Ancestral homes #FamilyHistory #ancestry

If you want to know what a location in your family history is like today, then the Geograph website is for you.

The website is a marvellous repository of photos taken by enthusiasts from all over the UK of the many places where they live or enjoy visiting.

The site is particularly useful if you want to visit a church that is connected to your family history without actually going there on a visit.

​I don’t know if the project has managed to cover every inch of the British Isles yet but I shouldn’t think there are many places that haven’t been captured.

This is my favourite Geograph image.

The photo was taken at Beaumont cum Moze in Essex.


Our Starling ancestors originated in Beaumont cum Moze and emigrated to London in the nineteenth century.

I think the remains of the Thames sailing barge in this photo are so evocative and we often speculate that it was on a boat like this that the family made their move to London’s East End.

Mark W. Starling married Mary Ann Heyson on 24th January 1852 at the parish church of St Leonard, Beaumont cum Moze, Essex. Mark was 25 years old and Mary Ann was a year younger.

Mark and Mary Ann Starling were my husband (Michael Murray’s) great great grandparents.


Mark was accompanied at the wedding by his father Robert Starling, an agricultural labourer, and Mary Ann’s father was William Heyson, a Dealer (although what he was dealing in is not known).

Mark himself was employed as an agricultural labourer and Mary Ann was a dressmaker.

Mark had lived with his grandmother, Susan Starling, since he was a child as both his parents had died before he was four years old. His brother Robert lived with other relatives until old enough to go to work as an agricultural labourer and take lodgings. He died in 1853 shortly after Mark and Mary Ann were married.


Susan Starling died in 1858 reputedly aged 96 years and I think it’s a safe bet that Mark and Mary Ann started their married life living with Nan.

Their first child, Robert, was born in 1852 followed by Stephen in 1855.

What happened next is a mystery but a few years later the family had left rural Essex and were living in the docks area of London’s East End.

Maybe increasing mechanisation and the growth of imports resulting in less work for the labourers prompted Mark and May Ann to move off. Maybe they just fancied a change after living in the same place for so long.

Whatever the reason, by 1871, the family lived at 36, Morris Street in Shadwell, East London and Mark was working as a coal whipper; Robert was working as a docks labourer and Stephen had become a book binder.

Coal Whippers were the men who had the job of getting the coal off the ships and on their way to the customer.

Coal was brought to the capital from the coal fields of the north and by the last quarter of the nineteenth century over three million tons of coal was being transported by sea each year. It was the job of the coal whippers to get the coal out of the hold of the collier (ship used for transporting coal), into sacks and carried on their backs onto the coal merchants’ lighters (smaller vessels) for onward transport. It was hard, heavy, labour-intensive work which took its toll on the life expectancy of those involved.

In 1881 Mark and Mary Ann had moved to 40, Morris Street, Shadwell, with their son Stephen. Mark was still working as a labourer but no longer, apparently, with the coal whippers. Stephen continued to live at home and work as a bookbinder and Robert, married and with children of his own, had moved out and gone to work as a coal porter.

By 1891 Mark and Mary Ann had moved round the corner to 35, Upper Chapman Road. Unfortunately Stephen had died in 1885. Although he continued to work as a general labourer up to the 1890s, Mark died in 1894 aged seventy four years. Clearly his decision to stop being a coal whipper was the right one.

Mary Ann died three years later. Both Mark and Mary Ann ended their days being supported by the parish union, hopefully in the infirmary and not the workhouse and they were buried privately although exactly where isn’t known.

Shadwell today is hugely different to the Shadwell known by Mark and Mary Ann but maybe the bridge in this photo was constructed when they lived in the area.


Thanks for reading my blog today.

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