It’s time to talk about the Huguenots… Part Two

Well, this is a big subject with a lot of ramifications! Apart from anything else, the present database contains over 300 people descended from Mathieu and Ester Mocquard – and that’s only the line through their eldest child, John (Jean Enry)! The line from their second child, Ester, is fairly well-established and is available online, but it seemed too massive an undertaking to incorporate it as it would very likely double the contents of the database – if not more. As for their third child, in a way he is the most interesting of all – although not to posterity, as he died unmarried and as far as we know did not father any children. He did, however, have a brief but fascinating career at sea, aboard HMS Cambridge, which I suspect he may also have helped to build as she was laid down at Deptford near where he lived. His name was Daniel, and he is the first in a series of Daniel Mocards/Macords whose brothers were very often called John. Daniel will, at some point, merit a post all of his own.

Given that families in those days tended to be larger, it’s quite possible that there were other siblings that we have not yet been able to identify – or, sadly, who were born and died in rapid succession without making much of a mark upon the world. For the time being, it is probably wise to assume that John, Ester and Daniel were the only ones who survived to adulthood. Similarly we have, so far, no information about the dates of death of Mathieu and Ester, although we suspect this information probably is available somewhere.

So, for now, let’s follow the first John Macord – also known as Jean and Jonathan. He was born in 1721 and baptised at the French Protestant church in Soho Square. He earned his living as a butcher, and was married at the Fleet Prison or thereabouts in 1748 to a woman named Ann or Agnes Gandey or Gander; their eldest child – another John, of course – was born in 1749 and baptised as St. George’s in the East which became the family church for many generations to follow. Whether in that case they can still be described as ‘Huguenots’ is a moot point, but they certainly remained staunchly Protestant!

We do not know for certain where they lived at this time; however in later years the family lived at a house on Old Gravel Lane which had been built a few years earlier in what was then a semi-rural area. Given that succeeding generations of Macords were deeply involved in house-building and buying, selling and letting property, it might be possible to conclude that the first John (the butcher) built his own house before he married Anne – and it was no doubt his place of business, too.

Again, although families at the time were often larger, we have firm evidence for only three children from John and Anne’s marriage – John II, Margaret, and Mary. John II was born in 1750 and in about 1770 he married a lady named Ann of whom we have no further details at the moment. They had five children, beginning with another Ann in 1771, at which point they lived in Pennington Street and John II earned his living as a carpenter and undertaker. I like to think that he, or another member of the family, may have made coffins for the victims of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders.

John II’s wife Ann seems to have died before 1785, and so did their son (yet another John!) who could not have been more than five or six years old. Subsequently John II married Mary Armstrong; the connection between the Macord and Armstrong families goes back at least to the first Daniel, the mariner who served aboard HMS Cambridge; Francis Armstrong was one of his shipmates and to judge by the fact that their enlistment numbers are only two digits apart it seems likely that they had been boyhood friends and/or workmates in Deptford and had signed up together in the Navy in search of adventure and booty!

Without wishing to complicate things further at this stage, I’ll conclude today by saying that John II moved into the house at Old Gravel Lane – presumably built by his father – in 1777. He continued the family tradition of building and owning properties, among others a small development of four houses and one workshop or outhouse between Choppins Court and King Street, very close to the St George’s Workhouse. This was in the part of London later excavated to make way for an extension to the docks; a canal between Shadwell Basin and Spirit Quay now runs through this area.

No pictures or descriptions of Macord’s Rents have yet been traced, but ‘rents’ at the time are best summed up as small and no doubt dark individual rooms opening onto a gallery or landing such as the wretched dwellings described by Charles Dickens in ‘Little Dorrit’. They would all have shared a privy and had to use a nearby pump for water. The only rational conclusion to form from this is that the Macords – who may have had many fine qualities otherwise – were at this time almost certainly slum landlords and were contributing to the poverty and wretchedness of London’s underclasses rather than doing very much to alleviate them.

On which note, we will step aside here and return with the next generation of Macords in a few days’ time.

This picture (source unknown) shows the rough present-day location of Macord’s Rents.


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