Alert – Huguenots of Spitalfields!

I haven’t written here for some time. I’m afraid I’ve found almost too much fascinating family history information to describe here in one go and have taken a break to sort it all out and make sense of it. I’ve also had the practical and slightly more pressing matter of starting an online shop, DUCKFoOT TRADING which everyone is of course welcome to come and visit.

The reason for posting today is to let everyone who may be interested in the Huguenot weavers of Spitalfields in East London that there is a special festival on at the moment called Huguenot Threads with lots of fascinating events taking place all week.  The Town House, 5 Fournier Street, Spitalfields is also creating a family history Huguenot map is on their wall during July and August. If you have ancestors who lived in Spitalfields, get along to the shop or you can contact them at the link above or on their Facebook Page to add information you have.

While I’m about it, if you’ve never read the Gentle Author’s Spitalfields Life blog, its time you did! Fascinating reading and fabulous images from the past and present!

I will eventually be back to explain the Mecham story – until then, thanks for reading and have a lovely summer.

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The Mecham family – Huguenot weavers of Bethnal Green?

First an apology to email subscribers of this blog. About a week ago you’ll all have received an unfinished and inaccurate version of this post.  I clicked ‘Print’ instead of ‘Preview’ and Whoops…….unfortunately the deed was done!
I deleted the offending post on WordPress immediately, but unfortunately there was no way to retrieve the emails that had automatically been sent.
Here is the completed post that is now accurate and ready for you to read.

So far ‘Who was Fanny Yates?’ has been about my maternal grandmother’s ancestors, on her father’s side. My maternal grandmother was May Ethel Yates and her father was Edward Cavendish Yates. His father is still unknown but his mother, Fanny Yates and her likely ancestors are shown below.

Click image to enlarge

My next few posts will still be about the ancestors of my maternal grandmother, May Ethel Yates, but now I’ll be focusing on her mother’s side of the family. As other family members and readers of this blog may already know, her mother’s maiden name was Priscilla Jane Mecham. I’ve managed to trace this line of my family back to my 5th great grandparents Samuel Mecham and Caroline Mechendall.

Samuel Mecham was born during the reign of either Queen Anne of Great Britain or King George I,  I’m not certain which. The only possible birth match I’ve found for him so far is for a Samuel Meakham who was baptized at St. Andrews Holborn in 1711. His father was recorded as a ‘gentleman’ named John Meakham and his mother’s name was not recorded (implying illegitimacy). This birth date makes Samuel a little older than I would have expected so, although it may be the best match, it’s probably not the right one. Another possibility is that Samuel was born in Ireland or Europe, but so far I haven’t managed to find records of his family’s arrival at any English port.

Even though I’m unsure about Samuel Mecham’s parentage, I do know for certain that this Samuel and his descendants, were my ancestors, and were originally weavers by trade.  At least two if not more generations of the family lived in Thomas’ Street, Whitechapel during the eighteenth century.  The earliest records I found of them living at this address were the apprenticeship papers of one of his children. His son, also called Samuel Mecham, was apprenticed to George Mecham, Weaver of London in 1769 at the age of 14.

 “This Indenture witnesseth, That Samuel Mecham son of Samuel Mecahm of Thomas’s Street Whitechappel Weaver doth put himself Apprentice to George Mecham Citizen and Weaver of London”.

Samuel Mecham Apprenticeship

Samuel Mecham 1 May 1796. London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925.
Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/1036-1042.
Source Information: London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. COL/CHD/FR/02.

I’m fairly certain that George Mecham, named as the master in the document above, was the young Samuel’s older brother (i.e. also son of Samuel Mecham Snr.) who was about 25 in 1769. George had previously been apprenticed to a John Deare “citizen and Weaver of London” from 1760 to 1767. The name of George’s father looks like James in the indenture below, but on closer inspection it is in fact Samuel.

 “This Indenture witnesseth, That George Mecham son of Samuel Mecham of the Parish Of St Mathew Bethnal Green Weaver doth put himself Apprentice to John Deare Citizen and Weaver of London”.

George Mecham Freedom of the City Admission 1760

George Mecham 4th August 1760. London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925. Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/0955-0962.
Source Information: London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. COL/CHD/FR/02.

There are many different spellings and pronunciations of the name Mecham – Meacham, Meecham, Mechum, Mecum and more. There are also a number of different theories regarding the origin of the name. None seem very certain.

Almost as varied are the possible geographical origins of the weavers working in Whitechapel at the time Samuel Mecham lived in Thomas’ Street. It’s possible that his ancestors were among the French Protestant (Huguenot) silk weavers who fled to England from France in 1685, although Mecham doesn’t sound like a particularly French name and isn’t mentioned on the official Huguenot list. On the other hand, they may have been among the Irish people who arrived slightly later – I have found quite a few records of Mechams from Ireland and I think the name Meakham (mentioned above as a possible ancestor) is almost certainly an Irish name. 

company of Weavers

Going back even further in time, the Mechams could have been part of an earlier group that made a positive impact on the weaving industry in England long before the Huguenots and Irish arrived. Many of the French and Flemish protestant refugees who settled in England in the early 16th century were silk workers, and they brought with them new skills and materials that the weaving industry in London benefited from – Londoners took up silk weaving and many foreign weavers were absorbed into the Weavers Company.

Below is a short extract from British History Online about the silk weavers of East London, but read their whole section on SILK WEAVING if you have time.

The origin of this important industry as located in Spitalfields dates from the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685, when the French Protestants, driven by persecution from their own country, took refuge in England in large numbers…… A great body of these refugees occupied a large district which is usually called Spitalfields, but which includes also large portions of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Whitechapel, and Mile End New Town. 

More information can also be found on Wikipedia under the heading Spitalfield Riots. I’ve copied a section of the info here:

Irish weavers came slightly later, but by the middle of the 1730s there were many people from Ireland, or of Irish origins, working in the Spitalfields silk industry.

Relations between the groups were not always good. There were times when the Irish weavers were blamed for working for too little money and bringing down the rates of pay. The conflict of 1769 cut right through the middle of both communities, the Huguenots and the Irish. Journeymen were involved in a struggle to keep the rates that the master weavers paid for their work from falling below a subsistence level. They organised in unofficial, and highly illegal, trade unions. ‘Silk-cutting’, slashing up a weaver’s work, was used as a punishment for weavers who accepted a lower rate of pay, or master weavers who refused to pay money into the funds that were collected to support union activities.

It was only four months after our Samuel Mecham (Jnr) started his apprenticeship as a weaver with his brother George in 1769 that ‘an attempt was made to arrest an entire meeting of weavers. ‘An officer with a party of soldiers invested an alehouse, the Dolphin, in Spitalfields, “where a number of riotous weavers, commonly called cutters, were assembled to collect contributions from their brethren towards supporting themselves in order to distress their masters and oblige them to advance their wages[3]“. Meeting with resistance, the soldiers fired on the weavers and killed two, and captured four. The remainder fled and lay concealed in cellars of houses and in the vaults of the churches throughout the night of terror not only for them but also for their womenfolk.’               Read more on Wikipedia.

Before I began my research into the Mechams I was under the impression that they would be a reasonably ‘well to do’ family, simply because that’s what I’d been led to believe by the snippets of information I’d gleaned from my family. So when I first discovered that Priscilla Jane’s father, Thomas William Mecham, was a Weaver with East London connections, it was a surprise. Given the location and trade, I  jumped to the naive conclusion that the family would be poor – nowadays, if you search online for the history of Thomas Street, Whitechapel you’ll only find references to the workhouse and the poverty that existed there.

To find the location of Thomas’ Street today, you’ll need to ‘Google’ it’s new name Lomas Street – it looks just a little different from the street where Samuel and his family lived and worked in the 18th century! See the map below for Thomas’ Street in 1795.

The detail I feel I’m missing at the moment is whether or not any of the Mecham family were Master Weavers. I know that several of them were apprenticed and after seven years became ‘Freemen of the City’, but that would only make them journeymen, not masters able to employ other weavers. Could a journeyman take on an apprentice? Does the fact that the apprentice weaver had a ‘master’ make that master a ‘master weaver’? I don’t think so but I’m not sure.

I’m also not sure what Thomas’ Street was like in 1796. Descriptions I’ve found have been of people living in extremely poor circumstances but I think this was some time after the Mecham family were there.

If anyone knows the answer to these questions please do leave a comment at the bottom of the blog or email me via the contacts page.

Having rearranged my thoughts to incorporate this new information about my family, I then discovered some facts that, once again, came as a surprise.

I’ll leave them with you until my next post when I’ll fill out the details…..

Phoenix, Wheeler, KingKey:    Wheeler Street & Phoenix Street       King Street       Thomas’ Street

  • Someone called Mecham (no first name or initials given) crops up regularly from 1798 until at least 1827 in the London and England Land Tax records. He had either bought the long term leases or the freeholds of several plots of land and several houses in Wheeler Street, Phoenix Street and King Street in Spitalfields.
  • Thomas William Mecham, my great great grandfather ended up owning more than one house.
  • Although like his forefathers he had been apprenticed as a Weaver, in his later years Thomas became a Licensed Victualler and at least part-funded his brother-in-law to start up a new pub in Brick Lane on the corner of Phoenix Street.
Posted in Apprentice, Brick Lane, East London, Flemish Weavers, French Protestants, George Mecham, Huguenots, Irish Weavers, Journeyman, King Street, Lomas Street, London, Master, Phoenix Street, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Samuel Mecham, Silk Weaving, Spitalfield Riots, Spitalfields, Thomas William Mecham, Thomas' Street, Tower Hamlets, Uncategorized, Weaver, Whitechapel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

My relationship to Frances Harriett Yates

Here’s a very quick post – something I’ve just ‘woken up’ to!

I’d just started work on the first of my ‘Mecham family’ blogs when I suddenly realised something glaringly obvious about Fanny Yates that hadn’t dawned on me before.

It is quite simply this:

Although there is no absolute proof that Frances (Fanny) Harriett Yates is the mother of my great grandfather Edward Cavendish Yates, there is enough evidence to be sure that she is a distant relative of my great grandmother, Priscilla Jane Mecham, and therefore myself and my cousins of three generations.

Well that is good news!

I’ll be back in a bit with the Mechams of East London.

Here’s a taster….

William Mecham, my 4th great grandfather was born in 1758 and Thomas Mecham, his son, was “admitted into the Freedom of the City of London by Patrimony” in 1822.

Thoma Mecham Freedom papers

Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/1479-1484.
Source Information: London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. COL/CHD/FR/02.

Thomas Mecham Freddom papers

Source Citation: London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/1479-1484.
Source Information: London, England, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.
Original data: Freedom admissions papers, 1681 – 1925. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. COL/CHD/FR/02.

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The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 3

This is my great grandmother – the daughter-in-law of Fanny Yates.

Priscilla Jane Yates nee Mecham

It’s been a long time since my last post – sorry about that. Various things got in the way of my finishing off what I knew of Fanny Yates story. One of the problems with investigating family history online is that it is so easy to get side-tracked. I’m afraid I’ve been spending too much time finding new information about other members of my family tree (the Mechams, Ricketts, Newmans, Vyes etc. etc. – the list goes on and on…) and not enough on writing about what I’ve already found – the possible ancestors of Edward Cavendish Yates.

Before I continue I should warn all readers that I have decided to take the reckless step of leaving out apostrophes while using family names (if the convention is that they should be there). I know this will massively offend some, but quite honestly I’d rather leave them out than get them irritatingly wrong. I thought I knew the so-called rules, but because I’m constantly referring to families by surnames, some of which end in S, I’m finding that far from getting better at using apostrophes I’m getting worse!  E.g. Jones’s, Jones’ or Jones – possessive, plural, neither or even both – Jones’s’ 😉

Feel free to comment if you want to challenge my decision – or help me out!

At least I know I won’t be heavily criticised by the likes of Stephen Fry or Michael Rosen who certainly know more about the changing nature of punctuation than I do.

So here we go with the very last part of Frances Harriet Yates and her possible maternal connection to my great grandfather Edward Cavendish Yates.

One detail I left out in the last episode of Fanny’s story was that Lucy Smart (‘funded proprietor’ of 78 years, listed as lodging at 29 Manor Street, Chelsea with Fanny, the Christies and the Tillings in the 1861 census) also had family connections. Her uncle was Priscilla Jane Mecham’s great grandfather. And if you’ve forgotten the identity of the said Priscilla – she becomes the wife of Edward Cavendish Yates in 1873 and is the woman in the picture above.

You should find all the records I refer to in this blog somewhere down the right hand side of this page.

Fanny is recorded as ‘Cousin’ in 1871

As I mentioned in the last blog, in 1871 Fanny’s relationship to the head of the household, Ann Tilling, was recorded as ‘cousin’ for the first time . At first I thought this was just an indication of the friendship that had grown between the two women. However, when I discovered that this change in relationship was recorded less than two years before Edward Cavendish Yates and Priscilla Jane Mecham got married, it seemed just a bit too much of a coincidence. If, as I was trying to prove, Fanny was the mother of Edward then she would indeed become a distant cousin by marriage to Ann Tilling once the couple had ‘tied the knot’.

So, in 1873 Edward and Priscilla got married at St John’s Parish Church, Margate.  Edward obviously decided to include a name for his father even though his birth certificate was blank for this relationship. This could mean that Edward’s father’s name really was Edward Yates but my view is that this is unlikely.

Marriage Cert of Edward C Yates and Priscilla J Mecham

Marriage solemnized at The Parish Church in the Parish of St John Thanet in the County of Kent. When Married: October 11th 1873. Name and Surname: Edward Cavendish Yates. Priscilla Jane Mecham. Age: 28 / 19. Condition: Bachelor / Spinster. Rank or Profession: Tutor. Residence at the time of Marriage: Margate. Father’s Name and Surname: Edward Yates / Thomas William Mecham. Rank or Profession of Father: Gentleman / Gentleman. Witnesses: Charles Q.(Quested) Baker, Jane Mecham, Jessie P. Last, Henry Powell Huggins.

At the time of his marriage I believe Edward Cavendish Yates provided his own first name and surname for that of his father’s.  (After all, as the first son of his fictitious father, it’s most likely he would have been named after him). He also gave ‘gentleman’ as his father’s occupation (which may or may not have been true). Why do I have these nasty suspicions? Well, on close inspection of Edward’s birth certificate his mother, Fanny, has provided only one surname, presumably her maiden name, when the document specifically asks for name, surname and maiden surname.  If Edward Cavendish Yates father really was called Edward Yates, that would mean both his parents shared the same surname at birth.  If this were the unlikely case they would probably be cousins. If they were cousins (not that I can find cousins called Fanny and Edward Yates), I think that family pressure would have ensured they married when Fanny became pregnant? That’s my theory – and if I were a bastard (a term quite freely used on birth/baptism records around this time) getting married in 1873, I think I might have faked my father’s identity too!

Of course my own family’s version of Edward’s parenthood is that his second name, Cavendish, was the real giveaway to his illegitimate ancestry and genetic connection to one of the Duke’s of Devonshire.

Did Edward’s bride-to-be Priscilla and her family know that Edward was illegitimate? I don’t know, but I have reason to believe that circumstances may have arisen within Priscilla’s own family that may have made them more accepting of Edward’s ‘condition’ than most. I’ll explain more when I move on to the Mecham family in this blog. 

Edward’s marriage in Margate gives us the first indication of where he was living after his birth in Marylebone. Priscilla, his new wife, was born and brought up in Margate so it’s possible that’s where they met. Once married I know they continued to live in the same area because the births of their first two children, Edward Cavendish and Rose Jeanette, were both registered in Thanet.

Edward and Rose Yates – Edward and Priscilla Yates’ eldest children who were born in Margate. I have created these little portraits from a larger group photograph taken at their younger sister’s wedding in Ealing.

Edward C YatesRose J R Garrard nee Yates

Sadly I don’t know exactly where the new Yates family lived in Margate. I do know, however, that before her marriage, Priscilla lived with her family in Clifton Terrace. It is possible the couple and their two young children continued to live at this same address until their third child was born in 1877, by which time, they had moved to Barnsbury, Middlesex (now part of the London Borough of Islington).

If you click on the image below, you’ll find two different images from the 1860s of Clifton Terrace, Margate.

Clifton Terrace, Margate 1860s. From the Hotspot viewer at Margate In Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee

Clifton Terrace, Margate 1860s. From Margate In Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee at Click the image to go to the website.

To find out more about Margate local history visit Margate in Maps and Pictures compiled by Anthony Lee.

By 1881 Edward and Priscilla had had three more children – Walter James Henry, Lillian Flora and Charles George and had moved once again, this time to Derby Road, Stretton in Horninglow, Staffordshire.

All this while, from 1871 to 1881, Fanny Yates (Edward’s possible mother) had continued to lodge in Manor Street, Chelsea. Ann Tilling, the head of the household, had died in 1874 and her daughter Sarah took over the occupation of House Agent. Sadly, six years later, Sarah’s husband also died. By the time of the 1881 census there were only three people registered as living in the house – Sarah Christie, her daughter Sarah A. L. Christie and Fanny Yates. Fanny was still working as a dressmaker, but was recorded in this census (for the first time since her birth) as Frances H. Yates. At last I had definite proof that the Fanny Yates I had been ‘following’ really was the same person christened Frances Harriett Yates at St Martins in the Fields Middlesex in 1828. So now I can say with some confidence that when Frances Harriett Yates went to live with her older sister in Manor Street Chelsea at the age of 23, she was known as Fanny. (Fanny is a shortening of Frances but also a name in it’s own right). This version of her name remained through her thirties and forties while she lodged with Ann Tilling’s family just down the road, possibly because they didn’t even realise her full name was Frances.  Fortunately for me and my research, once Ann Tilling had died, and by the time Fanny was in her fifties, she was once again being recorded in the censuses as Frances. She was a similar age to Sarah, Ann’s daughter, the new head of the household, so perhaps this affectionate name for Frances had only been used by Ann. Perhaps Frances H Yates was her business name? Perhaps Frances filled in the census form herself for the first time. It doesn’t really matter. What counts is that whoever filled in the census form for the household in 1881, not only provided Fanny’s full name but also her middle initial – H for Harriett (and Hip Hip Hooray!).

The young Yates family lived in Staffordshire for just a couple of years. In that time their youngest son George was born but died two years later. Whether the next move was prompted by their child’s death I don’t know, but by 1883 the family had moved to Barnet in Hertfordshire and their next child, my grandmother, May Ethel was born. Their next daughter was born in 1886 in Fulham and was given the name of Edward’s mother Fanny – she was Fanny Constance Mary Yates.

Four years later in 1891 Fanny Yates or Frances H Yates was still living in Manor Street Chelsea having reached the age of 64. A surprising detail is that her occupation is no longer dressmaker  but retired costumière. Four years before, even though Edward and Priscilla’s youngest daughter had been given Edward’s mother’s name Fanny, it appears she had had no contact with the family. Unfortunately this doesn’t really support my theory that Frances Harriett was Edward’s mother – but then maybe she had been made to stay away?

Just suppose for one moment that I am right and that this single dressmaker of 64 years (and probably the last surviving member of her own immediate family) was the mother of Edward Cavendish Yates Snr. In that case, I’m pretty certain that the Edward was separated from his mother very early in life. But where did he go? Fanny went to live at her sister’s without a baby. It doesn’t appear that they ever lived together. Who brought Edward up? Where did he reappear from in 1873? It does seem likely that Fanny knew of her son’s marriage, at least from the other family members where she lodged who chose to regard her from then on as a cousin. Did she ever see her son or her grandchildren? Did Edward know his mother was alive and living in Chelsea? He spent his working life teaching music and living like a gentleman, but when he died I think there was little or no money to support his unmarried daughters. Where had his education and money come from?

The most surprising part of the story, when I eventually found the document, was that when Fanny died the following year in 1892 she left no will. However probate records show her effects came to £1742 5s. 5d. – quite a large sum in those days. Oddly, she left this sum to the solicitor of the Treasury not to Edward or even Sarah Christie’s daughter who she must have known well. Was this money she had made working all those years as a dressmaker/costumière? If so she had obviously worked hard and been very successful (dressmakers of the time were among the poorest women as a rule). Or had she been set up in business by a secret benefactor? If she had left her money to Edward it would so neatly have ‘tied up’ all the ‘loose ends’ for me … but she didn’t! I’ve tried to find out if anyone claimed the money she left after she died but was unable to make any headway.

We will probably never know whether Frances Harriett Yates was my great great grandmother Fanny Yates – but it’s still been a fascinating story even if it’s wrong! If you happen to read this blog and can ‘shed some light’ on anything please contact me, send a photo or leave a comment. Otherwise that’s it for Fanny for now – thanks for reading.


As Edward and Priscilla’s children are my grandmother’s generation, most of my family know quite a bit about them. More detail about them from me will probably have to wait for a much later part of this blog – if I ever get that far!

 Now it’s time to find out more about the background of another of my female ancestors – my great grandmother Priscilla.

Priscilla Jane Yates nee Mecham

Who was the woman who married Edward Cavendish Yates and bore him so many children that together they rejuvenated the Yates family in one generation? Who was she before she married Edward and what happened to her after he died?

 Who was Priscilla Jane Mecham?

I’ll let you know next time.

Posted in Ann Tilling, Barnet, Barnsbury, Charles George G Yates, Chelsea, Christie, Clifton Terrace, Costumiere, Derby Road, Dressmaker, Edward Cavendish Yates, Edward Cavendish Yates Jr., Family Name, Fanny Constance Mary Yates, Fanny Yates, Frances Harriett Yates, Frederick Christie, Fulham, Hertfordshire, Horninglow, Kent, Lillian Flora Yates, Lucy Smart, Manor Street Chelsea, Margate, May Ethel Yates, Mecham, Middlesex, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Rose Jeanette Yates, Sarah A. L. Christie, Sarah Chrisite, Sarah Tilling, Smart, Staffordshire, Stretton, Teacher, Thanet, Tilling, Walter James Henry Yates, Yates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 2

Click here for ‘The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 1

For those who’ve already read Part 1 of Fanny’s Story, the next few paragraphs provide background family events that occurred between the censuses of 1851 and 1861, before Fanny moved to live with members of another family in Chelsea.

By 1861 there are no records to be found of three of Fanny’s sisters, and her fourth sister, her only living brother and her father have all died.  Later, in 1864, the death of Sophia Yates was recorded in the Drury Lane area, but unfortunately as I found no records of any Sophia Yates alive three years earlier (in the 1861 census) I was unable to establish which of Fanny’s relations called Sophia had died.  I imagine it was Fanny’s mother as no middle name was recorded, but it could have been her younger sister Sophia Louisa Yates. Either way, this death was the only evidence I found that at least one of her relatives, her mother or her sister, must still have been alive when Fanny moved to a (slightly) new address.

Fanny’s life in Chelsea from 1861

In 1851 Fanny was living with her sister Phoebe in Manor Street, Chelsea.  Some time after her sister died in 1859, but before 1861, Fanny moved just two doors down the road to lodge with the Tilling family. It seems likely that she was invited to become a lodger at her neighbours home not least because their family circumstances had changed too.

Marriage Record of Ann Read and William Tilling

Marriage Record of Ann Read and William Tilling. Click the image to enlarge. Click the link below to go to source at ancestry


The Tilling Family of Manor Street, Chelsea.

William and Ann Read were married in St James Piccadilly in 1819.  At that time Ann presumably could not write as their marriage record bears her mark, not her signature.

William was a milkman and he and Ann spent their first years of married life in paradise….Paradise Row, Chelsea that is! 

Paradise Row, Royal Hospital Road, built in the 1690s and photographed shortly before demolition in 1906

Paradise Row, Royal Hospital Road, built in the 1690s and photographed shortly before demolition in 1906.

Paradise Row, Chelsea in 1906

Their first child Ann was born in 1820 followed a year later by a son, William. In 1823 a third child Joseph Earl Tilling was born and in the same year William (senior) became a greengrocer. In 1825 the family moved a very short distance to Calthorpe Place, Chelsea. Some time between this move and the next, fairly major changes seem to have occurred. By 1839 the family had moved, once again only a short distance, but this time to a newly built street. Their new address was 30 Manor Street Chelsea and William’s occupation had changed from greengrocer to appraiser! (Some years later his widow’s occupation is given as ‘house agent’).

Was William Tilling involved in the building and selling of the houses in Manor Street Chelsea?

Unlike her husband who was born in Chelsea Middlesex, Ann Tilling née Read was born near the New Forest in West Tytherly, Hampshire (1793).  Ann had several brothers and sisters, but the one of particular interest to us, along with Ann herself, was Jane Read. Jane married and had a large family with John Derrick, a shipwright on the Isle of Wight. We will meet Jane Derrick later in this story when her children are grown up and she is a widow. There will be more members of this family to meet as we go along but for now that’s enough to remember!

So, in 1851 when Fanny was still living with her sister, William and Ann Tilling were living up the road at number 29 Manor Street. (In 1848 they were still at number 30 Manor Street, so in the three years between, they either moved house or the street numbering system changed). Their unmarried daughter Sarah Tilling was still living with them but all their other children had left home. There was one other much younger Sarah Tilling also living with them in 1851 – William and Ann’s grandchild. Presumably she was either Sarah’s daughter or niece.

By 1861 when Fanny became a lodger at number 29 Manor Street, circumstances for the Tilling family were as different from 1851 for the Tillings as they were for her. William Tilling had died and Ann his wife had taken in other lodgers along with Fanny (Fanny’s occupation was now dressmaker).

Fanny Yates the lodger

The other lodgers in the property at 29 Manor Street were William Christie, who was 24 and ‘a shopman at a bazaar’, his younger brother Frederick of 22 was a bookbinder, and Lucy Smart, who was 78  was ‘a funded proprietor’. 

Ann Tilling’s occupation was now  ‘house proprietor’ and Sarah Tilling her unmarried daughter of no occupation was still living with her.

About five years later, at the age of 27, Frederick Christie the bookbinder and lodger at Ann Tilling’s house married Sarah Tilling, her unmarried daughter, in the parish church at Battersea, Surrey. Sarah’s father was interestingly described as a Broker on the record of their marriage, and Frances Harriet Yates (Fanny) and Joseph Earl Tilling (Sarah’s brother) were witnesses.

The census in 1871 started using odd and even listings for houses in Manor Street when previous censuses had shown consecutive house numbering. Whether this was the reason for yet another street number change or whether the Tilling household all moved to a house a couple of doors down, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, in 1871 Ann Tilling and Fanny were recorded as living at 32 Manor Street, Chelsea and Ann’s occupation had become house agent (estate agent). Living with them was Sarah and her new husband (and ex-lodger) Frederick Christie and presumably their 2 year old child, Sarah Ann Louisa Christie. Also living in the property was Ann’s widowed sister Jane Derrick (remember her – shipwrights wife, Isle of Wight?). Ten years before Jane had been living with one of her son’s and his family, at least on the day of the census. In 1871 she was in Chelsea and not listed as a visitor. Both widowed sisters were now in their seventies and perhaps enjoyed each others company?

The really exciting bit of the story is about to break!!

1871 census Manor Street Chelsea

1871 census Manor Street Chelsea Click the image to enlarge. Click the link to go to source at ancestry

In the 1871 census Fanny Yates relationship with Ann Tilling changed from ‘lodger’ to ‘cousin’.

Fortunately, as storyteller, I have the advantage of being able to look into the future and can tell you that two years later, in 1873, Edward Cavendish Yates married Priscilla Jane Mecham which, if Fanny Yates were Edward’s mother, would indeed make Ann Tilling and Fanny Yates distant cousins.

There’s a bit more of the story to explain yet, but it will have to wait till next time. Thanks for reading and please do leave a reply if you’d like to comment or have anything to add.


Edward Cavendish Yates Jnr.

Edward Cavendish Yates (Junior)

Just thought I’d leave you with a picture of Edward Cavendish Yates Jnr. who was Fanny Yates’ eldest grandchild.

Sadly I don’t have a picture of the E.C.Yates who was her son, my great grandfather. If you do, I’d be delighted if you’d contact me or leave a reply below.


Next: The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 3

Posted in Ann Tilling, Chelsea, Christie, Edward Cavendish Yates, Fanny Yates, Frances Harriett Yates, Frederick Christie, Manor Street Chelsea, Mecham, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Sarah Chrisite, Sarah Tilling, Tilling, UK locations, West Tytherly Hampshire, William Tilling, Yates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – Part 1

Just in case Frances Harriet Yates really is my great great grandmother, I’d like to run through her family’s story one more time.  This blog has so far focused on providing evidence – certificates, records etc. posted to prove the identity/whereabouts of the Frances Harriet Yates who I think was probably my great grandfather’s mother. Reading through them all, it will have been easy to lose track of the family’s storyline (it was for me too!).  This time I’m going to tell just their story with a few pictures and maps – no records.

The story begins in Marylebone with a shoemaker and his wife and appears to end in Chelsea with a costumière who’s left no will and apparently no heirs. Or has she?


The story of Frances Harriet Yates and her family – Part 1

From George Skinner Yates and his wife Sophia to the birth of their (possible) grandchild, Edward Cavendish Yates.

Ralph and Sarah Woodness née Smith had their baby daughter Sophia baptised in the parish of St Marylebone in 1791.  The same year and probably in the same parish Thomas and Phebe Yates’ son, George Yates, was born but not baptised.

St Marylebone Church

St Marylebone Church. Source:

The parish church in St Marylebone at that time was very small for the number of inhabitants using it.

Here’s an extract from ‘Marylebone and St. Pancras; their history, celebrities, buildings, and institutions’ written by George Clinch in 1890.  This book is available online – click on the image to read it.

This extract describes the conditions in the church some years after Sophia was baptised but only two years before she was married there.

“A writer in the Gentleman’s Magazine for July, 1807, gives the following details of the inconvenience arising from the miserably insufficient accommodation for public worshippers in Marylebone :
SIR. . . I was lately called upon to visit a parish church towards the north-west end of the town. It is a very small edifice, much smaller than chapels of ease generally are ; I believe I may say it is the smallest place of worship attached to the Church of England in the metropolis. Small, however, as it is, it is the only church belonging to the largest and most opulent parish in this capital, or in any part of His Majesty’s dominions a parish which on the lowest computation contains 70.000 souls ; there is no font for baptism, no room for depositing the dead bodies on tressels, after the usual way ; no aisle to contain them They are placed in the most indecent manner on the pews. At the time I visited this scandal to our church and nation, there were no fewer than five corpses placed in the manner described ; eight children with their sponsors, &c., to be christened ; and five women to be churched ; all within these con- tracted dimensions. A common basin was set upon the communion table for the baptisms, and the children ranged round the altar ; but the godfathers and godmothers in pews, in so confused and disorderly a manner, that it was impossible for the minister to see many of them, or address and require them to make the responses, which the Rubrick directs. Not to mention the danger of the dead and the living being thus confined together, and the peculiarly delicate situation of women immediately after child-birth ; all reverence for the sacrament of baptism ; all solemn and awful reflections from hearing one of the finest services ever composed, and on an occasion the most interest- ing to the heart that can be imagined, are entirely done away, and the mind filled with horror and disgust.
Sherrard Street, Piccadilly

SHERRARD STREET, PICCADILLY from Wallis’s Plan Of The Cities Of London And Westminster 1801. Click the image to see the full map at

So about 19 years passed and George and Sophia married in this church in St Marylebone.

Their first son Charles W. was born in 1810 and baptised on Christmas Day of the same year. The family lived in Sherrard Street (now Sherwood Street) near Piccadilly and George made shoes for a living.

Sadly, around the time that Sophia became pregnant with her second child, Charles died aged just two years old. The arrival of the couples first daughter, Frances Sophia, in 1813 was to bring George and Sophia short-lived consolation – she too died while still an infant.

In the year leading up to his second child’s death and a few months before his next child was born, George decided to get baptised himself.

Maybe George and his wife thought their children had not survived because their father was not baptised ?

Whatever the reason, George returned to the parish where he was born, St Marylebone. There he was baptised, giving his own name as George Skinner Yates and his parents’ as Thomas and Phebe Yates.

St James Church Piccadilly 1814

St. James Church Piccadilly 1814.,_Piccadilly Click the image go to Wikipedia for more information.

At last, in 1815 a new chapter began for the Yates family. A third child was born to Sophia and George, she was named after her father and her grandmother – Georgianna Phebe, and like her older siblings was baptised a month after her birth in the parish of St James Piccadilly.

Although the couple still had to deal with the death of Frances Sophia in 1816, Georgianna Phebe was thankfully survived the first few years of life and grew to adulthood.

At Georgianna’s baptism, her father provides his middle name, Skinner,  for the first time.

Is this because he’s recently given this name at his baptism a few years before.  If so did he choose the name himself, was it originally a ‘nickname’ for someone who works with leather, or was it a family name (possibly for the same reason!) ?

George and Sophia wasted no time. Sophia became pregnant again and by 1817 they’d baptised their fourth child at St James Piccadilly and moved house! They now lived in Princes Street, Drury Lane.

Princes Street, Drury Lane

PRINCES STREET, DRURY LANE from Wallis’s Plan Of The Cities Of London And Westminster 180. Click the image to see the full map at

At some stage prior to 1878, Princes Street and at least part of Drury Lane were one and the same. When the Princes Street stretch of road later became part of Drury Lane, Princes Street became the name of a new road leading east off Drury Lane.

Princes Street has now become the section of Kemble Street between Russell Street and Wild Street. Very confusing!

The new baby was given the names of her late brother and sister – Charlotte Frances Yates.  At the baptism her father not only gave his middle name (Skinner) again, but also altered the name of his occupation from Shoemaker to Cordwainer.

Cordwainer statue by Alma Boyes on Watling Street, in the Cordwainer ward of the City of London. Photo by Oxyman. Source:

Cordwainer statue by Alma Boyes on Watling Street, in the Cordwainer ward of the City of London. Photo by Oxyman. Click on the image to go to the source at

The following description of a Cordwainer is from Wikipedia:   A cordwainer (or cordovan) is a shoemaker/cobbler who makes fine soft leather shoes and other luxury footwear articles. The word is derived from “cordwain”, or “cordovan”, the leather produced in Córdoba, Spain. The term cordwainer was used as early as 1100 in England. Historically, there was a distinction between a cordwainer, who made luxury shoes and boots out of the finest leathers, and a cobbler, who repaired them.
Further historical information about Cordwainers can be found at The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers website

In 1821, while they were still living in Princes Street, Drury Lane – at no. 5 to be precise, George and Sophia’s fifth child arrived. The new baby, Charles Skinner Yates, inherited his late brother’s name and was the first and only member of the family to be baptised in the parish of St Giles in the Fields.

St Giles in the Fields 2012

St Giles in the Fields 2012 Click the image for more information.

Strangely, although George passed on his own middle name (Skinner) to his only living son, from this baptism to his own death, records go back to referring to him as just George Yates.

A few years later Emily Rose comes along, followed by Frances Mary Ann in 1825. The Yates decide to go back to St James Piccadilly for these two baptisms even though they are still living in Princes Street, Drury Lane. It seems they may have had to move house (to number 10) due to their growing numbers but the change of address could also have been due to changes to the road’s numbering system which was not unusual at this time.

St Martin in the Fields, London

St Martin in the Fields, London Click the image for more information.

At this point in their lives, George and Sophia had five living children but by 1828 when Sophia gave birth again, Frances Mary Ann had died. The new baby girl was named after her two late sisters who had both been given the first name of Frances. She was baptised Frances Harriet Yates at St Martin’s in the Fields.

In 1831 George and Sophia had their last child. Another baby girl who they baptised Sophia Louisa at St James Piccadilly.  Seven members of the Yates family were now living together in a property with several other families. When their eldest daughter, Georgianna Phebe, married Thomas Hopkins Smith in 1834 aged 19 and moved out it must have provided welcome space.

Salisbury Street

SALISBURY STREET – From Bowles’s Reduced New Pocket Plan Of The Cities Of London And Westminster With The Borough Of Southwark, Exhibiting The New Buildings To The Year 1775. Click the image to see the full map at

More changes came in living arrangements by 1841. Emily Rose, one of the younger sisters had moved in with the Phebe and Thomas Smith at 22 Salisbury Street (Georgianna dropped her first name once she was married). Salisbury Street was a road running south towards the river Thames from The Strand. It’s position was between Adam Street and what is now Carting Lane. Both sisters worked as dressmakers at this time.

Meanwhile back in Princes Street, Drury Lane the same year, George and Sophia were now living with just three of their five children. Living arrangements were probably easier or at least less expensive. George, now 50, was still working as a shoemaker or cordwainer.  Their eldest daughter at home, Charlotte, was 24 and a dressmaker. Charles their 20 year old only son was now a porter (perhaps at Covent Garden market?). The two youngest daughters, Frances and Sophia, were aged 13 and 10 and were apparently neither working nor at school.

Four years on and something may have happened to Frances Harriet, or Fanny as she called herself for the next few years, that would change her life and perhaps her relationship with some of her immediate family. In 1845, when she was just 17, she may have been the woman recorded as Edward Cavendish Yates’ mother on his birth certificate. For some reason the birth took place at 6 Sherborne Street, Marylebone.

Why Sherborne Street? 

Who was Edward Cavendish Yates father?

I have no answer to either of these questions at the moment.  Nor can I find any records of the child, Edward Cavendish Yates, between the time of his birth and his marriage to Priscilla Jane Mecham in 1873 aged 28. He simply disappears! Is he taken abroad ?

Returning to Princes Street, Drury Lane two years later we find that George Yates died at the age of 56. After his death and prior to 1851 the family rearranged themselves again. Emily, Frances and Sophia appear to all have left home, leaving Charlotte and Charles living with their mother at 126 Drury Lane. It is not clear whether this was a ‘house move’ or a street name change. Either way, the location of the building they lived in was probably on the corner of what is now Kemble Street (off Drury Lane).

126 Drury Lane, London WC2

126 Drury Lane, London WC2

This is the Sarastro Restaurant “the show after the show” which is opposite Drury Lane Theatre . It’s roughly the site of Sophia Yates’ home in 1851. Her husband had died and she was living with her two adult children Charlotte and Charles at 126 Drury Lane.

I haven’t been able to find Emily Rose or Sophia Louisa in 1851 (or after), but Fanny took over from her sister Emily and went to live with Phebe and Thomas Smith, her sister and brother in law, who by then were living at 27 Manor Street, Chelsea. Their were no children living with them. Thomas Smith had become a conductor, presumably of the transport kind, Phebe had changed the spelling of her name to Phoebe and Frances was now calling herself Fanny!

This ‘nickname’ fits with Edward Cavendish Yates mother’s name on his birth certificate.

If this is the right Fanny, did she go to her sister’s while she was pregnant in 1844 or did she go to her sister’s home after the baby was born and given to someone else to look after ?

If Edward was this Fanny’s son, there are no records of him ever living with her as a child. But then I can find no records of him living anywhere as a child!

Fanny’s brother Charles Skinner Yates died in 1857 and his death was registered in the district of St Martin in the Fields. Two years later her sister Phoebe Smith died in Chelsea at the age of 44.  She and Thomas, who died much later in 1888, had no children.  In 1864 Fanny’s mother Sophia died in Drury Lane.  Along with sisters Emily and Sophia, I haven’t been able to trace Charlotte Frances after 1851.

So, the next part of the story, which begins in Chelsea after Fanny’s sister Phoebe dies, is the part that finally connects Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates to another part of my family – the Mecham (or Meacham) family. It is this connection that makes me think she may be Edward’s mother and my great great grandmother.

Next: Fanny’s life in Chelsea from 1861 – 1892

Posted in Chelsea, Cordwainer, Costumiere, Dressmaker, Drury Lane St Giles, Edward Cavendish Yates, Fanny Yates, Frances Harriett Yates, George Skinner Yates, Marylebone, Mecham, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Sarastro Restaurant, Sherborne Street, Sherrard Street Golden Square, Smith, Sophia Yates, St Martin in the Fields, Theatre Royal, Thomas Hopkins Smith, UK locations, Yates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who was Fanny Yates ? A recap.

In my last post I promised my next job was to retell just the simple story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family without the distraction of evidence being presented all the time.  I thought it would be an easy story to tell having collected all the information together. It’s been a very useful process as it helped me make connections I hadn’t made before, but the reason I’ve taken so long to write it is because it wasn’t simple at all!

It was a much longer story than I at first thought and I found myself worrying that by repeating information in previous posts I was quite frankly being very boring!

I also had a need to give a quick recap on the facts before I started ‘the story’ because I obviously don’t know if readers have read my previous posts.

Anyway, I hope visitors to this blog won’t mind my making this post the recap and the next, which will follow shortly, the first half of ‘the story’. That way you can read either (or neither) the recap and/or the story depending on your level of interest!

A recap on facts about Fanny and her family

In this blog I’ve been attempting to give an identity to a woman named Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates. The reason?  To try to establish whether she was the same Fanny Yates who registered the birth of her son, Edward Cavendish Yates, in Marylebone in 1845. His birth certificate tells us that his mother was Fanny Yates and that he was born at 6 Sherborne Street, Marylebone, Middlesex but it provides no name for his father. I know from my family that this illegitimate child, Edward Cavendish Yates, was my great grandfather.

I have established that the woman I’ve been researching, Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates,  lodged in the same house as distant family members of my great grandfather’s future wife for most of her adult life. Added to this, around the time he and Priscilla Jane Mecham actually married, the census record shows that Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates’ relationship to the head of the household where she lived changed from ‘lodger’ to ‘cousin’.

Readers of this blog will have to make up their own minds whether I am right about these two Fanny Yates’ actually being the same person. I think they probably are, but there are also at least two other possibilities.

  • For the first you need to go back to my very first post ‘First Attempt Finding Fanny Yates’ and read about Dame Frances Mary Musgrave née Yates.
  • For the second you should refer to the 1861 census to discover that a Fanny Watson née Bundey and her husband lived at 6 Sherborne Street, Marylebone at that time. Before I began my most recent research I thought for a while that Fanny Bundey could be ‘our’ Fanny – perhaps she had given a false surname on the birth certificate?

I won’t go into all the details for either of these possibilities now. I think it’s probably enough to say that there was not as much evidence for Dame Frances Mary Musgrave née Yates or Fanny Watson née Bundey being the Fanny Yates we’re looking for, as I have now found for Frances Harriet Yates!

Having presented all the facts I can find, I still can’t actually prove that Frances Harriet Yates is the same Fanny Yates that gave birth to my great grandfather Edward Cavendish Yates in St Marylebone, but it does seem quite likely. It is also quite possible that as a Dressmaker/Costumière, F. H. Yates made dresses or costumes for the theatrical stage or for the fashionable fancy dress balls held at the time. Making/designing garments for either could very easily have brought her into contact with aristocracy like the Cavendish family – so maybe the story that’s been passed down in my family is true and Fanny Yates and one of the Dukes of Devonshire did get together! We will probably never know. Unless, that is, records of Edward Cavendish Yates’ residence as a child, or an explanation for his birth and our Frances Harriet Yates residence at 6 Sherborne Street, can be found.

On (hopefully) a humourous note….

I’m told that ‘dressmaker’, ‘seamstress’ and other similar occupations given in the censuses were often used to describe women who were in fact prostitutes. I wonder what that would make a ‘retired costumière’ ?!

I don’t think this alternative occupation applies to Fanny, but it can’t be ruled out as a possibility without more evidence of her work as a dressmaker.

If anyone out there has any further information or relevant photos, please leave a reply below or contact me.

Thank you

Next: The Story of Frances (Fanny) Harriet Yates and her family – part 1

Posted in Bundey, Costumiere, Dressmaker, Edward Cavendish Yates, Fanny Yates, Frances Harriett Yates, George Skinner Yates, Marylebone, Mecham, Musgrave, Priscilla Jane Mecham, Sherborne Street, Sophia Yates, UK locations, Yates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment