A man came yesterday from Bethnal Green with an account of that district. They are all weavers, forming a sort of separate community; there they are born, there they live and labour, and there they die. They neither migrate nor change their occupation; they can do nothing else. They have increased in a ratio at variance with any principles of population, having nearly tripled in twenty years, from 22,000 to 62,000.
Charles Greville, Diary, 17th February 1832
BETHNAL GREEN. A low-lying district, separated from Stepney in the year 1743, and made a parish by the name of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green. It is chiefly inhabited by poor weavers of silk, connected with the great French settlement in Spitalfields.
Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850
In this post I’m continuing to explore the lives of the three daughters of my 4 x great grandfather, Stepney shoemaker William Holdsworth and his wife Lydia. Their youngest child was Sarah, who was born in 1806. Her three eldest siblings, Isaac, Samuel and Phoebe, had been born in Marmaduke Street in the parish of St George-in-the-East. The next two children, Eliza (my 3 x great grandmother) and Edward Porter, were born in Mile End Old Town, in 1801 and 1803 respectively, and the latter was christened at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney.
However, in 1806, the year of Sarah’s birth, the records of Little Alie Street Baptist Meeting in Whitechapel note that her parents’ address was now Wilmot Street, which was in Bethnal Green, just south of what would later be known as Bethnal Green Road. Nevertheless, when Sarah got married in October 1821, when she was just fifteen, she chose to do so at the Holdsworth family’s original parish church of St George-in-the-East. Both parties signed their names and the witnesses to the marriage were John Preston and Ann Ayres, the latter imprinting her mark.
Sarah’s husband was Thomas Parker, a twenty-one-year-old Bethnal Green-born silk weaver, but coming to any definite conclusions about his family background has proved difficult. It’s possible that he was related to the William Parker who was the second husband of another Sarah Holdsworth – the aunt of the Sarah being discussed here. In an earlier post, I suggested that the connection between the Holdsworth and Parker families might go be even further: the first Sarah Holdsworth gave the middle name ‘Parker’ to her son Edward, even when she was married her first husband Edward Porter.
St Matthew’s church, Bethnal Green (via geograph.org.uk)
The next record we have for Thomas and Sarah Parker after their marriage in 1821 is for the joint christening of their first two children, Sarah and Eliza, at St Matthew’s church, Bethnal Green, on 21st August 1825. Sarah had been born in March 1823 and Eliza in February 1825. According to the parish register, the family was living at Park Street, Bethnal Green, which ran off Back Lane, to the east of the green, and just to the north of Green Street, where Sarah’s sister Phoebe and her aunt Keziah would later be living. Eliza Parker would died in 1827, at the age of two.
By the time their son Thomas was christened at the same church, on 10th August 1828 (he had been born on 4th February), Thomas and Sarah Parker were living in West Street, Bethnal Green, which ran south from Green Street. (However, at least one census record notes that Thomas was born in Woodford, Essex, to which his grandparents William and Lydia Holdsworth had retired.) It was from this address that Sarah was christened as an adult, at St Matthew’s, on 20th July 1829. In 1830, the Parkers were at the same address when their son William was baptised, and the same was true for the christening of their son Joseph in 1833.
Silk weavers’ cottages, Bethnal Green (via victorianlondon.org)
The 1841 census finds the Parkers still living in West Street. Thomas is said to be a silk weaver, an occupation he shares with a number of his close neighbours, suggesting that this was a street of mostly weavers’ cottages. Thomas, forty, and Sarah, thirty-five, were living with their children Sarah, fifteen, Thomas, fourteen, William, eleven, and Joseph, eight.
On 11th September 1845, Thomas and Sarah Parker were witnesses to the second marriage of Sarah’s sister Eliza, my 3 x great grandmother, at St George-in-the-East. As I’ll explain in a later post, Eliza Holdsworth had married Bedfordshire shoemaker Daniel Roe in 1825 but had been widowed in 1836. Now she was marrying carpenter John Sharp and would soon return with him to his home in Barkway, Hertfordshire.
In 1846, the Parkers’ eldest daughter Sarah, then aged twenty-three, married George Garner, also at St George-in-the-East. Like his father of the same name, and like Sarah’s father Thomas, George was described rather grandly in the parish register as a ‘silk manufacturer’. At the time he was said to be living at 6 Lower Chapman Street, while Sarah was at 18 Lower John Street. Both streets were in the area between Commercial Road and Cable Street where Sarah’s Holdsworth grandparents had lived before moving north to Mile End Old Town and Bethnal Green. The marriage was witnessed by my 3 x great grandparents John Blanch and Kezia Holdsworth, the latter being the cousin of the bride’s mother.
In February 1850 Thomas and Sarah Parker were witnesses to the marriage of Sarah’s nephew Richard Roe, one of the sons of her sister Eliza, to Fanny Elizabeth Debney, at St George’s church, Hanover Square.
Bethnal Green, in Cross’ London map of 1851
The 1851 census finds Thomas and Sarah Parker still living and working in West Street, Bethnal Green. Their home is at No. 28, where Thomas is said to be a silk weaver and Sarah is described as a silk weaveress. The adjacent and neighbouring houses in West Street are also occupied by silk weavers. The Parkers had two young visitors at the time of the census: Harriet Payton, eighteen, and Eliza Philpot, twenty-one, both of whom are described as silk weaveresses. Both were the daughters of silk weavers who lived in neighbouring streets. In the following year, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Eliza Philpot would marry Joseph James Blanch, son of the Parkers’ relatives and neighbours, John and Keziah Blanch.
Thomas junior, William and Joseph had all left the Parker family home by 1851. Thomas, twenty-five, was now living and working – as a journeyman baker – with his brother-in-law George Garner in Southwark. I haven’t managed to find out what became of William or Joseph.
Two years after the census, on 17th April 1853, Thomas Parker junior married his cousin Eliza Roe the younger at St George in the East. Eliza, born in Biggleswade in 1833, was the daughter of Eliza Holdsworth and her first husband Daniel Roe. At the time of their marriage, both were said to be living in Chapel Street, another of the streets to the north of Cable Street: Thomas, still working as a baker, was at No. 2 and Eliza at No. 9. Eight years earlier, at the time of her second marriage to John Sharp, Eliza Roe’s mother had given her address as 16 Chapel Street.
Victorian pub scene: ‘Behind the Bar’ by John Henry Henshall
The witnesses to the marriage were Thomas Parker junior’s sister Sarah Garner, and a certain Martin Landragin. He, like Thomas, was a weaver’s son from Bethnal Green, who would later become a licensed victualler and landlord of the Fox in Deptford. This is interesting, in light of the fact that Thomas Parker senior is described in the register as a licensed victualler, though it’s unclear when or why he ceased working as silk weaver, nor where his licensed premises were: perhaps Parker and Landragin were in business together? Born in Shoreditch in 1828, Martin Landragin was the son of weaver Martin Garrey Landragin and his wife Sarah Ogle. Martin Landragin senior was the son of John Nicholas Étienne Landragin and Johanna Felicité Guerriot, who were married at St Andrews, Holborn, in 1795. There is a suggestion that the Landragins may have fled from France at the time of the Revolution: if so, they would have joined countless other weaving families of French ancestry in this part of London, many of them descended from an earlier wave of Huguenot refugees.
The record of Thomas junior’s wedding in 1853 is the last definite mention of Thomas Parker senior that I’ve managed to find. I’ve yet to find either Thomas or Sarah in the 1861 census, though the records for Bethnal Green appear to be incomplete. Sarah Parker née Holdsworth died in January 1871 at the age of sixty-five at 4 James Street, which was off Green Street in Bethnal Green, and was buried in the Nonconformist Cemetery at Victoria Park, Hackney. The date of Thomas Parker’s death is not known.