If you’ve just landed on this website, welcome!  You might want to start by reading the ‘About this blog’ page, then go to the first post on the site and work your way forward through the story chronologically.

Alternatively, you can look for specific people, places or events in the ‘search’ box at the top of the page.

A prequel!

My latest history blog, Yeomen and Kinsmen, provides a ‘prequel’ to the story told here on Citizens and Cousins. The new site tells the story of my Tudor and Stuart ancestors, beginning with my 12th great grandfather William Byne, a yeoman farmer in Burwash, Sussex, in the early sixteenth century, and ending with the death of my 9th great grandfather, Magnus Byne, a clergyman in Clayton, Sussex, a hundred or so years later (and the father of John, Stephen and Magnus Byne junior whose stories I’ve told on this blog).

The story encompasses not only successive generations of the Byne family, but also the families with whom they were connected by marriage, and who are also part of my family tree. They include the Mansers, landowners and iron masters in Wadhurst, a few miles north of Burwash, and the Fowles, originally from Lamberhurst in Kent, who included monks and schoolmasters among their number.

The most significant change in people’s lives during this period was the transformation of the religious life of the country. When our story begins, England was still, as it had been for more than a thousand years, a Catholic country. By the time it ends, Catholicism had been effectively outlawed, the official state religion was Anglicanism, and an increasing array of Protestant sects had begun to rebel against the new orthodoxy. My ancestors saw the religion in which they, and countless generations before them, had been raised swept away under Henry VIII, and even more drastically so under his son Edward VI, then briefly restored during Mary’s brief reign, before the pendulum swung back again under her sister Elizabeth. The period ends with the nation tearing it apart in a Civil War, largely inspired by the religious disputes sparked off a century before when Henry VIII broke with Rome. I’m fascinated by my ancestors’ part in these spiritual and political conflicts, and one of my aims in this new blog is to understand more fully the changing religious identities of my forebears.

The story continues…

I’ve created a new website, in order to continue the story of my maternal ancestors begun here on ‘Citizens and Cousins’.

East End Lives tells the story of one family – my family – in nineteenth-century London, beginning with the arrival of the Holdsworth siblings (children of my 5 x great grandparents Joseph Holdsworth and Elizabeth Gibson) in Stepney at the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.


I began this blog by taking a journey back through time, uncovering the connections between my mother’s immediate family and the generations that proceeded them. In the course of my research into my family’s history, I had discovered that they had roots in London going back at least to the middle of the seventeenth century.


Tower Hill at the end of the seventeenth century

During that troubled century, members of the Byne family migrated from rural Sussex to the capital, intermarrying with the Forrests, who had moved to London from rural Worcestershire, and who were linked in turn to the illustrious Boulton family. This first generation of London citizens were haberdashers, stationers, upholsterers and apothecaries, clustered mostly around Tower Hill in the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate, on the eastern edge of the fast-growing city. Their cousins the Boultons, living close by in the parish of All Hallows, Barking, were gunmakers, sea captains and shipbuilders, many of them in the service of the East India Company.

In the next generation, at the dawn of the eighteenth century, a link was forged with the Greenes, an old Stepney family, who had been mariners for generations. My ancestor Joseph Greene, son of Captain William Greene, was himself a citizen and goldsmith, also at Tower Hill; He married Mary, the daughter of John Byne, a Sussex-born citizen and stationer, and his wife Alice Forrest. Joseph and Mary Greene’s daughter, another Mary, married coal factor John Gibson and they established homes both at Tower Hill and on their country estate at Woodredon in Essex. The Gibsons’ only son, Bowes John, was another East India employee, as were two of his sons, who would serve with the Company’s military arm in India. The Gibsons’ daughters married farmers, mariners and merchants, while the children and grandchildren of these marriages would complicate the family story by marrying their own cousins and second cousins.


Mile End Road at the end of the eighteenth century

John and Mary Gibson’s daughter Elizabeth, my 5 x great grandmother, was married twice. When her second husband, Yorkshire-born Essex farmer Joseph Holdsworth died, Elizabeth returned to the city of her birth, where she lived out her old age, seemingly in straitened circumstances.

Elizabeth’s sons would work in the Stepney area as cordwainers, carpenters, plumbers and tallow chandlers. But their story lies beyond the remit of this blog, which draws to an end with Elizabeth’s death in 1809. Their story, and that of their descendants, is the story of the nineteenth-century East End, during another period of dramatic change, as it was transformed from a genteel semi-rural suburb into a dense network of crowded streets, teeming with migrants not only from all over England, but from across the world.

I plan to explore the lives of my nineteenth-century East End ancestors in a new blog. Watch this space for further details.

Byne, Greene, Gibson: a timeline

My recent posts have told the story of the descendants of Joseph Greene, a goldsmith in early eighteenth-century London, and his wife Mary Byne: they were my 7 x great grandparents. It might be useful to summarise the key events in their lives, and the lives of their direct descendants, down to the death of their granddaughter and my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Holdsworth.

1677 Birth of Joseph Greene

1683 Birth of Mary Byne

1685 Accession of King James II

1686 Death of Captain William Greene, father of Joseph

1688 William of Orange deposes King James II

1689 Death of John Byne, father of Mary

1699 Birth of John Gibson

1701 Joseph Greene marries Mary Byne

1702 Accession of Queen Anne

1710 Birth of Mary Greene

1714 Accession of George I

1727 Accession of George II

1729 Mary Greene marries John Gibson

1733 Birth of Elizabeth Gibson

1737 Death of Joseph Greene

1745 Jacobite uprising

1753 Elizabeth Gibson marries John Collins

1760 Accession of George III

1763 Death of John Gibson

Elizabeth Collins née Gibson marries Joseph Holdsworth

1776 American Declaration of Independence

1790 Death of Mary Gibson

1795  Regency era

Death of Joseph Holdsworth

1809 Death of Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson

The life of Elizabeth Gibson (1733 – 1809)

Having reviewed the lives of the other children of my 6 x great grandparents, John and Mary Gibson, it’s time to return to my direct ancestor, their daughter Elizabeth. Specifically, we need to tell the story of her second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth, her return to London after his death, and her family’s decline from prosperity to genteel poverty. Elizabeth spent her childhood in a country manor house, the daughter of a prosperous merchant, and ended it as a relatively poor widow in Stepney, seeing her children forced to take up trades that her parents and grandparents would have regarded as beneath them.

Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah 1786 Johan Zoffany 1733-1810 Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12610

An eighteenth-century middle-class family (‘Colonel Blair with his Family and an Indian Ayah 1786’ Johan Zoffany 1733-1810 Bequeathed by Simon Sainsbury 2006, accessioned 2008 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T12610)

Birth and background

We should begin by reminding ourselves of the details of Elizabeth Gibson’s early life. She was born in 1733 in the Minories in the City of London, in the sixth year of the reign of King George II, when Robert Walpole was prime minister. She was christened on 17th May about a half a mile away, at the church of St Botolph without Aldgate. Elizabeth was John and Mary Gibson’s third daughter: they already had three-year-old twin daughters named Mary and Jane.

When she was two years old, Elizabeth’s younger sister Frances was born, and two years after that saw the birth of another sister, Ann, both at Tower Hill. On Boxing Day, 1737, when Elizabeth was four years old, her grandfather Joseph died, leaving sufficient funds for his widow, Mary, to purchase the house and manor of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey, Essex. Mary Greene immediately transferred the ownership of the manor to her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth’s parents.

Although we can’t be sure, it’s safe to assume that Elizabeth spent much of her childhood at Woodredon, which is about fifteen miles north-east of London, and was probably reached in a half a day or so along the main highway via Woodford. We know that the Gibsons retained their house at Tower Hill, since Elizabeth’s younger brother Bowes John Gibson was born there in 1744, as was her youngest sister Sarah in 1746.


Section of J. Cary’s map of fifteen miles around London (1786), showing Waltham Holy Cross and Woodredon

First marriage to John Collins

Confirmation that the Gibsons regarded Woodredon, as much as London, as their home came in 1752, when Elizabeth’s older sister married William Coates at nearby Theydon Mount. The parish register describes Jane as coming from Waltham Holy Cross.

Three months later, on 21 February 1753, Elizabeth herself was married at St George’s Chapel, Mayfair, to John Collins. Her address was said to be Waltham Abbey, while the bridegroom was described as a ‘gentleman’ of Epping. John was almost certainly the son of Richard Collins, a landowner with a considerable number of properties in the Epping area, and therefore a near-neighbour of the Gibsons at Woodredon. The reasons for marrying at this particular chapel, which had a reputation for secret marriages, are unclear. In the following year, Elizabeth’s younger sister Ann married Charles Gottfried Schwartz.

The only glimpse we have of the brief married life of Elizabeth and John Collins is the record of the baptism of their daughter, Frances, on 8th July 1759, in Elizabeth’s home parish of St Botolph’s, Aldgate. As far as we know, she was their only child. The family’s address is given as Darby Street, off Rosemary Lane and a few streets to the east of Tower Hill and the Minories. Since John Collins was left considerable property in the Epping area, by both his father and his aunt Elizabeth, it seems unlikely that this was the couple’s only home and probable that, like Elizabeth’s parents, they divided their time between town and country.

In January 1761, Elizabeth’s sister Frances married Captain Michael Bonner of Stepney at St Botolph’s church. A year later, the Bonners would themselves be living in Darby Street when their first child, John William Bonner, was born.

John Collins must have died some time between 1759 and 1763, when Elizabeth would marry for a second time. The apparent absence of a burial record for John in the London registers increases the likelihood that the couple also kept a home in a rural parish.

Elizabeth’s father John Gibson died in February 1763. In the following year, Sir John Henneker began to buy the manor of Woodredon from the Gibson family, though the process was not completed until after the death of Elizabeth’s mother Mary in 1790.

Second marriage to Joseph Holdsworth

On 20 May 1763, in the third year of the reign of King George III, Elizabeth Collins, a widow, married Joseph Holdsworth, a bachelor, at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey. Why this particular church was chosen is unclear, though a number of members of the Gibson and Bonner families lived in the parish at various times. Joseph had been born in Yorkshire, into a family of Nonconformist farmers and wool traders in the area between Halifax and Bradford, and at some point had inherited property in the Essex village of South Weald, near Brentwood. How Elizabeth met Joseph is another mystery, though we know that members of the Collins family owned land in neighbouring villages and it’s possible that Elizabeth knew of Joseph via her first husband.


St Peter’s church, South Weald

Over the course of the next ten years, Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth would have seven children, all of them christened at the church of St Peter’s, South Weald: Elizabeth, born in 1764; John, 1765; Henry, 1766; Sarah, 1767; Joseph, 1770; William, 1771; and Godfrey, 1773. During this period Joseph served as a parish councillor, overseer of the poor, and leet jury member.

In June 1780, a month before the Gordon riots erupted in London, Frances Collins, Elizabeth’s daughter from her first marriage, married her cousin John Godfrey Schwartz, son of Elizabeth’s sister Ann. In October of that same year, Joseph and Elizabeth Holdsworth’s oldest child, Elizabeth, died in South Weald; she was fourteen years old.

In April 1788, Elizabeth’s widowed mother Mary composed her last will and testament, in which she left her daughter Elizabeth Holdsworth an annuity of five pounds, as well as her second largest punch bowl and ‘the plates with parrots’. Mary Gibson died in 1790. Her unmarried daughter Sarah, who had been buried ten days earlier, left her older sister Elizabeth the sum of one hundred pounds in her will.

All of Joseph’s and Elizabeth’s surviving children seem to have moved away from South Weald, mostly to London, as soon as they reached adulthood. In October 1786, when she was about nineteen years old, Sarah Holdsworth married Edward Porter at St Botolph, Bishopsgate. My 4 x great grandfather William Holdsworth married Lydia Evans at the same church in November 1792, when he was twenty-one. Joseph Holdsworth junior married Margaret Miller at Christ Church, Spitalfields, in February 1792, when he was 22 years old. Godfrey Holdsworth married Diana Cam at St Paul’s, Covent Garden, in August 1793, when he was 20. It’s unclear what became of Henry, but it’s possible he is the person who died in Southwark in 1813.

The exception to the rule was the Holdsworths’ eldest son John, who married Mary Webb at Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, in 1797, when he was thirty-two. John was the only Holdsworth sibling to wait until after his father’s death to marry, so it’s possible that, as the eldest son, he remained at home to help his ageing father with work on the farm, and perhaps to settle his affairs after his death.

The fact that Joseph and Elizabeth’s children were impelled to leave home suggests a downturn in the family’s fortunes, as well as perhaps a lack of employment in their home village. We know that the 1790s saw rising prices and poor harvests, culminating in the ‘famine’ year of 1795, in addition to the problems created by wars abroad and political unrest at home.

We must assume that Elizabeth remained in South Weald, at least until after the death and burial of her husband Joseph in June 1795. Then, the presence of most of her children in London and her other family ties there, very soon drew the widowed Elizabeth back to the city of her birth.

Old age


Section of J. Cary’s map of fifteen miles around London (1786), showing Stepney and eastern edge of London

My assumption is that Elizabeth spent her declining years living with one or other of her married children, somewhere in the Stepney area. At the time of Joseph Holdsworth’s death in 1795, their daughter Sarah was living in Mile End Old Town, with her husband, plumber Edward Porter and their infant son Edward Parker Porter. Godfrey Holdsworth and his wife Diana were also in Mile End Old Town, where Godfrey also worked as a plumber: at this date, they had two young children, Joseph and Sarah. Joseph junior was living in Marmaduke Street with, or close to, his brother William: both were working as cordwainers or shoemakers. Joseph and his wife Margaret had two young children, Sarah and John Clark, while William and his wife Lydia had two infant sons, Isaac and Samuel (their biblical names reflecting their parents’ Baptist affiliation). John Holdsworth was still in Oxfordshire, but he and his family would also be drawn to Stepney in due course.

As for Elizabeth’s own siblings, it’s unclear whether her older sister Jane Coates was still living, though we know she had three children, all born in Epping, with her husband William. No further trace has been found to date of Elizabeth’s sister Ann Schwarz,  though she was mentioned in Mary Gibson’s will of 1788. Frances Bonner and her husband Michael had two children, John William and Michael junior, both of whom were married by this time. Michael and Frances Bonner would both die in 1802 in Bermondsey and be buried at St George’s in the East.

As I noted in the previous post, Elizabeth’s younger brother Bowes John Gibson had ten children by his first wife, Elizabeth, who died some time in the 1790s. Having lived in Stepney and Bermondsey, Bowes John was now back in Mile End Old Town and working as an auctioneer, providing financial and broking services to the East India Company. In 1799 he married for a second time, to Mary Catherine Bretman, with whom he would have eight more children. We don’t know whether Bowes John Gibson had any contact with his widowed and probably impoverished older sister Elizabeth.

Death and burial


Elizabeth Holdsworth would live for another fourteen years after the death of her second husband Joseph. By the time she died in 1809, she had as many as twenty-two surviving grandchildren. When she drew up her will in the year of her death, Elizabeth Holdsworth was living in Mile End Old Town, probably with her daughter Sarah, whom she appointed as co-executor, and who by this time had herself been widowed, lost her only child, and married for a second time, to William Parker.

Clearly, Elizabeth had very little money left to bequeath her children or grandchildren. She left forty pounds for funeral expenses in the keeping of her son Joseph, now living in William Street, Whitechapel, and anything remaining was to be divided equally between her five sons. All her furniture and apparel she left to Sarah.

Elizabeth Holdsworth died on 1st March 1809, aged 77 years, and was buried a week later, as she had wished, in a ‘vault in the church yard of St Dunstan Stepney built by my grandfather and where my brothers and sisters lay.’ She is buried with her grandparents Joseph and Mary Greene, three of their children, her great grandparents Captain William Greene of Ratcliffe and his wife Elizabeth, as well as her nephew John William Bonner, who would die in 1817, and her eldest son John, who died in 1848 and whose name is inscribed below hers.

The life of Bowes John Gibson (1744 – 1817)

Born in 1744, Bowes John Gibson was the next-to-last child, and only son, of my 6 x great grandparents John and Mary Gibson. In the last couple of posts I’ve discussed the lives, marriages and children of Bowes John’s sisters. In this post, I’ll summarise what I’ve been able to discover about his own life and those of his children.

Early life

The first thing to say is that Bowes John Gibson’s first name remains something of a mystery. He was obviously named ‘John’ after his father, but ‘Bowes’ could be a family name, or it might be a tribute to a friend, business associate or even hero of John’s. As we shall see, Bowes John would himself give a number of his children the names of naval or military figures, at least one of whom I believe he knew well.

Six years before he was born, Bowes John Gibson’s parents had taken possession of Woodredon, their country estate near Waltham Abbey in Essex, a gift from Mary Gibson’s widowed mother Mary Greene. Although, like his siblings, Bowes John was born in the family’s London house at Tower Hill, it is likely that he spent much of his childhood at Woodredon. If my speculations about John Gibson’s career are correct, then the early years of Bowes John Gibson’s childhood would have coincided with his father’s bankruptcy and imprisonment. One of the reasons I remain uncertain as to whether John Gibson, the coal factor who was imprisoned in the Fleet, was identical with my 6 x great grandfather, is that he and his wife Mary had two children (Bowes John and his sister Sarah) during these years, and that they managed to keep possession of Woodredon until after John’s death in 1763. Not only that, but their children did not seem to be unduly affected financially by these supposed disasters. Their daughters all made ‘good’ marriages: that is, they all married men of either property or respectable professions. And Bowes John himself, as we shall see, was not held back from launching a successful career with the East India Company.


Ships of the East India Company

Given that later career, it’s almost certain that at some stage Bowes John was sent away to school, probably in London: possibly at Merchant Taylors, where a number of his forebears had been educated. I’ve found no record of his attendance at a university, and given what we know of the family’s history, it seems more likely that Bowes John would have been apprenticed, perhaps to a London merchant, as his nephews John William Bonner and John Godfrey Schwartz would be some years later.

What we don’t know, since the records are unavailable, is the precise route that Bowes John Gibson took to reach the position that he had attained by 1790, when London directories described him as an auctioneer and broker in the service of the East India Company. It’s possible that he spent some time in the service of the Company overseas. Neither do we know whether Bowes John’s path to a career with the East India Company, which would also provide employment for two of his sons, was made easier by the fact that a number of his distant relatives had held prominent positions with the Company, and that one of them, Henry Crabb Boulton, was actually its chairman, as well as a prominent Member of Parliament, at about the time that Bowes John was coming of age.

First marriage to Elizabeth Hindley

The first definite record that we have for Bowes John Gibson after his baptism dates from 13th October 1766, when he was almost twenty-two years old. It was on this date that he married Elizabeth Hindley at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney, the location confirming that he, with his widowed mother Mary and unmarried sister Sarah, had already made the move from Tower Hill to Mile End Old Town. Elizabeth was said to be from the parish of St Mary’s in Lambeth, but I’ve been unable to find out anything more about her.

Miniature, MNT0049

Rear Admiral Sir Edmund Affleck (via Wikipedia)

There were two witnesses to the marriage. One was Bowes John’s younger sister Sarah Gibson. The other was a certain ‘Edmd. Affleck’. Two decades or so later, when Bowes John Gibson’s sister Sarah came to write her will, she would leave twenty pounds to ‘my godson Edmond Affleck Gibson son of my … brother Bowes John Gibson’. I’ve yet to find a baptismal record for Edmond, but since he must have been born some time between 1766 and 1789, he was definitely the child of Bowes John’s first marriage to Elizabeth Hendly. It also seems likely that he was named after the Edmund Affleck who witnessed Bowes John’s and Elizabeth’s marriage. However, the more interesting question is whether that person was the Sir Edmund Affleck, later baronet, son of Gilbert Affleck of Dalham Hall, Suffolk, who served as a naval officer, attaining the rank of Rear Admiral in 1784, two years after distinguishing himself in the Battle of the Saintes in the Caribbean, and who served as M.P. for Colchester from 1782 till his death in 1788? He is certainly the only Edmund Affleck that I can find in the records. Affleck would have been in his early forties at the time of Bowes John Gibson’s marriage and probably still a naval captain. Is it possible that Bowes John Gibson had served under Affleck (there was a difference of about twenty years in their ages), or that they had encountered each other through the former’s work for the East India Company?

The next record that relating to Bowes John Gibson that we have is for the baptism of his first child with Elizabeth – a daughter named Esther or Hester – at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 8th August 1767. Bowes John is described as a gentleman and their address is given as Mile End Old Town. We know from a database of Mile End Old Town residents that ‘Mr John Bozey Gibson’, described as a ‘gent’, and his wife Elizabeth, occupied a house on the north side of Mile End Road and that, certainly by 1768, John’s mother Mary was living on the southern side of the same road.


Bermondsey, from Horwood’s 1792 map, with Long Walk visible below parish church and close to Bermondsey Square

The baptismal record for the next Gibson child is intriguing, both because it indicates a change of address, and because it seems to suggest that Bowes John was not at this stage working for the East India Company. Ann Gibson was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, on 9th February 1771. This was the church at which Bowes John’s sister, and my 5 x great grandmother, Elizabeth had contracted her second marriage, to Joseph Holdsworth, some eight years earlier, and where members of his sister Frances Bonner’s family would christen their children a decade or so later.

The Gibson family’s address was said to be ‘Grange’, which might mean Grange Road, or it could denote a general area, in which case it could be the same house that they were living in three years later when their address was Long Walk, on the other side of Bermondsey Square (see map above). When Ann was christened, her father’s occupation was given as ‘brewer’. How are we to interpret this? Had Bowes John retired from a maritime career by this stage, or was he yet to begin his association with the East India Company? The occupation is intriguing because we know that, towards the end of his life, his father John Gibson had also set himself up as a brewer, with the support of his mother-in-law Mary Greene. Did Bowes John inherit his father’s business?

When his third child, a boy, was baptised on 10th July 1774, Bowes John Gibson was once again being described simply as a ‘gentleman’ and now the family’s address was definitely Long Walk. The name that Bowes John gave to this first son – Grey Dockley – might be a tribute to another relative or friend. There was a Dockley family living in Bermondsey around this time, and Edmund Dockley, a gentleman of the parish of St Mary Magdalene, made his will in 1789, though he makes no mention of the Gibsons nor of any relative with the first name Grey. As we shall see, the Dockley name would be kept alive by Bowes John Gibson’s son John Thomas, who named one of his sons Charles Dockley Gibson, but this may have been in memory of his brother, rather than a tribute to the Dockley family.

The Gibsons were still living at Long Walk when their son John was born two years later. He was christened at the church of St Mary Magdalene on 21st July 1776, three weeks after the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. A daughter named Mary Ann was born at the same address, and baptised at the same church on 28th February 1780.

A year later another son was born at Long Walk and christened on 15th April 1781. Despite my best efforts, I’m still unable to make sense of the child’s name in the parish register. There seem to be three names: the first beginning with ‘S’ has been transcribed by Ancestry as ‘Silvamens’, the second might begin with a ‘C’ and be something like ‘Crossen’ or ‘Crosser’, and the third might be ‘Hood’. Given Bowes John Gibson’s habit (as we shall see) of naming his sons after military and naval heroes, I wondered if ‘Hood’ might be a reference to Sir Samuel Hood who took part, with Edmund Affleck, in a famous encounter with the French navy in the Caribbean at about this time?

Less than a year had passed before another son was born to Bowes John and Elizabeth Gibson. George Milsom Gibson was christened at St Mary Magdalene on 7th January 1782. From what I can gather, the original George Milsom was an officer in the Madras Native Infantry: interestingly, the same force in which George Milsom Gibson himself would later serve. I haven’t come across any information suggesting that Milsom was a nationally-known figure, so once again it’s possible that Bowes John Gibson knew him personally, perhaps because of his own service either in the military or with the East India Company (if the two can be so easily differentiated). Might George Milsom have been George Milsom Gibson’s godfather, and perhaps his mentor in his later military career?


An 18th century gentleman’s house on Mile End Road: remains of Malplaquet House, built in 1741

By contrast, the name of Bowes John Gibson’s next son, John Thomas, seems quite pedestrian. By the time this child was born, in 1785, the Gibsons seem to have moved back across the Thames. John Thomas Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 13th September 1785, when the family’s address was given as Mile End Old Town. A daughter, Matilda Ann, would be born there two years later and christened on 8th October 1787. Three years later, Bowes John Gibson’s last child with his first wife Elizabeth was born. Carleton Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s on 17th May 1790. The child may have been named after Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Carleton , the British Army officer who had led the eponymous raid against American revolutionary forces in 1778: he died at Quebec in 1787. Once again, it’s difficult to determine whether Bowes John named his son as a tribute to a national hero, or in memory of a friend or comrade in arms. At the very least, Bowes John’s naming habits for his children suggest a fierce patriotism and a close interest in military and naval affairs.

I’ve yet to find records for two other children who we know were the product of Bowes John Gibson’s first marriage. The will of his unmarried younger sister Sarah Gibson, made in 1789, mentions her nephew and godson Edmond Affleck Gibson (see above) and her niece Elizabeth Gibson, both said to be the children of her brother Bowes John Gibson.

We know that at least two of the children from Bowes John’s marriage to Elizabeth died in infancy: Matilda Ann in 1789 at the age of two and Carleton in 1794 at the age of four. Both were buried at St Dunstan’s. Grey Dockley Gibson also died in 1794, but he would have been twenty years old at the time. There is a burial record for him from Brading, described in the record as being in Hampshire but actually on the Isle of Wight, on 31st July that year. The name is so unusual that it must be the same person, though why he was living in Brading is a mystery: is there a naval connection, perhaps?

Esther was the first of Bowes John Gibson’s children to marry. On 21st September 1790 she married Thomas Lay at St Dunstan’s church. Her parents were both witnesses, as was Susanna Ford, the sister-in-law of Bowes John’s nephew John William Bonner, who had married Sarah Ford nine years earlier (Bowes John was one of the witnesses). Thomas Lay was a mariner and perhaps also a shipbuilder. He and Esther made their home in Mile End Old Town and would have at least two children, the first named Bowes John after his grandfather being born in 1792, and the second, William Henry, in 1797.

Bowes John Gibson’s first wife Elizabeth died in the early days of 1793 and was buried on 12th January at St Dunstan’s church. No information is given in the parish register about the cause of death, but one imagines that she must have been exhausted after giving birth to at least twelve children in the course of twenty-seven years of marriage. 

Second marriage to Mary Catherine Bretman

Six years after the death of Elizabeth, and when he himself was already fifty-five years old, Bowes John Gibson married for a second time. He married Mary Catherine Bretman on 6th April 1799 at the church of St Matthew, Bethnal Green. I assume that this was Mary’s home parish, but if so, that’s all I’ve managed to find out about her. I suspect that Bretman is a German name, and that Mary might have belonged (like Charles Gottfriend Schwartz, who married Bowes John’s sister Ann) to the burgeoning community of German merchants and manufacturers in East London.


There’s something curious about the births of Bowes John Gibson’s next two children. On 28th October 1798, Edward and Eliza Gibson, described as the son and daughter respectively of Bowes John and Mary Gibson, were baptised at St Matthew, Bethnal Green, the same church where Bowes John and Mary would be married a little less than six months later. Edward was said to have been born on 15th November 1796 and Eliza on 1st October 1798. If it weren’t for the birth dates of these two children, one might imagine that they had actually been born to Bowes John’s first wife Elizabeth, and that their baptisms had been delayed for some reason. As it is, either the date of Bowes John’s second marriage is wrong, or we have to imagine that they had two children out of wedlock, albeit when they were engaged to be married. Alternatively, perhaps Bowes John and Mary were initially married in a different kind of ceremony (in a German church, perhaps?) and the wedding at St Matthew’s was by way of an Anglican blessing on an existing union. This would certainly explain the relatively long delay between Elizabeth’s death and Bowes John’s second marriage: one imagines that a middle-aged man with a large number of children, at least two of them under ten years old, might have been in a hurry to marry again.

Mary Catherine Gibson would be almost as prolific in childbearing as her predecessor Elizabeth, producing a further six children in the next twelve years or so. James Charles Gibson was baptised at St Dunstan’s on 20th October 1800; William Henry on 9th March 1803; Elizabeth on 25th May 1804 (presumably her namesake from Bowes John’s first marriage had died by this time); Matilda Henrietta on 25th July 1810; and Bowes Charles on 30th July 1817, though he was actually born six years earlier in 1811.


Charles Edward Horn

The second of Bowes John’s children to marry was John Thomas Gibson, who married Henrietta Eliza Horn on 20th February 1811 at the church of St George the Martyr, Queen Square, in Bloomsbury. Henrietta was the daughter of the noted German-born composer Charles Frederick Horn (another German connection) and the French-born Diana Arboneau Dupont. Henrietta’s brother Charles Edward Horn, a musician, singer and actor, had been at school with John Thomas Gibson and his brother George, and from his memoirs we gain a fascinating insight into their early lives.

In writing about his days as a weekly boarder at South Lambeth school, Charles mentions his friendship with George and John Gibson, as well as with their mutual friends Henry and John Laing. He notes that ‘the Gibsons and the Laings were our constant visitors as boys from school on Sundays, and this was continued till their departure from school for good and to become cadets for the Indian Service’ (p. 22).

On leaving school, both John Thomas and George Gibson entered military service in India, while their old schoolfriend  Charles Horn trained as a musician and earned money as a music teacher. Among his pupils were ‘two Miss Cohens in Goodman Fields, for 5 shillings a lesson, two taking a lesson in one hour, twice a week’. He writes:

My teaching at Mr Cohen’s and Miss Babbington’s went on, and my visits in Goodmans Fields were often [di]versified by visiting old Mr Gibson and his daughters for, although my schoolfellows and associates were in India, it was delightful to go a[nd] see the old place we used to see our friends in.

A footnote explains that the ‘old Mr Gibson’ referred to here is ‘Bowes John Gibson, bap 1744, father of John Thomas Gibson and George Gibson’. Bowes John would have been in his late fifties by this time (which was ‘old’ by contemporary standards, perhaps). I’m not sure which of his daughters would still have been alive and living at home at this date: his eldest daughter Esther Gibson had married in 1790; if they survived, Mary Ann and Matilda Ann from Bowes John’s first marriage would have been about twenty and thirteen years of age respectively, while Eliza from his second marriage would only have been two or three years old. Three more daughters, Elizabeth, Emily and Matilda Henrietta, would be born in 1803, 1805 and 1809 respectively.  ‘The place we used to see our friends in’ was almost certainly Bowes John Gibson’s house in Mile End Old Town, assuming he had not moved from there since the last land tax record we know about, which was taken in 1790. It would have been a short walk from Goodmans Fields along Whitechapel High Street and Mile End Road.

George Milsom Gibson was married two years after his brother John Thomas. On 22nd September 1813 George married Eliza Harriet Wilson at Fort St George, Madras. Eliza was almost certainly the (illegitimate?) daughter of Welsh-born merchant Thomas Parry.

According to one source:

Parry came to Madras in 1788 and by 1794 he was married to Mary Pearce, widow of a civil servant of the city. Parry’s marriage was not a success, for Mrs. Parry disliked Madras. In 1806 she took her two children and left for England where she lived for the remainder of a rather long life. Parry consoled himself with the local delights. He almost certainly fathered a Miss Eliza Harriett Wilson at whose marriage to Major George Gibson he and his business partner Dare officiated as witnesses. Her son was named George Parry Gibson. 

Another source relates that in 1823 ‘Parry and 10 year old George Parry Gibson (his son?) went to South Arcot to visit his indigo factory in Porto Novo and was smitten by Cholera and died soon after.’ George Parry Gibson was, of course, Thomas Parry’s grandson, not his son.  By this time, the boy’s father was dead, since George Milsom Gibson passed away less than a year after his marriage to Eliza Wilson. The inscription on his tomb in the Old Cemetery at Visakhapatnam, India, reads as follows:

Sacred to the memory of Major George Milsom Gibson Commandant 1st batt[alion]. 2nd Reg. N[ative] I[nfantry] who departed this life 5 May 1814 Aged 33 years. 

It’s unclear whether George died of natural causes or on active service. Nor do we know what became of his widow or his son.


Tombs in the Old Cemetery at Visakhapatnam (via schickrobert.blogspot.com)

Bowes John Gibson died at the age of 73 in 1817 and was buried at St Dunstan’s church on 28th August, four weeks after the baptism of his youngest son Bowes Charles. The parish register records that Bowes John Gibson died of old age, and was buried in the family vault. In his will, made some thirteen years before his death, Bowes John notes that the children from his first marriage have all been ‘handsomely provided for’ and only mentions by name his daughter Esther and sons George Milsom (who in the event predeceased him) and John Thomas Gibson. This suggests that, in addition to the children already mentioned who died in infancy and youth, five other children – Ann, John, Mary Ann, the mysteriously named ‘Silvamens’, Elizabeth, and Edmond Affleck – probably did not survive to adulthood.

The surviving children of Bowes John Gibson

Bowes John Gibson’s widow Mary made her own will of 1826, in which she mentions her children Edward, Emily, William Henry, Elizabeth, Matilda Henrietta and Bowes Charles. We know that another son, James Charles Gibson, had died in 1819, at the age of 19: he was buried in Chelsea, so I assume he was living there at the time. We also have to assume that Eliza, born in 1798, had predeceased her mother.

As for William Henry Gibson, someone with that name was buried at the Wesleyan Burial Ground in Globe Fields, Stepney, on 12 December 1830. He was 28 when he died, and his address was said to be Charles Street, just a short distance from the original Gibson family home in Mile End Old Town. If this is the right person, then presumably he had undergone a Methodist conversion in his youth, leading him to depart from the staunchly Anglican habits of his family. There’s a suggestion that William may have married into the Nonconformist Slark family before his early death.


Barnsbury Square, Islington

Bowes Charles Gibson, the youngest child of the family, died in 1837 at the age of twenty-four, at Barnsbury Square, Islington. He left everything to his sister Matilda Henrietta, who I believe lived at the same address. She was certainly resident in Barnsbury Square, with a female servant, at the time of the 1841 census. Matilda died four years later, at the age of 32.I’ve failed to find any further reference to Edward Gibson, who would have been 24 years old when his mother died in 1826. Someone with the same name was buried at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, in 1842, though he was said to have been born in 1796.

Emily Gibson was married at the church of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate on 18th November 1835, when she was already thirty years old.The groom was John Godfrey Grove, who was born in Hackney and was the son of a clerk in the Naval Office. Is it simply coincidence that John Godfrey had the same Christian names as her distant relatives John Godfrey Schwartz the elder and younger, or is there a family connection? John and Emily Grove had one daughter, also named Emily, before John’s early death. By the time of the 1851 census, his widow and teenage daughter were working as a governess and monitor respectively at a charity school nearly Bromley in Kent.

As for Bowes John’s daughter Elizabeth Gibson, she married lighterman and Custom House agent Richard Aldridge in 1842, but the latter died in 1848 and there were no children from the marriage.

Of all of Bowes John Gibson’s children, we know most about the family of his son John Thomas Gibson. Information about his military career is less easy to come by, though we know that most of it was spent in Madras, in the service of the East India Company, and that he rose to the rank of Major General. Certainly, all of John and Henrietta Gibson’s nine children appear to have been born in India. They were: Louise Grace (born 1811); Mary Emma (1815); John James (1816); Charles Dockley (1818); Edmund (1819); Thomas Wheatley (1823); Henrietta Elizabeth (1824); Matilda (1827); and Edward Samuel (1829). Of these, we know that Mary Emma and Emma both died at the age of two and Matilda at the age of one. I can find no further records for Edmund or Edward Samuel, nor are they mentioned in his father’s will, so I assume that they did not survive either.

John Thomas and Henrietta Gibson’s eldest daughter Louise Grace married George Briggs, a captain in the Madras Artillery, probably sometime in the 1830s. John and Henrietta’s eldest son John James Gibson served as a captain in the 20th Regiment of the Native Infantry. He was married with children, though I can find no record of his wife or offspring. He predeceased his father, date unknown.

Charles Dockley Gibson graduated from St John’s College, Cambridge in 1841. The census taken that year finds him living in Fulham High Street and working as a teacher. However, by the time of his marriage, on 3rd June 1843, at the church of St John, Hampstead, Charles had taken holy orders and was described in the parish register as a clergyman, living at Corton in Suffolk. His father John Thomas was described as a general in the army. Charles’ bride was Louisa Laing, daughter of John Laing, a gentleman of Hampstead (he was one of the Laings who had been at school with the John Thomas and George Milson Gibson and Henrietta’s brother Charles Frederick Horn: see above).

Charles Dockley Gibson proceeded to the degree of M.A. in 1847 and in 1848 took up an appointment as an army chaplain, returning to India, the country of his birth and still the home of his parents and a number of his siblings. Apparently Charles held a number of posts, serving at St George’s Cathedral in Madras from 1849-57, and at Fort St George from 1862-65 and 1866-68. At one stage he was the chaplain of St John’s church in Vellore. According to one source his father built a small church near his home at Kotagherry, perhaps intending that his son would serve as its incumbent. According to another account, Charles Dockley Gibson was ‘very popular in society on account of his pleasant manners and various accomplishments, and probably on account of his relationship to many Madras officers, civil and military.’ The document continues:

His brother was in the Madras Army, and two of his sisters were married to officers in the same. He had sufficient influence to serve most of his time in Madras. He was on the committee of the Additional Clergy Society during nearly the whole time he was in the Presidency town.

However, his influence was not enough to prevent Charles being removed from Fort St George in 1868, ‘for a neglect of duty’, following a complaint from the General Office Commanding. He died in the following year at Calicut. He was 51 years old. I’m not sure what became of his wife Louisa, or whether they had any surviving children.


Nilgiri Hills, India (via onthegotours.com)

On 7th December 1847 Thomas Wheatley Gibson married Italian-born Isabella Schneider at Chigwell, Essex. From later census records, we can gather that Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and served as a captain in the Indian army.

Henrietta Elizabeth Gibson married another Indian army officer, Henry Temple Hillyard, probably some time in the 1840s, possibly in India. Henry would rise to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the 14th Madras Native Infantry.

John Thomas Gibson died in 1852 at Kolergherry in the Neilgherry or Nilgiri Hills, India, leaving his house there to his daughter Louise and her husband Captain George Briggs, who was also appointed as one of the executors of his will. From John’s failure to mention his wife Henrietta in his will, we can assume that he had predeceased her.


From this account we can conclude that all of Bowes John Gibson’s surviving children joined the ranks of the prosperous Victorian middle-class, and that a number of them achieved significant status in the expanding British Empire. This stands in striking contrast to the experience of Bowes John’s sister Elizabeth, my 5 x great grandmother, who ended her life in straitened circumstances, and whose children and grandchildren would work as tradesmen and shopkeepers in the cramped streets of London’s East End. Elizabeth and her family will be the subject of my next post.

Connected cousins: Gibson, Collins, Bonner, Schwartz

In the last post I wrote about the later years of John Gibson, my 6 x great grandfather, an eighteenth-century London coal factor, and about the marriages of his children. By the time John died in 1763, his daughter Jane had been married to William Coates for eleven years and had three children. My 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth had been married to John Collins for ten years and had a daughter, Frances, though shortly after her father’s death Elizabeth would marry her second husband, Joseph Holdsworth. Her sister Ann had been married to Charles Gottfried Schwartz for nine years and probably already had a son and daughter (see below). Another sister, Frances, had been married to Captain Michael Bonner for two years and had a son, John William. John Gibson’s only son, Bowes John, would marry his first wife, Elizabeth Hindley, in 1766, two years after his father’s death. The final Gibson sibling, Sarah, would remain unmarried and would live with her mother Mary, John’s widow, at the latter’s new home in Mile End Old Town.


Steelyard, London, in the eighteenth century

I’ve discovered evidence of at least two instances of intermarriage between the grandchildren and great grandchildren of John and Mary Gibson. In 1776, the year in which the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain, two young men were apprenticed to London merchants. On 8th May, G. John Godfrey Schwartz was apprenticed to Paul Amsinck of Steelyard. Amsinck seems to have belonged to a family of prominent merchants, based in London but of German origin. I’m fairly certain that John Godfrey Schwartz (the ‘G’ is dropped in later records) was the son of Charles Gottfried Schwartz and his wife Ann Gibson, daughter of John and Mary Gibson. Later that same year, on 6th November, fourteen-year-old John William Bonner was apprenticed to a merchant based in Lime Street, London, with the curious name of ‘Other Winder’, who may also have been German by birth. John William was the son of Ann Gibson’s sister Frances and her husband Captain William Bonner, and therefore the first cousin of John Godfrey Schwartz.

John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins

The next we hear of John Godfrey Schwartz is four years later, when, on 17th May 1780, the wedding took place at the church of St Botolph, Bishopsgate, between a man of that name and a certain Frances Collins. I believe that Frances, who would have been twenty-one years old at the time, was the daughter of my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson and her first husband John Collins. If I’m correct, then John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins were first cousins. In an earlier post, I expressed my puzzlement at the fact that some of the records for the John Gibson who was imprisoned for defrauding the Crown in 1742, claimed that he was resident in West Ham, and thus cast doubt on my theory these records related to my ancestor. However, it’s possible that the Gibsons did in fact own property in the West Ham area, and it may explain a curious detail in the parish record for the wedding of John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins. The parish register describes Frances as ‘of the parish of Romford in the County of Essex’. Romford, then a quiet country town, was only ten miles from West Ham. Did the Gibsons still have a home in the area, and was Frances living there before she married John Godfrey Schwartz? An alternative explanation might be that Romford is only six or seven miles in the other direction from another Essex village – South Weald – which is where Frances’ mother Elizabeth would live following her marriage to Joseph Holdsworth in 1763. It’s entirely plausible that Frances lived with her mother and stepfather in South Weald before her marriage, and that Romford was the parish clerk’s lazy approximation for her address. A further alternative is that relatives of Frances’ late father, John Collins, had a house in Romford (they seem to have owned property throughout the eastern part of Essex) and that she lived with them after his death and her mother’s remarriage.



As I noted in the last post, records for the Schwartz family are difficult to come by, and we know nothing of the lives of John Godfrey and Frances Schwartz after their marriage, except when their names, or those of their offspring, occur in the records for other families. On the other hand, we have excellent records for the Bonner family, with whom the story of the Schwartz family would be intertwined in the next generation.

John William Bonner and Sarah Ford

A little over a year after the marriage of John Godfrey Schwartz and Frances Collins, their cousin John William Bonner, eldest son of Captain Michael Bonner and his wife Frances Gibson, was married at the church of St Mary Whitechapel, the home parish of his bride, Sarah Ford. Another cousin, Bowes John Gibson, was one of the witnesses. John William and Sarah Bonner lived initially in Bermondsey, the part of London where John William had grown up, and their first two children were baptised at the parish church of St Magdalene (where his aunt and uncle, my 5 x great grandparents Elizabeth Collins née Gibson and Joseph Holdsworth, had been married two decades before). John Harker Bonner was born at Bermondsey Buildings in New Road in September 1782, and his brother George at the same address in January 1784. As the map shows, Bermondsey was at this time a growing, but still semi-rural suburb of London. By the time the Bonners’ third child, their daughter Mary Ann, was born in September 1783, they had moved back across the river and joined other family members in Mile End Old Town. It’s possible that John William Bonner’s work for the Royal Ordnance, which was based at the Tower of London, began around this time: the inscription on the family vault after his death would describe him as ‘late of His Majesty’s Ordinance Office, Tower’.


Part of Fairbairn’s London map of 1801, showing Bermondsey

Michael Bonner and Eleanor Tranton Sayle

Meanwhile, John William Bonner’s younger brother Michael, born in 1768, had followed in the footsteps of his father and namesake, Captain Michael Bonner, and had become a mariner. He married Eleanor Tranton Sayle in Bermondsey in August 1792, but they then lived in neighbouring Rotherhithe, where their twins Charles and Frances (1794) and their other children William George (1796), Michael (1800), Henry (1801), Eleanor (1803), Mary Ann (1807) and Susan (1808) were all born. Michael Bonner died at Paradise Street, Rotherhithe, in December 1811, while his widow Eleanor survived until 1844.

Before going on with the Bonners’ story, it’s worth pausing to note other events in the wider Gibson family from around this time. In April 1788 Mary Gibson, widow of John Gibson, and grandmother to John William Bonner and his cousins, made her will. She died just over two years later, in October 1790, at the age of ninety, at her home in Mile End Old Town. In November 1789 Mary’s unmarried daughter Sarah had made her own will, and in the event she predeceased her mother by a matter of days, dying at the age of forty-four after a ‘decline’.


Mile End Old Town, from Greenwood’s London map of 1827

Returning to the Bonners, I’ll note in passing that I suspect that George, the younger son of John William and Sarah Bonner, may have died in infancy. As for their other son John Harker Bonner, he married Mary Knight Christopher, the daughter of a London gunmaker, in February 1809. The Christophers appear to have been Dissenters, and John Harker and Mary Bonner would themselves be associated with the Stepney Independent Meeting, where two of their children were christened, and which I wrote about in an earlier post in connection with my seventeenth-century Greene ancestors.

John Godfrey Schwartz the younger and Mary Ann Bonner

And so we come to the Bonners’ only daughter, Mary Ann, who was married on 26th September 1813 at the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark. When I first came across this record, and saw that the name of the groom was John Godfrey Schwartz, I assumed that this was the same person who had married Frances Collins in 1780, and that this was his second marriage, Frances having died in the interim. However, that John Godfrey Schwartz would have been in his early fifties by the time he married Mary Ann Bonner, who was about twenty. More to the point, he would have been Mary Ann’s uncle.

However, I now think it likely that the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Mary Ann Bonner was actually the son of the John Godfrey Schwartz who married Frances Collins thirty-three years earlier, especially as the parish register describes him as a bachelor, rather than a widower. It would mean that bride and groom were second cousins. Mary Ann’s father John William Bonner was actually the cousin of both of John Godfrey Schwartz the younger’s parents.

The first of John and Mary Ann Schwartz’s children for whom we have a definite record is Marianne Frances, who was christened at St Mary, Whitechapel, on 5 August 1814. In the parish register John Schwartz is described as a clerk and the family is said to be living at ‘Roadside’, which I believe was a term used for (part of?) Whitechapel Road.

By the time their daughter Sarah was born two years later, John and Mary Ann Schwartz had moved to Limehouse: she was christened in St Anne’s church on 17 May 1816. The parish register has now upgraded John Schwartz’ status to ‘gentleman’. Another move, to Graham Street in Walworth, preceded the birth of a son, John Edward, in 1818: he was baptised at St Mary, Newington, on 14 June of that year. By the time their daughter Emma was born in 1820, John and Mary Ann had moved back across the river, to Patriot Square, Bethnal Green: the christening took place at the parish church of St Matthew’s. Their youngest child, as far as I can tell, was Francis Daniel, born in Mile End Old Town in 1822 and baptised at St Dunstan’s, Stepney, on 15 September. Emma Schwartz died two years later, aged 4, and was buried at St Dunstan’s.

As these records show, John and Mary Ann Schwartz moved house frequently during their marriage, and one gets the impression that they have may have been strapped for cash, albeit in a genteel way. John is variously described in the records as a gentleman, a clerk, and as an ‘interpreter of languages’. One of their daughters worked as a governness, while another married a Lancashire weaver and emigrated to Utah. One son was apprenticed to a loriner while another, Francis, worked variously as a painter, cellarman and port messenger. This decline in the family’s status and fortunes mirrors that of my own direct ancestors, the family of Elizabeth Holdsworth, formerly Collins, née Gibson, about whom I’ll write in another post.

Mary Ann Schwartz née Bonner, died in Mile End Old Town in 1829, aged 36, and was buried at St Dunstan’s church on 5th October. I’ve been unable to discover when her husband John Godfrey Schwartz died, though he was certainly dead by 1834, when his son John Edward’s apprenticeship certificate describes him as the son of the late John Godfrey Schwarts (sic), ‘late of 17 Swan Street, Minories, dec’d’.

The children of John and Mary Gibson

In the previous post I assessed the evidence that my 6 x great grandfather John Gibson was the man of that name who was declared bankrupt and imprisoned in the Fleet in 1742. If that person was indeed my ancestor, then it appears that by the mid-1750s at the latest he was once again a free man. In the meantime, as I noted in an earlier post, two of his daughters had married. Jane Gibson was married to William Coates of Theydon Mount, and my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson was married to John Collins of Epping, both of these men being neighbours of the Gibsons at their country estate of Woodredon, near Waltham Abbey in Essex.


In August 1754, a third Gibson daughter embarked on married life. Seventeen-year-old Ann Gibson was married at the church of St George-in-the-East, Stepney. The witnesses were her father John Gibson and her brother-in-law William Coates. The bridegroom was Charles Gottfried Schwartz, about whom I’ve managed to discover frustratingly little. He is said to be ‘of this parish’, i.e. St George in the East. In 1759, five years after this marriage, a man by the name of Carl Frederick, otherwise Charles Schwartz, a mariner from the same parish, made his will. Frustratingly, the testator makes no reference to any family members, leaving everything he owns to friends.

However, in the absence of other evidence, and given what we know about his son’s later career, it seems likely that Charles was a merchant, perhaps with maritime connections, and probably a member of the substantial German immigrant community living in London and trading mainly with the cities of the Hanseatic League. The absence of records for the Schwartzes after their marriage may be because their children were baptised in one of London’s German churches, whose archives are not easily accessible.


Part of John Rocque’s London map of 1746

In the summer of 1759 Ann’s sister, my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Collins née Gibson, gave birth to a daughter. Frances Collins was baptised at St Botolph’s, Aldgate, on 8th July. The parish register gives the family’s address as Darby Street, between the churchyard and Rosemary Lane (see map above). As far as I know, Frances was the Collinses only child, and certainly the only one to survive to adulthood.

The next Gibson sister to marry was Mary, who married William Hunter at St Botolph’s in March 1760, with both of her parents acting as witnesses. Little is known about William, except that he was a mariner.


Ships on the Thames, London, 18th century

In January 1561 it was Frances Gibson‘s turn to marry. Her husband was Michael Bonner, like Charles Schwarz a resident of the parish of St George-in-the-East, and another mariner. Despite his address at the time of their marriage, Michael Bonner was probably born not far from the Gibson family home. Michael, son of John Bonner, mariner, and his wife Frances Robertson, was born in East Smithfield and baptised at St Botolph’s, Aldgate, in 1733, though the family had moved to Stepney by the time their daughter Sarah was born three years later.

Michael and Frances Bonner had two sons. John William Bonner was born (like his cousin Frances Collins) in Darby Street, in 1762, while his brother Michael Bonner the younger was born in Bird Street, Stepney, in 1768. The parish register announcing the latter’s baptism describes his father as a captain, suggesting that by this stage he commanded his own ship. At some stage, the Bonners crossed the river to make their home in Bermondsey, where they would live until Michael and Frances Bonner both died in 1802.

My 6 x great grandfather John Gibson died early in the year 1763 and was buried on 20th February at the church of St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney. He was 64 years old. His daughter Elizabeth’s first husband John Collins must have died before this time, though I’ve yet to find a record of his death, since on on 20th Mary 1763, three months to the day after her father’s funeral, Elizabeth married her second husband, and my 5 x great grandfather, Joseph Holdsworth, at the church of St Magdalene, Bermondsey. I’ll write about their life together in another post.


In 1764 Sir John, later Baron Henneker, began to acquire the manor of Woodredon in Essex from John Gibson’s widow Mary, a process that would only be completed after Mary’s death a quarter of a century later. In the meantime, Mary and her unmarried daughter Sarah appear to have moved from Tower Hill to the then genteel, semi-rural suburb of Mile End Old Town, where there are records of Mary Gibson paying land tax in 1766. It seems likely that Mary’s mother, Mary Greene, had died in the interim.

It was from an address in Mile End Old Town that John and Mary Gibson’s only son Bowes John would marry his first wife, Elizabeth Hindley, on 13th October 1766. The ceremony took place at the parish church of St Dunstan’s, where Bowes John’s father had been buried three years earlier.

The illustrious family of Bowes John Gibson is certainly deserving of a separate post, though before telling their story, my next post will attempt to disentangle the often complicated ties between the grandchildren of John and Mary Gibson, in the second half of the eighteenth century.

John Gibson, prisoner of the Crown?

John Gibson (1699 – 1763) was my 6 x great grandfather. He married Mary Greene, daughter of London goldsmith Joseph Greene and his wife Mary Byne, at the church of All Hallows, London Wall, on 8th July 1729. In the last post, I listed the name and birth dates of John and Mary Gibson’s seven children, and noted the family’s purchase of the manor of Woodredon near Waltham Abbey in Essex. I also mentioned that two of the Gibsons’ daughters had married the sons of their Essex landowning neighbours, though one of those marriages, between my 5 x great grandmother Elizabeth Gibson and John Collins of Epping, seems to have been shrouded in secrecy.

A degree of mystery also surrounds the life of Elizabeth’s father. John Gibson died of a fever in 1763, at the age of sixty-four, but to date I’ve been unable to discover his will. However, we have a document published in the following year, described as ‘A Declaration instead of a true and perfect Inventory of all and singular the Goods and Chattels and Credits of John Gibson late of the Parish of St Botolph without Aldgate Deceased which since his death have come to the hands possession or knowledge of Mary Gibson Widow the Relict and Adminstratrix of all and singular the Goods Chattels and Credits of the said Deceased’.


‘Two declarations’

The document is, in fact, two ‘declarations’ published together: firstly a ‘declaration instead of a true just and faithful account’ and then another declaration ‘instead of a true and perfect inventory’. If we try to reconstruct the story told by these texts chronologically, it would appear that in 1742 or thereabouts, an ‘extent’ was taken out by the Crown against John Gibson’s effects, putting his household furniture at risk of seizure. I understand that, in legal parlance, an extent is a writ to recover debts due to the Crown. To prevent this happening, John’s mother-in-law Mary Greene purchased these household effects. Some time after this, John Gibson was declared bankrupt. However, since the ‘extent’ had not been fully satisfied, John was arrested and spent several years in prison, until he was released by an order of Parliament, subject to giving security for his appearance when called on by the Crown.


Fleet Prison for debtors 

The documents also suggest that, in 1757, some years after being released, John Gibson purchased a brewing business in Rosemary Lane, Aldgate. However, because the ‘extent’ had still not been fully satisfied, John bought the premises and equipment for this business in the name of his mother-in-law, Mary Greene, even though she was not personally involved in running it. In February 1757, or so John Gibson’s widow Mary claims, Mary Greene signed a declaration confirming that John’s money had been used for this transaction and that she was the purchaser in name only. John was the day-to-day manager of the concern and, as his widow says, ‘growing …more regardless’ as the years passed and believing that the authorities ‘would not after so long a period of time trouble him’, mostly used his own name when carrying on this business.

It also appears that, on John’s death in 1763, his widow Mary took possession of the brewing business and sold it ‘upon a fair Appraisement’ to a Mr Holdbrook, using the proceeds to help pay off her late husband’s debts. Despite this, however, one of John Gibson’s debtors, a maltster by the name of John Soundy, took out a commission of bankruptcy against Mary Greene, suggesting that she was liable for the debt. He and one Joseph Burch, described by Mary Gibson as a creditor of John’s ‘but … pretending to be a Creditor of the said Mary Greene by reason of her Name having been made use of by the deceased’, were made assignees under the bankruptcy commission. In 1764, they took out an action against Mary Gibson for the ‘brewing utensils’, under the ‘pretence’ (as Mary puts it) that they really belonged to Mary Greene. As a result of this dispute, Mary Gibson declares that she is, as yet, unable to provide a ‘true and faithful inventory’ of her late husband’s property.

In other words, Mary Gibson was in dispute with her late husband’s debtors and creditors, who were using Mary Greene’s nominal ownership of the brewing business to extract money from her, to the extent of having her declared bankrupt. These declarations are evidence of Mary Gibson’s efforts to have her mother (who must have been at least eighty years old by this time) released from this financial burden. I’ve discovered a record of the bankruptcy of ‘Mary Green, late of Derby street, Rosemary-lane, Middlesex, Widow, and Brewer’, in a collection of miscellaneous memoirs and correspondence from August 1763.



‘The King against John Gibson’

But all of this begs the question as to how John Gibson come to be indebted to the Crown, and the nature of his business before he was declared bankrupt. Starting from the information in Mary Gibson’s two declarations, I embarked on a search for further details of the events she describes, and eventually came across a case that appeared to match the details of her story quite closely. One of the records that I found was a collection of ‘Reports of cases concerning the Revenue, argued and determined in the Court of Exchequer, from Easter Term 1743 to Hilary Term 1767’. In the section for Hilary Term 1743, the first case is ‘The King against John Gibson’ which was examined on Friday 3rd February.


Many of the details in the case match Mary Gibson’s account in her declaration, leading me to conclude that the person described in this document was probably my ancestor. If not, then there must have been two John Gibsons who had extents taken out against them by the Crown in 1742: not impossible, but fairly unlikely. Mary relates that in 1742 ‘or thereabouts’ the Crown issued an ‘extent’ against her husband: this report describes an extent ‘issued against [John Gibson] on the 17th of June 1742’ as a consequence of his being ‘indebted to the King in a large sum of money on several bonds for the duty of coals’. Moreover, the report refers to a commission of bankruptcy being issued against the defendant: again, Mary Gibson’s declaration mentions that her husband was declared bankrupt some time after the ‘extent’ was issued. Finally, the report notes that a new extent was required following the bankruptcy commission, which is consistent with Mary’s statement that even after the bankruptcy proceedings, the original extent was not ‘fully satisfied’.

Presumably it was the ‘new extent…against the defendant for the debt due to his majesty’ that led to John Gibson’s arrest and imprisonment. An entry in the Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers for 4th October 1742, nearly five months after the extent was issued, refers to a report from the Customs Commissioners, London, ‘on the frauds relating to coal duties’, in which John Gibson is described as an ‘agent or crimp for many of the masters of ships in the coal trade’.

Following a detailed official report of the case, there is this intriguing entry in the records, dated 7th October 1742 (my emphases):

“The Commrs Customes to inform my Lords whether a state of the case relating to the rescue of Gibson has been laid before the Attor. and Solr. Gen.” “What step to be taken relating to the process to seize the estates of Deacon upon the certificate of the Comptroller.”

And then, on 21st October:

A copy of the report by Rd. Swainston, Solicitor of the Customs, 1742, Sept. 28, containing in accordance with the Treasury minute of August 17 last a general return of the several matters referred to and transacted by him since Deacon’s death, and in particular concerning his proceedings against John Gibson, agent or crimp for many of the masters of ships in the coal trade, and other crimps concerned in the bonds found in Deacon’s office; further as to his proceedings with Mr. Woodward, late clerk to the Collector of Coal Duties, and Mr. Savage, the late Comptroller; further as to the violent rescue of said Gibson.  

What are we to make of the reference to John Gibson’s ‘violent rescue’? I’ve found a claim in another source that ‘Gibson was rescued by force from the Sheriff’s Officers’, but no further details of this dramatic event.


Merchant ships on the Thames

Perhaps the best source for understanding the whole sorry story is William J Hausman’s book Public Policy and the Supply of Coal to London, 1700 – 1770, which includes an appendix on the case of William Deacon, the man at the centre of the fraud case. Some of this account is available online, and it’s worth quoting from it at length (again, emphasis added by me):

William Deacon, the Collector and Receiver of Coal Duties, died in London in June of 1742. This otherwise unremarkable event created a stir within the coal trade and government which lasted for eight years. In Deacon’s office were discovered over £125,000 worth of uncancelled bonds for coal duties, representing the largest single case of negligence and fraud in the coal trade in the century. The subsequent investigation shed much light on the workings of the trade, especially regarding the relationships and fate of several prominent lightermen, crimps, or coal factors. 

The first governmental report was issued on July 17, 1742. The initial finding by the Customs Commissioners was that ‘great frauds have been committed by the Collusion of Mr Deacon and Mr Savage, his Comptroller with the Masters of Ships or their Crimps, in secreting these bonds.’ The primary concern of the Commissioners at this point was ‘to secure the Debt due to the Crown.’ They took action against the crimps and masters whose names were on the uncancelled bonds. Three promiment lightermen (or crimps) were named as the major offenders:  John Gibson, William Williford, and Sir Maltis Ryall. The estates of the three men were seized, and their holdings inventoried…

A Solicitor’s Report of October 4, 1742, made the charges more specific. The Solicitor reported that, ‘Mr Deacon had given …large Credit to Gibson and other Crimps…by omitting to insert a true State of Bonds in the Weekly Certificate’. He appended both the yearly debt due to the frauds and that owned by Gibson. […] The other major offenders specifically named were Williford (now deceased) and Ryall (insolvent).

A report on December 22, 1742, explained the procedure for paying the coal tax in the port to show how the frauds were committed:

Master delivers his Cockett…to the Collector of the Coal Duties…The Crimp and Master then give Bond or make a Deposit with the Collector and Comptroller of the Coal Duties, for about double the amount of the Duties on the Quantity of Coals expressed in the Cockett.

The Collector then gave the master a warrant to give to the coal meter. The meter supervised the unloading of the coal and certified on the back of the warrant the correct amount delivered. The warrant was then carried back to the collector, who determined the exact duty owed. The duty was satisfied with either notes or bonds. It was by accepting the bonds of the crimps and then failing to report the existence of the bonds to the Comptroller General that the fraud was perpetrated. The Comptroller General, not knowing the bonds existed, never demanded their payment. But the ship masters, according to custom, entrusted enough cash or bonds with their crimps to pay the taxes, so that it was the crimps who ultimately benefited from the procedure (as well as Deacon, if he had been bribed).


On April 23, 1743, John Gibson began his defence. He sent a petition to the Commissioners of the Treasury alleging that he had been in partnership with Nicholas Furrs, that he was bound with Furrs in bonds of considerable value to the Crown, and that ‘this said Money was actually paid, but by neglect of taking up the Bonds, they have been put in Suit.’ He was placing responsibility in the matter squarely on Deacon, who was no longer able to defend himself. Gibson’s petition was referred to the Commissioners of the Customs… 


Gibson’s claims were rejected, but it was noted that he was insolvent and imprisoned. All hopes of regaining more of the uncollected duty were given up.  A Committee of the whole House was ordered to consider the matter the following week, but Parliament was adjourned, and nothing more was heard concerning the coal affair.

Gibson proved to be a most resourceful character, for on April 28, 1757, ‘Mr John Gibson, a Coal Factor’, was examined before a committee of the House considering a patent for a machine to unload coal.


Elsewhere, Hausman describes Gibson as the largest of the major coal dealers in London at the time. In a footnote, he states that ‘it is not known if Gibson was apprehended or turned himself in.’


‘He therefore humbly prays that he may be indulged with his Liberty’


Hausman relates that Gibson’s petition was actually a restatement of a pamphlet he had published previously, ‘The Case of John Gibson’, ‘stating his position that the bonds had been paid.’ The author adds: ‘In the petition it was noted that he regularly paid over £50,000 per year in coal duties and carried on one-fifth of the business in London’. I’ve found a copy of John Gibson’s pamphlet online (first page reproduced above) which I’ve transcribed as follows:

In the year 1721, he entered into a Partnership with Nicholas Furs, who was then, and had long been, a Coal-Factor at the Port of London; and he, Gibson, was to have the first Year 50l. the next 100l. and then the Stock was to be made up, which was done, and he equally concern’d with Furs.

By the Nature of this Business the Factors and Masters of Ships give Bonds for the King’s and Church Duties, payable at three Months after Date, for so many Coals as shall appear to be delivered out of each Ship respectively by a Certificate signed by one of the 15 Sea-Coal Meeters, with a Proviso, that if the said Duties are paid in 16 working Days, the Obligors should be allowed two one half per cent. Discount, and for the Management of these Duties, the Commissioners of the Customs appoint a particular Collector and a Comptroller to be a Cheque upon him, who is to deliver all Bonds over to the Commissioners or their Solicitor, to be put in Suit, if not paid in 14 Days after they become due.

In the Year 1723, soon after the Stock was made up, Furs took Care of the Afffairs of the Compting-House, and the Management of the Business without Doors was left to Gibson; and to induce Gibson to Sign all the Bonds, and that he might run but half the Risque, Furs gave one Bond to the Crown; in a large Penalty, to be answerable for every Thing Gibson agreed for, which Bond must be in the Custody of the Commissioners of the Customs.

From Christmas 1720, to Christmas 1729, Gibson carried on the Business in Partnership with Furs, and the Partnership being then expired, Gibson agreed with Furs to give him 300l. a Year for 12 Years, on Condition he would quit the Business wholly to Gibson, and never act in it more; which Annuity was paid, and that together with Furs’s Stock, then drawn out of Trade, amounted to several thousands Pounds.

From 1729 to June 1742, Gibson carried on the Business on his own Account, and the Method was generally to pay the duties to the Receiver General’s Certificate and carry to the Collector’s Office, to have Credit given for the Sum so paid; Yet the Collector would sometimes (for Reasons best known to himself) direct the Money to be paid to him for a Week, or so near Quarter Days, which all the other Factors comply’d with as well as Gibson: But the Collector being frequently absent, and the Office always in a Hurry and great Confusion, by the Ships arriving in large Fleets, Gibson could never get the Bonds regularly deliver’d up to him, notwithstanding the Duties he was engaged for, were regularly discharged; and he usually paid so large a Sum as near 50,000l. a Year, having almost one fifth Part of the whole Business. And altho’ he had experienced,  by the Hurry and Confusion of the Office, that he could not get his Bonds regularly delivered up, yet, for the Benefit of the Discount, paid in his Money daily, as the Loss of two one half per Cent. on the Sum he dealt for, would soon prove his Ruin; and whatever Bonds he did get, some of them were cancell’d, and others not: But this being the Case of other Factors, as well as Gibson, and he apprehending the Entries of Money received, were (as they ought to be) for the identical Bonds, which in Consequence must be a Cheque upon any Neglect of not delivering up, or not cancelling them, rested satisfied as well as the other Factors, more especially as none of them was put in Suit, or even any Demand made of them.

Mr. James Deacon was Collector of these Duties upwards of 30 Years, and in June 1742 died, and soon after his Death, several hundred Bonds given by the Masters of Ships and Factors, most of them in the Years, 1723, 1724, 1725, 1726, 1727, 1728 and 1729, and all of them before the Year 1737, was found in his House, and not under the Comptrolers Lock and Key (where they ought to have been, if unpaid, as other Bonds were) many of them wrote on the Back paid, and the Day of the Month when, the Seals tore off others, and the rest uncancelled, amounting together, as he is informed, to the Sum of 200,000l. or upwards, which were delivered over to the Commissioners.

Thereupon Extents were taken out against one Factor, and the Effects of another then deceased, and Letters wrote to the several Masters, who were Obligors with the Factors for Payment; and Gibson being informed by the Soliciter to the Commissioners of the Customs, that an Extent would be taken out against him: Whereupon there being three Bonds then due to the Value of about 350l. and others growing due, which together would amount to about 4,500l. (And was the whole Ballance then owing by Gibson?) He some Days before the Extent was executed, deposited with Mr Hughes for the Commissioners of the Customs Cash, to the Value of about 1700l. and delivered a Bill of Sale for one Ship and Freight then due, worth 1500l. and assigned over his Property in Parts of Ships, worth 1600l. amounting in the whole to 4,800l.

Upon this, Gibson waited on the Commissioners of the Customs, who declared he had acted honourably, but that they had examined the Accounts, and also the Comptroller’s, and his Debt appeared to be near 8000l. which greatly supprized him, knowing it could not exceed the aforementioned Sum of 4,500l. however, he had Assurances from them, that they would act with him in Return for what he had done, in the best Manner they could.

Notwithstanding which, in less than an Hour, an Officer went into his Compting House, seized his Books and Papers and about 3 or 400l. in Cash, and some Days after, all his Goods and Effects, to the Value of about 450l. so that what was deposited, and what was seized, by Virtue of the Extent, amounted to about 5,500l. which was more than was really due, but cannot State the exact Sums, by Reason his Books are in the Hands of the Commissioners of the Customs, or their Officers, or the Assignee of the Commission of Bankruptcy.

The Sum of 8000l. must be made up, by tacking the old Bonds of almost 20 Years standing (which ought to have been delivered up or cancelled) to those then which were just then due, notwithstanding the Collector is obliged to pass his Accounts annually, and Deacon had passed his Accounts to Christmas 1737, and had a Quietus est thereon, therefore the old Bonds, if they had not been paid, but have been delivered over long since, to be put in Suit.

Gibson’s Case being thus circumstanced, and he having given full Satisfaction for the Debt ready due to the Crown (if his Effects have been made the most of) and having given the Extent Preference to the Commission of Bankruptcy, some of his private Creditors brought Actions against him, and two Judgments being obtained, he was so terrified with the Miseries of a Gaol, that he has absconded ever since his Surrendering himself to the Commission of Bankruptcy, until September 1748, but with out any Design of Defrauding the Crown (which it was not in his Power to do, the Commissions of the Customs being possessed of all his Effects) and is now a close Prisoner in the Fleet, whereby his Wife and Nine small Children are reduced to the greatest Miseries.

He therefore humbly prays that he may be indulged with his Liberty, so that he may be able to get his Bread, which he humbly Hopes he is intitled to, for the following


First, For, that if Gibson’s Accounts is fairly stated (abstracted from the old Bonds found after the Collector’s Death) his Debt to the Crown cannot amount to more than 4,500l. as before-stated. 

Secondly, For, that the Commissioners are possessed of all Gibson’s Effects, to about the Value of 5,550l. which overpays the said Debt.

Thirdly, For that is manifest, the old Bonds were duly paid, or otherwise they would have been in the Custody of the Comptroller, and delivered over by him to the Commissioners to be put in Suit, especially in the Year 1737, when the Collector and Comproller passed their Accompts in the Pipe Office, and obtained a Quietus est thereon, (so that in fact they have accounted for these very Bonds with which Gibson is now charged) which they could not have done but by having a State of their Accounts certified by the Comptroller General to the Commissioners of the Customs, and by them to the Lords of the Treasury, and it is impossible that if these Bonds were not paid, it could not be kept a Secret from the Comptrollers of the Coal Duties, and in Consequence must be known to the Commissioners, as these Duties are collected by Certificates signed by some of the 15 Sea-coal Meeters; which Certficates are compared Quarterly, or oftner, with the Collector’s Accompts: so that by them, and the Duty collected for Meetage, the Comptroller and Commissioners must know to a Farthing, what Sums, Bonds were given for, and what Sums remained unpaid; and more especially as one of these Commissioners was all the Time one of the Sea-coal Meeters also. 

Fourthly, For that neither Masters or Factors, who are Obligors in these Bonds, ought to suffer for the Neglect, either of Collector of Comptroller, mediately under their Inspection and Power; therefore as these Bonds were never so much as demanded, till after the Death of the Collector, they ought not to be put Suit at this Distance of Time, but cancelled or delivered up. 

Fifthly, For that if these Bonds had not been paid, and had been put in Suit when due, Gibson had not paid the Money he did to Furs, who is since dead, but he and the Commissioners would have availed themselves on Furs’s Effects. 

Sixthly, For if there had been any Embezlement by the Collectors, the Fraud had been carried on by the Combination of Gibson, he could never have rested till the Bonds had been delivered up or cancelled, because otherwise it would be actually giving the Collectors so much Money out of his Pocket, which he and the other Obligors, were obliged to pay. 

Seventhly, For that Sir Maltis Ryall, under the Power of an Extent, has been indulged with his Liberty, and others against whom several of these Bonds are outstanding, have not had any Suit at all commenced against them.

Therefore what Gibson desires, is no more than has been granted to others in the like Circumstances.


Careful readers will note a discrepancy between the words highlighted in bold in this account and the biography of my ancestor John Gibson, as related in my previous post. This John Gibson talks about the sorry plight of his wife and nine children, whereas I have only found records for seven children, of whom two were yet to be born in 1742. On the one hand, this introduces the first note of doubt into my claim that John Gibson, coal factor and fraudster, was my ancestor. On the other hand, it could be that John and Mary Gibson had other children, records of whose births and baptisms I’ve yet to find or, given that he was already thirty years old when he married Mary, that John had been married before and had additional children from that first marriage.


Woodredon or West Ham?

However, there’s a further discrepancy in some other documents about the case that I’ve uncovered. In my search for more information about Gibson’s erstwhile partner Nicholas Furrs, I came across a puzzling entry in the Treasury records. On 21st April 1743, at the Treasury Chambers in Whitehall, with the Earl of Wilmington, the  Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a number of other government officers present, a petition was read ‘from John Gibson, late of West Ham, merchant, concerning his coal bonds with Nicholas Furrs, a coal merchant’ (my emphasis). What’s puzzling about this brief reference is John Gibson’s address. As far as we know, my ancestor lived at Tower Hill, in the parish of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, and maintained the country estate of Woodredon, at Waltham Abbey in Essex. This was the first time I had come across any mention of him living in West Ham.


West Ham and surrounding area, on a map of 1786

However, this was not the only document to make the connection. In the previous summer, two issues of The London Gazette had included references to John Gibson’s bankruptcy, and both gave his address as West Ham. Here is an extract from the edition of 22nd – 26th June (my emphasis):

Whereas a Commission of Bankrupt is awarded and issued forth against John Gibson, of West Ham, in the County of Essex, Merchant, Dealer in Coals, and Chapman, and he being declared a Bankrupt, is hereby required to surrender himself to the Commissioners in the said Commission named, or the major Part of them, on the 10th and 17th of July next, and on the 7th of August following, at Three of the Clock in the Afternoon on each of the said Days, at Guildhall, London, and make a full Discovery and Disclosure of his Estate and Effects ; when and where the Creditors are to come prepared to prove their Debts, and at the second Sitting to chuse Assignees, and at the last Sitting the said Bankrupt is required to finish his Examination, and the Creditors are to assent to or dissent from the Allowance of his Certificate. All Persons indebted to the said Bankrupt, or that have any of his Effects, are not to pay or deliver the same but to whom the Commissioners shall appoint, but give Notice to Mr. Hooper, Attorney, in Threadneedle-street, London.

And this is from the edition that appeared on 7th – 10th August:

Pursuant to an Order made by the Right Honourable the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain, for enlarging the time for John Gibson, of West Ham in the County of Essex, Merchant, Dealer in Coals and Chapman, a Bankrupt, to make a full Discovery of his Estate and Effects for Forty nine Days, to be computed from the 7th of August instant; This is to give Notice that the major Part of the Commissioners named in the said Commission will meet on the 25th Day of September next, at Three in the Afternoon, at Guildhall, London, when and where the said Bankrupt is required to surrender himself, and make a full Discovery and Disclosure of his Estate and Effects, and finish his Examination; and such of the Creditors of the said John Gibson, as have not already proved their Debts, may then do the same, and the Creditors are to assent or dissent from the Allowance of his Certificate.

What are we to make of this? Obviously, it casts serious doubt on my theory that the John Gibson who was convicted of fraud, made bankrupt and imprisoned in the Fleet was my ancestor, and presents the possibility that this was a completely different John Gibson residing, not in Aldgate or Waltham Abbey, but in West Ham.

However, given the close match between what we know of ‘my’ John Gibson’s experience of bankruptcy and imprisonment, and that of John Gibson, coal factor of West Ham, might there be an alternative explanation? Might it be that my ancestor did actually purchase property in that part of Essex, despite already owning the manor of Woodredon at Waltham Abbey?

At the same time, if the Gibsons owned property in the vicinity of West Ham (at that time a quiet Essex village, and not the bustling London suburb that it would become when later generations of my family lived there), it might help to explain another mystery involving the Gibson family, and one that I’ll relate in the next post.