Paul’s Alley

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September 14, 2014 by auntkatefirmin

A listing for Paul's Alley in an early London street guide.

A listing for various different streets named Paul’s Alley in an early London street guide.

In the course of looking at where Richard Wayt (1787-1868) the tallow chandler might have lived, I solved a problem that I had set aside. Harriet (Blackford) Hall may be the female resident of Paul’s Alley whose death was recorded in 1847 but I was waiting to decide about ordering a death certificate until I had a better sense of how likely it was to be “our” Harriet. In addition to the details of the death, death certificates in Harriet’s time only gave age, occupation, usual residence, and the name of the informant. Only if the name of the informant could be traced to a family member would the certificate really add substantial information to the picture. (It’s true we’d know how she died; on the other hand sometimes that’s too much information for me.)

A view of St Giles, Cripplegate, dated 1830. 

A view of St Giles, Cripplegate, dated 1830. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The burial register of St Giles Cripplegate shows that the Harriet Hall, age 51, buried on 4 August 1847 last resided in Paul’s Alley. Not being very familiar with Cripplegate in general, at the time I did not pursue the reference any farther after determining that no modern streets with that name were to be found easily within the Cripplegate parish. The general location did seem very plausible. It turns out the neighborhood including Paul’s Alley was swept away with the building of the Barbican Center which completely transformed the area. Working backwards, Harriet and Thomas’ last known location was John’s Row (in the parish of St Luke, Old Street) in the 1841 census. This is northwest of Paul’s Alley, but only about a two mile walk. Unfortunately, when their daughter Emily married in 1844 she gave what I believe to be her new husband’s address as her residence so we can’t pin down the location of Harriet & Thomas at that time. By 1851, Thomas had changed his occupation from cow keeper to carman and was living with their daughter Harriet in Wapping which is an entirely different world – at least for the Blackford and Wayt families who are generally found west of Stepney; Thomas was actually living on a street where his daughter Emily’s in-laws lived in 1841. Unless it turns out that Thomas advertised in city directories, there’s nothing I’ve discovered so far that shows when he moved or if the family moved more than once in those ten years.

As you will have gathered if you followed the link about St Giles, Cripplegate, Paul’s Alley and all the surrounding area was heavily bombed during WWII. Here’s some additional  background for those inclined to read more: what the London Historians have to say about “The Barbican before the Barbican” and an article from the BBC news.

The 19th century Paul’s Alley was not particularly notable so even though I’ve found it on the map I don’t expect to turn up extensive information – it’s not that far from areas that I hope to cover in posts about Harriet’s daughter Dorothy and cousin Richard Wayt. In the 18th century, there were a number of non-conformist meeting houses in Paul’s Alley and the adjoining area which were long converted to other uses by Harriet’s day. I did find a sketch by John Philipps Emslie from 1877 of three houses in Paul’s Alley that can be seen on the City of London Collage site, but the scan is copyrighted and I can’t seem to get a direct link.

Still, it was a pleasant discovery. Every little bit makes Harriet less of an enigma. Here’s a little visual aid to show how the individuals in this post are related.

Harriet (Blackford) Hall and Richard Wayt are first cousins, grandchildren of John Wayt of Swindon. Those with their name in color moved to London.

Harriet (Blackford) Hall and Richard Wayt are first cousins, grandchildren of John Wayt of Swindon. Those with their name in color moved to London.


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