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Ann Martin  Marriage no.2

Hackney, Spitalfields, Deptford


Somewhere in the east end of London, after the death of her husband William, Ann met James Hopkins, a surveyor, it says on the marriage record, although previously (and subsequently) he describes himself as a schoolmaster.   Some twelve years her senior and a widower - James had also lost his long-term partner and many infant children.  They married on March 24th 1854, at the Hackney Parish Church.  Ann was 39 and just two years into her widowhood, but it must have seemed like a chance at life again.  Did she love James?  Or was it a marriage of convenience?  I have looked into James’ life a little and it seems that he too had lost many children -  I am not sure how many, but several.   There are no Hopkins children on subsequent census records, so I think I have to assume that all of his youngest children at least had died.  There may have been two, perhaps three older daughters, one of whom, Priscilla was a witness with her future husband at Ann and James‘ wedding.  How James and Ann met I have no idea.  The daguerrotype i have chosen to illustrate this marriage, shows perhaps, a happy man and a slightly less happy woman (also probably too young for our Ann).  There is an air of possession about him - but really we have no idea whether this was to be a happy liaison or not although it lasted for a long time anyway - at least into the next thirty years.  And once the children were grown they could have parted, but did not, and so perhaps it was at least an affectionate relationship.   But there were no children.  At least I can find none - none who survived we can definitely say.

As I mentioned before, there were no children from this marriage, which begs the question of whether it was truly a marriage of convenience, or whether Ann, or maybe James, were in fact, unable to have children together.  There may also have been one or two infant children from James’ previous marriage who also died.  The James, who may possibly be a witness at Martha’s wedding, does not appear in any subsequent family records.  A time of adjustment is, I guess, all that we can say about this period which seems to have mostly been spent in Dorset St. Spitalfields (shown below and obviously not a great place to be).

The next seven years are a bit of a mystery.  The family must have spent them adapting to each other.  In 1858, however, Ann’s oldest daughter, Martha Ann, married. The marriage record shows her address as Dorset Street, Spitalfields, where the family was still living in 1861.  The other intriguing fact to glean from the marriage record is that the witness, James Hopkins could not write.  Now surely this is not Ann’s husband who is a sometime schoolteacher?  So then we are left to wonder whether the witness is, in fact, Ann’s stepson James who would have been eight at the time - although one would have also expected him to be able to sign his name by then.  Or had James senior injured his hand(s) and could no longer write. But it must have been temporary because he is back to schoolmastering in 1861.  Or is it merely a mistake on the part of the clerk who made out the record?  Intriguing questions, with, currently, no answers.

At the time of the marriage the couple give their address as Grove Lane, in Hackney.  The road had previously, rather alarmingly, been called  Cut Throat Lane and is near Stoke Newington, home of Robert Mollett and also of Richard Smith.  The same place names keep cropping up with different branches of the Mollett family it seems.  The picture at left shows Church St. - the main road of Hackney with the church in the background.  Grove Lane was a turning off of this as you can see from the map below.

Earlier records of James show that he had spent his professional life as a teacher - indeed one census describes him as a professor of mathematics.  I guess an interest in mathematics could have led to work as a surveyor - his listed occupation on marriage - but by the time the next census comes around in 1861, he has reverted to his old profession of schoolmaster.  Now they are living in Spitalfields at no.37 Dorset St, a street that became notorious in the 1880s as one of the sites of Jack the Ripper’s murders.   Back in the 1860s it was also a desperately poor area, but maybe not quite as notorious as in the 80s.  James and Ann seem to be the second household at no.37 and the other occupants of the street are tradesmen, wives of sailors, factory workers, seamstresses - not just labourers. One website describes Dorset St at this time thus:


“poverty and intense over-crowding combined to drive a boom in common lodging houses; these doss houses, populated largely by the sick, the unemployed and the criminal, conferred upon Dorset Street its name – it may initially have been Dossett St – as well as its reputation as the most miserable, squalid place in the capital.” 


Which is all pretty alarming, so presumably a schoolmaster was not well-paid, and even with Ann and all three of her daughters - the youngest being only 11 years old - working as seamstresses, they presumabley could not afford better lodgings.  One imagines them slaving away at home from dawn to dusk trying to make enough money to put sufficient food on the table and clothes on their backs. Very Dickensian.  Maybe James was one of those well-meaning but hopeless characters that populate Dickens’ novels.   Later this area was notorious for prostitutes, and I have seen somewhere a comment that the profession of seamstress was often used as a ‘cover’ for prostitute - but surely not!  I prefer to take the census record at face value.  And I guess the only other thing that this record tells us about Ann at this time is that there are no small children - either from James’ previous marriage or their own.  There are just the three girls - Mary Ann, Catherine (my great grandmother) and little Henrietta - all sewing away.

By now her three girls are growing up.  As I said above, Catherine has already left home , married (in 1866) and started a family of her own.  Mary Ann marries in 1874 and moves away from home, but comes back to the same house in Clarence Place later on.  Quite who lived here in the meantime I am not sure, as we shall see,  Henrietta perhaps.

Maybe they became aware of the deterioration of the neighbourhood maybe an opportunity came up, but for whatever reason by 1871, late in life for James (he was 67) there is a complete change of scene and a complete change of occupation.  Once again they are working as a family, but this time as clothes dealers.  Well, James is the clothes dealer and two of the girls are assistants in the business (my great grandmother has left home) - so shop assistants probably in a clothes shop, like the one shown at left - so not particularly glamorous - seedy even.  And they are across and down the river in Deptford - new territory for them all, although Ann’s parents had moved this way several years before.  James’ son-in-law was at some point a furniture salesman and also a dealer, so maybe the stimulus came from there.  Wherever it came from it was the beginning of a family business which was to continue in various forms well into the twentieth century.   Tantalisingly they have a visitor - a young lady born in France, but who she is I have no idea.


Before marriage

Marriage no. 1

Marriage no.2

Old age

The children


Ann Martin

Thomas Martin

?Charlotte Swann

William Henry Warner

Catherine Eliza Warner


The Fleet River and Shoe Lane

Dressmakers and Seamstresses

I think perhaps between 1871 and 1881 James must have fallen ill because the only records that I can find in the 1881 census show James in the Greenwich Workhouse (shown at left).  Now they did have a clothes business, and it could have continued even if James was ill.  There was, of course, no National Health in those days, so if you were poor and sick the most likely place to end up is the Workhouse.  According to the excellent Workhouse website:


“In the census year of 1881, the Union had a population of 106,000 — many of whom lived in cramped and insanitary conditions and little above starvation level”. 


That is a massive population - poor James.   And he calls himself a schoolmaster in the column for occupation, although it has been crossed out.  Perhaps he always thought of himself as one, even though he changed his profession and seems to have fallen on hard times.  Indeed his life does not appear to have been successful or happy.  

Ann, meanwhile is living in lodgings with a Charles Wade and family - no relationship I think.  These must have been miserable years.  Did Ann visit James in the Workhouse?  What did she do for money?  How did she live?  James hung on until 1890 when he died - presumably still in the Workhouse, but maybe not.  He was 86 when he died  - a venerable age for the times and they had been married for thirty six years - longer than her first marriage.   Difficult to judge what this means is it not?

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