Recent posts have explored the lives of a number of my ancestors who lived in Bethnal Green in the first half of the nineteenth century. Having traced these individual lives, I thought it might be interesting to plot their movements as a family around Bethnal Green over the course of half a century, as the area was transformed from a village surrounded by open fields to an overcrowded London suburb.


Part of Wallis’ Plan Of The Cities of London and Westminster, published in 1804, showing Wilmot Street and St Matthew’s church, Bethnal Green (via

The first reference to Bethnal Green in the records for the Holdsworth family dates from 13th August 1803, when Sarah Holdsworth, one of the five Holdsworth siblings who had migrated from Essex to London in the late eighteenth century, married her second husband William Parker at St Matthew’s church, which was on the south side of Bethnal Green Road. The second reference is from 1806, when the members’ register of Little Alie Street Baptist Chapel in Whitechapel records that Sarah’s brother, my 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth, was living in Wilmot Street, Bethnal Green. Wilmot Street was also on the south side of Bethnal Green Road, to the west of what is now Cambridge Heath Road (see map above).

William and his wife Lydia and their children must have moved to Bethnal Green after January 1803, when the parish register of St Dunstan’s church, Stepney, records that they were living in Mile End New Town, at the time that their son, Edward Porter Holdsworth was christened. The child was named either after Sarah Holdsworth’s first husband, Edward Porter, who had died in 1799, or (more likely) after her son, Edward Parker Porter, who had died in January 1802, at the age of eight. William and Lydia Holdsworth’s next child, their daughter Sarah, born in Bethnal Green in 1806, was obviously named after William’s sister.


The parish register of St Matthew’s church, Bethnal Green, records the marriage of William Parker and Sarah Porter née Holdsworth, witnessed by her brother William Holdsworth, in August 1803

When I consider these records together, and add the fact that William Holdsworth was one of the witnesses to his sister Sarah’s marriage to William Parker in 1803 (see above), it points to a close relationship existing between brother and sister. I wonder, in fact, whether the widowed Sarah Porter née Holdsworth might actually have been living with her brother William and his family in Wilmot Street, at the time of her second marriage. That might explain why Sarah, who had previously lived on Mile End Road, and William Parker, who was from Whitechapel, chose to marry at a church in Bethnal Green.

As I noted in an earlier post, William and Lydia Holdsworth appear to have moved to the Essex village of Woodford at some point, from where William, having retired from his occupation as a shoemaker, ran a carrier business to and from London. I’ve also been unable to find any further records for William and Sarah Parker in Bethnal Green.


Bethnal Green, from Greenwood’s 1827 map of London (via

We have to wait another twenty years or so for the next reference to Bethnal Green in the family records, when William and Lydia Holdsworth’s daughters Phoebe and Sarah were living in the area, following their respective marriages. In 1822, two years after their marriage, Phoebe Holdsworth and her husband, bricklayer Thomas Chamberlin, could be found living in Sugar Loaf Alley, which ran between the green at Bethnal Green and Back Lane. In 1825, four years after their marriage, Sarah Holdsworth and her husband, silk weaver Thomas Parker, were living in nearby Park Street, on the other side of Back Lane. By 1828 the Parkers had moved to West Street, one of the road leading off Green Street, the main road running out of Bethnal Green to the east. They would remain in West Street for the next twenty years or so.

Some time in the 1830s Thomas and Phoebe Chamberlin moved from Sugar Loaf Alley to Providence Place, which apparently was just to the north of the green (though I can’t find it on any contemporary maps). After Thomas Chamberlin’s death in 1837 and at the time of her second marriage, to baker James Young, later in the same year, Phoebe could be found living in Charles Street, on the southern side of the village.


Bethnal Green in 1844, from Cross’ London Guide (via

The 1841 census finds Thomas and Sarah Parker still living in West Street, though by now James and Phoebe Young had moved again, to Coventry Street, which was close to her childhood home in Wilmot Street. At some point before the next census was taken in 1851, Phoebe had moved again, nearer to her sister Sarah. She and James were now at 3 Green Street, where they were neighbours of Phoebe’s and Sarah’s aunt Keziah Blanch, her husband John, a shoemaker, and their family, who were at No.2, having moved there from Mile End Old Town some time after 1841.


The 1851 census finds the families of John and Keziah Blanch, and James and Phoebe Young, living next-door to each other in Green Street, Bethnal Green (via

In 1851 Thomas and Sarah Parker were still around the corner from their relatives in West Street – at No 28 – where, as I’ve noted before, they had two visitors on the day the census was taken. One of them was eighteen-year-old Eliza Philpot, a silk weaveress, who would marry John and Keziah Blanch’s son Joseph James Blanch, a carpenter, in the following year. Eliza’s parents, John and Sarah Philpot, also silk weavers, lived nearby at 51 East Street. At the time of her marriage in 1852, Eliza Philpot gave her address as 4 Green Street, which was the home of her sister Ann, who was married to William Brereton, yet another silk weaver.


Bethnal Green in 1868, from Weller’s map of London (via

By 1861, John and Keziah Blanch had moved from Bethnal Green to Soho. As I noted in the last post, I haven’t been able to find Thomas and Sarah Parker in the census for this year. Phoebe Holdsworth’s second husband James Young died in 1854 and in 1861 she was living with her adult son Edward in Globe Street, which ran southwards from Green Street. The last record we have for any of the Holdsworth family in Bethnal Green is from 1871, when Sarah Parker née Holdsworth died at James Street.

I’ve deliberately omitted one branch of the Holdsworth family from this account of my ancestors’ lives in Bethnal Green. William and Lydia Holdsworth’s other daughter, my 3 x great grandmother Eliza Holdsworth, left Bethnal Green as a young woman to seek work elsewhere, but returned as a widow in the 1840s, with three of her adult children. I’ll tell their story in the next post.