Charles Richard Smith Before marriage
Stoke Newington, Brighton 1812-1837
Charles Richard Smith was the first son and second child of Richard Smith and Barbara Cecilia Sundius. He was baptised at the Church of St. Mary in Stoke Newington where his father lived. The record is very brief, but it does give his date of birth - October 5th 1812 and the date of the baptism, a month later on November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day). I only mention Guy Fawkes, an early rebel, because Stoke Newington was well-known as a centre for dissenters, religious ones in particular. I also have reason to believe that Richard and his wife were not really Church of England, but non-conformist of some kind. However, I believe, that baptisms in non-conformist chapels were not quite as valid as those in the established Church, so it is entirely possible that this baptism is merely for show. There may be another, non-conformist, baptism that I have not found.
Their house may have looked like the one on the left.
1812 - the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky springs to mind. Anyway - the time of Jane Austen and the Napoleonic Wars, so I imagine that there was a certain amount of stress in England as an invasion from France was always on the cards. How this affected his father’s business I do not know. Affected he must have been though, for Charles’ father was at the time an insurance agent, a shipping agent and a Russia Merchant and so was heavily involved in international trade which must have been impacted by the wars.. Richard Smith worked in the city in Finch Lane, as several insurance records show, beginning as part of his father’s business and eventually taking it over or setting up on his own . However, this is Charles‘ father's story and only is of interest in giving us some clues (not actual information) about the kind of childhood he might have had. His mother’s father, Christian Sundius was a Swedish diplomat and businessman who also worked in partnership with his father and grandfather at some point. He was also a prominent member of the Bible Society and the non-conformist community so the two families had much in common.
Richard and Barbara had seven children together between the years of 1810 when they married and 1822 when Barbara died. Some of those children died of course, but at least four of them survived into adulthood. I do not know why Barbara died. There does not seem to be the death of a child at about the same time, but it is entirely possible that this was the cause of her death. Whatever the reason, Charles, whose story this is after all, was only ten years old when he lost his mother and his youngest sister was only two. His older sister, Cecilia was just a year older than he. He would have had to do some very quick growing up, although, as always, his sister would probably have had to do more to help with the children. I imagine that his father would have been able to afford servants to help out but nevertheless he solved the problem of suddenly becoming a single father, as most men seem to do, by remarrying in 1824. His new wife, Mary Ann Clarke also had strong non-conformist connections - her father being a very well-known preacher and she was also somewhat younger than her husband being 25 to his 41. I wonder how Charles took to this? He would now have been twelve years old. Richard and Mary Ann went on to have nine children, which may have diverted any motherly feelings that Mary Ann may have had to her own children. Whatever happened it became a very large, blended, family, in spite of the inevitable deaths. One wonders whether the two sets of children truly merged to become one or whether they remained separated. Were they friends or enemies, or merely distant. No doubt a lot would have rested on the shoulders of Mary Ann, who seems to have been highly educated, literary (she wrote some poems and a biography of her father), and probably religious too. Most likely a remarkable woman in her own right, though whether this makes her a good step-mother or not is an entirely different thing.
Charles’ father worked in the city at least from 1818, the date of an insurance record, and so I doubt that he would have been much at home. Most likely he would have been a distant father - fathers were much less involved with their children in those days anyway and his work would maybe have even taken him away overseas. Charles would have been educated - but how? Private tutors and governesses? Boarding school or a school nearby?
From at least 1818 the family lived in one of the Palatine houses in Stoke Newington. Palatine House was one of the large houses that were the dominant form of housing at the time in Stoke Newington. In the late 18th century some grand detached houses on their own acreage were built in the grounds. They are shown on the map at right. I do not know exactly which one the family lived in, or whether they lived in the original house itself, and, of course, they no longer exist, but I imagine their home to be somewhat like the house on the in the picture above - in a slightly different part of the village - for village it was at the time. A privileged childhood anyway.
And then, because of the period we are in, there is an inevitable very large gap. I have no idea how or why Charles went from here to Brighton where he is next found in the records at his marriage to Ann Kenward. Maybe this is why I have no picture in my head of the kind of person he was, although I do begin to see that he might have had a privileged but difficult and maybe not very ‘warm’ childhood. Both his father and step-mother were definitely very religious - his father was heavily involved with the local Wesleyan church and his step-mother was also heavily involved with various preachers and prominent non-conformists. His mother too may well have been religious. Her father certainly was. So - a strict - non-conformist upbringing. But loving? I have no idea.
Barbara Cecilia Sundius