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Joseph Beckwith   The children

Family no. 1

The two family portraits that I chose to ‘The Children’ page are most probably very unfair.  The portrait representing the ‘legitimate family’ is too wealthy, and the one representing the ‘secret’ family too poor.  Nevertheless there was a bit of a contrast, with Jane’s children being more artisan/craftsmen and Ann’s being skilled tradesmen.  A slight difference maybe and most likely just shows a difference in the kind of education they received perhaps.  And although the two families knew about each other, there really does not seem to be much, if any contact between them - certainly no help anyway.  Be that as it may, the children themselves had varied lives.  I defer to my Beckwith ‘cousins’ who know a lot more than I about some of these people.  I hope they will forgive me if I have any of it wrong (and correct me too).  I should maybe have split this page into two pages, one for each family, but they are all Joseph’s children.  So I just split the page in half.  So forgive me for the length of the page.  Just keep scrolling.



Francis William Topham - the entry from the National Dictionary of Biography.

Joseph Beckwith + Jane Pittard

jane pittard.jpeg
Joseph 1801-1827

My great-great grandmother.  Her story is told elsewhere.  Click here to read it.

The first born son and heir followed his father into the engraving trade - the evidence for this being his will, and the baptisms of his two small children.  We have no apprenticeship record, or work - although it would be difficult know whether Joseph Beckwith as a signature is he or his father.  A young man with promise anyway.  He married Eliza Greenwood Ansell in Limehouse on June 2nd 1825.  They are both said to be of the parish, so presumably they lived there.  The witnesses are not recognisable though.  He was 24.  There were two children - Joseph and Jane Ann in quick succession but then tragedy - he “died of rapid consumption, October 22 1827 leaving at his decease two children who rapidly followed him to the deep and lasting regret of his deservedly attached family.  Jane Ann on the 9th December 1827 aged three months.  Joseph, on the 24th December 1827 aged 15 months 2 weeks, and were interred with their father in St. James Clerkenwell” .  One assumes they too died of TB - a most infectious disease, though where it came from we do not know.  Three days before he died he made a will leaving everything to his ‘dear’ wife and ‘two dear children’.  However, he also must have realised that his children were unlikely to survive because, in the event of their death before reaching the age of 21 their share was to go to his ‘dear’ father, who was also the sole Executor.  Eliza did have her share, but if the children had lived, their share would have been administered by Joseph.   The address given for the children’s baptisms and burials was Wilderness Row - as is the address given on the will, so either there were lots of Beckwiths all living in the same house - number 25 - or there were at least two Beckwith residences in the street - Joseph is later found at no. 3.


Eliza never remarried, and died in Yorkshire in 1874 at the age of 67, which would have made her only 18 on marriage and only 20 when widowed, so a little unusual that she did not remarry.  I do not know why she ended up in Yorkshire - maybe she came from there.  A whole other story there - maybe one day ...  Maybe somebody out there knows it.

George Beckwith is given short shrift in the family bible which merely notes his birthdate and that he married in America.  I have searched the Mormons census records and come up with a George Beckwith in 1850, in Buffalo, Erie County, New York State with a wife, Mary and two sons Thomas and Joseph.  However, since his two sons were both born in New York it is likely that they are on a family visit, for the family next door are the Whitemans - who in the 1880 census turn up as brothers-in-law and nephew, so one assumes that Mary (Mary Ann in 1880) was a Whiteman too.  In 1850 George describes himself as a merchant, in 1880 he is described as a bookkeeper and they are living in Kings, Brooklyn which is where his brother Henry Samuel lives.  Going on these two census records it appears that they had seven children, but I have no idea whether they all survived into old age.  I also do not know when George died or how prosperous he was.


So why America?  What induced these two brothers to go there?  One assumes that one encouraged the other - probably George, as his children seem to have been born there earlier than Henry’s.  John Mollett, the merchant, whom many relatives seem to have worked for, did not have interests in America - he was a Russia Merchant.  The possibility that these two men’s great-grandfather had been born in America is an increasingly interesting possibility and potential reason for the move, although those Beckwiths are all in Connecticut.  The Beckwiths are not your usual European immigrants escaping from poverty, persecution and starvation at home and I would not have thought that it was an artistic mecca at that time.  So why?  Whatever the reason - do have a look at the beautiful picture of Brooklyn in a larger format (the one on the right).  Click to see a larger picture, which in turn gives you the opportunity to see an even larger version - but it takes ages to load. (the really big version that is.)  I think Kings is at the right-hand edge of Brooklyn in this picture.  The Bridge was not built until 1883 though, so Brooklyn would have been more separate from New York itself - as shown in the other picture, dated 1850.  It must have been a really interesting time to be there.  Initial colonisation over, independence achieved and the growth of a major metropolis in full swing.

Another engraver, and I think the most successful.  I do not know where the name Henry comes from (it pops up here and there) but Samuel is his maternal grandfather’s name.  In 1833 (a year before Joseph’s second family began) he married Maria Chapman Allen at St. John the Baptist church in Clerkenwell.  Like other members of the family at the baptisms of some of the children the address is Wilderness Row.  Surely they can’t all have been living in the same house.  I have nine children, four boys and five girls, although there are the inevitable infant deaths - in this case two of the boys born in the 1850s.  The second daughter was baptised in a real family occasion with two of her cousins - a Mollett and a Topham - all with names that seemed to include variations on Mary and Jane.  Their daughter Frances Caroline, otherwise known as Fanny, married her cousin Arthur Robert Mollett, and their last daughter Jessie - born in 1860, ten years after her closest sibling, was born in New York - Brooklyn to be exact, for in 1850 the family emigrated to America.  Frances went with them too, so either her future husband came out to visit the Beckwiths in America, or else Frances didn’t like America and returned to England.  Oldest son Joseph also seems to have stayed behind in England, where he was a clerk to John Mollett.  Maybe he married at the age of 18 but maybe not, because when he died the letters of Administration refer to him as a bachelor.  He died in 1868 at the young age of 33, which must have been tragic for his parents, although I suppose they had already ‘lost’ him when they went to America.

Henry became an engraver of note.  A Google search will bring up several of his works - three of which are shown here.   The one of the boat, was also drawn by Henry, not just engraved.

His wife must have died before him - she is not around in the last census record I have (1890), but his daughter Jane did not marry and was still living with him.  Another one of those spinster ladies who probably spent their lives looking after their parents and their siblings’ s children.  He died in 1895, still in Brooklyn at the grand old age of 85.

More artists.  Mary Ann married Francis William Topham, initially an engraver and eventually an artist.  Their oldest son Frank William Warwick Topham was also an artist.  Apparently Francis Topham came to London from Yorkshire, worked as an engraver and met Henry Beckwith, through whom he met Mary Ann.  I think Francis seems to have travelled a lot - to Ireland, Wales, Spain and Italy, but I do not know whether Mary Ann went with him.  Indeed he died abroad in Spain, after becoming ill on one of his trips there.  The picture at left pretty much shows the kind of style of his work.

But it is Mary Ann who is our subject here.  I guess at this period it was still very unlikely that a woman would have a career of her own.  We have no idea whether she went with her husband on his travels.  There are at least two census years where they are apart.  They lived in Kentish Town, and Highgate.  Mary Ann had children - nine of them, one of whom was an even more successful artist than his father.  So she probably stayed at home, having children, keeping house and visiting her sister Jane.  Perhaps she is another example of the ‘behind every great man ...’ syndrome.  She died in 1873 just four years before her husband.

The last of Joseph’s children with Jane Pittard, was also a tragic infant death.  Maybe this is what spelt the end of Joseph and Jane’s marriage - at least as far as childbearing was concerned, as they obviously still lived together in Wilderness Row

Family no. 2

Ann Bartholomew has not much to do with my ancestors, but she really deserves a page of her own, considering the major role she played in Joseph Beckwith's life - more than his wife in fact.  So maybe in the future I'll do that.  For now I have chosen the charming portrait above of a pregnant Madame Ingrès to represent her.  Far too upper class but it seems to fit.

Joseph Beckwith + Ann Bartholomew

Joseph Bartholomew Beckwith (the Bartholomew gets dropped quite frequently) was the first child of Joseph’s liaison with Ann Bartholomew.  One census record says he was born in Edmonton (Green Dragon Lane, Edmonton?), another in Barking, Essex, and yet another in Bermondsey - indeed he is hugely inconsistent about this.  Maybe at the time of his birth his father had no idea that this relationship would continue and produce the number of children it did.  He was, after all, still married.  So how he was dealt with it is hard to say.  Joseph did give his name to him when he was baptised though - he is clearly said to be the father, though I guess it is hard to tell whether Joseph was actually there.  However, in 1841, he is living with his father and Ann, and indeed he continued to do so until he married in 1858.  At the age of 16 in 1851 he was his father’s (or mother’s) assistant - this was the time of the coffee shop in Shoe Lane, so it is hard to tell whether he was an assistant engraver or coffee house keeper.  (Joseph senior describes himself as both).  However, in 1858, at the local church - St. Bride’s in Fleet Street, he married Emma Bratt.  By now he is describing himself as a builder.  His bride is a mere slip of a girl - only nineteen years old, and the witnesses are in-laws - his sister Ann’s husband and another Adams.  The marriage lasted and produced many children - I have found ten in various census records - no baptisms.  I have no idea whether they all survived.  A little after his marriage, in 1861, he also seems to be looking after his sister Louisa, who is only ten.  I guess she could have been visiting, but then again maybe not.  His mother Ann, disappears for this census after Joseph’s death, so maybe Louisa was left with him for safe keeping.

At some point Joseph became a carpenter and joiner - one of the censuses describes him as a journeyman carpenter, so he must have undertaken an apprenticeship sometime.  And he continues in this career, moving around London, having more children until the last record I have of him - the 1901 census.  I think he very probably died in 1907.  At least in the early years he must have remained in contact with his Beckwith family, because it is his wife Emma who registers the death of Joseph senior.  But after that 1861 census with sister Louisa, there is no further evidence.  He certainly did not remain in the neighbourhood - spending his last twenty years or so around Bow in the East End.  A carpenter is somewhat further down the social scale than an engraver or artist, but at least it is a skilled trade and as such was probably paid reasonably well - if one had work of course - but this was building boom time, so there surely must have been work.

Ann was also fortunate enough to live with her parents in her childhood, and probably until her marriage at the age of nineteen to one Absalom Adams, who was a witness at the wedding of her brother Joseph four years later. 


Absalom was also a carpenter, so maybe he and Joseph had been apprentices together or worked together.  Anyway, shortly after the marriage they moved to Essex, where Absalom had been born, and eventually settled in Loughton.  The photograph at left is of some cottages in old Loughton - maybe something like the various houses they lived in.  I assume that, as they stayed there for decades, life was successful and tranquil there.  Nine children over eighteen years - Ann had not been pregnant when she married, unless the baby died of course.  Your average working man’s wife’s life I guess, but let’s hope it was a happy one.  I think her husband died in 1903, but Anne lingered until 1921.  I have said it before, but I think the people, and maybe especially the women, who lived from the early middle nineteenth century until the 1920s saw mind boggling changes in society.  Ann died in West Ham, not Loughton, so maybe she was staying with one of her children?

For some reason Jonah stays in Edmonton after his birth, unlike his two older siblings.    Another point of difference is that his surname when baptised is Bartholomew, not Beckwith, and he is also baptised with his younger brother Charles, also Bartholomew (who did not survive).  There is no father mentioned in the baptism record.  He is also christened as Jonas.  However, later in life, he took the surname Beckwith and was mostly known as Jonah.  One could speculate, that he was not, in fact, Joseph’s child , were it not for the name of Jonah.  Here’s another theory - Joseph was anti religion by then, hence the lack of baptisms, and Anne wanted them baptised, so just snuck off and did it!

At the age of four he is still on the Atkins farm and by the age of fourteen he is out being an apprentice in Whitechapel.  His master is a zinc worker.  Jonah later is described as a tinsmith and a tinplate worker, so his apprenticeship was probably as a general whitesmith, as they used to be called - workers in white metal.  The picture above shows a nineteenth century tinsmith at work.  Tinsmiths made pots and pans and those sorts of things.  I see what looks like a drainpipe in the engraving.  In 1860 in Southampton he married Martha Pollock from Liverpool.  Why Southampton I have no idea.  It’s the right Jonah though, because the father is Joseph Beckwith, silversmith.  (Which also confirms that Joseph began as a silversmith, moved to engraving, which probably continued into his old age, adding coffee shop keeper along the way - although this could have been Ann rather than him.)  Back to Jonah.  Apparently lots of tinsmiths travelled the country looking for work and hawking their wares, so maybe this is what he was doing.  But the small family of three children and their parents were back in London in 1871.  Then, tragically, Jonah died in 1874 at the age of 34.  My ‘cousin’ Gillian who is descended directly from Jonah, tells me that the death certificate says he died of pyoemia which is a kind of blood poisoning - no doubt caused by his trade.  A. Beckwith, (his mother?) registered his death - which shows that he had not been abandoned completely by them.

The next ten years must have been an absolute tragedy for Anne with all the next seven babies dying in infancy.  I shall simply list them:

Charles 1838

Susan 1839

Sarah 1841

Lavinia 1843

Alfred 1846

John 1848

George 1849


And you would have to wonder whether there was another one in between Lavinia and Alfred.  

Quite a gap between Robert and his older siblings.  It is almost as if Joseph had three families, not just two.  I am not absolutely sure about my researches into Robert.  I have to say that it is entirely possible that he too died.  However, there is a likely Robert who can be picked up in the 1871 census - in 1861 he is missing, as is his mother, so my guess is they were together somewhere.  He would only have been ten years old then and they may have been in Shoe Lane still.  We think the pages for Shoe Lane are missing.  The Robert I pick up in 1871 married Martha Perry in Edmonton in 1875 and became a gas fitter and hot water engineer - so a specialist plumber in modern day terms I suppose.  Before he married Martha though, he was a brass finisher, which sounds fairly lowly.  Not that gas fitter sounds that much better - but then plumbers earn a lot of money these days.  Maybe they did then too. And the rather lovely advertisement I found at right, shows the connection between gas fitter and brass finisher. There were five children that appear at various times in the census records, and the family seems to have settled in Lewisham for many years, though the death that I found was in Bromley.  Another long-lived Beckwith though - if this is the right death, then he was 88 when he died.  1851-1939 unimaginable changes - from horses to transatlantic flight!

Joseph was 76 when Louisa was born, which must have made their relationship really special or just awful.  She was only eight when he died.  The year after his death she is found at her big brother Joseph’s house, maybe just visiting or maybe living there.  In 1871 though, she is back with her mother who is now managing a coffee house in Bermondsey with Louisa’s help.  And Louisa stuck by her mother, for in 1881 Ann is found living with her and her husband George Harradine, whom she married in 1873.  She stuck by her man too, even though he was just a very lowly rag sorter, probably in a paper mill.  Paper was made from rags at that time.  Not a healthy, or intellectually demanding job, as you can see from the Italian photograph at left.  The photograph was apparently taken in 1951, but it looks positively Victorian to me.  They only seem to have had two children.  Bermondsey and Rotherhithe where they lived were not the most salubrious parts of London, so I can only guess that they lived in fairly poor circumstances.  Louisa died at the comparatively early age of 42.  Sad that the last child seems to have had the hardest life.


Early life



Family no.1

Family no.2


The children


Joseph Beckwith

Jonah Beckwith

Mary Ann Callendar

Jane Pittard

Jane Elizabeth Beckwith


The Fleet River and Shoe Lane

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