In recent posts about my Blanch ancestors, I’ve often mentioned their close association with the Ellis family. In the 1840s Richard and Marianne Ellis were neighbours, in Soho, of David Blanch, who was the younger brother of my 3 x great grandfather John Blanch. In the 1850s they followed the Blanch family to Kensington and Chelsea. In the 1860s two of Richard and Marianne’s daughters – Frances Marianne and Sophia Sarah – would marry two of David and Sarah Blanch’s sons – James George and David John.

But the close relationship between the Ellis and Blanch families predated these marriages. For example, at the time of the 1851 census, Richard and Marianne’s two-year-old daughter Mary Ann Ellis wasn’t with her family at their home in Richmond Street, Soho, but staying with my 3 x great grandparents John and Keziah Blanch in Green Street, Bethnal Green. Mary Ann is described in the census record as a ‘nurse child’ and the implication is that she was being looked after by Keziah. The connection with John and Keziah may go back even further: another Ellis daughter, Sophia Sarah, was christened in Bethnal Green six years earlier, though her family was living in Soho at the time. Is this because she, too, was being nursed by Keziah Blanch?


Parish church of St John on Bethnal Green

In 1851, while young Mary Ann Ellis was with John and Keziah Blanch in Bethnal Green, back in Soho her parents Richard and Marianne were welcoming another Mary Ann as a visitor: this was Mary Ann Harrison née Blanch, John Blanch’s widowed sister. In the same year, Richard and Marianne Ellis christened their new-born son at St James’ church, Piccadilly, giving him the name Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis. In the following year, Richard Ellis would be in Bethnal Green to act as a witness to the wedding of Joseph James Blanch, the son of John and Keziah. Since Joseph worked as a carpenter, it’s possible that he was worked for or was apprenticed to Richard.

The connection with the Ellises was also important for other branches of the Blanch family. For example, in 1854 my great great grandparents Daniel and Mary Ann Roe née Blanch (the latter being the daughter of John and Keziah Blanch) named one of their sons Daniel Ellis Roe, suggesting that they too had close ties with the Ellis family. And the connection extended to the next generation. Daniel and Mary Ann’s son, my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, would give his son the name Walter Ellis Roe when he was born in East Ham in 1887. (I’ll be writing about Daniel, Mary Ann and Joseph in later posts.)

What might account for this close and longstanding relationship between the Blanch and Ellis families? It’s possible that the connection came about initially as a result of a business association between Richard Ellis and David Blanch. As we saw in the previous post, David was a coachbuilder in Soho and later in Chelsea, while Richard was a carpenter and builder, first in Soho and then in Kensington. I suspect that the two men worked together, and that Richard Ellis was connected in some way with the Blanch brothers’ coach business. Perhaps as a consequence of that, and of being neighbours, the two families came to be close friends. But I’ve often wondered if there was also a blood tie between the Blanch and Ellis families, perhaps going back to the early years of the nineteenth century. If so, I’ve yet to discover it. However, in the remainder of this post, I’ll summarise what we know about the Ellis family and their origins, in the hope that it might throw some light on this mystery.


Richmond Street and King Street are clearly visible on this section of Horwood’s London map of 1792/1799

Richard Francis Ellis had been born on 3rd July 1814 in Richmond Street, Soho, and christened two weeks later at St James’ church, Piccadilly. He was the fifth of the nine children on Thomas Ellis, a carpenter and builder, and his wife Sarah Lush, who had been married at St James’ church in Piccadilly in 1803. The evidence points to the Ellis family having originally moved to London from Shropshire, and to Thomas Ellis being a prosperous tradesman.

Richard Ellis’ seventeen-year-old sister Sarah married shoemaker Thomas Metcalf at the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields in June 1826. They would have three children that we know of. John William Metcalf was christened at St Anne’s, Soho, on Christmas Day, 1826; Mary Ann was christened at the same church in August 1834; and Richard William was born in September 1839.

Richard’s mother Sarah Ellis née Lush died in 1826, at the age of forty-five. His father Thomas Ellis died twelve years later, on 21st February 1838, at the age of fifty-eight. Both died at their home in Richmond Street.

Richard Francis Ellis married Marianne Burbidge on 25th March 1841 at St James’, Piccadilly. The marriage was witnessed by Richard’s sister Mary Ellis, and by John Blacklock, whom she would marry in May of that year. John was a stationer with a shop in Whitechapel High Street, where he and Mary would make their home.


Beaufort Buildings and Herberts Passage can be seen, to the south of the Strand, in this section of Horwood’s 1792/1799 map of London

Richard’s bride Marianne Burbidge was the daughter of victualler and publican Robert Burbidge. She had been born in 1813 at the Plough, a tavern in Beaufort Buildings in the Strand, and christened on 14th November that year at the nearby church of St Clement Danes. Beaufort Buildings was on the southern side of the Strand, roughly where the Savoy Theatre and Hotel stand today. One of its famous former occupants – in the 1780s – was the novelist Henry Fielding. The National Archives have records from the Sun Fire Office for 27 February 1822, noting the insurance policy of ‘Robert Burbidge Beaufort Buildings victualler’. There’s also a note of ‘other property or occupiers: the Turks Head in Charlotte Street Portland Place (victualler)’ which suggest that Robert owned or leased more than one establishment.

The London Lives website includes records from the Westminster Ratebooks, giving details of the property values of Westminster Electors. There are two entries for Robert Burbidge of Herberts Passage, St Clement Danes and St Mary-le-Strand, for 1818. This suggests either that the Plough stretched across two buildings, or that the Burbidges occupied two properties in the same street. Herberts Passage was the narrow street that intersected Beaufort Buildings, running parallel to the Strand. It may or may not be coincidental that my great great grandparents, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe née Blanch would be living at 4 Herberts Passage in 1856 and in 1859, when their children Mary Ann Blanch Roe and John Richard Roe were born. I believe that Robert Burbidge had died by this date and that the Plough was under new ownership, but perhaps the Burbidge connection helps to explain why the Roes moved to this address from Great Crown Court, Soho, where they had been living in 1853, and where they would be found again, together with Mary Ann’s parents John and Keziah Blanch, in the 1861 census. We know they were in Great Crown Court in 1853, as this was where another son, Daniel junior, was born: as already noted, he was given the middle name Ellis.


Beaufort Buildings, view towards the Strand

Richard and Marianne Ellis lived in the family home in Richmond Street, Soho, after their marriage. Their first child, Frances Marianne, was born there on 29th June 1841, just three months after her parents’ wedding, and christened at St James’, Piccadilly, in the following January. As mentioned in previous posts, the 1841 census records for Richmond Street have been lost, but these and other parish records confirm that Richard and Marianne were living there at the time. Their second child, David Richard, was born in Richmond Street in October 1843 and christened at St James’ in the following January.

As I’ve already mentioned, the Ellises next child, Sophia Sarah, was born at Richmond Street, on 29th July 1846, but christened on 6th August at St John’s church, Bethnal Green. Her younger sister Mary Ann would be born on 29th April 1849 and christened at St James’, Piccadilly, on 14th May.

Richard and Marianne’s youngest child, Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis, was born on 21st January 1851 and christened at St James’ on 3rd March. The 1851 census was taken in the same month, and the fact that there was a new baby in the house may go some way towards explaining why two-year-old Mary Ann Ellis was being looked after by John and Keziah Blanch in Bethnal Green. When the census was taken, Richard Ellis, described as a thirty-nine-year-old master builder employing two men, was in Richmond Street with his wife Marianne, also thirty-nine, and their children Frances, nine, David, six, and Alfred, two months. There is no sign of Sophia, who would have been nearly five, so perhaps she too was being looked after elsewhere (though I’ve yet to find her in the census records). Also at the Ellis’ house in Richmond Street, as already mentioned, was a visitor, fifty-six-year-old Mary Ann Harrison née Blanch, as well as twelve-year-old Richard Metcalf, Richard Ellis’ nephew, the youngest son of his sister Sarah.

1851 must have been a difficult year for the Ellis family. Richard appears to have been declared bankrupt at some point, though the Illustrated London News reported that on 27th May, the bankruptcy of ‘R Ellis, Richmond st, Soho, carpenter’ was annulled.

David Blanch and his family had already moved from Soho to Chelsea by 1851, and by the time of the next census Richard and Marianne Ellis had followed their lead, moving to Brompton by 1861 at the latest. The census record finds Richard, Marianne, Frances, Mary Ann and (Alfred) Henry at 3 Clifton Terrace. Frances, nineteen, is now employed as an assistant dye worker, while her younger brother David, seventeen, is described simply as a dyer. The family has two lodgers: twenty-two-year-old Charlotte Haughtry, a ribbon blocker at a dye works (presumably the same one where Frances and David Ellis were working) and twenty-four-year-old coach builder James George Blanch, the eldest son of David and Sarah Blanch: he would marry Frances Ellis later that same year. Another Blanch relative, James’ sixty-six-year-old widowed aunt Mary Ann Harrison, is also at the same address. Missing from the Ellis home once again was young Sophia Sarah, now fifteen. She too was having to earn a living: working as a nurse maid in the home of prosperous tea dealer and grocer Jonathan Puckridge and his wife Sarah in Oxford Street, London. It’s likely that Sophia was employed to look after their nine-month-old son Arthur. The fact that two of the Ellis children were working in a factory and another as a domestic servant, and that the family was taking in lodgers, suggests that their financial troubles may not have been completely over.


St Mary the Boltons, West Brompton

Frances Marianne Ellis married James George Blanch in 1862 at the church of St. Mary the Boltons, West Brompton; the couple seem to have had no children. Two years, in 1863, Frances’ sister Sophia Sarah Ellis married James’ brother David John at the same church. In 1865 Frances’ and Sophia’s brother David Richard Ellis married his wife Susannah in Kensington; David would continue to work in the dyeing industry and he and Susannah would have eight children together.

Richard Ellis died in December 1865, at the age of fifty-one. His daughter Sophia Sarah and her husband David John Blanch emigrated to Australia a month later: they would have three children before David’s death in 1868 at the age of just twenty-eight. Sophia married again, to Arthur Buffon, but she died in 1870, shortly after giving birth to a son, also named Arthur, who also died.

At the time of the 1871 census, Frances Marianne and her husband James George Blanch were living in Kings Road, Chelsea. They had no children of their own but living with them were Frances’ widowed mother Marianne, fifty-six, who was working as a needlewoman, her younger daughter Mary Ann, now twenty-one, and the youngest Ellis sibling (Alfred) Henry, twenty, who was working as a coach painter, presumably alongside his brother-in-law James Blanch.

I’m not sure what became of Mary Ann Ellis after 1871, but her brother Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis would marry Mary Sarah Hunt in 1874 and they would have two sons. In 1881 Richard Ellis’ widow Marianne, now sixty-eight, would be lodging in a house in Battersea, next door to the family of Joseph and Maria Cheshire, the latter being the daughter of the late David Blanch. Marianne’s daughter Frances and her husband James Blanch were also living in Battersea at this time, though it’s unclear why Marianne was not living with them. However, in 1891, Frances and her mother, now seventy-six, would be living together in Boleyn Road, Stoke Newington, where Frances was now working as a charwoman. Frances is described as still married, and as the head of the household, but there is no sign of her husband James.

Marianne Ellis seems to have died some time in the next ten years. By 1901, her daughter Frances and husband James would be back together and living in Poplar, where James was now working as a sign writer. His sister Eleanor Blanch was living with them. There is some evidence that James and Frances would move again, to Coventry, and that they both died there in the first decade of the new century.

The last of the Ellis siblings to die was Alfred Henry Blanch Ellis, who was working as a builder in Fulham at the time of the 1891 and 1901 censuses. He died in Putney in 1909, probably in the home of his son Charles, also a builder, who acted as his executor.

I hope this post has given some sense of how the lives of the Blanches and Ellises overlapped and intertwined throughout the nineteenth century. I’m probably no nearer to solving the mystery of their close connection, but perhaps someone reading this will have information that can throw light on this continuing puzzle.