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This blog tells the story of one family – my family – living in London in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In this first post, we travel back through the generations to uncover the connections between the present and the past.
The wedding of my grandparents George John Londors and Minnie Louisa Roe, East Ham, 1922
My mother was born Joyce Alma Londors in East Ham, London, in 1933. Her father was George John Londors (1896 – 1961), a foreman at the City of London Cemetery, and her mother was Minnie Louise Roe (1902- 1987). The Londors family were farm labourers on the borders of London and Essex for at least four generations, and before that their origins are lost in the mists of time.
However, it was my grandmother’s – my Nan’s – apparently very ordinary, working-class East End family that turned out to have a surprisingly rich history, with roots in London going back at least three centuries, and with some fascinating and unexpected forebears.
My great grandparents Joseph Priestley and Eliza Roe (undated)
For most of the nineteenth century, my mother’s family were poor tradesmen and labourers in the East End. My Nan’s father, Joseph Priestley Roe (1862 – 1947), his name surely a tribute to the eighteenth-century radical minister, worked as a general labourer and was the son of a shoemaker named Daniel Roe (1829 – 1870). Daniel’s mother, Eliza Roe (1801 – 1885) worked as a domestic servant for much of her life; she was the daughter of another East End shoemaker, William Holdsworth (1771 – 1827).
My 3 x great grandmother Eliza Holdsworth Roe in old age (undated)
William was the son of Elizabeth Holdsworth, née Gibson, who is the real lynchpin of this story, connecting my working-class, nineteenth-century East End forebears, with their more prosperous middle-class ancestors in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century city. Although she died in relative poverty in Stepney in 1809, Elizabeth, who was born in 1733, had been brought up in comparative wealth in early eighteenth-century London.
Elizabeth’s father John Gibson (1699 – 1763) was a thriving coal factor, until his fall from grace in a fraud case in the 1740s. Until then, he and his wife Mary maintained a country home at Woodredon in Essex, as well as a house in town: something that would have been beyond the imagination of their East End descendants.
Woodredon House, Waltham Abbey, Essex, home to my 6 x great grandparents and now an equestrian centre
Elizabeth’s mother, Mary Gibson née Greene (1710 – 1790), was the daughter of London citizen and goldsmith Joseph Greene (1677 – 1737) and his wife Mary Byne (1683 – 1765). The Greene family had their roots in Stepney: Joseph’s father William was a sea captain and a warden of Trinity House, serving under Samuel Pepys during the brief reign of James II.
As for the Bynes, they had moved to London from Sussex, where they could trace their history back through generations of yeomen farmers, iron masters and small landowners. Mary Byne’s father John (1651 – 1689), a citizen and stationer, had moved to London as a young man and married into the Forrest family, whose roots were in Worcestershire, and who were connected by marriage to the Boultons, a number of whom were prominent in the East India Company.
It is this network of families – the Bynes, Greenes, Forrests, Gibsons, Boultons and others – whose interconnected and often intriguing stories I want to tell in this blog. I’ll begin by tracing the origins of each of the connected families, and exploring how they came to be in London – beginning with the Bynes.