The Tonks Family of Shoreditch

I hadn’t intended to write a blog post on the Tonks family, but as I pulled together the data I had collected for August’s website update I found I was creating so many “Did You Know”s to highlight connections it seemed worth bringing the information together in one place.

Henry Tonks married Charlotte Rothery Newman at Saint Botolph Aldgate in 1822 and their son Henry Joseph was baptised seven months later in Walthamstow. Several of their subsequent children died in childhood: Charlotte Rothery in 1828, Caroline Harriet and William Alfred in 1837, and Frederick Edward in 1845. (I don’t have any direct evidence that William Alfred was their son, since I haven’t found him in the baptism records and he was born some time around March 1837 before civil registration began, but he was buried on the same day as Caroline Harriet at St John the Baptist in Hoxton, the ‘Abode’ listed in the register was the same street, and his age at burial suggests a birth date which fits in the ‘gap’ between Sarah Jane and Ellen Tonks.) However, Henry Joseph, Louisa Elizabeth, a second Charlotte Rothery, Mary Ann, Sarah Jane, Ellen, Caroline and Augusta Sophia all survived to adulthood.

I was surprised that Henry Joseph was baptised in Walthamstow, since Henry and Charlotte’s other children were baptised at St Leonard Shoreditch. There may have been some kind of family connection with Walthamstow, though, as it is given as the birthplace of Henry’s brother Thomas in the 1851 census. (Thomas and Henry were two of the sons of Joseph Tonks and Ann Chandler, and were baptised in St Luke’s Finsbury in 1795 and 1800 respectively.) In the 1830s Thomas and his wife Sophia were apparently living close to Henry and Charlotte, as the brothers had children baptised on the same day on two occasions:

  • Charlotte Rothery and her cousins Emma, Frederick, Eliza, and Charles Thomas Tonks were all baptised at St Leonard Shoreditch on 27 July 1831
  • Sarah Jane, her sister Ellen and their cousin Thomas Henry Tonks were all baptised at St Leonard Shoreditch on 15 September 1839, at which time both families were living in George’s Place

Louisa was the first to marry, in 1845, to a painter called John Charles Parkes; her brother Henry Joseph was working as a painter when he married in 1848, and Caroline and Ellen also married painters (who were half-brothers): Ellen married Edwin William Bartle in 1862 and Caroline married James Joseph Bartle in 1869. Both these marriages would be cut short by early death: Eleanor had been widowed twice by 1891, and Caroline was widowed in 1874 after less than five years of marriage.

Charlotte Rothery Newman had signed her own name in the marriage register, but her daughters Louisa, Mary Ann and Ellen made marks on their marriage register entries instead, as did Sarah Jane when she registered their father’s death. (Strangely, although Louisa and her husband John made marks when they signed the register after their own marriage, they signed their names when they witnessed Mary Ann’s marriage.) Interestingly, the two youngest daughters both signed the marriage register themselves, in a clear hand, as did Louisa’s daughter Jacintha Augusta Parks. My suspicion is that these girls had received an education at the workhouse.

Misfortune had struck the family in the 1850s: Henry died of an epileptic fit in 1852, then Charlotte’s death of paralysis in Shoreditch Workhouse in 1855 left their children orphaned; the youngest, Caroline and Augusta, were 14 and about 11. Then in early 1858 Louisa and her little son Charles Parkes also died in the workhouse. Like her mother, Louisa died of paralysis; Charles was 23 months old when he died of ‘Marasmus’, a type of malnutrition, a few weeks later. (There is a grim account of conditions at Shoreditch Workhouse in the 1860s on the Workhouse website.) At the time of the 1861 census Louisa’s younger surviving children, Edwin, Catherine and Emily, were living at the workhouse’s Shoreditch Industrial School in Brentwood, but I have been unable to locate Jacintha or her two youngest aunts. My guess is that they were associated in some way with the workhouse and were taught to write there.

By the late 1860s several of the girls had moved south of the river. Banns were read for an Eleanor Tonks and Edwin Craddock, both minors, at St Mary Newington in January 1858; nothing seems to have come of this, but in 1861 Ellen (now known as Eleanor) was in Lambeth visiting James Brown, who with Ellen’s sister Caroline would be a witness at her marriage at the Trinity church in St Mary Newington the next year. In November 1867 Augusta married at the same church, and her marriage was witnessed by Louisa’s daughter Jacintha and Ellen’s husband Edwin.

It is not clear what further contact there was between Jacintha and her aunts, but there are a number of coincidences between the places where Ellen and Jacintha lived:

  • In 1871 Ellen was living at 52 Oakley Street; in April 1867 Jacintha had given birth to a daughter in Kynaston Street, off Oakley Street.
  • In 1891 Ellen was living at 26 Boundary Lane in Camberwell; there are records of Jacintha living in Boundary Lane between 1901 and 1904.
  • In 1901 Ellen was living at 82 Lorrimore Street in Newington; Jacintha’s daughter Jacintha Augusta Williams had been resident at number 12 when she married George Tovey in 1886.

Perhaps there was a professional connection between Ellen and Jacintha; Ellen, her daughter Eleanor Bartle, Jacintha and Louisa all worked as dress makers during their lives.

In 1911 Ellen was living in Camberwell, Jacintha in Brixton. Augusta had died in 1905, and the other siblings had disappeared from view. And Ellen is recorded as having lost four of her nine children.

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