Henry Smart (1805 - 1874) & Isabella Margaret Hutson (1807 - 1852)

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Albion Place, Southwark in 1803
Marshalsea,Southwark in 1804
Fire at Albion Mills
Southwark in 1810
London in 1815 showing how South of the Thames is less built up


When Isabella Hutson married Henry Smart in 1828, did she know that half her sons were likely to be haemophiliacs? She was a carrier of the condition and nowadays the laws of genetic inheritance are well understood, but then the condition had not even been named. There was certainly no effective treatment for it, and no-one knew how, and if, it was passed between the generations.

It is very probable that Isabella’s grandfather, Thomas Heathorn, had been a haemophiliac, and that he had died of a haemorrhage. He had been a property owning gardener in rural Surrey and wrote his will only days before he died, close to his thirtieth birthday. It seems that he knew his death was imminent as his will asks his widow to bring up his two daughters, ‘Harratt’ and Mary, neither of whom was yet three years old. He had been left various parcels of land by his father a few years earlier, which he now passed on to his widow, along with the farm implements, straw and manure!

It is not clear whether other members of Thomas’ family were affected by the condition, so Mary, Thomas’ widow, may have been unaware of the problems their daughters might face. As it was, one of them died when she was still very young; but Isabella’s future mother, Harriet, was soon to move to South London as her mother had remarried a leather worker. Each of them would certainly come to know the effects of having haemophiliac sons.

In 1804, when she was twenty-one, Harriet married Thomas Hutson, a baker, and they set up home in Southwark. Bread was eaten by rich and poor alike, so city bakers had a large potential market, but their hours and working conditions were unpleasant. Up very early in the morning and facing high temperatures of over 30C throughout the day and night, life expectancy for many bakers was very low.

Their home was close to the remains of the Albion Mills, the burnt out shell of the building at the Southern end of Blackfriars bridge, which had been built in 1786 using the latest technology. Made of iron rather than wood, it heralded the start of the industrial revolution, and was a great tourist attraction. But five years later it had burned down, many believing the cause to have been arson. Small local millers feared being put out of business and workers such as the weavers in Spitalfields had shown that they were prepared to take direct action against these factories. A contemporary report said that “The mob, who on all such occasions bestir themselves to extinguish a fire with that ready and disinterested activity which characterizes the English, stood by now as willing spectators of the conflagration...” and there was general rejoicing at its fate. The bank of the Thames in Lambeth had contained a large numbers of mills, but they were disappearing, victims of the steam age, so the millers' fears were justified. The focus of the fears, Albion Mills itself, may well have been the inspiration for the ‘dark satanic mills’ of Jerusalem, as its author, William Blake, lived in Lambeth and would have witnessed what it stood for in local eyes.

Millers (and to some extent bakers) were not, in general, popular people and had long been accused of adulterating the flour which led to a large number of deaths through eating poisoned bread. Smollett had described London bread as a ‘deleterious paste mixed up with chalk, alum and bone-ashes, insipid to the taste and destructive to the constitution’ and despite the government banning alum in 1757, and occasionally fining bakers, the thought was that adulteration still continued. Thomas, of course, may have been innocent of such charges. It is also not clear whether he was an employer or a journeyman baker; the former would certainly have had much better conditions. He was always referred to as a ‘baker’ rather than ‘journeyman baker’ and both he and Harriet were literate. The case for owning a bakery is strengthened by the fact that, not long before, her family had been property owners, but they don’t appear to have been any more, and it seems more likely that he worked for someone else.


Isabella was the second of seven children born to John and Harriet in Southwark in the ten years after they married. They were living in Kent Street by the time the last one was born, and may have been there throughout their marriage. Although Southwark was more open that the London on the other side of the bridge, Kent Street was not a pleasant place to live and that, together with the fact that John and Harriet did not pass their literacy on to all their children , including Isabella, suggested that the family had fallen on hard times. It had been an undesirable address for some time but by now it had ‘degenerated into squalid rookeries and thieves' kitchens’. At one end was the Marshalsea prison and until 1814 it had been the main route from London to Dover. The through traffic was removed in that year, which made life a little more pleasant, but it remained a disease ridden place. A father who worked for at least eighteen hours a day and unhealthy surroundings did not make for an idyllic childhood. One of Harriet’s sons was stillborn, and two of her daughters probably died as children - none of which was unusual - but ironically haemophilia had not responsible for any of the early deaths.

When Isabella was about ten or eleven she and the rest of the family, including three younger brothers, moved across the river to Shoreditch. What prompted the move is unknown, but their new home in Brick Lane was little better than their old one. Despite having an established fruit and vegetable market, it had long been the focal point of waves of immigration and would soon become one of the worst slums in London. Shortly after moving, their last child, a younger sister for Isabella was born and her baptismal entry confirms that John was still working as a baker. The last few years had been difficult for bakers: the Napoleonic Wars had meant that no corn would be imported from France, so that bread prices became higher and higher. As the war ended and prices began to fall rapidly, the Corn Laws were brought in by parliament in 1815 to protect the price of corn for the rich farmers. Bread remained a luxury for the poor, so bakers sold less, and weren't making the profits anyway.

Throughout all this Isabella's younger brother John was suffering the consequences of being haemophiliac. His condition would nowadays be classed as moderate/severe, so days could go by without any discomfort; but any internal bleed was potentially fatal, and regular bleeding into his ankle and knee joints would already be causing permanent damage and discomfort. Perhaps surprisingly he lived into his sixties, initially as the only one of his siblings to follow in his father's footsteps as a baker, but later as a shirtdresser when the work became too difficult. As a thirty year old he married a widow, ten years older than himself, with young children, so they would have been able to support each other; but even in his early married life, John's niece lived with them to look after him, and later they had a housekeeper.

Long before this, when John was only twelve, Isabella married Henry Smart in Shoreditch, near where Henry's family were weavers, and where his father, another Henry, had been born. [1] Both Henry and his younger sister were born in St Botolph's in the city, but the family clearly struggled and his father was buried in the local workhouse in 1817 when he was only thirty-three (and Henry's sister not even ten). [2] After his father's death Henry's mother appears to have taken the family back to Shoreditch, as there is a reference to a widow called Charlotte Smart living there in 1829, a year after Isabella and Henry had married nearby.

Commercial Road looking less busy than was probably the case

Henry was variously described as a cordwainer and shoemaker in the censuses, which meant that he worked with new leather (making shoes) whereas cobblers worked with old leather (repairing shoes). Shoes formed an important part of a fashionable Londoner's dress, but Stepney was not a fashionable area of London, so Henry's shoes were probably aimed at the ordinary working man. For the first years of their marriage they lived in Globe Fields, in Stepney, close to the Wesleyan burial ground, where, in 1831, they buried their eldest son just before his second birthday. Why they chose a non-conformist burial is unknown (beyond the obvious reason of proximity), as all their children were baptised in the usual way; although Isabella herself was buried in a Congregationalist burial ground. Whether Henry, their son, had died as a result of haemophilia rather than one of the many other conditions which affected children at the time isn't know, but we do know that at least two of the surviving children born to Isabella over the next nine years were haemophiliac, both of whom later died of prolonged internal haemorrhages.

As the family grew, they moved around within Stepney which was becoming one of the most overcrowded areas in London. The Smarts always lived surrounded by other tradesmen and craftsmen, rather than in the streets crammed full with the poorest Londoners, including the increasing number of foreign immigrants who saw London as a honeypot. There must have been problems, such as dealing with the regular bleeds that John and Alfred (christened as Frederick, but always called Alfred) suffered, but life appeared straightforward until 1852 when Isabella died of a weak heart ('dropsy phthisis'). She was buried in the Wycliffe Congregational church nearby, for reasons unknown; and it is then very unclear what happened to Henry. The children had reached the age they could survive by themselves, with Emma, the youngest, already a teenager. In 1861 they can all be found in the area, most married and the rest living together; but Henry is nowhere to be seen. Ten years later he has resurfaced nearby, apparently married to his second wife, Ann; but there is no evidence for this marriage so the suspicion is that they never did. By then Alfred had died of a ten hour intestinal bleed. He had been working as a clerk in a fruit warehouse, so perhaps physical labour was too hard for him and he left behind a widow (who remarried) and a very young daughter. Henry himself lived only another three years, dying in 1874.

References

  1. Henry's father's was either baptised in 1782 or 1785, but in either case the father was a weaver
  2. We can't be certain that the Henry who died in 1817 is the same man, but the dates/ages/circumstances fit well