Friday, 24 November 2017


 James Foskett was born in the Finsbury area of London on 15 August 1768.  He was the fifth and youngest known child of Samuel Foskett and Anne Knight, although one brother, Nicholas, died before James was born.  The other siblings were Ann, Harriot and Samuel.  I don’t know what happened to Ann or Harriot.  James was baptised on 11 September 1768 at the parish church of St Bride’s Fleet Street, a beautiful church in central London, famous for its wedding cake steeple.

St Brides Chrurch c. 1825, from The Project Gutenberg EBook
 of The Every-day Book and Table Book, v. 1 (of 3), by William Hone

I don’t know anything definite about James Foskett’s childhood, although given that his father, Samuel, was a leather dresser, a smelly manual job, and his grandfather, Nicholas Foskett, was a butcher, it is likely that he spent much time in some of the less savoury parts of London’s east and south, where such unsavoury trades tended to be consigned.

By the time James was nineteen years old, it appears that he was not a well behaved young man.  In October 1787, his Grandfather Nicholas Foskett wrote a codicil to his will, disinheriting James, who had been going to inherit a butcher’s cart.  In the codicil, Nicholas said “my grandson James Foskett… conducted himself with so much disrespect toward me that I do not consider him thereby deserving of the legacy.”  I would love to know what James did or did not do to upset his Grandfather.  The legacy instead went to Nicholas’s wife, Mary, James’s step-grandmother.  As there were no further codicils, it appears unlikely that James made up with his Grandfather before Nicholas died in 1792.

Less than a year after the codicil was written, at the age of 20, James appears to have run off to the wilds of Essex, with a much older woman, Judith Gravett, who was about 32 years old.  They married in Leyton on 29 September 1788.

In January 1789, James Foskett became a Freeman of the city of London, joining the Leather Sellers Guild by patrimony, meaning he was entitled to join because his father, Samuel, was a guild member.  However, through the 1790’s James appears to have worked as a porter.

James and Judith’s first child, Samuel James Foskett was born less than a year after they were married, on 11 July 1789.  Samuel was baptised a month later on 12 August at St Mary’s, Whitechapel, at which time the family’s place of abode was given as “Roadside”.  Roadside was an actual location and did not imply that they were homeless.

Probably around 1790, the family moved to Southwark on the other side of the Thames where many butchers and leather workers, the family occupations, plied their trades.  Of James and Judith’s other children, James (b. 1790) was baptised in St Saviour’s, Southwark in 1799 and Catherine (b. 1792, my ancestor) is recorded in the 1851 census as being born in Southwark.  Catherine was baptised in 1803 in St Leonard’s Shoreditch, so by then the family had moved back north of the river.

I don’t know of any other children but given that two children were not baptised as infants, there may have been others who were not baptised at all.  Also, Foskett is also a challenging name to research as it is often transcribed incorrectly or was originally written with an alternative spelling (or both).

James’ brother Samuel died early in 1804 and mentioned James in his will.  So by 1804, James and his two sons were the only surviving male heirs of Grandfather Nicholas Foskett that I know of.
Mary Foskett, James’ step-grandmother died later in 1804 and left a legacy to James in her will.  She describes James as a butcher from Whitechapel.  Whatever caused the rift with his grandfather must have been forgiven by his grandfather’s wife.  

The next record I have of James Foskett is in January 1824.  At that time, James had become ill and couldn’t work, so he needed support from the parish for him and his wife.  They were living in the parish of St Leonard’s Shoreditch at the time, but a Settlement Examination proved that they belonged to the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate due to having rented rooms there for more than a year nine years earlier (about 1813).  

Prior to 1948 in England, Parishes were responsible for welfare and everyone belonged to a parish either because they were born there or had other strong ties to that parish.  That parish was responsible for providing relief and if people fell on hard times after moving away, they could be returned to the parish that was responsible for their welfare.

I have no further record of James Foskett.  His wife, Judith, died in the workhouse at Cock & Hoop Yard in the parish of St Botolph’s without Aldgate in 1829.  By this time, they had at least 10 grandchildren.

A curious note: these Foskett ancestors on my mother’s side of the family were living in the same parish (St Botolph’s without Aldgate) at the same time as my paternal Blake ancestors.  Perhaps they even knew each other.

Notes on lineage: Me > Mum > John Macdonald Charley > Walter George Charley > John Joseph Charley > Catherine Thompson > Catherine Foskett > James Foskett