How to disappear down a historical rabbit hole!

My latest research has been to find out more about some of my great grand uncles from the Newth tribe; located in Southwark and Bermondsey, London, UK.

The Georgian era of this research is very interesting; it was a time of great change in Britain in the early 19th century. The Georgian era was influential under the rule of King George IV; the Prince Regent who ascended the throne when his father King George III died.

The Regency lasted a mere nine years, from February 1811 until January 1820. In 1810, George III was taken seriously ill. He was declared incapable of ruling because of mental incapacity and the Regency Act was passed the following year making his son George Prince Regent rule in his stead. The Regency lasted until George III’s death in 1820 when the Regent became King George IV and was able to rule in his own right.

The Victorian era of this research is also an important and most influential element in the changes seen in Britain from 1837 to 1901. Much of the British history of these eras has had impact on my ancestors who lived there from 1820s to the 1900s. Here is the Newth Family Tree which I am researching.

How is Adrian NEWTH related Carole May Allery?

Adrian Newth is the 2nd great grand uncle of Carole May Allery, and Carole May Allery is the 2nd great grand-niece of Adrian Newth. Their common ancestor is Adrian NEWTH. See previous post for the story of my 2nd great grandfather and his Christmas Day wedding.

This is a feature in FindMyPast. Once you have an ancestor’s file on the screen there is a small box to tick, called Kinship Calculator. Enter your name from the tree into the box and it will calculate the relationship between you and the ancestor on view.

Great, grand uncle Adrian Newth was born in November 1823 and baptised in January 1824, in the parish of St George, Southwark, London. St George the Martyr is a church in the historic Borough district of south London.

Adrian Newth Baptism 1824

He was part of the denomination of Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. I found this ‘connexion’ from the transcript of Adrian’s baptism record. Unfortunately, he only lived for a short time; a little over a year, and his burial was recorded thus in my family tree:

Burial 5 Dec 1824 Southwark Independent Chapel, London, Surrey, England

First name(s) Adrian
Last name Newth
Birth year 1823
Age at death 1y 1m
Burial year 1824
Burial date 05 Dec 1824
Address St George, Southwark
Other name(s) –
Parish Southwark Independent Chapel
City London
County Surrey
Country England
Source City of London Burials 1754-1855
Record set Greater London Burial Index
Category Birth, Marriage, Death & Parish Records
Subcategory Parish Burials
Collections from England, Great Britain

Surrey Chapel in 1814, Source: Wikipedia,_Southwark

Curious as to what that the Countess of Huntingdon denomination was all about I searched on Google.

The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion is a small society of evangelical churches, founded in 1783 by Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, as a result of the Evangelical Revival. For many years it was strongly associated with the Calvinist Methodist movement of George Whitefield. (Source: Google)

Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon C 1770, (Source: Wikipedia)

Curious about the areas of Southwark, I searched for a map of the parishes to understand their location.


Curious and Curiouser!

Adrian’s baptism record displays St George the Martyr as the church where he was taken that day for baptism by the Reverend Hill. This church is featured in the writings of Patrick Comerford who took a visit to Saint George’s Little Dorrit’s parish church in Southwark on 16 May 2019.

St George the Martyr looking East to the Altar and stained glass window.
Little Dorrit (right) kneels in prayer beneath the feet of Saint George (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

St George the Martyr Church

The church also has strong associations with Charles Dickens, whose father was jailed for debt in nearby Marshalsea prison. John Dickens was sent there on 20 February 1824, under the Insolvent Debtor’s Act 1813.

The surviving wall of the prison adjoins the north side of the churchyard. Charles Dickens lived nearby in Lant Street, in a house that belonged to the Vestry Clerk of Saint George’s. This was the darkest period in his life when he had to work in the ‘blacking factory,’ and his literary career must have seemed an impossible dream.

Later, Dickens set several scenes of his novel Little Dorrit in and around Saint George’s Church. One cold night, Amy Dorrit sought shelter in the vestry.

A small representation of Little Dorrit in Marion Grant’s east window, below Saint George, shows her kneeling in prayer as her woven bonnet falls across her back like the wings of an angel.

Dickens’s novel Little Dorrit was written in serial form between 1855 and 1857 and it is possible that Adrian or his children read the story in serial form. The novel satirises some shortcomings of both government and society, including the institution of debtors’ prisons, where debtors were imprisoned, unable to work, and yet incarcerated until they had repaid their debts. The prison in this case is the Marshalsea, where Dickens’s own father had been imprisoned.

Cover of serial Volume 4, March 1856

As I read the plot summaries of Little Dorrit, I realised that this was probably one of the earliest forms of Genealogical Historical novels. (The indefatigable Pancks discovers that William Dorrit is the lost heir to a large fortune, enabling him to pay his way out of prison, altering the status of the entire family.) Dickens paints a vivid picture of the characters in this tale, including the Dorrit family; as well as poignantly describing the grim realities of life in a workhouse or debtor’s prison in the 1850s.

  • Mr William Dorrit: About thirty years before the story begins, he enters the debtors’ prison called the Marshalsea with his wife and two children. Over time he becomes the “Father of the Marshalsea”, based on his social ways, maintaining the expectations of the class in which he was raised. He makes no efforts to resolve the situation that put him in the prison.
  • Mrs Dorrit: She arrived at the prison a day after her husband, with their two children. She was pregnant, and about seven months later gave birth to their third child and second daughter. Mrs Dorrit died when the girl was about eight years old.
  • Edward Dorrit: The eldest child of the Dorrits, also called Tip, who enters the prison at about age three. He grows up to become a gambler.
  • Fanny Dorrit: The elder daughter of the Dorrits, who enters the prison at age two. She grows to be an attractive and active young woman, who takes training in dancing for the theatre. Later she marries Edmund Sparkler.
  • Amy Dorrit: She was born in the prison, and is called Little Dorrit. She grows up as a girl who cares for others, with a tender heart and is practical as to getting enough money to eat and live with her father in the prison, the emotional and practical centre of her family. She is 22 years old when the story opens.
Source: Wikipedia – The original title page of Charles Dickens‘s Little Dorrit shows Amy leaving the Marshalsea.

Now if you have read this far, you too have fallen, with me, into a historical rabbit hole filled with interesting facts that surround the Parish of St George the Martyr and the Dickens story of Little Dorrit set in an around the church as the Debtor’s prison of Marshalsea.

When an ancestor has lived for such a short time, there is not much to be said about them. So a historical context type of story may suffice so that they are not forgotten.

Let’s climb back out of that rabbit hole and return to the life of members of the Newth tribe, gleaned from my research. But that will need to be another time and another story.

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