick and Emma Kezia’s daughter Violet married Bermondsey-born Alfred Charles Meizsner in 1934; they also lived at 68 Katharine Road. Alfred served as a Lance Corporal in the Second World War and died in 1945; their daughter, Sally, was born a few months later. Violet died in 1996. Frederick Wernham junior married Mary Ellen Head in 1933 and they had two daughters: Margaret, born in 1934, and Eileen Mabel in 1937. Joseph William married Florence Hutton in 1938 and they lived in Romford. Joseph died in 1943 as a private ‘on war service’, according to his probate record.  Mabel Dorothy was married twice: first to Ronald Vaizey in 1938: they lived at the Rose and Crown Hotel in Southminster, Essex. Ronald died in 1940 and Mabel married Benjamin Smith in 1941. They had two children: Valerie and Pamela. Mabel died in 1998.


Frederick Wernham junior and Mary Head on their wedding day in 1933 (via leebee123 at ancestry.co.uk)

Walter Ellis Roe married Limehouse-born Annie Tanner, daughter of envelope cutter William Tanner, in 1913. I’m not sure what became of them after that, but I’ve found records of the births of three sons, Harry (1915), Charles (1917) and Richard (1919), and a daughter Doris (1922). 

In 1911 Richard Roe was twenty-eight, working as a general labourer, and still living at home with his parents. I don’t know what became of him after that.

Flora Eliza Roe married boiler riveter George Edward Bush in 1911. They had a daughter Flora, born in 1912, and a son George, born in 1914. The Bush family lived at Friars Road, East Ham. Flora Bush née Roe died in an air raid on 24th September 1940 at the age of fifty-one. She was in an air raid shelter below a cinema in Barking Road, East Ham, that took a direct hit. Family legend has it that her daughter Flora, known in the family as Dolly, witnessed her mother’s death and that her hair immediately turned white as a result. Dolly had married Archibald Jeffries in 1936 and after the War they had two sons, Colin (1946) and Michael (1947). The Jeffries family owned – and still own – a company of funeral directors in Newham. Archibald Jeffries died at Cotswold Gardens, East Ham, in 1981 and Flora (Dolly) Jeffries née Bush in 2000.


The aftermath of an air raid in East Ham during the Blitz


Record of the death of Flora Eliza Bush née Roe in the register of World War Two Civilian Deaths (via ancestry.co.uk)

Elizabeth Roe married James Edward Brand Hoy in 1913. They had three children that I know of: Elizabeth (1914), Evelyn Minnie (1916) and Edward (1918). James Hoy died in 1962 and Elizabeth in 1977, both at Millfield Road, Faversham.

William Thomas Roe was eighteen years old in 1911 and working as an office boy for the building contractor Mowlam. He served in the Royal Navy during the First World War, having married Bessie Florence Collingwood, a hair sieve maker and daughter of a sheet metal worker, also from Oakfield Road, East Ham, in April 1914.


William Thomas Roe in the Royal Navy Register of Seamen’s Services (via ancestry.co.uk)

William and Bessie had two daughters: Bessie, who married John Walter Meikle in 1947 and had a daughter Pauline, and Emma (‘Emmie’), who married shopkeeper Horace Green in 1943 and had two daughters, Janet and Brenda. William Roe – my mother’s Uncle Bill – made his money working on the construction of the Blackwall Tunnel (his war record describes him as a ‘tunnel miner’), and he owned a number of properties, including the house that my Nan and Grandad lived in at 24 Oakfield Road, and the cottage at Jaywick on the Essex coast where we spent our family holidays when I was very young. Bessie Florence Roe died in 1964 at 30 Oakfield Road, East Ham, the house that had formerly belonged to her parents, and William Thomas Roe died in Barking in 1976.

John Roe was seventeen years old in 1911 and working, like his older brother William, as an office boy for Mowlam’s. In 1914 John Roe married Mary Ann Sullivan at Orsett, near Grays in Essex. Although Mary Ann described herself on the marriage certificate as a spinster, she had in fact been married before. I’m grateful to my distant relative and fellow family history researcher Rita Dawson for throwing light on this complicated story. At some point, perhaps in 1909, Mary Ann Sullivan had married Arthur Gentry and they had a daughter Mary Ann. However, Mary Ann gave her surname as Sullivan on the child’s birth certificate and no father was mentioned, suggesting that the marriage had ended. If I understand Rita’s letter correctly, there may also have been another marriage to a carman named Sidney Charles Girkin, who died in an accident at work in 1910, and another child named Charles.


John Roe (b. 1895)


Mary Roe (b.1915) with her grandparents, Eliza and Joseph Roe


Mary Roe (b.1915) – back row, right, at the wedding of her brother, John W. Roe (b.1917) in 1942 (?) 


Arthur E Roe, presumably during the Second World War 

(these four images via Rita Dawson)

What is undisputed is that John and Mary Ann Roe went on to have three children together: Mary Roe in 1915, John W Roe in 1917, and Arthur E Roe in 1920. Interestingly, Arthur’s middle name seems to have been Ellis, echoing the middle name of John Roe senior’s older brother Walter, but also continuing a family tradition going back, as I noted in this post, three generations, and based on the close relationship between the Roe, Blanch and Ellis families in the early nineteenth century.

If Rita’s account is correct, it’s rather puzzling that Mary Ann Roe née Sullivan gave a second child the name Mary, unless her first child of that name had died. It’s also a mystery why, when these three children were born, she gave her maiden name as Gentry, rather than Sullivan. The second Mary Roe married Welshman (Vivian) George Dormer in Ilford in 1949, and Rita was born in the following year. She married Barking-born Roger Dawson in 1970. 

In 1925 Minnie Louisa Roe married George John Londors, a gardener at the City of London Cemetery and the son of a grave-digger, who came from a long line of farm labourers in the Barkingside area. George had served as a Private with the Royal Fusiliers in France during the First World War.


George Londors’ First World War Medal Roll index card (via ancestry.co.uk)

George and Minnie Londors lived at 24 Oakfield Road, East Ham, and had two daughters: Joyce Alma, born in 1933, and Vera Mabel in 1934. Vera Londors was married to Colin Livett and had a son, Trevor, in 1963. Vera died in 2010. Joyce Londors married Peter Robb in East Ham in 1955: they are my parents. My grandfather George Londors died in 1961 and my Nan in 1987. 


George John Londors and Minnie Louisa Roe on their wedding day, 2nd August, 1925, in East Ham

Joseph Priestley Roe: from Soho to East Ham

The last few posts have followed the lives of the children of my great great grandparents Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, after their deaths in 1870. We’ve seen that John Richard Roe died just a few years after his parents, at the age of sixteen, while Daniel Ellis Roe spent some time in the army and then in civilian life as an engineer, before dying after a fall from a ladder at the age of thirty-six. Kezia Eliza Roe married frame-maker Edward Temple but they seem to have had no children, while Mary Ann Blanch Roe married actor Leonard Kew and made a name for herself on the stage as ‘vocal comedienne’ Blanche Vincent.


Soho Parish School, 23 Great Windmill Street, built on the site of the house where Joseph Priestley Roe was born, which was demolished in 1870 (author’s photograph)

In this post I’ll explore the life of Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s youngest child, my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe. Born in 1862 at 23 Great Windmill Street, Soho, Joseph was just eight years old when his parents died. In 1871, while his brothers and sisters were being looked after by their grandmother Keziah Blanch in Broad Street, Soho, nine-year-old Joseph was in the care of his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Eliza Parker, at their home in Albany Road, Camberwell. Eliza Parker née Roe was his late father Daniel’s sister.

At some point in the next ten years, Joseph went to live with another aunt and uncle in Grange Road, West Ham. Emma Trader née Blanch was the sister of Joseph’s late mother, Mary Ann Roe née Blanch. Her husband, Walter Trader, worked as a butcher, and it’s possible that Joseph’s move to West Ham was motivated by a need to find work. The 1881 census finds him living with the Traders and working as a butcher’s assistant, presumably with his uncle Walter.


Marriage certificate for Joseph Priestley Roe and Eliza Bailey

Two years later, on 25th November 1883, Joseph Priestley Roe married Eliza Bailey at St Anne’s church in Limehouse, which was, as we’ve noted before, a favourite of Joseph’s family: his parents Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch had married there in 1848, as had his grandparents John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth in 1827. At the time of their marriage Joseph was twenty-one and Eliza was eighteen. They both gave their address as 56 Church Row, which was close to St Anne’s church and may have been an address of convenience to enable them to marry there. Joseph signed his full name, but Eliza made her mark. Joseph was working as a carman, i.e. the driver of a horse-drawn vehicle. The marriage was witnessed by Eliza’s father, William Bailey, a labourer, and by Flora Blanch, who was Joseph’s cousin, the daughter of his mother’s brother John Holdsworth Blanch. Flora seems to have been looked after by her grandmother Keziah Blanch from an early age; in 1883 she would have been just fourteen years old.


Barking, Wall End and East Ham  in J. Cary’s Map of Fifteen Miles Round London, 1786 (via motco.com)

The Baileys had lived in Barking and worked as farm labourers for at least two generations. The earliest record we have for Eliza Bailey’s father William is the 1841 census, which finds him, aged sixteen, living with his parents and family in North Street, Barking (not far from Cowbridge Lane: both roads still exist). From this record we know that William was born in about 1824 and that he was the eldest of the four children of John Bailey, who was born in about 1801, and his wife Eliza, born in 1802. Like his father, William worked as an agricultural labourer. His younger brothers and sisters were Sarah, born in 1828; John, 1831; Mary, 1834; and Louisa, 1837.

William’s father John Bailey must have died before the 1851 census, which finds his widow Eliza, aged forty-eight, living at Mumdays Rooms, close to Barking High Street. With her are daughters Sarah, twenty-two; Mary, eighteen; and Louisa, fourteen. All except Louisa are described as field labourers. We also learn from this record that, though the children were all born in Barking, their mother was originally from Bishops Stortford.

By 1851 William, now twenty-six years old, was married to Elizabeth, twenty-five. They were living at Wall End, Barking Road, East Ham, with their children Louisa, two, and John, one month. William is said to have been born in Barking and his wife and children in East Ham, so it’s likely they had been living at this address since they were married, probably in about 1848. Both William and Elizabeth are described in the census record as agricultural labourers.

The Baileys’ immediate neighbours in 1851 were also farm workers, although a few doors away lived a police constable, and beyond him one Jabez Abbott, a farmer of 105 acres employing eleven labourers (was William Bailey among them?). At the time Wall End was a hamlet on the Barking border, linked to East Ham High Street by Barking Road.

Ten years later the Baileys were still in Wall End, though they appear to have moved house. Now they were two doors away from the Duke’s Head pub, separated from it only by the home of forty-eight-year-old Halifax-born Chelsea Pensioner William Barrand. The Duke’s Head still exists in Barking Road, though it was rebuilt early in the twentieth century. In addition to Louisa, twelve, and John, ten (who despite his young age ‘works in fields’), they now have two other children: Thomas, eight, and William, four.


Map of East Ham and Barking from 1894-1896, with Wall End and Duke’s Head pub visible in the centre, and fields still existing between the two towns.

In 1871 William and his family seem to be at the same address, though the house between them and the Duke’s Head (where the lodgers include three unnamed circus performers) is now occupied by retired Norfolk fisherman High Campbell (whose household includes visiting Swedish tailor John Stare). Besides William and Elizabeth, both aged forty-seven, the Bailey household consists of John, twenty, Thomas, eighteen, William, fifteen, and Joseph, ten, all of them farm labourers like their father – as well as Eliza, my great grandmother, whose age could be read as either five or eight, but is almost certainly the latter, given that she is said to be seventeen years old in the 1881 census record. This means that she was born in either 1863 or 1864.


Young women working in a jute mill (via news.bbc.co.uk)

The most surprising revelation in the 1871 record is that, at eight years old, Eliza was already working in a jute factory. Jute is a vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. The Barking Jute Works opened in 1866 and according to the local authority’s website:

The majority of the jute workers were young females, usually single and often away from the control of their families. Determined to enjoy themselves they developed a reputation for drunken brawling at weekends and bank holidays which made the town notorious in the 1880s and 1890s. 

The website claims that the youngest worker was ten years old. However, Eliza’s involvement may be explained by this note:

Outwork was provided for local Barking women and children in the form of sack sewing. The cloth was cut to size in the factory and carried home along with hanks of tarred twine. The sacks were sewn at home and then returned to the factory for payment.

By 1881 the Bailey family address appears to have changed again. Their address is given simply as ‘Cottage, High Street, Wall End’. Chapel House and Abbotts Farm Cottage are to one side (the Baileys’ neighbour John Archer is said to be the foreman at Abbotts Farm), but there is no sign of the Duke’s Head. The Bailey household consists of fifty-six-year-old William and Elizabeth, their son John, twenty, a general labourer, and seventeen-year-old Eliza, who is still working as a jute spinner.


Eliza Roe née Bailey and Joseph Priestley Roe

Two years later Eliza married Joseph Roe. By the time of the 1891 census, just eight years after their marriage, Joseph and Eliza already had six children: twins Joseph William and Mary Elizabeth, both born in 1884; Emma Kezia, 1886; Walter Ellis Roe, 1887; Richard Roe, 1888; and Flora Eliza, 1889.

The census record finds them living, together with Eliza’s parents, at 36 Denmark Terrace, East Ham, which I assume was close to the Denmark Arms on the corner of Barking Road and East Ham High Street. Joseph is now working as a dock labourer, but his sixty-seven-year-old father-in-law William Bailey seems still to be working as a farm labourer.

By 1901 Eliza and Joseph had two more children – William Thomas, born in 1892, and John, born in 1895 – and had moved, together with Eliza’s parents, now aged seventy-five, to 313 Barking Road. William is still working and is described in the census record, like his son-in-law Joseph and sixteen-year-old grandson Joseph William, as a ‘general labourer’’ Joseph and Eliza Roe’s youngest child, Minnie Louisa – my grandmother – would be born on 20th April 1902.


Junction of Barking Road and East Ham High Street, early twentieth century (via pubs history.com)

I don’t know when William and Elizabeth Bailey died, but they were no longer living with Eliza and Joseph at the time of the 1911 census, so I assume they had died at some point in the first decade of the century. The census record finds Joseph, forty-eight, and Eliza, forty-seven, living at 92 Oakfield Road, East Ham, with their son Richard, twenty-eight, a general labourer; Flora, twenty-two, a laundress; Elizabeth, twenty, also a laundress; William, eighteen, and John, seventeen, both office boys at John Mowlam Construction; and Minnie, eight.

The names given to their children by my great grandparents Joseph and Eliza Roe offer clues as to the significant people in their lives. It’s clear that Joseph William Roe was named after his father, and his maternal grandfather, William Bailey. His twin sister Mary Elizabeth must have been named after her two grandmothers, Mary Ann Roe and Elizabeth Bailey. Emma Kezia was probably named after Joseph’s aunt Emma Trader, with whom he lived as a young man, while Kezia may derive from his maternal grandmother, Keziah Blanch née Holdsworth, or from his older sister with the same name.

Walter Ellis was probably named after Joseph’s uncle Walter Trader, for whom he had worked as a young man, while his middle name reflects the close ties between the Roe, Blanch and Ellis families that I explored in this post. Flora Eliza bears the name of the cousin who was a witness at Joseph’s wedding, while her middle name probably derives from her mother. Elizabeth, William and John were important Bailey names: the first two were the names of Eliza’s parents, but she also had brothers named John and William, and a grandfather named John. The latter was also the name of Joseph Roe’s older brother.


Joseph and Eliza Roe

Joseph Priestley Roe died in 1947 at the age of eighty-five. His wife Eliza lived for another twelve years, in the home of her daughter Minnie, my grandmother, at 24 Oakfield Road, East Ham. I have faint memories, from the early years of my childhood, of going to visit my Nan and Grandad and being aware of a very old lady who lived upstairs. Apparently my great grandmother couldn’t get used to my name – Martin – and insisted on referring to me, using my father’s name, as ‘Little Peter’. Eliza Roe née Bailey died in 1959 at the age of ninety-six.

In the next post I’ll explore what became of Joseph and Eliza Roe’s children.

Mary Ann Blanch Roe, the ‘dainty comedienne’

Mary Ann Blanch Roe was the third of the five children of my great great grandparents Daniel and Mary Ann Roe. Born in 1857 at Herberts Passage, off the Strand, Mary Ann was christened, together with her brothers Daniel Ellis and John Richard, at St James’ church, Piccadilly, in 1861. By then, the Roes were living in Great Crown Court, Soho. By the time of the next census, in 1871, Mary Ann’s parents would be dead and she and her siblings were being looked after by their grandmother Keziah Blanch in Broad Street, Soho. Mary Ann Blanch Roe was now fourteen years old and an orphan.

For a long time I could find out nothing about Mary Ann after 1871, until I was contacted by Sara Calvert, who is one of her descendants. Sara shared the fascinating information that, at some point in the mid 1870s, Mary Ann Blanch Roe married Leonard Kew, an actor and comedian, and that the couple both made careers as theatrical performers.


St John’s College, Hurstpierpoint, Sussex

Leonard Kew was born in Islington in 1855 and was the eldest child of Leonard Alfred Kew, described variously as a mercantile clerk and stockbroker, and his wife, the grandly named Caroline Marian Charlotte Adelaide Vanderpant. Born in Great Munden, Hertfordshire, Caroline was the daughter of Dirk Vanderpant, a Dutch military officer who gave himself the suffix ‘Esquire’ when he wrote his will in 1841. Leonard Kew the younger grew up in Clapham with his parents and four younger sisters. His parents could afford to keep a domestic servant and to send Leonard away to boarding school: the 1871 census finds him, aged seventeen, a pupil at St John’s College in Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.

Leonard’s mother Caroline died in 1864 at the age of thirty-two and in 1872 his father married again, to Elizabeth Thimbleby, and moved to South Hornsey. However, Leonard Kew the elder died in 1876. By that date, Leonard Kew the younger and Mary Ann Blanch Roe must already have been married (though I’ve yet to find a record of their marriage), since their daughter Ruth was said to have been born in about 1875, in Mary Ann’s home parish of St James, Westminster.  That was where Mary Ann had been living, with her grandmother Keziah Blanch, before her marriage. It’s surely no coincidence that Leonard and Mary Ann Kew’s second child would be born in Ealing, where Keziah had moved by 1881. Leonard Vincent Kew was christened at St Peter’s church in Ealing on 9th October 1887 but, according to census and other records, he had actually been born six years earlier. The parish register gives his father’s profession as ‘actor’.

Ruth Kew was five years old and Leonard Vincent six months old when the 1881 census was taken. It finds both children living with their great grandmother Keziah Blanch, her daughter Eliza Maria Blanch and granddaughter Flora Blanch, at Cumberland Terrace, Ealing. Neither of their parents was present, and when we search the census records for them, we discover why. On the day of the census, Leonard Vincent, a twenty-six-year-old actor, and his wife Blanch Vincent, a twenty-four-year-old actress, both said to be from Islington, Middlesex, were boarding at a house in Scarborough Street, West Hartlepool, County Durham. Apparently Leonard Vincent and Blanch (or Blanche) Vincent were the stage names of Leonard and Mary Ann Kew.


Newspaper advertisement for performance featuring Leonard Vincent (via britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

On Wednesday 30th March 1881, just a few days before the census was taken, the Northern Evening Mail carried an advertisement for a performance at the Gaiety Theatre in West Hartlepool of Offenbach’s comic opera Madame Favart, with Mr Leonard Vincent in the leading role of Charles Favart. In the following year, Leonard would be performing with ‘Mr D’Oyly Carte’s Opera Company’ in Dublin, in Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘New and Original Aesthetic Opera’ Patience. He was obviously a regular member of the company by this time, since an announcement in the same of year of his appearance in the annual pantomime at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth carried the rider, ‘By permission of Mr D’Oyly Carte’. A year later, also in Plymouth, Leonard was one of the ‘celebrities’ making an appearance as the Khedive in a ‘Grand Egyptian Spectacle’ (featuring a live camel) as part of the ‘grand Christmas pantomime’ Robinson Crusoe.

The website of the D’Oyly Carte Company includes the following information about Leonard Vincent:

Leonard Vincent appeared on tour with Mr. D’Oyly Carte’s “D” Company in the first provincial production of Patience from August to December 1881. A chorister in Patience, he also played the role of Mr. Wallaby in the Desprez & Solomon companion piece Quite an Adventure. Vincent later toured with Mr. D’Oyly Carte’s No. 1 “Patience” Company in 1882-83. In 1882 he played Mr. Wranglebury in another curtain-raiser, Mock Turtles, and in December of that year filled in briefly for Walter Greyling as Archibald Grosvenor in Patience. In May 1883 he was once more playing a part in a Patience curtain-raiser:this time as Sisyphus Twister in a piece called Matrimony, or, Six & Six Where Suited. He also served in the chorus with Carte’s No. 1 “Iolanthe” Company in 1884.


Photograph of Blanche Vincent, date unknown (via its-behind-you.com)

As for Leonard’s wife Mary Ann – ‘Blanche Vincent’ – she seems to have made a stage career of her own, and is described in newspaper advertisements of the time variously as a vocalist, a burlesque artiste, and a ‘dainty comedienne’. I’ve found notices of her performances in a variety of theatres, including those in Plymouth, Hull, Belfast and Dublin. Her heyday seems to have been the first decade of the twentieth century, with the last notice I’ve found being from 1910.

I can find no trace of the couple in later census records: their use of stage names (even in official records), and their itinerant lifestyle, makes them particularly difficult to find. Nor have I come across any later records for their daughter Ruth, so she may not have survived to adulthood. As for Leonard and Mary Ann Kew’s son Leonard, he seems to have had to fend for himself from an early age, while his parents were travelling the country performing. At the time of the 1901 census, he was boarding with gardener Charles Shallis and his family in Glenfield Road, Ealing, and working as a ‘House Boy. Boots etc.’ – presumably some kind of domestic servant?

On 12th August 1906 Leonard Vincent Kew, now employed as a painter, married Emily Jane Harris, at the parish church in Hayes, Middlesex, where they were both said to be living.  Leonard’s father’s name is given as ‘Vincent Kew’ and his occupation, enigmatically, as ‘professional’. No members of Leonard’s family were among the witnesses. Leonard and Emily would have a number of children together, all of whom bore the double-barrelled surname Vincent-Kew, including Leonard James, born in 1907; Kezia, 1908, her name presumably a tribute to the fondly-remembered great grandmother who looked after Leonard as a child; Hilda, 1910; and William,1912. Kezia died when she was only a few months old.


Report of Leonard Vincent Kew’s arrest, Nottingham Evening Post, 1st November 1901 (via britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

In 1901 Leonard and an associate had been remanded in custody after being found loitering in Kilburn High Road at three o’clock in the morning carrying weapons and house-breaking tools. The case was tried at the Old Bailey with the following result: ‘A conviction was proved against Kew, and property was found at their lodgings connected with other cases. Five years’ penal servitude.’ At the time of the 1911 census Leonard was behind bars again. The census record finds Leonard Vincent Kew, a twenty-nine-year-old married man born in Ealing, at Portland Prison in Dorset, where he was employed as a ‘tinsmith – bottles and cans’, which must have been preferable to the stone quarrying in which some of his fellow convicts were engaged. Meanwhile, his wife Emily was staying with her parents and siblings at their home in Hayes, together with her three-year-old son Leonard and nine-month-old daughter Hilda. Emily was making ends meet by working as a gramophone record ‘edge grinder’.

Leonard Vincent Kew was released from prison in time to serve in the First World War, enlisting as a private in the Royal Army Service Corps in 1915. He was living in Bakers Lane, Ealing at the time and gave his occupation as motor fitter. Leonard’s army pension record informs us that his wife Emily had deserted her husband in 1914 (perhaps when he was in prison). Her name has been crossed out in the record and that of Dora Booth substituted, though I can’t find any evidence of their marriage.

Leonard Vincent Kew saw active service in France but was discharged in 1918 on the grounds of sickness. After the war he and Dora moved to Leicester where he worked briefly as a gardener. However, whether as a result of his earlier illness or from other causes, Leonard Vincent Kew died on 13th March 1919 at the Sanatorium Isolation Hospital. His effects, worth £50, were passed to his widow, named as Dora Wonocott Kew.

I don’t know when Leonard (‘Vincent’) and Mary Ann (‘Blanche Vincent’) Kew died, or whether they had any contact with their wayward son. Since ‘Blanche’, at least, was still working as late as 1910, she must surely have been aware of Leonard junior’s criminal activities. Whether she had any contact with him, or what kind of relationship if any existed between the celebrated ‘dainty comedienne’ and her son the convict, is an open question.

Kezia Eliza Roe, laundress, and Edward Temple, ornamental frame-maker

Kezia Eliza Roe was the eldest child of my great great grandparents, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe. It was Kezia who, at the age of nineteen, was present at her mother’s death from tuberculosis in December 1870 and who registered the death with the appropriate authorities. In the following year, she and three of her younger siblings, Mary Ann Blanch, Daniel Ellis, and John Richard Roe, were with their grandmother Keziah Blanch in Broad Street, Soho, where Kezia was contributing to the household income by taking in work as an ironer.


Porter Street and Castle Street can both be seen, running north to south in the middle of this section from Weller’s 1868 map of London (via london1868.com)

Two years later, twenty-two-year-old Kezia Eliza Roe could be found living at 8 Porter Street, which was near Newport Market, on the eastern edge of Soho. This was the address that she gave at the time of her marriage to twenty-year-old Edward Temple on 13th April 1873. (I’m grateful to my fellow researcher Ron Roe for discovering this marriage, and for sharing his findings with me.) He was a frame maker from nearby Castle Street, which was roughly where the bottom end of Charing Cross Road now stands. The wedding, which took place at St Anne’s church, Soho, was witnessed by Daniel Roe, who I’m fairly sure was Kezia’s younger brother Daniel Ellis Roe, rather than her father, who was almost certainly dead by this date.

Edward Temple was the son of shoemaker George Temple. Two years before the wedding, the 1871 census notes that Edward was living at home in Castle Street with his widowed mother, Mary, and his younger brother, William. At the time Edward was working as an errand boy.

The next record we have for Edward and Kezia is the 1881 census, taken eight years after their marriage, which finds the couple living at 25 Sherwood Street, Soho, not far from Piccadilly.  Kezia’s uncle, John Holdsworth Blanch, and his family were living nearby at the time, in Sherwood Place. Edward and Kezia Temple shared the house with five other families: the other occupants included a carpenter, a shoemaker, a couple of tailors and an unemployed porter. Edward’s occupation is given as ‘ornamental mounter’ and the word ‘artisan’ has been written across the entry. (Edward’s occupation was similar to that of carver and gilder Enoch Collinson, the father-in-law of Kezia’s uncle Caleb Roe.) The census record gives Kezia’s age as thirty, while Edward is said to be twenty-eight. Despite having been married for eight years, Edward and Kezia appear not to have any children.


Eliza Temple in the 1891 census record (via ancestry.co.uk)

Tracing the couple after 1881 has proven difficult. I can find no record of Edward Temple in the 1891 census. However, there is a record of an Eliza Temple, working as a ‘laundress (wash)’ and living at 76 Berwick Street, Soho. The age is wrong – she is said to be thirty-four whereas Kezia would have been forty-one – and the absence of the first forename is puzzling (though she may have dispensed with it, for any number of reasons). However, the fact that this person gives her place of birth as St. Thomas Square, Hackney (see this post), seems too much of a coincidence. Again, no children are mentioned. Eliza Temple is described as a wife, not a widow, but there is no trace of a husband at the address or nearby. If this is ‘our’ Kezia, then where was Edward? He might have been absent from home on the night of the census – but if so, I haven’t managed to find him in the records.


Victorian laundresses at work

Searching for Kezia in the 1901 census records has been even more frustrating. There was an Eliza Temple living in Soho at this date, and working as a ‘mangler (wash)’, but though born in 1850 she came from Bermondsey and was a widow with four children.

However, it seems fairly certain that the Eliza Temple who died in the parish of St James, Westminster, in 1906, at the age of fifty-six, was Kezia Eliza Temple née Roe. More research will be needed to determine whether she died alone, and what became of her elusive husband, Edward Temple.

The orphaned children of Daniel and Mary Ann Roe

My great great grandparents, bootmaker Daniel Roe and Mary Ann Blanch, had five children who survived them: Kezia Eliza, born in 1850; Daniel Ellis, 1854; Mary Ann Blanch, 1857; John Richard, 1859; and my great grandfather Joseph Priestley, 1862. After their parents’ early deaths (Mary Ann died in 1870 and Daniel seems to have died at around the same time), the orphaned Roe siblings were looked after initially by their relatives. As I noted in the last post, the 1871 census finds Kezia, Daniel, Mary Ann and John living with their maternal grandmother Keziah Blanch in Broad Street, Soho, while Joseph was with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Eliza Parker, in Camberwell.


Nineteenth-century deathbed scene. Illustration for Dickens’s ‘Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings’ by E. A. Abbey, American Household Edition (1876) of Dickens’s ‘Christmas Stories’, p. 206.  (via http://www.victorianweb.org)

John Richard Roe, who was eleven when his parents died, only survived them by five years, dying in 1875, at the age of sixteen, from unknown causes. John died in Westminster, so I assume that he was still living with his grandmother in Broad Street at the time. We know that by 1881, when the next census was taken, Keziah Blanch would be at 9 Cumberland Terrace in Ealing, and that none of her Roe grandchildren would any longer be living with her.

Kezia Eliza Roe, who was nineteen when her parents died, married Edward Temple in 1873, when she was twenty-two. I’ll discuss what we know of Kezia’s married life in the next post.

Mary Ann Blanch Roe, who was fourteen when her parents died, seems to have married Leonard Kew in 1875 or thereabouts, when she would have been about eighteen. I’ll write about Mary Ann’s intriguing life in another post.

The life of my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, the youngest of the Roe orphans, who was only eight years old when his parents died, will also be the subject of a later post.


Soldiers of the Corps of Royal Engineers, late nineteenth century (via undereveryleaf.wordpress.com)

That leaves Daniel Ellis Roe, who was seventeen when his parents died and, according to the 1871 census, already working as an engineer. At some point in the next ten years Daniel joined the army, and the 1881 census record finds him, now aged twenty-eight, stationed with the Royal Engineers at Aldershot. Daniel was back in civilian life, working as an engineer in an electric works, by 1890 at the latest. He died on 25th January that year, at the age of thirty-six, after falling from a ladder at 93 Manor Street, Chelsea. It seems that the circumstances of his death were such as to warrant a coroner’s inquest, held four days later. In the 1891 census, No 93 was listed as a residential property, occupied by a single inhabitant, one Samuel Jeffrey, a twenty-six-year-old engine driver. This suggests that Daniel’s fatal accident took place at home, rather than at work. However, he may have lived close to his place of work: the New Cadogan and Belgrave Electric Supply Company had their premises in Manor Street.

Daniel Roe: a bootmaker in Bethnal Green and Soho

Having written about his three siblings, Richard, Caleb and Eliza, I now turn to the life of my great great grandfather Daniel Roe the younger. Born in Bedfordshire, Daniel spent most of his life working as a boot and shoemaker in London, first in Bethnal Green and then in Soho.


Baptismal record for Daniel, Eliza and Caleb Roe in Biggleswade in 1834 (via Ron Roe)

Daniel was born in 1829 in Stratton Street, Biggleswade, where his father, Daniel Roe the elder, kept a shoemaker’s shop. Daniel junior was the third child of his father’s marriage to Stepney-born domestic servant Eliza Holdsworth. He was christened, together with his siblings Caleb and Eliza, in January 1834. As I’ve reported elsewhere, Daniel, Caleb and Eliza, together with their widowed mother, all came to London in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Daniel was the first of the Roe siblings to marry. On 30th October 1848, when he was nineteen years old, he married Mary Ann Blanch at St Anne’s church in Limehouse. Mary Ann, who at twenty-one was two years older than Daniel, was the eldest child of Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch and his wife Keziah Holdsworth, the latter being the cousin of Daniel’s mother Eliza. This means that Daniel and Mary Ann were second cousins. I’ve often wondered, given his occupation and the fact that they would work together in later years, whether Daniel was actually apprenticed to his future father-in-law, when he first arrived in London from Bedfordshire.

Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s first child, named Kezia Eliza after her two grandmothers, was born almost exactly two years after their wedding, on 7th October 1850, and christened at St Dunstan’s church in Stepney on 12th January in the following year. The parish register describes Daniel as a boot maker and gives the couple’s address as ‘Green Street Globe Lane’. At first I assumed this must be Green Street, Bethnal Green, and that Daniel and Mary Ann were living there with the latter’s parents, but then I saw on a contemporary map that there was another Green Street that led off Globe Lane, which ran south from Bethnal Green towards Mile End Road. This location would explain the choice of St Dunstan’s, rather than one of the parish churches in Bethnal Green, as the location for Kezia Eliza’s christening.


Section of Cross’ New Plan of London, 1850, showing St Thomas Square – near the top of the image, below Loddige’s Nursery – and Green Street, off Globe Lane, at the bottom (via mapco.net)

However, it appears that Kezia Eliza Roe was not actually born in Stepney or Bethnal Green – but in Hackney. Her birth was registered by her mother Mary Ann, who gave both the place of the child’s birth and her own address as St Thomas Square, Hackney. I’ve spent many hours puzzling over why this should be, and why her parents, and in later years Kezia herself, should think it important to be so specific when giving information to the census enumerator. One possibility may have been the prestige associated with the address. St Thomas Square, on the east side of Mare Street in Hackney, was an impressive Georgian development which in 1850 was still a comfortable middle-class enclave. At the time of the 1851 census, the houses in the square were occupied by (among others) a physician, a solicitor, two retired merchants and a number of insurance brokers. To be sure, one house was home to a bricklayer and his family, but even they were able to afford a servant. The home of a labourer named Samuel West is the only anomaly in this otherwise well-heeled square.

How did Kezia Eliza Roe come to be born in St Thomas Square? Were her parents living there at the time of her birth, and if so, why did they move away from the area where they were married and would be living in the following years? And how did a young journeyman shoemaker and his wife come to be living in a fashionable suburban square? When I’ve found other working-class ancestors of mine at middle-class addresses in the records, it’s usually because they were working as servants. But it seems unlikely that this would be the case for a newly-married couple. My search through the 1851 census records has thrown up no clues. None of the names in the records are familiar or appear to have any associations with the Roes or their relatives, even though I’ve noted in previous posts that other members of the Holdsworth family were living elsewhere in Hackney at the time. There is one caveat: I’m not sure that the census records for St Thomas Square are complete. In 1851, the square can be found in Enumeration District 11 in the Hackney sub-registration district. However, the description of the enumeration district includes the phrase ‘round St Thomas Square on the left hand side’ (suggesting that there were also houses on the right hand side) and the actual record only includes Nos 1-10. Other records appear to suggest that there were 17 dwellings in all, but I haven’t been able to find the remainder in the digitised records. In the records made available on the Ancestry website, we jump from District 11 to District 12b.


St Thomas Square Congregational Chapel and School in 1861 (via media.vam.ac.uk)


This image from Google Maps shows the arch on Mare Street that is the only remaining trace of the St Thomas Square chapel

The other possibility is that there was a religious, rather than a familial connection with St Thomas Square.  The longstanding associations of Hackney with Protestant Nonconformity are well known, and the south of the borough where St. Thomas Square is located had a particular significance in the history of Dissent. Not only was the Unitarian chapel where the radical eighteenth-century minister Joseph Priestley preached only a few streets away (I think it was in Chatham Place), but Priestley’s associate Richard Price had lived in the square – at No. 2 – when he was minister at the same chapel. As we shall see, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe would name their youngest son – my great grandfather – after Joseph Priestley.

Even more importantly for our purposes, St. Thomas Square was dominated by a large Congregational chapel, built in 1772. This chapel was served by a number of distinguished ministers over the years, including Matthew Henry, author of the eponymous Bible commentary. The minister at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was Samuel Palmer, who was succeeded by his assistant, Henry Forster Burder, who also taught at the Dissenting academy at Hoxton (the predecessor to the Hackney Dissenting Academy). Perhaps significantly, Burder was a fellow student and close friend of Rev Joseph Fletcher whose ministry in Stepney would have been contemporaneous with Burder’s at St. Thomas Square. Burder served at St. Thomas Square until about 1850. In 1851 attendance for morning service was 414 with 120 in the Sunday school; the afternoon and evening services attracted 125 and 400 worshippers respectively. I’m not sure who succeeded Rev Burder but in 1869 the ministry fell to James Allanson Picton, who achieved notoriety for his radical theological and political opinions. Apparently he dismayed his more orthodox brethren by delivering popular lectures to working-class audiences on Sunday afternoons, on secular themes such as English history and the principles of radical and conservative politics.

Is it fanciful to imagine that the Roes’ brief sojourn in St. Thomas Square had something to do with an association with the Congregational chapel? Without consulting the chapel’s records, we can’t be sure of the exact nature of this imagined connection. However, a number of their relations were associated with the Stepney meeting. Mary Ann’s mother’s cousin Joseph Edward Holdsworth was definitely a member, and her aunt Eliza (the ‘other’ Eliza Holdsworth) was the Fletchers’ family servant (as was Mary Ann’s younger sister Kezia Sarah Blanch for a time) and these are only the links we know about. Perhaps the connection with the St Thomas Square chapel came about through one of these relatives. Did the chapel offer charity – housing? work? – to a struggling newly-married couple with a child on the way?

At some point, I hope to examine the records of the Stepney Meeting and St Thomas Square chapel, which are held by the Tower Hamlets and Hackney archives departments respectively, to see whether the Roes had any affiliation with either place. Reliable information about their religious affiliations is a big gap in my knowledge of my East End ancestors, and yet I would hazard a guess that knowing more about this aspect of their lives would help to answer some of the questions that continue to puzzle me – including the questions about the location of Kezia Eliza Roe’s birth, and the choice of my great grandfather’s name.

By the time of the 1851 census, Daniel, Mary Ann and their baby daughter Kezia Eliza, now six months old, had moved to 203 Patriot Row, which was in the heart of Bethnal Green, on the main road going north to Hackney (now Cambridge Heath Road), and close to Patriot Square. Their neighbours here included silk weavers, bakers, shopkeepers and other shoe makers. Daniel, now twenty-three, was described in the census record as a boot and shoe maker, while his wife Mary Ann, also twenty-three, was working alongside him as a boot binder. Mary Ann’s parents, John and Keziah Blanch, were just a few streets away in Green Street, Bethnal Green, where they too were working together as boot and shoe maker and boot binder.

At some point in the next two years, both the Roe and Blanch families would move from Bethnal Green to Soho. Their reasons for doing so are unclear, but they were probably economic: perhaps the prospects for boot and shoe makers looked more promising in the West End than in the East End? As for the choice of Soho, as we’ve seen from earlier posts there were longstanding associations between the Blanch family and this part of London. John Blanch’s father had lived in Compton Street, as an apprentice patten maker, when he first arrived in London from Bristol in the 1780s (?) and had continued to live there during his first marriage to Jane Barlow, until moving to the Holborn / Clerkenwell area, which is where John was born, following his second marriage to Sophia Atkins. Not only that, but John Blanch’s brothers Thomas, David and William had also lived in the area, working together at their coach making business in Ham Yard, off Great Windmill Street. As I’ve noted before, the business was wound up in 1844 and David Blanch and his family moved from King Street, Soho, to Chelsea around the same time. By 1851, Thomas Blanch and his family had moved to Fulham. William Henry Blanch and his family remained in Soho, living in Great Windmill Street in 1851 and in nearby Archer Street by 1857, though they too were in Chelsea later that year, at the time of William’s death.

The Blanch brothers’ close friends, and future relations by marriage, Richard and Marianne Ellis, also moved from their home in Richmond Street, Soho, to the Kensington and Chelsea area, at some point between 1851 and 1861, at about the same time that Daniel and Mary Ann Roe and John and Keziah Blanch were moving from Bethnal Green to Soho. As mentioned before, at the time of the 1851 census two-year-old Mary Ann Ellis was being nursed by Keziah Blanch at her home in Green Street, Bethnal Green, and in the following year Richard Ellis was one of the witnesses to the marriage of John and Keziah’s son Joseph James Blanch, at St Matthew’s church in Bethnal Green.

Evidence that the close relationship with the Ellis family extended to the Roes can be found in the name that Daniel and Mary Ann gave to their second child. Daniel Ellis Roe was born on 7th March 1853 at 8 Great Crown Court in Soho. This was the address that Mary Ann’s parents John and Keziah Blanch would give when the next census was taken in 1861. At that time, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe would be living nearby at 2 Great Crown Court. Now, it’s possible that Daniel and Mary Ann moved to Great Crown Court at the same time as John and Keziah, and perhaps initially lived with them at No. 8. However, there is good reason for thinking that they were living elsewhere in 1853, and that Mary Ann was simply staying with her parents for the birth of her child.


Daniel Roe in the land tax records for Herberts Passage, Westminster, in 1859 (via ancestry.co.uk)

The evidence is in the form of the birth certificates for Daniel and Mary Ann’s next two children. Mary Ann Blanch Roe was born on 23rd October 1856 and her brother John Richard Roe on 15th April 1859, both of them at 4 Herberts Passage, in the parish of St Clement Danes, Westminster. Both birth certificates describe Daniel Roe as a ‘bookmaker master’. In 1858, Daniel was one of only four people paying land tax on properties in Herberts Passage, the proprietor of all the properties in the street, and in neighbouring Beaufort Buildings, being Sir George Carroll (1783 – 1860), a stockbroker who had served as Mayor of London in 1846, and who himself occupied three properties at the latter address.  As I noted in an earlier post, Herberts Passage was a short street that ran parallel to the Strand, almost opposite Southampton Street, and more or less on the site where the Savoy Hotel now stands. That post also made the point that Marianne, the wife of Richard Ellis, was born in Beaufort Buildings, which intersected Herberts Passage, and that her father, Robert Burbidge, had been the proprietor of the Plough tavern there. Was this just a coincidence, or did Richard and Marianne Ellis help to facilitate the Roe and Blanch families’ moves to Westminster? Of course, Mary Ann Blanch Roe was named after her mother, and Richard was the name of Daniel’s brother (recently emigrated to Australia), but given that their previous child had been given the middle name ‘Ellis’, is it impossible that these names were also a tribute to their friends?


(Great) Crown Court can be seen in the top right-hand corner of this section of Horwood’s 1792 map of London (via motco.com)

By the time of the 1861 census Daniel and Mary Ann Roe were certainly living at 2 Great Crown Court, Soho, close to John and Keziah Blanch and their family at No. 8. Daniel, thirty-two, and Mary Ann, 31, were with their four children: Kezia Eliza, ten; Daniel Ellis, eight; Mary Ann Blanch, four; and John Richard, two. They shared the house with two other families: greengrocer Richard Brown and his wife and two children, and porter William Lee and his wife Jane. At No. 8, John and Keziah Blanch, now aged sixty-one and fifty-six respectively, were living with their three unmarried children Eliza Maria, twenty-three, Emma Sarah, twenty, and John Holdsworth, sixteen, all of whom worked in the family boot-making business, together with four lodgers, some or all of whom seem to have been working for the Blanch family. They shared the house with two other families. One was boot closer George Dowden and his wife and family – I wonder if he also worked with John Blanch? – and the other was the family of Michael Thomas Fitzgerald, an Irish clothes salesman. Next door on one side were the families of a tailor and a furniture maker, and on the other a ladies’ bootmaker, a house painter, and more tailors.

Monmouth Street

Soho street – Victorian cartoon by George Cruikshank

Great Crown Court was a narrow alley leading off Little Pulteney Street (now Brewer Street), and close to Great Pulteney Street, where John and Keziah Blanch’s son John Holdsworth Blanch would live after his marriage to Elizaberth brooks five years later. It also backed on to Archer Street, where John Blanch’s brother, coach smith William Henry Blanch, had lived some years previously, and was close to Great Windmill Street, where the Blanch brothers coach making business had been based. Great Crown Court was roughly at the junction of today’s Brewer Street and Rupert Street. A contemporary record describes the area as characterised by ‘narrow, ill ventilated Courts and Alleys, some of them open to the sky, but others running under portions of houses’.

The Roe family’s movements after 1861 are something of a mystery. Their youngest child, my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, was born on 27th July 1862, just around the corner from Great Crown Court at 23 Great Windmill Street. The birth was registered by Daniel, who also gave this as his own address. At the time of the 1861 census the property had been occupied by Joseph North, a clerk who was still paying land tax on it in the following year, together with his wife and two children and a number of sub-tenants.


Joseph Priestley (via wikimedia.org)

Why would a Victorian shoemaker and his wife name their son after an eighteenth-century clergyman, scientist and political radical? Born in Yorkshire in 1733, Joseph Priestley trained as a minister at the Dissenting Academy in Daventry. He held posts in Suffolk and Cheshire and became known as a writer on education and theology, before taking up a teaching post at Warrington Academy. Priestley’s intellectual interests expanded to include philosophy, politics and science: he wrote an important treatise on electricity and is often credited with the discovery of oxygen. His increasingly heterodox theological opinions, and his support for radical political causes, including the French Revolution, led to his house and laboratory being ransacked by rioters in Birmingham in 1791. After this traumatic experience, Priestley took refuge in Hackney, where he taught at the Dissenting Academy and preached at the Old Gravel Pit Unitarian chapel, before the increasingly repressive atmosphere of the 1790s led to him emigrating to the United States. Did Daniel and Mary Ann Roe share Priestley’s religious or political views – according to some sources, shoemakers were in the forefront of nineteenth-century working-class reform movements – or perhaps their naming of my great grandfather after Joseph Priestley had something to do with the Hackney connection that I explored earlier?

After 1862, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe disappear from view. Mary Ann’s father John Blanch died from chronic bronchitis at the age of sixty-nine in December 1869. Nevertheless, he was still registered to pay land tax of £1 3s 4d for 8 Crown Court in the following year, suggesting that his widow Keziah remained there after his death, at least for a time. Curiously, another Blanch (no first name given) was paying tax on No. 4 at the same date. However, by the time of the 1871 census, this property was occupied by bootmaker Charles Richardson and his family, while No. 8 was the home of two other boot-making families and a master carpenter.


Broad Street, Soho

Mary Ann Roe née Blanch died from phthisis (tuberculosis) at the age of thirty-four, on 7th September 1870, at 10 Dufours Place, off Broad Street, Soho. According to the land tax records for that year, the tenant at No 10 was a certain William Otto.  However, he was not mentioned in the census of 1871, and indeed by that date there are no familiar names to be found at No 10. The house seems to have been occupied mostly by tailors and their families. Mary Ann’s death certificate describes her the wife of Daniel Roe, a shoemaker, so we must assume that he was still alive at this time, though perhaps significantly it was their nineteen-year-old daughter Kezia Eliza who was present and who registered Mary Ann’s death.

The date of Daniel Roe’s death remains a mystery, and no record of it, or indeed any record of him after 1862, has come to light. My assumption is that he, too, died in 1870 or thereabouts, perhaps from the same illness as his wife. Certainly, by the time the 1871 census was taken, Daniel and Mary Ann’s four older children were living with their widowed grandmother, Keziah Blanch, aged sixty-seven, at 52 Broad Street, another building occupied mainly by tailors and their families. Also with them were Keziah’s thirty-seven-year-old unmarried daughter Eliza Maria and another grandchild, two-year-old Flora Sophia Blanch, the daughter of Keziah’s son John Holdsworth Blanch and his wife Elizabeth. Eliza Maria Blanch was working as a laundress; Kezia Eliza Roe, nineteen, an ironer; Mary Ann Blanch Roe, fifteen, a seamstress; Daniel Ellis Roe, seventeen, an engineer; and John Richard Roe, at twelve, was not yet working.

As for Daniel and Mary Roe’s youngest child, my great grandfather Joseph, who was now eight years old: as I reported in a previous post, when the census was taken he was staying with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Eliza Parker, at their home in Albany Road, Camberwell.

In the next few posts, I’ll explore what became of the children of Daniel and Mary Roe after 1871.

Caleb Roe and Sabina Collinson in Bethnal Green, Hoxton and Hackney

I’m continuing to explore the lives of the children of my 3 x great grandparents, Bedfordshire shoemaker Daniel Roe and Stepney-born domestic servant Eliza Holdsworth. In the last post I wrote about their daughter Eliza and her marriage to Thomas Parker, the son of her mother’s sister Sarah Holdsworth. In this post, it’s the turn of her brother, Caleb Roe. In what follows, I’m indebted to the work of my distant relative and pioneering Roe family researcher, Ron Roe, who is a direct descendant of Caleb.


Caleb Roe in about 1870 (via Ron Roe)

Born in Biggleswade in 1833 and christened there on 19th January 1834, Caleb was the youngest of Daniel and Eliza Roe’s five children. He was probably named after Caleb Evans, a malt-maker and Baptist deacon who I believe was a relative of Eliza’s on her mother’s side of the family. After his baptism, the next record we have for him is the 1841 census, which finds the eight-year-old Caleb living with his mother Eliza, who had been widowed three years earlier, and his four older siblings in Biggleswade. As I noted in an earlier post, Caleb’s brother Richard was apprenticed to a carpenter in Layston, Hertfordshire, while his mother, brother Daniel and sister Eliza all moved to London, probably by 1845 at the latest. Caleb seems to have stayed behind, at least initially, perhaps living with his Evans relatives, though by 1851, when he was seventeen, he was working as a general servant in the home of solicitor Edward Argles in Stratton Street, Biggleswade – the same street where his late father Daniel had kept his shoemaking shop.

At some point in the next five years, and probably sooner rather than later, Caleb joined his brothers Daniel and Eliza in London, though by now his mother Eliza had remarried and moved to north Hertfordshire with her second husband John Sharp. The younger Eliza Roe was now married to Thomas Parker and living in Southwark, while Daniel Roe junior was married to Mary Ann Blanch in 1848 and they were now living in Patriot Row, which was near Patriot Square in Bethnal Green. Daniel and Mary Ann Roe, my great great grandparents, will be the subject of the next post.


Patriot Square can be seen just to the north of Bethnal Green, in this section of Cross’ 1851 Map of London (via london1851.com)

Caleb settled in Bethnal Green, where he worked as a carpenter, like his brother Richard. It’s possible that to begin with he lived with his brother Daniel, before meeting and marrying Sabina Collinson, a dressmaker, in 1856. The wedding took place at St Jude’s church, Bethnal Green, on 27th July. Bride and groom were both twenty-three years old. Both gave their address as 10 Albion Buildings, the home of the Collinson family, which was to the west of what is now Cambridge Heath Road, between Hackney Road and Old Bethnal Green Road and close to Felix and Clare Streets. It was not far from Patriot Row, which may explain how Caleb first met Sabina, if my theory about him living with his brother Daniel is correct.

Sabina Collinson was the daughter of Enoch Collinson, a carver and gilder, who was one of the witnesses to her marriage to Caleb. Apparently carving and gilding were key skills in the frame-making industry. The Collinsons were originally from Shoreditch. Enoch Collinson was born in Shoreditch in about 1792 and married Ann Wingrove at Christ Church, Newgate, in 1819, when he was about twenty-seven. Their first child, William Enoch, was born in 1820 at Little Leonard Street, Shoreditch. The baptismal record describes Enoch as a builder, so perhaps he had yet to master his trade as a carver and gilder (unless the parish clerk misheard ‘gilder’ as ‘builder’?). A second child, Richard, was born in 1821 in Whitechapel, but died a year later. Their next son, born in Bethnal Green in 1823, was given the same name. When their next child, Joseph, was baptised at St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch in November 1823, the Collinsons were again at Little Leonard Street, whereas their first daughter, Ann, was baptised at St. Botolph’s, Bishopsgate in 1826, and their address was now 3 Newnham Place. The family was back in Shoreditch, living at Curtain Road, in March 1829, when another daughter, Sophia, was christened, and they were still there for the births of sons Charles in 1830 and Frederick in 1831. By the time Sabina was baptised in February 1833, however, they had moved to Norfolk Street, Bethnal Green: the ceremony took place at St. Matthew’s, as did her sister Emma’s christening in 1836. Another daughter was baptised at St. Mary’s in Whitechapel, in 1838, when the family was living in New Road: she was given the name Victoria, probably one of the first children to be named after the new queen, who had been crowned in the previous year. Sadly, Victoria died when she was three years old. The Collinsons were still at New Road when their last child, Jane Eliza, was baptised in 1840.


Carvers and gilders

The 1841 census finds Enoch, forty-nine, and Ann, forty-six, still at New Road, Whitechapel. Ten years later, they were living at 74 Boston Street, Haggerston. We know that they were at 10 Albion Buildings by 1856 at the latest, and this was also their address in 1861, when all of their children had left home and Ann would give her occupation as ‘working by myself – char’. In 1871 the Collinsons were living in Elizabeth Row, George Street, not far from Albion Buildings. Ann died in 1872, at the age of seventy-six, and Enoch in 1874, when he was about seventy-eight.

As for the other children of Enoch and Ann Collinson – Sabina’s brothers and sisters – this is what I’ve been able to find out about them:

William Enoch Collinson (b. 1820) died in 1840 at the age of twenty. 

Richard Collinson (b. 1823), a carver and gilder like his father, married Hephzibah (Elizabeth) Quinton, daughter of butcher John Quinton, in 1848 at the church of St John the Baptist, Hoxton.  They had eight children: Richard, John, Hephzibah, Thomas, Maria, Anna, Emma and Joseph.  To begin with they lived with Hephzibah’s father in Church Street, Bethnal Green; then in Nelson Street, where John Quinton lived with them; then Fountain Court; and finally Goldsmith Square, Haggerston. Richard and Hephzibah both died in 1892, at the age of fifty-nine.

Joseph Collinson (b. 1823), another carver and gilder (though one later record describes him as a retired grocer) never married. He spent most of his life in Kentish Town, dying there in 1900 at the age of seventy-six.

Ann Collinson (b. 1825) married Thomas John Berg, a box / packing case maker, at St. John the Baptist, Hoxton, in 1850, when she was twenty-five. Thomas and Ann had six children: Thomas, Charles, Emma Sophia, Alice, William, Charles John and Minnie Sabina. They lived initially in Allerton Street, Shoreditch; then Royely Street in Finsbury; then Maidenhead Court, St Giles without Cripplegate. Thomas died in 1885 at the age of fifty-eight. In 1901 Ann was living in Defoe Road, Stoke Newingon. She died in 1915, aged ninety.

Sophia Collinson (b. 1827) died in 1841, at the age of fourteen.

Charles Collinson (b. 1830) also followed the family trade of carving and gilding. He married Emma Martin, daughter of carpenter Jesse Martin, in Hoxton in 1854. They had six children: Emma, Ellen, Charles, Caroline, Jessie and George. In 1861 they were living in Minerva Street, Bethnal Green, just a few streets away from Albion Buildings. The only other record I have for them is the 1881 census, which finds Emma at home in Mansford Street, while Charles is visiting a coffee house in Hare Street, Bethnal Green. 

Frederick Collinson (b. 1831), yet another carver and gilder, married Emily Clark, daughter of dyer John Clark, at St. Thomas, Bethnal Green, in 1857. They had two sons, Frederick and William. The family lived with relatives of Emily’s in Devonshire Place, Bethnal Green; also in George Street, where most of their neighbours were silk weavers. I don’t have complete records for Frederick, but I know that in 1901, when he was seventy, he was living in the Bethnal Green workhouse.

Emma Collinson (b. 1835) married copperplate printer Alfred Cockram at St. Jude’s church, Bethnal Green, on Christmas Day 1856, but died after giving birth to their son Alfred in 1857. Alfred senior would marry again, to Ellen Bennett, in 1860.

Jane Eliza Collinson (b. 1839) married silk weaver / trimmer (and later telegraph line man) George Royffe in 1857 at St. Jude’s church, Bethnal Green. They had nine children: George, William, Jane, Rose, Sophia, Alfred, Elizabeth, Albert and Louisa. They lived in Felix Street; then in George Street, initially next door to Jane’s parents. The records for them are incomplete, but it would appear that George died in 1898. The 1901 census finds Jane living in Chalgrove Road, Hackney with daughters Elizabeth and Louisa: all three are working at home in various aspects of the boot trade. Jane would die in the following year in Hackney, aged sixty-three.


St Leonard’s church, Shoreditch

As for Caleb and Sabina Roe, their first child, Eliza Sabina Roe was christened on 12th July 1857, at St. Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch, when they were living at 61 Cumberland Street, which was just north of Hackney Road, to the west of present-day Haggerston Park. I haven’t found a baptismal record for Caleb’s and Sabina’s second child, Emily Constance, but other records indicate that she was born in March 1860 in Shoreditch. A third daughter, Eleanor Sophia, was born almost exactly one year later and baptised at St. Leonard’s on 7th April 1871. At this date the family was living at 5 Grange Place.

By the time the 1861 census was taken later that year, Caleb and Sabina had moved again and were living at 141 St. John’s Road, Hoxton, where Caleb was working as a carpenter and joiner. In this record, their oldest daughter is named simply as ‘Sabina’, though the census enumerator manages to mangle the spelling somewhat. Another daughter, Rosetta, was born in the following year in Shoreditch. Caleb’s and Sabina’s first son, Augustus Caleb, was born in 1864. I haven’t found a christening record for him, but other records indicate that he was born in the parish of St Luke’s, Hackney, suggesting yet another (brief?) change of address.  The family was back in Hoxton for the baptism of their next daughter Annie Elizabeth, at Holy Trinity church, in 1866. Their address was said to be 15 Windsor Street, as it was when their son Charles Caleb Roe was christened at the same church three years later. However, by the time another son, Horace, was baptised at the same church in 1870, they had moved to 41 Shepherdess Walk. This is where they can be found at the time of the 1871 census, which describes Caleb, now thirty-six, as a journeyman carpenter. By this time Caleb and Sabina had eight children between the ages of eleven months and thirteen years. A final daughter, Louisa Jane, would be born a year later, in June 1872, also in Hoxton.


Two of the daughters of Caleb and Sabina Roe – names unknown (via Ron Roe)

By the time of the 1881 census, when they were both in their mid-forties, Caleb and Sabina had moved to 41 Ballance Road in Homerton, Hackney. Living with them were their children Eliza, twenty-three, a greval (?) maker (for a hosier), Emily, twenty-one, Eleanor, twenty, and Rosetta, eighteen, all working as machinists / seamstresses; Augustus, sixteen, a clerk; and Anne, fourteen, Charles, eleven, Horace, ten, and Lousia, eight, all still ‘scholars’. (Eliza) Sabina had married earlier that year (see below).

Caleb Roe died in 1890, at the age of fifty-seven, at 113 Rushmore Road, Clapton, Hackney. In 1911 Sabina, now seventy-eight was living with her daughter Ellen Sophia and her family at Meanley Road, Manor Park. Sabina died two years later at the age of eighty.


Victorian houses in Rushmore Road, Clapton, close to where Caleb and Sabina Roe were living in 1890 (via google.co.uk/maps)

This is what I know about what became of the children of Caleb and Sabina Roe: 

Eliza Sabina Roe married printer’s compositor Edwin John Jones in West Ham in 1881. They had four children: Daisy Ethel in 1882; Herbert Edwin 1884; Arthur Stanley 1887; and Frederick, 1898.  In 1891 they were living in Coopersale Road, Hackney, and in 1901 in Argyle Road, Cann Hall, Wanstead. By 1911 Edwin and Eliza were living in Gordon Road, Ilford. Edwin Jones served as an engineer and officer on the merchant ship Scotia and lost his life when the ship was sunk at Dunkirk in 1940. Eliza died in Romford in 1949. 

Emily Constance Roe married Daniel Richard Davis, at that time a watchmaker, at St Luke’s, Hackney, in 1884. The had two children: Ethel Constance, born in Poplar in 1885, and Constance Gladys born in Bow in 1893. In both 1891 and 1901 Daniel and Emily were living at 68 Monier Road, Stratford-le-Bow, and in 1911 in Adley Street, Homerton. Daniel died at Kynaston Road, Stoke Newington, in 1917. Emily lived for another forty years, dying at the age of ninety-seven in 1957.

Eleanor (or Ellen) Sophia Roe married grocer Alfred Edward Richards at St Luke’s, Hackney, in 1886. They had seven children: Alfred, 1887; Ernest, 1889; Ellen, 1891; Lillian, 1893; Leonard, 1896; and Cecil, 1898. In 1891 Alfred and Ellen were living with the latter’s widowed mother Sabina and siblings Augustus, Horace and Louisa, at 113 Rushmore Road. Alfred was now working as a Post Office official. In 1901 they were at 62 Wragby Road, Cann Hall, presumably not far from Ellen’s sister Eliza Sabina and her family. Alfred was now described as a postman. In 1911 Alfred and Eleanor were living in Meanley Road in Manor Park.

Rosetta Roe married clothier William Hefford at St. Luke’s, Hackney, in 1885. They both gave their address as Coopersale Road, the street where Rosetta’s sister Eliza Sabina and husband Edwin Jones would be living six years later (and might already have been living at this time). In 1891 they were living at 2 Robinson Road, Bethnal Green, and William was working as a tailor’s cutter. Rosetta died there seven years later at the age of thirty-six.

Augustus Caleb Roe, who worked as a private secretary, married Sarah Ann Somerville at the church of St. John of Jerusalem, South Hackney, in 1894, when they were both thirty. They gave their address as 143 Cassland Road. They had two sons: Herbert Augustus Somerville Roe, baptised at St. John’s in June 1896, when they were living at Meyvell (?) Crescent; and Somerville, born in 1897 in Southend, where the family had moved by this time. The 1901 census finds them living in nearby Prittlewell and ten years later they were at Oakleigh Park Drive in Leigh-on-Sea. Augustus Roe died in Greenwich in 1915, at the age of fifty-one.

Annie Elizabeth Roe married Henry James Richard Turner, a sorter with the Post Office, in 1891 at All Saints church, Clapton, when they gave their address as 113 Rushmore Road. Annie and Henry had three children: Annie (1893), Mary (1895) and Albert (1899). In 1901 they were living at 22 Cuthbert Road, Walthamstow, and Henry was working as a railway goods porter. In 1911 they were at Linford Road, also in Walthamstow. I believe that Annie died in 1954.

Charles Caleb Roe married Rosina Foot at St Michael and All Angels, Hackney in 1888. They were both twenty and living at 45 Percy Road. Charles and Rosina had seven children: Charles Edward, 1888; Caleb Augustus, 1890; Rosina, 1893; Lily, 1895; Maud Ellen, 1896; Alice, 1899; and William 1902. (My distant relative and fellow Roe family researcher Ron Roe is William’s son). In 1891 Charles and Rosina were living in Marlow Road, Homerton, where a number of their neighbours were, like Charles, engaged in the trade of glass blowing. By 1901 they were living in Maclaren Street, Clapton, where Charles was now a greengrocer and shopkeeper. In 1911 they were at Crozier Terrace, Homerton, where Charles had changed his occupation again was working as a carman and contractor. Rosina died in 1952 and Charles in 1953, both at the age of eighty-four.

Horace Roe married Florence Harriet Miller in 1892 at St Luke’s, Hackney. Horace was working as a painter at the time and the couple gave their address as Marlow Road (where Horace’s brother Charles had been living the year before). Horace and Florence had three children: Florence, 1893; Beatrice, 1896; and Edith, 1898. In 1901 they were living at 8 Askew Street, South Hackney, where Horace was now working as a bricklayer’s labourer. By 1911 they had moved to Arthur Street, also in South Hackney. Horace seems to have died in 1941 at the age of seventy-one and Florence in 1942 at the age of sixty-nine.

Louisa Jane Roe married boot-clicker Albert Davies in 1898 at St Pancras Old Church. At the time they were both living at separate addresses in Werrington Street. They had five children: Hannah, 1893; Alice, 1895; William, 1897; Albert, 1900; and Louisa, 1902. In 1901 they were living at 6 Devizes Street, Shoreditch, where Albert was working as a house decorator and Louisa (at home) as a tent maker’s machinist. Albert seems to have died in 1930 at the age of fifty-eight and Louisa in 1946 at the age of seventy-one.

Eliza Roe and Thomas Parker in Southwark and Camberwell

The last post explored the life of my 3 x great grandmother Eliza Roe née Holdsworth who was born in Mile End Old Town, grew up in Bethnal Green, moved to Bedfordshire as a young woman, married there, and then returned to London as a widow with four children, before marrying again and spending the remainder of her life as a servant in middle-class homes in rural Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. I noted that all of Eliza’s children were married by 1851: Daniel Roe to his second cousin Mary Ann Blanch; Richard to Fanny Debney; Eliza to her first cousin Thomas Parker; and Caleb to Sabina Collinson. I’ve already described how Richard and Fanny Roe emigrated to Australia in 1853. In the next few posts, I want to explore the lives of his siblings, beginning in this post with Eliza.

As discussed in the last post, Eliza Roe came to London as a young woman, probably in the late 1840s, to work as a domestic servant, before marrying her cousin Thomas Parker in April 1853, when she was twenty and he was twenty-five. Thomas was the son of another Thomas Parker, a silk weaver, and his wife Sarah Holdsworth, who was the sister of Eliza’s mother. Thomas Parker junior was working as a baker at the time of his marriage to Eliza. Two years earlier, when the 1851 census was taken, he had been employed as a journeyman in the bakery owned by his brother-in-law George Garner, the husband of his sister Sarah, in Red Cross Street, Southwark.


Southwark in 1850 (via ancestryimages.com)

Thomas and Sarah Parker must have been living in Southwark in the early years of their marriage, since that was where their first child, Hannah Sarah, was born in 1854. Two years later, in 1856, their son Frederick Thomas was also born in the borough. According to later census records, their third and youngest child, Sylvia Eliza, was born in 1858 in Smithfield, which suggests that the Parkers crossed the river and lived in central London at some point.

However, this move must have been a temporary one, since by the time of the 1861 census Thomas and Eliza, together with their children Hannah, seven, Frederick, five, and Sylvia, three, were living at 7 Johns Place in Walworth. Thomas Parker had changed his occupation: he was no longer a baker but (in the words of the census record) a ‘Labourer in Indian Military stores Cloth Department’, presumably providing suitable outfits for the servants of Empire. Perhaps his family’s weaving background was being put to good use.

Thomas and Eliza Parker’s two younger children died before reaching adulthood. Sylvia Eliza died in 1862, at the age of four, while Frederick Thomas died in 1868, at the age of twelve. Frederick was buried, like a number of his relatives, in Victoria Park Cemetery in Hackney and his death recorded in the Nonconformist Register. The family’s address was given as 144 Albany Road in Camberwell. Three years later, at the time of the 1871 census, the Parkers were at No. 158 in the same street. Thomas was still employed as a ‘Labourer India Store’, while Hannah, now seventeen, was working as a dressmaker. Also living with the Parkers was their eight-year-old nephew, Joseph Roe, the son of Eliza’s brother Daniel and his wife Mary Ann, both of whom had died in the previous year. Joseph was my great grandfather, and I’ll tell his story, and that of his parents, in a forthcoming post. Finally, the Parker family had a lodger in the house: a fifty-year-old unmarried woman from Bow named Caroline Trimey or Toomey, who worked as an infant robe maker.


Colour-tinted postcard of Camberwell, c. 1900

Ten years later, in 1881, Thomas, fifty-three, Eliza, forty-eight, and Hannah, twenty-five, were living in the same house in Albany Road, and Thomas was still working at the India Stores. With them was Eliza’s mother, my 3 x great grandmother Eliza Roe née Holdsworth, aged eighty, who had recently retired after many years in domestic service, and who would die four years later, in 1885.

Also at the Parkers’ house in Albany Road was a boarder, twenty-nine-year-old printer and compositor William Axtell. He and Hannah Sarah Parker would be married later that year, at St Giles’ church in Camberwell. William and Hannah Axtell would have three children: Herbert William, Gordon Thomas and Lilian Edith. Herbert and Lilian were born in Camberwell but Gordon was born in Homerton, Hackney, which is where all three were christened together, at St Barnabas’ church, on 4th April 1896, when their address was given as 12 Roding Road, off Homerton High Street. I’m unsure whether this was the address of a relative, or of convenience, or if the Axtells really did live in Hackney for a time.

We know that in 1891 the Axtells had been living with Hannah’s parents, Thomas and Eliza Parker, in Albany Road, Camberwell, but by 1901 they had moved to Farady Road in Wimbledon, where Herbert was working as an apprentice compositor and his younger brother Gordon as a a clerk to a colliery agent. Meanwhile, Hannah’s parents had also moved to Wimbledon and were living in Clarence Road. Thomas Parker was now a pensioner of seventy-three; he would die four years later, on 21st September 1905, at the same address, leaving effects to the modest value of £5 to his widow Eliza.


Nineteenth-century printing works

As for Eliza Parker née Roe, she would live for another twelve years. The 1911 census finds her, a seventy-seven-year-old widow, boarding at a house in Ringwood Road, Wimbledon, belonging to blouse manufacturer Algernon Bartlett. At the same date her daughter Hannah and husband William Axtell were still living in Faraday Road, Wimbledon, with their son Gordon, who was now employed (probably with his father) as a ‘printer’s engineer (fitter)’. Their daughter Lilian had married Inland Revenue worker George Hawtin in 1906 and was living with him in Stanley Road, Wimbledon. William and Hannah’s other son, Herbert, who also worked as a printer, had married Ethel Grace Frost in 1910. In 1911 the newly-wed couple were living as boarders in the Frost family home in Herbert Road, Wimbledon.

Eliza Parker seems to have died in 1917, at the age of eighty-four. Her son-in-law William Axtell would died in 1930 and her only surviving child, her daughter Hannah, would died at the age of eighty-one on 23rd December 1935, at ‘Rostherne’, 34 Ederline Avenue, Norbury in Surrey, leaving effects worth £337 18s 8d to her son Gordon Thomas Axtell, a linotype mechanic. Hannah’s son Herbert died in 1961 in Bromley, and her other son Gordon in 1963, at Ederline Avenue, like his mother; I’m not sure what became of Lilian.

Eliza Holdsworth Roe: from Bethnal Green to Bedfordshire and back again

Now that we’ve explored the lives of Phoebe and Sarah, two of the daughters of my 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth, we come at last to the story of their sister Eliza, my 3 x great grandmother. The first point to note is that she mustn’t be confused with her cousin and namesake, the daughter of her uncle John Holdsworth, whose life we have already discussed. The two cousins had a lot in common, not least the fact that they both spent much of their lives in domestic service, both followed their employers to other parts of the country, and both worked for a time in the homes of clergymen. But the key difference between them is that, whereas the first Eliza Holdsworth never married, her cousin, my 3 x great grandmother, was married twice and raised five children.


Eliza Holdsworth’s birth recorded in the Nonconformist Register

Eliza Holdsworth was born on 19th April 1801, the fourth child of Baptist shoemaker William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia Evans. As noted in an earlier post, Eliza’s birth was recorded in the Nonconformist Register held at Dr Williams’ Library. Although Eliza was born on Mile End Road in Stepney, she spent most of her childhood in nearby Bethnal Green, to which her parents moved when she just a few years old. In 1817, when Eliza was sixteen years old, her brother Samuel married Lucy Roberts. In 1820, when she was nineteen, her older sister Phoebe married bricklayer Thomas Chamberlin. And in 1821, when Eliza was twenty, her younger sister Sarah married silk weaver Thomas Parker.

These three siblings would remain in London, Samuel living in Stepney, while Phoebe and Sarah stayed close to home in Bethnal Green. Why Eliza didn’t follow their example and find work, and a husband, in London, is something of a mystery. Nor do we know when, or why, she moved away from London as a young woman. What is certain is that, on 25th April 1825, soon after celebrating her twenty-fourth birthday, Eliza Holdsworth was married in the (oddly named) church of St Edward or St James in the village of Blunham, about eight miles to the east of Bedford.


Blunham parish church, Bedfordshire, in 2015 (author’s photograph)

How did Eliza come to be there? Given what we know of her later employment, and the path trodden by other young Holdsworth women, there’s a strong possibility that she left London to take up a post as a live-in domestic servant. There were very few other employment opportunities for unmarried women in early nineteenth-century England, and as the daughter of a tradesman, Eliza would have been expected to earn her keep as soon as she reached her teenage years. As for why she ended up in Bedfordshire, another (not incompatible) explanation is that Eliza went to live with, or close to, her mother’s family. At Eliza’s wedding in 1825, two of the witnesses were Mary Evans and William Bowtell, the latter being the husband of Mary’s sister Martha. Mary and Martha were the daughters of Caleb Evans, a malt-maker and Baptist deacon in the town of Biggleswade, about six miles to the south of Blunham. Caleb’s wife Ann Marsom came from a long-established Bedfordshire Baptist family, whose members had included a close associate of John Bunyan. My theory is that Eliza’s maternal grandfather, Francis Evans, was related to the Evans family of Biggleswade.

Not only did Eliza have possible family ties to Biggleswade, but the man she married in April 1825 also lived in the town. Daniel Roe was a shoemaker, like Eliza’s father, with a shop in Stratton Street, in the centre of Biggleswade. This makes the couple’s decision not only to marry in Blunham, but to return there a year later for the christening of their first child, somewhat puzzling. Did Eliza live and work in Blunham before her marriage, possibly as a servant in the household of the rector, the Rev Robert Porten Beachcroft, who officiated on both occasions and who was an Evangelical known to be sympathetic to the local Baptist congregation? After all, Eliza would later work as a servant in another clerical household, that of Rev Robert Merry in nearby Guilden Morden. Unfortunately, there are no census or other records that would enable us to track Eliza’s movements between leaving her home in Bethnal Green and her marriage to Daniel Roe in 1825.

Daniel’s origins are somewhat obscure, but he seems to have been the son of John Roe, another shoemaker, and his wife Hannah Role, who were married in Layston, near Buntingford in Hertfordshire, in January 1795. Besides Daniel, who was born in about 1800, they had three daughters, Elizabeth, Martha and Ann, who were married to James King, John Sharp and John Mays respectively, and all of whom lived in the same north-eastern corner of Hertfordshire, close to the border with Cambridgeshire. John and Hannah Roe, Daniel’s parents, appear to have moved a few miles further south: Hannah died in the Butchery Green area of Hertford in 1821, while John spent his final days in the Hertford Union Workhouse, where he died in 1835.


Daniel and Eliza Roe made their home above Daniel’s workshop in Stratton Street, Biggleswade, which is where their eldest child Anna Maria was born early in 1826. Over the course of the next few years, the couple would also have three sons – Richard John in 1828, my great great grandfather Daniel junior in 1829, and Caleb in 1833 – and another daughter, Eliza, in 1834.

Daniel Roe senior died in 1836, from unknown causes, leaving Eliza as a relatively young widow to provide for five young children, which she seems to have done by starting (or returning) to work as a domestic servant. Oddly, Eliza appears to have been counted twice in the census of 1841. She and her children were living either in Sand Pitts, near Biggleswade High Street and not far from the Evans and Bowtell families, or in a house in St Andrews Street to the west of the town. The duplicate entry might be explained by the fact that Eliza and her eldest daughter Anna Maria (already, at the age of fifteen, following in her mother’s footsteps) were working as servants for a family in the second location when the census was taken.

Anna Maria Roe died in 1844, at the age of eighteen, again from causes unknown; she was buried in the Baptist burial ground in Biggleswade. Shortly afterwards, Eliza and her surviving children began to leave the town, drawn back to the shelter of Eliza’s family in Bethnal Green and Stepney, though both of Eliza’s parents were dead by this time. Eliza, Daniel junior and the young Eliza appear to have moved to London shortly after Anna Maria’s death. Caleb would stay behind in Biggleswade for a time, working as a servant, before also coming south to the city. The only one of the Roe siblings never to move to London was Richard, who would be apprenticed to a carpenter in Barkway and eventually marry there, before emigrating to Australia.

The first record we have for the Roe family after their arrival in London is for Eliza’s own second marriage, on 11th September 1845, to John Sharp, a widower, at the church of St George-in-the-East. The couple both gave their address as 16 Chapel Street, and Eliza’s sister Sarah and her husband Thomas Parker were witnesses. John Sharp was a carpenter and publican in Barkway, in north-east Hertfordshire: he was also the widower of Martha Roe, the sister of Eliza’s late husband Daniel. Martha had died in May 1845, just four months before John’s marriage to Eliza. So this appears to have been a case of a recently bereaved brother-in-law and sister-in-law coming together, probably for economic and social convenience, since (as we shall see) there is little evidence that John and Eliza Sharp ever actually lived together.

The next record that we have for the Roes is for the marriage of Eliza’s son Daniel, to Mary Ann Blanch, the daughter of Eliza’s cousin Keziah Holdsworth and her husband John Blanch. The ceremony took place on 30th October 1848, at what seems to have been the family’s favourite church of St Anne, Limehouse. Daniel and Mary Ann Blanch were my great great grandparents. Given that Daniel Roe junior would work as a shoemaker, like his father, I’ve often wondered if he was apprenticed to his future father-in-law, also a shoemaker. They would certainly work together at a later date. As we noted in discussing the first marriage of James Blanch, John’s father, it was quite common for apprentices to marry their masters’ daughters: though in this case, there was the added factor that Daniel and Mary Ann were already related.


Part of an old map of Hertfordshire, with Layston, Buntingford, Barkway and Nuthampstead visible close to the eastern border of the county

The next of the Roe siblings to marry was Richard, who wed Fanny Elizabeth Debney in March 1850. The wedding took place at the church of St George, Hanover Square, in the west end of London, even though the couple were living with Fanny’s family in Layston, Hertfordshire. Once again, Thomas and Sarah Parker were present as witnesses. Fanny was the daughter of William Debney, a currier in Layston. In 1847 Richard Roe had been apprenticed, at the age of seventeen years and six months, to Nathan Warren, a carpenter and builder in nearby Buntingford, for a period of three years. The fee of £20 was paid by his stepfather John Sharp.


Indenture certificate for Richard Roe (via Julie Mapletoft Campbell)

At the time of the 1851 census, a year after their marriage, Richard and Fanny could be found living in Buntingford High Street, with Fanny’s widowed father William and his teenage sons Alfred, Arthur and Charles, as well as Richard’s and Fanny’s ten-month-old-daughter Emily. Two years later, Richard, Fanny and Emily would sail on the Marian Moore from Liverpool to Australia, where they would settle in Clunes in the state of Victoria, eventually adding six more children to the family. Fanny died in Clunes 1876 in Clunes and Richard in Wunghnu in 1915.



Richard and Fanny Roe, with two of their children

Back in England, the youngest Roe sibling, Eliza, was following the example of her mother and namesake. At the time of the 1851 census she was working as a domestic servant in the Upper Tulse Hill household of Clarissa Clark, a merchant’s widow. Two year later, in April 1853, Eliza Roe the younger married her first cousin Thomas Parker junior, a baker and the son of her mother’s sister Sarah Parker née Holdsworth, at the church of St George-in-the-East.

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Roe was the only member of the family remaining in Biggleswade in 1851. He was working as a general servant in the household of Edward Argles, a solicitor in Stratton Street. Caleb must have moved to London at some point in the next few years, since in July 1856 he would get married at St Jude’s church in Bethnal Green, to dressmaker Sabina Collinson. She was the daughter of Shoreditch-born carver and gilder Enoch Collinson and his wife Ann Wingrove, with whom Sabina and Caleb were living at the time of their marriage, at 10 Albion Buildings, to the west of Cambridge Heath Road and south of Hackney Road, near Felix Street.


Eliza Roe née Holdsworth in old age

As for Eliza Sharp, formerly Roe, née Holdsworth, by 1851 she had left London again and was employed as a nursery servant in the home of the Walbey family, wealthy farmers and landowners in the village of Nuthampstead, while her husband John was living a couple of miles away in Barkway High Street. In 1861 Eliza was still living away from home and working as a domestic servant, but by now she had moved to the home of Rev Robert Merry, the vicar of Guilden Morden, just across the county border in Cambridgeshire. Interestingly, the abbreviation ‘m’ for married has been crossed out in the census record and ‘u’ for unmarried substituted, casting further doubt on the status of Eliza’s marriage to John Sharp.

Ten years later, Eliza was still with the Merry family, but by now Rev Merry had died and his widow had moved with her children to Tormorham near Torquay, Devon. Mary Ann Merry took Eliza, as well as a number of other servants, with her, promoting her from nurse to housekeeper. What’s most striking here is that Eliza was still working as a domestic servant at the age of sixty-nine. As a working-class woman with no other means of support, I suspect she had little choice. Curiously, according to the 1871 census record Eliza had reverted to her previous married name of Roe, although I’ve discovered that John Sharp was still alive and living in the workhouse at Bassingbourn, Cambridgeshire: evidence of the narrow dividing line between poverty and penury in Victorian England. He died there later that year.

Some time between 1871 and 1881 Eliza finally retired from working as a domestic servant and went to live with her daughter Eliza and her family in Camberwell, south London. However, her retirement was all too brief, and she died in 1885, at the age of eighty-four.