Cornwall, Nottingham and Normandy: the Eddowes family story

Text by Ric Lander, 2023, from census data, parish records, the Record of Births, Marriages and Deaths, and family notes. Sections in quotation marks are from interviews with Muriel Eddowes, conducted by Pat Lander.

This is the story of my maternal Grandparents’ family, the Eddowes, and it begins with the Goodman family bible. The book was a bought by Joseph Goodman, who was baptised on 2nd February 1798 at the church of St Gluvias the Martyr in Cornwall and some of its pages, adorned with beautiful cursive script, are still in the family.

All my Goodman ancestors were born, married and died in Cornwall. Their lives spanned the county’s breadth, from Penzance to Quethiock. None of the family appeared to leave it. They had a variety of jobs like milling, candle-making, curing leather, and dealing in potatoes. Many of the women did not learn to write, signing their marriage certificates with a cross.

There is a family legend, passed down by my Granny, that the Goodmans held a tea party for Charles Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, when he was preaching in Cornwall. There’s no mention of the family in his diaries but Wesley certainly did preach in their village of Penryn in 1744, so it’s quite plausible.

Joseph Goodman, who bought the family bible, had a granddaughter Elizabeth, who married into somewhat wealthier stock, The records show that Elizabeth’s father-in-law, James Kent, was an annuitant, i.e. living off an inheritance. Nonetheless, perhaps because James had four older siblings as well as a twin sister, Sibella, the young James was sent to London at 14 to be apprenticed to a clothes firm. James arrived at Cook and Sons in 1862, labouring at their warehouse directly opposite St Paul’s cathedral. He was paid in food and shelter, and slept under the warehouse counters.

Whether they met in London as fellow Cornish migrants – or were childhood sweethearts – the records do not show, but James and Elizabeth married back at home in Cornwall in September 1871. They then left Cornwall forever, making a new life in Edmonton, Middlesex. My Granny tells that couldn’t stay in Cornwall due to the “lack of work”, choosing a path that millions of folk from rural England trod in the 19th century.

The family bible travelled to London too. Joseph gave the bible to Elizabeth, his Granddaughter, perhaps it was a wedding gift. Elizabeth, known as “the boss” of the family, kept detailed records in its pages, including the exact time each child was born.

From Edmonton they moved to Finsbury Park and then to the fashionable suburb of Winchmore Hill. They had a second home in Raleigh, Essex and enough to spare to help their daughter Ethel buy her own home “as a wedding present”. How they became so wealthy is not at all clear and something I will keep researching.

Elizabeth and James employed a resident housemaid, Maud, who was paid “30 shillings a week plus food and uniform”. Maud was well known to my parents to joined family socials for many years after her retirement.

Elizabeth and James’s first daughter, Minnie, was prevented from taking a job. Instead expected to “stay at home and keep house.” Their youngest daughter, Ethel, however, did go out to work. She worked at Spicers, a papermaking company, where she was reportedly the first woman to become a clerk. Ethel was a Methodist, a tradition likely inherited from her Cornish mother. She met and fell in love with one Charles William Bourdon at Spicers, and Charles would later convert to Methodism upon their marriage.

Unlike most of my ancestors, Charles Bourdon’s family were not newcomers to Victorian London: they were an older London family going back many generations.

Charles’ Great Grandfather, Phillip Bourdon, was variously a weaver, violin-string maker and fishmonger born in Spittalfields. His mother, Jane, died in Hackney after sustaining injuries from being hit by a brewery truck – an accident that the Coroner’s report tells us also took down a Punch and Judy show. Her father-in-law Daniel Bourdon was married secretly at ‘marriage shop‘ in Mayfair and born in Threadneedle Street on 26th August, 1727, when London’s population was less than 10% of what it is today.

As we search back further in time though, the trail turns away from London, away from England in fact. Daniel was baptised at the ‘French Church’ on Threadneedle Street, the church where his parents were married, and his father, also named Daniel, spent the last year of his life being cared for in London’s French Hospital. The hospital was for Huguenots: French religious refugees, and the records show that Daniel Snr. was born in France, his parents, Salomon and Marie, from Croisy, Normandy. We don’t know if Salomon and Marie escaped France, or sent the young Daniel to England on his own to make a new life for himself.

Their story survives thanks to the longevity of their distinctly French surname, Bourdon, and the record keeping of the Huguenot Museum in Kent, who uncovered these records for mother, Aunt, and cousin Gary.

Daniel’s story of escape from France was nearly two centuries old when his Great Great Great Great Grandchild Charles Bourdon married Ethel Kent in Hackney, London, 1905.

Once married Charles and Ethel bought a house of their own, helped by Ethel’s parents, Elizabeth and James Kent, on condition that they didn’t live too far away. They had two children, Mary and Muriel.

Muriel, my Granny, became an Eddowes after marriage, a name which appears to be of Nottinghamshire origin.

For much of the middle part of the 19th century George Eddowes lived in the centre of Nottingham with his wife Sarah and four children. He was a solicitor and worked in the practice ‘Wise & Eddowes’ based in rooms round the corner, a profession in which he attempted to apprentice his sons. That apparently didn’t work out, because in later years his son William was running a greengrocers with his wife Anne, of Lincolnshire origin. Their son Walter, around the same time as the Goodmans and Kents were doing in Cornwall, made the jump to migrate to London, where he met his wife Caroline and became a railway clerk, a job his son Richard would take up too.

Richard Eddowes “held a grudge” against his wife Kate on account of the fact that she kept it to herself that she was born out of wedlock. Kate’s father, one John Pavey from Whitechapel, left Kate’s mother Kezia after she was born. What became of him we can’t tell. Kezia went on to marry a man called William from Pembrokeshire (another immigrant to London) and they ran a coffeehouse together not far from the Regent’s Canal. They had two children of their own and Kate lived as one of the family. Apparently Richard only learned of this when he saw his wife’s father’s surname on the marriage certificate.

Richard and Kate had just one child, Ken, who met my Granny, Muriel, in the late 1920s, perhaps on trips to her Cornish Grandparent’s who still lived in Winchmore Hill, not far from Ken’s home.

Muriel was certainly attached to the area. She recalled picking violets and primroses on the railway embankment and waving at the train drivers. Her father Charles took her for her first ice cream at a fate in nearby Broomfield Park. She remembers telling him “Put It away. I don’t like – it’s cold!” Her Grandparents’ home had a beautiful garden and her Grandma Elizabeth, still very much the “family boss”, would insist on them joining for Christmas dinner. In the house was a very special piece of furniture they had brought from Cornwall. It was reputedly the very chair that Charles Wesley had sat in to take tea upon visiting the Goodmans, nearly 200 years prior.

Ken and Muriel went for walks and motorcycle rides together in the countryside around North London. They were active in the same Methodist chapel in Finsbury Park: Muriel running the Sunday school and Ken playing the organ. They organised trips to the country and after they married Ken made the decision they would move to a place they’d first visited on a church day out: Cuffley, Hertfordshire. Together they opened a tea shop, ‘Rovers’, in the village and so left London behind them.

A few pages of the Goodman family bible were kept in Ken and Muriel’s papers. We’re not sure what became of the rest of the book, but the surviving pages are the enough. Their beautiful script is quite striking and those little details held within, such as the exact hour of the night that children were born, have the power to transport you across the centuries. There’s plenty to explore that their pages don’t tell, such as Ken and Muriel’s own story together, but that deserves a space of its own.

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If you are interested in exploring your family history here are some free and open access sites I would recommend:

Note that the data sets on the above sites is not comprehensive, so you may need to use paid services to fill in the gaps.


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One response to “Cornwall, Nottingham and Normandy: the Eddowes family story”

  1. Gary Joynes avatar
    Gary Joynes

    Wow great piece of research Ric really adds colour to the factual stuff and good to preserve for future

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