Back in 1987, when I was a teenager, I paid a trip to London to search the General Registration indexes at St Catherine’s House for a record of the marriage of my great great grandparents, James Batchelor, an agricultural labourer, and his wife, Frances Naylor. I knew that the couple had both been born in Kent and to the best of my knowledge, they had spent all their lives there. I searched the marriage indexes and found the matching references in the June quarter of 1845. However, to my surprise, the registration district was Lambeth (now in Central London). I ordered a copy of the certificate from the General Register Office and waited in eager anticipation for its arrival. When the certificate arrived through my letter box, I scanned the contents enthusiastically but I was disappointed to find that it had been written out in a modern hand. I therefore resolved to one day look at the original entry in the parish registers. James and Frances had married at the parish church of St Mary, Lambeth and recently, I discovered that the church registers can be viewed online on both Ancestry and Family Search. My initial aim was to look at the record of this one wedding, as I really wanted to see if I could figure out why they had married in Lambeth. However, one thing led to another and this is the story of how I ended up with five weddings and two funerals, as I pieced together hidden family connections.
Wedding Number 1
James Batchelor, a labourer and bachelor, married Frances Naylor, a spinster, on Sunday June 15th 1845 at the parish church of St Mary, Lambeth. Both parties gave their residence as Leyland Street. The father of the groom was John Batchelor, a labourer, as was William Naylor, the father of the bride. The marriage took place after banns and both the groom and bride signed the register. The marriage was witnessed by Henry Batchelor and J. L. Gawler.
The couple had their banns of marriage read the three preceding Sundays, from 18th May 1845 so they must have been resident in the parish for a least a month before the wedding:
Even though marriage records were held centrally after the establishment of the General Register Office in July 1837, one advantage of viewing a parish marriage entry is that the original signatures of all the parties can be seen. If the same signature appears in a different record, it can be a useful means of identification. Henry Batchelor, one of the witnesses, was a cousin of the groom and probably James’ best man. The two young men were of a similar age and had grown up together in the Darland area of Gillingham. Kent. There were clearly close ties between them for the following year, Henry married Frances’ older sister, Harriet Naylor, who had probably also travelled to Lambeth for the wedding. The other witness was J.L. Gawler. His signature can be seen on many other marriage entries in the register, so it is evident that he was a parish official.
The historic church of St Mary, Lambeth, where the couple wed, was adjacent to Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which is situated on the south bank of the River Thames. After being deconsecrated in 1972, it has been turned into the Garden Museum: https://gardenmuseum.org.uk/
The parish register of St Mary, Lambeth revealed that in total, eight marriages had taken place on June 15th 1845. It must have been a sight to see eight happy couples processing down the aisle that Sunday morning, the bells pealing joyfully, as they emerged through the great door into the sunlight.
James and Frances gave their residence as Leyland Street, but this address was not easy to find. Using “Leyland” as an optional keyword, under the advanced census search options on FindmyPast, I found that it did feature in the 1841 census. Although there were no Batchelors or Naylors resident on the street, its rough location, sandwiched between Jonathan Street and Barrett Street in Lambeth, could be determined. There were just over fifty households enumerated, mostly headed by tradesmen, but there were also two cow keepers, who would have kept the neighbourhood supplied with fresh milk. I was able to locate Jonathan Street on current maps in the Vauxhall area of Lambeth, but I found no reference to Barrett Street or Leyland Street. This suggested that the names of these streets had been changed. A great website for discovering the modern names of old London streets can be consulted here:
From searching the above, I discovered that Barrett Street had been renamed Vauxhall Street, though Leyland Street was still not listed. However, I was able to ascertain that Leyland Street had been renamed Wickham Street by searching the 1851 census on FindmyPast, using the same advanced census search options on the website. Helpfully, the 1851 census returns provided both the old and new name of the street. However, I did not spot any Batchelors or Naylors living there and James and Frances had returned to Gillingham by this date. An Ordnance Survey map of the area helped me get my bearings:S
A search on the website of the London Picture Archive provided me with several images of the houses on Wickham (Leyland) Street, Lambeth. Although they were demolished a long time ago, they appear to have been modest Georgian terraced houses that opened up on to the street:
I could now pinpoint where James and Frances had been living but why had they come to Lambeth? One possible reason relates to the age of Frances. When they got married, the couple both said they were of “full age” (i.e. at least aged 21, which was the age of consent). However, Frances’ baptism took place on December 17th 1826 in Bredhurst, Gillingham, Kent. Almost certainly, she was an infant, given her age in other records. This means that she must have been only 18 years old when she married James. The incumbent in Lambeth would have had no way of verifying her age if she claimed to be older. It is clear that the term “full age” could be used as a device to conceal one’s true age, for those under age, as well as for those who wanted to be discreet about their advancing years, especially in urban area where people were more anonymous. Frances and James had grown up in the same area in Kent and there was no difference in their social status but perhaps Frances’ parents did not want her to marry so young or had taken a dislike to her sweetheart, James. As the youngest girl in the Naylor family, was she expected to stay at home and look after her parents in their old age? If she eloped with James, this could be one reason why the wedding took place in Lambeth. Alternatively, perhaps she was working in Lambeth as a domestic servant, a rite of passage for many young, working class girls.
During their time in Lambeth, I am sure James and Frances would have taken romantic walks in the renowned Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, situated just a few minutes walk from Leyland Street:
It is often the case that our ancestors moved to places where they already had family connections. James Batchelor was one of eight children, born to John Batchelor, a labourer, and his wife Maria, so I had a theory that he had moved to Lambeth to join one of his siblings:
|Batchelor||Thomas * died aged 17||bpt||21||Nov||1813||Chatham|
At the time of the 1841 census, John and Maria Batchelor were living with their younger children, James, Maria, and Charles at Darland, Gillingham. Joseph, who would have been 15 years old, was missing from the household, but as I have found no candidate for him in census returns, he may have died as a child. John, the eldest, was already married and living nearby and Mary was working locally as a servant in the household of William Everest, a tea dealer, on the High Street in Chatham. Where was George? There was no likely candidate in the Gillingham area, or indeed, in Kent, but intriguingly, I found a 25 year old George Batchelor, working for a grocer in Denmark Hill in the parish of Lambeth:
George Batchelor had not been born in Surrey so in the absence of an alternative candidate and given his residence in Lambeth, it seemed probable that he was the elder brother of James. Ten years later, George was living with his wife and young family on Neville Street, which though it no longer exists today, was around the corner from Leyland Street/Wickham Street in the Vauxhall area of Lambeth. This time, the enumerator only recorded that George Batchelor was born in Kent:
Knowing that George Batchelor had a wife named Susan, I set out to find a record of their marriage. I discovered that this had taken place in 1845, a few months after the wedding of James and Frances, at the nearby church of St Mark, Kennington:
Wedding Number 2
George Batchelor, a bachelor and labourer, married Susan Sell, a spinster, on October 5th 1845. Their residence was given as Vauxhall and the groom and bride were of full age. John Batchelor and William Sell, both labourers, were named as the fathers. Each party signed the register and the witnesses were William Wallis and Mary Perryman who signed the register.
Unfortunately, George Batchelor died in 1859 so I have no further census information on him but the name and occupation of his father was additional confirmation that he was the brother of James. George must have come to the Lambeth by the time of the 1841 census, perhaps seeking an adventure. Tough times back home in Kent may also have been an incentive to move to Lambeth, as it was a time of severe agricultural depression. The 1840s were known as the “Hungry Forties” with bad harvests and high prices because of the Corn Laws. After getting settled, perhaps George persuaded his younger brother, James, to join him in Lambeth, and maybe even found him a job.
To see if there were any other family connections to the area, I decided to look at all Batchelor marriages that had taken place in Lambeth during this period. The parish registers of St Mary, Lambeth, can be viewed on Ancestry but I found that the easiest way of listing them was to consult Family Search, which also has the original images. To my delight, I discovered that Mary Batchelor, the sister of James and George, had married William Wallis at St Mary, Lambeth on Christmas Day 1841:
Wedding Number 3
William Wallis, a bachelor and labourer married Mary Batchelor, a spinster on December 25th 1841. Both parties were resident in Leyland Street. Their fathers were named as Richard Wallis and John Batchelor, both labourers. The groom signed the register whilst the bride made her mark and the marriage was witnessed by Lydia Batchelor and Edw[ar]d Powell.
Given the father’s name and occupation and the address of Leyland Street, I could be confident that this was the marriage of Mary, the sister of James and George, whose baptism had taken place in Chatham in 1821. In addition, William Wallis, Mary’s husband, was a witness when George Batchelor had married Susan Sell in 1845. His signature was very similar on both records. Census returns revealed that William Wallis was living a few doors down from the Batchelor family, in Darland, Gillingham, when the 1841 census was taken. Perhaps he had been best friends with Mary’s brother, George, and decided to join him in Lambeth. Previously, I had no knowledge of Mary after the 1841 census, as I had not found her in the 1851 census and and there were numerous Mary Batchelor marriages recorded in the GRO in the decade inbetween. However, it was intriguing to see that one of the witnesses was Lydia Batchelor, not a name I had come across before in my family tree. At first, I wondered whether she was a long lost sister of Mary. However, another Batchelor marriage that took place at St Mary, Lambeth, unveiled Lydia’s identity:
Wedding Number 4
George Batchelor, a bachelor and labourer, married Lydia Stimpson on 29th February 1840 at St Mary, Lambeth. Both were of “full age” and residents of Stangate, an area close to the river between Lambeth Palace and Westminster Bridge. The fathers were named as John Batchelor and James Stimpson, both labourers. The groom made his mark whilst the bride signed the register. The marriage was witnessed by J.L. Gawler and John Seager. The couple had had their banns read three Sundays previously from the 9th February 1840.
It was now evident that Lydia Batchelor was in fact, Mary’s sister in law, the first wife of her brother, George. Although George had been recorded as a shopman at the time of the 1841 census in Denmark Hill, Brixton, living in the household of his employer, his marital status was, of course, not recorded. So where was Lydia? She had left her husband in London and was back home in Hertfordshire:
Nonetheless, there were two large discrepancies in the information I had found. If Susan Sell was the second wife of George Batchelor, why was he described as a bachelor when they were married? In addition, George had signed the register in 1845 but when he married for the first time in 1840, he had merely made his mark. The absence of Lydia from the 1851 census suggested that she had died young and I found her burial in the registers of St Mary, Lambeth in 1844:
FUNERAL Number 1
Lydia Batchelor had died at the age of 24 and been buried on July 14th 1844. Her address was given as Leyland Street. A copy of her death certificate subsequently obtained revealed that she had died of phthisis on July 7th at 10E Leyland Street. She was described as the wife of George Batchelor, a labourer. Perhaps Lydia had gone back to Hertfordshire to stay with her parents in 1841 census because of her ill health. Harriet Kent, a neighbour of 13 Leyland Street, was the informant. In fact, Harriet was the wife of Robert Kent, one of the cowkeepers on Leyland Street that I had noted previously in the 1841 census.
Interestingly, there is evidence that Lydia Stimson and Susan Sell, the wives of George Batchelor, were related to each other. Lydia Stimson was baptised in Little Munden, Hertfordshire in 1820 whilst Susan Sell was baptised close by in Little Hadham, Hertfordshire in 1823. It seemed more than coincidental that two young girls from Hertfordshire married the same man in Lambeth. Was there a family connection? To test my theory, I did some background digging and discovered that the maiden name of the mother of Susan Sell was Caroline Walhole. She married Susan’s father, William Sell, in 1822. Lydia’s mother was Jane Worpell, a widow when she married Lydia’s father, James Stimpson, in 1809. Walhole and Worpell are phonetically very similar. Since Jane was born ca. 1786, there is a possibility that Caroline was a daughter from her first marriage, though this has yet to be proved. This would mean that Susan Sell’s mother was the half sister of Lydia Stimson. Perhaps this is the reason why George Batchelor said he was a bachelor when he married again.
Sadly, Mary Wallis, Lydia’s sister in law and probably her close friend, also died aged 24, at Leyland Street in 1845. Mary was buried on April 13 in St Mary, Lambeth:
FuneraL Number 2
Before her death, Mary and her husband, William, had two children, Sarah Lydia Wallis and William George Wallis. Sarah Lydia, whose middle name sweetly commemorated Mary’s sister in law, was baptised at St Mary’s Lambeth on 27 February 1842. Sadly, she died as an infant, her burial being recorded in the Lambeth registers on 14 July 1844, the same day that her Aunt Lydia was buried. The birth of William George Wallis, who was clearly named after Mary’s husband and brother, was registered in the June quarter of 1845 so Mary may well have died from childbirth complications. William George Wallis was baptised back in Chatham after his mother’s death on 11 May 1845.
William Wallis, Mary’s widower, married again the following year:
Wedding Number 5
William Wallis, a labourer and widower, married Mary Perryman, a spinster, on February 1st 1846 at the parish church of Kennington. Their fathers were named as Richard Wallis and William Perryman, both labourers. Both William and Mary had been the witnesses at George Batchelor’s wedding in October the previous year and now George returned the favour and was a witness for them, along with Naomi Atkins.
I had now found five marriages and two funerals that all related to my Batchelor family in the registers of Lambeth and Kennington. Initially, I had set out to discover why my great great grandparents, James Batchelor and Frances Naylor, married in Lambeth, far from their family homes in Kent. I suspect that there were a combination of factors that influenced their decision. Certainly, Frances was under the age of consent, so a lack of parental approval may have been a reason for the young couple to marry in Lambeth. Looking at the wider context, Lambeth would have been a magnet for young labourers from the Kent countryside during an economic depression. However, perhaps the strongest reason for them marrying in Lambeth is the web of family connections in the area that I have uncovered. George Batchelor, the elder brother of James, was certainly living in Lambeth by the spring of 1840, when he married Lydia Stimson. Their sister, Mary, then married William Wallis in Lambeth on Christmas Day 1841. Both George and Mary and their respective spouses appear to have lived on Leyland Street, probably in the same house, as this is the address recorded at the burials of Lydia Batchelor in July 1844 and Mary Wallis in April 1845. Perhaps James decided to join his brother, George, and his brother in law, William Wallis in Lambeth after the death of his sister, Mary. She passed away only weeks before the banns of James and Frances were read.
I hope the story of my discovery of five weddings and two funerals in the Lambeth area has demonstrated the value of looking at Victorian parish registers. In the past, it has often been difficult to spot family connections in urban parishes because of the size of the registers and the expense of GRO records. However, a large number of these registers, particularly in London, have now been indexed. Certainly this initiative has enabled me to find out much more about the close family of my great great grandfather, James Batchelor and the family’s links to Lambeth. Particular attention should always be paid to addresses and the names of witnesses that are recorded. It is not always possible to find answers to every question, but looking in detail at Victorian parish registers can certainly help to solve a few mysteries.
© Judith Batchelor 2023
N.B. My thanks goes to my cousin, John Batchelor, whose original research into the Lambeth Batchelors was of great assistance.
6 thoughts on “Five Weddings and Two Funerals”
Loved this tribute to the Batchelors of Lambeth and Kennington. This area is part of my ancestral heritage too. Some of my ancestral clan of tailors and builders were born, married and died in Bermondsey, Rotherhithe and Cambewell. These towns are either in the London Borough of Southwark lies to the east of the Borough of Lambeth or to the south in the London Borough of Croydon. Perhaps the Batchelor men purchased their wedding suits from one of my Newth tailors?
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You never know! I also have some other family lines in the Rotherhithe area. I think it was quite common for people to come into the London area from the surrounding county. For example, people from Kent and Surrey would tend to settle in parishes south of the River Thames.
Judith – it’s wonderful how much information you found and how you were able to link the family members together. It’s so thrilling when everything falls into place with the help of some educated guesses. Well done!
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Thanks Gill! I was especially thrilled to find out what happened to Mary. Women can be particularly difficult to trace if they married in the 1840s but died before the 1851 census. Sad that she and her sister in law, Lydia, died so young though.
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This post has definitely given me the itch to turn my attention back to my English ancestors and try to piece together a FAN club. Also a great example of how knowing local history, like an economic downturn in a specific area, can help us put the pieces together, I’ll think I’ll look into that next for mine.
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Best of luck with your research into your English ancestors. Very pleased to know that my post has inspired you to learn more about them.