William (1) Woodhurst

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Brief biography

William (1) Woodhurst was born to parents William (9) Woodhurst and Rebecca (nee) Blackman. He was christened at Frindsbury, Kent on August 21st 1791 [Frindsbury (All Saints) Parish Register]. The latter source spells his parents' surname as "Woodhouse" and notes that he was born on the 21st of a preceding month, probably June or July (the writing is unclear).

On May 26th 1811 William (1) married Elizabeth Clements by banns in the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Milton-by-Gravesend [IGI: Batch M135022]. The marriage register states that he was a bachelor and she a spinster. The witnesses were D. Williams, Thomas Woodford and Hannah Clements (perhaps Elizabeth's sister or aunt). Milton-by-Gravesend is about ten miles north-west of Frindsbury. Although both partners were described in the register as "of this parish", no other mention of William (1) - or of any other Woodhurst - appears in Kent genealogists' indexes for Milton-by-Gravesend in the period 1559-1845, which is consistent with the assumption that he originated elsewhere.

Elizabeth was christened in Kent at Barming (also known as East Barming, situated 3 miles south-west of Maidstone) to parents James Clements and his wife Isabella on December 11th 1791 [IGI: Batch C130912]. She may have been born a year or two earlier than this.

Their first three children were christened at Frindsbury during 1812-1816, but soon afterwards the family appears to have moved about 20 miles west to Crayford in Kent. Their son James (2) cited this as his birthplace in one census, although he was christened (in 1818) a few miles away at Plumstead. Their daughter Hannah (1), though evidently born at Frindsbury, also cited her birthplace as Crayford in one census, probably because it was the earliest place she remembered living in. Their sons George Alexander and William Horace were certainly christened there at the ancient church of St. Paulinus, in 1821 and 1823 respectively. By late 1825 the family had moved on to London, since the next known child Alfred (5) was born at that time in Hackney. The christening and burial records of Alfred (5) cite the family's address in 1826 as "Bay", which used to lie in the Dalston area of Hackney. The next child Alfred (1) was born in Hackney around 1828, followed by Ellen (1) in Shoreditch in May 1831.

William (1) was described variously as a labourer or gardener on the parish christening records of some of the above-mentioned children.

The 1841 Census finds William (1) at (rounded) age "50" living with Elizabeth and their four youngest children in West Street, West Ham in Essex, where he was occupied as a gardener journeyman. West Street no longer exists by that name but may have corresponded to today's West Road in the centre of West Ham. The only household member entered as having been born in Essex was the youngest child Ambrose aged "8", so the family evidently moved from Hackney to West Ham within the period 1831-1833.

He was also described as a gardener on the marriage certificates of James (2) in 1841, of Richard William (1) (RWW) in 1843 and of his daughter Eliza (1) in 1844, but in 1849 he was described as a shipwright on the marriage certificate of his son Alfred (1). None of these certificates describes William (1) as deceased. He had certainly died by 1851, although the GRO death index holds no record of this under the "Woodhurst" spelling. It is suspected that his death was registered under some surname variant. He may have been the William "Woodhouse" who was buried at age "60" on August 20th 1850 at St Dunstan, Stepney, his abode being entered as Mile End Old Town; according to the death certificate [Death Index: Stepney 2 315, 1850 (Sept)] this William died on August 17th 1850 at the Mile End Workhouse, his occupation given as mariner and the cause of death certified as chronic bronchitis; the informant was John Canham whose connection is unknown.

The 1851 Census finds his widow Elizabeth visiting her (allegedly) married daughter Hannah (1) at 49, Black Horse Yard in the Liberty of Glass House Yard, Finsbury. Her age is given as "59" and her birthplace as Kent.

The 1861 Census finds Elizabeth living with her daughter Ellen (1) at 7, Pollard Street in Bethnal Green. Her age is given as "73" and her birthplace as Barming, Kent.

Elizabeth died in 1862 [Death Index: Mile End 1c 411, 1862 (March)]. The death certificate states that she died aged "72" on January 5th 1862 in the Mile End Old Town workhouse. The cause of death was certified as "natural decay, chronic bronchitis", and the informant - present at the death and residing at the workhouse - was M. Alexander, whose connection is unknown but who may have been one of the staff there. Elizabeth is described as the widow of a labourer "John" Woodhurst. However, since the informant appears not to have been a relative, it is assumed that the "John" was just a mistake and should have said "William". In any case, no John Woodhurst with a wife Elizabeth existed, as far as is known, at any time in the 19th century.

In March 1862 William (1) was described as (having been) a farmer on the certificate of RWW's second marriage, and there is indeed a family anecdote - contained in a letter sent in 1943 by his grandson Richard (1) to descendants in Canada of another grandson George Richard Guy - claiming that he had once owned a farm named Larkin Hall in Bill Street, Frindsbury. This claim appears more likely to have applied not to William (1) but to his father William (9) - there is some slight evidence that in the late 1790s the latter had occupied - and probably owned under lease - one of the minor dwellings within the Larkin Hall estate.

His children by Elizabeth Clements

  1. Eliza (1) Woodhurst - christened December 10th 1812 at Frindsbury, Kent
  2. Hannah (1) Woodhurst - christened October 30th 1814 at Frindsbury, Kent
  3. Richard William (1) Woodhurst - christened November 24th 1816 at Frindsbury, Kent
  4. James (2) Woodhurst - born probably at Crayford, Kent - christened December 27th 1818 at Plumstead, Kent
  5. and possibly ... Robert (1) Woodhurst - born about 1820 at Rochester, Kent
  6. George Alexander Woodhurst - christened June 24th 1821 at Crayford, Kent
  7. William Horace Woodhurst - christened July 13th 1823 at Crayford, Kent
  8. Alfred (5) Woodhurst - christened June 28th 1826 at Hackney - buried July 12th 1826 at Hackney, London
  9. Alfred (1) Woodhurst - born about 1828 at Hackney, London
  10. Ellen (1) Woodhurst - born May 3rd 1831 at Shoreditch, London - christened (as adult) March 27th 1853 at Finsbury, London
  11. Ambrose Woodhurst - born about 1833 probably in West Ham, Essex
  12. and possibly ... John (12) Woodhurst - buried July 17th 1836 as an infant at Poplar, London

The infant John (12) has not yet been proven to be a child of William (1). He had been living in Poplar when he died. He was buried at Poplar All Saints [Burial Register: Ancestry have misindexed the year as 1835 but the register page concerned is definitely for 1836]. William (1)'s son George Alexander was also buried at Poplar All Saints three years later.