Two weeks ago I wrote about the early life of my 3 x great grandmother Keziah Holdsworth, up to the time of her marriage to John Blanch. We then took a long detour to explore John’s family background, including the two marriages of his father James Blanch and the lives of his children – John’s brothers and sisters. Now it’s time to return to John and Keziah, whom we left standing at the altar of St Anne’s church, Limehouse, on 5th July 1827. John was a twenty-five-year-old shoemaker from Saffron Hill, while Oxford-born Keziah, twenty-three, was the daughter of a Stepney carpenter.
When John and Keziah were married George IV was still on the throne, though he would die three years later, ushering in the brief reign of William IV. The opening of the first commercial railway line was also still three years away. As we can see from the map used in the header image to this blog, which was published in the year of their marriage, the area where John and Keziah would begin their married life together – Mile End Old Town – was still semi-rural, with open spaces visible between the haphazard network of streets, and separating Mile End from Bethnal Green.
The fact that there were only five months between John and Keziah Blanch’s wedding and the birth of their first child suggests that there might have been some urgency surrounding the event. Mary Ann Blanch was christened on 12th December 1827 at the parish church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, the location for countless baptisms, weddings and funerals in my maternal family tree, stretching back at least to the seventeenth century. The parish register gives John Blanch’s occupation as ‘cordwainer’ and the young family’s address simply as ‘MEOT’ – Mile End Old Town.
John and Keziah’s second child, Joseph James, would not be christened until 1833, but later records suggest that he was actually born in 1831. The family’s address was still Mile End Old Town, and they were still there when their daughters Keziah Sarah and Eliza Maria were christened in 1837, though the former may have been born in 1834. Another daughter, Sophia Holdsworth Blanch, obviously named after John’s late mother, was christened at St Dunstan’s in 1839 but seems to have died in infancy.
The 1841 census finds John and Keziah Blanch living in Wellington Street in Mile End Old Town, which may well have been their address since they were married. I can’t find Wellington Street on contemporary maps, but it seems to have been close to Wellington Place, and not far from St Dunstan’s church and Stepney Green. With them are their children Mary Ann, (Joseph) James, Keziah and Eliza, as well as John’s eighteen-year-old apprentice James Woodwell. In the same street, in the household of one Sarah Eliot, we find a seventy-five-year-old carpenter named John Holdsworth. The details match those of Keziah’s father, who presumably was now a widower. It’s unclear why he wasn’t at the same address as his daughter and son-in-law: it’s possibly that he was merely visiting (or working for?) a neighbour when the census was taken.
Bethnal Green in 1851: from Cross’ London Guide (via london1851.com)
Keziah and John Blanch would have two more children in the next few years. Emma Louisa was born in 1842, but not christened until 1858, when she was sixteen, and John Holdsworth Blanch was born in 1844. Emma was born in Stepney, but by the time John was born the Blanch family was living in Bethnal Green. It’s likely that they were at 2 Green Street, which would be their address when the 1851 census was taken. When Greenwood’s map was published in 1827, Green Street, which ran from west to east through Bethnal Green, was still surrounded by fields, but by 1851, when Cross’ map appeared (see above), the area was becoming thick with new side streets and blocks of housing, and the new Eastern Counties Railway line cut across the area.
The 1851 census record describes John Blanch as a boot and shoe maker, and his wife Keziah as a boot binder: this was a family business, and the workshop would have been in the family home in Green Streeet. With John and Keziah were their son (James) Joseph, now twenty and working as a carpenter; their daughter Emma, nine; and their son, John, seven. Also present, as mentioned in previous posts, was two-year-old ‘nurse child’ Mary Ann Ellis, the daughter of Richard and Marianne Ellis of Richmond Street, Soho.
A shoemaker’s shop in 1849 (via https://janeaustensworld.files.wordpress.com)
Three of John and Keziah’s children were away from home at the time of the census. As discussed in an earlier post, their seventeen-year-old daughter Keziah was now employed as a housemaid, working alongside her mother’s sister Eliza Holdsworth in the Regents Park home of Mary Fletcher, widow of the former minister of the Congregational church in Stepney. I haven’t been able to find fourteen-year-old Eliza Blanch in the census records: it’s possible that she was also working as a domestic servant, though she would be back with her parents by 1861.
The other Blanch child not at 2 Green Street in 1851 was their eldest daughter, Mary Ann. That’s because she had been married for three years and was now living with her husband, Daniel Roe, and their six-month-old daughter Keziah, just a few streets away in Patriot Row, Bethnal Green. Daniel and Mary Ann Roe were my great-great-grandparents, and we’ll return to their story in due course. But before we do, I want to share what we know about the lives of John and Keziah’s other children – Mary Ann’s brothers and sisters. They will be the subject of the next few posts.