Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Wesleyan Methodists emigrate to the Cape of Good Hope

Although Bloomsbury was one of the most cosmopolitan and tolerant communities in 19th century London, many British emigrants of this period were non-conformists who sought lives in new lands which welcomed those fleeing from religious persecution.

Helen Roberts' ancestors, Daniel Roberts (1780-1844) and his wife Harriet (nee Mills, 1785-1845), who married in Bloomsbury in 1802, were Wesleyan Methodists. The family probably worshipped at Whitefield's Chapel on the west side of Tottenham Court Road. This was established by George Whitefield (1714-1770), a well known evangelical preacher, in 1756. When Whitefield died in Boston, America, his memorial sermon at the chapel was preached by John Wesley himself. A good history of the chapel is at:

Daniel and Harriet had three children, Mary Ann (b. 1803), Daniel (b. 1806), and Samuel (b. 1812). In 1820, the family was part of a group of Methodists who sailed for the Cape of Good Hope as settlers on board the Aurora. Daniel was a shoemaker by trade. Other people in the party were the Aldum family and William Shaw, a Methodist preacher. Helen believes that they were all lay missionary preachers. I found details of their passage on 'The British Settlers to South Africa' website. By the time they arrived at the Cape, its territory had been ceded to the British (1814) and was administered as Cape Colony. The Roberts family seems to have settled at Grahamstown, Eastern Cape, which saw a wave of colonial settlement between 1820 and 1834. You can read an account of what it would have been like to be a settler at this time on the Grahamstown website.
The photographs above show the bronze statue to the settlers of 1820 erected in Grahamstown and commemorative South African stamps.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bloomsbury resident finds a new life in Manitoba

Mark Sanderson's great grandmother, Eliza Jane Adkin, was born in 1856 at St Giles (a parish next to Bloomsbury) and was baptized at St George, Bloomsbury. At that time, her family was living on Little Russell Street. He says, 'Eliza Jane did not tell us much about her family history before she died in the late 1940s. However, from what I am learning, her father, Robert Isaiah Adkin, was married to Sarah Wallwork in 1846 at St Pancras Church. At that time, he was living at Tottenham Place (now Beaumont Street). Sadly, the records show that Robert died in 1859, when Eliza Jane was only 3 years old. The 1861 census shows that Sarah Adkin, his widow, was a lodging house keeper at 20 Gilbert Street (now Gilbert Place), Bloomsbury.'

The top photograph shows the entrance to Gilbert Place from Museum Street (close by the British Museum). The entrance to Little Russell Street is also visible and runs parallel to Gilbert Place. Gilbert Place (middle picture) is not very attractive although it might have been better at mid-19th century. Not all the building are numbered, and the presence of a large block of flats built after the period, confuses the numbering. From what I can make out, number 20 was near the location of the now empty Quinto Bookshop (bottom picture).

Eliza Jane, then aged 5, is not listed with her family in the 1861 census, but in that year, her mother Sarah remarried. Her new husband was George Alfred Courcelle. Sarah died during the next decade for her husband is listed as a widower in the 1871 census. Eliza is not mentioned although her youngest brother, Charles T was living with his step-father.

Eliza appears on the 1881 census as a lady's maid. The following year, aged 26, she married Thomas Tuttle, a coachman, and they moved to Canada to become homesteaders in Manitoba. Mark says that they endured many privations but raised a fine family on the bald prairie.

Henry Tillett Packman and the Tavistock Theatre

Roger Packman sent me details of his great grandfather, Henry Tillett Packman, a wealthy butcher and meat salesman (top picture), who in 1901 lived at number 9 Tavistock Square with his family and servants. Henry and his wife Ann had five children - Annie Wensley, b. 1881; William Henry, b. 1883 (Roger's grandfather); Nellie May, b. 1884; Gladys Mary, b. 1886; and Winifred Dorothy, b. 1890. At the time of the 1891 census, the family lived in Brixton, South London, but moved to Bloomsbury sometime during the next decade.

Henry Tillett apparently owned the Tavistock Theatre, for which I can find no information although Roger says that another family member has theatre programmes printed with family names. These might throw light on the whereabouts of the theatre.

However, a very interesting theatre was based in Tavistock House at number 1 Tavistock Square, several decades before the Packman's moved there. This was the house where Charles Dickens lived from 1851 to 1860 and where he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens converted the house's large schoolroom into what was billed "The smallest theatre in the world". More information about this theatre can be found at:

Roger also sent two photographs of his grandfather, William Henry Packman, in two football teams of 1905/6 (in which he is seated first right, front row) and 1910 (standing third right, back row).