Thomas Taylor - Notes
The Taylor family are one of the most unusual families that I have researched. Unlike all other of our other families they have no obvious home or place of origin. The two generations (in England) that we have some knowledge of, were constantly on the move. Thomas Taylor (c. 1809 - c. 1843) was born in Norfolk, married in Marylebone (c. 1829) to Elizabeth Bickmore of Capel St Mary in Suffolk, had children born in Marylebone (1831), Capel St Mary (1833), Romford (c. 1835), Gunton Hall in Norfolk (1838), Marylebone (c. 1841) and Westminster (1842). He died in an accident, probably in 1842-43.

His children Edward, Sophia and Mary were also constantly on the move.

Thomas was recorded a Coachman in the 1841 census (was he recorded as a Coach Proprietor on Edward Taylor's birth certificate??), when the family were living in Edwards Yard off Kinnerton Street in Belgravia, London.

Family stories say that he was the coachman for the Duchess of Devonshire, that he may have travelled to India with the Devonshires and that he was killed stopping a runaway coach with the Duchess in it.

These stories are in effect first hand accounts passed from Thomas's son Edward and daughter Sophia to his children and niece in New Zealand. Apart from small deviations due to memory lapses and maybe some embroidery, as they were probably told to children, they must be taken seriously. Some details of these stories (eg the Devonshire connection) do not seem to be true, however it seems certain that he was killed in circumstances leading to a wealthy family providing support for his family: his son Edward was put into the Navy as a Cadet, at least one of his daughters was given training as an embroideress and after Thomas's death, the family was probably housed for a time by their benefactors.

Some Guesswork and Questions
Given the facts and stories briefly outlined above, what can we deduce?

The only consistent themes are the connections with coaching and with the Westminster / Marylebone area of London. Why did he travel so much? It seems likely that he was living with a wealthy family (or families?) and travelling with them as their coachman - between their London (Wilton Crescent?) and country (Gunton Hall?) houses. The family was almost certainly based in Marylebone / Westminster in London, but spent periods away. Edward was probably born at Elizabeth's family home at Capel St Mary because Edward was away somewhere on assignment (maybe India?) at the time and possibly the same occurred with Mary's birth at Romford - were there Taylors or Bickmores living there at the time?

When did he die? The most likely dates were 1842-43, as Edward was apparently 10 at the time of Thomas's death. One clue may be the birth of their youngest child, Deborah, on 1 October 1842. Her birth is recorded in the St James Westminster district (rather than Marylebone), which is the area to the south of Oxford Street and north of The Mall and St. James's Park, however I think that it probably extends est to Belgravia. It would seem likely that the family were still living in Kinnerton Street at that time. A copy of her birth certificate may provide some answers to this.

Some possible clues to the family benefactor:

Kinnerton Street
From A Guide to the Alleys, Courts, Passeges and Yards of Central London" by Ivor Hoole
Kinnerton Street SW1

From Knightsbridge Station walk east along the south side of Knightsbridge towards Hyde Park Corner. Cross Seville Street, William Street and by the Post Office turn right into Wilton Place. Take the first right turning into Kinnerton Street, which at the 'T' junction continues to the right and left.

When I first included 'Kinnerton' in the list of place names it was headed as Kinnerton Yard, but whilst the Yard is a worthy place in itself it is only a part of a whole string of charming byways branching from this unusual street - eight of them in all. Illustration by words of such a wondrous setting, no matter how exuberant, can only show the black and white outlines of these romantic picture book mews where coloured tints are the vital ingredient.

Beginning in the north, right at the very end, is Duplex Ride, its origin unknown but possibly from a house split between two owners. Next is Studio Place, named from an artists' work room which occupied the yard until about 1940. The two inlets of Kinnerton Place North and Kinnerton Place South come next, followed by Frederic Mews, recalling a previous resident; then comes Ann's Close, from Ann... who lived here at one time. Then to the yard of a carpenter and undertaker, Capener's Close, where John Capener built up his business making coffins; and so to Kinnerton Yard, a recently refurbished residential mews where neatly pointed red brick buildings are the prominent feature.

Along Kinnerton Street, between these fine mews, every single one of the tiny residential houses is a representation of elegance with their narrow doorways and shiny knobs. At number 71 the row is gently interrupted by the Wilton Arm with an abundance of plants about its frontage - but not content with one hostelry, this short secluded street boast yet another - the Nags Head, at number 53. If there is one pub in the entire expanse of central London where the country yokel would feel at home, this is surely it. Along with a multitude of other establishments, the Nags Head claims the prize for being the smallest pub in the capitol. Whether it can uphold its claim against competition or not, it is certainly small. There are three bars here, all situated on different levels, but with the feet firmly on the ground, at street level is the place to be. In this room there is a beautiful black-leaded grate and accompanying wood burner, surrounded by an ample compliment of nick-nacks. Slouching on the bar in the Nags Head is totally out of the question - it stands about two feet high and the compulsion to sit down on the squat bar-stools is almost overpowering. Standing proud on the low bar are the four Chelsea China beer-pull handles which won outstanding merit at a Brewers' Exhibition about 150 years ago. The service here is personal and welcoming. They offer a comprehensive menu of snacks and more hearty fare, but don't be put off by the spelling. When I last visited this house a certain notable dish was advertised as cronkin-van, and until it was corrected caused roars of uncontrolable taughter. In its picturesque location the Nags Head would fit just as snugly on the corner of the green in a quiet village.

Not wishing to be out done by nearby Groom Place, Kinnerton Street owns its personal corner shop, an asset fast becoming extinct even in places where the community have no alternative retail outlet, let alone the West End on their doorsteps. Kinnerton Street is most certainly a place to visit - but do come during opening hours.

Wilton Terrace
In the 1851 census, Elizabeth Taylor (nee Bickmore) was living at 15 Wilton Terrace in the Civil parish of St George, Hanover Square with her 4 daughters aged 8 to 20. Edward was not there, probably as he was still in the Navy. The address recorded against each entry on the census form says (for example) 15 Wilton Terrace, Wilton Road. Why are there 2 names? Perhaps it was locally known as both or perhaps it was in the process of being changed to Wilton Road. In modern maps, Wilton Terrace is off Belgrave Square, part of Wilton Crescent and is certainly not the Wilton Terrace we are looking for.

Where is Wilton Terrace? The 1841 Post Office Directory lists five streets called Wilton in London at that time, but no Wilton Terraces:

  1. Wilton Crescent, running off Belgrave Square and crossing Wilton Place.
  2. Wilton Place, running from St Georges Place and meeting Kinnerton Street and Wilton Crescent.
  3. Wilton Road, in Pimlico.
  4. Wilton Street, off Regent Street, Westminster, containing Pimlico, Cambridge and Union Wharfs.
  5. Wilton Street, running from Grosvenor Place.
Elizabeth's neighbours in the census are a Cabinet Maker, Ostler, Grocer, Blacksmith, House Painter and Tavern owner, many of who were born in Pimlico. The Post Office Directory shows the people at 1, 2 and 5 are aristocracy and gentry, which certainly eliminates these three streets.

From the 1827 Greenwoods map of London, where Victoria Station now stands there was a basin at the end of the Grosvenor Canal. The canal ran from the Thames along the line of the current railway line (the lock at the Thames still exists). The wharves listed as in Wilton Street in the directories were around the basin. Neither Wilton Street or Wilton Road are indicated on the 1827, 1832 or 1834 maps but the modern London A-Z shows Wilton Road running along the east side of Victoria Station, in much the same location as the most likely unmarked road on the 1837 map. No buildings are shown on this street however.

The 1846 John Snow map of London and the 1850 and 1851 maps show the street, unnamed but with some buildings. Part of the street at this time appears to be called Shattsby Tce.

1859 Snow Map of London, both show the basin with Wilton Road more or less as it is today.

There is no sign of "Wilton Street" or "Regent Street" and so I suspect that in 1827 these were small side streets off Wilton Road serving the wharves - or perhaps (most likely) Wilton Street, Wilton Road and Wilton Terrace were actually all the same street.

Victoria Station was opened in October 1860 and the 1885 Map of Westminster and the 1898 Booth's Poverty Map of London both show the district pretty much as it is now. Booth describes Wilton Road as "Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings."

It therefore seems fairly certain that the Wilton Terrace where Elizabeth lived, is the modern Wilton Road.

It is interesting to note that in 1861 their daughter Mary, aged 25, was a subwarden at the Bridewell prison (built 1834) in Francis Street, Westminster, London, which was just a few meters from Wilton Street - on the site where the Westminster Cathedral now stands (best seen in the 1885 map). The location of their home probably explains why Mary got into the prison service.

Unfortunately this does not get us any further with respect to Thomas's death - is it possible to find who owned this house?

Gunton Park, Norfolk
The Taylor's daughter Anne Elizabeth was born at Gunton Hall near Erpingham north of Norwich in 1839.

Gunton Hall was home of the Barons of Suffield and while the Taylors must have returned to London by 1841 (where Sophia was born) this may give us a clue to Thomas's employment at the time of his death ca 1842.

GUNTON about 5 miles N.N.E. of Aylsham, and the same distance S. of Cromer, is a parish with 84 inhabitants, and 942 acres of [??], all comprised in the park and extensive plantations of Gunton House the handsome modern seat of Lord Suffield, built of white [rock], and much enlarged, under the direction of Mr. Wyatt, in 1785. [The] house was also much improved by the late Lord Suffield, who [??] in 1835. It stands on an eminence, commanding a delightful [view] of the undulated park and its judiciously arranged plantations. [The] road to Thorpe, at the north-east angle of the park, passes under [the] arch of an elegant tower, rising to the height of 120 feet 6 inches, commanding an extensive prospect. Sir Harbord Harbord, the [2]nd baronet was created Baron Suffield in 1786. He died in 1810; William Asheton Harbord, the second baron, in l821; and Edward Harbord, the late baron, in 1835; previous to which, his son and successor, the Right Hon. Edward Vernon Harbord, fourth Lord Suffield, had erected a handsome hall at Horstead. Gunton Church, dedicated to St. Andrew has a handsome portico of the Doric order, and was rebuilt by Sir William Morden Harbord, Bart, who became heir to the estate in 1742. It stands near the hall; but the rectory house was rebuilt in 1800, within the adjoining parish of Hanworth. The rectory, valued in K.B. at 8, is consolidated with Hanworth vicarage, in the gift of Lord Suffield, and incumbency of the Rev. Charles Heath, with 42 acres of glebe. The upper servants at Gunton House are George Bartlett, farm bailiff; Miss Eldon, house keeper; Thos. Feathers, butler; Edwin Peters, valet; Win. Bounce, gamekeeper; Henry Smith, land agent; John Vince, builder; and George Walton, gardener.

History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk, and the City and County of the City of Norwich, William White, 1836 pp 569-570

Coincidentally, Harbords also feature in the Steward family tree and there is a second Gunton Hall in Suffolk which was the home of Thomas Fowler, the brother Timothy Steward's wife Mary Fowler.

Two of the Suffields died in horse accidents, however both appear to have been riding on their own at the time and so do not fit with the story of Thomas's death.

Edward Vernon Harbord, fourth Baron Suffield, lived at Claridges in New Bond Street (1841), Clarges Street and 12 Great Marlborough Street (from 1844-52). All in the St James, Westminster district of London increasing the possibility that Deborah was born in their house. It also increases the possibility that Thomas worked for them in London and Gunton and that they were the family benefactors.

Where Next?
I was hoping that Thomas would be listed in the 1841 Post Office Directory. While there are fifteen Thomas Taylors listed, there were no coach proprietors and no obvious contenders for him.


Notes & References