The WHITCHURCH (Witchurch, Whitechurch) family lived in Putney at the early part of the 18th Century. They are difficult to trace further back in time, and since most of their children were daughters, the surname Whitchurch quickly died out in Putney. However recent research shows that they had a lasting influence on the fortunes of generations that came after them, including my direct ancestor Thomas FINCH.
The earliest records of the Whitchurch family are the baptisms of three Whitchurch families (William, Thomas and John) who appear in Putney at the same time and were therefore probably brothers. Putney was expanding fast at the time that John and Thomas arrived in Putney. This expansion resulted from the decision in 1726 to build a bridge to link the Putney and Fulham sides of the Thames. This dramatically changed the ease with which those working in London could access Putney and made it an attractive location for a country house. The first record of Whitchurch family come in the mid 1710s and are baptisms of children implying that the family was already established and had moved into the area.
The first record of my direct ancestor, Thomas, is the marriage between Thomas WHITCHURCH and Ann BARNES who were married as a clandestine marriage in the Fleet Prison on 1 Jun 1728. Thomas was described as a ‘gentleman’s servant of Putney’. The Clandestine marriages were particularly popular with couples who wished to marry urgently or without proper scrutiny. It hints that either that there was some irregularity with the parties (e.g. one was already married) or that they wished the marriage to take place without the normal issuing of banns or a licence. The latter sometimes implies that the bride was pregnant. Thomas and Ann had four children, three of whom can be linked to baptisms at Putney. The baptism of one child, Ann Hannah WHITCHURCH, cannot be traced but subsequent references within the family show that she was a sibling of it. It may be that Ann was born so swiftly after the marriage that she was baptised elsewhere.
Thomas died relatively young in 1749, aged possibly around 40 or 45. His widow remarried William WALTERS in the Fleet Prison, the place where she had married Whitchurch ten years earlier. They had a son Thomas WALTERS born in Putney in 1740. It is difficult to trace the family but it seems most likely that William WALTERS brought up Ann’s Whitchurch children since the eldest (Ruth) would only have been 8 years old.
The Whitchurch daughters were married in the 1750s. Ruth was married to John SKELTON around 1751 (although the marriage cannot be traced) but her husband died in 1754 leaving her with a son James and a daughter Sarah. Although John SKELTON is in the rates for Putney, after she was widowed, Ruth appears on Roehampton rates and, in 1757, she married Thomas FINCH (1724-?) who came from East Sheen. Thomas joined Ruth in her property in Roehampton on the marriage, taking over her place in the rates list. The rates show them to have occupied a property owned by John Plank of Wandsworth which was next to the Angel Inn. The 1787 map shows it to have been a long thin building, probably split into different parts, which faced onto the lane that ran up to the Inn from the High Street (plot 47 on the map). A photograph from the turn of the 20th century caught the end that faced onto the High Street and show it to have been a two-storey wooden panelled building which had – at least at the High Street end – a shop on the ground floor and living quarters above. Ruth’s daughter Sarah SKELTON died in 1762 and Thomas appears as leading the ‘Roehampton Militia’ in churchwarden’s accounts for 1766. Unfortunately Ruth herself died in 1767 in Roehampton and was buried in Putney. I cannot find any trace of Thomas Finch in Roehampton or Putney after that date, although his son Thomas and his stepson James SKELTON both appear in Putney in later years. I suspect the family were still somewhere in Roehampton.
In 1757, Ruth’s sister Frances married John UMNEY, the son of Richard UMNEY who also lived in Roehampton. John had been apprenticed in 1768 to a ropemaker in Shepperton and presumably they met when he returned to see his family in Roehampton. John and Frances moved to Ratcliffe where they had several children including a daughter Elizabeth UMNEY whom we will meet later in the story. In 1762, a few years after Frances and Ruth married, their sister Ann Hannah married the widower George TICKNER (1701-1797). George was a shoemaker and son of William TICKNER who lived in Roehampton. The small community at Roehampton links the fates of all the Whitchurch daughters and it leaves me to suspect that the sisters had been living in Roehampton prior to the 1750s. It may be that their stepfather William WALTERS lived there (although I cannot trace him).
In the 1780s, George had land on the South Side of High Street, and he built an enclosure at the South end of High Street (plot 83 in the 1787 map) on land he leased from James CARPENTER. George and James entered into a dispute in the 1790s and the solution was that George left but was given a larger plot on the Roehampton Lane next to Frog Hall in 1792. On this he built two cottages and a number of outhouses. The property appears clearly on the later map of 1834 as plots 825b and 825c. As George TICKNER was dying in 1797, he wrote a will which named his nephew Thomas FINCH as executor. Thomas was also a shoemaker and it may have been that Thomas was George’s apprentice. Thomas took the properties over in 1801 when Tickner’s will was proved.
In a map drawn up in 1835 to plan for a school, his plot is named (top) whereas in the better scale drawing from 1834 (below) their correspondence to the two cottages and outhouses can be seen (825b and 825c). In 1787 Thomas Finch married his cousin Elizabeth UMNEY, who was the daughter of John UMNEY and Frances WHITCHURCH. They had eight children between 1788 to 1805, including my direct ancestor Elizabeth Ann FINCH. Tickner’s will hints that Thomas Finch is already living in the cottages in 1797 when Tickner wrote his will and hence the latter of their children were probably born in the cottages. By the mid 1830s, Thomas Finch had owned the plot and its buildings for over 35 years. They remained in the cottages until Thomas’s death in 1837. Finch’s widow Elizabeth (nee Umney), his daughter Frances, son James and great-nephew John JONES remained in the property after his death. Elizabeth probably died there in 1850 and Frances, James and John appear to have left the site around 1860. They appear in the 1871 census in 7 Elizabeth Place in Roehampton, before moving to 9 Elizabeth Place around 1875. The family would have seen their old cottages demolished to make way for the Earl Spencer public house in the early 1860s.
We learn from this study that Thomas Finch’s family in Roehampton owed much of their position to the Whitchurch family who had been born nearly a century earlier. Thomas and his wife were cousins via Ruth and Frances Whitchurch, and Thomas Finch hinted his properties from George Tickner and his wife Ann Hannah Whitchurch. Many apparently random choices in the lives of our ancestors may have followed from the family connections of earlier generations. With some detective work and good luck, in some cases it is possible, at least partly, to reconstruct those connections.
This post describes the family of FILCH/FINCH in Putney. I am writing about this family because they present an interesting and important lesson in the assumptions we make when studying family history. When I first studied the family – starting in more recent years and going back in time – I found a group of Finches whose dates of birth I could estimate but whose baptisms I could not find. I was interested in the family since my own Finch lineage also came from Putney and I was interested to test the hypothesis that my own family and this family were linked. In this family, I realised was that this family used two separate surnames in 18th Century Putney.
We nowadays assume that someone is born with a single surname that they hold throughout their lives. In reality, this is the product of the modern age of certificates, when a person’s birth is entered and indexed in an official way. Local historians are accustomed to a surname being spelled in a variety of ways, representing different spellings of the same sound, and one has to be more inventive as we go back further in time. However, our ancestors could – and did – change their names and chose to call themselves in different, phonetically distinct ways, often with multiple aliases used simultaneously. This was not always done to avoid detection (although that was true sometimes) and many families maintained two or more distinct surnames simultaneously. What I learned about this particular family was that they had changed their names being born under the name of FILCH but over the course of the 17th Century, they had adopted the name of FINCH. By the late 1700s, they were using exclusively the name FINCH in all their dealings. Two parish entries as ‘FINCH alias FILCH’ confirm that this is one family using two names.
In this case, perhaps living with a surname that meant ‘to steal’ was an important driver in encouraging the Filches to change their name. Other reasons might be that the mother’s family were important or well known and the family wished to associate themselves with it. Other possibilities include someone whose mother remarried, creating an ambiguity as to whether they used the birth father’s surname or that of a stepfather. In many cases, families simply used multiple names for reasons we cannot decipher.
The Family of FILCH alias FINCH of Putney
The earliest record of our family is a removal order to the parish of Morden from the parish of Putney. On the 1 Sep 1732, a communication was sent to the parish officials of Morden parish that Thomas FILCH had lately intruded himself into the parish of Putney and that he was chargeable to the parish of Morden. On the 10 Nov 1732, the parish officials of both parishes signed to state that should Thomas need parish poor relief, that those costs in Putney would either be met by Morden or that Thomas would be forced to return to Morden. Frustratingly I cannot find any record of Thomas Filch in Morden to take the family history back further, but there is a family that fits the bill in Ewell, which is the next parish. Unfortunately the registers of Ewell are defective and so I cannot prove conclusively that this is the same family. Given that there was already a Henry FILCH in the parish at the time, and that Thomas and Henry are having children at roughly the same time, I infer that this Thomas was his brother.
The parish registers (see below) include entries for a Thomas and his family. There are entries for Elizabeth FINCH (c. 1725, d.?) and Elizabeth Golding FINCH (c. 1730, d.?), the children of Thomas and Elizabeth. These may be children of Thomas and Elizabeth FILCH or possibly his son. From 1732, subsequent children were entered: Elizabeth Mary FLETCH (c. 1732), Thomas FILCH (c. 1735, d. 1787) and Charles FILTH [sic] (c. 1737, i. 1737). At the same time, we find the baptisms of two children of Henry FILCH: Henry (i. 1737) and Elizabeth (c. 1735, i. 1737) and the burial of Henry’s wife Elizabeth (i. 1737).
The churchwardens’ accounts for Putney between 1730-1760 include payments to Henry FILCH the baker for flour and hence I infer that Henry was a miller and that Thomas were brothers. The rate books for Putney also survive between 1736-1790+ and we can track Henry and Thomas through the years. In the first rate, 1736, Thomas FILTCH [sic] paid 3/- for a property near to Putney Bridge. and we find Henry FILCH paying 6/- for a property in “Windsor Street, from the Red Lion unto Barnes Common“. The rate books are comprehensive, recording the rates every year. Henry FILCH occupied the house until Aug 1745 when the same house is held by Henry FINCH [sic]. In Mar 1746/7, the house is held by Henry FILCH and then from 1747 to his death in 1767, it is always entered as FINCH. The rates provide an unbroken record which show clearly the gradual name change from FILCH to FINCH.
Thomas’s son Thomas was baptised in Putney in 1735 as FILCH. He married Rebecca circa 1767 and they had six children born between 1768 and 1781, of which the first five are baptised as FILCH/FELCH and only the youngest, Lucy Ann, is called FINCH. Unfortunately, only one of the children (Sarah b. 1773) survived infancy, but the burial of those same children are entered as ‘FINCH’. Thomas FILCH alias FINCH became churchwarden of Putney parish and in 1783 his signature appears on the receipts for the parish, including a receipt to a “Mr HARPHAM for attending the Composition Day“.
An important point here is that using modern indexes never lifts out all of the relevant entries – this information must be gleaned by studying the registers themselves. Searching on FILCH or FINCH only provides a subset of the entries – the other variants include FILTCH, FELCH, FLETCH (I assume this is the registrar swapping two letters in FELTCH) and even FILTH (presumably the registrar dropped the ‘C’). Adding to the confusions, Ancestry has mistranscribed many of these entries as ‘FITCH’. Remember that most registers are copies of copies and mistranscriptions slip in, particularly for unusual surnames.
FILCH/FINCH entries in Putney
c. 16 Jan 1725 Elizabeth FINCH daughter of Thomas FINCH and Elizabeth
c. 2 Aug 1730 Elizabeth Goding FINCH daughter of Thomas FINCH and Elizabeth
c. 11 Dec 1732 Elizabeth Mary FLETCH [sic] daughter of Thomas and Elviabeth [sic]
c. 23 Apr 1735 Thomas FILCH son of Thomas and Elizabeth
c. 17 Dec 1735 Elizabeth FELCH daughter of Henry FELCH and Elizabeth
c. 3 Aug 1737 Charles FILTH [FILTCH] son of Thomas and Elizabeth
c. 21 Dec 1768 Sarah FILCH daughter of Thomas FILCH and Rebecca
c. 10 Aug 1771 Ann FILCH daughter of Thomas FILCH and Rebecca
c. 4 May 1770 Rebecca FILCH daughter of Thomas FILCH by Rebecca
c. 21 Jul 1773 Sarah FILCH daughter of Thomas FILCH and Rebecca
c. 18 Jan 1777 Thomas FILCH son of Thomas and Rebecca FILCH
c. 26 Mar 1781 Lucy Ann FINCH daughter of Thomas FINCH and Rebecca
i. 13 Sep 1731 Thomas FINCH (infant) [b. 1731]
i. 28 Sep 1733 Mary FINCH
i. 18 Sep 1737 Elizabeth FILCH infant
i. 25 Sep 1737 Elizabeth FILCH
i. 12 Oct 1737 Henry FILCH, infant
i. 20 Mar 1737 Charles FILCH infant
i. 18 Aug 1742 Thomas FINCH
i. 11 Mar 1761 Elizabeth FINCH
i. 5 Jul 1767 Henry FILCH aged in the New Burial Ground
i. 24 Nov 1767 Elizabeth FINCH alias FILCH in the New Burial Ground
i. 29 Nov 1767 Mary FINCH alias FILCH in the New Burial Ground
i. 31 Dec 1767 Ruth FINCH in the New Burial Ground
i. 30 Aug 1772 Sarah FILCH infant
i. 7 Nov 1774 Thomas FINCH
i. 19 Jan 1775 Ann FINCH aged 3 years 6 months [b. Jun 1771]
i. 30 Jan 1776 Thomas FINCH aged 1 [b. 1774/5]
i. 18 Feb 1776 Rebecca FINCH aged 6 [b. 1770]
i. 19 May 1776 Sarah FINCH aged 53 [b. 1723]
i. 6 Nov 1778 Thomas FINCH infant [b. 1778]
i. 13 Apr 1785 Henry FINCH aged 6 [b. 1779]
i. 21 Apr 1785 Lucy Ann FINCH aged 4 [b. 1781]
i. 5 Jan 1787 Thomas FINCH aged 58 [b. 1728, Admon PCC]
The records described here are from the published transcripts of Putney registers and the local church records of Putney kept at the Wandsworth Archives. The rates books are P2/2/1 and P2/2/2; Removal orders are P2/5/1.
The purpose of this page is to contain summaries and transcripts of equity disputes for tenants of the manor of Redbourn in Hertfordshire. They are broadly arranged in chronological order. The level of detail for each case is not constant and the reader is referred to the original documents wherever possible, to check and amplify the notes made here.
1427 – Richard Atte HAYE of Bovingdon, Herts vs John PALMER of Redbourn weddedman, and Lawrence PALMER of Redbourn weddedman – CP40-664-f400
Action of debt by Atte HAYE against PALMER and PALMER.
1427 – Abbot of St Albans Abbey vs William SUMPTER of Redbourn – CP40-664-d1664
Action of debt by the Abbot against SUMPTER.
1427 – John TURNER vs Thomas STUCKLE of Shenley, franklin, Gregory WALSSHMAN of Stony Stratford, Bucks, husbandman, William HUSHER of Markyate, thatcher; Roger de DENE of Redburn, husbandman – CP40-664-f163
Action of debt by TURNER against several including Roger de DENE of Redbourn.
1427 – John TURNER vs John WESTON of St Albans, fisher, Thomas atte WINCH of Caddington, labourer; John BALLARD of Redbourn, husbandman, John LEPER of Kensworth, husbandman, John BLAKE of Markyate, Beds, smith – CP40-664-f500
Action of debt by Atte HAYE against PALMER and PALMER.
c.1463 – Henry WYSTOW, John NUNNY and Joan his wife vs John PEDE – C1/31/349
Bill of complaint by Henry WYSTOW, John NUNNY and Joan [sic] that was the wife of John HUNT late of Radburn [Redbourn] executors of the same John whereas Roger HUNT of Harpenden was indebted to the said John HUNT of 11 marks, 6/8 made in a deed and at his death the deeds came into the possession of the complainants. And Roger HUNT made John PEDE of Flamstead his executor. John PEDE initially agreed to honour debt but subsequently failed to do so to the great damage of your said beseechers. By Rardus [sic] WYSTOWE of London gent and John MARTIN of London gent. [Will of John HUNT at ACStA is 1463].
1503 – Oliver BUKKERD [BUKBERD] of London gent and Anne his wife v. William WYSTOWE alias WESTOW of Redbourn, gent – KB 27-969
Complaint by Bukberd and his wife have an action of debt against WYSTOWE for £20.
1507 – Thomas GRUB v. William WYSTOWE of Redbourn, gent – KB 27-984
Complaint by GRUB against WYSTOWE who has who has trespassed on his land and taken sheep.
1536 – William FOSSEY v. Thomas TAYLOR de Redbourn, Herts, husbandman & William TAYLOR de Redbourn, Herts, husbandman – KB27-1100
The parties had a bond drawn up together in Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire for £10 and the TAYLORs have reneged on that agreement.
c. 1538 – Nicholas FINCH vs Robert FINCH of Redbourn – E321-20-67
Robert FINCH and Nicholas FINCH his brother had an agreement whereby Robert would hold the lands in Redbourn until Nicholas married. Nicholas has now married Elizabeth CRESSY but will not give up the lands. [Transcribed in Full here.]
c. 1553 – Thomas Martin vs Robert Martin, Ralph Buckmaster and Thomas Chapman – C1/1249/21
Complaint by Thomas MARTIN. About 50 years ago [~1503] in the time when the Abbot of St Albans held the manor of Redbourn, Henry MARTIN father of the complainant was admitted to lands in Redbourn which he had inherited from his father and had been in his family for the space of 100 years earlier. Henry died about 13 years ago [Henry MARTIN will ACStA 1538] and so the land should come to the defendant as eldest son and heir and the homage agreed this and allowed orator onto the land. But about 4 Oct last malicious persons i.e. Robert MARTIN, Ralph BUCKMASTER and Thomas CHAPMAN at Redbourn attacked him with knives and staves drawn and broke upon the door of the orators house with diverse others unknown making 20 persons. The orator had been arrested in St Albans the day before and his wife left in the house with their two small children was put out onto the street. They have taken his goods and chattels from the house.
Answer of Robert MARTIN, Ralph BUCKMASTER. The bill is insufficient and only has been followed at the behest of Henry BEECH and Thomas BEECH. That Henry MARTIN had the land in the manor of Redford [sic] 30 Hen VIII and it was returned to the Lord and passed to Thomas MARTIN the complainant for five years after the death of Henry and beyond those 5 years the land was to pass to Robert MARTIN his brother. And after 5 years the defendant entered the lands peaceably. And this is a matter for the court of the manor of Redbourn and not elsewhere.
Decree relevant to dispute between John LOCKE plaintiff and John CLARE defendant relating to the manor of Brikkingsea [Brightlingsea] in Essex lands in the occupation of one [blank] HECKFORD. John LOCKE had a bill of given to him by King Henry of good memory for 30 years as a pension comprising all the benefits of the manor. But John CLARE answered that some years previously Thomas late Abbot of Colchester had held the manor by right of the monastery but that before that time he had given to John FINCH for the advancement of Finch who is a near kinsman of the Abbot and with the assent of the convent did let the land to John FINCH in 30 Hen VIII under the name of John FINCH the younger, one of the sons of John FINCH late of Redbourn Herts yeoman the lands called Brikkensea Hall which were in the tenure of one GYBLOND for the payment of £26 to the abbey and the bond was passed to Edmund TROWMAN one the most trusty servants of the Abbot who held the documents and passed them on to John FINCH. But John FINCH died intestate and his goods were committed by the bishop of London to his natural brother Nicholas FINCH and by a bond that he made bearing date 19 Mar 6 Edw VI to John CLARE. But John LOCKE states that the bond given to HECKFORD and now passed to him was in full force at the time of the sale and that Finch had fraudulently changed the date of the bond to be before the dissolution of the monasteries in 30 Hen VIII. And the Lord Chancellor Thomas Bishop of Ely has considered the matter and decrees that the lease made to the said John FINCH, that John CLARE now holds, shall henceforth be void and the bond is to be brought to the court of chancery to be cancelled and that John LOCKE shall henceforth be considered to be the rightful owner of the land and John CLARE shall also pay 40/- to John LOCKE for his expenses and charges. [A post giving more details and background about these documents is here].
1556 – Complaint of Richard WISTOWE of London barber surgeon vs Richard BASFORD REQ2/22/53
Richard WISTOWE is cousin and next heir of Henry WISTOWE and Jane his wife by their bodies in 1/2 Phil/Mary  your court of requests adjudged against one Robert STEPNETH he had lands called Barley Croft in the occupation of John HULL and the complainant should have had access to that land that was Henry WISTOW’s within the town of Redbourn in Co Herts which were late the inheritances of Anthony and William WISTOW. Nevertheless, Richard BASFORD and William HORNE wrongfully entered the lands, part of the estates of the said Anthony, and similarly occupied lands in the manors of Harpenden and Wheathampstead late in the occupation of William WISTOWE deceased. And Henry GAPE and one William HORNE, Richard BASFORD and John FINCH by the abetment and procurement of the said Henry GAPE have entered the premises and wrongfully entered and used the lands. Those people are greatly allied and friendly to the steward and homage of the said manor. 6 Nov 3/4 Phil Mary .
Answer of Richard BASFORD to complaint of Richard WISTOWE (nd) The defendant says that Henry GAPE held an acre called Watfishe Croft and he held that of the Abbot of Westminster by their manor of Wheathampstead. And he let and ploughed the field and peaceably left it after the expiry of the lease.
The answer of William HORNE He says that the croft Watfishe Croft is part of the manor of Wheathampstead and therefore possessed of the Abbot of Westminster or possibly of the manor of Kensbourn which manor is part of Wheathampstead manor.
Replication of Richard WISTOWE He says that Basford and Horne have passed the land to Robert STEPNETH who has destroyed and damaged the land cutting down trees.
c. 1558 – Joan DURRANT vs Anthony WYSTOW – C1/1424/41
Complaint of Joan DOWRANT [DURRANT] widow and administratrix of Thomas DURRANT late of Redbourn [undated, ~1558?, to Nicholas Archbishop of York and Lord High Chancellor]. Whereas One Anthony WYSTOW of Marsh Pelling in the Co of Leycone [Lincoln] deceased was seised of a tenement and field and 3 acres of land in Marsh Pelling aforesaid in the tenure of John POPE and 20 years ago he passed for a sum of money to Thomas DURRANT late husband of oratrix with conditions that had to be performed by Thomas WYSTOWE and his heirs. And Thomas DURRANT entered the lands. And this deed and other deeds have come into the hands of Thomas SAUNDERSON of the said county and by force of having these deeds he has entered the lands and will not give up the deeds of which date Joan is unsure and the number thereof.
c. 1562 Sir Richard REED vs Roger FYNCHE – C3/149/18
Bill of Complaint: Sir Richard REED one of the masters of the Queen’s Court of Chancery he is possessed of the site and demesne lands of the Manor of Redbourn. And the said Roger FINCH did in the month of August last past with friends and kinsfolk of the said Roger 2 Eliz I did make an agreement dated 16 Aug 2 Eliz I  between Sir Richard REDE on one part and Roger FINCH of Redbourn husbandman on the other and has let the site of the manor of Redbournbury which lies on the North and East part of the highway of Redbourn Street to St Albans but reserving unto Richard REDE one half of the great barn next adjoining to the tithe barn, the gate house and the long house on the south side of the gate house and the stable next to the Hall house and one half of the interests in the Great Court there for the bringing of corn. The first payment was made on feast of St Michael 1561. And also he leased 50 acres of arable land that is to say 25 acres of wheat and 25 acres of corn commonly called oats barley peas and fetches… by the demise of Gilbert LITTELOWE and Elizabeth his wife. Dispute appears to be about whether Roger FINCH will honour the agreement to maintain the hogs, swine and other cereals of Sir Richard REDE as the agreement requires.
1566/7 – Edmund BARDOLPH vs John FORD and Edmund and Nicholas BROCKETT C3/11/83
[undated temp Eliz I] Bill of Complaint by Edmund BARDOLPH esquire. Edmond BARDOLPH esquire was father to complainant had demesne through Elizabeth his wife of Rothamstead manor, Sawneye, Clavells Hills, Thames and the Howesett in Harpden Gyle, Harpden [Harpenden], Wheathampstead, Kimpton and Redbourn in Herts and also certain other lands. 14 years ago the father passed the land to Edmund BROCKETT and Nicholas BROCKETT esquires at common pleas at Westminster. About 12 years ago Edward the father died  and land went to Elizabeth the wife. She put her trust in John FORD a servant to manage her estate. John FORD now works for Nicholas and Edmund BROCKETT and he has stolen the evidence from Elizabeth’s house that she owns the properties. [Date of documents calculated from reference to death of Edmond Bardolph the elder which took place in 1554]
1573 – William FINCH vs Walter FINCH – REQ2-207-80
Depositions and Interrogatory at C21/F24/5, Walter FINCH vs. William FINCH and Thomas SAYE [17 Jan 1579]. Complainant is William FINCH. His mother was Ellen HAYWARD deceased wife of William HAYWARD also deceased, once wife of William FINCH father of complainant. She had land in Caddington. Walter is son and heir (eldest) and Nicholas FINCH was the youngest son now deceased, late father of William FINCH one of the defendants. Evidence from: a) John THEWER of Redbourn, Herts., yeoman aged 70+. Ellen had messuage and land in Caddington. b) William SAUNDERS alias BURTON of Redbourn aged about 60. Land owned by Ellen was called Pypers. c) Walter HIGDE of Redbourn, blacksmith aged 60. Land was called Pypers. d) Richard SYMONS of Redbourn aged 60. e) ? PEACOCK of Redbourn, yeoman.
1584 – Robert BESTNEY vs John DONE of Killingworth or Kenelworth, Warks, yeoman, Robert FINCH of Dean End, Redbourn, Herts, yeoman, Nicholas FINCH of Redbourn, yeoman – CP40-1423
CP40-1423-d577, Hilary Term 1584 Action of debt by BESTNEY vs DONE, FINCH and FINCH. Bestney has requested payment of a debt of £20 by Done, Finch and Finch.
1588 – John FINCH vs Richard HORE – C3-224-66 and REQ2/127/56
REQ2-127-56,22 Oct 30 Eliz I  Complaint by John FINCH of Norrington End, Redbourn. On 27 Sep 38 Hen VIII he bought lands. On 6 Nov last [29 Eliz I, 1587] Richard HORE lay claim, and John COMPORT, who was steward, was HORE’s friend. He granted to land to HORE, but FINCH objects.
C3-224-66 10 Oct 1588 Complaint by John FINCH of Norrington End, Redbourn vs Richard HORE is transcribed here.
1591 – Thomas YONGE vs Henry WENLOCK complaint and answer C3/230/95
Complaint of Thomas YONGE undated circa 1591 Orator Thomas YONGE of Redbourn Herts Yeoman was seized of a message and garden a fortnight or thereabouts after St. John’s the Baptist commonly called midsummer night did sell all the rights to Henry WENLOCK for £50 to paid £20 at midsummer and £30 at feast of St Michael and both went to John SOUTH a notary public such that two bonds were drawn up, one for £40 for the payment of £20 at midsummer next and Henry WENLOCK and Richard DOLTE (COLTE?) the younger were bound, and a second bond for £60 by Richard COLTE the elder for the payment of the £30 by Henry WENLOCK. Based on these bonds orator and his wife Lucy surrendered property at court of Redbourn. But John SOUTH fraudulently withheld the bonds from orator. But because custom of manor required Henry WENLOCK to be present at court, and he was absent, so transfer of rights did not take place.
19 May 1591 Answer by Henry WENLOCK and John BESOUTH States that bond for £60 was given to complainant. Bond for £40 was dependent on transfer of rights to WENLOCK before the feast of St James the apostle which did not happen hence the bond is void.
1595 – William WOODCOCK, Henry WETHERED & Randall FOSTER vs Margaret FINCH widow, Nicholas FINCH & Thomas FINCH of Redbourn REQ1-18
23 May 1595 Complaint of Roger PEMBERTON of St Albans gent and Robert GROOME of Redbourn. Concerns title to copyhold lands in Redborne, Herts, claimed to have been surrendered by Robert Finch decd, father of the defts Nicholas & Thomas, to Thomas Wethered & Elizabeth his wife, and then to have been surrendered back to Robert Finch & Margaret his wife for life, with remainder to Raphe Woodcock, father of the complt William Woodcock. William Woodcock has leased to Henry Wethered & Randall Foster. Claimed that William Woodcock is outlawed, and has surrendered his right to Thomas Prowe. Ref to previous suit in Court of Chancery.
1595 – Thomas SEAGRAVE clerk vs Edward FINCH of Redbourn REQ1-18-f761
10 Nov 1595 Complaint of SEAGRAVE against FINCH. Annuity of £20 due to the complt upon surrender of messuage & 100 acres in Manor of Redbourn, Herts., payable at the Vicarage house at Fulbourn, Cambs. The requirement was originally given to Thomas HAWGOOD and his heirs. Deft ordered to pay into court £20 to remain until further order be taken.
1595 – Roger PEMBERTON of St Albans vs Robert GROOM of Redbourn REQ2/36/53
5 Nov 38 Eliz Complaint of Roger PEMBERTON of St Albans gent and Robert GROOME of Redbourn. Thomas SIBLEY of Redbourn deceased was in his lifetime seized of a messuage and tenement and an acre of land in Redbourn next to Redbourn Heath and held it before the accession of Elizabeth. About 4 or 5 Mary Thomas SIBLEY on his deathbed gave the land to Joan SIBLEY his wife for her life and thence to Edward SIBLEY his son. And 30th Jun 1 Eliz Edward SIBLEY went to a court of the manor of Redbourn and paid a fine for his admittance when either Joan dies or when he surrenders. And then Edward SIBLEY renounced claim to the lands but passed them to Innocent READ, the son of Sir Richard READ but the land remained with Joan while she was alive. And Joan died about 5 Eliz at which time Innocent READ took possession of the land. 28 Nov 19 Eliz Innocent READ passed the land back to the steward of the manor passed the land to Francis SILLS. And on 18 Sep 35 Eliz Francis SILLS passed the land to Roger PEMBERTON. And Roger has let the land to Robert GROOM on 30 Sep 36 Eliz for 3 years. But now John BEECH the elder of Jeromes in the parish of Redbourn, yeoman and Robert SIBLEY of the same yeoman and John SIBLEY of Hertfingfordbury yeoman. They have copies of court rolls relating to the land dating from before the death of Thomas SIBLEY. They have entered the land feloniously.
30 Apr 38 Eliz Answers of John BEECH, Robert and John SIBLEY Robert SIBLEY claims the lands as son and heir of Thomas SIBLEY but he was not able beforehand to come to court to make his claim. He has leased the land to John SIBLEY. John BEECH has not encouraged Robert SIBLEY to enter the lands illegally.
Replication of Roger PEMBERTON and Robert GROOM 27 Oct 38 Eliz [not examined in detail]
1598 – William FINCH vs Thomas WICKES and John FINCH – E133-9-1412, E112-18-80
Complaint and Answer are transcribed in full here. William FINCH was accused of the murder of one Dorothy FORDE but was acquitted. During his incarceration, his brother John FINCH farmed his land but now will not leave it.
Deposition and Interrogatory 17 May 41 Eliz. Evidence from: a) John THEWER of Redborne in the County of Hertf yeoman aged 40, b) Richard HORE of Redborne in the County of Hertf Wheelwright Aged 48 years, c) Wm FYNCHE the elder of Redborne in the County of Hertf gardener aged 55 years, d) Tho: FYNCHE of Redborne in the County of Hertf yeoman aged 47 years. [Transcribed in full here].
1599 – Robert BYSOUTH vs Leonard BYSOUTH C2/ELIZ/B13/30
7 Feb 1599 bill of Complaint by Robert BYSOUTH son of heir of Leonde [Leonard] BYSOUTH late of Reed in co of Herts husbandman deceased. Whereas William BYSOUTH had in his lifetime 50 acres of arable, 10 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture and 20 acres of wood within Reed aforesaid to the use and occupation of John BYSOUTH. About 44 years ago William passed the lands lawfully to Leonard BYSOUTH [his son]. Leonard died 12 years ago and the orator was then an infant aged 6 years or thereabouts. But about 10 years ago John BYSOUTH got the lands custody and will not release.
Draft of Bill, Decree, Answer of John BYSOUTH 5 Apr 40 Eliz. William BYSOUTH wrote his will 20 Sep 44 years ago [1555?]. And 43 years ago William died passing the lands to Leonard and thence to John the defendant. Replication of Robert BYSOUTH, rejoinder of John BYSOUTH.
1605 – John FINCH vs Edward SMITH – STAC8-139-25
John FINCH of Redbourn entered into bonds with Edward SMITH of Bedford when he was living in Bedford. How that he has moved away, Edward is trying to defraud John of his lands. [Document transcribed here.]
1608 – William EDMONDS vs Walter PEACOCK, Thomas FINCH, William ROCKETT and Ralph MARTIN – STAC8-129-16
Complaint by William EDMONDS of Redbourn yeoman [undated] and he is married to Joan who was granddaughter of Roger PEACOCK of Redbourn. Roger had lands called Maynolfs-on-the-Hill (a messuage and 1/2 a yard of land) plus 30 acres of land and meadow in Redbourn. The land devised to Henry PEACOCK the eldest son. Henry had two daughters: Joan and Katherine. When Henry died, the land went to his daughters but then Katherine also died and the whole estate devolved to John. Now William EDMONDS has married Joan and moved into the land. However William and Joan were dispossessed by Walter PEACOCK of Redbourn yeoman. A trial was called on the 8 Oct 6 Jan I . At that time the property was leased to Nathaniel PLOMER [PLUMMER] and he had taken out proceedings through the Kings’ Bench against Walter.
To promote his position, Walter PEACOCK enlisted the help of Thomas FINCH, William ROCKETT, Ralph MARTIN and Edward FINCH. They say that the land was devised by Roger PEACOCK to Walter PEACOCK and Joan SPILMAN, whom he afterwards did marry. Then the property devolved to John PEACOCK and his heirs.
Answer by Walter PEACOCK. 11 Feb 7 Jas I states that the defendant’s late grandfather was John PEACOCK and he obtained the land on 23 Jul 20 Hen VIII . Roger PEACOCK then died and his widow Joan remarried William HAYWARD. She passed the land 2 Aug 16 Eliz I  to John PEACOCK and thence to Walter PEACOCK, late father of the complainant. Roger PEACOCK had daughters Joan and Katherine at the time of his decease. In the time of 19 Eliz, a chancery case between Walter PEACOCK the father and Joan/Elizabeth PEACOCK was initiated which Walter won. Walter died just before 8 Jul 38 Eliz .
1613 – Richard PEACOCK and William PEACOCK v Sir George REYNELL & Etheldreda his wife – C78-173-11
11 Oct 1613. Decree in the case. Complaint lodged in Michaelmas 1607. Recovery of estate of manor and rectory of Thingdon, Northants and lands in Redbourn, Herts., Leagrave, Beds., Finchley and Hendon, Middx and Cheapside, London. Sir George Reynell‘s wife Etheldreda is the sole daughter and heir of Sir Edward PEACOCK kt dec [sic]. Richard PEACOCK lives in a farm and mansion house in Finchley that were in the occupation of Sir Edward PEACOCK, Edward MOUSE, William ATWELL, William GRACE, Anthony HEWSON; the lands in Hendon were occupied by Allan PARSON; plus lands in Fyndon [Thingdon] Northants were held by Richard by force of a deed dated 23 Dec 45 Eliz I  and Sir Edward PEACOCK was his brother’s son, but this had clauses of interest for William PEACOCK and other members of the PEACOCK family. And these were devised to Edward by action on the first hearing of the case in court on the 6 Jun 6 Jas I  but at the time it was recognised that at the time of the marriage of Etheldreda, the lands were secretly included in the marriage contract without recognition of the obligations that existed to the Peacock family. Reynell brought a solicitor from Cornwall called John HARRIS to present Richard with an interrogatory of 33 questions which took no account of the fact that Richard was 92 years of age [ i.e. born ~1515] and he tricked Richard into making him perplexed and distempered and such that he did not understand the meaning of the questions he was asked. The Lordships have now removed John HARRIS as a commission of the peace in view of his handling of the questions and they do not consider the interrogatory or the information therein sound. The court decides in the favour of the Peacocks.
1641 – Joseph DEACON vs John and Elizabeth READING – C5/602/2
3 Nov 1641. Complaint of Joseph DEACON of Whitecross Street in County of Middx Glover. In 16 Jas I , one Daniel DEACON of Abbots Langley in Co Herts yeoman had pewter, brass and household goods worth about £200 and he didn’t have any child of issue and he appointed his wife Anne DEACON and Samuel DEACON son of Richard DEACON who was his brother as executors. And the will was proved in the Archdeaconry Court of St Albans within the diocese of London. And one year later the said Samuel DEACON departed this life and died intestate and the father Richard DEACON took administration of his son. And very quickly after the death of Samuel DEACON, Richard DEACON also died intestate and his estate went to Lucy DEACON the relict. And she then made a will making Richard DEACON son of Richard DEACON as sole executor and she then shortly afterwards died and Richard DEACON took the estate. Then Anne DEACON the widow of Daniel DEACON also wrote a will naming her executors and then shortly afterwards departed this life. And then John REDDING and Elizabeth his wife possessed themselves of Anne’s estate and were greatly enriched by it. About 12 years ago  the orator reached age of 21 and so £40 from the estate of Daniel DEACON was now due to him. And Richard DEACON paid complainant £20 being his half of the bequest but John REDDING and Elizabeth his wife refuse to pay despite entreaties from other persons and behave in an unfriendly manner. [Although it doesn’t say so, John READING and Elizabeth his wife are of Redbourn]
SP46/25 fo 111
Letter relating to Case WOODCOCK vs WETHERED. WETHERED is son in law of Robert FINCH [of Redbourn Herts] and brother in law to Nicholas FINCH. He owed money to Ralph WOODCOCK who sues for repayment [copied].
Fo 112 is back of the same letter and unmarked Fo 113 is summary of entitlement of lands once owned by Robert FINCH [Copied].
All equity suits presented are kept in the National Archives in London. Those prefixed C are from Chancery, STAC is Star Chamber, E are Exchequer (including Court of Augmentations) and REQ is Court of Requests.
The tenants of Redbourn manor in Hertfordshire (which includes my ancestors) were subjected to a rental in around 1333, recounted in the Acts of the Abbot of St Albans. In the early 1330s, the Abbey appears to have carried out surveys of all its manors to ensure that it was receiving the correct (and presumably maximum) amount of tax from each. Some extents and rentals from St Albans manors from this period still survive (e.g. Codicote 1331) but the concern was that the Abbey was in effect increasing its demands on the manors by stealth.
The tenants of Redbourn objected claiming that rights given to them before the Norman conquest forbade them being taxed at will by the Abbot of St Albans. However the Abbot dismissed their complaint and sent his servants to receive the tax. The tenants revolted and one of them, Adam de ROTHERFIELD, struck the Abbot’s representatives. As a result, the Abbot excommunicated Adam and, with the threat of eternal damnation, forced the tenants of Redbourn to acquiesce. A summary list of those paying the rent was recorded on the Gesta Abbatum and is reproduced here. I suspect that this is a shorter version of a full rental document that was held in the manor and referred to in future years.
The list includes John FINCH for Clerk’s Land and Alice Finch. It is interesting to note that John is one of the richest tenants in the manor. Some of the names used to refer to lands correspond to later manorial documents and can be traced back to this time. Hence Clerk’s Land (‘terra clerici’) and Herons (‘terra Heroun’) are places named in documents hundreds of years later. At this period of time, people were often known by the place that they lived. Hence there is Adam de Besteney, who presumably lived at Besteney End, the family ‘Atte Dean’ presumably lived at Dean End and ‘John atte Chirche’ is possibly the parish priest or someone who farmed land immediately around the parish church of St Mary itself. ‘William By North’ may have lived at Norrington End Farm, which in documents from the 17th Century is referred to as ‘Northington End’ and may have simply been known as ‘by the North End’ at the time of this survey.
Rental of Redbourn Manor circa 1333
De Adam de Besteney
De Johanne Maynolf, filio et hærede Ricardi Maynolf
De Johanne Botyler
De terra Willelmi Pursleye
De Adam de Lynkethorne
De Johanne Beaufuiz
De terra Gerham
De Johanne Fynch, pro terra Clerici
De Christiana Felice
De Johanne Maynolf, pro terra de Becheworthe
Omnes isti tenent dimidiam virgatam
De Nicolao Hog
De Johanne Wytlok
ii. s. vi. d.
De Ricardo Felice
ii. s. xviii. d.
De Roberto Atte Felde
De Waltero Curteys
De Domino W. Bracer, pro terra Couper
De Johanne Campe
De Alicia Fynch
De Roberto Bytewode
De Willelmo Bekke
De Adam Rotherfeld
De Johanne Rotherfeld
De Alicia Rotherfeld, relicta J. Aleyn
De Johanne Atte Chirche
De Emma Atte Grene
De Simone ‘Maheu, pro terra Bonde
De Johanne Pecok, pro terra Besteney
De Cristina Jacob, pro terra Atte Ponde
De Cristina Jacob, pro Fulleneslond
De Symone Quyk, pro terra Rene
De Johanne Maynolf, pro terra Clay
De Willelmo Atte Ponde
De Willelmo Aleyn
De Adam Broteyte
De Thoma Atte Hache
De terra Lynleye
De Johanne Atte Dene
De Willelmo Atte Dene
De tenemento Johannis Hereward
De Ricardo Atte Downe
ii. s. vi. d.
De Willelmo Bi Southe
ii. s. xviii. d.
De Stephano Warde
De Johanne Beaufiz, pro terra Atte Dene
Omnes isti tenent ferlingatam terræ
De Johanne Atte Chirche
De Johanne Atte Felde
De Ricardo de Nortone, pro terra Carterii
De Johanne Viryng
De Thoma le Wrothe, nihil, condonatur, quia pauper
De Rogero Cristemasse
De Ricardo Foulere
De Adam Hereward
De Thoma Adam
De Johanne Palmere
De Ysabella Atte Hulle
De Johanna Atte Hulle, nihil, condonatur, quia pauper.
This page recounts the genealogical information regarding my ‘Auntie Lou’ whom I remember from my childhood and whose family papers I have inherited. We do not know of any family but she kept a large collection of papers from her parents and grandparents.
‘Auntie Lou’ was not actually my Aunt and her link to us was through her husband, John James DOYLE. John Doyle was my grandmother’s cousin’s son, but they were born only a few years apart and played together as children. My grandmother and John Doyle remained close throughout their adult lives and, when my mum was growing up, she went on holiday with Uncle John and Auntie Lou. After John died in 1975, Lou came on our family holidays (which is when I particularly remember her).
Auntie Lou’s Family
Auntie Lou was born Louise Alice Clymene CLARK on the 17 Apr 1905 in the East End of London. Her parents were Joseph Edwin CLARK and Louisa Charlotte MILLER who had been married 21 Dec 1903 in St Thomas’s Church, Stepney. She was an only child.
Lou’s father died when she was very young and her mother when she was 23. I know that she was friendly with her mother’s family (and particularly an Aunt Clymene after whom she was named) but apart from that she was alone in the world. She travelled independently throughout Europe (long before it was common) and told me that she was in Switzerland at the outbreak of the second world war and had to find her way back through Germany.
Lou met my Uncle John sometime just before or during WW2. He was trained as a watch repairer and stationed with the RAF in North Africa. My understanding is that he maintained the electronics and gadgetry on the spitfires. I do not know exactly how they met but they were married at St Olave’s Church, Stoke Newington in 1947. The wedding photo is below.
They never had any children of their own and they often took my mum and a family friend Gill on their holidays in the 1950s. John died in 1975 whilst on jury duty at the Old Bailey – I remember visiting Lou just afterwards, although my clearest memories of her house were when she was widowed, probably late 1970s. In subsequent years, she came with us on our family holidays in the early 1980s. In her twilight years, she lived in a nursing come in Westminster where she was visited by my parents. She died there in 1999.
The Family of James William MILLER
Lou had several early photographs and we believe many of these were from the Miller family. The photograph below is probably the marriage portrait of Lou’s parents, Joseph Edwin CLARK and Louisa Charlotte MILLER, in which case it can be dated closely to the 21 Dec 1903. The composition of the group – with the couple seated in the centre – indicates that they are at the centre of the celebration. The men are wearing buttonholes and the women, particularly the bride in the centre, wear a corsage of flowers. At this time, Joseph’s father was dead so the man on the left is therefore the bride’s father, James William MILLER.
The witnesses to the marriage were Louise’s father and sister Alice, and we infer that one of the ladies in the photograph is her sister Alice. The woman standing behind her has what might be grey hairs whereas the one to her right does not. This hints the woman behind her is her mother and the woman seated is her sister Alice. What remains a mystery is where her younger sister Clymene is and the identities of the two men on the right hand side. They clearly resemble the bride, but she only had one brother that we know of.
Lou’s paternal grandfather was James William MILLER. She told me he was born in Kings Lynn in Norfolk, although it turned out that, although earlier generations of the family were from Kings Lynn, he had been born in Southampton. James’ brother Samuel T MILLER emigrated to Werribee in Australia and a letter has survived in Lou’s papers from 1891 from Samuel written to his brother James telling him of the family in Australia.
July 2, 91
I have just received your letter and was glad to hear you are all well though you did not say who the all was, it is now about 8 years since I received a letter from Fanny which I did not answer as I forgot the address and I had lost the letter. Fanny said Lottie was very bad and did not know how soon she would die as she had some affection of the heart Write and let me know about all relations who is living and who is dead and if you can give me date of any death of course I know of Mother and Father and Louisa death but no more. In your letter you ask if I am married which I thought you knew as I sent word to mother and the girls I have been married about 18 years and have got 5 boys and 2 girls their names are James William 17 years Walter Henry 15 Ada Louisa 12 Albert John 10 Charlotte Ann 7 George Victor 5 William Thomas 2
that is their ages on their next birthday so you can tell your children they have got cousins in Victoria in your next letter send me all news of your family and if you can the portrait of yourself wife and family as I have a good album and the only likeness of any of my relations that I have got is fathers which Lottie sent me I will try and get the likeness of mine and family and send you the next time you want to know what I am doing I am in the employ of the shire council for the last 7 or 8 years wages 7 shillings per day I am away from home at my work from Monday till Saturday and I have to keep a horse and covered cart to sleep in so as it is to far to walk to my work I have no house rent to pay as I have one of my own of 5 rooms and half acre of ground so I am just able to make a living and no more let me know what you are doing I must now draw this to a close as it is late hopeing it will find you all well as it leaves us all well at present and wish kind love from all to all
I remain your loving Brother
Samuel T Miller Cottrell Street, Werribee.
The letter was kept in an envelope and the outside of the envelope had an address “William CLARK farmer, Springfield Road, Blackburn, Melbourne, Australia”. I assumed that since they were kept together, William CLARK was related to Samuel Thornton MILLER but since Lou’s own surname was CLARK, this might be a relation through her father’s side who coincidentally also emigrated to Australia.
Few of our family who lived in Zennor Road had a camera of their own so the only time that they were photographed were in group photos at family weddings. I am presenting here photos from the earliest family wedding photos we have, that of my great Aunt Ivy Elizabeth FINCH who was married in 1942 to Christopher MATTHEWS. The wedding was at St Stephen’s Church, Weir Road and the family walked the short distance up from Zennor Road to attend. We can identify very many of the people in the photograph but some remain a mystery. We would appreciate any information about who some of the others may be.
The Wedding of Ivy FINCH and Christopher MATTHEWS 25 May 1942
The marriage photo is the first comprehensive photo we have of the Finch family. It is taken outside the door of St Stephen’s Church. It is a typical wartime photograph in that the men are in military fatigues and the numbers of women greatly outnumber the numbers of men, since many were away on service. The left side of the photo appears to be occupied by the Finches and the right by the Matthews. We have annotated everyone we can identify in the photograph. Ivy’s mother is present (Elizabeth Ann GWYTHER, my great-grandmother); her father is present in another photograph and hence was definitely at the wedding but strangely absent from this shot. Ivy’s sister (Lily) and her husband (Jim TEBBY) are there with two of her brothers (George Edward and Ernest and their wives). My grandfather (John) is absent because he was serving in Burma at the time but my Nan (Elsie May PETTLEY) is carrying my Aunt Jean (b. 1940) whilst my Aunt Elsie Christina Finch and uncle George Sidney Finch are the bridesmaid and page boy. The other bridesmaids are Ivy’s neices (Lily, Shirley, Rose), daughters of her brother George. Ernest’s daughter Sylvia (who was ~2 at the time) is the child being carried by Ivy’s sister in law Helen Scotland STEWART.
My Nan’s sister Alice PETTLEY is present in the shot – she also lived in Zennor Road, and she stands next to another lady whom we cannot identify. However a photo of that lady exists amongst Aunt Alice’s photograph collection and so she may be one of their sisters, possibly Violet Pettley.
Ivy’s uncle and aunt are in the photo – John Sidney FINCH (1886-1956?) and his wife Eleanor Maria MOFFATT. John is lost behind an elderly lady but my Dad is fairly sure it is him and his wife is very clear on the far left. An elderly lady with a wide hat covered in flowers stands in front of him in the middle on the left. She has her arms over one of two dark-haired girls who look like twins and are probably her granddaughters. A middle-aged man and woman stand next to them and they may be the parents of the children. We cannot identify this family group but our best guess is that they are from the Trim or the Thwaites family who were Ivy’s cousins and lived on Zennor Road.
St Stephen’s Church, Clapham Park, Weir Road
The church of St Stephen’s Clapham Park was the closest to Zennor Road and the majority of the family baptisms and marriages took place there. The church has now sadly been demolished but this image dates from around 1930, before Grove Road was renamed Weir Road (the Grove Road sign is visible in front of the church). The marriage photograph taken above was taken in the main doorway.
Several of my dad’s family lived around Zennor Road in Balham. This page is a description of the road and some reminiscences of it from my Dad who was born and grew up there in the 1950s.
Zennor Road was built from the late 1860s as a series of industrial dwellings. The first plots were advertised for sale in 1868 and 1869 in blocks of three or four houses for each lot. They were described as a “delightful, salubrious and healthy neighbourhood, fitted with every convenience for small families, within five minutes walk of Balham Station and Tooting Common“. The lease was for 96 years and rentals were £35 per year and the ground rent was £5 per annum. The first stages were the odd numbers on the East side of the road and low even numbers on the West. This initial phase of building had three storeys (ground, first and second floors). The plots on the West side backed onto Dragmire Lane (later to become Cavendish Road) and were accessible with carts from the rear. Some of these became part residential – part commercial properties such as the Florists Shop at Number 6, which added an outhouse and greenhouse to the property in 1871. On the 1871 census, very few of the houses are numbered but I count that 23 were occupied, with the enumerator indicating blocks of 3 and 4 houses between them had been built but were yet be occupied. The initial stage of building included numbers 2-10 on the west side and the odd sequence up to 73 Zennor Road on the east and South East, although small differences in the designs of the properties on the East side show that this building work was completed in discreet blocks. Grove Road (which would in the fullness of time become Weir Road) still had substantial mansions with large decorative gardens.
The Newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s refer to the sales of leases for blocks of properties in threes and fours, reinforcing the view that the building programme had moved in stages, with the sale of each block funding the building of the next. The 1881 census shows the street to have been complete, except for a gap between 52 and 46. By 1893, the lease of the Triangle, a ‘block of six artisan’s dwellings‘ in the middle of the street, had come up for auction, suggesting that the building of Zennor Road was complete. The survey of 1894 (published in 1896) shows the geography of Zennor Road. Two parades of shops had been built to the Grove Road end. The lands all around it were fields and the large mansions still stood on Grove Road. The numbering of Zennor Road in the 1881 census continued to number 87 and had numbers 54 and 56 whereas the numbering scheme in the 1950s (below) show that the main body of the street ended at 85 and 52. I assume that the plots that would become 263 and 265 Cavendish Road (on the southernmost corner of Zennor Road) were originally attributed to Zennor Road and numbered accordingly.
Most of the incomers to the street were working class people from the Clapham and Balham areas. The houses were two or three storey buildings and the census shows each to have accommodated two or even three families in each. It seems that the ground and first floor were typically lived in by one family with the top floor occupied by another. On average each house accommodated between six to ten individuals.
In 1898, the fields to the south of Zennor became the site of Cavendish Road School, originally as separate infants and primary school. This would in due course be renamed Henry Cavendish school. Henry Cavendish (1731-1810), the famous scientist, had lived on Clapham Common, at the top of what was then called Dragmire Lane, but which would later become Cavendish Road. By 1910 to 1920, most of the fields around Balham were replaced by housing. The fields to the south and east of Zennor Road were filled with semi-detached houses and the mansions on Grove Road were demolished to make way for industrial housing. Several industrial plots were also established, including a bottle plant and stationery factory replacing the large houses on the south side of Grove Road.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1950 shows the street largely unchanged from 1894, although in reality, several of the houses had been bombed in WW2 and remained ruined and unoccupied in the post-war years. A bomb had landed at the Weir Road end of Zennor Road and another on Cavendish Road Schools. This is marked in this map as ‘Ruin’ in the bottom right corner – this was rebuilt and opened soon after the map was published as the building which stands today. The corner plot between 55 and 63 was a wood yard.
In 1936 Grove Road was renamed Weir Road and Dragmire Lane became Cavendish Road. The parades of shops at the North end of Zennor Road had been made part of the Zennor Road numbering schemes (1a-10a) but with the letter ‘a’ to distinguish them from the same numbers on Zennor Road itself. The plot at the end of the Southernmost tenement in Zennor Road (I infer this was 87 Zennor Road in 1901) was rebuilt after the war to become a doctor’s surgery with an address of 265 Cavendish Road. During the late 1960s the Triangle in the centre of the road was demolished.
Possibly because the road was not a thoroughfare to anywhere else, Zennor Road developed a reputation for being a rough street. The only people who entered it were people with business there and because there were few carts or (in later years) cars driving through, the children played in the street. The sides of the Triangle were long imposing brick facades without doors or windows and against these children played football or tennis. The houses soon became the oldest of the industrial housing to be built in the area and subsequent buildings were more spacious semi-detached properties rather than terraces. The houses were densely populated and, as early as July 1897, an outbreak of Diptheria was reported in the local press.
“A serious outbreak of diptheria is reported to have occurred in Balham. In Zennor Road alone, there are said to be no fewer than twenty cases. The Postmaster-General has issued instructions that all Postmen when approaching that neighbourhood are to smoke“.
St James’s Gazette, 23 July 1897
In the 1950s and 1960s, the area attracted the attention of Paul Kaye, a London photographer with a keen interest in capturing the cheeky humour of London working class children. Kaye was born in Clapham but worked in London, making a living from portrait photographs of royalty and heads of state. However, he visited working class Balham and it is clear from the shots that he focussed particularly on photography in Zennor Road. Several of these photographs in this on-line collection are from Zennor Road, even if they are not labelled as such, taken particularly around the north end of the Triangle where the road widened and which was a favourite spot for the children to congregate. Photographs with children playing football with goals marked on long brick walls may have been taken against the side of the Triangle. Photographs of them on a patch of waste ground are on the site of the Triangle after its demolition.
The leases on the land of Zennor Road expired in the early 1970s and the whole street was earmarked for demolition. The last residents of Zennor Road moved out in 1975 and were offered alternative housing, many of them on the Blenheim Gardens Estate in Brixton. Others moved out of the area altogether. Zennor Road was rebuilt as a series of small industrial units which are still there. The site was recently (2017) sold for £30 million pounds, something that I am sure would have astounded the original residents. This is what Zennor Road looks like today.
The Finch and Gwyther families in Zennor Road(1895-1975)
Our family lived in Zennor Road for almost a century. The family history is available on ancestry.co.uk via a public family tree if anyone want to track the individuals or documents further, and details of the Finch and Gwyther families are on pages associated with this website. The first record we can find is of my dad’s great aunt, Caroline Matilda GWYTHER (1875-1932) who was born in St Mary’s Pembroke in Wales. She and her siblings were orphaned in 1891 when her father died (her mother had died in 1889) and the family were taken in by her aunt Caroline who had married Henry DAVIES. Caroline Matilda seems to have left Pembroke ~1895 when she was 20 and was married in 1897 to Ernest Henry TRIM (1876-1952). Their first son, Ernest George TRIM (known as George in later life) was born in 19 Zennor Road; in the 1901 census, Ernest and Caroline are living in 75 Zennor Road, the first in a block of two-storey buildings built in the late 1880s. It is visible on the picture below as first one of the two-storey houses abutting the three-storey houses. Ernest and Caroline had children born over the next 25 years and, like many, they moved around Zennor Road, taking the better houses as they were vacated; moving to less convenient ones if their fortunes flagged. In 1903, at the birth of their son Percy Frederick TRIM, they were in 36 Zennor Road.
By 1909, Caroline had been joined by her sister, (my great grandmother), Elizabeth Ann GWYTHER (1886-1952) who had also been born in St Mary’s Pembroke. Ernest had remained in 36 Zennor Road and Elizabeth was living with them. She married George William FINCH (1888-1946) who was from White’s Square in Clapham. The family initially moved away to Lower Orchard Street in Brixton (they are there in 1911), but returned to Zennor Road. Their children were born in Zennor Road, including my grandfather, John Sidney FINCH (1916-1982) who was born in 1 Zennor Road in June 1916.
The view from the Grove Road (soon to be Weir Road) end shows the main length of the road. The parade of shops had a separate numbering system and my grandfather was born in 1 Zennor Road, the first house on the left beyond the shops. The different sections of Zennor Road built at different times can be seen on the right – the five three-storey houses on the right are numbers 2-10 Zennor Road, which were built first and have the same design as those on the East (left) side of the road. Beyond this block which there is a change of design – these were a series of flats numbered 12-18 Zennor Road and known as ‘Potterton’s Buildings’. Beyond that there is a further sequence of two-storey houses is seen going on up to the corner. The Triangle – a set of flats occupying a plot of land in the centre of the road – are visible on the left in the distance as a block appearing to jut out from the main sequence of houses (but this is a trick of the perspective). 75 Zennor Road, where Caroline and Ernest Trim lived in 1901, is visible in the far distance as the first house seen past the Triangle. The houses are shown with metal railings in front of each house, which hints that this was taken before WW2, possibly ~1920. By the time my Dad lived there, these were all gone; believed to have been sawn off to provide metal for the WW2 war effort, and he remembers the stubs in the concrete cornices.
Members of the Finch and Trim families remained in Zennor Road and were born and died there. It was common for families to move from one house to another along the street as they became vacant. For example, my great grandparents, George and Elizabeth FINCH lived first in 1 Zennor Road, but by the 1940s, they had moved to 25 Zennor Road. My dad was born in 25 Zennor Road in 1946 and my great grandfather died in the same house in the same year. My dad grew up in number 25 and, when he lived there in the 1950s, he knew that several families along the street, including the Thwaites, Trims, Stockers were his father’s cousins and he was also aware that many others in the street were related by marriage. His Aunt Alice (Pettley) moved into the street to be near to her sister and lived in Potterton Buildings. He was often told that someone was his cousin but didn’t know exactly how. Many others, such as the Musgraves, have similar stories of their families living in Zennor Road.
My dad was born in 25 Zennor Road in February 1946. His most vivid memories of the road and its communities therefore date from the 1950s and early 1960s. He remembers many features of life there. For example, the doors to all the houses were always open – they did have locks on the front door but this was to keep the door shut to stop the draught and the key was found on the end of a piece of string accessed through the letterbox. He always told me it was because there was nothing in anyone’s houses worth stealing and in any case, there were always too many people about.
A plan of the family house at 25 Zennor Road is shown below. The ground floor comprised the front room (which was kept for best in case someone visited), the back room (which was a lounge for sitting) and the kitchen at the rear. When he was born, my dad’s Nan (Elizabeth Ann Gwyther) lived in the back room and that was the case up to her death in 1952. My Dad thinks that both his grandparents shared this room before he was born and it was probably the room in which his grandad died.
Before 1952, my Dad’s family lived on the middle floor. The backroom was the boys bedroom (him and his two brothers) and the front room was shared by his mum and dad and two sisters. The room that would be in later years a first floor middle bedroom was their kitchen. My dad was born in the first floor front bedroom. The top floor was occupied by my dad’s aunt, Ivy Elizabeth, who had married Christopher MATTHEWS. They shared the top two rooms with their two daughters (a younger daughter would be born later) and the flat comprised a bed-sit at the front and a kitchen at the rear. At this time, the house was shared by three families (which was not unusual) and had twelve adults and children within it.
In 1950, his aunt Ivy moved out to Streatham and my dad’s sisters moved into the rooms on the top floor. His Nan died in 1952 and this allowed the family to expand to fill the whole house. The boys moved into the front bedroom and my dad shared it with his brothers. There were two beds in the room and his eldest brother George had one and my Dad shared the other, top and tail, with his brother John. Because it was the front bedroom, my dad and his brother John could hear his Aunt Alice Pettley coming home from the pub singing at the top of her voice on a Saturday night. They used to open the window and look out when they were supposed to be in bed asleep. His mum and dad moved into the middle bedroom. From time to time, relatives would stay and everyone moved around. My dad remembers his uncle Bozzle (George) sleeping in his room and snoring so much he crept in with his mum and dad to get some peace. His cousin George (Bozzle’s son) was a regular visitor and stayed with them for extended periods.
In 1955, my dad’s brother Denis was born. He lived first of all in his mum & dad’s room. In 1956 his sister Elsie got married and, after living for a short while in furnished rooms in Tooting, she and her husband Dennis moved into the top two rooms. This meant that Jean moved to first floor back bedroom and was the only person to have a room to herself. After a few years, Elsie moved out to Battersea and my dad’s brother George (who had married in 1960) moved upstairs. This created a space in the ‘boys’ room – John moved to one single bed and Denis shared the other single bed with my Dad.
The lighting in his early days was by gas, and there were gas lights along the street against which the kids would play cricket and on which they would climb. The house had gas cooking and gas lighting. My dad remembers one time when the gas pipe was cracked and leaking – his mum had shut off the gas and went for an engineer. But my dad turned the gas back on again and lit the gas escaping from the hole – he still remembers the roar of the flame and the fact that there was a gap between the hole in the pipe and the bottom of the flame. He could then blow it out and relight it. By the time his mum returned, he had turned the gas back off again and his mum never knew he had played this game. Heating was by open fireplaces and every room had a fireplace. Coal was stored in the cupboard under the stairs – unlike others, their house didn’t have a coal bunker in the back yard.
Electricity came to Zennor Road around 1956. It was initially only on the ground floor and my dad’s brother John then hotwired the electrical system to take the electricity up to the top two floors. The light switches were hanging loose from the ceiling and if you put your hand round the door to turn the light on, and the light switch as facing the wrong way, you would get an electric shock. My nan got an electric washing machine (replacing the bagwash man – see below) with a mangle on top and my dad remembers putting his fingers into it and getting them trapped. They didn’t use modern wall-mounted plugs but rather used plugs that would fit into the lighting sockets and could be used to power domestic appliances. You could buy distribution plugs that would fit into the light socket and split it into two, allowing you to have a light in one and an appliance in the other.
Life on Zennor Road
My dad and his friends played in the street. Games included tennis and football (against the wall of the Triangle) and knocking bottles and cans from one side of the road to the other by throwing balls at them. He remembers marbles up against the wall and also shove ha’penny. The girls would be skipping and playing hopscotch. They made go-carts from pram tyres and wooden boards. Bonfire night (5th November) was a big event. Everyone in the street would get out all their burnable rubbish and wood and make a large pyre at the middle of the road where it widened just North of the Triangle. It was a social event for the children but an annual clear out for the adults.
Zennor Road had no telephones (although there was a public phone box in Weir Road) and so he and the other younger children ran paper messages about. This included his dad’s bets. Zennor Road always had a bookmaker. Prior to 1960, betting outside of race courses was illegal and in the late 1930s, my great grandad (George William Finch 1888-1946) had been the street bookie. He was arrested on at least two occasions for running illegal bets. By the 1950s, when my dad remembers it, the man who used to collect the bets was called Clark. He thinks that Clark was just front man and that someone else was the actual bookmaker – the police could only ever arrest the front man. In 1960, the Betting and Gaming Act allowed licensed bookmakers outside of the race courses. A bookmaker called EVANS opened in the parade at the end of the road and my dad would take his bets up.
Kids were often sent on shopping trips. One day he took his youngest brother Denis (about 9 month old) in the pram to the shops on Keith Terrace (Webb’s Dairy, along Cavendish Road) and forgot all about him. A while later, while he was playing on the road, his mum came out asked where Denis was. Denis was found sitting happily in the pram outside the shop where he had been left.
The dustmen would come through the house to collect the bins from the back yard and carry them back through the house. The dustmen always kept an eye on what they were carrying and would lift things out of the rubbish if they thought they could sell it on. My dad’s mum would buy carpets from the dustman. There were several deliveries along the street – usually from horse and cart – which included bread and coal. The bagwash man used to come along the street collecting the week’s washing in a pillow case and these would be returned later washed but not dried. There was a mangle in the yard and the washing went through this to get the worst of the water out before it was hung to dry in the yard. The milkman had an electric vehicle and the cartmen would collect their money every Saturday. There were two toilets in the house, one accessed from the yard (go out the back door, round the old washhouse and then in through the door) and the second on the first floor. There was no bathroom and the tin bath was in the back yard. This had to be filled from kettles boiled on the gas cooker. My nan had an old flatiron (back in the days when they really were blocks of solid iron), that was heated on the stove and then used to iron the clothes.
My dad particularly remembers Sundays. Everyone put their best clothes on on Sunday, even though no-one went to church. My dad’s dad always made cooked Sunday breakfast which he called the ‘cowboy’s breakfast’ because it constituted bacon, eggs and beans. The pubs were only open between 12-2 and dinner was timed to be ready for when the pubs closed and the menfolk came home. As you walked down the road on a Sunday afternoon, you could smell the roast dinners cooking in the houses. The whole family would sit down to Sunday dinner. Afterwards, the Salvation Army would come and do a service in the street and the kids would march back with them to Sunday school on Balham Hill. This was the only privacy parents ever got during the week. In the early evening, the van would come from the coast bringing winkles and cockles – the usual Sunday tea.
When someone on the street died, there would be a collection for the bereaved family. Everyone moved out of Zennor Road in 1975 when it was demolished. My aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins were all moved to the Blenheim Gardens estate in Brixton. When he was asked whether he missed Zennor Road, my grandfather said that he had been given a new house with all amenities and then been compensated for the fact that he had had to move. Although there is a nostalgia for some aspects of living on the street, my grandfather gave the clear impression that leaving it had been one of the best moves he had made.
Arguably the most famous person to come from Zennor Road is John Sullivan, the script writer, who was born in 35 Zennor Road and grew up along the street. My dad was in the year above John at school and he remembers him as being reserved and thoughtful. In hindsight, he was clearly taking in the characters along the street since my dad assures me that many of the characters that featured in Citizen Smith and Only Fools and Horses were reminiscent of individuals along Zennor Road. John also used the surnames of the people in the street, and one of the characters in Only Fools and Horses was Bobby Finch.
It has been suggested that a notorious South London criminal gang – the Richardson gang – came out of Zennor Road. There were Richardsons on the street and my dad had heard it suggested that there was a connection to a man they called ‘Old Man Richardson’ – who lived in one of the flats in 10 Potterton Buildings. However he didn’t think that this was true. Although there was a lot of ‘wheeling and dealing’ along the street, my Dad assures me that people generally had respect for the Police. Serious criminality was rare.
Almost everyone on the street was involved in boxing, including my grandad John Sidney Finch (1916-1982). Another of these was Harry (Bomber) Newton who had been a professional boxer in the years after the war. Like several in his position, he had boxed within the Army in WW2, becoming Middleweight Champion of British-Malaya in 1945. This success, combined with the vacuum of demobilisation, meant that he tried his hand as a professional boxer after returning to the UK. He had some success over a period of five years but retired in late 1949 or 1950.
At the Weir Road end of Zennor Road in number 10a lived Sam (Samuel Mountstephen 1883-1965), an old man who collected recyclables and junk. He wore a long coat and bowler hat and would be seen dragging a long train of prams onto which he would collect his wares. It was said that he had been an officer in the Navy in the distant past. People found it amusing that his floods of profanity were delivered with a posh accent.
The burial of John FINCH of Maldon in Essex is found in the graveyard in St Athernase’s Church in Leuchars. The stone is under a tree on the East side of the church. John was a master mariner, shipwrecked in St Andrews Bay in 1848. I am posting it here for those researching Maldon Finches who may not know of its existence.
The inscription reads:
Sacred to the Memory of John FINCH, Aged 65 Years, Master Mariner of Maldon in Essex, who was drowned with a crew of five others in St Andrews Bay 28th January 1848; the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous runneth into it and is safe. Proverbs 18th: 10.
The Fife Herald for the 3rd February 1848 gives an account of what happened:
ST ANDREWS – SERIOUS ACCIDENT – SEVEN LIVES LOST
On Friday the 28th January last, about midday, a brig was observed in the bay, the sea and the tide running very high – wind SE and snow. The crew were apparently strangers to the coast; and the vessel drifted west (in) the Bay will about two miles north of the town, where she was brought to anchor in a very dangerous situation. The lifeboat was instantly brought to the beach, but the crew of fishermen appointed by the Town Council to man her refused to do so, when a number of young seamen boldly volunteered, who, with the assistance of the captain of the coast guard and his men (two of whom went in the boat), and few of our townsmen, got the boat afloat, and made an effort to reach the vessel; but the wind and sea being so very high , they were, after a bold attempt, compelled to return to the shore. By this tie, the snow fell very thick; and the night closing in, the vessel was lost sight of from the shore, and nothing further passed till about half past 7 o clock PM, when a boat was cast ashore, bottom up, on the West Sands, marked “Endeavour, Maldon” “John Finch” which gave rise to great doubts as to the safety of the crew. About eight o clock, the wind fell, and veered round to SW and the snow cleared away. By next morning, the sea had fallen considerably – so much so, that a common fishing boat could have reached the vessel with perfect safety. The weather, however was so thick that the vessel could not be seen until about eleven o clock, when she was again visible; and the crew who had so nobly volunteered on the previous day, and at the risk of their lives endeavoured to gain the vessel without success, again offered their services to man the lifeboat, but, strange to say, the captain of the coast guard and of the boat, positively refused to allow them, and preferred the fishermen, who would on no account whatsoever go on the previous day, when their assistance, WISELY DIRECTED, might have been the means of saving the unfortunate crew. The lifeboat this manned reached the vessel, but not a soul on board – both chains broken, and the vessel drifting about. The fishermen made sail, and took her to Dundee in safety. The crew, consisting of seven hands (as appears from ships articles), had left the vessel in their own boat; and, in endeavouring to gain the shore, she had swamped, when all perished. The vessel sailed from Seaham on the 24th ultimo, bound for Maldon, with coals. The fishermen, we think, were greatly to blame in not endeavouring to go off to the vessel when she was first seen – the consequence of her not having been reached has been, that they are now entitled to salvage for the vessel, while human life, to a great extent, has been sacrificed. This is the second case of salvage that has occurred with the same fishermen within the last twelve or eighteen months; and we sincerely hope that, in this case, they will get no more than a fair remuneration for their day’s labour – for nothing more could it be called – there bring no danger; as, if a full salvage be awarded, we need no longer look for any exertion being used on their part to save the lives of their fellow creatures.
This account was repeated almost verbatim by several other newspapers but a different account was given in the Arbroath Guide, which seems to be written by another eye witness.
MELANCHOLY OCCURRENCE – ABANDONMENT OF A BRIG AND LOSS OF THE CREW IN ST ANDREWS BAY
On Friday forenoon last, while Lieutenant Henry Cox RN Inspecting Officer of the Fife District, was at St Andrews, he observed a brig running into the Bay during a heavy gale of wind with hail and snow showers. At noon she hauled her wind and attempted to work out of the bay, but was eventually compelled to anchor at three PM, about one and a half miles from the mouth of the River Eden. A large party of fishermen and other having collected on the beach, the life boat was brought out with a view to rescue the crew of the vessel from their unfortunate position. Volunteers manned the boat, and Lieutenant Cos exerted himself to the utmost, but such was the fury of the waves they could not get her a hundred yards from the beach, and they were compelled to give up the attempt. A good lookout was kept after the vessel, which was still riding; at about eight PM, a boat came on shore bottom up, near the rocks, marked ‘Endeavour’ of Maldon, John Finch, master, and about two miles to the southward of the vessel. Next day (Saturday) at eleven AM, the most having cleared away, the vessel was observed in the same position as on the preceding evening. The weather now being more moderate, Lieutenant Cox manned the lifeboat with a crew of four coastguard men and twelve fishermen and succeeded in reaching the vessel, when they found her abandoned by her crew; and, as the vessel’s name was the ‘Endeavour’ of Maldon, and the stern boat still hanging in place, there is no doubt but the unfortunate crew had taken to the long boat, which had been upset by the fury of the sea, and the whole (six in number) drowned, the boat being washed on shore, as previously mentioned. The salvors found, on heaving up, that the chains had parted from both anchors, so that the ship would have come on shore the following tide. The wind having proved favourable, Lieutenant Cox and his party succeeded in working the vessel into the Tay, and she was safely moored in King William’s Dock here on Saturday evening. The vessel has sustained no damage except in her rudder that can be seen; and, had her unfortunate crew only remained on board, they would have been all saved. She is now in charge of Mr Just, as agent for the salvors and all concerned. It appears from her register that the master was owner. She is coal laden; but no papers have been found to show what port she was bound. Intelligence was sent off same evening to the Collector of Customs at Maldon, in order that the relatives of the lost crew might be appraised, as well as those interested in the vessel and cargo. To many here, Lieutenant Cox is well know as ever ready in the cause of humanity in cases of shipwreck; and during a long residence at St Andrews he has rendered great services in many perilous cases. After an absence of three years in command of a cutter he is now back in his old district; and, as the inspecting officer resides at Elie, with the Fife coast under his charge, no officer, on the coast is more active and ready to render assistance to the shipwrecked mariner, for which services he has at different times received marks of distinction.
James BULL is a problematic ancestor who was alive in the 1830s. He was father to James Honeyman BULL (1829-1878) and DNA studies show his descendants have a link with the Honeyman family, most likely via Mary Ann Susannah HONEYMAN (1803-?). James Honeyman BULL was baptised in 1 May 1831 at St James Piccadilly in Westminster as the son of James and Mary Ann BULL – his age was ‘above 1 1/2 years’ placing his birth around September 1829 – and his address was given as ‘6 Eden Place, Pimlico’. No such address existed at that time, but Eaton Place was an address in Pimlico and we infer that that was the intended description. James Bull was described as a leatherdresser.
On James Honeyman Bull’s marriage in 1855, James Bull is not marked as deceased (which may indicate he was still alive), and he was then described as an ‘innkeeper’. Exhaustive studies of James Bulls on the 1841 and 1851 censuses have failed to show a conclusive identity for this elusive ancestor. The search is complicated by the fact that there are several James Bulls – it is a relatively common name. There is no marriage we can trace with Mary Ann HONEYMAN.
The Good news
DNA studies may provide us with clues. My Mum had her DNA tested and she and two of her distant cousins (KA and Christine C) match two people called Chris G and Kurt T. Christine C, KA and my Mum’s common ancestors were James Honeyman Bull and his wife Martha Eaves, indicating that Chris G’s link to them is either via James or Martha. Chris and Kurt are descended from a Matilda Bull (1802-1888) who lived in Pimlico and married John GODDARD in 1827 at St George, Hanover Square. I have therefore been exploring the family tree of Matilda Bull to see if she provides clues to the mystery of James Bull.
Matilda Bull was baptised in Chatham in Kent in 1802, the daughter of William and Sarah BULL. She was married in 1827 and then had children baptised in St James Piccadilly, the same church in which James Honeyman Bull was baptised. He eldest son, John William GODDARD (1828-?), was baptised at St James Piccadilly from ‘Eaton Lane, Pimlico’ (sadly it omits the house number), the same street in which James Honeyman Bull was born. The wedding between John GODDARD and Matilda was witnessed by George COBB, whose wife Elizabeth (1791-?, according to the 1851 census) was also born in Chatham. This Elizabeth corresponds to Matilda’s sister Elizabeth BULL (1791-?) who was also baptised in Chatham.
I have traced George and Elizabeth’s marriage in 1826 in St George Hanover Square – it was by licence and both are described as widowed. Elizabeth was at that time ‘Betsy RASBIN’ of St George Hanover Square but as yet I have been unable to find a marriage for Elizabeth BULL to Rasbin. Rasbin is not a common name, and should be distinctive, but I have been unable to trace the event. Therefore the link to Elizabeth Bull currently is unproven, even if it is intuitive. Their eldest son, George William COBB (1830-?) was baptised in St James Piccadilly out of ‘Eaton Lane’ (again omitting the house number), the same as James Honeyman Bull and John William Goddard. The records are consistent with the family are all living together in Eaton Lane between 1828-1830, precisely the dates that James Honeyman Bull is there.
Do Matilda and Elizabeth Bull have a brother James? Yes, he is baptised at Chatham in 1794. He joined the navy in 1813, giving his place of birth as Chatham and mother’s name as Sarah, all consistent with this James. He was in the Navy until 1821 when he was discharged as suffering from ‘phthisis’ (tuberculosis). This allows us to create a hypothesis for our James Bull, that the Bull family (James, Matilda and Elizabeth) lived either together or close to each other in Eaton Lane, Pimlico, in the period 1828-1831. They had children during this time, but for whatever reason, they did not choose the local parish church at St George Hanover Square, but rather the church of St James Piccadilly, where all the baptisms are to be found. All of the families move away from Eaton Lane by the mid-1830s, although Matilda and Elizabeth remain close by for all of their lives. This hypothesis explains the DNA link that my mum and her cousins share with Chris G, who is descended from Matilda.
The Bad News
I have been able to trace that James Bull on the census. He is in the 1851 census in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, with his birthplace clearly shown as Chatham in Kent with an estimated date of birth of 1795. His wife is Harriet and she is also born in Chatham. They had a daughter Elizabeth H Bull, born 1827 in Southwark, who corresponds to a baptism at St George the Martyr, Southwark for Elizabeth Harriet Bull, the daughter of James Bull and Harriet. James is a gent of Walworth Common. I cannot find confidently the marriage of James Bull and Harriet – it may be James and Harriet HOLLINS in 1822 at Stepney, but there is a James Bull (1799-1859) buried out of Stepney in 1859 who seems to correspond to that marriage. It is more like to correspond to the marriage in 1823 to Harriet BARTON at St George Hanover Square.
The family appears on the 1841 census in Langley’s Buildings, in St Mary Newington. The daughter is entered as Elizabeth Bull (forgetting the middle name), the wife is Harriet and James is now a clerk. In 1851 they are in Cheltenham – James is born Chatham, the clerk of the manor court at Cheltenham and by 1861 they are back in Newington at 8 George Street. James is now a widower born Kent and his daughter Eliza Bull is born Surrey. James died on the 10 Sep 1868 at St Thomas’ Hospital with an address at 66 Date Street, Trafalgar Street, Walworth, Surrey, leaving letters of administration to his daughter Elizabeth Harriet Bull.
The good points from this is that James clearly survived childhood and is found in Southwark in the late 1820s when our James Bull met Mary Ann Honeyman. There is unfortunately no evidence that James Bull was ever a leatherdresser or an innkeeper, although he is educated and working as a clerk, as James Honeyman Bull himself would do in due course. The problem is that this James is married to Harriet by 1827 and apparently remains with her until her death between 1851 and 1861. There is no sign of James Honeyman Bull with the family on the 1841 census.
It may be that there is another James Bull born in Chatham in the mid-1790s but if so, I have been unable to trace his baptism. If this is our man, then his relationship to Mary Ann Honeyman must have been extramarital and taken place while he was married to Harriet. It would mean that James Bull acknowledged his son by Mary Ann in the 1830 and even moved with her in the 1830s to Eaton Lane, before returning to his original family in Newington by the 1841 census. Alternatively, he may have married one Harriet around 1825 who died not long after the birth of their daughter in 1827, he then married Mary Ann Honeyman who died in the 1830s, before marrying a second Harriet before the 1841 census. All of this is possible but unlikely. The simplest interpretation of the genealogical evidence is that James and Harriet married around 1825 and stayed together until Harriet’s death between 1851 and 1861.
The DNA match might indicate that the link is in the generations before Matilda Bull; that James Honeyman Bull was descended from Matilda’s cousin and not her brother. A Richard BULL is born in Chatham and moved to Eaton Court, Pimlico (part of Eaton Lane) in the 1820s and appears on the 1851 census there. Or it could be that the James we are following in the records is Matilda’s cousin, with her brother being James Honeyman Bull’s father, leaving a more subtle footprint on the contemporary records.
Very pleased to see that David Ramsay is the focus of a talk at the National Museum of Scotland next month. The talk goes with an exhibition on Stuart clockmakers that includes some of the items that were illustrated in our articles on Edward East (1602-c.1695) and David Ramsay (c. 1580-1659).