Sunday, 13 November 2011

About as close as I'll come....

Tree-lined artisan streets where my Grandad and his Grandad made fine furniture from Cuban mahogany, English Walnut and marquetry. Feather banding, cross banding and boxwood stringing with ebony highlights and selling it to the likes of Liberty's and Heal's. A shop on the ground floor, living on the two floors above and a workshop in the garden. Perfect. Thank heavens there are a few of these left to show us how it used to be and that it wasn't all bad for a man with a trade. Not everywhere was like it of course, but that's life.

This was really all I wanted to find I suppose. Kind folks confirmed my family's place back 200 years. No Irish connection within sensible memory liked I'd hoped to find, who wouldn't, but confirmation instead of a family who, on all fronts are resolutely East End, artisans all and well found for the most part born within sound of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, London.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Who do we think we are?

With a lot of interest in genealogy thanks to programmes on the telly about it, I thought it might be time to try my hand at it.

Unfortunately it costs an arm and a leg through sites like and more than I could afford.
I joined a suitable forum asking if it could be done for nothing, but apparently not. However, a couple of very helpful souls decided to have a look for me and have taken me back to 1808 on all four branches.
My aunt has also passed on the Rozee side which she found back to 1750! That's 20 years before Nelson!

But what has astonished me most of all is that every single one of my antecedents hailed from a tiny area of London right back, even to the Pre-Nelson Rozees! With a couple of forays into East and West Ham, still regarded as "East End" by most, they all, every single one of four separate families, came from Bethnal Green. It seems almost impossible to believe that four disparate families, the Rozees, the Simmons, the Fields and the Darlingtons all were born in, mainly married and most died and buried in tiny Bethnal Green.
I immediately tried to find the streets where they were born, but all are gone. Either bombed in the War and cleared or cleared under so-called slum clearance, which, from what I can see means knocking down perfectly good Victorian houses and putting up Jerry built modern slums, devoid of character, planning or architectural merit of any kind. Some of the new streets and rows bear a form of the original names, but none seem to be unaffected by Hitler's or or Tower Hamlets council's vandalism.
Only one address in East Ham remains.

It's well known that the East End, more than any other area in London was the favoured destination of immigrants in waves. First the Huguenot weavers in the late 17th century, then Jews from mainly Eastern Europe, then Irish escaping the worst of what England was always throwing at them and more recently the Bangladeshi influx. It is the latest which has changed the area more than the others who at least more or less integrated. Their look, their dress and most of all their complete resistance to integration due to their inflexible religious attitudes. It is the cause of many disputes all over the country and will not improve.
And so, the old East End, recognisable for centuries, is now lost, not helped by the appalling style of piecemeal housing the "authorities" have thrown up when they should have thrown it out.

And don't tell me the previous immigrants didn't integrate. My grandmother learned to speak fluent Yiddish to talk to her co-workers in the Lloyds cigarette factory and they were so impressed they asked her to teach them English. Nan kept that ability all her life and would delight my Dad's Jewish friends with her ability to converse with them in the tongue of the diaspora.
And don' tell me Cockney rhyming slang is an imaginary thing, because my dad spoke it all the time as did his brothers, his Dad and all our wider London family who were resolute East Enders right into my late teens, when, alas, we lost touch as people do, to their cost.

I knew my Dad was born under the sound of Bow Bells, but I never realised the entire family back to 1750 were Cocknies as well! For anyone born in that area could be truly considered a Cockney.
Now I'm off fer a cuppa Rosie and a currant wad.