In the two preceding posts I’ve written about the children of my 3 x great grandparents, Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch and his wife Keziah Holdsworth: firstly about their eldest son, Joseph James, and then in the last post about three of his sisters – Keziah Sarah, Eliza Maria and Emma Louisa. As I’ve mentioned before, the story of the eldest Blanch sister – my great great grandmother Mary Ann Blanch – will be the subject of a later post. In this post, I want to focus on the youngest of the Blanch siblings: John Holdsworth Blanch. 

John was born in Bethnal Green in 1844 and at the time of the 1851 census, when he was six or seven years old, was living with his parents at No. 2 Green Street. Ten years later, when he was sixteen, John was working as a ‘shop lad’ in his parents’ shoemakers’ shop in Soho.

Five years later, on 30th December 1866, John Holdsworth Blanch married Elizabeth Brooks at St Anne’s church, Limehouse, where so many other members of the family had been married. At the time they were living in Salmon Lane, Limehouse and John was working as a carpenter and builder, like his older brother Joseph James. The two witnesses at the wedding were both from John’s side of the family: his father John and his sister Emma Louisa.

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Old photograph of Kelmscott (via kelmscott.org.uk)

Elizabeth Brooks had been born in 1844 in Kelmscott, Oxfordshire, a village that would later become famous for its associations with the writer, artist and social reformer William Morris. She was the daughter of farm labourer Richard Brooks, from nearby Clanfield, and his wife Jane. When the 1861 census was taken, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth was a ‘house servant’ in nearby Bampton. At some point in the next five years, she must have moved to London, perhaps to take up another post in domestic service, though her family seems to have remained in Clanfield.

John and Elizabeth Blanch’s first son, John Richard, was born Clanfield in 1867 and christened on 31st March in the village church. The parish register gives his parents’ address as St James, Westminster. This suggests both that Elizabeth had returned to her parents’ home to give birth, and that she and John had already moved to the address in Great Pulteney Street, Soho, where they would be found at the time of the 1871 census. Curiously, census records claim that their daughter Flora Sophia, born two years later, was born in Priory Road, Bromley-by-Bow, though in the same year John and Elizabeth had a second son, James Robert, who was born in the parish of St James, Westminster. This part of London was familiar territory for the Blanch family: John Holdsworth Blanch’s grandfather James had lived in Compton Street as a young man, and his uncles Thomas and David Blanch had owned a coachbuilding business in Great Windmill Street. In addition, as we shall see from later posts, his parents John and Keziah Blanch had moved, with his sister Mary Ann and her family, to nearby Great Crown Court, at some point in the 1850s.

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Part of Soho, from Weller’s 1868 map of London (via london1868.com)

Another daughter, Elizabeth Kezia Jane Blanch, often known simply as Kezia Jane, or just Jane, was born to John and Elizabeth Blanch in Clanfield in 1872. This suggests another visit home by Elizabeth, since their next four children, Emma Sarah (1875), Edith Eliza (1876), Sophia Alice (1878) and Walter Thomas (1880) would all be born in Westminster. These five children were all christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1881: Sophia and Edith in February, and Walter, Emma and Kezia Jane in March. By this time, the family was living at 4 Sherwood Place (which I think was off Sherwood Street), where they could be found when the 1881 census was taken.

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The family of John and Elizabeth Blanch in the 1881 census (via ancestry.co.uk)

This census record includes the mysterious description of Elizabeth, under ‘rank, profession or occupation’, as ‘British Slave’ (see image above). Some of my fellow family historians think this might be a joke on the part of the enumerator, while others believe it could be a transcription error. Either way, it’s distinctly odd, and I’d be interested to know what readers of this blog make of it. On the night of the census the household included, besides John and Elizabeth and their seven children, a visitor by the name of Mary Brooks, who was born in Kelmscott and must have been a relative of Elizabeth’s.

John and Elizabeth Blanch would have three more children in the next ten years. Mary Holdsworth Blanch was born in 1883, Flora Helen Blanch in 1888 and David Holdsworth Blanch in 1889, all at Sherwood Place. In the case of Mary and Flora, the Blanches again opted for a joint baptism at St Martin-in-the-Fields, in 1888; I’ve yet to find a christening record for David.

In 1889 John and Elizabeth’s eldest son John Richard Blanch married Louisa Lloyd; they had a daughter Elisabeth Louisa two years later. It’s very likely that they were living with John’s parents throughout this time, since the 1891 census finds them all together in Sherwood Place, where their neighbours on either side are tailors: from Germany, Hungary and Poland. John senior and Elizabeth are now forty-seven. Their sons John, twenty-four, and James, twenty-one, are both carpenters and joiners like their father (they were probably working with him), while  sixteen-year-old Emma is working as a general domestic servant and eighteen-year-old (Kezia) Jane is a tailoress.

The 1891 census enumerator seems to have been prone to errors. He gives the birthplace of Elizabeth Blanch, her son John Richard and daughter Jane, as Bedfordshire, when in fact it was Oxfordshire. He also records the birthplace of John Richard’s wife Louisa as Preston, Lancashire, when in fact it was Stafford. Then there is the following curiosity. A male visitor, whose age looks to be eighty-four (though it could just as easily be read as ninety-four), and whose name has been transcribed at Ancestry as Richard Norman, though it looks more like Archibald Holman, is staying with the Blanch family. He is described as a street inspector ‘par’ (parish?), and his birthplace is given as ‘New York, USA’. I have no clue as to the identity of this person or his connection to the Blanch family. However, it’s possible that he was simply a visitor at the time that the census official called, and had no family relationship with the Blanches. I understand that street inspectors or street-keepers were a kind of constable or watchman employed by the parish vestry.

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By the time the next census was taken, in 1901, John and Elizabeth, now fifty-seven, had moved out of  central London and were living at 163 Bollo Lane, Acton, not far from where John’s mother and sisters had been living in Ealing. With them are their son David, twelve, and granddaughter Edith, two, though I’m not entirely sure who the latter’s parents were. The 1911 census finds the couple back in London and living, by themselves, at 42 Essex Street, off the Strand. They are now both aged sixty-six, and John is still working as a house carpenter and Elizabeth as a housekeeper for ‘offices’. Since she is said to be working from home, I assume that she and John had a flat in the office building.

John Holdsworth Blanch died in Uxbridge in 1923, at the age of seventy-eight. Elizabeth Blanch née Brooks died in Ealing in 1937, at the age of ninety-two.

This is what became of the children of John Holdsworth Blanch and Elizabeth Brooks, to the best of my knowledge:

Walter Thomas died in infancy, in 1881, while Sophia Alice died in 1882, at the age of four. I’ve found no definite records for Flora Helen Blanch after her birth in 1888.

As already mentioned, John Richard Blanch married Louisa Lloyd in 1889 and they had a daughter Elizabeth Louisa in 1891. By 1901 the young family had moved, like John’s parents, to Acton, and in fact were living in the same street as them, at 135 Bollo Lane, where John was working, almost certainly with his father, as a carpenter. By 1911 John and Louisa, now in their early forties, were living in Southall, where John was working as a carpenter and joiner for a hotel company. In 1913 their only daughter, Elizabeth Louisa, married seaman George Trotman, who would serve in the Royal Navy during the First World War. John Richard Blanch died in 1935 and his widow Louisa in 1942, both of them in Islington.

I mentioned Flora Sophia Blanch in the previous post. For some reason, she seems to have lived with her grandmother Keziah Blanch from an early age, and then with her aunts. In 1881, at the age of twenty-two Flora was living with her aunts Emma and Eliza in West Ham, working as a waitress, and ten years later she was with Emma, Eliza and Kezia at the latter’s boarding house at 7 Oxford Road, Ealing, working as a barmaid. The 1911 census finds Flora, now forty-two, at 40 Oxford Road and employed as a housekeeper to sixty-three-year-old Walter Chater, a monumental letter cutter and clearly also a boarding house owner, since there are six boarders at the same address. The census record described Walter Chater as married, but if that’s so then he must have been widowed or divorced by 1917, when he and Flora would marry. She was forty-eight and he would have been sixty-nine. The electoral register for 1930 finds the couple living in Harrow. Walter Chater died in 1937 at the age of eighty-eight and Flora in 1951 at the age of eighty-two. Walter and Flora are buried together in Ealing and Old Brentford Cemetery.

James Robert Blanch, who worked as a carpenter and joiner like his father,  married Fanny Eliza Diamond in June 1895. In 1901 they were living in Rothschild Road, Ealing, and in 1911 in Montgomery Road, Acton Green. They had five children: James Albert, Frederick Sidney, Winifred Ethel, John Oliver and Robert James. James Robert Blanch enlisted in the Royal Engineers at the outbreak of the First World War, when he was thirty-nine years old. His wife Fanny died in 1945, at the age of seventy-five, and James died in 1951, at the age of eighty-one. They are both buried with James’ mother Elizabeth Blanch in Acton Cemetery.

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Burial record for Elizabeth Blanch née Brooks, her son James and daughter-in-law Fanny (via ancestry.co.uk)

Elizabeth Kezia Jane Blanch married William Hoffman, a ‘traveller’ in Acton, in 1902, when she was twenty-nine and he was thirty-four. The couple gave their address as 163 Bollo Lane, which was the home of Kezia Jane’s parents. William Hoffmann may be the German national of that name who is listed in a catalogue of civilian deaths during the Second World War; he was injured at a hospital in the Fulham Road and died as a result of his injuries at a hospital in Windsor, in February 1941, at the age of seventy-three. This William Hoffman had a wife named Elizabeth Jane and they lived at Essex Street, off the Strand, which is where Elizabeth Kezia Jane Blanch’s parents had been living in 1911 (see above). I’m fairly certain that she is the ‘Elizabeth K. J. Hoffman’ who died in the same year, at the age of sixty-seven, in Lambeth.

Emma Sarah Blanch married fruiterer Percy Rainier Arter at Ealing in August 1902, when they were both twenty-eight years old. In 1911 they were living with their daughter Emily Blanch Arter in Talbot Road, West Ealing. I’m not sure when Percy died, but Emma died in 1933 at the age of fifty-eight and was buried in Ealing and Old Brentford Cemetery.

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Edith Eliza Blanch (photograph via BrendaMaeMcD’s family tree at ancestry.com)

In 1891, as I noted in the last post, two of John Holdsworth Blanch’s daughters – Edith Eliza Blanch, fifteen, and Mary Holdsworth Blanch, six, could be found visiting their sister Flora, at the address in West Ham that she shared with their aunts Emma Louisa and Eliza Maria Blanch. In 1898 Edith married Herbert Roger Holder, and they had three children, Edith Blanch Elizabeth (also known as Blanche), Alice Florence and Alfred Roger, before emigrating to Montreal, Canada, in 1905. Edith died there in 1969.

Mary Holdsworth Blanch married William George Hoerr, a cabinet maker and the son of German immigrants, at St Pancras in 1906. William and Mary would have three children: Wilhemina (Minnie) May in 1907, Blanche Elizabeth in 1910, and George Holdsworth in 1919. When the 1911 census was taken, they were living in Stanhope Street, Regents Park. Wilhemina and Blanche seem to have lived in Canada at some point, perhaps with their aunt Edith (see above); neither seems to have married. George emigrated to New Zealand, where he died in 2001. William Hoerr died in Edmonton, London, in 1951, and his wife Mary in Hendon in 1975.

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William Hoerr with his daughters Minnie and Blanche (via BrendaMaeMcD’s family tree at ancestry.com)

John Holdsworth Blanch’s youngest son, David Holdsworth Blanch, married Ellen Elizabeth Pleasants in Acton in 1910. Both were aged twenty-one and living at 38 Colville Road, not far from David’s parents’ home in Bollo Lane. They were still there in the following year, when the 1911 census was taken: David was working as a carpenter, like his father, and Ellen as a laundress. There is some evidence that David and Ellen also lived in Canada for a while, though I have no information about any children born to the couple. They may be the David and Ellen Blanch buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto: David having died in 1972 and Ellen in 1973, at the ages of eighty-two and eighty-three respectively.

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