Spitalfields, Middlesex Genealogy
"SPITALFIELDS (Christchurch), a parish, in the union of Whitechapel, Tower division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex; containing 20,436 inhabitants. This parish, which is situated in the north-eastern part of the metropolis, was anciently called Lolsenorth Field, and appears to have been selected as a place of sepulture by the Romans, during their occupation of London. On breaking up the ground in 1576, for clay to make bricks, numerous urns containing ashes and burnt bones were discovered, in each of which was a brass coin of the emperor reigning at the time of the interment. Among the coins were some of Claudius, Vespasian, Nero, Antoninus Pius, and Trajan; and vials, glasses, and pottery of red earth, were also found, with various other relics of Roman antiquity. The present name of the parish is derived from a priory of canons of the Augustine order, and an hospital for poor brethren, entitled "the New Hospital of our Lady without Bishopsgate," founded in the year 1197, by Walter Brune, citizen, and afterwards sheriff, of London, and Roesia his wife. The establishment continued to flourish till the Dissolution, when its revenue, according to Dugdale, was estimated at £478. 6. 6. From the time of the Reformation it was the custom for a bishop, a dean, and a doctor of divinity, to preach a sermon each upon the Resurrection, on the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in Easter-week, in a pulpit cross in the churchyard of the priory. During the protectorate of Cromwell the practice was discontinued, and the cross destroyed; but the sermons, called the "Spital Sermons," were revived after the restoration of Charles II., and preached in the parochial church of St. Bride, Fleet-street. They are now delivered before the lord mayor and aldermen of the city, at Christchurch, Newgate-street. Undistinguished by any important features for many years, Spitalfields at length became the seat of the silk manufacture, originally established at Canterbury and other towns by the refugees who, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz in the reign of Louis XIV., found an asylum in England. From this time it began to increase, and it is now one of the most populous districts in the metropolis.
The parish was originally a hamlet in Stepney, from which it was separated by act of parliament in 1729. In Church-street and several other streets are some spacious and well-built houses; the other parts are inhabited chiefly by weavers and persons connected either immediately or remotely with the silk manufacture, who work in their own dwellings. Many firms in the trade employ from 200 to 1500 persons each; and including the adjacent parishes of Bethnal-Green and Shoreditch, and the hamlet of Mile-End New Town and its neighbourhood, not less than 15,000 looms are at work, affording occupation to more than 50,000 persons, exclusively of those engaged in other departments of the trade, which, in all its branches, is computed to employ from 130,000 to 150,000 in the district. The principal articles made are broad silks and plain and figured velvets of the best quality; and connected with the manufacture are numerous dyeing establishments, some of them on a large scale. In Brick-lane is the very extensive ale and porter brewery of Messrs. Truman, Hanbury and Buxton. A soap-manufactory in Wheler-street employs about 40 persons; and there are manufactories of harp and violin strings, violins and double basses, and materials for colouring spirits and vinegar. In Montague-street is a timber-yard with a great assortment of fancy mahogany and rosewood veneers; and in Bell-lane is a large timber and building yard. The market, principally for fruit and vegetables, has been for many years in high reputation for the supply of potatoes.
The living is a rectory not in charge; net income, £445; patrons, the Principal and Fellows of Brasenose College, Oxford, who pay a stipend of £120 to the curate. The church, built in 1729, under the provisions of the act of parliament in the reign of Anne, is a stately and massive structure in the Roman style, with a tower surmounted by a pyramid of rather cumbrous appearance. On the north side of the chancel is a monument by Flaxman to Sir Robert Ladbroke, Knt., lord mayor of London, whose statue in his civic robes, with the sword and mace lying at his feet, is finely executed in marble; and on the south side is a monument to Edward Peek, Esq., one of the commissioners for building the 50 new churches in the reign of Anne, and who laid the first stone of this edifice. Sir George Wheler's chapel, in Chapel-street, was built by that gentleman for the accommodation of his tenants, previously to the erection of the parochial church, and for many years after continued in the family, and was subsequently purchased by the Tillards, whose lands were contiguous to those of the founder. It is a proprietary episcopal chapel, now in the patronage of the Rev. Richard Tillard. In Spital-square is a church dedicated to St. Mary, in the gift of the Trustees of Hyndman's Bounty. There are places of worship for Independents, Wesleyans, and Calvinistic Methodists.
The parochial school was founded in 1708, and is endowed with benefactions amounting to £241 per annum. A national school was built in Quaker-street, in 1819, at a total expense of £3300, for the reception of 1000 children; in the boys' room divine service is performed every Sunday evening by the rector. On the opposite side of the street is an infants' school, established in 1820. In Wood-street is the Protestant Dissenters' charity school, instituted in 1717, by subscription, for 50 boys and 50 girls; the house is substantially built, with a good garden behind, and in one of the lower rooms is a library, with a philosophical apparatus, for the members of the Eastern Mechanics' Institute, who hold their meetings here. In Bell-lane is the Jews' free school, originally founded in 1818 for 270 boys, and rebuilt on a larger scale in 1820."¹
"Christ Church Spitalfields, the church of, is situated on the south side of Church Street, Spitalfields, directly facing the eastern end of Union Street, Bishopsgate Without. The district called Spitalfields derives its name from having been built upon the fields and grounds belonging to St Mary's Spital, and was formerly a hamlet in the parish of Stepney; but from the great increase of inhabitants, arising from the settlement of the persecuted French Protestants, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz[ sic], by Louis XIV, within its precincts, it was made, in the year 1723, a distinct parish under its present name.
This church is one of the fifty new churches ordered to be built by act of parliament, in the reign of Queen Anne. It was began in 1723, by Nicholas Hawksmore, the favourite pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, and was finished in 1729. It is a substantial edifice, built of stone, with a lofty spire over a Doric portico... The interior is 111 feet in length, eighty-seven in breadth, and thirty-four in height.
The church is made a rectory, but is not to be held in commendam; it is in the diocses of London, in the county of Middlesex, but exempt from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon..."²
1. Samuel Lewis, ed. A Topographical Dictionary of England 159-164. (London: S. Lewis and Co., 1848), Online here, (accessed: 03 May 2010). Adapted.
2. James Elmes, M.R. I. A., Architect. In “A Topographical Dictionary of London and its Envirions,” (London: Whittaker, Treacher and Arnot, 1831).
Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.
To find the names of the neighbouring parishes, use England Jurisdictions 1851. In this site, search for the name of the parish, click on the location "pin", click Options and click List contiguous parishes.
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Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Middlesex Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.
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