In this week’s Ancestor Spotlight, we meet my maternal 3x Great-Grandfather James Dugdale Edghill.
James Dugdale Edghill was born 26th January 1854 to Samuel Dugdale Edghill and Pleasance Anderson. At the time of his birth, the family resided at 32 Clarence Street, Rotherhithe.
His father’s occupation is listed as Lighterman. Lightermen worked on the River Thames, carrying goods and cargo from large ships to the wharfs. They were masters of their craft and had to spend seven years as an apprentice to learn how to properly operate the barges.
In 1861, James still resided on Clarence Street, but the family appeared to have moved up several houses to number 39 to live with his grandmother, Ann Edghill. Ann was his paternal grandmother and had been widowed in 1855 when her husband James Robert Edghill died. James also resided with his father, mother and sister Sarah.
The 24th April 1868 was a big day for James. He followed in his ancestors’ footsteps and signed an agreement to become an apprentice to John William Talbot, a local shipwright.
It is interesting to note that his address was listed as 32 Clarence Street in this document, suggesting the family had moved back to their original house. The length of apprenticeships for many of the occupations on the Thames (boat building, lighterman etc) was seven years. The Talbot family owned a successful barge building business that was passed down through the generations. Talbots Bros were based at 292 Rotherhithe Road, very close to where James was living. James’ master, John William Talbot, was one of the grandsons of Robert Talbot, the founder of the Talbot Barge Building business. In 1841, James’s grandfather, James Edghill, lived on the same street (Clarence Street) as John William Talbots uncle, Thomas Talbot. Thomas Talbot worked at the barge building business with his father and siblings. This family connection may have made it easier for the younger James to have gotten an apprenticeship with the company.
In 1871, the family had moved back into 39 Clarence Street. His grandmother Ann died in 1870 and this may have been a reason they moved back to number 39. James was listed as a barge builder apprentice and would have been approximately halfway through his apprenticeship with the Talbots.
In between the number 32 and number 39 Clarence Street houses stood the Lord Nelson Pub at 35 Clarence Street. Public houses were a community hub in Victorian London and many of the dockyard workers would have spent their evenings there after a long, hard day. As of 2013, the pub still stood as the Lord Nelson, located at 68 Canon Beck Road, Rotherhithe.
As James followed in his father’s footsteps and began working in the shipyards, their home on Clarence Street was in the ideal location. As seen in the attached map from 1863, Clarence Street (marked with a red line on the left side of the map) was located between the huge Grand Surrey Docks and the banks of the Thames River.
James married Hannah Amelia ‘Annie’ Dare on 18th July 1875 at St George the Martyr in Southwark.
In 1881, James and Annie were living at 25 Beatrice Road, Bermondsey with their two children, Annie (4 years old) and James (2 years old). James was now a fully qualified Barge Builder, although it is not known if he was still working for the Talbots. As the Talbots were located right on the banks of the Thames, he may have been working at a different dockyard, closer to his home. The family were also sharing their house with another family – Albert Bentley (an Iron Merchants Yard Foreman), his wife and four children.
By 1891, the Edghills had moved again – this time to Deptford, an area just to the south of Rotherhithe. They lived at 49 Rectory Buildings, a block of flats on Crossfield Lane. The family had grown in size with the addition of four sons – William (11 years), Albert (9 years), Henry (4 years) and Samuel (1 years). James was still working as a Barge Builder and his location on Crossfield Lane would have been ideal for working at the industrial area on Deptford Creek.
According to the Booth Poverty Map (created between 1886-1903), Crossfield Street was listed as a combination of “Very poor, casual. Chronic want” (dark blue) and “Poor. 18s to 21s a week for a moderate family” (light blue). Many dock workers struggled to support their large families on meager wages.
According to Electoral records, the family lived at the Rectory Buildings until 1893. There is no electoral roll for James in 1894, however in 1895, he is registered as living at 6 Pender Street, Deptford.
In 1901, the family is still listed as living at 6 Pender Street. As shown in the map above, this was very close to their previous address, and would again be a good location for working on Deptford Creek, as James was still working as a Barge Builder. Since the last census, two more children had been born – Elizabeth (8 years) and Alice (6 years), but the couple’s two oldest children, Annie and James, had moved out. The family lived at Pender Street until 1907 when they moved to 5 Hughes Field, Deptford.
James died on 27th February 1909 of Intestinal Obstruction and Heart failure – his son Joseph William was present at his death at Guys Hospital. He was buried on 6 March 1909 in Nunhead Cemetery, Southwark.