Early Gowings



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The Gowing Family

Early Gowings, from Bristol to London

Click on the pictures to enlarge them.



The image below represents framework of the Gowing family tree, focusing on our direct line which is indicated by the red borders. It will open in a new window for quick reference. The narrative that follows continues that theme but also includes information on all the siblings where known.


Gowing Family Names


Thomas Gowing

Thomas Gowing and Mary Morgan tree

The earliest Gowing from our line we can with identify with reasonable confidence is Thomas Gowing, born around 1750. The family lived in the Dings area of Bristol in the parish of St Philip and St Jacob, one of the older areas of the city but a long way from being the oldest. Thomas, though he lived in the Dings after his marriage, was probably not born there. St Philip and St Jacob is one of the original parishes of Bristol, it lies east of the city centre and includes the old market area. The parish extends beyond the original city boundaries encompassing the districts of Baptist Mills, Barton Hill, Lawrence Hill, Newtown, Russell Town, St Jude's, St Philips Marsh, the Dings and parts of Easton. The population explosion caused by industrialisation during the 19th century led to the building of ten new churches in the east of the parish, seven of which have now closed. The Dings has been likened to an island with the Avon along its southern and eastern boundary, couple this with the coming of industry and the railways and the enclosure is complete. The factories and railway lines joined the river completely encircling the Dings effectively cutting it off from the rest of the city, because of this it has developed an independence and identity all of it's own. Back-to-back terraced houses dominated resulting in the inevitable - the area was later designated a slum. Other Gowings born in this parish include Mary who married William Cooke in 1704 and Richard who married Sarah Gregory in 1714. It is more than likely these three strands all originate from the same family but proof of that would be hard to come by. Even earlier there was the christening of Waltar Gowin to Leuis and Hestar in 1640 and four years later Marie Gowin to Leuine and Joan and I would be astonished if Leuis and Leuine were not brothers. Other variations of the Gowing name in the Bristol records include Going, Gowen, Gowin, Gowan and the more familiar Gower but, curiously, very few Gowling.

Arial view of the Church of St Philip and St Jacob.

Img:1, Church of St Philip
and St Jacob (undated).

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Aerial view of the Church of St Philip and St Jacob.

Thomas' wife was born Mary Morgan, they were married 25th September 1775 in the church of St Philip and St Jacob. Mary was native to the Dings, but it took several years to determine exactly which Morgan/Morgen family she belonged. Early marriage records did not detail the father of the bride or groom and Samuel Morgan, James Morgen and William Morgan all lived in the Dings and may well have been brothers. Annoyingly, all three had daughters within a few years of each other and all three named their daughters Mary. The discovery of a will proved about 1821 answered this question and several others. Mary's father was William Morgan, she was christened 6th May 1743, at St Philip and St Jacob but her mother's name, their home address and her father's occupation were not recorded.

The will in question was that of Nancy Peters formerly Nancy Jones but born Nancy Morgan. She was christened two years after her sister on 26th May 1745, at the same church of St Philip and St Jacob. At this time we are not aware of any other siblings and as Mary was the sole beneficiary of the will we do not expect any to come to light at a later date, but - never say never. We will be looking at the will of Nancy Peters in depth later in this story.

Ann Street and Unity Street in 1750.

Img:21, Ann Street
and Unity Street in 1750.

Close Ann Street and Unity Street in 1750.

We have found six children born to Thomas and Mary Morgan, two sons and four daughters:

Nancy [b.1776 - d.1779]
George [b.1778 - d.1846]
Betty [b.1780 - d.1784]
Ann [b.1788]
Sarah [b.1792]
Jamesa [b.1794 - d.1838].

Which James?

Later in this story James Gowing's grandson is born, he was naturally named James after his father and grandfather. This bought the count of "James Gowings" to five, very confusing for me, the writer, so I am sure it is confusing for the reader. To remedy this I attached a superscript letter to each "James Gowing" to differentiate, thus:

Jamesa [b.1794] son of Thomas and Mary.
Jamesb [b.1825-d.1831] son of Jamesa and Mary Ann.
Jamesc [b.1833] son of Jamesa and Mary Ann.
Jamesd [b.1840] son of George and Elizabeth Jane.
Jamese [b.1855] son of Jamesc and Matilda.

All were baptised at the parish of St Philip and St Jacob and such are the gaps between the years it is probable there were other children we have not found records of. The baptism records also provided us with Thomas' occupation and a more accurate idea of where the family lived. At Nancy's birth in 1776 their address was Unity Street and Thomas' profession was a Tiler & C. (Tiler and Carpenter perhaps?) In 1778 the family were living in Ann Street (now called Great Ann Street) and Thomas' profession was still a Tiler but only a Tiler. Two years later it was back to Tiler & C. but for the baptism of Ann in 1788, Thomas was now a House Painter. Thomas continued earning his living as a house painter and Ann Street remains the last address we have for Thomas and Mary at this time. To the left is a partial map of St Philip's from 1750, a time when this part of Bristol was the edge of the city and surrounded by open fields. This is how it was for Thomas and Mary, a semi-rural setting for their children to grow up in. The image this conjures up in the mind can seem ideal with children running around barefoot in open fields but though that probably happened it is always only half the story. I have marked Ann Street (Anne Street on the map) and Unity Street but note the fields to the south of Unity Street over which Union Road and the surrounding streets would be built and the Midland Railway Coal line would make its presence felt. On the map of 1855 (image 5 below) I have identified and marked Unity Street, Ann Street (Great Ann Street) and other areas relevant to this story.

Nancy and Betty both died at three years old but George, Ann, Sarah and Jamesa all survived and married, George to Elizabeth Cock in November 1798, Ann to James Thorn in 1811 and Sarah to James Pocock in April 1813. Mary Gowing née Morgan died about 73 years of age, during November 1816 in St Philips and St Jacobs and Thomas, her husband, eight years later in 1824. He lived to 74 years. Our line continues through James who married Mary Ann Bush, with whom he had at least seven children.

Jamesa Gowing

James Gowing and Mary Ann Bush.

We assume Mary Ann Bush was a similar age to Jamesa which would put her date of birth around 1794. They were married on 15th September 1815 at the church of St Mary-le-Port in the parish of the same name, a little over half a mile from Ann Street. We have the same problem with Mary Ann as we had with Mary Morgan in the previous generation, but of the seven baptisms recorded as Mary Ann Bush, only two could be could be considered as possibilities. Mary Ann, the daughter of William and Mary, born in St Michael's in 1785, or Mary Ann, the daughter of Robert and Eliza born in St. Augustine in 1795. The parishes of St Michael and St Augustine are adjacent to one another situated north west and west, consecutively of St Mary-le-Port. Robert and Eliza's daughter is the obvious candidate purely through her age but I would have expected, inkeeping with tradition, a son or daughter to have been named Robert or Eliza, but we have so far found neither.

Barton Place, off Union Road

Img: 2, Barton Place
off Union Road.

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The church of St Mary-le-Port is one of the five ancient central Bristol churches. St Mary and the neighbouring church of St Peter's were both destroyed in the blitz of 1940-41 but the ruins have been kept as memorials and maintained to keep the remaining structures safe. St Peter's is thought to be the oldest of the two churches and it has even been suggested that it may have been the site of Bristol's first church. Only the tower remains of St Mary and Historic England date its origins to the 11th or 12th century, possibly earlier.

Jamesa and Mary Ann's first child, George, was born around October 1816 and he is next in our direct line. His Brother Thomas, (christened Gowen), followed in 1818 and Caroline in 1821. The first Jamesb was next in 1825 with Amelia (1829) and Jane (1831). The second Jamesc was born in 1833 following the death of his namesake in December 1831. All were baptised within the parish of St Philip and St Jacob but unfortunately, this time, we were not so lucky with a street address. Every baptism record gave James and Mary Ann's address as St Philip, except the last born child, Jamesc, where the address was just as vague, The Dings. Even for Thomas, (christened Gowen) the address was St Philip. We were luckier with James' occupation, as like his father, he was a painter, at least for his first born children. By 1821, at the birth of Caroline, James had become a plasterer, and so he remained, but as ever, Thomas, (christened Gowen) was there to confuse the issue. Thomas was baptised at St Philip but just to add a further element of doubt, his father's occupation was entered as Printer, but consider this: How easy is it to mistake the hand-written word Painter, for Printer? More about our doubting Thomas later.

Mountpleasant Terrace in Union Road.

Img:3, Mount Pleasant Terrace,
Union Road, 1855.

Close Mountpleasant Terrace in Union Road.

On the 1st of February, 1838, Jamesa Gowing senior died, age 45 years. He died from Lung Disease at the address of Tyler's Fields, The Dings. His death was registered by his sister Sarah Smith, formerly Sarah Pocock. Of his wife, Mary Ann, we have no information but it is certainly odd that she was not the registrar's informant. Tyler's Fields seems to be one those of local names that cannot be found on any map although the area around Tyler Street, off Barton Road, seemed the obvious location, and so it proved. Tyler's Fields as an address, however, was recognised by Bristol's municipal administrators, so, through the combination of directories, electoral and ecclesiastical records we were able to identify where this part of The Dings actually was. The poll books list the addresses of Berkeley Place and Waterloo Place as being in the area of Tyler's Fields to differentiate those addresses from the other streets in the same parish with the same name and Tyler's Fields Chapel probably refers to the former Methodist chapel in Gas Lane (formerly Cook's Lane) near the junction with Freestone Road which is now in the hands of a scrap metal merchant. What cannot be answered now however is the extent of Tyler's Fields and the area it encompassed but I believe parts are under the Great Western Railway track where it crosses Gas Lane and possibly some makes up what is now called Dings Park. The next set of addresses for the family come courtesy of the 1841 national census.

The 1841 census was the first to have detailed information about people. It lists names, addresses, age, sex and occupation with an indication to an individuals birth county and country. The last two columns of the census page asked the questions "Born in Same County?" and "Born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts?" The answer to the first was a simple Y (Yes) or N (No) or NK (Not Known) whilst the second required the letters S, I or F as appropriate. George, who is next in our direct line, is living at Sidney's Court, Mount Pleasant Terrace, Union Road in the parish of St Philip and St. Jacob. The map alongside shows Mount Pleasant Terrace but does not mention Sidney's Court so we can assume it would be nothing more than a small courtyard with houses similar to those in Barton Court, Union Road, pictured above. Sidney's Court seems to have been sandwiched between the railway line and the houses of Mount Pleasant Terrace, however, a quick count of the entries recorded for Sidney's Court in the 1841 census shows sixteen families living there. Behind Mount Pleasant Terrace was the boundary of the Midland Railway coal line extension (see image 3); at this point the line was at street level as opposed to being in a cut or on an embankment, and the coal yard is marked at the bottom left corner of the map. It does not take a particularly imaginative mind to envisage the poisonous atmosphere, the dirt, the smoke and the grime that would have been hanging in the air all day, every day, with no let up, in the age of steam. Mount Pleasant it was not. Sidney's Court was the home of George (22 years) and Elizabeth, née Johns (24 years), and their two children George (2 years) and Jamesd (5 months) all born in Gloucestershire. George was a cordwainer (shoemaker), a very different profession from his late father, Jamesa. The striking thing about this census entry was George and Elizabeth Jane Johns did not marry until June 1846.

Kingsland Road bridge

Img: 4
Kingsland Road bridge.

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The building of the Midland Railway coal branch extension in 1835 sliced through Union Road on its way to the docks along Avon Street. The line was built at street level on the approach to the docks which meant level-crossing gates across the roads and the inevitable associated hold-ups. As traffic volumes increased with industrialisation the need for a bridge became apparent but even so, a bridge was not built until sometime around the late 1860's. When it was eventually built, the imaginative design meant it was constructed in such a way to divert the traffic heading south away from the narrow confines of Union Road on to the wider Kingsland Road. For northbound travellers the bridge diverted traffic away from the staggered crossroads at York Street (now called Barton Manor) and Barton Road outside St Emanuel's Church [sic] (long since gone). This stroke of municipal planning genius created a new artery by linking the two major roads of Midland Road (formerly Whipping Cat Hill and Orchard Street) and Kingsland Road via Clarke Street. From the air the bridge took on a dog-leg configuration, [see image 4] and left the two parts of Union Road divided to this day even though the line, sidings and dock have long since gone. Parts of the railway track bed are now a cycle route.

New Street, Lamb Street, Unity Street and Union Road.

Img:5, Union Road, New Street,
Lamb Street, Ann Street,
Unity Street, 1855. New Street, Lamb Street, Unity Street and Union Road, open link in new window.

Thomas (christened Gowen) married Mary Ann Hopkins as Thomas Gowing in September 1842 at St John's, Bedminster, across the river Avon, but, regardless of that, in each census he appears in, he called himself Gowen. In later life he claimed to have been born in St Philip's Bristol and we have found no other Thomas Gowing, (or variations thereof), born to Jamesa and Mary, so we can be reasonably sure Thomas Gowen and Thomas Gowing are one and the same man. However, just when we thought we were on solid ground, something else comes to light to feed the seeds of doubt: Thomas' occupation. Not a plasterer or painter like his father and grandfather, or a cordwainer like his brothers, but a labourer. His address in the census of 1841, however, was Lamb Street, less than 500 yards from George in Union road. He was living with May a charwoman, age 21 years and Sarah (2 years), presumably his wife and daughter, as the 1841 census has no requirement to identify relationships. The original handwritten entry for May was also written in such a way it could easily have been transcribed as Mary. Included in the census transcription was a female servant, M.A. Shipston (age 23), probably a lodger with no connection to the family. The fact that Sarah was born three years before Thomas and Mary Ann married could explain why their marriage took place across the river Avon in St. John's Bedminster, rather than St Philip.

Also living very close to Lamb Street and Union Road was George and Thomas' sister, Caroline. We have two possible candidates for Caroline, the first is a 20 year old woman and living apart from her brothers and sisters in what looks to be called Triblett's Court off Bragg's Lane. Triblett's Court seems to be one of many small courts in the area around the Lamb Inn marked on the map (image 5) south of St. Jude's Church and Poynty Pool. No more than 150 yards from Thomas in Lamb Street and less than 600 yards from George in Mount Pleasant terrace. Her occupation was recorded as Ind (Independent) and she appears to be a lodger with the Clarke family. The second candidate is also a 20 year old, living amongst paupers, labourers and a hemp worker in Narrow Plain, the western continuation of Unity Street, about half a mile from Lamb Street. The handwriting for both entries on the census is not clear but either candidate fits the bill.

In 1841 Amelia was 12 years of age. She was now working as a servant at the house of William Higgs, a milkman in Union Road, a stones throw from her brother George. She had only three more years to live.

Of Jane born in 1831, and Jamesc born in 1833 we have no knowledge of their whereabouts in 1841. We know their father, Jamesa, died in 1838 but we have not been able to discover whether their mother, Mary Ann, was still alive. It would be nice to think the three of them were together somewhere in Bristol but I suspect we will never know.

We referred earlier to Thomas and Mary Ann Hopkin's marriage at St. John's Church in Bedminster which lies south west of the Dings about a mile and a half across the River Avon, via the Bedminster bridge. About a thirty minute walk in 1842 but probably much longer now with today's traffic. St John's Bedminster was severely damaged by incendiary bombs in 1940 and remained a ruin until 1967 when it was cleared. The area in Church Road is now a small public park. Caroline married Thomas Garmston in May 1846 at St James' church, north of the river, and George followed, marrying Elizabeth Jane Johns at the same church on June 22nd 1846. Of the seven children born to James and Mary Ann we can only find evidence of four surviving into adulthood. After Jamesb had died in 1831 at six years old, Amelia followed aged fifteen years; her death was registered in first quarter of 1844 in Clifton (the local registration district at that time). Of Jane we are still unsure, an entry in the census of 1861 has stirred our curiosity: Working as a servant at Hillside House, Clifton was Jane Gowing, age 29 years, but born Tunbridge Wells. An error perhaps? The name Gower can be found around Kent at that time, but not Gowing, so an error it may be. We have also noted two marriages in the June quarter of 1860 in the Clifton registration district5 of Jane Gowen, something that will need to be looked at further.

St James' Church, Horsefair.

Img: 6, St James' Church,
Horsefair. 1630.

Close St James' Church, Horsefair.

The marriages of George and Caroline at St. James' Church presented us with a new address to add to the evolving picture we have of the family's whereabouts in Bristol. In the summer of 1846 all four parties of the two marriages lived in St James Back, a short road, narrow in places, running south from St James Church towards the floating harbour. The northern part of the road survives, Lthough it is now called Silver Street, which comes to an abrupt halt at Nelson Street. The southern section of St James Back that once continued on over Nelson Street is under the new shopping centre that houses the Odeon cinema.

St James' Church on Whitson Street, Horsefair is all that remains of St James' Priory, destroyed during the dissolution. It was founded in 1129 as a Benedictine priory by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, the illegitimate son of Henry I. Over the years there have been alterations and additions but latterly the structural integrity was a major cause for concern and the Church, a Grade I listed building, was added to the Historic England Buildings at Risk Register as being in very poor condition. Recent substantial restoration resulted in the building being removed from the register in 2014 and the Church is back in use by the Catholic Diocese of Clifton.

George Gowing

George Gowing and Elizabeth Jane Johns tree.

By the June of 1846 George and Elizabeth Jane had sired three children, George, Jamesd and William Henry. Rather belatedly perhaps, they decided to marry at St James Church, 22nd June 1846. A year later, in June 1847 the death of Mary Gowing was registered in Clifton. This, we believe, was Jamesa' wife and George's mother, Mary Ann née Bush. Probably out of respect for his mother, George's next daughter was named Mary Jane. She was born in 1849 and baptised 14th January, in St Philip and St Jacob. She did not reach her second birthday. The 1851 census shed no more light on George's sister Jane, but we did see the return of his brother Jamesc, now 17 years of age. Probably as a result of his mother's death he was now living with George in Swan Court, New Street. Jamesc was now a Shoe maker by profession like his brother George, and George's wife, Elizabeth Jane was a Shoe binder. Young George, now 12 years old and Jamesd at 10 years were both at school but had two more brothers, William Henry age 5 and Charles at one month. The family's address in New Street was rather more convoluted than usual "2 Houses back of New Street below Swan Court" Image 5 above shows the exact location of New Street and The Swan public house; behind The Swan are seven dwellings, five above The Swan, which we assume to be Swan Court, and two below.

Also living in New Street was Mary Ann, her daughter Sarah Ann and son John, the wife and children of Thomas (christened Gowen); Sarah Ann was now 12 years of age and John was 10. Thomas himself was in the Clifton union workhouse in Stapleton, ironically the area Mary Ann was born and grew up, his occupation was entered as Painter as opposed to Printer. Caroline married Thomas Garmston in St James, 25th May 1846. Thomas was the son of a Greengrocer who lived in Skidmore's Buildings, Bread Street, a mere sixty yards from Narrow Plain via Goat Alley, one of the addresses we found for Caroline in 1841 census. By 1851 Thomas and Caroline had two children, William, eight years of age and Amelia 15 months. Thomas was a Hawker and the family were living at 17, Unity Street with a 53 year old seamstress, Mrs Ann Lewis and her niece Mary and nephew William. Mrs Lewis was a widow, and seemingly unconnected with the family.

Denzell Street Plaque.

Img:8, The Denzell
Street Plaque.

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Denzell Street Plaque.

Jamesc Gowing, the youngest of the family, married Matilda Bradgate back at St Philip and St Jacob in 1854. Matilda was the daughter of shoemaker Henry Bradgate and Elizabeth. Parochial law dictates that marriage, under normal circumstance, takes place in the parish of the bride. Caroline's marriage to Thomas Garmston in 1846 took place in St James, the same parish her father, Jamesa, had died in eight years earlier as opposed to St Philip and St Jacob which implies that was her home parish, so using that criteria, it seems, as often happens, the family gradually drifted apart after the the death of their parents.

In the following years George and Elizabeth Jane added more children to the family, in 1854 Henry William was born (not to be confused with William Henry who is alive and well and 9 years old) and baptised 5th March 1854 in St Philip and St Jacob as Henry William Gowen and the last child to be registered in Clifton. In March of 1856 Elizabeth Jane was born, followed in 1858 by Mary Ann. Both were registered in the Strand, London, so now the family disintegration was complete. Why did George and his brother Jamesc uproot their respective families and move to London? What compelling reason did they have for leaving Bristol which, at that time, was a boom town, we can only guess but, as the story goes, the streets of London were paved with gold.

The year of Mary Ann's birth has gone down in history as "The Year of the Great Stink." The rapid expansion of London and the inadequate and disjointed sewerage system meant a contaminated network of underground rivers and streams feeding handpumps and spilling out into an already heavily polluted River Thames. The long hot summer of 1858 created a stench beyond anything previously experienced in London and Parliament was forced to act. The London sewerage system still in use today was given the go-ahead but way too late to stop hundreds of people dying from cholera.

1861 - 1871

By 1861, George and his brother Jamesc had both set up house at 15 Denzell Street, St Clement Danes, sharing the address with eight other families. Denzell Street was a narrow back road off Stanhope Street north of the Strand. At the junction of Stanhope Street and Denzell Street there once stood a public house called the Royal Yacht attached to which was the plaque pictured above. It was erected by Gilbert, third Earl [of Clare], in memory of his father's second brother Denzil - "a man of great courage and of as great pride, who, during the early troubles between Charles I and his Parliament, took a leading part on the popular side."8 A strong arm's stone throw from Drury Lane theatre, Denzell Street also had Clare market just around the corner; Clare Market has been described as Smithfield's little brother but Smithfield's illegitimate little brother might be a better description. Clare was a market lacking in the usual market architecture: the regimented lanes and stalls, it was, in fact, no more than a collection of dingy, dirty congested narrow streets. The younger Charles Dickens' wonderfully descriptive entry in his Dictionary of London (published in 1879) voiced what many customers would be thinking looking at some unfamiliar fare on offer:

Denzell Street, St Clement Danes.

Img:10, Denzell Street,
St Clement Danes.

Close Denzell Street, St Clement Danes.

"Clare Market lies hidden behind the western side of Lincoln's-inn, and can be reached either by the turning up from the Strand next to the new law courts, or through the archway in the western side of Lincoln's-inn. It is a market without a market-house; a collection of lanes, where every shop is tenanted by a butcher or greengrocer, and where the roadways are choked with costermongers' carts. To see Clare Market at its best, it is needful to go there on Saturday evening: then the narrow lanes are crowded, then the butchers' shops are ablaze with gas-lights flaring in the air, and the shouting of the salesman and costermonger is at its loudest. Nowhere in London is a poorer population to be found than that which is contained in the quadrangle formed by the Strand, Catherine- street, Long-acre, and Lincoln's-inn and the new law courts. The greater portion of those who are pushing through the crowd to make their purchases for to-morrow's dinner are women, and of them many have children in their arm. Ill-dressed, worn, untidy, and wretched, many of them look, but they joke with their acquaintances, and are keen hands at bargaining. Follow one, and look at the meat stall before which she steps. The shop is filled with strange pieces of coarse, dark-coloured, and unwholesome-looking meat. There is scarce a piece there whose form you recognise as familiar; no legs of mutton, no sirloins of beef, no chops or steaks, or ribs or shoulders. It is meat, and you take it on faith that it is meat of the ox or sheep; but beyond that you can say nothing."

The Old Curiosity Shop.

Img:15, The Old Curiosity
Shop, Lincoln's Inn.

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The Old Curiosity Shop.

Clare Market

"There are about twenty six butchers in and about Clare Market, who slaughter from 350 to 400 sheep weekly in the market stalls and cellars. There is one place only in which bullocks are slaughtered. The number killed is from fifty to sixty weekly, but considerably more in winter, amounting occasionally to 200. The number of calves is very uncertain. Near the market is a tripe house in which they boil and clean the tripes, feet, heads, etc. In a yard distinct from the more public portion of the market, is a place where the Jews slaughter their cattle, according to a ceremony prescribed by the laws of their religion. Here great attention is paid to cleanliness."

- Old London Markets.

John Diprose, of the printing house Diprose and Batemen, wrote a guide to the parish of St Clement Danes in 1868, entitled simply "Some Account of the Parish of Saint Clement Danes". He was well qualified to do so as his printworks was located in Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn. His book is a collection of quotations and observations, facts and hear-say with a few illustrations, some of which I have reproduced here. About Clare Market he included an article from a publication about old London markets called - "Old London Markets", I have copied a paragraph alongside. Compared to the earlier quote from Dickens it offers a more sanitised perspective, with maybe a touch axe-grinding going on.

The Colonnade, Clare Market.

Img13:, The Colonnade,
Clare Market.

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The Colonnade, Clare Market.

This little corner of London escaped the ravages of 1666, consequently a large number of the buildings dating from the Elizabethan era survived into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The area was well known to Dickens senior and he was reputed to have used some of the landmarks in his novels, the most familiar of which you might think to be the Old Curiosity Shop. However, that tale has been proved to be fiction worthy of the master himself. The shop in Portsmouth Street, Holborn took the name Old Curiosity Shop a short time after the Dickens tale was published as a book (rather than a serial) in 1841. However, that stroke of marketing genius made the owner a wealthy man and helped ensure the shop's survival to this day. The building, believed to be the oldest surviving shop in London today, was constructed using wood from old ships, with a tiled, hipped roof. The ground floor windows today still feature 17th or early 18th century frames, complete with 19th century glazing.

We are still in 1861 and George is 44 years old and Elizabeth 43, their eldest son George is 20 years, a stoker on a steam vessel, Jamesd is 18 years and a grocer's assistant, our interest lies in William Henry the next in our direct line, he is a shoemaker's assistant, probably working with his father. Elizabeth is 5 years and Mary Ann is 3. Of Charles and Henry William, born in 1851 and 1854 respectively, there is no mention so it is likely they never survived. George's brother, Jamesc was now 27 years, his wife Matilda 30 years and they have a son, Jamese who is 6 years.

St. Clement Danes, Strand.

Img:17: St. Clement Danes,
The Strand, circa. 1720.

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St. Clement Danes, Strand.

Jamesd married Elizabeth Biss at the parish church of Sherbourne, Dorset, in July of 1863 but they set up home back in London. Elizabeth was born in Sherbourne, the daughter of George, a shepherd and his wife Jane, née Baker. The family (comprising of eleven children) lived on Silverlake Farm, west of Sherbourne. Two years prior to her marriage Elizabeth was working as a servant for a land agent and surveyor in Cornhill, Sherbourne, there is no reason to think that would have changed in the months leading up to her marriage which begs the question - "How on earth did she meet Jamesd Gowing, a shoemaker from London?" Nevertheless, meet and marry they did and their first child, George James, was born in mid 1864 and registered in St Giles. George was followed by Emily Jane in 1867, baptised at St Clement Danes on March 8th and William Henry in 1868. William Henry was baptised at the Great Queen Street Chapel 12th July 1868. This was a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in the parish of St Giles and William Henry is the first child we are aware of that was not baptised in a traditional parish church. Jamesd and Elizabeth's address was recorded as 17, Princes Street, Drury Lane which is over the parish boundary into St Giles but still only minutes from Clare market and Denzell Street. Unfortunately for us there was no requirement on the baptism record to note James' occupation. Was the choice of a non-conformist chapel for William Henry's baptism a conscious one or was it purely a matter of convenience? Another question we will never know the answer to but whether conscience or convenience, it made little difference, William Henry did not live to see his first birthday. Their fourth child, a daughter named Isabella, was born in 1869 and registered in Wandsworth, signifying a move south of the River Thames to the address 15, Bramwell Street, St Pauls, Clapham.

Great Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel

Img:18: Great Queen Street
Wesleyan Chapel.

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Great Queen Street Wesleyan Chapel

Stoker George returned home long enough to marry Elizabeth Ann Lawday at St Clement's Church on January 17th 1867, witnesses to the marriage were William (Henry) Gowing and Jane Lawday, Elizabeth's younger sister. Elizabeth Ann Lawday was the eldest daughter and possibly first born of Charles and Maria (née Brooks) being born around 23 months after their marriage. Charles was a native of Bristol but married in Lambeth in 1844 so had come to London many years before George and Jamesd. His occupation was varied, but followed the theme of metal working: In 1844 at the time of his marriage he was an engineer, in 1851 a Whitesmith, 1867 and 1871 a Blacksmith until 1881 when he diversified into hot water engineering. Charles, Maria and their six children lived at number 10, Denzell Street.

The dubious delights of Denzell must have agreed with George and Elizabeth as ten years later they were still at the same address but in a slightly better position. Only four families lived at number fifteen and all but one of their children had left home. George, the eldest son disappeared, but as a stoker on a steam vessel he could be anywhere. Our direct line continues through the third born son, William Henry, he was still unmarried, 26 years old and living at 212, Caledonian Road, Islington, a grocers assistant. This address was almost certainly the shop he worked in, number 212 was on the corner of Copenhagen Street and the Caledonian Road and is a shop to this day but street re-naming and re-numbering was not unusual in the late 1800s so the location is not a definite. On two of the four corners of this junction the buildings are almost unchanged, both former public houses and unmistakeable as such, but neither are trading now. Nevertheless, it is certainly an ideal spot to trade. He was employed by Henry Kelsey, a 33 year old grocer from Buckinghamshire.

Finally we have Mary Ann, registered the second quarter of 1858 as Mary Ann Alice Gowing and three years old in the census 1861. This is the last we see of her. At thirteen years old we would fully expect her to have been away in service for the 1871 census and that may well have been the case but we have found no reference of her or to her. We have checked all the variations of Gowing as always but have found no obvious death or marriage record that might explain her absence from home. Of the original eight children born to George and Elizabeth Jane, only four seem to have survived into adulthood.

We finish this decade with a brief but not final note about Jamesc, Matilda and their son Jamese. Unexpectedly we find they have left London and are living in the Kingsholm area of Gloucester at number 84, St Catherine Street. Jamesc is still a Boot and Shoe maker and Jamese now 16 years, is an unemployed labourer. In the ever growing and sometimes amusing variations of our Gowing name, the family were transcribed in the 1871 census as Goring.

1871 - 1881

St Paul's Church, Clapham.

Img: 19; St Paul's Church
Clapham.

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St Paul's Church, Clapham.

Jamesd and Elizabeth start the ball rolling in early 1871 with the birth of their fifth child, a boy, which they again named William Henry. Sad to say he lasted not much longer than his namesake, dying just after his first birthday. In October of 1871 Jamesd' brother, William Henry, married Jane Lawday at St. Clement Danes church on the first of the month. Jane Lawday and William Henry were the witnesses when William Henry's brother George married Jane's sister, Elizabeth Ann Lawday, at the same church of St Clement Danes in 1867. George and Elizabeth Ann's first born child was a boy and naturally named George Henry. He was born at the beginning of the year in 1871 and their second child, Emily Jane followed in 1874. Interestingly, George Henry was registered in the Strand but Emily Jane was registered in St Giles-in-the-Fields, the adjoining parish north of St. Clement Danes. From this we assume George and Elizabeth Ann had followed James and Elizabeth to Princes Street or beyond, and left their parents and Denzell Street behind. However, that might not have been the case as Denzell Street lies very close to the parish boundary and the registry office of St Giles might just have been a shorter walk.

From this point forward the children come thick and fast but not for George and Elizabeth. After Emily's birth they moved north to Marylebone where at the beginning of 1879, Emily Jane dies. The registration of her death is the last record we found for George and Elizabeth Ann. Meanwhile, Jamesd and Elizabeth were faring not much better south of the River Thames in Clapham, Elizabeth Louisa was born in early 1873 and was dead before winter returned but Frank Edward, born around June 1874 and Alfred Charles around April 1877 were both baptised at St Paul's Church and both survived into adulthood. Two years later, in the summer of 1878 Florence Louise was born and as the summer passed, James and Elizabeth must have held their breath through the cold winter months, but all to no avail. As the spring turned to the summer of 1879 Florence became their fourth child not to live beyond infancy. Adelaide Priscilla proved a stronger spirit, born in the winter of 1880 she lived to witness her brother Frank's marriage in January 1899, but was still unmarried herself by 1911.

74 Tachbrook Street, Pimlico.

Img:20: 74, Tachbrook Street,
Pimlico.

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74 Tachbrook Street, Pimlico.

William Henry's sister, Elizabeth Jane, married Alfred Francis in March 1877 at St Clement Danes church and they set up home in a lodging house at 74, Tachbrook Street, Hanover Square. Alfred was the son of William, born in Kensington, the details of which escape us. For Elizabeth, raised on the streets of Clare Market, the genteel surroundings of Tachbrook Street must have been a culture shock of the most delightful nature, although it is unlikely to have been quite as exclusive an address as it is now. Alfred was an employed house decorator, and they shared the Tachbrook Street address with five other families amongst which was a plumber, a painter and glazier and a carpenter called Charles Greedy. Next door lived George Duncan from Glasgow, an "own account" house decorator and possibly Alfred's employer. Alfred and Elizabeth did not have children, they moved from Tachbrook Street to Effingham Street and remained there up to 1911 with Alfred still a house decorator at 61 years and Elizabeth six year his junior.

Our direct line continues with William Henry Gowing, my father's grandfather. As the story evolves it becomes more personal and I cannot help but feel a connection with many of the characters as we delve beyond names and dates. It is hard not to feel a deep sadness in finding so many of the children bearing our name not surviving into adulthood. In Victorian Britain, life was cheap.





5] The Clifton district of Bristol and the Clifton registration district are not the same. The Clifton registration district stretches way beyond Bristol incorporating outlying towns and villages like Westbury-on-Trym and Winterbourne.
8] Quoted from the book London Signs and Inscriptions. By Philip Norman, F.S.A. The article partially quoted above continued with additional information about Denzil Holles:

" On March 2, 1629, when the Speaker was about to adjourn the House in obedience to the King's order, Denzil Holles helped to keep him in the chair by force, for which conduct he, with five other members, was committed to the Tower and fined 1,000 marks. After many vicissitudes Holles welcomed the restoration of Charles II, was created a peer, and sent as Ambassador to Paris, where his pugnacity and his ignorance of the French language were alike remarkable..."




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