Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
William Henry is the next generation of our direct line and the last of the Bristol born Gowing family. William Henry is another recurring name in the family which implies a significance to past generations. By 1872 we have seen the birth of four William Henry's with only two still living, one of which is our direct line and the other is his son. William (senior) had left home by 1871 and was working for the grocer, Henry Kelsey, in the Caledonian Road. At the time of his marriage, October of 1871 he was again living with his parents in Denzell Street, St Clement Danes, but that may have been for convenience as Jane Lawday, his wife to be, was living five doors away. Jane was the daughter of an engineer of Welsh descent called Charles Lawday and the sister of Elizabeth Lawday who had married William Henry's elder brother George at the Church of St Clement Danes four years previously. William Henry and Jane were married on Sunday, 1st October, 1871, at the same church. The witnesses were Jane's father and Elizabeth Gowing, presumably William Henry's mother but could also have been Jane's sister. It appears on the certificate that all parties signed their own name, although the handwriting for Jane's signature is similar to the handwriting of the official detail. At her own wedding twenty five years previously William Henry's mother could not write her own name but made her mark, but it is possible she could have learnt to write with her own children as they grew up.
Their first child, William Henry, was born in early 1872 and registered in the Strand district (which included the parish of St Clement Danes at that time). Alice Elizabeth was born two years later in 1874 and registered in Islington which suggests William Henry may have returned to Kelsey's Grocery after his marriage. After Alice, the children were born at two yearly intervals, Jane Emily in 1876, Albert Edward in 1878, Rose Florence in 1880. Jane and Albert's births were registered in Stepney whilst Rose Florence was born in the West Ham registration district which in 1880 was not within the boundary of London but in Essex.
William Henry was now the last of his generation in London producing children. We have lost track of his brother, stoker George and his family - the death of his daughter, Emily Jane, in Marylebone in 1874 was the last record we found for them, emigration must be a strong possibility. James and Elizabeth, safely ensconced south of the River Thames had no more children after Adelaide and Elizabeth Jane's marriage to Alfred Francis in 1877 failed to produce any offspring. Of William Henry's youngest sister, Mary Ann Alice, we have no information. After the birth of Albert Edward in 1878, William Henry and Jane, left Stepney, lived briefly at 16, Salmons Lane in Ratcliffe3 then moved out to rural Leytonstone. They set up home at number 3, Harvey Gardens, Harvey Road which was where Rose Florence was born on the 18th June 1880. Jane registered the birth the following month and entered William Henry's occupation as a Grocer.
The following year was census year 1881 and continuing the theme of unusual and sometimes amusing variations of our Gowing name, it has been transcribed as Gourine in the Ancestry collection. That aside, the family were still at the same address in Harvey Gardens but now William Henry had found work as a cellarman, possibly at the Red Lion which still stands on the corner of Harvey Road and Leytonstone High Road. A minute's walk along the same High Road in the northerly direction is St John's Church. The family lived in Leytonstone for four or five years, during which time William Henry and Jane had another son, Charles Herbert, in August 1882. Later in 1882, more precisely on 28th November 1882, William Henry's mother, Elizabeth Jane née Johns, died from chronic bronchitis at the age of 64 years. Her last breath of the poisonous London air was taken at 15, Denzell Street, St Clement Danes, her home for the last twenty seven years, with her husband by her side. For William Henry and Jane, they suffered the loss of their first born son, William Henry in 1884. The records give his age as 13 years. They had no more children until the birth of Arthur John in 1886. Arthur John was born on January 20th at 379, High Street, Stratford about three miles south of Leytonstone. His birth was registered by Elizabeth Gowing who could not write her own name, so made the mark of a cross. William Henry's occupation was now an Oilman.Close
Back south of the river James'd health was failing and the family moved north from Clapham back to St Clement Danes. Jamesd died 7th January 1888, the cause of death was recorded as emphysema, cardiac disease, thrombosis and general dropsy. His last breath was taken at Kings College hospital, Portugal Street, Lincoln's Inn. His death was registered by his daughter, Emily, who gave her address and that of her father as 12, Newcastle Street, Strand. His widow, Elizabeth was left with three children under fifteen years of age. Emphysema is a form of chronic long-term lung disease, no doubt aggravated by the foul London air. The family's former address of Bramwell Street in Clapham was bordered on the north and east by railway lines, the northern one of the two was the works and sidings of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company which itself was crossed by the London and South Western Railway on it's journey to Nine Elms and skirted by the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway on it's way to Battersea. A busy part of south London with the resultant smoke, soot and coal dust hanging in the air. With that in mind, and irrational as it may seem, the privation and poverty of St Clement Danes and the horrors of Clare Market may have eased Jamesd suffering in his final days. The image below of Kings College hospital dates from around 1840. The building was originally constructed as the St Clement Danes parish workhouse and was taken over by Kings College as a medical training facility for student doctors. It was said to be so much in demand that patients could be found two to a bed. We do not know when the family moved away from Clapham, neither do we know the reason. James'd mother, Elizabeth, had died in November 1882, it is possible the family had returned to St Clement Danes around that time to look after James'd father George, it is also possible that James'd illness may have been the catalyst and the draw of the training hospital and the possibility, faint though it might have been, of restoring Jamesd to good health, too much of an opportunity not to grasp. Kings College Hospital eventually moved out to larger purpose built premises in Denmark Hill near Camberwell, clearly a victim of its own success.Close
North of the river the story was the same, Jane Gowing, née Lawday, the wife of William Henry, died during childbirth on 25th April 1889, at just over 39 years old. Her death was registered by her husband whose occupation was still an Oilman and the recorded address was still 379, High Street. There is no record of the baby surviving but William was still left with five children under fifteen years.
In an age before even a basic form of social care both families would now struggle to put food on the table but Elizabeth's lot would be the harder. William Henry could continue working and leave his two elder daughters, Alice and Jane, to look after the younger children. Elizabeth would undoubtedly have done the same but the money she would have been able to earn would have been far less than William Henry. The solution was obvious, six months after the death of Jane, William Henry married Elizabeth and they raised the children as one family.Close
The marriage took place at All Saints Church, the parish church of West Ham on Boxing Day, 1889. Both William Henry and Elizabeth gave their address as 379, High Street, Stratford, and William's occupation was still an Oilman. For the marriage documentation Elizabeth returned to her maiden name of Biss thereby avoiding any difficult questions that might arise although the answer to any such question would have been both innocent and genuine. Elizabeth did, however, give her fathers name as George Baker when it was very obviously George Biss, Baker was her mother's maiden name. She was accurate with her father's occupation, he was a shepherd.
The image of Stratford High Street above shows the former Borough theatre at the junction of the High Street and Bridge Road which still stands although it is no longer a theatre. William Henry's address of 379 High Street is a few doors further along from the theatre and in 1876 was the premises (presumably a shop) of Edward Johnson trading as an Oil and Colourman. As William Henry's stated occupation at the time of his second marriage was an Oilman we wondered if there was a connection but the two trades are not related. As an oilman, William Henry was a lamp oil seller whereas an oil and colourman was a dealer in the victualling trade or someone who manufactured paint, and would make up the required colours5.Close
The advertisement alongside is for the Oil and Colourman John Rich of Union Street, Bishopsgate. It portrays various ingredients and articles of his trade but few of the images are clear enough to identify precisely. There are bottles, jugs, barrels and an urn plus what appears to be barley/corn or maize. He also sells patent mustard! I feel the answer to the question as to precisely what an Oil and Colourman actually trades is still a little vague.
After the death William Henry's mother, Elizabeth, his father, George, the driving force behind the family's move from Bristol to London, succumbed to the workhouse. He was admitted into the Strand Union workhouse in June 1891 at the age of 75 years. Unaccountably he was accompanied by Elizabeth Gowing age 53 years, we have yet to identify who this is. The Strand Union workhouse in Cleveland Street is widely thought to be the inspiration behind Charles Dickens masterpiece "Oliver Twist", it was a building he was very familiar with as he lived close by. The structure still stands as an annex of the Middlesex hospital and is a grade 2 listed building. Around 1870 a new site was built to replace it in Edmonton, north London, and it was here that George and the mysterious Elizabeth were taken and where George breathed his last. He died 26th August 1897.
Almshouses Way, formerley Priscilla Street. These were built in 1706, what remains is a brick group of four tenements with central raised and pedimented chapel. They were restored in 1982 but were originally part of a larger group funded by Sir John Jolles in 1617 and built by the Worshipful Company of Drapers. The present range was funded by John Edmanson who used Sir Christopher Wren's office to build what remains today. In 1858 a lodge was built on the fourth side forming a quadrangle with 44 almshouses and a chapel. In 1867 the site to be bought by the North London Railway Company and the tenants were moved to Tottenham. All that remained following railway work was this centrepiece flanked by 4 almshouses. The tenants moved back in until the 1950s after which the site became derelict. The GLC and the Oxford House Housing Association rebuilt the almshouses in 1982.13
After their marriage William Henry and Elizabeth moved north to number 34, Priscilla Road, Bromley-by-Bow with eight of their children, six of William Henry's and two of Elizabeth's, Alfred and Adelaide. Only six of the ten children born to James and Elizabeth survived into adulthood and the eldest were now making their own way in the world, we found them all spread out around London in the 1891 census; George James, the first born child, was employed as a Grocer and lodging with the Arnold family in Latchmere Road, Battersea, he married Elizabeth Arnold of that family in the summer of the same year. Emily Jane, the second born child, was working as a cook for Edmund Spitta at an address on the south side of Clapham common, she never married, but her sister, Isabella, did. Isabella, 22 years in 1891, was still unmarried and also working as a cook at the house of a Ham Merchant, William Garwood, at 47, Cazenove Road, near Stamford Hill. She married in August, 1892, Ernest Alfred Holt, a 23 year old baker. The last child to be accounted for is Frank, we found him not far from his mother on the north of the river lodging with William and Emma Burling and their six children at number 5, Beamish Road in Edmonton. Frank was still only seventeen years but was employed as a Cordwainer, the trade of his father.
Priscilla Road in Bow was a short cul-de-sac off Bow High Street, less than a mile west from St Mary's Church. It was the site of a series of almshouses built by the Worshipful Company of Drapers that fell into disrepair, the photograph above was taken in 1969. In the 1980's a proposal was made to restore and convert the houses for modern day use. On the right of the older photograph the remains of a flat roofed terraced house are clearly visible giving us a good idea of the type of house Willaim Henry and his extended family lived in and how the street originally looked. The site now borders the Crossways estate, also known as the Devons Estate south of Bow High Street.
To the left is the family tree of Jamesd and Elizabeth Biss. After James'd death and the marriage of convenience between William Henry and Elizabeth, James'd children are now his step-children, so we will document their whereabouts where we can. This will, of course, lead to an absolute profusion of children so we hope the tree will help with identification between the children and step-children.
James' daughter, Isabella, I have already noted, married on the 1st August, 1892, Ernest Alfred Holt, a 23 year old journeyman baker. He was living at 56, Paragon Road, Hackney and they married at the Wesleyan Chapel which once stood at the junction of Richmond Road and what is now Martello Street, London Fields in Hackney. This is the only marriage we are aware of taking place in a non-conformist chapel. Isabella's brother George and Joseph W. Holt were witnesses. Ernest was the son of William Edward Holt, who earned his living as a coachman. According to the marriage certificate Isabella was not in employment but her address was still 47, Cazenove Road, Upper Clapton, (her address in 1891) so we have to assume she was still employed at that house as a cook.Close
William Henry's original family, that is his six children with his first wife, Jane, followed the example set by their cousins and one-by-one left home. Alice Elizabeth, now the oldest after the loss of her brother in 1884, married George James Ruskin a Hairdresser at St Mark's Church, Victoria Park, December 9th 1895. Her address, and that of George Ruskin, was Rothbury Road on the eastern boundary of Victoria Park. Alice Elizabeth was twenty one years of age and lived at number 8 and George Ruskin was twenty two and lived at number 10. George Ruskin's father, George Edward Ruskin, was also a hairdresser by trade. William Henry's occupation was no longer an oilman, he was again recorded as a Grocer. It is sad to say that neither of the witnesses were Alice Elizabeth's immediate family. We believe the Rothbury Road address was the lodging house address of Alice Elizabeth, not that of all the family.The electoral registers have William Henry Gowing living at 24, Caxton Street, Bow, in 1894 and 1895 and Ireton Street, Bow in 1896. Both addresses were minutes from the family's former address of Priscilla Road. Rothbury Road is less than half a mile north of the Hertford Union canal and Fish Island but is now predominantly an industrial area and very close to the A12 east cross route.
On the 16th January, 1899, Frank Edward, still a cordwainer by trade and now aged 24 years, married 22 year old Florence Jane Beaton in St Phillip's Church in Battersea. Both Florence and Frank gave their addresses as 64, Basnett Road, Battersea. It has to be more than pure coincidence that Florence was born and grew up in the the same Dorset town as Frank's mother Elizabeth, and so it proved. Florence's father was John Beaton, a plate-layer at the time of her marriage but formerly a farm labourer, her mother's name was Selina, whose maiden was Biss. Selina was the younger sister of Elizabeth, Frank Edward's mother, which makes Florence and Frank first cousins.
At the turn of the century the black clouds returned as Elizabeth Gowing, née Biss, William Henry's second wife, died at 59 years. Cause of death was Nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) Four months uremic coma. Her death was not registered by William Henry, but by Ernest Holt, Isabella's husband. Elizabeth's description was not the wife of William Henry Henry Gowing but the widow of James Gowing, Cordwainer Journeyman. She died 28th July, 1900, at 1, Millais Road, Leyton.
The circumstances surrounding Elizabeth's death raise a number of questions, chiefly, why was her death not registered by her husband and why was she not recorded as William Henry's wife? As Elizabeth seems to have been in a coma prior to her death she would have needed looking after, perhaps it fell to Isabella to provide that care. Whatever the case William Henry would have needed to keep on working so maybe that is the answer to why it was not he who registered her death. It should be remembered that he did not register his first wife's Jane's death either. We also have to consider the possibility that the marriage that seemed the perfect answer to their problems at the time was not a success and they had separated. Another interesting strand to this puzzle arises in the census of the following year, 1901. The address where Elizabeth died, number 1, Millais Road, was now occupied by Harriet Washbrook and the Sheldrake family, a little further along Millais Road lived Ernest Holt, his wife Isabella and their three children at Number 1, Maldon Terrace, Millais Road. Kelly's 1886 map of Leyton shows Millais Road and the area around it completely undeveloped, by 1908 it was all housing. The ongoing construction work during that period would have seen rows of houses being built one terrace at a time and numbered by terrace rather than by road name. At the completion of the street, it would have been re-numbered, and the terrace names dropped. A note on the first page of District 24 of the 1901 Census (which included Leslie Road and Millais Road) described the two roads thus: All houses on both sides of each street at present numbered irregularly. Number 1, Maldon Terrace may or may not have become number 1, Millais Road, we doubt we shall ever know.Close
The site of the factory at 1A-E, Broughton Street, Battersea is recognisable from the description in a Survey of London from English Heritage and University College, London:
"South of this site [Holloway Brothers, Queen Street], squeezed between the backs of houses and the railway, stands 1A - 1E Broughton Street, the pared-down bulk of a plant that began as King's Bread and Biscuit Company's works. The first or southern phase of this factory (architect unknown, Charles Wall, builder), sported some unusual quirks, including a bulbous tile-hung turret in one corner. It was soon transferred to the Army and Navy Co-operative Bread Company, renamed the A1 Bread (or Biscuit) Company and substantially added to..."15
In 1901 William Henry was alone again. At 61 years of age he was renting a single room in a house at 28, Rollo Street, Battersea, an address he shared with three other families. His occupation was a Grocer's assistant, but he seems to have been working for the A1 Bread and Biscuit Company who had a small factory at the corner of Queens Road (now called Queenstown Road) and Broughton Street in Battersea. The A1 Bread and Biscuit Company started life as King's Bread and Biscuit Company who, in 1881, had won a bronze award for their "pure wheat meal bread and biscuits" and recognised for their achievement in the British Trade Journal of December that year. King's Bread and Biscuit Company evolved into the Army and Navy Co-operative Bread Company, who, by 1895, had become the A1 Biscuit Company Ltd. Pictured alongside is the location of the factory in Broughton Street, still used for commerce. The description of the site as being "squeezed between the backs of houses and the railway" still holds true; Through the site entrance one of the railway arches of the former Westend and Crystal Palace Railway line is clearly visible on its way to Victoria Station.
Rollo Street has long since disappeared, it was off Battersea Park Road, opposite Forfar Road, close to where the library now stands. About a mile away, south from Battersea Park towards Clapham Common lived the recently married Frank and Florence Gowing at number 7, Nansen Road, Battersea and the next street to them, Gowrie Road, lived Frank's younger brother, Alfred Charles. The census of 1901 was taken Sunday, 31st March, exactly 28 days before Alfred Charles married Eva Jane Wicken at the parish church of Ashford near Heathrow. Alfred's occupation was Grocer's assistant and the address he gave was 48, Gowrie Road, Battersea, but one month earlier, when the census was taken, Alfred was not recorded at that address. Their first child was named Alice Elizabeth, an apparent nod towards his cousin, she was registered in Battersea at the beginning of 1902. It is interesting that Alfred and his elder brother George James' occupations emulated their stepfather rather than their father's, but in George James case he had surpassed his stepfather and become a grocery store manager. The store, at 47-49 Southgate Road, De Beauvoir Town, Kingsland, was owned by William Herbert Lee in 1901, but over the following few years would change ownership three times, but George James remained the manager. He had married Elizabeth Arnold in Wandsworth in 1892 and their first child, naturally named Arnold George, was born the following year.Close
Emily Jane has proved difficult to pin down in 1901, but we do know she never married. The main reason for the elusivity was the transcription of her surname as Gowdey, another variation for the ever-growing list. Adelaide Priscilla was now Ada, and was working as a domestic housemaid for a magistrate on the north side of Clapham Common. Emily Jane's former employer Edmund Spitta was still living on the south side of the common but Emily was no longer employed there. Of William Henry's six step-children four returned to the south of the River Thames, George James remained in Hackney and Isabella in Leyton.
William Henry's natural children were also north of the river in 1901, Alice Elizabeth Ruskin, now twenty seven year of age was the mother of three children; Violet and Ernest, born in Homerton and Lilian, born in Bow. They were living at 47, Oriel Road in Homerton. Her husband George was still a Hairdresser's assistant. Also living with George and Alice Elizabeth was a nineteen year old male called Charles H. and a fifteen year old boy called John A. Both were named as Ruskin, both were described as B-in-Law and both were born in Stratford Essex. These two were obviously Alice Elizabeth's brothers. Charles Herbert was a Porter and John Arthur (registered at birth as Arthur John) was a Greengrocer's assistant. A ten minute walk south towards Victoria Park would bring you to Harrowgate Road where, at number 53, Alice Elizabeth's sister, Jane Emily, was a boarder. Now 26 years of age, unmarried and still a Confectioner's assistant, Jane lived in the house of a Cigar Maker, Samuel Pragoff, his wife Lydia and two daughters, Amy and Elizabeth, both Confectioners. Walk now from Samuel Pragoff's house with Jane Emily on your arm, through Queens Gate into Victoria Park and walk south west towards the historic landmark of the Dogs of Alcibiades19, then continue through Bonner Gate into Sewardstone Road, a walk of about a mile. At number 13, you will find Rose Florence, age 22 years, who was also a Confectioner's assistant. Rose was a boarder at the house of Robert and Catherine Hayes and their son Robert. Robert Hayes senior was a Customs man born in Wiltshire and his son, Robert junior, a Bookbinder, born in Bethnal Green. Rose Florence Gowing would marry Robert junior in Bethnal Green, July 1903.
Albert Edward, the last of William Henry's natural children to account for, proved very difficult to trace. He was born in February 1878 and naturally appears with his family in the 1881 and 1891 census' but we have yet to find him in the 1901 or 1911. He married the 21 year old Sarah Davies on 23rd March, 1903, at Hackney Registry office, he himself was 25 years. Witnesses to the marriage were Alice and George Ruskin, Albert's sister and brother-in-law. An interesting development was William Henry's occupation was now a Grocery Manager. Sarah's father was a journeyman tin-worker named John Davies. The address recorded for both parties was 21, Mabley Street, Homerton, a 15 minute walk to Harrowgate Road and Victoria park.
The most interesting and unexpected revelation from the marriage certificate was the groom's occupation, Albert Edward Gowing had taken the King's shilling and was a private in the South Wales Borderers. So, taking all that into account we find ourselves wondering why, when all of his children are living within a mile or so of each other around the beautiful Victoria Park was he, William Henry, living in Battersea?
Continue the story on page two...
3] Electoral Registers for 1879, Wiliam Henry Gowing living at 16, Salmons lane, Ratcliffe.
5] British Genealogy.com: "An Oil AND Colour man is a dealer in the victualling trade and an Oil Colour man is involved in the paint trade" - but, according to the Dictionary of Occupational Terms published by the Ministry of Labour, the terms are synonymous. An interesting conundrum.
8] Image from Wikipedia's King's College Hospital.
10] Ink wash drawing by J.B. Chatelain from the King George III Topographical Collection held by the British Library
13] See Edith's Streets London's local history, an absolute mine of information on streets and sites in and around London.
15] A1 Biscuit Company: See pages 65-66 of the English Heritage draft document on the UCL website
19] "The Dogs of Alcibiades" are based on a classical 5th century marble statue by Myron and have been in Victoria Park since it opened. They stand at Bonner Gate which is named after one of the park's benefactors, "Bloody" Bishop Bonner, an advisor to Queen Mary.