Jane Pittard A life
Aldersgate and Clerkenwell 1775-1840
She was christened on the 2nd July 1775 in the church of St. Botolph's Aldersgate (which incidentally reinforces as correct the location of her father's house - and therefore his profession). She was the first child of Samuel and his wife Jane Lovell who had been married in the church of St. Swithin's London Stone - which is just a little to the south, the year before. There were to be two more daughters, Elizabeth born in 1776 and Susannah in 1778, but then no more which is rather curious for the times. The girls' mother, after all, would still have been young, but then maybe the birth of Susannah had been difficult and prevented further children. Maybe they lived together but apart for some reason. Who knows, and besides that is not our Jane Pittard's story.
To be able to write a life story you first have to know a little about the parents of the person you are writing about, because without some knowledge of that you will have no idea about the childhood of your subject. And so I spent some time trying to find out who Jane's father, Samuel Pittard was. I am still not 100% sure, but I now believe, that he was a carver - of furniture that is and that in 1775 the year that Jane was born, he was living at 63 Aldersgate St., a house that he owned because he had it insured. So he must have been at least moderately well off. A prosperous tradesman let us assume.
The engraving at left is of St Martin's Legrand a street which was the continuation of Aldersgate St., which I think is just beyond the curve in the road at the back of the picture. And the Pittards would have lived at this end of Aldersgate St. A similar street anyway.
Aldersgate St. today is one of the main A roads that cross London, and all of those buildings are no longer there - replaced by modern office blocks and the Museum of London. Somewhere around the spot on which I took the photograph below in 2010 in fact. Somewhat different is it not?
Jane was born on June 8th 1775. The family bible says 1776 but the parish record clearly says 1775 so we will go with that.
The little family seems to have prospered. At some point they moved although I am not sure whether this would have been to Islington or to Clerkenwell. By the 1780s though they were living in Clerkenwell Green, an area peopled by tradesmen and the like. A consistent neighbour that crops up is a John Shallis - about whom more later.
But then in 1794 when Jane would have been around eighteen years old her father died at the comparatively young age of 45. I have not, so far, found a will, which probably means that he was not expecting to die.
I do not know whether his death meant that Jane, and perhaps her sisters as well had to go out to work. Somehow or other I suspect not although I have absolutely no evidence for this. What I do know is that a year or so after her father's death the number against the Pittard name has changed to 24 which I think means that the land tax has gone up. At first I thought the numbers I saw were the numbers of the houses, but now I think they are just the rent that has to be paid, or the clerk's number of the record. I guess one has to assume that if Samuel had owned his house in nearby Aldersgate Street, then he probably owned this house too. And it seems that the family stayed here for many, many years.
The next thing we know about Jane, of course, is that on June 30th at the turn of the century - in 1800 - she married Joseph Beckwith at St. Mary's Islington. Why here one wonders? And why Joseph?
Joseph and Jane were both Clerkenwell people. Islington is a little further north than Clerkenwell and there were perfectly good churches nearer to Clerkenwell. So one can only assume that for a while least one of them was living in Islington. As to why Joseph, well again I have no real answer for this. A neighbour? A family acquaintance? There does not seem to be any family connection as such. Joseph was also two years younger than Jane who was aged 25 at the time of her marriage. Not old, but not that young either I guess.
The witnesses at the wedding were Thomas Shallis and William Edwards. I am guessing that Thomas Shallis was related to John Shallis who was that neighbour in Clerkenwell Green that I mentioned. William Edwards may be related to Edward Edwards to whom Joseph had been apprenticed. But I don't think either of them lived in Islington. It's all very mysterious. Almost as if they did not want anyone to know that they were marrying, so was it a love match? Well it wasn't a marriage by licence so not exactly hidden.
A year to the day they were married, their first child Joseph was christened at St. James Clerkenwell. He was almost three months old at the time of the baptism, having been born on March 25th. Maybe the baptism date was a sentimental choice. Whenever he was born though, the marriage could not have been a shotgun affair. Even if Jane was pregnant when she married, she would not have known she was. And in Clerkenwell. The first address of the marriage that I have is Clerkenwell Green in 1804, when Joseph is listed as paying the tax. Now Jane's mother was still alive, but maybe as a woman she was replaced. Maybe they began their married life in Jane's mother's home, maybe they rented a place nearby.
A speedy first child, but then somewhat of a gap until 1805, when my great-great grandmother Jane Elizabeth was born on August 20th and baptised just over a month later on September 5th.
By all accounts Jane was a loving mother, and so why the long gaps in between children? For her next child Henry Samuel was not born until 1809. Mary Ann was born just two years after her older siblings in 1811, but George was not born until 1816 - five years after Mary Ann. There may have been just one more child - Robert William, but all we have is a burial record of an infant in 1819, and the address is not quite right. So I am not sure about him. Maybe there were miscarriages in between the births, maybe marital relations were not all they should be. As indeed we now know they were not. Well later anyway.
It seems that Jane was a kind and loving mother, and a good wife. When she died her daughter Jane wrote of her:
"Her form was slight, her countenance
pleasing and expressive of benevolence, mild and humane in her manners, artless and unsuspecting, moral, chaste and of incorruptible integrity - no inducement could tempt her to utter an untruth or to countenance it in others. She was a practical economist, her domestic arrangements were a perfect specimen of order, neatness, frugality and attention to the interest entrusted to her care. She was a fond mother, an invaluable wife, a woman of surpassing excellence."
In 1811 we find Joseph listed as an engraver in St. John Street, but this may not necessarily mean that he lived there. It might have just been a business address. However by 1817 he had moved to 25 Wilderness Row, where I can only imagine the entire family lived. Indeed it became the family home. Wilderness Row is shown on the lovely map at right. It is the road bordering the north of the Charterhouse grounds. No. 25 is at the left hand end. Maybe Jane helped out in his shop if he had one. Or maybe she kept his accounts. Or maybe she just looked after the house and the children.
And so the family settled into their disparate lives. There were tragedies along the way - several of them.
The first of these was the death of her sister Elizabeth in 1813. This was to be a truly tragic little story, for she was followed by one son in 1814, her husband in 1815, and the remaining two sons in 1828 and 1829. Her daughter was the only survivor of this little clan. I wonder whether Jane stepped in to look after the children after the death of her brother-in-law. For where else would they have gone?
And then in 1823 her mother died. It seems from her mother's will which Joseph somewhat belatedly witnessed, that her mother had also been living in Wilderness Row. So very possibly from the earliest days of her marriage, until this day, she had had her mother to care for as well as her children. Her mother was 75 when she died - an old, old lady for the times. And all of her mother's meagre possessions were left to Jane's surviving sister Susanna.
The final and possibly the worst tragedy however, was the death of her oldest son Joseph from TB at the age of 26, leaving behind two small children who also almost immediately succumbed. His wife would have been completely overwhelmed.
But there were joys too. There were the grandchildren. Well first the marriages - the short-lived Joseph in 1825, Jane in 1830, Mary Ann in 1831 and Henry in 1833. Life would have been busy organising all of that. And then there was the joy of the grandchildren. I think by the time she died Jane had around nine grandchildren in happy marriages.
The most major thing to happen in her later years though was the infidelity of her husband. In 1834 the first of the eventual 12 children that Joseph was to have with Ann Bartholomew, his housekeeper, was born. Five of them were born before Jane's death.
The big question, of course, is did Jane know? One suspects not from the words of her daughter Jane that I quoted previously. "Her manners artless and unsuspecting" implies that she would not have contemplated such a thing. And "of incorruptible integrity - no inducement could tempt her to utter an untruth or to countenance it in others" just confirms this. And yet, from various other pieces of evidence from later years I suspect that the rest of the family knew.
It's perhaps not such a surprise that Joseph should have erred. Ann was many years younger than he. An older man whose wife was getting old, and a pretty young woman. No surprises there.
Let us hope that Jane's last years were happy ones, surrounded as she would have been by her children and her grandchildren, and protected from her husband's sins, although perhaps not from his 'terrible temper' and his radical political views.
It all came to an end in 1840 when
"after a short but painful illness" she died on the first December. She was buried on the 9th in the graveyard of St. James Clerkenwell, the church that had served the family well over many years.
Next year Joseph moved house to no. 3.