Harvey's French Connection

It's been quite a while since I looked at Harvey's family tree but recently a new DNA match popped up in his results and it inspired me into doing some further investigation on one of their common family lines.

William and Maria Harley were Harvey's 4 x great-grandparents on his maternal side of the family. I'd previously stopped my research at this couple but now I decided to delve deeper. Their daughter, Maria Sarah Harley, (Harvey's 3 x great-grandmother) had been born in Chelsea in about 1801. Harvey supports Chelsea Football Club (as do I) and, who knows, perhaps his allegiance was always lurking somewhere in his genes, ha ha?

Initially, I found the Bishop's Transcript for William and Maria's marriage in St George, Hanover Square, Westminster, on 26th August 1800. Maria's maiden name was Howell and there were two witnesses listed, one being James Howell and one which looked like Jonas Harley. It should be noted that Bishop's Transcripts are records which were copied from the parish registers and sent off to the Bishop once a year. Therefore, it's quite possible to encounter a transcription error between the two original sources.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Bishop's Transcripts

There were no more conclusive records for a Jonas Harley and so I thought this might be the end of the line. However, I subsequently found the parish register on Ancestry and discovered that the signature of what had been transcribed in the Bishop's Transcripts as Jonas was actually Josias Harley. This put a whole new complexion on matters. I went on to find William's baptism in 1779 and, sure enough, his father was Josias. Incidentally, Maria's father was indeed James Howell.

Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell as they appear in the Parish Register
Witnesses to the marriage of William Harley and Maria Howell
as they appear in the Parish Register

Working backwards, as all good family historians should do, I found a marriage between Josias Harley and Ann Russell. They too, married in St George, Hanover Square, on 13th January 1777. Josias and Ann had four known children between 1775 and 1785. Yes, it would seem their eldest daughter was born more than a year before they were married. They named her Magdalen, after Josias' mother.

I couldn't find anything more on Ann Russell but I discovered Josias had been born on 16th February 1749 and baptized on 2nd March that same year. It turned out the baptism was recorded in two churches and I'm not completely certain which one was the actual location where the service took place but the churches were linked to each other. They were listed as Threadneedle Street, London (French Huguenot) and Spitalfields, Middlesex (Walloon or French Protestant), an exciting discovery as this was the first time I'd made any potential connections with ancestors from the Continent in either Harvey's family or my own.

Walloons were French speaking people from a region that is now part of Belgium who came to England during the 16th century as refugees. Huguenots were a religious group of French Protestants who held to the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition of Protestantism and who came to England in a couple of waves during the 16th and 17th centuries fleeing religious persecution. Most Walloons and Huguenots were well received because they were seen as allies and fellow-Protestants and were granted citizen's rights. At a time when English Nonconformists and Catholics were not allowed to worship freely, Walloons and Huguenots were allowed their own churches.

They settled mainly in London and the south-east of England, often setting up communities in distinct areas such as Soho in London, and brought much-needed skills and wealth that helped to boost England's economy. One particular skill was wool and silk weaving. In places like Canterbury and Spitalfields, Huguenot entrepreneurs employed large numbers of poorer Huguenots as their weavers. The Huguenots contributed overwhelmingly to the development of the textile, gun-making, silver, watch and clock-making industries, to the creation of the banking and insurance business as well as to the sciences and the arts. It's not surprising to find Josias was a watchmaker and also his son, William, who followed in his father's footsteps.

Although many welcomed Huguenot refugees, there were also some who reacted negatively to their arrival. Weavers, clockmakers and other craftspeople feared their jobs were threatened, while others resented the special favours given to the newcomers. During this period, there were occasional anti-foreigner riots, when poorer Huguenots were attacked.

The French-speaking Walloon church was founded in 1550 in the heart of the City at Threadneedle Street, and was widely considered throughout its long history as the Mother Church of French Protestantism in England. The second church building, erected by the congregation within three years of the original premises being destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, was to serve its congregation for over 170 years.

Following James II's Act of Indulgence in 1687, a significant number of Huguenot temples were built in Spitalfields to accommodate the new arrivals. Until then, the refugees had worshipped at Threadneedle Street but the Nonconformist Mother Church was becoming overcrowded. In 1729, Christ Church Spitalfields was consecrated, and Spitalfields became a parish in its own right. Over time the Huguenot population moved on and was assimilated, and by 1815 most of their temples had closed as congregations dwindled, or merged with the Mother Church at Threadneedle Street.

Josias Harley took on a couple of apprentices, one in 1779 when he was located in Pimlico and again in 1783 when we find him in Chelsea. In 1784, his residence was Ivory Farm in the Parish of St George Hanover Square where he was eligible to vote. Until 1832, most voters were freeholders and others who could meet property requirements so Josias must have been doing alright for himself.

He also appears in the Land Tax Records between 1795 and 1800 where he was resident in Chelsea and his proprietor was the Lord of the Manor. One record mentions Lower Sloane Street. This area was newly built at that time and was not far from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. The area was redeveloped in the 1870s-1890s and none of the original buildings remain.

Josias died at Cowley Street, Westminster, in 1812, a stones throw away from The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey. His burial service took place on 13th December at St John the Evangelist in nearby Smith Square but the church was never used for burials. Instead, the church's burial ground is situated around the corner in Horseferry Road and is designated St John's Gardens. The remaining grave-slabs, now much eroded, are arranged around the perimeter of the garden and it's not known whether one bears the name of Josias Harley.

Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)
Cowley Street, Westminster, where Josias Harley died (Google Street View)

Next time, I go in search of Josias' parents.

References used for background information:
BBC Bitesize
The Huguenot Society

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Category: Ancestors Corner

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