My 3 x great grandparents John and Keziah Blanch had four daughters. Their eldest daughter, Mary Ann, was my great great grandmother, and she and her family will be the subject of later posts. In this post, I’m continuing to explore the lives of Mary Ann’s siblings by focusing on her three younger sisters – Kezia Sarah, Eliza Maria and Emma Louisa. I’ll be discussing them together because their stories overlap and intertwine in a number of ways, and because their shared experience highlights some of the challenges and constraints faced by working-class women in nineteenth-century London.

Kezia Sarah Blanch was the eldest of the three: born in Stepney in 1834, she was christened at St Dunstan’s church with her younger sister Eliza Maria in 1837. The 1841 census finds the two girls, aged seven and five, living with their parents and their older siblings, James Joseph and Mary Ann, at the family home in Wellington Street in Mile End Old Town. Their sister Emma Louisa would be born in the following year, but wouldn’t be christened until she was sixteen years old.

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Victorian housemaids at work

By 1851 the Blanch family had moved to Green Street, Bethnal Green, and nine-year-old Emma Louisa was still at home with her parents. However, as I’ve noted in earlier posts, her seventeen-year-old sister Kezia Sarah was already working as a housemaid, alongside her aunt Eliza Holdsworth, in the home of Mary Fletcher in Regent’s Terrace.

Fourteen-year-old Eliza Maria was also absent from home, but I haven’t been able to find her anywhere in the census records. However, by 1861, when she was twenty-three years old, Eliza was back with her parents, who had moved to Soho in the meantime, supporting the family shoemaking business by working as a shoe binder. Her sister Emma, now twenty, was also making a contribution to the family income as a needlewoman.

I haven’t managed to find Keziah Sarah in the 1861 census, though I assume she was still working somewhere as a domestic servant. Ten years later, in 1871, Kezia, now thirty-seven and still unmarried, was working as a housemaid in the extensive household of George Pollock, a pioneering surgeon and landowner, in Grosvenor Street, Hanover Square.

By 1881, forty-six-year-old Kezia had moved to another post, as a cook and domestic servant in the home of annuitant Mary Combe in Ealing. Kezia is described in the census record as a widow, but I’ve found no record of a marriage; if she had been married, she has now reverted to her maiden name. Kezia’s aunt Eliza Holdsworth, eighty-three, is listed as a visitor at the time of the census. Ten years later, in 1891, Kezia, now fifty-six, is still working for Mary Combe in Ealing, and her aunt is again (or still) there as a visitor.

As for Kezia’s sister Emma Louisa, in July 1869 she had married carpenter Walter Trader, the son of another shoemaker, at St Anne’s church in Limehouse. The witnesses were Emma’s father John Blanch and her older sister, my great great grandmother Mary Ann Roe née Blanch. At the time of their marriage the couple were living in William Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East, an address with family associations going back to the early years of the century (Emma’s mother Keziah had lived there for a while as a child, when the family first arrived in Stepney from Oxford).

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Victorian family butcher’s shop (via bertramfiddle.tumblr.com)

Two years later, when the 1871 census was taken, Walter Trader appears to have switched trades and become a butcher, and the couple have moved to Shoreditch. By 1881 they were in Grange Road, West Ham, where they were neighbours of Emma’s brother Joseph James Blanch and his family. Walter and Emma had no children of their own, but lodging with them in 1881, and working as an assistant to Walter, was Emma’s nineteen-year-old nephew – and my great grandfather – Joseph Priestley Roe, the orphaned son of her sister Mary Ann, who had died in 1870. Emma suffered a loss of her own seven years later, in 1888, when her husband Walter died at the age of forty-seven.

Emma’s sister Eliza Maria has proven difficult to trace in the 1871 census record, but by 1881 she had moved to Ealing, where she was living with her widowed mother Keziah, a laundress, and Keziah’s granddaughter Flora (son of John Holdsworth Blanch, the subject of the next post) and great grandchildren Ruth and Leonard Kew (children of Mary Ann Roe’s daughter, Mary Ann Kew). Keziah Blanch née Holdsworth would die later that year, at the age of seventy-seven.

The 1891 census finds Eliza Maria Blanch living in Raymond Road, West Ham, as a lodger in the home of engineer’s labourer William Joss. Also lodging at the same address is her widowed sister Emma Trader – both are earning a living as corset makers – and their twenty-two-year-old niece Flora, now working as a waitress. Visiting the house at the time of the census are Flora’s younger sisters Edith, fourteen, and Mary, six.

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Ealing in about 1910

The 1901 census finds the three Blanch sisters reunited. Kezia Sarah Blanch, now sixty-six, has finally graduated from domestic service to become a boarding-house keeper in Oxford Road, Ealing. Living with Kezia are her sisters Eliza Maria, sixty-four, and Emma Trader, fifty-five, as well as their niece Flora, now thirty-two and working as a barmaid. (Interestingly, the Blanch sisters’ grandfather, patten maker James Blanch, had owned property in Ealing at the time of his first marriage in the 1780s.)

I’m not sure when Kezia Sarah Blanch died. Eliza Maria Blanch died in 1909 at the age of seventy-two. Emma Louisa Trader died in 1921 at age of seventy-eight. One was a widow, the other two never married, and none of them left any children.

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