Thomas Beswick the publican, father of Thomas the convict

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The burial of Thomas, and his likely date of birth, with indications of a possible family of origin

[Our ancestor Thomas Beswick who was transported to Van Deimens Land (Tasmania) in 1823 was the son of Thomas Beswick a London publican and his wife Margaret. In order to trace the family futher back we have sought the death or burial record of Thomas the publican as it might help to find his birth or baptism and hence his parents names. My brother John who located the marriage of Thomas and Margaret at St Georges Hanover Square in 1803 has searched nearby parishes. Those near hotels where Thomas was licencee were searched without success some years ago by Richard Gandy. Thomas Beswick had kept the Royal Oak in Seven Dials at the time when young Thomas was born in 1805 and until at least 1813. He was at the Exeter Arms in Burleigh Street just off the Strand, behind the Exeter Exchange, when young Thomas was arrested on Christmas Eve 1822. He had been licencee of the Exeter Arms since at least 1817, but we have no evidence his being there after being listed in Robson's Trade Directory for 1822-23. Lack of any further sign of him has suggested that he might have died not many years later. Given other links to St Pancras, in particular in the location in his early life of Samuel the younger brother of Thomas the convict, we thought it was the next most likely place to find his burial. The following report was written in London in 2004 as a result of that search. It is followed by a report on the search for his birth and fmaily of origin.]

I searched the burial register of "Saint Pancras Parish Church, Euston Rd, Camden" from 1 January 1823 to 9 March 1831, and found

Thomas Beswick, abode: White Hart Court, was buried January 1st 1826, age: 46 years.

There are important implications of the date, age and address in this entry, which could lead us to earlier generations, but first there is the question of identity. We know there were several Beswick boys named Thomas born in London within a decade or so of the likely birth of our Thomas the publican and probably several Beswick men of the same name were still living in London in 1825. Certainly there was at least one other who was also a publican. There is no obvious way of knowing for sure that this is our man, and we must rely upon a balanced judgement of how well the available evidence fits with whatever else we know about him and others.

This was the only Thomas Beswick found to have died in this parish in the relevant period. The only other Beswick I found was William Samuel aged 3 months who was buried 22 September 1823. The burial of Thomas had not been found in other parishes near where Thomas Beswick married Margaret Hopperton on 30 November 1803 which John has searched or had searches done. Nor have we found him in those parishes near where he was last known to live at the Exeter Arms in Burleigh Street, Strand, where searches were done by Richard Gandy. I have not however at this stage had time to search the St Pancras register of burials from March 1831 onwards, except that I searched some later years, around 1835-39, many years ago. I do not know now exactly what was covered then. I did then find the marriage of Samuel the brother of Thomas the convict and the birth of Samuel's daughter Charlotte in the period 1835 to 1838. Samuel also lived and worked not far away, being in business as a tailor at the Red Lion Square near Tottenham Court Rd and was later resident in comfortable new accommodation at Bernard St, Russell Square, at the time of the 1851 census. Nor is St. Giles, where several children of Thomas the publican were baptised, very far away. So, we know that St Pancras was a parish with which our family had some connection and that it was within a wider area where our people were. It was for this reason that I had always thought that we should search further in it and I agreed with John's recent suggestion that it was probably the best place to look now in the light of what had been done, but while this makes sense of finding the burial of our Thomas in the St Pancras register, it does not prove that it is him, or even that he was resident within the parish. I will discuss the place of his abode further, and it may be that if he was actually living further away finding his burial where there were family connections was somewhat fortuitous, but first there is more to be considered about the date of burial and his age.

The date of death at the end of 1825 is only a few years after his son Thomas was transported in 1823 when the young convict said that he had lived with his father and mother in Burleigh St, and after trade listings show that his father had the Exeter Arms at that location. The fact that we have no further evidence of this Thomas being in business as a publican after 1823 suggests that he might have died unless he had given up that work. So the date 1 January 1826 is consistent with and increases the likelihood of its being our Thomas the father of the convict.

His age of 46 years at the end of 1825 is especially interesting. If it is accurate it means he was born in 1779, later than most of the possible births that we have considered, and certainly after the possible baptism at St Mary-le-bone in 1771 which might have been favoured because of its proximity to St George's, Hanover Square, where it seems he was married and which, incidently, I visited the other day. I say it seems so, because again we cannot be sure that it is the same Thomas Beswick who married Margaret Hopperton there although I think it is most probably him for reasons of general consistency as discussed below. (More on the Hopperton connection later from my recent visit to Gosport and Alverstoke in Hampshire.) Perhaps more significant than ruling out other possibilities for his birth, is the question it raises again about whether he could have been the father of the elder sisters of Thomas the convict, and so whether they were the children of Margaret from a previous marriage or relationship. The question of whether the marriage at St George's is of the man who was buried in 1826 remains also, but what happened regarding the late baptisms of those girls adds to the probability that it is his marriage.

If he was he was born in 1779 Thomas would have been 24 in 1803, and the date of the marriage at St George's means that it is certainly an appropriate age for him to be married; but if Margaret Hopperton was baptised at Gosport, as I had previously found, in 1772, she was about 31 at that time. That is not impossible and it is consistent with her having the three older girls before her marriage to Thomas whether or not they were his. Thomas the convict was born 20 June 1805 and baptised at St Giles in the Fields soon afterwards; but the older sisters born before the wedding were baptised together with a later sister in 1807 and their dates of birth were then given in the baptismal registger as Mary Ann, 30 July 1797; Jane, 22 October 1798; Margaret, 27 May 1801. If Thomas the father of the convict Thomas was born in 1779 he would have been scarcely 17 when Mary Ann was conceived. It is not impossible that he could have been her father, but rather unlikely. Margaret Hopperton, if we have her birth correct, would have been about 24 at that time, a possible but perhaps improbable partner for 17 year old Thomas, the future publican. The son Thomas was baptised soon after his birth, as were several later children of Thomas and Margaret. We might assume it was because his father expected it of his first born son. His parents were now married; and perhaps it may also be that being a boy the child was more likely to have been baptised than if girl had been born; whereas, whoever was their father the older girls were born before at least that marriage, and perhaps their baptisms might have seemed less important because they were female children as place of baptism had important legal implications for bread winners. If Thomas was not their father, regardless of their sex, he might not have taken responsibility for their baptism. There is another possibility, that is that they had not been baptised in the Established Church earlier because Margaret came from a non-conformist background and had herself been first baptised in an Independent Church (see the article on her family and marriage). It is not uncommon to find the delayed baptisms of several children in one family for whatever reasons, and it does not necessarily mean that they did not have the same parents. We really don't know how decisions about the baptisms were made, but it helps to make some sense of the pattern of events regarding the children, and the marriage. His age in comparison with Margaret's and the elder children being treated differently is consistent with Thomas the publican being born in 1779 and having died at the end of 1825 aged 46 as recorded in the St Pancras register of burials. Indeed it begins to make sense of some things which had puzzled us previously.

There is another aspect of the date of death and his age which can have significance in relation to the place of abode given for Thomas at his burial, and while it is speculative it is especially interesting in the possibilities it suggests for future research. I and others had many years ago found the births of children named Samuel in 1773 and Thomas in 1775 to Thomas and Jane Beswick at St Katherine's Cree and knowing the strong family tradition of naming sons Thomas and Samuel we thought this must be our family a generation earlier, but then I found that both those babies had died when a few months old. The possibility remained that the same couple might have had later children who were given the same names, but we could not find any who were. It was however probably the same couple, Thomas and Jane, who had two other children in a different parish: Benjamin 1 September 1776 and Ann Martha 18 November 1777. Thomas born in 1779 would fit nicely into this family, but we have not found any Thomas Beswick born at that time in London or elsewhere in England. If any evidence exists it must be in a parish that has not been covered by the IGI, and there are so many possible places to look if, as it seems, Thomas and Jane from St Katherine's Cree were inclined to move around. However, there is one further clue that they might have been the parents of Thomas the publican. Their first child baptised at St Katherine's was named Jonathan, 8 February 1771. This is where the address of Thomas the publican at the time of his death becomes significant. It was White Hart Court, and there is a place of that name in London today: it is near the corner of Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate EC2 just south of Liverpool Street Station. That is not necessily the same place as named in the registration of the burial, but seems quite likely. "White Hart" is a common name of English pubs and this street may well have had one of them. It happens also to have been the name of a hotel of which one Jonathan Beswick was licensee in 1838. It was recorded in trade directories as the "White Hart, corner of Gt. Turner St. and Commercial Rd." If there is a connection between the place where Thomas was living when he died and the location of an hotel run by Jonathan, there a several possibilities. One suggestion is that it may be that Jonathan was at White Hart Court in 1825/6 and moved to Commercial Road later using there the same name for his hotel. If Jonathan was the brother of Thomas, there is the possiblitiy that at the time of his death in 1925 our Thomas the publican was living at the place where his older brother had an hotel and perhaps that his brother Jonathan took over the place after Thomas had died. If there is a connection like this between the publicans Thomas and Jonathan we might have found the parents of Thomas the publican and moved the search back one generation, but that cannot be confirmed until we find a birth for Thomas as the son of Thomas and Jane. Reasonable proximity to St Botolph's without Aldgate on the eastern edge of the old city is interesting also because it was the parish of baptism of several Beswick children, including a Thomas, in the mid 1700s who could have been in our family another generation earlier, and it may be that Thomas had moved back to his traditional family territory in his last years. Furthermore, Creechurch is between White Hart Court and St Botolph's, to which it is quite close, so the possibility of association with the children of Thomas and Jane is again sugegsted. [That matter is investigated further in a later report, which follows this.]

There are some other questions which arise from the location of the White Hart, both in the record of its being run by Jonathan Beswick which puts it apparently a little to the north east of the centre of the old City of London and quite a distance from St Pancras, and in the fact that there is no White Hart Court on maps of today in the St Pancras parish. As noted above the only White Hart Court in the present day street directory of London is in the old city area off Bishopsgate near Liverpool Street station. It is not be the same location as the White Hart in the 1838 listing of Jonathan hotel, and if the present day Turner St is the previous Gt Turner St it was quite some distance, a mile or two, along Commercial Rd., further east. Unless Jonathan moved and used the same name for another hotel it is only an interesting co-incidence of names, and he might or might not have been earlier in the City area. In regard to the location being in the east of the city and the buurial at St Pancras it appears that some people who died in the City or in crowded areas near it might have been buried sometimes at a burial ground a mile or two north-west in the parish of St Pancras where there was more room. Certainly there were a great many burials listed in the St Pancras register: there were nine on the day Thomas Beswick was buried on 1 January 1826.

[Note: In May-June 2006 on a later visit to London I went to the site of White Hart Court off Bishopsgate opposite Liverpool St station and found the White Hart hotel still in business on the corner with the Court a small lane around the back of it.]

My conclusion is that we have more likely than not found our ancestor Thomas the publican's burial. The evidence recorded in the St Pancras register together with the pattern of baptisms of the children strengthens the claim that his marriage was the one to Margaret Hopperton at St George's Hanover Square in 1803. The indications are that he was born in or about 1779 and that it is at least a reasonable hypothesis that his parents were Thomas and Jane Beswick who had earlier children baptised at St. Katherine's Creechurch, including Jonathan another future publican, who later had a hotel with the same name as the place where our Thomas was living when he died.

DB, London, 20 June 2004, the 199th anniversary of the birth of Thomas the convict. [Edited 8 November 2005, 22 September 2006].

Thomas Beswick the publican, the search for his birth

Having found the burial of Thomas Beswick, who we believe to be Thomas the publican, father of Thomas the convict, at St Pancras:-

January 1st 1826, Thomas Beswick, abode: White Hart Court, age: 46 years,

and noting that his abode at that time seemed to place him with Jonathan Beswick who had the licence for a public house named the White Hart, we were inclined to combine this information with what we knew of the family of Thomas and Jane Beswick who had children baptized at St Katherine Creechurch, on the eastern boundary of the the City of London: Jonathan 8 February 1771, Samuel 18 April 1773 and Thomas 16 May 1775; and at St Andrew's, Holborn: Benjamin 1 September 1776, and Ann Martha 18 November 1777. We had originally thought that Samuel and Thomas in this family might have been Thomas the publican and Samuel the butcher who lived near him when Thomas had the Exeter Arms in Burleigh St, Strand, but when I searched the register of St Katherine's at the Guild Hall, London, in 1981 I found that those two children of Thomas and Jane had died as infants. Nevertheless, it still seemed possible that a later child in the same family could have been named a second Thomas, and when it was found that Thomas the publican died at the end of 1825 aged 46 years, then looking for his birth in 1779 appealed as the next step with the thought that it would fit nicely into the family of Thomas and Jane if we could find where they were living after those baptisms at St Andrew's, Holborn. I should note that there were some other children born to parents named Thomas and Jane Beswick a little later at an entirely different location in the north of England, at St Peter, Bolton le Moors, Lancashire: James bapt 4 July 1784 and Joseph 29 January 1786. If they had come from the north, as Beswick people generally did at some point in the past, it is conceivable that they might have returned and had more children there, but it seems less likely than that they stayed in London and moved to another parish from St Andrew, Holborn. The Lancashire births are probably to a different couple with the same names. Thomas Beswick was a very common name in greater Manchester and Jane was a common name for a woman. In any case the one or two births I am seeking would be likely to fall between those at St Andrew, Holborn, and those noted as possible at St Peter in Bolton, ie. between 1777 and 1784, whether in London or elsewhere.

We have two possible and quite different backgrounds for our London family. One is that they had recently come to London, perhaps from the mid to late 1700s when the early stages of industrial development began to make life difficult for many like those Beswicks who were spinners and weavers in cottage industries in the Manchester region, and who had then to seek other means of livelihood. They could have moved to London is search of better prospects and perhaps there to try new occupations with prospects for making a quick monetary gain such as the liquor trade might offer, but they need not have made the change in one direct move. There was a family at Macclesfield, for example, to the south of Manchester, in which the names Thomas and Samuel occurred frequently, and who appear to have come from near Manchester about 1750 or a little later and we might wonder whether some of them came to London. The other main possibility is that our Beswick line goes back much further in London, at least to the mid 1500s when we know that there were some people named Beswick active in public affairs. One, Ann Beswick, is noted as having signed a petition to Queen Elizabeth I, and another, John Beswick, a few years years earlier during the reign of Bloody Mary, 1553-58, was described in a martyrology as having befriended a man who had been condemned and was regarded as a Protestant martyr - this John Beswick stepped out into the road and took him by the hand and walked with him as he was being led in a procession through the streets to his place of execution. It is very likely that the couple Thomas and Jane who had children at St Katherine Creechurch came from the neighbouring parish on the eastern edge of the City, St Botolph without Aldgate, where there were a number of earlier Beswick births and marriages, which would take us back to at least 1750 and probably earlier, whether they came from the north at that time or perhaps more likely from an old London family. There are many possibilities but I decided to test the idea that our family came from that east end location through the family of Thomas and Jane in which we had found names similar to those which occurred in later generations and with whom we now had the additional link of Jonathan another publican at the right time.

One is always pressed for time when doing this research while traveling and I decided to concentrate on the most likely prospects, but that could mean that other possibilities were overlooked. In any case, it is important to document exactly what was done so that if the strategy adopted does not achieve the desired outcome I or someone else can continue the search later without repetition while having available all the evidence gathered so far. We are at a point where we have to search old parish registers but there is little to go by in locating a likely place of birth for Thomas the publican amongst the impossibly large number of parishes in London. One needs a strategy of some kind.

Thomas and Jane having moved west from the City to Holborn and our finding Thomas the publican and his children later at various places in Middlesex, in the City of Westminster and otherwise generally in what we now know as the inner West End, such as St Giles, the Strand and St Pancras, suggested that we should search other parishes in Holborn or nearby, probably somewhere to the east of the Trafalgar Square, and certainly to the east of Mayfair and the fashionable church of St George, Hanover Square. There were some Beswick births and marriages at St George and St Mary-le-Bone nearby to the north of it, but none of them now seemed likely for his birth if we were right about the burial date and age of death of Thomas the publican. John had previously searched or arranged to have searches done in the parishes near St George, Hanover Square, where Thomas Beswick had married Margaret Hopperton, before Thomas the convict was born a little to the east in the slum locality of Seven Dials, in the Parish of St Giles in the Field. So I decided to concentrate on parishes between that area and the old City, including those within and a little to the north of Holborn, and in and around Clerkenwell, together with St Giles in the Field. These are also known as those places from which the greatest number of London convicts had come to Tasmania. Our Thomas the publican, father of the convict Thomas, might be expected to have been in some ways typical of the population of those crowded streets between grand houses and business establishments in what had been a few generations earlier the new areas to which people had moved from the old city but had by then become the worst slums in London.

Another consideration was that our Thomas did not appear to be listed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which gives no birth or baptism in London of a Thomas Beswick for the most likely years, given his age of 46 at death and his burial on 1 January 1826. So we should concentrate on those parishes not covered by the IGI. The Phillimore Atlas and Index of Parish Registers, 3rd Ed., by Cecil R Humphery-Smith, 2003, gives information on which parishes were covered by the IGI as well as which have deposited their old registers in the public record offices or had copies at the Genealogical Society. Most are in the London Metropolitan Archives, but those of the City of London parishes are at the Guild Hall, and the City of Westminster also maintains a separate collection. (These days one is only able to search the microfilm copies, whereas years ago I was able to see the actual books of St Katherines Creechurch for example at the Guild Hall.) Practically the whole of the old City of London is covered by the IGI, the only exceptions being St Leonard, Foster Lane, and St Bartholemew the Less, West London, and some small extra-parochial districts. In the part of London which is in the county of Middlesex, however, only about half the parishes are covered by the IGI. From the Philimore atlas and index I identified those not covered within Holborn, the last known location of the family of Thomas and Jane, and nearby, specifically north of the Thames, east of Trafalgar Square and St Martin in the Fields, and west of the City boundary, including Clerkenwell to the north east of the City and those parishes south and west from there. The parishes and districts thus indicated were:- St George the Martyr, Grays Inn, as neighbours to St Andrew Holborn, and in Clerkenwell, St John the Baptist and St Mark Myddleton Square but the latter dates only from 1828. St Giles in the Field is also in this category, but it was searched in part by Dick Gandy about 1980 and I was not sure how much more needed to be done on it. Note that although St Giles is listed in Phillimore as a parish which has not deposited its registers, so that it used to be necessary make arrangements to see the records at the church, there are now microfilm copies at the Metropolitan Archives. There were also some very small non-parish chapel districts close to the old city boundary not covered but I did not think it worthwhile to study them in the time available and with the resources at hand.

I searched the baptismal register of St George the Martyr, Queen Sq, Holborn, from 1777 to 1786 and found no Beswick baptisms there. Similarly I found no Beswick baptisms, and neither were there any Beswick marriages at St John the Baptist, St John Square, Finsbury 1723-1812, or in the successor register of St John the Baptist, Clerkenwell 1813-1834. The registers of Grey's Inn had not been deposited, and although it might have been possible to find a microfilmm copy it was unlikely and I could make better use of my time. Similarly for St Bartholemew the Less, West London, the only parish in the City that matched my criteria, for which I would in any case would have had to go the Guild Hall, the effort required was not justified. That left St. Giles in the Field, which I was reluctant to search because it is a very large parish with thousands of entries per year and I did not want to repeat what my cousin Dick had done. Nevertheless we did need to know whether Thomas the publican was born in the parish in which he was later resident. I found only one Beswick baptism at St Giles between September 1778, the earliest possible date for a birth to Thomas and Jane after Mary Ann in November 1777, and December 1784, which seemed the latest likely date of birth for a man married in November 1803. This one possible baptism was:-

May 8, 1783, Thomas Beswick of Benjamin and Elizabeth.

Had this Thomas been a son of Thomas and Jane I might have accepted it, but its relatively late date, and lack of correspondence of the parents names with any of their descendants, given especially the strong tradition of naming boys Thomas and Samuel and the common practice at that time of using the names of parents and grandparents, I thought it more likely to be the birth of the another Thomas, perhaps later the publican at the Green Dragon in Stepney who married Parthenia Wranch and who died in 1841 "aged 54". However, I thought that Benjamin could be related to Thomas and Jane who had a son named Benjamin, and it might be relevant that the name Benjamin does occur in the Macclesfield family where Thomas and Samuel were common names. It is always possible that a finding contrary to one's hypothesis could be rejected prematurely, but without further supporting evidence I would be reluctant to accept this Thomas as our ancestor.

While working on the St Giles registers I checked what Dick Gandy had reported concerning the birth of Thomas the convict and the later baptism of his younger sister Martha who was baptized together with three older sisters. This was both to verify the details and in case there might be some clue worth following in the way the record was made. One sometimes finds additional details that throw a new light on things, but nothing new emerged in this case. Those baptisms were recorded as follows:

Thomas Beswick of Thomas and Margaret, bpt July 14, 1805, born June 20, 1805,
and the following three baptized on the same day, October 25, 1807, all the children "of Thomas and Margaret",
Mary Ann Beswick, b. Dec. 13, 1797
Jane Beswick, b. Oct. 22, 1798
Margaret Beswick, b. May 27, 1801
Martha Beswick, b. July 30, 1807

Although here Thomas clearly accepted them as his, it has always been a question whether the three eldest girls were in fact the children of Thomas the publican, although one of them is named Jane. On the other hand, delayed baptisms were quite common. It could have happened that they did not think it important until a son was born and at first only he, Thomas the convict, was baptized. It may be significant that he was the first child born after the marriage of Thomas and Margaret. The father Thomas might have seen to it that his child was baptized where Margaret's previous children had not been. If Thomas the publican was born in 1779, as we infer from what we believe to be his burial, he would have been only 17 or possibly just 18 when Mary Ann was conceived. It is not impossible but unlikely. If Margaret was Margaret Hopperton born in Gosport in 1772, who we think was the woman who married a Thomas Beswick at St George Hanover square in 1803, she would have been about 7 years older than Thomas; and whatever his age she might well have had children before she met him. But if the age at death in the record of the burial at St Pancras is incorrect or the marriage at St George's is not theirs then they might well have married earlier and only took the trouble to have the other children baptized when young Thomas their first son and then his next sister were born. Other children born later appear to have been baptized without delay. In any case there is nothing in the way the record reads in the register to indicate any doubt about the earlier children being the daughters of Thomas, so we really do not know what happened.

From what we have found, it appears that the hypotheses that Thomas the pubican was the son of Thomas and Jane who had children at St Katherine Creechurch and St Andrew Holborn is not supported by any further evidence. Neither can it be denied at this point, but it is less likely than it was. All I can conclude with reasonable confidence is that either he was born outside the range of years that I searched in what I thought the most likely parishes or he was born in another parish not yet searched and not in the IGI. That is so if we do not accept the birth to Benjamin and Elizabeth at St Giles. The search should be extended in both years and locations. It might be desirable to develop another search strategy to identify the most likely locations without relying upon the Thomas and Jane hypothesis. However, I am doubtful at this point whether a complete revision should be made including alternatives to both the presumed date of birth from the St Pancras burial and any implication of accepting the marriage at St George's; but neither of those is certain, and we might have to consider a wider range of possibilities. At this stage I would favour extending the search in those parts of London not searched so far and not in the IGI and yet still within the general area in which we have found some evidence of the family.

[In London in May-June 2006 I found the location of the home of Thomas and Jane on the northern fringe of the parish of Holborn when the children were born there. More later. DB.]

DB September 2004 [Edited 8 November 2005, 22 September 2006]

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