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

So, let’s recap. June’s 5x great-grandfather was Mathieu Mocquard, occupation unknown, who married Ester Michelle. Her 4x great-grandfather was the first John Macord, who was a butcher but who also potentially started the family’s ‘property empire’; he married Ann or Agnes Gandey. Her 3x great-grandfather was the next John Macord, carpenter and undertaker, 1749-1816. His first wife was also named Ann, but further details are elusive; however June is descended from him through his second wife, Mary Armstrong, via the second Daniel Macord, 1792-1835, who started life as a carpenter but by 1822 had become a publican and victualler. He was in fact the earliest (so far) traceable licensee of the Horse Shoe public house in Grange Road, Bermondsey, an establishment which existed for over a hundred and twenty years before eventually being bulldozed; a block of flats known as ‘Trocette Mansions’ is now on the same site. Daniel and his wife Mary Smith (such an easy name to trace in records!) had four daughters – Mary, Rachel, Sarah and Lydia, as well as a baby son who died at five months old.

Daniel the victualler seems also to have gone in for property owning and management, although there is no clear evidence of him having done any of the actual construction; it’s far more likely that he just bought, sold and managed existing property. Unlike previous generations, however, Daniel’s holdings extended south of the river; as well as the Horse Shoe he also owned – or at least insured – two adjacent properties, one of which was an oil chandler’s yard. This sounds like an uncomfortable neighbour to have, and a good insurance policy was no doubt considered a necessity!

Daniel’s will – proved in February 1835, although the precise date of his death is still unknown – distributes a lot of silver spoons, plates, ‘milk pots’ etc., as well as two magnificent-sounding watches – one gold, one ‘engine-turned’, which in those days would have been a luxury item indeed. Given the history of engine-turning as a craft, there is a good chance that this watch – left to his eldest daughter, Mary – was of Huguenot work and may very possibly have been a family heirloom. It was certainly considered superior to the gold watch bequeathed to his second daughter, as she also had her late mother’s ‘gold hair ornaments and trinkets’ as well as a ring, brooch and earrings, to make up for the deficit. (Her mother, Mary, had died in 1833 at roughly forty years of age.) Clearly, victualling in Bermondsey in those days was a lucrative business – albeit probably very hard work, and in one of the less desirable areas of London.

Daniel’s second daughter Rachel was deaf, which is revealed in the census entries relating to her. In one, her name is actually given as ‘Rachua’, which may indicate the way she spoke – i.e. slightly indistinctly – which in turn possibly indicates that she had been hearing impaired from birth, or a very early age. She married John Adam Daniel, a customs officer, in 1844, and they had seven children together. Rachel is the most recent ancestor in this line to have borne the Macord surname; Colin Gronow, of the Macord One-Name Study, is descended from her sixth child and third son, Robert Macord Daniel, who was born in 1858, whereas June was the grand-daughter of Rachel’s fourth child and second daughter, Alice Ester Daniel, who was born in 1854. Alice married William Augustus Baker in 1882 and was the mother of the ‘Baker bunch’ as described extensively elsewhere on this blog.

And this is where we end our present brief sojourn in the company of the Huguenots. This is still an area for active investigation, not least because the records are confusing. Huguenot clergy were very keen on making notes of their congregations and tracking their births, marriages and deaths, and most of these records have since found their way into the central archives of The Huguenot Society which goes above and beyond to make this information available to researchers. However, many Huguenot places of worship were short-lived – and language confusion and transcription errors over three centuries or more have resulted in difficulty in matching up family members to one another. Two brothers, for example, who may have married at the same place but a few years apart, could easily be recorded with different surnames, especially in the earlier generations when varying Anglicizations of French surnames tended to be used. The same problems occur with new emigrants to the USA who had to go through Ellis Island, and also with the Chinese-descended population in Australia. Whether or not the immigrant was literate, whoever received them into the new country (where there was a formal process at all) may not have been, or not to the same extent, and names and identities were inevitably lost – in most cases forever. It’s really pure luck if existing records in the country of origin can ever be matched up to members of the immigrant population, and usually the fact of a family having relocated due to political, economic or religious upheaval puts a full stop to any line of enquiry – which is where we are obliged to leave it for now. However, as mentioned in the previous post, Mathieu and Ester had approximately 300 traceable descendants in their son’s line alone, which is plenty for any aspiring genealogists to get their teeth into!


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.

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

Just as we can’t discuss Alec’s (Atkins) family history without involving the fascinating Chinese-Australian line, we can’t really go very far back on June’s (Baker) side before we run into descendants of the Huguenots. In fact, if my deductions are accurate – and that’s a very big ‘if’ at this stage, and may always remain so – June’s 5xgreat-grandfather was one Mathieu Mocquard, born in about 1695 at Lille, Nord Pas-Du-Calais, France. This man was married to a certain Ester Michelle, also of French descent, and they were the parents of at least three children – one of whom was ‘Jean Enry Mocard’, later known as John – or Jonathan – Macord, who was baptised at the French Church in London on 11 December 1721.

Before we go into the implications of the marriage between Mathieu and Ester and the children, grandchildren, etc. who emerged from that union, it’s probably a good idea to take a look at who these people were in the first place, and how they ended up in London at all.

Huguenots were French Protestants, usually members of the Reformed Church of France which in turn owed its origins to adherents of the theologian John Calvin. The origins of the term ‘Huguenot’ itself are disputed, but that isn’t especially relevant to this particular story. What is relevant, however, is that Huguenots in general were despised and persecuted by the Catholic majority in France – perhaps most destructively on the occasion of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 23-24 August 1572, as a result of which up to 5,000 people are believed to have been killed.

As in England and elsewhere at this particular period of history, different rulers had different religious leanings – even when they were members of the same family, like the half-sisters Mary and Elizabeth Tudor – and sought to impose these upon their subjects. Thus a new king could reverse the policy of his predecessor, and this is what appears to have happened with the Edict of Nantes in April 1598, which granted freedom of worship to French Protestants (Huguenots and Lutherans alike). If the French Protestant community relaxed at this news, however, they were to be disillusioned less than a century later when the Edict of Fontainbleau (22 October 1685) was enacted, which revoked the Edict of Nantes and removed their legal protection. The practical outcome of this was that those whose consciences would not allow them to return to the Catholic faith felt obliged to leave France by any means they could – and, because the Huguenots were on the whole hard-working, ingenious and creative people, this exodus has been described as a kind of early brain drain.

Naturally – especially for those who lived near the coast – England, with its restored Protestant monarchy and its thriving links to the New World (itself supposedly a haven of religious freedom), must have seemed like the best place to go. At the very least, being only twenty-one miles away across the Channel, it was probably one of the cheapest to reach. French Protestant Refugees therefore flooded into London, and Mathieu Mocquard was no doubt among them.

Unfortunately it is not possible to make much more than an educated guess about the family’s origins earlier than the birth of Mathieu, and if there is a record of his baptism and his parents’ names anywhere it is no doubt buried in some French archive. (Many of these have vanished over the intervening centuries, though.) However the surname ‘Mocquard’ apparently suggests the trade of moquette-cutting, which would place the family among the ranks of the distinguished artisan silk-workers who were such a major component of the Huguenot refugee community at this time. Many of them gravitated to the Spitalfields area of London, where a house has been converted into a ‘time capsule’ museum portraying how some of the more successful Huguenot refugees lived.

Whether or not Mathieu was a silk weaver – or indeed a moquette cutter – is still unknown. His sons, as far as we are aware, were not – and this perhaps indicates that he was able to get them apprenticeships in other, less overcrowded, lines of business. What London needed then, and what it has always needed and will always need regardless of the era, were builders and coffin-makers. This was how young Jean Enry Mocquard – or John Macord, as he at some stage took to calling himself – chose to earn what turned out to be a very successful living.

But that, as they say, is a story for another time…