Having written about his three siblings, Richard, Caleb and Eliza, I now turn to the life of my great great grandfather Daniel Roe the younger. Born in Bedfordshire, Daniel spent most of his life working as a boot and shoemaker in London, first in Bethnal Green and then in Soho.


Baptismal record for Daniel, Eliza and Caleb Roe in Biggleswade in 1834 (via Ron Roe)

Daniel was born in 1829 in Stratton Street, Biggleswade, where his father, Daniel Roe the elder, kept a shoemaker’s shop. Daniel junior was the third child of his father’s marriage to Stepney-born domestic servant Eliza Holdsworth. He was christened, together with his siblings Caleb and Eliza, in January 1834. As I’ve reported elsewhere, Daniel, Caleb and Eliza, together with their widowed mother, all came to London in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Daniel was the first of the Roe siblings to marry. On 30th October 1848, when he was nineteen years old, he married Mary Ann Blanch at St Anne’s church in Limehouse. Mary Ann, who at twenty-one was two years older than Daniel, was the eldest child of Bethnal Green shoemaker John Blanch and his wife Keziah Holdsworth, the latter being the cousin of Daniel’s mother Eliza. This means that Daniel and Mary Ann were second cousins. I’ve often wondered, given his occupation and the fact that they would work together in later years, whether Daniel was actually apprenticed to his future father-in-law, when he first arrived in London from Bedfordshire.

Daniel and Mary Ann Roe’s first child, named Kezia Eliza after her two grandmothers, was born almost exactly two years after their wedding, on 7th October 1850, and christened at St Dunstan’s church in Stepney on 12th January in the following year. The parish register describes Daniel as a boot maker and gives the couple’s address as ‘Green Street Globe Lane’. At first I assumed this must be Green Street, Bethnal Green, and that Daniel and Mary Ann were living there with the latter’s parents, but then I saw on a contemporary map that there was another Green Street that led off Globe Lane, which ran south from Bethnal Green towards Mile End Road. This location would explain the choice of St Dunstan’s, rather than one of the parish churches in Bethnal Green, as the location for Kezia Eliza’s christening.


Section of Cross’ New Plan of London, 1850, showing St Thomas Square – near the top of the image, below Loddige’s Nursery – and Green Street, off Globe Lane, at the bottom (via mapco.net)

However, it appears that Kezia Eliza Roe was not actually born in Stepney or Bethnal Green – but in Hackney. Her birth was registered by her mother Mary Ann, who gave both the place of the child’s birth and her own address as St Thomas Square, Hackney. I’ve spent many hours puzzling over why this should be, and why her parents, and in later years Kezia herself, should think it important to be so specific when giving information to the census enumerator. One possibility may have been the prestige associated with the address. St Thomas Square, on the east side of Mare Street in Hackney, was an impressive Georgian development which in 1850 was still a comfortable middle-class enclave. At the time of the 1851 census, the houses in the square were occupied by (among others) a physician, a solicitor, two retired merchants and a number of insurance brokers. To be sure, one house was home to a bricklayer and his family, but even they were able to afford a servant. The home of a labourer named Samuel West is the only anomaly in this otherwise well-heeled square.

How did Kezia Eliza Roe come to be born in St Thomas Square? Were her parents living there at the time of her birth, and if so, why did they move away from the area where they were married and would be living in the following years? And how did a young journeyman shoemaker and his wife come to be living in a fashionable suburban square? When I’ve found other working-class ancestors of mine at middle-class addresses in the records, it’s usually because they were working as servants. But it seems unlikely that this would be the case for a newly-married couple. My search through the 1851 census records has thrown up no clues. None of the names in the records are familiar or appear to have any associations with the Roes or their relatives, even though I’ve noted in previous posts that other members of the Holdsworth family were living elsewhere in Hackney at the time. There is one caveat: I’m not sure that the census records for St Thomas Square are complete. In 1851, the square can be found in Enumeration District 11 in the Hackney sub-registration district. However, the description of the enumeration district includes the phrase ‘round St Thomas Square on the left hand side’ (suggesting that there were also houses on the right hand side) and the actual record only includes Nos 1-10. Other records appear to suggest that there were 17 dwellings in all, but I haven’t been able to find the remainder in the digitised records. In the records made available on the Ancestry website, we jump from District 11 to District 12b.


St Thomas Square Congregational Chapel and School in 1861 (via media.vam.ac.uk)


This image from Google Maps shows the arch on Mare Street that is the only remaining trace of the St Thomas Square chapel

The other possibility is that there was a religious, rather than a familial connection with St Thomas Square.  The longstanding associations of Hackney with Protestant Nonconformity are well known, and the south of the borough where St. Thomas Square is located had a particular significance in the history of Dissent. Not only was the Unitarian chapel where the radical eighteenth-century minister Joseph Priestley preached only a few streets away (I think it was in Chatham Place), but Priestley’s associate Richard Price had lived in the square – at No. 2 – when he was minister at the same chapel. As we shall see, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe would name their youngest son – my great grandfather – after Joseph Priestley.

Even more importantly for our purposes, St. Thomas Square was dominated by a large Congregational chapel, built in 1772. This chapel was served by a number of distinguished ministers over the years, including Matthew Henry, author of the eponymous Bible commentary. The minister at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was Samuel Palmer, who was succeeded by his assistant, Henry Forster Burder, who also taught at the Dissenting academy at Hoxton (the predecessor to the Hackney Dissenting Academy). Perhaps significantly, Burder was a fellow student and close friend of Rev Joseph Fletcher whose ministry in Stepney would have been contemporaneous with Burder’s at St. Thomas Square. Burder served at St. Thomas Square until about 1850. In 1851 attendance for morning service was 414 with 120 in the Sunday school; the afternoon and evening services attracted 125 and 400 worshippers respectively. I’m not sure who succeeded Rev Burder but in 1869 the ministry fell to James Allanson Picton, who achieved notoriety for his radical theological and political opinions. Apparently he dismayed his more orthodox brethren by delivering popular lectures to working-class audiences on Sunday afternoons, on secular themes such as English history and the principles of radical and conservative politics.

Is it fanciful to imagine that the Roes’ brief sojourn in St. Thomas Square had something to do with an association with the Congregational chapel? Without consulting the chapel’s records, we can’t be sure of the exact nature of this imagined connection. However, a number of their relations were associated with the Stepney meeting. Mary Ann’s mother’s cousin Joseph Edward Holdsworth was definitely a member, and her aunt Eliza (the ‘other’ Eliza Holdsworth) was the Fletchers’ family servant (as was Mary Ann’s younger sister Kezia Sarah Blanch for a time) and these are only the links we know about. Perhaps the connection with the St Thomas Square chapel came about through one of these relatives. Did the chapel offer charity – housing? work? – to a struggling newly-married couple with a child on the way?

At some point, I hope to examine the records of the Stepney Meeting and St Thomas Square chapel, which are held by the Tower Hamlets and Hackney archives departments respectively, to see whether the Roes had any affiliation with either place. Reliable information about their religious affiliations is a big gap in my knowledge of my East End ancestors, and yet I would hazard a guess that knowing more about this aspect of their lives would help to answer some of the questions that continue to puzzle me – including the questions about the location of Kezia Eliza Roe’s birth, and the choice of my great grandfather’s name.

By the time of the 1851 census, Daniel, Mary Ann and their baby daughter Kezia Eliza, now six months old, had moved to 203 Patriot Row, which was in the heart of Bethnal Green, on the main road going north to Hackney (now Cambridge Heath Road), and close to Patriot Square. Their neighbours here included silk weavers, bakers, shopkeepers and other shoe makers. Daniel, now twenty-three, was described in the census record as a boot and shoe maker, while his wife Mary Ann, also twenty-three, was working alongside him as a boot binder. Mary Ann’s parents, John and Keziah Blanch, were just a few streets away in Green Street, Bethnal Green, where they too were working together as boot and shoe maker and boot binder.

At some point in the next two years, both the Roe and Blanch families would move from Bethnal Green to Soho. Their reasons for doing so are unclear, but they were probably economic: perhaps the prospects for boot and shoe makers looked more promising in the West End than in the East End? As for the choice of Soho, as we’ve seen from earlier posts there were longstanding associations between the Blanch family and this part of London. John Blanch’s father had lived in Compton Street, as an apprentice patten maker, when he first arrived in London from Bristol in the 1780s (?) and had continued to live there during his first marriage to Jane Barlow, until moving to the Holborn / Clerkenwell area, which is where John was born, following his second marriage to Sophia Atkins. Not only that, but John Blanch’s brothers Thomas, David and William had also lived in the area, working together at their coach making business in Ham Yard, off Great Windmill Street. As I’ve noted before, the business was wound up in 1844 and David Blanch and his family moved from King Street, Soho, to Chelsea around the same time. By 1851, Thomas Blanch and his family had moved to Fulham. William Henry Blanch and his family remained in Soho, living in Great Windmill Street in 1851 and in nearby Archer Street by 1857, though they too were in Chelsea later that year, at the time of William’s death.

The Blanch brothers’ close friends, and future relations by marriage, Richard and Marianne Ellis, also moved from their home in Richmond Street, Soho, to the Kensington and Chelsea area, at some point between 1851 and 1861, at about the same time that Daniel and Mary Ann Roe and John and Keziah Blanch were moving from Bethnal Green to Soho. As mentioned before, at the time of the 1851 census two-year-old Mary Ann Ellis was being nursed by Keziah Blanch at her home in Green Street, Bethnal Green, and in the following year Richard Ellis was one of the witnesses to the marriage of John and Keziah’s son Joseph James Blanch, at St Matthew’s church in Bethnal Green.

Evidence that the close relationship with the Ellis family extended to the Roes can be found in the name that Daniel and Mary Ann gave to their second child. Daniel Ellis Roe was born on 7th March 1853 at 8 Great Crown Court in Soho. This was the address that Mary Ann’s parents John and Keziah Blanch would give when the next census was taken in 1861. At that time, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe would be living nearby at 2 Great Crown Court. Now, it’s possible that Daniel and Mary Ann moved to Great Crown Court at the same time as John and Keziah, and perhaps initially lived with them at No. 8. However, there is good reason for thinking that they were living elsewhere in 1853, and that Mary Ann was simply staying with her parents for the birth of her child.


Daniel Roe in the land tax records for Herberts Passage, Westminster, in 1859 (via ancestry.co.uk)

The evidence is in the form of the birth certificates for Daniel and Mary Ann’s next two children. Mary Ann Blanch Roe was born on 23rd October 1856 and her brother John Richard Roe on 15th April 1859, both of them at 4 Herberts Passage, in the parish of St Clement Danes, Westminster. Both birth certificates describe Daniel Roe as a ‘bookmaker master’. In 1858, Daniel was one of only four people paying land tax on properties in Herberts Passage, the proprietor of all the properties in the street, and in neighbouring Beaufort Buildings, being Sir George Carroll (1783 – 1860), a stockbroker who had served as Mayor of London in 1846, and who himself occupied three properties at the latter address.  As I noted in an earlier post, Herberts Passage was a short street that ran parallel to the Strand, almost opposite Southampton Street, and more or less on the site where the Savoy Hotel now stands. That post also made the point that Marianne, the wife of Richard Ellis, was born in Beaufort Buildings, which intersected Herberts Passage, and that her father, Robert Burbidge, had been the proprietor of the Plough tavern there. Was this just a coincidence, or did Richard and Marianne Ellis help to facilitate the Roe and Blanch families’ moves to Westminster? Of course, Mary Ann Blanch Roe was named after her mother, and Richard was the name of Daniel’s brother (recently emigrated to Australia), but given that their previous child had been given the middle name ‘Ellis’, is it impossible that these names were also a tribute to their friends?


(Great) Crown Court can be seen in the top right-hand corner of this section of Horwood’s 1792 map of London (via motco.com)

By the time of the 1861 census Daniel and Mary Ann Roe were certainly living at 2 Great Crown Court, Soho, close to John and Keziah Blanch and their family at No. 8. Daniel, thirty-two, and Mary Ann, 31, were with their four children: Kezia Eliza, ten; Daniel Ellis, eight; Mary Ann Blanch, four; and John Richard, two. They shared the house with two other families: greengrocer Richard Brown and his wife and two children, and porter William Lee and his wife Jane. At No. 8, John and Keziah Blanch, now aged sixty-one and fifty-six respectively, were living with their three unmarried children Eliza Maria, twenty-three, Emma Sarah, twenty, and John Holdsworth, sixteen, all of whom worked in the family boot-making business, together with four lodgers, some or all of whom seem to have been working for the Blanch family. They shared the house with two other families. One was boot closer George Dowden and his wife and family – I wonder if he also worked with John Blanch? – and the other was the family of Michael Thomas Fitzgerald, an Irish clothes salesman. Next door on one side were the families of a tailor and a furniture maker, and on the other a ladies’ bootmaker, a house painter, and more tailors.

Monmouth Street

Soho street – Victorian cartoon by George Cruikshank

Great Crown Court was a narrow alley leading off Little Pulteney Street (now Brewer Street), and close to Great Pulteney Street, where John and Keziah Blanch’s son John Holdsworth Blanch would live after his marriage to Elizaberth brooks five years later. It also backed on to Archer Street, where John Blanch’s brother, coach smith William Henry Blanch, had lived some years previously, and was close to Great Windmill Street, where the Blanch brothers coach making business had been based. Great Crown Court was roughly at the junction of today’s Brewer Street and Rupert Street. A contemporary record describes the area as characterised by ‘narrow, ill ventilated Courts and Alleys, some of them open to the sky, but others running under portions of houses’.

The Roe family’s movements after 1861 are something of a mystery. Their youngest child, my great grandfather Joseph Priestley Roe, was born on 27th July 1862, just around the corner from Great Crown Court at 23 Great Windmill Street. The birth was registered by Daniel, who also gave this as his own address. At the time of the 1861 census the property had been occupied by Joseph North, a clerk who was still paying land tax on it in the following year, together with his wife and two children and a number of sub-tenants.


Joseph Priestley (via wikimedia.org)

Why would a Victorian shoemaker and his wife name their son after an eighteenth-century clergyman, scientist and political radical? Born in Yorkshire in 1733, Joseph Priestley trained as a minister at the Dissenting Academy in Daventry. He held posts in Suffolk and Cheshire and became known as a writer on education and theology, before taking up a teaching post at Warrington Academy. Priestley’s intellectual interests expanded to include philosophy, politics and science: he wrote an important treatise on electricity and is often credited with the discovery of oxygen. His increasingly heterodox theological opinions, and his support for radical political causes, including the French Revolution, led to his house and laboratory being ransacked by rioters in Birmingham in 1791. After this traumatic experience, Priestley took refuge in Hackney, where he taught at the Dissenting Academy and preached at the Old Gravel Pit Unitarian chapel, before the increasingly repressive atmosphere of the 1790s led to him emigrating to the United States. Did Daniel and Mary Ann Roe share Priestley’s religious or political views – according to some sources, shoemakers were in the forefront of nineteenth-century working-class reform movements – or perhaps their naming of my great grandfather after Joseph Priestley had something to do with the Hackney connection that I explored earlier?

After 1862, Daniel and Mary Ann Roe disappear from view. Mary Ann’s father John Blanch died from chronic bronchitis at the age of sixty-nine in December 1869. Nevertheless, he was still registered to pay land tax of £1 3s 4d for 8 Crown Court in the following year, suggesting that his widow Keziah remained there after his death, at least for a time. Curiously, another Blanch (no first name given) was paying tax on No. 4 at the same date. However, by the time of the 1871 census, this property was occupied by bootmaker Charles Richardson and his family, while No. 8 was the home of two other boot-making families and a master carpenter.


Broad Street, Soho

Mary Ann Roe née Blanch died from phthisis (tuberculosis) at the age of thirty-four, on 7th September 1870, at 10 Dufours Place, off Broad Street, Soho. According to the land tax records for that year, the tenant at No 10 was a certain William Otto.  However, he was not mentioned in the census of 1871, and indeed by that date there are no familiar names to be found at No 10. The house seems to have been occupied mostly by tailors and their families. Mary Ann’s death certificate describes her the wife of Daniel Roe, a shoemaker, so we must assume that he was still alive at this time, though perhaps significantly it was their nineteen-year-old daughter Kezia Eliza who was present and who registered Mary Ann’s death.

The date of Daniel Roe’s death remains a mystery, and no record of it, or indeed any record of him after 1862, has come to light. My assumption is that he, too, died in 1870 or thereabouts, perhaps from the same illness as his wife. Certainly, by the time the 1871 census was taken, Daniel and Mary Ann’s four older children were living with their widowed grandmother, Keziah Blanch, aged sixty-seven, at 52 Broad Street, another building occupied mainly by tailors and their families. Also with them were Keziah’s thirty-seven-year-old unmarried daughter Eliza Maria and another grandchild, two-year-old Flora Sophia Blanch, the daughter of Keziah’s son John Holdsworth Blanch and his wife Elizabeth. Eliza Maria Blanch was working as a laundress; Kezia Eliza Roe, nineteen, an ironer; Mary Ann Blanch Roe, fifteen, a seamstress; Daniel Ellis Roe, seventeen, an engineer; and John Richard Roe, at twelve, was not yet working.

As for Daniel and Mary Roe’s youngest child, my great grandfather Joseph, who was now eight years old: as I reported in a previous post, when the census was taken he was staying with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Eliza Parker, at their home in Albany Road, Camberwell.

In the next few posts, I’ll explore what became of the children of Daniel and Mary Roe after 1871.