Charles William Millrow Holdsworth’s son, also named Charles William, followed in his father’s footsteps and worked as a bookbinder. Born in London in October 1835, in either Moorgate Street or Bull and Mouth Street, depending on which record you choose to believe, he was the first child of his father’s marriage to Elizabeth Hart.

In 1841, when he was six years old, Charles was living in Bull and Mouth Street with his parents and younger sister Elizabeth, as well as his maternal grandmother Abiah, her second husband James Fry, and various children from their respective first marriages. I’ve been unable to find Charles in the 1851 census, when he would have been sixteen: he certainly wasn’t at Bull and Mouth Street. Presumably he was away from home, perhaps at school or apprenticed elsewhere. Ten years later, however, the 1861 census finds Charles back with his parents, grandmother, and two younger sisters in Four Dove Court, Aldersgate.


Islington, from Weller’s 1868 Map of London

Some time in the next few years Charles married his wife, Emily, though I’ve yet to discover any record of their marriage. The only record I can find that offers anything like a close match is for the marriage of Charles Holdsworth and Emily Boyce in Lambeth in 1872, but this would be after the birth of three of their children, and the 1871 census shows them already living together in Cross Street, which connects Essex Road and Upper Street in Islington (see map above). The census records are unhelpfully vague about Emily’s place of birth, giving it simply as either London or Middlesex.

The first of Charles and Emily’s five daughters, Ellen or Helen Emily, was born on 29th August 1864 at St. James’ Road, Holloway, and christened on 4th June 1865 at Christ Church in the City of London. Charles is described, as he is in most records, as a bookbinder.  A second daughter, Ada Caroline, was born on 20th June 1866, also in Holloway. She was christened at the age of six, on 14th July 1872, with her younger sister, Beatrice Elizabeth, who is said to have been born on 13th October 1869 (though this may be a mistake: Beatrice was already three at the time of the 1871 census). By this time the family had moved to another address, which I can’t quite make out from the records, but presumably it was in Bethnal Green, since the joint baptism took place at St. John’s church there.

There is a record of another daughter, Emily Grace, being born on 7th June 1869, at Packington Street, Islington, which was on the other side of Essex Road from Cross Street. This record, interestingly, describes Charles as a bookseller rather than a bookbinder. Emily would not live long: she died in 1876, at the age of six.

The 1871 census finds Charles, Emily and their four daughters back at Cross Street again. There was a third child baptised with Ada and Beatrice at St John, Bethnal Green, in July 1872. Charles Sidney William Holdsworth was born on 24th April 1872, but appears to have died three years later.


Corporation Buildings, Farringdon Road

Charles and Emily Holdsworth had one more child, a daughter named Charlotte or Lottie Maud. She was born in Clerkenwell in 1874. By this time the Holdsworths may have moved to the address where they can be found in the 1881 census:  24 Corporation Buildings, which was on Farringdon Road in Clerkenwell. The census record shows that Charles, forty-five, and Emily, forty-three, are working respectively as a bookbinder and bookfolder, while their daughter Ellen, sixteen, works as a milliner, Ada, fifteen, as a widow cap maker, and Beatrice, fourteen, as a lace maker. Charlotte, seven, is still a ‘scholar’.

Some time in the next few years Ada Caroline Holdsworth had a brief liaison with Alfred Arthur Aldred, a young naval lieutenant and aspiring playwright from nearby Amwell Street, the result of which was the birth of a son, Guy Alfred, named in honour of the day he was born: 5th November 1886. Guy would grow up to become a renowned left-wing writer and activist (I’ll discuss him in the next post), hence the fact that we have detailed records of his birth and childhood. It is these records that describe Guy’s grandfather, Charles William Holdsworth, as a ‘Victorian radical’ and ‘radical bookbinder’, while another source calls him a bookbinder of ‘advanced’ views — ‘pro-Gladstone, pro-Bradlaugh, pro-Home Rule for Ireland and India, anti-war’ – though I’ve yet to find any reliable information about his political activities.

Apparently Ada Holdsworth was socially unacceptable to Alfred Aldred’s family, but he agreed to do the ‘right thing’, marrying her on 13th September 1886 at St. Philip’s church, Clerkenwell. Alfred, twenty-two, describes himself in the record as a ‘dramatist’, while Ada, twenty, is said to be a parasol maker. Alfred left Ada at the church after the wedding and returned to live with his mother, while Ada remained with her parents and Guy was brought up in the home of his Holdsworth grandfather, whom some describe as the formative influence on his political outlook. Neither seems to have had any qualms about marrying other partners at a later date.


St James’ church, Clerkenwell

In January 1887 Ada’s older sister Ellen or Helen, who was then twenty-three, married thirty-two-year-old widower and painter George Oaten at St. James the Great, Bethnal Green. Both were resident in Bethnal Green at the time. Their first daughter, Ada Ellen, was baptised on 11th July 1890, at the same time and place (St James’ church, Clerkenwell) as Ada’s son Guy. By this time, George and Ellen were living at Farringdon Road Buildings.

In October 1888 another Holdsworth sister, Beatrice Elizabeth, married carpenter William Henry Dyer at St. James, Clerkenwell. Both were aged twenty-one at the time. Their first child, Herbert Victor, was born in September 1890. At the time of the 1891 census, they were living at 18 Kiver Road in Upper Holloway. Meanwhile, Beatrice’s parents, Charles and Emily Holdsworth, were still living at Corporation Buildings (the same as Farringdon Road Buildings?) in Clerkenwell, with Ada and her four-year-old son Guy, and youngest daughter Charlotte, who was now seventeen.


Guy Aldred as a young man

I’ve been unable to find Ellen and her husband George Oaten in the 1891 census. I know that in 1892 they had a second daughter, Edith, and that their first daughter, Ada, died in 1893.  Certainly by 1901 George had died and Ellen, now a widow of thrity-five and working as a domestic cook, was a visitor at the home in Winchester Road, Edmonton, of her sister Beatrice, together with her nine-year-old daughter Edith. By this time, Beatrice’s husband William Dyer had transformed himself from an ‘electrical carpenter’ into a stage manager, and the couple now had seven children: Herbert Victor, born in1890; Harry, 1892; Ernest Reginald, 1894; Florence Beatrice, 1896; Ethel, 1898; Jessie, 1900; and William George, 1900.

Emily Holdsworth appears to have died in 1900 at the age of sixty-two, and the 1901 census finds her widower Charles living with their daughter Ada, who had married (bigamously) for a second time, to umbrella warehouseman George Daniel Stray,  in 1887. By 1901 George and Ada had two sons, Albert George, three, and Ernest William, one. The census shows them living in Goswell Road, Clerkenwell, with these two children as well as Ada’s son (Guy) Alfred Aldred, fourteen, Ada’s father Charles, sixty-five, and her younger sister Charlotte, twenty-seven.

Charlotte or Lottie Holdsworth married Plaistow grocer William Hopkins at St. James, Clerkenwell, on 15th April 1906, when she was thirty-two and he was thirty-six. At the time of the 1911 census William and Lottie were living at 88 Hatherley Gardens, East Ham, and William was described as a general shopkeeper (grocery and provision).

George Stray must have died before 1911, since by this date his widow Ada, forty-three, her son Albert, thirteen, and her widowed sister Helen Oaten, forty-five, were living together at 5 Cobden Buildings in Kings Cross. Meanwhile Beatrice and William Dyer and their family were now at Edmonton Road, Enfield, where William was working as an electrician, assisted by his son Henry. The couple now had two additional daughters: Amy Dorothy, five, and Mary Emily, two.

I’ve been unable to find Charles William Holdsworth in the 1911 census records, so I assume that he had died by this date, though I’ve yet to find a record that confirms this.

In my next post I’ll have more to say about Guy Aldred, his relationship with the Holdsworth family, and his later political activities.