In the last two posts I’ve discussed two of the children of my 4 x great grandfather John Holdsworth, a carpenter in Stepney in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and his wife Mary Webb. Their eldest daughter Eliza spent much of her life as a domestic servant in the household of two Rev. Joseph Fletchers, father and son, both of whom were Congregational ministers, while their son Joseph married into another Congregationalist family and emigrated to Australia with his wife Elizabeth and her brother, Rev. Benjamin Cuzens. As I mentioned in an earlier post, John and Mary Holdsworth also had a daughter named Anne who married a Mr Morley in Oxford, but about whom nothing further is known.

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That leaves one other daughter: Keziah Holdsworth, who was one of my 3 x great grandmothers. Like her brother Joseph, Keziah was born in the St Clement’s district of Oxford, in 1804, but spent much of her childhood in Stepney, where the family moved when she was seven or eight years old.

John and Mary Holdsworth, and their children Eliza, Keziah and Joseph, lived in William Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East. Contemporary maps (such as the one in the header image above) show that Stepney was still a semi-rural suburb at this time, though it would grow rapidly in the ensuing decades.

When the family moved to the area, Keziah would have been surrounded by her uncles, aunts and cousins. Her uncle Joseph, a shoemaker and later a tallow chandler, was still living in William Street in 1809 and may even have shared a house with his brother John. Joseph and his wife Margaret had at least four children: Sarah, Elizabeth, Godfrey, and Joseph. As for Keziah’s uncle William, another shoemaker, he had once lived with his brother Joseph in nearby Marmaduke Street, but was now living a short distance away on the borders of Mile End Old Town and Bethnal Green. By this time William and his wife Lydia had five children: Samuel, Phoebe, Eliza, Edward and Sarah. A third uncle, Godfrey Holdsworth, worked as a plumber, and he and his wife Diana were living in Mile End Old Town with their children: Joseph, John, Godfrey, Diana, Edward, Elizabeth and Charles.  Finally there was an aunt, Sarah, also living in the Mile End area, with her second husband, William Parker.

We don’t have any records that might throw light on Keziah’s childhood and youth in Stepney. However, we can deduce from her sister Eliza’s job and her brother Joseph’s marriage, that the family were keen Nonconformists, probably attending the Independent chapel – the Stepney Meeting – across the fields at Stepney Green. It’s also possible that, like Eliza, Keziah gained experienced of domestic service while still young, though if this was the case, it seems to have ended once she married.

It’s not clear how Keziah met her future husband, John Blanch. It may have been through attendance at church, or through work. Or it’s possible that, being a shoemaker like two of Keziah’s uncles, John was known to members of her extended family: he may even have been apprenticed to one of them.

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John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth were married on 5th July 1827, when she was twenty-three years old and he was twenty-five. The wedding took place at the parish church of St Anne, Limehouse. It’s not clear why this location was chosen, but it would prove popular with members of the family: Keziah’s younger brother Joseph would marry Elizabeth Cuzens there eight years later; her daughter Mary Ann (my great great grandmother) would marry Daniel Roe there in 1848; and their son Joseph Priestley Roe (my great grandfather) would get married in the same church in 1883.

John and Keziah both appear to have signed their own names in the register. The marriage was witnessed by Thomas Howard junior, who seems to have been the son of a well-to-do Bethnal Green carpenter, and Thomas Harrison, who would marry John Blanch’s older sister Mary Ann in the following year.

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Entry in the parish register of St Anne, Limehouse, for the marriage of John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth (via ancestry.co.uk)

John Blanch had been born at Saffron Hill, on the borders of Clerkenwell and Holborn, in 1800 or 1801, and christened at the parish church of St Andrew’s, Holborn, on 2nd August 1802. He was the fifth of the seven children of James Blanch, a patten-maker, and his second wife, Sophia Atkins. James also had three surviving children from his first marriage to Jane Barlow.

John’s mother Sophia had died in 1821 in Mile End Old Town, suggesting that the family had moved there from Saffron Hill at some point. Sophia Blanch was forty-four years old when she died, the cause (according to the death certificate) being asthma. She was buried at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, on 28th January 1821. John’s father James Blanch would be buried there with her when he died in 1840.

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Saffron Hill in the mid-nineteenth century

There were other connections between the Blanch family and the Stepney area. John Blanch’s older half-brother James had been living in Mile End Old Town when he married Sarah Empson, from the same area, at St Dunstan’s church on 2nd September 1813. James, a customs house officer, would be convicted of theft just five months after his wedding and transported to Australia: his fascinating story will be the subject of a later post. John’s younger brother, William Henry, a coach smith, had married Sarah Stokes at St Anne’s, Limehouse, the same church where John had married Keziah, in October 1825. Bride and groom were both said to be ‘of this parish’.

John’s father James Blanch, who was another of my 4 x great grandfathers, was born into a Quaker family in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, in 1755, and spent his early life in Bristol, before coming to London as a young man. I’ll explore his life in the next post.

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