Ancestor Story : Alexander Ford 1789 – 1851

Alexander Ford was born in 1789 in Isleworth, Middlesex,  a small community consisting mainly of market gardens and orchards. George III was on the throne and William Pitt the Younger was the Prime Minister.

Marriage and Family

He and Elizabeth Jones married on 11th July 1808 at St John, Hackney, the parish where they both lived. Both of them were literate and able to sign their names in the register. Elizabeth was about 18 at the time of the marriage and Alexander about 19.

They are my 5x G Grandparents and their first son, Alexander William Ford and my 4xG Grandad was born 22nd February 1809.

He was christened in the Parish of St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch.

Alexander and Elizabeth went on to have a further 9 children,

Name Birth Death Where Born
Alexander William 1809 1852 Georges Yard
Elisabeth 1811 May Bush Court
William Henry 1812 May Bush Court
Amelia Middleton 1814 1885
Maria 1816 1874 May Bush Court
Emma 1818 May Bush Court
Frances 1820 Ann Street
Matilda 1823 Pollard Street, Bethnal Green
Robert 1825 Pollard Street, Bethnal Green
Louisa Duesbury 1826 1870 Pollard Street, Bethnal Green


Alexander started his working life as an oil-cloth painter. Before the invention of plastic, and modern waterproofing materials the only way to make cloth waterproof was to impregnate it with linseed oil. Oil cloth was a hard wearing, practical fabric used for everything from luggage bindings and waterproof coats, to tablecloths and floor coverings. It was popular because it was much cheaper than leather, the main alternative.

Alexander’s progression in business can be seen through his children’s baptism and marriage records and the censuses.

In records from 1814- 1823 he is described as an oil-cloth painter. From 1825, when his son Robert was baptised has is described as an oil-cloth manufacturer.  The will that  Alexander made in 1836, shows this was a family business. In the will leaves his business holdings in the firm of  George Ford, Alexander Ford, and Daniel Ford to his wife Elizabeth. Censuses and electoral rolls indicate that  Daniel and George are both of an age to be his brothers

His standing was obviously quite high in later life. His youngest daughter, Louisa, married a Gentleman- a man of independent means.

1841 Census

The family was living at 3 Cambridge Place, Shoreditch. This is no longer standing. A comparison of old and modern maps indicates this house was probably swallowed up when the railway was built.

1851 Census

By 1851 the only child left at home was Maria, who was unmarried. The family was living around the corner from Cambridge Place at  25 The Oval, where Alexander remained for the rest of his life. Again, this building is no longer standing.


Alexander died in 1851. His goods and chattels at that time were recorded as being worth less than £450.

Transcript of Will

In the name of God Amen

I Alexander Ford in the Parish of Saint Leonard Shoreditch in the County of Middlesex Table Cover Manufacturer being of sound mind memory and understanding but knowing that it is appointed for all men to die do make this my last will and Testament. I give and bequeath all my Property invested in the Firm of George Ford Alexander Ford and  Daniel Ford  and all my money Household goods and Chattels and effects of what nature or kind soever and where soever the same shall be at the time of my decease I give the same and every part thereof to my wife Elizabeth Ford for her sole use and benefit and I do nominate constitute and appoint my said wife Elizabeth Ford my Sole Executrix of this my last Will and Testament in witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal  this Twenty Seventh day of February in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty Six.

Alexander Ford

Signed sealed and published by the above named Alexander Ford in the presence of us who at his request and in his presence have subscribed our names as Witness there to

Amos Boorman

James Amos Boorman”

Ancestor Story – William Blaker 1805 -1874

William Blaker, my 3x G Grandfather,  was born in 1805 in Southampton, Hampshire. The Napoleonic Wars started in 1803 and the town was prospering as a consequence of the soldiers passing through the port. New dockyards were built along the river Itchen in the first half on the 19C  and William trained as a shipwright, a trade that required an apprenticeship of seven years.

The Shipwright

Shipwrights built the external structure of ships and most of the internal fittings. They were also responsible for repairs when the ships returned to port.

The main tools of the working shipwright were

  • the adze, to trim the timber
  • the auger to bore holes in timber and planks. Wooden treenails were driven into these to join them together.
  • A large hammer called a mall, to drive treenails in.
  • Two-man cross-cut saws and single handsaws. Good sawing meant less work with the adze.
  • Heavy axes and hatchets for hewing
  • Hacksaws and cold chisels to cut bolts to length.

Iron nails were used to fasten the deck planks. Up until the mid-late 19C ships were built of oak, but as the century wore on ships began to be made of steel and the skills of the shipwright needed to expand.

The Blaker Family

William married Charlotte Eccott on March 17 1831 when he was 26 and she was 28.

They had 15 children together, but only 7  survived to adulthood.

Name Degree of Kinship Born Died
James Blaker Son abt 1832 1901
William Henry Blaker Son 1833 1835
George William Blaker Son 1835 1903
Emily Mary Blaker Daughter 1837 1881
Charlotte Elizabeth Blaker Daughter 27 Sep 1838 1909
Eliza Ann Blaker Daughter abt 1840  aft 1860
Fanny Escott Blaker Daughter abt 1842 1917
Eleanor Blaker Daughter September 1842 1842
Matilda Jane Blaker Daughter 1843 1844
Amelia Blaker Daughter abt 1845 1851
Maurice Blaker Son August 1846 1846
Kate Blaker Daughter January 1848 1848
Harry Edward Blaker Son 1849 1849
Alice Clara Blaker Daughter July 1850  aft 1881
Henry Blaker Son April 1852 1852

Census Entries


In 1841 the family were living in Bevois Street in the Chapel area of Southampton (the census return did not record the house number). The houses were built in 1830 so were quite new. A map of the time,  shows the houses have gardens. His eldest son James was 9, George was 5, Emily was 4, Charlotte was 2 and the youngest Eliza was 1. They had already lost a son, William (1833 – 1835). There was also 15 year old Elizabeth Blake living with them as a female servant.


By 1851 the family had moved to the Northam area of the town and were living at 67 Northam Road. His sons James (19) and George (15) were both shipwrights apprentices. As they lived at home it is a reasonable assumption that William was their apprentice master. Apprentice masters got the majority of the wages of the apprentice and this enhanced the family income. The family group at this time also included Emily Mary (14). Charlotte (12), Ann Eliza (or Eliza Ann!) (11), Fanny (9),  Amelia (6) and Clara (8 mo).

5 other children had been born and died in the intervening 10 years, Eleanor, Matilda Jane, Maurice, Kate and Harry Edward.  Amelia would die later that year.

Between 1842 and 1849 William and Charlotte lost 6 of their children. There were waves of cholera epidemics in Southampton at this time and some of these children may have succumbed in those.


By 1861 the family had moved closer to the docks at 133 Northam Road. Although this part of the town has largely been rebuilt since then and house numbers are hard to identify, we can tell from the census that the family was living near Union Street, as this was the preceding page in the census. The only part of this streetscape left in modern times is the Prince of Wales pub. I expect that my GGG Grandfather drank here!

A map of the area in 1870 can be found on the Southampton City Council site.

It can be seen from the map that they lived close to the Linseed Mills and Artificial Manure works, the Soap and Candle Works, and the Northam Iron works which was next to the actual dockyard, and the river. The smell around there must have been quite dreadful!

The children living at home in 1861 were George (26) who was now a trained shipwright, Charlotte (22) and Fanny (19) – both working as dressmakers, and Alice (11). Also living with them is Charlotte’s 3-year-old daughter Amelia J Blaker, born in Lambeth, Surrey.  Charlotte had married Henry Greatourex in January 1860 but it appears was neither living with him, nor had taken his name at this point.

William and Charlotte had also lost another child, Henry, who was born and died in 1852.


In 1871 I can find no record of William Blaker’s family, although there are records for some of the married children.

William died on the 15th November 1874 aged 70. He is buried in the Old Southampton Churchyard. His wife Charlotte and son George William were later buried with him.