The last-born of the children of my 4 x great grandparents, James and Sophia Blanch, was also the last to marry. David Blanch, who was born at York Street, Holborn, in 1810, married Sarah Dickson on 19th October 1835, when he was twenty-five years old and she was twenty-two. As mentioned in an earlier post, Sarah was the daughter of Holborn baker John Dickson and his wife Sarah Rodbard – the sister of John Rodbard, the late husband of David Blanch’s half-sister Maria, who was one of the witnesses to the marriage. Sarah Dickson had been born in Greville Street, Holborn, but at the time of her marriage was living in Edgware, the Rodbard family’s home town.

The church chosen for David and Sarah’s wedding – St Anne’s, Soho – had important associations for the Blanch family. David’s parents had been married there forty-three years earlier, and his father James had lived in the parish as a young man, having arrived in London from Bristol. But we also know that David Blanch was already living and working in Soho before his marriage. The coachbuilding business that he established with his brother Thomas in 1834, and which also employed their brother William Henry, was based in Ham Yard, off Great Windmill Street, just a few minutes’ walk from King Street, where David and Sarah would establish their home. King Street was close to St Anne’s church and also to Compton Street, where David’s father James Blanch had lived during his first marriage to Jane Barlow. The Blanch family’s close friends Richard and Marianne Ellis (see below) lived in nearby Richmond Street. (Both King Street and Richmond Street would be obliterated by the construction of Shaftesbury Avenue in the 1870s.)


Part of Richard Horwood’s 1792 map of London, showing the area around St Anne’s church, Soho

Their first child, James George, was born at King Street on 4th November 1836 and christened at St Anne’s on 19th February 1837. A second child, William Henry, was born on 9th September 1838 and christened on 5th October, and a third, David John, was born on 18th July 1840 and christened on 9th August.

The 1841 census record finds David, a coachsmith, and Sarah, with their three young sons, living in King Street. As I’ve noted before, two of David’s older sisters, Maria Rodbard and Mary Harrison, both of them widows living on independent means, were living with them at this time, together with Maria’s young servant, Elizabeth Higham. 

A fourth son, Thomas Richard, would be born to David and Sarah Blanch on 29th August in the following year, and christened at St Anne’s church on 9th October. Some time in the next two years, the Blanch family would move from Soho to Chelsea. David and Sarah’s only daughter, (Maria) Jane, would be born at Barossa Place on 23rd July 1844, and christened on 18th August at St Luke’s church, Chelsea. Barossa Place was on South Parade, close to Fulham Road, and just off Church Street, where David Blanch would relocate his coach making business, after dissolving the partnership with his brother Thomas in 1846.

The Blanch family seems to have been at the same address when the next census was taken in 1851. David, forty, and Sarah, thirty-seven, were there with their children James, fourteen, William, twelve, David, ten, Thomas, eight, and Jane, six, as well as James’ half-sister Maria Rodbard (wrongly described in the record as his aunt), sixty-nine, and her servant, Elizabeth Higham, thirty.


St Luke’s church, Chelsea

Ten years later, we find David Blanch, now fifty, and his family living at 35 Church Street, Chelsea, which was also his business address. He is described in the census record as a coach-maker and smith, employing seven men and two boys. With David are his wife Sarah; their sons William, twenty-two, a coach smith like his father, David, twenty, an engraver, and Thomas, eighteen; and their daughter (Maria) Jane, sixteen. Although David’s widowed half-sister Maria Rodbard had died two years earlier, he seems to have retained the services of her servant, Elizabeth Higham, who was now forty.

David and Sarah Blanch’s eldest son, James George, had also joined the family business by this time, as a coach painter. However, when the census was taken he was lodging with the Blanch family’s close friends, Richard and Marianne Ellis, in nearby Brompton. As noted in the previous post, another of the Ellis family’s lodgers in 1861 was David Blanch’s widowed sister Mary Ann Harrison.

In the following year James George Blanch married Frances Marianne Ellis, daughter of Richard and Marianne, at the church of St Mary the Boltons, West Brompton. One of the witnesses was James’ younger brother David John, who would marry Frances’ younger sister, Sophia Sarah Ellis, at the same church two years later, on Christmas Day, 1863. In March of that year Sarah, wife of David Blanch senior, had died at the age of forty-seven. David John and Sophia Sarah Blanch must have moved to the parish of St. James, Westminster, shortly after their marriage, since that’s where their first child, Walter David, was born in the spring of 1865.

In 1864 another son of David Blanch, Thomas Richard, twenty-one, married Ellen Flack, nineteen, at St. Luke’s church, Chelsea. Their fathers, and Thomas’ sister Maria Jane, were witnesses. In April 1865 David Blanch’s son William Henry, twenty-six, married eighteen-year -old Catherine Mary Ann Cheshire, daughter of plumber Joseph Cheshire, also at St. Luke’s, Chelsea. In almost an exact copy of the double Blanch-Ellis marriages, William’s sister Maria Jane, a witness at his wedding, would marry Catherine’s brother Joseph in the same church a little more than a year later, and to complete the parallel, William acted as a witness at his sister’s wedding.

David Blanch died in February 1866, at the age of fifty-six. His son David John and daughter-in-law Sophia Sarah Blanch had emigrated to Australia in the previous month, with their one-month-old son Walter. The couple would have a daughter Sophia Marion in Victoria, Australia, that year, but sadly she would die in infancy. Another son, named David John after his father, was born in 1868. However, David John senior died in the same year, at the age of just twenty-eight.


Premises in Old Church Street, Chelsea, formerly occupied by ‘T. Blanch & Sons’


Plaque on former Blanch premises in Old Church Street, using stone from the fortifications of Sebastopol (see here for information about the Siege of Sebastopol)

(Both images via, with thanks to Deborah Hart Stock, and acknowledgements to Alan Patient of

At the time of the 1871 census, coachsmith James Blanch and his wife Frances were living at 237 Kings Road, Chelsea. They had no children of their own but living with them were Frances’ mother Marianne Ellis, fifty-six, a needlewoman and a widow (Richard Ellis had died in 1865), her sister Mary Ann, twenty-one, and brother Henry, twenty, a coach painter.

In the same year James’ brother William Henry Blanch was said to be living in Shawfield Road, Chelsea, and was described as a coach builder employing nine men and three boys. He lived with his wife Catherine and three children, Sarah, William and Ada. Catherine’s father Joseph Cheshire was living with them; they also had a lodger and could afford two servants, one of them a nurse maid. Meanwhile, William’s brother Thomas Blanch and his wife Ellen were living in Church Street, where Thomas, another coachsmith, employed eight men and three boys. They had four children: Sarah and Thomas, born in Westminster, and John and Edith, born in Chelsea. Also living with them was Ellen’s sister Georgianna Flack, a chambermaid. At this date Maria Jane Cheshire nee Blanch and her husband Joseph, a draper, were living in Fulham Road, Kensington with their children David, Sophia and Jane. Maria’s aunt, Mary Ann Harrison, 77, was now living with them, and they could also afford a servant.

The coachbuilding business originally established by David Blanch and his brothers continued to thrive in the hands of their children until the early years of the twentieth century, when advances in technology, and the advent of motorised transport, made the trade obsolete.