I began this blog by describing the arrival in Stepney, in the closing years of the eighteenth century, of the Holdsworth siblings: John, Sarah, Joseph, William and Godfrey. John and William Holdsworth were both my 4 x great grandfathers, since two of their grandchildren – Mary Ann Blanch and Daniel Roe – would marry each other. Mary Ann was the daughter of John Blanch and Keziah Holdsworth – the daughter of John Holdsworth. Daniel was the son of Daniel Roe senior and Eliza Holdsworth – the daughter of William Holdsworth. Daniel and Mary Ann Roe were my great great grandparents.

Recent posts have followed the story of Keziah Holdsworth, her marriage to John Blanch and the lives of their children, as well as providing some historical background on the Blanch family. Now it’s time to return to the other branch of the Holdsworth family, and to the children of my other 4 x great grandfather, William Holdsworth. We’ll come in due course to the story of William’s daughter Eliza, my 3 x great grandmother, who married Daniel Roe senior and was the mother of the Daniel Roe who married Mary Ann Blanch. But before we do so, I want to explore the lives of Eliza’s brothers and sisters, which are of interest in their own right, throwing light as they do on life in Stepney and Bethnal Green in the first half of the nineteenth century.


Phoebe Holdsworth’s birth recorded in the Nonconformist Register

My 4 x great grandparents, Baptist shoemaker William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia Evans, had six children: Isaac, born in 1794; Samuel, 1795; Phoebe, 1796; Eliza, 1801; Edward Porter, 1803; and Sarah, 1806. I’ve found no records for Isaac or Edward after this christenings, so I assume that they must have died in infancy. Samuel Holdsworth married Lucy Roberts at the church of St George the Martyr in 1817 and they are to be found living in Jane Street, in the parish of St George-in-the-East, at the time of the 1841 census. It’s unclear whether they had any children. Samuel is described in the census record simply as a labourer. Lucy Holdsworth died at Jane Street in 1846, at the age of fifty-eight, and was buried at St George’s church. There is a record of a Samuel Holdsworth dying in Stepney in 1851.

We have much better information for Willliam and Lydia’s three daughters – Phoebe, Sarah and Eliza – and over the course of the next few posts I’ll share what I’ve been able to discover about their lives. In this post I’ll focus on Phoebe, the eldest of the three.

Born on 19th December 1796 in Marmaduke Street, to the north of Cable Street and to the west of Cannon Street, Phoebe wasn’t actually christened until she was eight years old: on 25th September, 1805, at the parish church of St. George-in-the-East. On the same day, her birth was recorded in the Nonconformist register kept at Dr Williams’ Library. At some point, probably in her teenage years, Phoebe seems to have gone to live in Hackney, perhaps to work, and possibly living with her uncle and aunt, Godfrey and Diana Holdsworth, or with one of her cousins, Joseph or John Henry Holdsworth. When she got married on 11th September, 1820, at the age of twenty-four, at St John’s church in Hackney, Phoebe was said to be a resident of the parish. As we shall see, Phoebe and her family appear to have had a sentimental attachment to this part of Hackney, and to St John’s church in particular, where a number of family weddings would take place – despite the fact that they lived for the most part in Bethnal Green. This attachment may simply have been because their relatives lived in the area, or there might have been religious or other reasons that I’m unaware of.


The church of St John at Hackney

The man Phoebe married was Thomas Chamberlin (the spelling of Thomas’ surname varies between records, but I’m using the form he himself used for his signature). The absence of family witnesses at the wedding make it difficult to say anything definitive about Thomas’ background, except that (like Phoebe) he was said to be ‘of this parish’ and, despite the fact that he worked as a bricklayer, there is circumstantial evidence that he came from a family of silk weavers, possibly of Huguenot origin.

The two witnesses named in the parish register seem to have been friends of Thomas or Phoebe. Esther Ann Nevill was born in Shoreditch in 1799 and at the time of the 1841 census would still be living with her parents Samuel and Eleanor in Mile End Old Town. George Harding was probably born in 1803 and in 1841 was living in West Street, Bethnal Green, where he worked as a weaver. He married his wife Sarah Denker in 1825, also at St. John’s, Hackney.

Thomas and Phoebe Chamberlin would have five children, all of them christened at St. Matthew’s church in Bethnal Green, where they would make their home (Phoebe’s parents had also moved to Bethnal Green by this time). They were: Thomas, born in 1821; Phoebe, 1824; William Holdsworth, 1826; Frances, also known as Fanny, 1827; George, 1830; and Ann, also known as Hannah, 1832. All of these, apart from Thomas, were baptised together on 6th March 1836. At the time of Thomas Chamberlin junior’s christening in 1822, the family was living in Sugar Loaf Alley, which connected the green at Bethnal Green with Back Lane. By 1836, the Chamberlins were living in Providence Place, to the north of the green. Thomas Chamberlin died in 1837. I wonder if the prospect of his impending death helps to explain the mass baptism of the Chamberlin children in the previous year?


Bethnal Green in Greenwood’s London map of 1827

Phoebe was married for a second time on 16th November 1837, to baker James Young, in her home parish of St. George-in-the East. James was a widower, though I’ve yet to find any record of his first marriage. He was the son of another James Young, a coachman. The witnesses to the marriage were Elizabeth Curtis and Mary Ann Young, the latter probably James’ sister or mother. The bride and groom were said to be living at 24 Charles Street, just to the north of Devonshire Street on the southern edge of Bethnal Green.

James and Phoebe Young’s son Edward was born in 1839. The 1841 census finds James and Phoebe living in Coventry Street, to the south-west of the green at Bethnal Green, with Edward and with Phoebe’s six children from her first marriage. James is still working as a baker, while Phoebe’s occupation is described as ‘Stock M.’ I’m not sure if this means stock manager, or stock maker. Thomas Chamberlin junior, now twenty, was working as a silk weaver, while his sister Phoebe, fifteen, was a charwoman, and brother William, fourteen, a labourer. Fanny was now twelve, George, eleven, and Hannah, seven. Also living at the same address was shoemaker George Thompson.

Three years later, on Christmas Day 1844, Phoebe Chamberlin the younger married James Stewart Jones at St Leonard’s, Shoreditch. At the time James was living in Paradise Row and Phoebe in New Inn Yard, working as a dressmaker. Phoebe’s sister Frances (Fanny) was one of the witnesses.

In 1846, Thomas Chamberlin junior married Elizabeth Sarah Clark at St. John’s church in Hackney.  The witnesses were Elizabeth’s sister Clara Clark and George Imbert, who seems to have belonged to another Huguenot weaving family from Bethnal Green. Elizabeth Clark was the daughter of optician and sometime goldsmith Frederick John Clark and his wife Susannah, and was born in Clerkenwell in 1828.


Part of Weller’s 1868 map of London, showing Jerusalem Square, off Mare Street, to the north of Paragon Road and south of Morning Lane, Hackney

At the time of their marriage, Thomas and Elizabeth Chamberlin were said to be living in Jerusalem Square, Hackney, where Thomas was working as a weaver (and where his uncle John Henry Holdsworth and his family were also living). Their first son, Thomas William was born on 15th July 1850 and baptised on 6th June 1851 at St. John’s church, Bethnal Green. Unusually, the record lists the godparents, who were Thomas Kirby, James Stewart Jones and Mary Clarke. Thomas Kirby might be the weaver who married Sarah Provost at St. Leonard’s in 1822 and who was living in Sclater Street, Bethnal Green, in 1841. Mary Clarke is almost certainly Elizabeth’s sister. And James Stewart Jones was, as we know, the husband of Thomas’ sister Phoebe.

On the same day and at the same church, Phoebe Holdsworth and her second husband James Young had their daughter, Emily Caroline Young, baptised. Emily was actually nine years old at the time, having been born in 1842. The godparents were James Stewart Jones and his wife Phoebe. This means that Phoebe Jones acted as godmother to her own half-sister.

The baptismal record also reveals that Thomas and Elizabeth Chamberlin were now living at 3 Green Street, Bethnal Green, the same address as Thomas’ mother Phoebe and her husband James Young. This is borne out by the census of that year (1851), which finds Thomas and Elizabeth, the latter now working as a map colourer, with their infant son Thomas, living with James Young, fifty-eight, now described as a cook and confectioner, Phoebe Young, fifty-five, and their children Edward, twelve, and Emily, nine, together with James Young, thirty-four, who appears to be James’ son from an earlier marriage. Occupying another room in the house are dustman Robert Clunes and his wife.

The Chamberlins’ and Youngs’ next door neighbours, at No. 2 Green Street, were none other than my 3 x great grandparents John and Keziah Blanch. Keziah was, of course, a Holdsworth by birth, and Phoebe’s first cousin.


Green Street, Bethnal Green, in the twentieth century, before the demolition of nineteenth-century houses

At the same date, Phoebe’s daughter Phoebe Jones and her husband John Stewart Jones were living at 2 Temple Street, Bethnal Green (between Hackney Road and Old Bethnal Green Road), where John was working as a salesman. They were sharing a house with Phoebe’s sister Frances, who had married porter Joseph Richard Hilditch at St. John’d church, Hackney in 1848.  Like Thomas and Elizabeth Chamberlin, Frances and Joseph gave their address at the time as Jerusalem Square. The two witnesses at the wedding were Frances’ sister Phoebe Jones, and Thomas Parker. Thomas was a first cousin to Frances, since his mother was the older Phoebe’s sister Sarah, who (as we shall see from the next post) had married Thomas Parker senior in 1821.

I haven’t yet discovered, for certain, what became of Thomas and Phoebe Chamberlin‘s son William Holdsworth Chamberlin. There are a number of candidates in the census and marriage records, but for now I can’t be sure which is the right one.

As for their youngest daughter Ann or Hannah, she married butcher John Whiff on 4th March 1855, at the church of St. John of Jerusalem in South Hackney. Their address was given simply as South Hackney and Ann’s brother Thomas was one of the witnesses. In 1861 they would be living at 33 Green Street, Bethnal Green, and John would be working as a tripe dresser. John and Ann had seven children: Ann Chamberlin, 1855;  Maria Frances, 1857; Clara Rebecca, 1860; James Stewart, 1867; Harriet Eleanor, 1869; Thomas, 1871; and Charles, 1875.

Phoebe Holdsworth’s son George Francis Chamberlin emigrated to Australia. There he married Emma Ball and they had six children, all born in the Melbourne area. Apparently George died in 1910, in the Melbourne suburb of South Yarra. It may not be coincidental that Phoebe’s cousin Joseph Holdsworth, the son of her uncle John Holdsworth, also lived there, having emigrated with his wife Elizabeth in 1854: Joseph died in South Yarra four years after George Chamberlin.

Phoebe Holdsworth’s son Thomas Chamberlin junior and his wife Elizabeth had six other children after their son Thomas William: Elizabeth, born in 1853; George Arthur, 1854; Frederick, 1856; William, 1859; Caleb, 1861; and Jessie, 1867. By the time of George’s christening at the church of St. Simon Zelotes in January 1855, the Chamberlins had moved to 28 West Street, on the western side of what is now Cambridge Heath Road. When William Edward was christened, along with his older sister Elizabeth Kate, at the same church in March 1860, the Chamberlins were living at 33 West Street, presumably with Thomas’ sister Ann and her husband John Whiff who were at the same address. In both of these records Thomas is described as a labourer. In the census of the following year (1861), the Chamberlins can be found next door, at 32 West Street, where Thomas now kept a beer house. Their neighbours appear to be mostly weavers. The baptismal record for their son Caleb records another move in the same street, to No. 23,  where Thomas is now working as a dock man; presumably the beer house venture was not a success.

James Young died some time between 1851 and 1861. At the time of the 1861 census, his widow Phoebe can be found living with her son Edward, now twenty-two, a labourer, at 4 Globe Street, which ran south from Green Street. Phoebe’s age is said to be seventy-eight, but this must be an error: she was in fact about sixty-five years old. The census record states that she was working as a nurse. Her daughter Emily Caroline had married Abraham Samuels, a porter, the year before: both were living in Temple Street at the time.

In 1871 seventy-five-year-old Phoebe Young, a widow with no occupation, was living at 3 Collins Place, Bethnal Green, with labourer William Herring and his family: I’m not sure what, if any, relation she was to them. Phoebe died four years later, in the first quarter of 1875: she was seventy-nine years old.