I'm a twit too

Sunday, December 25, 2011


EARLY MODERN CLARK Great Grand-East Enders x 8 generations ago.


 Birth and Christening Parish register ST BOTOLPH, ALDGATE


William and Ann Clark and their children would live for many years on the edge of the busy Thames River at Ratcliffe and
This was quite a feat of survival considering the notorious nature of dock side sailors, pirates, gangs of robbers and smugglers as their pedestrians!
The environment also attracted artists of all kinds, generating a large cultural expression over the years.

With no identifiable Clarks charged with drunken fights or robberies in the Old Bailey records, my ancestors got on with their honest days work (or they were good at not getting caught). 

The Clark's shared the Limehouse Causeway and Narrow Street with waves of immigrant arrivals including the southern Chinese sailors who had worked for the East India Company in the 1790's. 

My direct CLARK ancestors were witness and workers to a Time of booming trade in Slaves, Sugar, Coal and Tobacco. 
Tea had become highly valued, as much as the glut of Gin made from the over-abundant corn harvest resulting in low prices.

There were thousands of struggling troops returning from Imperial battles and thousands of pauper peasants displaced from their ancestral homes, evicted from their self-sustaining  common land by the authority of the Enclosure Act(s).

Britain had a long tradition of dealing and disposing of surplus and desperate characters caught with stolen property or distributing ideas to change the system that created such injustices...Transportation - offshore!

Narrow Street/Fore St. Limehouse.

William and Ann Clark must have repeated to their children if they didn't stop thievin' or answering back and speaking ill of their betters - whether they were hungry or not, they'd be put on one of the ships in convict chains and sent to the ends of the earth!
 for example 
Between 1650 and 1775 , some tens of thousands of prisoners were sent to the British colony of America, to be sold as labour  in Virginia, Maryland, or Georgia - perhaps as many as 120,000.(The Commonwealth of Thieves by Tom Keneally)

                                     The Dignity of Labour 

c.1770 London anchor makers engraving: www.themaritimegallery.co.uk

Sometimes there was fun and novelty to be had: From the Elizabethan to the Georgian era the Winters were worse than usual, but if you happened to be an Anchor Maker you wouldn't be feeling the cold...with muscle and blasting furnace!

The locals made use of a River frozen deep enough to have a party on!


1740 sketch from the British Library online gallery. The Punch & Judy Puppet
Show is playing safe by setting up in a boat!

Mum's paternal Clark tree has come ashore in the freezing Tower Hamlets borough. 

She would approve of her ancestors keeping warm and jolly by drinking what they liked followed by singing sea shanties and telling stories in Cockney swagger!

The Author of this sketch claims Gin and Gingerbread is on the menu.

This was the cheap drink of the working and malnourished lower-classes of London whom William Hogarth depicted in his famous Gin and Beer Lane pictures published in 1751.

Great Grandparents x 8, William and Anne reside at the end of Lime-Kiln dock on the Limehouse Causeway when their son William is born in 1742 - little brother to Anne Rachel Clark b.1738. who would be apprenticed to a Bethnal Green Weaver.

In 1744 they have moved to Narrow Street(this map it's Fore St).
St Anne's Limehouse parish church 1730.
Christopher Wren's student, Nigel Hawksmoore was a very busy man in the early 18th century when he was commissioned to design this church and more, including  the Parish work/poor-houses.
William Turner the Romantic painter lived on Narrow Street, and Whistler also lived at Limehouse.


THE CLARK'S seem to have kept their head down and out of trouble - following the smugglers advice to 'watch the wall'  when they saw sly carrying of goods off the ships, (so they couldn't tell 'the Law'), keeping free of the hangman's noose and the Prison Hulks on the River Thames.

Living was an achievement! Infant mortality was high. Getting through life without suffering greatly from an array of man-made abuses was a victory, discounting the horrible weather.

Considering one could receive the death penalty for stealing a sheep, living in obscurity was a real-life survival strategy! www.oldbaileyonline.org

21st NOVEMBER 1742 WILLIAM CLARK was baptised at St. Anne's Limehouse, son of WILLAM CLARK an ANCHOR SMITH and mother ANNE, residents of LIMEHOUSE CAUSEWAY.His siblings, Ann(1739) and John(1744) are also in the Parish register as being christened there. 


St. Anne's Parish Register William junior  21/11/1742 


 It's possible my ancestor had a hand in SMITHING of

the HMS Endeavour anchor 

Captain James Cook on a Scientific mission,
Left England aboard The Endeavour 1768 .


2011   Cockney descendents born in Australia                                                     


When he reads this virtual note in the blogger-sphere future he will learn his ancestors may have seen the great Yorkshire-man, Captain James Cook walking or drinking alongside them on the East London riverside.
The Endeavour(replica)         
When Cook wasn't laying claim to Queensland in 1770 and other marvelous discoveries for the British sovereign, King George third, the brilliant Navigator lived on a mediocre seaman's wages on Mile End Road with his family, waiting for his ships to be serviced and fixed at the Royal Dockyard, Deptford.

As I write the bustling shipping Port of London in the East End is undergoing another transformation as site of the 2012 Olympics, but there are a handful of houses which have survived the centuries where our  Limehouse kin would have frequented.

photo 1924.  In the 1780's Chinese sailors employed
by the East India Company settled here to become London's first China Town.

I'll be home soon Anne - just gonna WET THE BABY'S HEAD...

old photos and history also at http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/08/09/at-the-grapes-limehouse/
Since this article Sir Ian McKellan(Gandalf) and Co. have bought this old public house, and as it was a place where Charles Dickens frequented, have a special program for his 200
In William Clark Snr and Jnr's time it was called 
 "The Bunch of Grapes"
76 Narrow Street Lime house  

44 - THE NARROW - www.gordonramsay.com/thenarrow

Prospect of Whitby - Wapping

1 comment:

  1. my great nan and my nan was born in three colts lane, my nan's dad was named william clarke, but with an e, she told me storys about when she was a little kid, tough life back then.they used to knock chinamans hats off for a game, I've always been told I take after her, a right little cow, lol.


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