General => The Common Room => The Lighter Side => Topic started by: IgorStrav on Saturday 29 August 20 15:44 BST (UK)

Title: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: IgorStrav on Saturday 29 August 20 15:44 BST (UK)
My son and I went on a trip to London yesterday.   (For those concerned, we took the usual C-19 sensible precautions)

We were making our way towards the East End for a specific purpose, but I also wanted to take the opportunity of visiting the church of St George in the East, whose registration district features frequently in the births of my maternal relatives.

We had a wonderful walk from the amazing Boundary Estate bandstand (where we parked) near Shoreditch Church, down Brick Lane, through and past railway lines (both current and superseded) crossing Commercial Road, along Cable Street, to St George in the East, thence via Tobacco Dock to the dock walks, St Katherine’s Dock and then Tower Bridge.  And back.  With an extra walk northwards into Haggerson, it was nearly 10 miles.

I have a book of 1888 Victorian London maps and have already identified where my relatives lived, and this morning did some more research into our route – which is of course much changed.

I researched the Boundary Estate, close to Shoreditch Church which was only created in the 1890’s and replaced some terrible slums. 

However, although the new dwellings set “new aesthetic standards for the working classes” (oh that’s good), providing “A total of 1,069 tenements, mostly two or three-roomed, were planned to accommodate 5,524 persons” (you do the math)

And “The new flats replaced the existing slums with decent accommodation for the same number of people, but the occupiers changed. The original inhabitants were forced further to the East, creating new overcrowding and new slums in areas such as Dalston and Bethnal Green. No help was offered to those displaced to find new accommodation, and this added to the suffering and misery of many of the former residents of the slum. The new blocks had policies to enforce sobriety and the new tenants were clerks, policemen, cigarmakers and nurses.”

The attractive Bandstand is on a small mound, created from the demolished remains of the Friar’s Mount Rookery.

My grandmother, born in 1878, lived in Hungerford Street, just off Commercial Road, about a mile or so away from this – but I expect her family enjoyed similar living conditions. 

And they continued to do so, well into the 20th century, with her mother-in-law, my great grandmother, dying of a tubercular knee and gangrene, aged 68, in the Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum in 1920, just across the road from the Stepney Workhouse.

It seems a miracle that I sit here typing this from my position of (what would be for them absolutely unimaginable) affluence and entitlement.

I’m thoroughly engaged with finding sources and adding them to my family tree, but sometimes it is the deep dive which brings the most reward.  And, to be honest, tears at the divide between my docker great grandfather and his life, and the scenes yesterday of the yachts at St Katherine’s Dock, and the tents pitched in the Shoreditch Churchyard.

Something always to remember.
Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: louisa maud on Saturday 29 August 20 16:06 BST (UK)
I have promised my 20 year old granddaughter I would take her to London to where I lived, W10 in those days, now been pulled down to slum clearance, then to W9 where my mother was born and  grandparents lived , then to Lock Bridge Harrow Road where my father and grandparents lived, hugely changed since I last was there in 1996 when my mother died, wouldn't do that walkabout on my own  now and  husband isn't interested, wanted to do it sooner but   think I will leave it to tbe lighter nights next year

Louisa Maud
Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: andrewalston on Saturday 29 August 20 16:31 BST (UK)
I always enjoy seeing the areas where my relatives lived. It gives you a feel for the area. Did they have to drag their shopping up a steep hill? How far did they have to walk to work, church or school?

However, virtually all of their homes have been flattened as slums, some as early as the mid 19th century. Few could afford such luxuries as gravestones, with living families to spend their hard-earned cash on.

For your London relatives, it is always worth looking at Charles Booth's Poverty Maps ( ). Don't just look at the map; read the associated notebooks, which give much more insight into the streets involved. The street where one of my relatives was born into a middle-class family, had, 30 years later, become a den of iniquity!

ADDED: Just looked at Hungerford Street - not a nice place in 1898-9 !
Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: IgorStrav on Saturday 29 August 20 16:52 BST (UK)

ADDED: Just looked at Hungerford Street - not a nice place in 1898-9 !

no.   :o

I have a wonderful newspaper cutting about my grandmother Emily Steenhoven, mentioning her name amongst the 'winners' of the employee races during her employers' annual outing. 

She was a cigar maker (like her father Victor Desire, who came with the family from Brussels in the 1870's) for a firm called Abraham&Gluckstein of 26 Whitechapel High Street.

I have both virtually 'walked' her route to work from the Walburgh Street neighbourhood (close to, and not much more salubrious than Hungerford St!), and also googled the fascinating history of the Abraham and Gluckstein families, members of which worked with J Lyons in the creation of the famous Lyons Tea Shops.

They wanted a different name for the catering business, as they regarded it as less prestigious than cigar making.  One of the descendants of the family, via her maternal line, is Nigella Lawson.

Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: coombs on Saturday 29 August 20 18:34 BST (UK)
My ancestor grew up in rural Sussex, daughter of a successful wheelwright. She died in poverty in a Holborn tenement block in 1886 aged 47. I was pleased to find the building is still there, and now a refuge for women. I have been past it many times on trips to London.

The said ancestor moved to London in 1864. She got her share of her fathers inheritance in 1876, and by 1878 the family were virtually destitute after running a coffee shop then a beer house in Walworth.
Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: Stanwix England on Saturday 29 August 20 19:29 BST (UK)
I'm really glad you got to make that trip IgorStrav. It really gives you a feeling for your family history, doing something like that.
Title: Re: Because Family Trees are never finished.....
Post by: jbml on Monday 31 August 20 09:15 BST (UK)
I really love visiting the places I have identified in my family history research. Standing in the places they stood, looking upon the sights with which they would have been familiar (where unchanged ... )

I must admit that the landlord of the White Swan at Exning was a little nonplussed when I asked him if his cellar steps were particularly steep, and if I might look at them. When I explained that my great x5 grandfather had fallen to his death down those very steps, he was more than happy to let me take a good look!