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

This entry was 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 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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