Friday, 17 October 2008

The Foothead family

Carol Gilbert sent the following information about her Bloomsbury ancestors.

'My great, great grandfather, James Felix Foothead, was born in Bloomsbury in 1801. On his later marriage certificate he gives his father's name as James and his occupation as schoolmaster. The family research I have done so far indicates that at this point the family was Roman Catholic, and that makes finding details a trifle difficult until later in the century. I have early baptismal records from the Portugese Chapel in Lincoln's Inn, but these are incomplete as many were destroyed by fire. However, I believe James senior to be James Hayles Foothead, son of John-Jonathon Foothead and Frances Hayles.

It appears that the older James had an 'interesting' past and may be the same James that was convicted and sentenced to 7 years deportation in 1786. This is not only recorded in the Old Bailey records but also in a letter from his older brother John - a student priest in Rome - to a fellow priest in England. John, who was definitely a son of John-Jonathon and Frances, died in 1788. The family appears to have hit hard times immediately following the debt of John-Jonathon who was declared bankrupt in 1783. At that time he was running a brick-making/building business in Covent Garden, but was recorded, shortly before that, as living in Gilbert Street, Bloomsbury.

James senior had a second brother, Charles George Foothead, who is described on his wife's death certificate as 'Professor'. He lived at 14 Southampton Row in the early 1800s. A daughter, Catherine, died at this address in 1806. This was recorded by the Bloomsbury searchers (more about these in the next article). His wife was Hannah Frances Rogers who died in Birmingham in 1845. In 1811, Charles George was still in Southampton Row, according to the London Directory, so it is safe to assume that his other two daughters, Marianne (1805-40) and Eliza (1808-) were born there. Charles served on the Old Bailey Middlesex Jury in 1808 and died in 1831, leaving a very perfunctory Will. At that time he was living in Fitzroy Square (Fitzrovia). By 1813, he was placing advertisements in The Times using this address. He is also listed, with Charles, as having an educational premises/stationers at Great Leonard Street in 1811.

Around 1822, a 'Mr Foothead' was recommended by Burke of Burke's Peerage, as an excellent tutor in classics for the education of the sons of the US ambassador to England. He is also mentioned as a tutor in the Bloomsbury area in the Memoirs of a Highland Lady (Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus). However, there is no way of telling whether this was Charles or James.

James Felix joined the East India Company Army and served in India for many years. He twice married native Indian girls who both died in childbirth. Two of the children, William and Eliza, returned to England with him. He married in 1849, after his return to England, and for a while ran the new Lascar Seamen's Mission in Limehouse (East London). He died in Islington (north London) in 1880. His son, Edward James Foothead, my great grandfather, emigrated to New Zealand in 1871.'

The picture shows the British Museum in Montague House, facing Russell Street, in the early 19th century, as the Footheads would have seen it.