Bowyer Place in 1841

I’m slowly getting back into this research lark. Today I decided to dip back into the census for 1841 to take a look at Bowyer Place, where the Oldroyds and Buchanans lived, to see if I could get an idea of what sort of street it was. Who were the inhabitants? What did they do for money?

A little background to Camberwell. According to Old and New London: Volume 6, Camberwell was  mentioned in the Domesday book as a large village with its own church, populated mainly by lower class cottagers and farmers. The manor attached to Camberwell was passed around various minor royals and the Buckingham family until the Duke of Buckingham was beheaded in 1521. It was bought by Edmund Bowyer in 1583. There may have been a spa or well somewhere about, since St Giles, patron of the parish church, was also patron saint of cripples and mendicants. John Evelyn talks about Sir Edmund Bowyer’s “melancholie seate” in 1657. Bowyer House was pulled down to make way for the railway in 1861, but in 1841 it was  still in use, possibly as a home for the Camberwell Literary and Scientific Institution or as a school for young ladies.

Old and New London stats that Bowyer Lane was the “abode of questionable characters of all sorts”, and a family living in Bowyer Lane around 1836 were exhibiting the body of an executed horse thief for a shilling a head. Lovely.

Bowyer Place, on the other hand, appears to be a new development in 1841. I can’t find any reference to it on Cary’s New Plan of London (1837) or on a map of the parish of St Giles dating from around 1834-ish that I have knocking about.

It was built a few hundred yards south of the rather elegant Addington Square on what appears to be Southampton Street in Cary’s map. There are eleven houses in the row, from what I can tell from the census. Unfortunately the 1841 census just lists each household, with no house numbers or whether the dwelling was an apartment or a separate house. Whatever buildings were there in 1841 aren’t there any more, so I’m going to assume that they would have been townhouses rather like the slightly shabby ones in Walworth Road, only with no shops on the ground floor.

Question marks indicate that I couldn’t read the census-taker’s handwriting.

The households in Bowyer Place were:

The Parkes family

John (?) Parks (55), either a publisher and professor of music, along with his wife, Mary, adult daughter Emma, a teacher called Ellen Bentham (?) and a teenage maid, Charlotte Lawson (?)

The Cox family

Robert Cox (30), a builder,  his wife Elizabeth, and small son Robert, and Mary Ray (?) another teenage maid.

The Ball family

Hosiah (?) Ball (40) a professor of languages, his wife Maryann, and children Thomas and Louisa. There is also an Elizabeth Ball (30) and a two-year-old child called Henry Goodwin. The census indicates that Elizabeth is the mother (hmm). The servant is Elizabeth Tooley (30).

The Belliston (?) family

George Belliston (47) works as an upholsterer. His wife, Harriet, is 12 years younger than him. They have seven children; the youngest is seven months and the oldest (Sarah) is 16.

The Elliots

Sophia Elliot (60) is of independent means and has a 25-year-old daughter, Maria. Also resident are Edward Appleyard (60) and Mary Hurrell (20). These last two appear to be servants.

The Buchanans

Aha! Rellies! James Buchanan (70) is of independent means, though that could mean he’s retired. His son William Buchanan (30) is a nurseryman. Ellen (5) and Arthur (3) could be James’ grandchildren. It looks like their mother is no longer alive, but censuses aren’t too good on that sort of detail. Eliza Mayer (25) is the household servant.

The Fishers

Good name for a preacher, which is what Henry (38) does for a living. If he is a Methodist, then he would have been living in the middle of his parish with his wife, Ann (39) and daughters, Selina (12) and Mary (4). There are no resident servants.

The Oldroyds

More rellies! Henry Oldroyd (55) is a nurseryman, like young William. His wife Anna (40) is James Buchanan’s daughter. His son, Henry (20) is also a nurseryman. William Lord (30) is a mariner and Elizabeth Burgess (20) is the household servant.

 The Wests

Stephen West (50) does something with furniture, but I can’t for the life of me work out what. His wife Hannah (35) has eight children; the youngest of which, Henry (20) seems to have been born when she was 15, but she may be his stepmother. I’m not sure if they have a maid. There is a young man called Edward also living her, but I can’t figure out his profession.

The Laum (?) family

Cornelius (40) is an appraiser. Doesn’t say of what. His wife Sarah (35) has  six children between the ages of 15 months and 14 years. They have no servants, but the eldest child, Emily probably has to help run the house.

The Barnes family

Edward (38) is a bricklayer. His wife Elizabeth is 35 and they have seven children between the ages of five months and 16 years.

So, the Oldroyds are living in a newish development with the middling sort. Nobody is utterly poverty-stricken, but with so many mouths to feed, life must be a struggle for the West, Laum and Barnes families. Yet we also have some more middle-class residents. Mrs Elliot and her daughter living in relative space and comfort. In the middle of that the Oldroyds and Buchanans; inlaws living a few doors apart, suggesting a close-knit family, possibly in and out of each others’ homes all day and night.




Chartishm project

Every time I think of the Chartists, I get the late Tony Benn’s voice in my head, talking about the achievements of the “Chartishts and the Shuffragettes and the Levellersh who battled for the rights of ordinary people…etc”

This may get annoying because I’ve started pondering what to do about my MA again. I finished the taught half of it last year, which apparently qualifies me for for Post Graduate Diploma in History Stuff. To get my full MA I have to sign back on with the Open University and complete a 15,000 word research project on a subject of my choice. The only rule is that the subject should be an event or subject confined to an area of Britain or Ireland.

The final essay for the first half of the MA was an outline project proposal for the second half, so I do have a topic that I have researched and presented and had accepted by my tutor.

Except that I didn’t really like it then, and I don’t like it now.

It was a study of the Peckham Experiment, a community health project that ran from 1925 to 1950. The Experiment is a bit of a local legend; there was a purpose-built centre, participants were encouraged to initiate their own activities, there was a creche, a farm that produced food for the community cafe, and there was a swimming pool in the roof.  But the  project wasn’t ultimately a success and I wanted to examine why that was. The founders blamed the newly-formed NHS (they were anti-socialised healthcare), but some historians have blamed the founders…so there was a lot to look at.  BUT, I didn’t think that there was much in the way of a contribution to historical research.


Then I pondered doing something about the Asylum in Asylum Road.  It was built in the early 19th century and was meant to provide sheltered accommodation for elderly licensed victuallers who had fallen on hard times. My project would compare the provision of care for the elderly in the Asylum with elder care at the nearby Camberwell Workhouse.

This one would involve a lot (and I mean a lot) of stats and analysing original source material.

Then I read this article on Chartism in Camberwell and it piqued my interest. The Chartists had large meetings down the road in Kennington Park. One meeting ended in a riot which resulted in houses and shops being looted in Bowyer Place. I had ancestors (market gardeners) in Bowyer Place. In addition to that, the ‘ringleaders’ who were convicted were two young black men local to the area. And one of the leaders of the Chartist was a black British-born tailor called William Cuffay. So it ticks the family box, the local box, black people in London before 1960, the yes-I’m-a-leftie box…

The Chartist thing also requires lots and lots of reading and notes. I’ll have to read The Making of the English Working Class again (yawn) and I’ve found Dorothy Thompson’s essays on Chartism. That and a few overall histories of early 19th century London should be enough to get started…


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