The Purssells in 1851

By  1851 most of the family are bakers or confectioners, although Joe is a butcher. He is married, with two daughters and living at 3 Wellington Street, in Bethnal Green. Joe Purssell’s first wife is Mary Ann Forsbrey. They marry at St George’s the Martyr, Southwark on 1st October 1940. He is 25, and she is 23. Her father Joseph Forsbrey is a butcher.He and his first wife Mary Anne Foresbury may have had more children. But at that  point they had seven year old Mary Jane, and Priscilla Grace who died the following year, and is buried at Christ Church Spitalfields aged 3yrs 10 months. His son William is born in 1852, the same year Priscilla dies.

He emigrates to Australia sometime between 1852  and 1860 where marries Mary Ann Crook (1837–1893) in Australia in 1860. He is 45 she is 23.  It is also unclear whether Mary Ann 1 has died, or whether he has a bigamous marriage to Mary Ann 2. Joe and Mary Ann 2  have a daughter Martha who is born in 1860 and dies in 1861, and another daughter, Emma who is born in 1863 and dies in 1874, and Joseph Benjamin Purssell who is born and dies in 1865.

In the meantime Mary Jane, and William, Joe’s children from his first marriage  emigrate to Australia arriving in Melbourne on 29 Aug 1864. Mary Jane appears to stay in Australia, and dies in Williamstown, Victoria in 1927.

Charlotte is living at 118 Cheapside, and lists herself as a shopkeeper, though the 1856 London Post Office Directory calls her a biscuit baker. She is listed on the line below James and Alfred.

Purssell James and Alfred, biscuit bakers, 78 & 80 Cornhill, & 4 & 5 Finch Lane

Purssell Charlotte (Miss), biscuit baker, 119 Cheapside

Thirty five year old William is also married, to Eliza Newman, and living at 3 Lea Road (parish St Mary’s Leyton). The ages they give in the census, 40, and 37, are doubtful, but the rest of the details – his profession – confectioner, and place of birth- Limehouse, are right. Eliza is an Essex girl, born at Stanford Beeches.  William was in partnership with James, trading as William and James Purssell, in Cornhill.Wm & Jas Purssell

They dissolve the partnership in March 1854, probably when William decides to retire.

Twenty nine year old James is living above the premises in Cornhill, and the census return is for one building comprising 78 and 80 Cornhill, & 4 French Court. On the census return, James says he is employing thirty three men, four women, and two boys. He and his twenty one year old wife Eliza (nee West) are sharing the building with 4 house servants, 3 shopmen, 4 biscuit bakers, 4 porters, and a stock keeper.

James and family move to New York in 1859, where he set up a catering business on Broadway near Twenty-First Street.

John Roger is also living above the shop, but in his case 20 Ludgate Hill, just down from St Paul’s and advertising himself as

John R. Purssell & Comp., 20, Ludgate Hill, opposite the Old Bailey : French and Italian ices to-day. “French, English and Italian confectioners. Dinners, rout and ball suppers provided.”

“Soups and jellies, a large assortment of pastry, biscuits, cakes, &c. A large refreshment room for ladies and gentlemen.”

He had married Elizabeth Davies on January 11 1848 at St Pancras Church, with both of them shown as living in Euston Grove. By 1851, twenty six year old John had two sons, two year old John Junior, and one year old Alfred. Both the boys are listed as being born in the parish of St Martin’s Ludgate, so presumably at 20 Ludgate Hill. John says he is employing five men, and has two confectioner journeymen, and a waiter living at Ludgate Hill, along with two female household servants. It is a very young household, the oldest person is 27 year old Catherine Diddy who is one of the servants. The shop staff are a good London mix resembling a branch of Costa Coffee today with an east-ender, a French confectioner, and a German waiter.

Alfred, the youngest brother,(he’s 20) is also living above the shop at 10 Hart Lane in the City. 5 New London Street is also shown on the census return. He calls himself a confectioner & baker, and says he is the brother of the head of the household. I think we can safely assume that Hart Lane is John’s bakery. Alfred is sharing the house with Thomas Joyce and William Payne, both bread bakers, James Ridge a fifteen year old errand boy, and Hannah Pennal, a general servant from Hull.

Adding together the households at Ludgate Hill, and Hart Lane would give the correct number of employees for John’s business, and it makes sense to have them living in-house, and for a member of the family to be on each premises. It also makes sense for the youngest member of the family to be doing the hard work, and baking was a tough business.

According to A.N. Wilson in The Victorians, the baking life was a tough one. It only became worse during the London Season when bread orders increased. Eleven at night was the start of a baker’s day, when he made the dough. He was able to sleep on the job for a couple of hours while the bread rose, then had to do the rest of the physical tasks of preparing rolls and loaves. Kneading was sometimes done with feet, perhaps making for a less-than-clean product. The bakehouse was alarmingly hot as well, up to ninety degrees Fahrenheit. Some bakers had to deliver the bread they made, too. They only had five to ten hours off per day and all but none during the Season. Wilson says statistics show London bakers rarely lived past the age of forty-two. Wilson, A.N.,  The Victorians, 2011.

Finally, Frances Jane, the future Mother St George is living in the Convent of the Faithful Virgin, Norwood where she had been professed a nun at the age of 21 in 1848. In just over three years time, she will be with Florence Nightingale at the Crimean War.

Leave a Reply