Stepney St Dunstan, Middlesex Genealogy

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England  Gotoarrow.png  Middlesex Gotoarrow.png  Middlesex Parishes

See A List of District Churches and Chapels of Ease In Stepney Parish

Parish History

"St Dunstan Stepney, the church of is situated between Whitehorse Lane, Commercial Road, and Stepney Green. Stepney is a very ancient village, and was formerly a considerable distance from London. Stow mentions, that in 1299 a parliament was held at the house of Henry Wallies, Mayor of London, who resided in this village, and here Edward I confirmed the great charter of liberty. it was originally one of the largest parishes in England, and contained within its boundaries, what are now the parishes of St Marylebone, at Stratford, St Mary, Whitechapel, St Anne, Limehouse, St John Wapping, St Paul, Shadwell, St George, Ratcliffe Highway, Christ Church, Spitalfields, and St Matthew, Bethnal Green. All these parishes have been sparated from it, yet it still remains one of the largest within the Bills of Mortality, as it still contains the hamlets of Mile-End Old and New, Ratcliffe and Poplar.

"At what period this ancient church was built is not at present known, but it appears to be a relic of the architecture of the fourteenth century. There was a church here so onlg ago as the time of the Saxons, when it was called the church of All Saints, and we read of the Manor of Stiben-Heath, under the reign of William the Norman; when the church changed its name does not appear. it is a large structure, consisting of a chancel, a nave, and two aisles. At the west end is a plain tower, containing a peal of twelve bells.

"To this church fromerly belonged a rectory and a vicarage, the former was a sincure, and in the gift of the Bishop of London, and the latter in the gift of the rector, till Redley, Bishop of London gave the manor of Stepney, and the advowson of the church to Edward VI, who granted them to Sir Thomas Wentworth, the Lord Chamberlain of his Household. The advowson was afterwards purchased by the principal and scholars of King's Hall and Brasnose College, oxford; they presented two persons to the rectory and vicarage, by the name of the portionists of Ratcliffe and Spitalfields, till the year 1744, when the hamlet of Bethnal Green, being spearated and made a new parish by act of parliament, Stepney became possessed by only one rector... It is a rectory, in the county of Middlesex, in the diocese of London, is exempt from any archdeaconry... There is another church in this parish, called Stepney new Church, that was built partly by subscription, partly at the expense of the patrons of the living, and partly at the expense of his Majesty's Commissioners for building new churches. It is situated at the rear of the London Hospital, near Mile-End... It is a perpetual curacy in the gift of the principal and scholars of Brasenose College, Oxford."¹

"STEPNEY (St. Dunstan and All Saints), a parish, and the head of a union, in the Tower division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex, 2½ miles (E.) from St. Paul's; containing 63,723 inhabitants, of whom 8325 are in the hamlet of Mile-End New Town, 45,308 in Mile-End Old Town, and 10,090 in Ratcliffe. This parish, called in various old records Stebunhithe and Stebenhythe occurs in Domesday Book under the name of Stibenhede, from which its present appellation is obviously deduced. It anciently included a widely-extended district, comprising, in addition to its present parochial limits, the hamlets of Stratford-le-Bow, Limehouse, Poplar and Blackwall, Shadwell, St. George's-in-the-East, Wapping, Spitalfields, Whitechapel, and Bethnal-Green, These, from their increased importance, have been successively separated from it, and at present constitute some of the most populous districts in the metropolis. According to Stowe, Edward I. held a parliament at Stepney, in the mansion of Henry Walleis, mayor of London, when he conferred several valuable privileges on the citizens. The manor was in 1380 annexed to the see of London, and the bishops had a palace called Bishop Hall, now included in the parish of BethnalGreen, in which they continued to reside till 1550, when it was alienated from the see by Bishop Ridley, who gave it to Edward VI. In the rebellion under Jack Cade, in the reign of Henry VI., the insurgents who attacked the metropolis encamped for some time at the hamlet of Mile-End; and in 1642, at the commencement of the parliamentary war, fortifications were constructed in the parish for the defence of the city. From the then pleasantness of its situation, and the beauty of its scenery, which are noticed in a letter from Sir Thomas More to Dean Colet, Stepney was formerly the favourite residence of many persons of distinction...

During part of the seventeenth century, Stepney suffered severely from the ravages of the plague, of which 2978 persons died in the year 1625; and in 1665, not less than 6583. In the course of the latter year, 116 sextons and grave-diggers belonging to the parish died of the plague; and so greatly was the place, then principally inhabited by seafaring men, depopulated, that it is recorded in the Life of Lord Clarendon, that "there seemed an impossibility to procure seamen to fit out the fleet." In July 1794, a calamitous fire, occasioned by the boiling over of a pitch-kettle in a barge-builder's yard, destroyed more than half the hamlet of Ratcliffe, communicated to the shipping in the river, and burnt several ranges of warehouses, among which was one belonging to the East India Company, containing more than 200 tons of saltpetre. Of 1200 houses in the hamlet, only 570 escaped the conflagration; and 36 warehouses, chiefly stored with articles of combustion, were totally consumed. By this dreadful calamity several hundred families were reduced to the utmost distress, deprived of shelter, and made dependent for subsistence on the public benevolence; a subscription was therefore opened at Lloyd's Coffee-house, by which, together with the contributions of thousands who came to visit the extensive ruins, more than £16,000 were collected for the relief of the sufferers.

The parish is situated on the northern bank of the Thames, and chiefly inhabited by persons connected with shipping. It extends for a considerable distance from the river to the principal road leading into Essex, and comprises many handsome ranges of building. The Commercial-road, from Whitechapel to the East and West India docks, passes through it; and the basin, or dock, at the junction of the Regent's canal with the Thames, capable of containing 100 ships, occupies a portion of the east side of the hamlet of Ratcliffe. The parish is paved, lighted with gas, and supplied with water by the East London Company from their works at Old Ford, the reservoir of which, excavated in 1827, and covering ten acres of ground, is situated north of the high road. On the banks of the Regent's canal, which runs under the Mile-End road, are several coal and timber wharfs; and in the hamlets of Mile-End Old and New Towns are some extensive breweries, a large distillery, a floor-cloth manufactory, a factory for tobacco-pipes, and a very spacious nursery-ground. In Ratcliffe are important manufactories for sail-cloth, sails, chain-cables and mooring-chains, steam-engines, and machinery connected with the docks and shipping; also large establishments belonging to coopers for the West India trade, timber and hoop merchants, ship-chandlers, sugar-bakers, rope-makers, and various other trades, for which its situation renders it peculiarly favourable. An act was passed in 1845, enabling the Blackwall Railway Company to make a branch from their line, at Stepney, to Stratford, two miles in length. The market, granted to the inhabitants by Charles II., in 1664, is now held at Whitechapel; the fair bestowed at the same time, originally held on Mile-End green, was removed to Stratford-le-Bow, and subsequently suppressed. Stepney is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who sit at the police-office in Lambeth-street, Whitechapel, for the despatch of business relating to Mile-End; and at the Thames-office, Arbour-square, for the hamlet of Ratcliffe. It is under the control of the metropolitan police establishment. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £73. 6. 8.; net income, £1190; patrons, the Principal and Fellows of Brasenose College, Oxford.

The church is a spacious structure of flint and stone, principally in the later English style, with a low broad tower, strengthened by buttresses, and surmounted by a turret crowned with a small dome. Near the western entrance is a bas-relief, indifferently executed and much decayed, representing the Virgin and Child, with a female figure in the attitude of supplication; and over the south door is a rude sculpture of the Crucifixion, in tolerable preservation. There are many monuments in the building: on the north side of the chancel is the altar-tomb of Sir Henry Colet, under an arched canopy finely groined; and near it a memorial to Benjamin Kenton, Esq., who died in 1800, at the age of 83, bequeathing to different charitable institutions the sum of £63,550. On the east wall is a monument to Lady Dethic; and on the south a tablet to Sir Thomas Spert, Knt., founder and first master of the corporation of the Trinity. The edifice was repaired and beautified in 1828. The churchyard is spacious, and has monuments to numerous distinguished persons, including the Rev. Matthew Mead, who was ejected from the living of Shadwell for nonconformity, and Admiral Sir John Leake, Knt., a brave officer in the reign of Queen Anne. St. Thomas's district church, in Arbour-square, a neat edifice of Suffolk brick, in the early English style, with two octangular turrets, was erected in 1837 by a grant from the Metropolis Church-Buildine Fund, and contains 1100 sittings, of which 500 are free: the living is in the gift of Brasenose College. Other churches are noticed under the heads of Mile-End and Ratcliffe.

There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, the Connexion of the Countess of Huntingdon, Calvinistic Methodists, and Roman Catholics, and three meeting-houses for Independents, of one of which, near the church, founded by the lecturer, the Rev. William Greenhill, in 1674, the Rev. M. Mead became the first minister. Stepney College, in Mile-End Old Town, was established in 1810, for the education of ministers of the Baptist denomination. The premises, which have been greatly enlarged, include part of an ancient building called King John's Tower, and contain private studies and sleeping-rooms for twenty-four students, with apartments for the masters, and a chapel. In School-house lane, Ratcliffe, are some almshouses of the Coopers' Company, founded in 1538 by Toby Wood, Esq., and Mr. Cloker, members of that society, for fourteen aged persons of both sexes. Adjoining them is a free grammar school, largely endowed by Nicholas Gibson, master of the company, and sheriff of London, in the reign of Henry VIII., for the instruction of 35 boys; in this school Bishop Andrews, and several other distinguished persons, received the rudiments of their education. The almshouses, more liberally endowed by the company, now afford an asylum to six men and eighteen women. The premises were destroyed by the fire of 1794, and were rebuilt in 1796; they occupy three sides of a quadrangle, with a chapel in the central range. Near the churchyard are the Mercers' almshouses, established in 1691 by Jane Mico, relict of Sir Samuel Mico, and endowed for ten aged widows, who receive each £30 per annum. Mrs. Bowry, in 1715, bequeathed a leasehold estate, and a sum of money in the South Sea annuities, for the erection and endowment of eight almshouses between MileEnd and Stratford-le-Bow, for decayed seamen and their widows. There are other almshouses in the parish, noticed in the article on Mile-End. The poor-law union of Stepney comprises Limehouse, Shadwell, Mile-End Old Town, Ratcliffe, and Wapping; and contains a population of 90,657."²

1. James Elmes, M.R. I. A., Architect. In “A Topographical Dictionary of London and its Envirions,” (London: Whittaker, Treacher and Arnot, 1831).

2. Samuel Lewis, ed. A Topographical Dictionary of England 200-205. (London: S. Lewis and Co., 1848), Online here, (accessed: 05 May 2010).


Civil Registration

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.

Church records

Online Stepney St Dunstan Parish Register Images and Indexes
  Baptisms Marriages Burials
Earliest 1568 1568 1568
Images 1568-1812 Ancestry baptisms, marriages, and burials[1]
1814-1906 Ancestry[2] 1754-1921 Ancestry[3] 1813-1929 Ancestry[4]
Indexes 1568-1875 FamilySearch[5] 1568-1864 FamilySearch[6]    
1568-1848 Dockland Ancestors[7] 1568-1808 FindMyPast[8]    
    1640-1696 Google Books    
    [year] Ancestry[9]    

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.

Contributor: Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts, nonconformist and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. Add the contact information for the office holding the original records. Add links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection.

Census records

1666 Hearth Tax

Probate records

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.

Poor Law Unions

Contributor: Add information about the pertinent poor law unions in the area.

Maps and Gazetteers

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Web sites

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  1. London, England, Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1538-1812, courtesy: Ancestry ($). Described as St Dunstan and All Saints (also St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney) in Tower Hamlets Borough. Marriages from 1754 to 1812 are not included in this database. Partially indexed.
  2. London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906, courtesy: Ancestry ($). Described as St Dunstan and All Saints in Tower Hamlets Borough. Partially indexed.
  3. London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921, courtesy: Ancestry ($). Described as Stepney St Dunstan (also Stepney St Dunstan and All Saints) in Tower Hamlets Borough. Partially indexed.
  4. London, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-1980, courtesy: Ancestry ($). Described as Stepney St Dunstan and All Saints in Tower Hamlets Borough. Partially indexed.
  5. Batches C055761-C055769, C055771-C055774, see: Hugh Wallis, "IGI Batch Numbers for London including Middlesex (N-Z), England," IGI Batch Numbers, accessed 8 June 2011. Indexes derived from parish registers and parish register transcripts.
  6. Batches M055761-M055768, see: Hugh Wallis, "IGI Batch Numbers for London including Middlesex (N-Z), England," IGI Batch Numbers, accessed 8 June 2011. Indexes parish registers.
  7. Searches in this collection are free, but in order to view the original records, it is necessary to pay a fee.
  8. "Boyd's Marriage Index - Parish details by county,", accessed 12 June 2011; Percival Boyd, A List of Parishes in Boyd's Marriage Index (London: Society of Genealogists Enterprises Ltd., 1994). FHL Book 942 K22L 1994
  9. Pallot's Marriage and Birth Indexes, Guide to Parishes (n.p.: n.p., n.d.). FHL British Book 942 V25pm
  10. Includes Ballast Wharf, Bednall Green, Cock Hill, Comister Alley, Dolphin Yard, East Side, Fig Tree Yard, Great Pump Yard, Kings Head Alley, Limehouse, Limehouse Poplar and Blackwell Hamlet, Little Pump Yard, Maidenhead Alley, Mile End, Nightingale Lane, Pump Yard, Ratcliffe Broadstreet West, Ratcliffe Cross, Ratcliffe Hamlet, Ratcliffe Street Landside, Ratcliffe Street Laneside, Ratcliffe Street Waterside, Rose Lane, Rose Yard, Salmond Lane, Shadwell Hamlet, Ship Alley, Spittlefields Hamlet, Stepney Church West, Storehouse Yard, Sugar House Yard, Three Fox Yard, Tiffin Alley, Trinity Yard and White Horse Street, and Unknown.