The Williams Family of Wapping
Updated Feb 2016, 2018 and 2020
I have built up my family tree over a long period and my pages vary in their layout.This page interleaves researched family tree information with speculation and background, so I have used red for speculation and black for what I believe to be authenticated facts about my family. The research is ongoing so this page is 'work in progress''. Any comments would be gratefully received.
I am never surprised when I find that an ancestor of mine moved to London in the late 1800s, but I have not only one line that has its roots entirely there, but three - Williams, Flyger. and Dalby! Researching the Williams family has been made easier by the fact that they incorporated the name Dalby or Dolby as Christian names early on. Most of the men seem to have been watermen or lightermen based in London dockland. There are also quite
a few references to the occupation
The name Williams appears in records going back to the seventeenth century, but as so often happens with working class families there is quite a lot of uncertainty.The first ancestor I can claim with any confidence is my sixth great grandfather Thomas WILLIAMS, born in 1682. He was a mariner aged 26 living in Stepney in 1708 when he swore in a bond that there was no impediment to his marriage to Anne HUGHES, also from Stepney. My reading of the bond is
that Anne's father Jonathan had died and her mother had married Robert Rawlins, a mariner. The records suggest that their son William was born in 1714.
William WILLIAMS, my fifth great grandfather, was born in 1714 and baptised in St. Dunstans Church, Stepney. I know he was a lighterman 'of Poplar' and the baptism records of her large family in the records of Saint Dunstans, Stepney have the mother's name as Margaret, but I can't prove that her maiden name was Dalby because I can't find a marriage record showing her surname. I would expect the marriage
to have been before the birth of her first daughter in 1736; there is, however a clandestine marriage record for 1739 between William Williams and Margaret Mason.
I have to accept for now that the connection between the Dalby and Williams families is unproven, but the use of the forename Dalby is a useful piece of supporting information for later generations. It is less than helpful that the next two generations are both Dalby Williams married to Hannah. There is therefore some ambiguity as to which generation some of my ancestors belong to, and for the time being I have had to go with the best bet.
Williams' first born was Rebecca in 1736, and the first son was William Williams, born in 1739. In 1741 there is a record of the baptism of Dalbee. This unlikely spelling is clearly visible in the baptism record.
It seems that Dalbee died early, because the same name was used ten years later in 1751, again clear in the record, albeit spelt as 'Dalby'. This is my fourth great grandfather
In December 1811 there occurred two horrible murders in the East End, which became notorious under the name of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders. The man declared guilty was a sailor named John Williams. I have long assumed that it would be impossible to trace or discount any connection with my ancestors, but recent research has shown me that I am related to a John Williams who was the right age, had nautical connections, and lived within
walking distance of the event. I have given him his own page.
My fourth great grandfather Dalby Williamswas born in March 1751. The transcription of his baptism record for St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney in April 1751 has him as the son of William Williams, lighterman, Poplar and Mary corrected to Margaret, and the spelling is unambiguous. He married Ann Springall on 6 Oct 1776 in St George in
the East Church, Tower Hamlets. She gave him his first four children including my next Dalby, before dying aged 29. He married
Hannah Weight in 1787 and they produced another ten children, the last born when she was forty two. In 1805 he was living on Three Colt Street, and working as a waterman. he died at the age of 90 in 1842, which gave him an entry in the 1841 England census. Hannah lived to sixty eight.
The next Dalby Williams, my great-great-great grandfather was the first born, in July 1777 in Poplar, father Dalby a waterman, mother Ann, and baptised in Aug 1777 in St Dunstans, Stepney. He married Hannah Thurgood 1804. His first daughter Hannah was born in 1805, his first son Dalby, my great-great-great uncle, was born in 1807, and his daughter Sarah was born in 1809. He was recorded as a lighterman. In 1810 When his
daughter Maria was born his profession was given as publican, but from the baptism
of his sons Samuel in 1811, John in 1818 (my great-great grandfather), and in the 1841 census, he was a lighterman. The birth dates for this family are possible, but would make more sense if Maria wasn't included. She could be a very late birth to the previous Dalby and Hannah, which would be possible - this would tie in well with her father being a publican, because being a lighterman aged 59 would have been tough.
The next generation of my line doesn't come through a Dolby, but John William Williams, my great grandfather. He was born on 22 Jan 1818 in Poplar, baptised St. Annes, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, son of Dolby (a lighterman) and Hannah. In 1841 he was recorded as a lighterman, single and living with his father also a Lighterman. He married Anne Flyger in 1843 in Christ Church with St Mary and St Stephen, Spitalfields (both lived 4, Brick Lane on marriage).
I have a DNA match to Ann's father John, which validates this line.
(John's older brother Dalby was, born in 1807 in St. Annes, Limehouse. He was a lighterman. He married Mary Shurly Willson in 1834. He lived in Tower Hamlets, Limehouse, in 1841 and died in1849. He is in the death records as dying in January, but was buried on April 1st.)
In 1826 the name Dalby Williams appears in the online archive of the Old Bailey, but fear not he wasn't in the dock or even a witness, but his name was used in an early attempt at identity fraud. (As always, there is some doubt which Dalby.). The archive is worth reading as a view of life in the East End, but it also gives us some useful information. The record also says that the accused was finally caught in the King and Queen pub in Three Colt Street, the same street as my
family - they were also at Ropemakers Walk and Fore Street
Around 1827 Dalby Williams was the publican of the Three Tons Tavern in Poplar.
I have recently been learnt that this wasn't likely to be the pub in Jewry Street as I previously reported, but the Three Tuns at Pennyfields, Poplar. He was connected with Taylor and company, the brewery in Ropemaker's Walk. There is a large amount of history
of this company in the Zythophile website, including the fact that the brewery was between Ropemakers Walk and Fore Street, and used both roads in their address at various times.
Dalby Williams, my great-great uncle, was born in 1855 in Poplar, the son of John W Williams (b1818 ) and Anne. In 1861 he was being brought up living with his older brother John Dalby Williams, my great grandfather, a master lighterman married to Sarah Eleanor (née Maxwell). In 1871 Dalby was aged 15, still living with his older brother, my great grandfather John Dalby, who was a master lighterman aged 24, on Cotton
Dalby married Caroline Bennett in 1879. In 1881 he was a coal merchant living on 70 and 72, Limehouse Causeway with his wife, his first son William A Williams, and father-in law William Bennett who was a draper from Bedfordshire.
In 1882 my great grandfather John Dalby died aged 36, and the care of his daughters Henrietta (6) and Eleanor (5) passed to Dalby. Florence is recorded on my page named Eleanor Florence Williams. This page shows how tough life was for a widowed mother with two young children, and that the family was reluctant to look after my grandmother although Henrietta was taken in, perhaps because she could earn her keep.
From the 1880s Dalby Williams appears in many records and newspaper articles as a publican. It is hard to be definitive about pub names and locations because the same names are used all over the city, and street addresses change as London expands.
In 1891 Dalby ran the Gun Hotel, recorded as 112 High Street Wapping, licenced victualler assisted by his brother William H. The family included Henrietta M. Williams, my great aunt, the first daughter of my grandfather John Dalby Williams. When I started researching my family history my mother could confirm the connection with a hotel in Wapping Wall
Dalby WILLIAMS was elected as LCC (London County Council)
councillor for Tower Hamlets in 1895 representing the Moderate party (allied to
the Conservatives). The family have spoken of a photograph of him kneeling
before King Edward VII.
In 1901 Dalby was at the Gun Hotel, 75 High Street Wapping. He was recorded as a commercial agent living with his extended family including Henrietta and Eleanor, my grandmother. Neither Henrietta nor Eleanor was recorded as being employed. He moved to Croydon a few years later, and lived there until 1933.