The elusive William Blackburn

I realise I hadn’t got round to writing up my recent research into my GGGG grandfather, William Blackburn and his wife Elizabeth (née Burbidge). Before I forget where I was, here goes:

Here are the only cold facts I have on William:
– William Blackburn married Elizabeth Burbidge, who was 17 or 18, in 1807 at St Mary Newington, London and they had four children from 1808 to 1815.
– William was a clerk (1809), then a beer and porter dealer (1811) based on baptism records for daughters Elizabeth and Julia at St Olaves, Southwark.
– He was then briefly in the King’s Bench prison in 1812 due to a debt to Thomas Riddell, a brewer. His residences were Weston and Dean streets (both very near where the Shard skyscraper is now)
– By the time of his third child Mary’s birth in 1813 (baptised at St George the Martyr, Southwark), his profession has changed to Fishmonger. It’s the same in 1815 when his son John Richards Blackburn is born. [note the middle name is the child’s grandmother’s maiden name!]. Their address is London Road (in Southwark near Elephant and Castle)
– His wife dies aged 30 in 1821, address London road
– By 1839 when daughter Mary marries, he’s listed as ‘Gentleman, deceased’. All I know for sure is that he died some time between about March 1815 and March 1839.

1812 William Blackburn Gazette

Prisoners in Kings bench prison in the county of Surrey.
William-Blackburn, formerly of Weston-strcet, and late of 
Dean-street, St. Olaves, Southwark, spirit and porter-merchant. Third notice

A William Blackburn is back in debtor’s prison (the Marshalsea, also in Southwark) again for brief periods in n 1816 and 1821 but I haven’t yet proved it was him.

I want to know when he was born and when he died, but have struggled to prove either of these. As noted before, there’s a baptism at st Olaves in 1780 that *could* be him but there’s no proof (when I was less experienced at this type of research, I decided to assume it was him. I’ve since realised how ridiculous that was!). He could obviously have been much older, and he might also not have come from Southwark originally at all. There’s a death (aged 58) in 1832 in Nelson Square, Southwark that could also be him (But there are others as well – this is just the most likely one)

To add to my confusion: there was a famous William Blackburn from Southwark who designed prisons. He died in 1790 but left a son also called William (too young to be mine and who apparently didn’t marry!) who went on to be a barrister at Lincolns Inn (he died in 1846). What baffles me is that in a poll book for 1837 there’s a William Blackburn, fishmonger, resident at Lincoln’s Inn! I haven’t yet separated these two (could the barrister have moonlighted as a fishmonger? Seems unlikely!) but am uncomfortable with the notion that the name and profession can have been a pure coincidence.

A wider question is “what did ‘gentleman’ really mean? That you didn’t have to work? If so, it doesn’t really match with the picture I had built up of William. I did go through post office directories but couldn’t find him at all so I’m guessing he was employed as a fishmonger by someone else…

Here are my slightly pathetic attempts to answer my key research questions from May:

Mary [Burbidge nee Richards] is in London with Elizabeth by 1807. Were John and William jr with her?
I didn’t get too far with this. Post office directories didn’t reveal anything.

When and where did William Burbidge the grocer die?
Blank again! I couldn’t find a death. I now suspect that his daughter Elizabeth was born in Gillingham rather than Market Harborough. Perhaps he died in Market Harborough and his widow moved to Kent to be near family? (This is pure speculation). There is a reported bankruptcy of a Mary Burbidge of Sheerness, grocer.  I wonder if the national archives might have documents that could shed light.

Were both William Blackburn and Elizabeth dead by the time of the 1841 census? I certainly can’t find them.
Finally I have an answer. Yes,  they were both dead as noted above.

How can I prove or disprove the assumed baptism for William in  1780 (parents Edward Blackburne and Mary Rowley)
Well to be honest, I think the question is wrong. As noted above, I don’t know enough about William’s age for it to even be a fair assumption that this is the right person.

The mystery continues.  It’s sad that Elizabeth Blackburn (nee Burbidge) died so young.  Two of her brothers, John and William, lived to old age.  I’ve never traced elder brother Thomas, who may perhaps have died in infancy.

Recap on who these people are:

My grandmother’s father was John Victor Charles Jones (b. 1874)
John’s mother was Mary Jane Moore (b. 1849)
Mary’s mother was Julia Blackburn (b. 1811)
Julia was the daughter of William Blackburn and Elizabeth Burbidge (b. abt 1789)


May 4th 1871: a family wedding

May 4th 1871 was a big day in my family history. James Jones married Julia Anne Moore at St. Faith’s Church in Havant, Hampshire.

Notice in the London and China Telegraph

Neither bride nor groom were my direct ancestors, but later that same year, James’s brother Charles would marry Julia’s sister Mary Jane. These were my great great grandparents, so many of the wedding guests would have been my blood relatives.

More to the point, back in 1971 (celebrating the centenary?!), my great aunt Olga had some prints made up from a glass slide she had found, meaning I have this rather amazing photograph:


Olga’s notes say this was taken on the croquet lawn of Jessamine House, North Street, Havant (the Moore house, which Olga would have known well, and which was sadly demolished some time in the 1950s and was on the site of what is now the Meridian Shopping complex).

Of course, I’m now on a mission to identify all the people! There are four people I’m 100% certain of, and another two who I’m pretty sure of.  As for the remaining 13 figures, I have no proof but lots of credible candidates. By looking at which close relatives were alive at the time, it’s possible to come up with a group of 15-20 or so people from whom these 13 are probably taken.

Sadly, quite a few close relatives had died in the 10 years before this was taken. The groom’s mother, Ann Maria Jones (nee Heighington) died in Ludlow in 1862, and that same year, the bride’s half-brother Albert had died in Havant aged just 25. The bride’s father, James Moore, had died in 1865, followed just two months later by her half-sister Elizabeth.

Let’s have a look at that photo again:


The four definite identifications I can make are the bride and groom and their brother and sister (who will be bride and groom 6 months later):

11. James Jones, aged 38 or 39
12. Julia Anne Jones (nee Moore), aged 22
5. Charles Richard Jones, aged 42 or 43
8. Mary Jane Moore, aged 20

The next two are highly probable:
6. This is almost certainly the groom’s father, Richard Jones, a publisher and bookseller from Ludlow. He would have been 74, having been born in 1797
10. This is almost certainly Julia Moore (nee Blackburn), aged 60

From here on out, things get highly speculative! Obviously some of these people might not have been family at all. However, some of the following guesses are likely to be right, and many may eventually be verifiable if other photographs of these people emerge.  OK, it’s not that likely, but it’s possible!

Some rationalising:


  • As of 1871, the groom had four surviving siblings, all brothers.  I think these four brothers are the younger men on the left of the picture (the elder man being their father).
  • Of these brothers, Charles Richard Jones, has been identified beyond doubt as 5.
  • Younger brother Henry Jones (33) was not married, and is most likely number 9.
  • Other brothers Thomas Richard Jones and Whitmore Jones were both married, and with their wives probably make up the two couples who are 1, 2, 3 and 4.
  • Assuming I’ve identified him correctly, widowed father Richard Jones has an older woman next to him. Interestingly, the mother of son Thomas R. Jones’s wife is resident in Richard Jones’s house in Ludlow in the 1871 census (one month earlier). This leads me to speculate that 7. is this person, Mary Ann Knight (nee Binsted). Adding to the connection, Mary Ann Knight is the sister-in-law of the bride’s father’s first wife (she was married to George, the brother of James Moore’s first wife, Ann Knight)


  • If the left hand is the Jones side (excepting Mary Jane, who is seated next to her betrothed), it follows that the right hand side might be the Moore side.
  • There are two younger couples (?), an older couple and the seated man, who looks like a clergyman.
  • Julia Ann had only two surviving siblings: the aforementioned Mary Jane, and Laura Smithers (nee Moore, 32), who was married to William Henry Smithers (aged about 31). Laura and William could be 16 and 17
  • OK – I’m now out of parents, siblings and their spouses. Next up, I thought perhaps other close relatives who either live near Hampshire or have associations with the area. If 14. is the clergyman, that leaves two couples to find.
  • The older couple could be Mary Luning nee Blackburn (57) and her husband Charles (65). Mary had previously lived with her uncle just up the road in Emsworth.
  • Or perhaps more likely candidates are Edward Moore and his wife Sarah (nee Knight). Both were born around Havant, and Sarah is the sister of James Moore’s first wife Ann. The couple lived in Islington, London in 1871.
  • This leaves the younger couple.  They could be the bride’s first cousin Julia Ellen Taylor née Luning b. 1844 (26) and husband John Jasper Taylor b.1837 (34)
  • Or other first cousins Elizabeth Hulbert b. 1838 (31) and husband John Burnett Hulbert b. 1835 (36).

There are some sad times ahead for these people.  After returning to China with James, Julia had two children, but sadly died not long after her second daughter was born.  James then married Jane Cable, and bizarrely, his brother-in-law William Smithers later married Jane’s sister Georgina, having been widowed in 1884.

So here’s my speculative key to this photo as it stands.  If anyone reading this has any photographic evidence to confirm or contradict this, or any other opinions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Number Definitely this person Could be this person Age of the person I think/know it is
1 Maria Anna Jones (whitmore’s wife) 24
2 Richard Thomas Jones 35
3 Whitmore Jones 37
4 Mary Frances Jones (Richard Thomas’s wife) 37
5 Charles Richard Jones 43
6 Richard Jones 74
7 Mary Ann Knight 68
8 Mary Ann Moore 60
9 Henry Jones 33
10 Julia Moore 20
11 James Jones 39
12 Julia Anne Moore 22
13 John jasper taylor 33
14 The vicar [or uncle George Moore was a Wesleyan minister]
15 Ellen Taylor née Luning 27
16 Henry William Smithers 31
17 Laura Moore 32
18 Sarah Moore nee Knight 51
19 Edward Moore 53