Click on the pictures to enlarge them.
Johann Hoellings I - Born c.1661, Married Alheit Koops
Johann Hoellings II - Born c.1693-4, Married Margret Kahrs
Johann Christoph Hoellings - Born c.1729, Married Catharina Tho Riken
Carsten Hollings - Born c.1765, Married various, see below.
George Thomas Hollings - Born 1805. Married Rachel Wire
George James Hollings - Born 1826.Married Selina Popkins
George Carsten Hollings - Born 1858. Married Sarah Jemimah Inward
Sarah Ethel Hollings - Born 1889. Married? John Arthur Gowing
We know nothing about George James' younger years apart from the areas where he grew up. He was born in Duke Street, in the parish of St Paul, Bethnal Green, close to the Shoreditch parish boundary. His grandfather, Benjamin Wire, owned several properties in Duke Street and as a builder his father was very likely to have been involved in building them. The spread of London continued and was gathering pace at an alarming rate in the eyes of some. During the reign of Charles II, Bethnal Green and Spitalfields, once rural communities, had been swamped by French Huguenots's fleeing form persecution in France. The King had offered them a safe haven in England and they grabbed the oppotunity, in fear of their lives. The fledgling silk weaving industry in Spitalfields thrived as a result, free from the restrictions of the London guilds and benefitting from low housing and food costs and the skills of the French immigrants. By the end of the 1700s however, the industry was in decline, the Huguenots were moving out and the Jews were moving in, fleeing their own persucution in Eastern Europe.
On April 2nd 1829 George James was presented with a little brother, James, baptised at the new parish Church of St John, Bethnal Green. The family address entered on the certificate was Green Street which tells us they had already moved out to the quiet countryside close to what is now Victoria Park.
In 1854 George James Hollings married Selina Popkins at St Dunstan's Church Stepney. A wonderful gothic Church steeped in history. Selina was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Popkins of Pleasant Place, Bethnal Green. Thomas was a silk weaver, one of hundreds in Spitalfields and Bethnal Green, a rapidly declining trade that had trapped many families in long term poverty. Selina was the seventh of nine children and was a laundress, many of her brothers and sisters were silk weavers like their father. In 1851 Selina was living at No 1 Pleasant Place with her parents but by 1854 and the time of her wedding, she was living at 19 Globe Road, Stepney.
From an article written by John Hollingshead in 1861;
"Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Bethnal Green was on the verge of economic collapse. The area had become inundated with silk weavers. In 1824 there were 25,000 looms in and around Spitalfields, in 1831 there were between 14,000 to 17,000 working looms, by 1861 that had dropped to only 8,000. At the time Spitalfields had a population of about 100,000 persons, half of which were entirely dependent on the weaving industry. This district comprised parts of Mile End New Town and Bethnal Green where many one-storied cottages were being erected for the weaving families who were employed as out-workers. In 1835 wages were lower by thirty per cent, than in 1824, and they did not average more than eight or nine shillings a week. Now (1861) they cannot be higher than seven shillings, or seven shillings and sixpence a week, on an average."
The decline in the Silk weaving industry in the area had started in the late 1700's when local regulations meant the same job could be carried out elsewhere at a significantly reduced cost. Materials that once would have originated in Spitalfields were now available from Norwich, Paisley and Dublin. A further blow came in the form of illegal imports from France. The vast profits to be made meant that no form of policing could prevent the flourishing cross channel trade. In 1826 the prohibition was lifted and legitimized the trade. An 80% duty was imposed on all silk imports. Perhaps the final double blows came with the advent of steam power and the 1860 trade agreement with France. As a result the market was flooded with fancy low priced fabrics from both here and abroad which condemned the Spitalfields weavers to almost inescapable poverty.
Selina was born in Bethnal Green, that from each of the census' she appeared on, the 1851 and 1861, where such information was required. We eventually found a baptism for her, entered as Selina Hopkins in the records. She was baptised 3rd March 1828 but no date was given for her birth. Selina, her elder sister Mary Ann (born 1824) and her younger sister Charlotte (born 1830) were all baptised at St Leonard's, Shoreditch, with a home address given as Swan Yard, and their father's occupation given as Weaver. Both Selina's and Charlotte's birthplace in the 1851 census was incorrectly entered as Bethnal Green, however the parish border was only a matter of yards away.
Swan Yard was recognised as a street occupied mainly by silk weavers as far back as during the reign of James 1st. The publication The London Weavers' Company1 documents the spread northwards from Spitalfields, Bishopsgate and Norton Folgate;
"...we find weavers, in gradually increasing numbers, in Coles Alley, Hore Alley and Swan Yard.. "
The last child we have found to be born to Thomas and Sarah was Charles, born in 1833 also in Swan Yard. By now the decline in the industry must have been biting deep with earnings lower than they were ten years previously. The family's move to Pleasant Place happened before 1841 and was probably one of neccesity not choice, but at that time a pleasant place it may well have been, by comparison. Maps from 1830 still show Green Street as a country lane with Pleasant Pace and East Street surrounded by green fields. Consider that and the drawing of the weaver's cottage on the right, and the image conjured up is something like rural bliss. It would be comforting to believe that to be an accurate description of Selina's new home but almost certainly not accurate. Green street, although one of the main routes into Shoreditch from the east, would still have been little more than a dirt track, making progress by horse and cart or waggon very difficult during the winter months. The spectacular London sewer system was still a long way off so all the public sanitation problems were still as prevelant as they would have been in Shoreditch, maybe even more so. The place that Selina grew up in changed dramatically by the time she was maried in 1854, a more unsuitable name for such a street is hard to imagine.
The following passage dates from January 1848. It is part of a "Sanitary Inspection of Bethnal Green" by Hector Gavin.
"But PLEASANT-PLACE presents the ne plus ultra of street abomination. It is impossible to conceive how utterly filthy and abominable this street is; to be estimated it must be seen. The broken up road is filled in its hollows, and covered on its surface, so as to be nearly impassable (even this dry frosty day) with the putrescent muddy slime already referred to; and this is its state shortly after it has been cleansed, as it is absurdly termed, by the parish authorities. The street is nothing more or less than an elongated lake or canal; only, in place of water, we have a black, slimy, muddy compost of clay and putrescent animal and vegetable remains. Fever has visited this spot, and in one house has been very fatal.
PLEASANT-ROW and PLEASANT-PLACE, Pleasant-row forms the northern side; Pleasant-place the eastern and southern sides of a quadrangular space, opposite the Jews' burying-ground. In the centre of this space is a smaller square, leaving a narrow passage to the east side of the square, and a still boundary. This central square is made up of swine-pens and yards in which dung-heaps are piled; in it are the privies of the northern half of the row, forming the south of the square. Immediately facing Pleasant-row is a ditch, filled with slimy mud and putrefying filth, which extends for 100 feet. The space between Pleasant-row and the central square is, beyond description, filthy; dung-heaps and putrefying garbage, refuse, and manure, fill up the horrid place, which is covered with slimy foetid mud. The eastern end has likewise its horrid filthy foetid gutter reeking with pestilential effluvia; the southern alley is likewise abominably filthy: there, the same slime and mud overspreads the broken up, bouldered path; and there, the same most disgusting odours are given off, which are common to this area of putrescence. I do not think that in all my journeyings through the degraded haunts of wretched poverty in this poor parish I have found a scene so distressing.
The houses in Pleasant-place are chiefly two-roomed, and let at 3s. 6d. a week, but some of the two-roomed and all the three- roomed houses let at 5s. a week. I entered one of these houses on the southern side, and found that every individual in a family of seven had been attacked with fever, and that a daughter, aged 22, who had been convalescent eight weeks, on her return from the country to her miserable home, died of a relapse in two days. The body was retained in the house, because no means could be found to raise the money necessary to bury it, and was then lying in its coffin. The privy of this house is close to it, and is full and overflowing, covering the yard with its putrescent filth; the stench was perfectly unendurable; the house itself was most shockingly dirty. 3s. a week were paid for this den of pestilence, while the husband and wife together, by working night and day, could only earn 15s. a week. To permit a continuance of the state of things I saw would be, as it were, voluntarily to tolerate the elimination of a fatal poison to be sucked in at every breath of the occupants, who, thus condemned to death, perish not by the momentary pangs of official strangulation, but by the more miserable death of loathsome typhus. How lost to all sense of charity and brotherly love, how forgetful of the value of human life, are those who apathetically survey such sad scenes of wretched misery."
After such a report one would think the city fathers would act swiftly to alleviate as much of the hardship as possible, but in the days before the welfare state the parish was responsible for the people and the workhouse did little to ease the suffering. The workhouses themselves were constucted as bleak and forboding as possible to discourage people from applying for relief. For many people prison or death was seen as a better option than entering through the gates of a workhouse. When Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist the memory of London's Cleveland Street workhouse would have been sharp is his mind's eye. The feared institution was a stones throw from his parents home in Norfolk street, he would have seen those entering or departing through the wrought iron gates and he grew up understanding the shame and degredation that the institution represented. The issues of poverty and public health were far too serious for the parishes to ever contain, the answer would only be found at a national level.
Great strides were already being taken in the movement of goods and people, the industrial revolution took off with the canal system which came to Bethnal Green in 1820, passing under Green Street about half a mile east of East Street at Twig Folly. The railways were also making travel even easier and generally roads were being improved with the introduction of tolls, the Mile End Road, for instance, had four toll gates between London City and Stratford. For Bethnal Green, however, there were no toll roads, the only toll gate for eastbound travellers from Shoreditch was near the junction of Hackney road and Cambridge Heath road. Not having to pay to use the road may well be regarded as a right now but two hundred years ago it meant that the road would be pitted, full of pot holes and very muddy. Major roads were being improved as new ways were developed to improve drainage and durability but Bethnal Green road or Green street would not fall in that category. All this construction, as well as the house building programme that was well under way in Bethnal Green must have kept the brothers very busy.
Whilst Selina was living at number 19 Globe Road, George James was living at number 16. It is said to have been a common practice for couples who were about be married to arrange to live at an address within the parish of the Church they were to marry in. This removes the problems of marrying someone outside of your own parish. In this case both George and Selina's home addresses were outside of St Dunstan. George's home address of 103 Green street was in the parish of St Simon Zelotes, whilst Selina's address of Pleasant place was in the parish of St James the Less. Both of these parishes come under St Mathew Bethnal Green but the marriage took place in St Dunstan's Church Stepney! Strictly speaking the marriage should have taken place in bride's parish of St James.
The first child to be born to George James and Selina was a daughter named Rachel, curiously she was baptised at St. Mathias Church, Hare Street, Bethnal Green, some considerable distance from Globe Town. The couples address entered on the certificate was number 1, Pleasant Place. A turning off Green Street was Smart Street, still in existence today but bearing no resemblance to the Smart Street of 1855. One of the roads leading from Smart Street was East Street. This plan (from the Hollings page one) shows East Street in relation to Green Street where George grew up. It was here in 1859, at number 26, that George James and Selina's second child George Carsten was born on 17th September. George was also baptised at St. Mathias Church, Hare Street, but mysteriously the address entered on the baptism certificate, in not very clear writing, appears to be 18, Jubilee Street. The baptism took place on the 16th October, 1859, a month after the birth, why the change of address? The only plausable explanation would be for work purposes, the only Jubilee Street we have found so far is in the parish of Christchurch, Stepney. That is some considerable distance from Hare Street, and a long way to travel for a baptism. Was it the case perhaps that George and Selina belong to or originated in the parish of Bethnal Green, and that baby George was also born in Bethnal Green, so the rules are he must be baptised in Bethnal Green? Or was it simply the case that St Mathias was where Rachel was baptised and was the automatic choice?
The house forms part of a lease containing eight properties purchased by his father in 1850. On the plan there is no division between 103/198 Green Street and one of the houses in East Street. It would be easy to assume this was number 26 East Street but of that I cannot be sure. The family were still at this address at the time of the 1861 census. East Street and Smart Street were among the poorer areas of Bethnal Green, terraced houses akin to the pictures above would have been the order of the day. Being a Stonemason, George would have been able to make a good living, the area around Green Street that became known as Globe Town was being built up at a rapid rate. There were brickmakers and timber yards in abundance and the development of wharves around the Regents canal at Twig Folly bridge brought trade and wealth to many.
One month after the death of George's mother Rachel, saw the birth of Henry William, a third child for George James and Selina. He was baptised at the Church of St Peter, Mile End Old Town, on the 13th April 1862, again some distance from home. The address entered on the baptism certificate was 26, East Street. The following year Selina herself died in St. Bartholomew's hospital, London, cause of death Dropsy, damaged kidney, possibly as a result of long term diabetes. If Selina had been unwell over a period of time this may have affected George James ability to get out to work and keep the money coming in. With three children, all under eight years of age, and their mother in poor health it is possible some kind of home help was sought? Would it be fanciful to assume this help came in the shape of Elizabeth Coe, who's parents happened to live at 23a, East Street, three doors down? The 1861 census has Elizabeth living with her grandparents William and Sarah Huet in Sudbury, Suffolk, we have no way of telling if this was a long term arrangement of a short term visit but she was certainly home by 1863.
With his mother and wife dying within 13 months of each other it would be easy to understand how life suddenly became difficult for George James. His father, who had been deaf for over ten years, was now 60 years of age but presumably still working. His brother James was still unmarried and still living at 198 Green Street, the family home, with his father, probably something of a blessing. This was the time that George James, now living at 2, Davis Place was declared bankrupt for failure to pay rent on his yard in East Street. Notices in the London Gazette went out following the prosecution on 6th July 1863. A discharge was issued on the 8th October 1863.
Not surprisingly George James married again on November 1st 1863. His second wife was a Silk Winder by trade and the daughter of a silkweaver. She was Elizabeth Coe daughter of Samuel Coe and Sarah Elizabeth Huet of Bethnal Green. At the beginning of this and every page I have stated "Only the marriage relevant to our family will be shown". In the case of George James and Elizabeth I have made an exception. Elizabeth's father, Samuel Coe, was born in Kettering, Northamptonshire. Details of his family were passed on through generations and have been sent to me by William Hollings, Elizabeth's grandson. He has kindly allowed me to reproduce them here.
During 1851, Elizabeth was living at 26 East Street with her parents Samuel and Sarah and her sisters Emma, Jane and Ellen. She was born in 1843 making her 17 years younger than her husband. The lease to 26 East Street at this time was owned by George Thomas Hollings so the two families obviously knew each other. By the time George Carsten was born in 1859, the Coe family had moved out to number 23A East Street and George, Selina, Rachel and the new baby George had replaced them at number 26. As far as the 1871 census is concerned, it is strangely quiet regarding the whereabouts of the remaining family. The birth of Esther in 1869 shows the family were living at 55, Globe road, Mile End and the 1871 directory for the area lists George Hollings, Stonemason living at the same address but the census, taken on the 2nd April, records the house as being unoccupied.
By 1881 George James and his second wife, Elizabeth, were living at 9, Candy Street, Bow. By now the couple now had nine children of their own but still living with his father was Henry William the son of Selina. The new family were: George Henry born 1865, Christiana Elizabeth born 1866, Frederick born 1868, Esther born 1869, William Thomas born 1871 (died 1881), Reuben born 1874, Ernest born 1877, Grace born 1879 and Arthur born 1880.
The two elder children from the first marriage were now living away. In 1878 the eldest child Rachel had married Walter Thomas Phillips at St Thomas' Church, Bethnal Green. The marriage certificate again has the same address for both Rachel and Walter of 4, Hassard Street, off Hackney road and close to Columbia Market. The occupation of Rachel's father was now Builder rather than Stonemason. Walter was the son of Thomas William Phillips whose occupation was given as a manager, Walter himself was a gunsmith and unusually for the time he could not sign his own name. In 1881 the family were living at 52 Old Ford Road, Hackney, they had two children, Arthur Charles born 1879 and Clara Eliza born 1880. Both children were baptised at St Barnabas' Church in Homerton, 18th February 1881 and Walter's occupation had changed from gunsmith to labourer. Was Clara given the name Eliza as a tribute to her step-mother? Rachel was seven years old when Selina died so she would have memories of her but it is probable she would have grown up accepting Elizabeth as her mother. In another record error, the date of birth for Clara was entered as 1879, the same years as Arthur's. We have not paid too much attention to the Phillips family but it appears that Walter had two sisters, Jesse Eliza and Emily Jane and a younger brother Adolphus Frederick. Walter Thomas Phillips died in 1893 the same year as his father in law, at the age of 36. The children Clara and Arthur were thirteen and fourteen years of age respectively, Rachel was 37. It is not clear yet whether she married again. Rachel's brother George Carsten was living in Bentham Road, South Hackney. It would be from there he would marry in 1882. Henry William married in Poplar in 1886. His wife was Agnes Amos was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1865, the daughter of George Amos a saw maker/sharpener. Henry and Agnes had two children, Henry Amos, born 1887 and Agnes Maud, born 1892. Henry was injured during the first world war and died from his wounds, he is buried in the Bedford House Cemetery.
The family left Candy Street and moved to Walthamstow some time around 1890. By this time there were two more children in the family, Benjamin David was born in 1883 and John James in 1885. George's eldest daughter, Christiana Elizabeth, married Arthur Bishop in September 1895 at the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Palmerston road, Walthamstow. At the time the family were living at 26, Ritchings Avenue, a turning off Forest Road next to Hervey Park Road. It was in Hervey Park Road Sarah Ethel Hollings (George James granddaughter from his first marriage) had been born seven years earlier. It is inconceivable that the two families did know of each other but I wonder how much contact there was between the two families and how much support the newly widowed Elizabeth received from her stepson.
Arthur Bishop was the son of Joseph Bishop, builder. He was born in Notting Hill and the couple appear on the 1901 census as the owners of a grocers shop at 220 Uxbridge Road Shepherd's Bush. There were no children. Three years later Reuben married Ada Fordham at St Mary's Church Walthamstow. Ada was the daughter of James Fordham a labourer and / or gardener possibly born in Cambridgeshire. Her address on the marriage certificate was 3, Northcote Road Walthamstow. At the age of twenty four Reuben was a plasterer living at 46, Selborne Road, Walthamstow. The 1901 census shows him to be self employed and living at 51, Eden Road, Walthamstow. Again there were no children. Next to marry was Grace Clara who married Charles Noe in 1900. Charles was the son of Abraham Noe a house painter by profession, Charles was a plasterer's labourer. In 1901 Charles and Grace were living with Henry Noe, Charles' brother and his wife Florence and their one year old son George at 40, Blackhorse Lane, Walthamstow. Henry was a joiner and carpenter as were Charles' younger brothers George and William. By the end of 1906 Benjamin David had married Edith Beard and in 1907 the youngest child John James married Miriam Richardson.
I have learned from living descendants of John James Hollings that the sons of George James worked closely together even to the point of forming their own building company. I assume this would naturally have included the extended family of the daughter's husbands as their professions suggest.
George James Hollings died on 30th March 1893 in the Tottenham Training Hospital. The death certificate gives the cause of death as "Sarcoma of thigh, 12 months [tumuor] on brain, coma". The writing is a little difficult to read but it suggests he may have been in a coma for 12 months before he finally died. The address entered was Tottenham Training Hospital but by December the administration of his will was given to his widow Elizabeth at the address of Fox's Cottages, Forest Road, Walthamstow. The value of the estate was £38 4s 6d.
George James Hollings death certificate describes him as a "House painter of Walthamstow". Eight years later his first born son appears in the 1901 census as a "Master Builder". It would appear that between the first and second of George James Hollings families, there was someone able to turn their hand to many of the trades required in the construction of houses and history shows them to be in the right area as Walthamstow at this time was expanding rapidly. (Click here for more information about Walthamstow)
Continue the story on page three.