John Mollett Youth
City of London - ca. 1820-1830
There is more than a little mystery associated with this period of John’s life, largely because of the overall lack of documentation but also with tantalising and frustrating little pieces of information. Indeed this is the period over which hang the largest question marks. First and most importantly, I guess, is how he came to get from relatively humble beginnings to a successful and prosperous business career - how did he get his start? Secondly there is the question of Emma Mollett, born 1823 to John and Elizabeth and baptised in St. Dunstan’s, Stepney. Let us deal with this first. It's sort of easier.
Two things drew my attention to Emma Mollett, who might, otherwise have escaped notice. Firstly in the 1841 census record, one Emma Mollett is living with Robert (John’s father) and his wife in Skinner Street. She is said to be twenty years old. The 1841 census rounded ages to the nearest five years (so she would be anywhere between 17 and 23 I guess in this instance). The 1841 census also did not have a relationship column, so one has no idea of the relationships of the people in a household. However, she is listed after Robert’s children, so we assume she is not a child of his, and there is further evidence (later censuses, a baptismal record) to confirm this. She has no profession or occupation, which is, however, another reason for assuming she is part of the family. Alas Emma never appears again in a census record with any of the Mollett family, so we really do not know her relationship to them - she could be anything from a grandchild to a distant cousin. The second reason for noticing Emma, was that when we discovered Robert Mollett’s grave in Abney Park cemetery - a grave which included several family members - we also discovered that nearby there was the grave of one Emma Mollett (picture above) - the only other Mollett in the cemetery. Alas the headstone has fallen down and is partially buried so we cannot read the inscription. My interest was piqued, and so I looked for her birth (later censuses gave us a more accurate birthdate), and found an Emma born to John and Elizabeth in 1823 and baptised in Stepney. The father’s profession was brandy merchant. Is this our John or somebody else? It is entirely feasible that our John started out as a brandy merchant after all.
I was very tempted to assume in my fanciful way that Emma was the daughter of an earlier marriage or liaison of John’s. However, my subsequent researches are inclining me to believe that she is the daughter of another John, married to an Elizabeth Hughes. The marriage is in 1818, and although Elizabeth is described as a minor, John is not, even though our John would only have been fourteen years old at the time! So most unlikely that this is he. On further investigation I also found the burial of a John Mollett in the same area in 1831 aged 37 - a much more credible husband for Elizabeth. I do not think that Robert (John’s father) had any brothers called John, so the relationship is not that clear - a nephew perhaps. Well I do now know that of the two potential fathers for Robert - the two Norwich Roberts, one of them did have a son called John. I have not found the death of Elizabeth, but suspect that she too may have died - although maybe not. Maybe she struggled on as a single mother, helped occasionally by other Molletts. So I think we have to assume that Emma was a relative, taken in, as is the Mollett way, when her parents died, or from time to time to help out her mother. She later took up a career in millinery, and seems to have eventually had her own business. One day when I have more time I will see if I can discover anything else.
I have come to a halt here for now. Hopefully in the not too distant future I shall finish what I know.
More important though is the mystery of how our John Mollett made his money.
One can only assume that somehow or other John had made money through speculation on ship broking or by hard work as a forwarding agent, sufficient that he was able to become a member of the Baltic Exchange. By the time he had his business address as the Baltic Coffee Shop in 1839, the membership rules would have been firmly in place.
British History online - a wonderful account of Lower Thames Street, specifically, Billingsgate, in London Old and New. This is where the ‘other’ John Mollett, probable father of Emma, lived.
William Henri Colchester Mollett
Austin Friars, Adams Court and Finch Lane
The Baltic Exchange and The Russia Company