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Masts of HMS Warrior 1860

Pearson family

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 Part 1: John Pearson (? - ?)


Working life as an excise officer

Little is known of John Pearson's personal life as he probably died before the 1841 England Census, and possibly before the advent of civil registration. He was an Excise Officer and lived in St Mary's Parish, Whitechapel, in the East End of London, England. In the 1819 Post Office Directory, John was listed as a 'Custom House Agent' at 24 St Mary (at) Hill, very near to the Billingsgate Market and Custom House. One of his daughters was later born in Chamber Street, which was in sight of the Tower of London.

As an excise officer, John would probably have collected duties on goods manufactured or processed in the United Kingdom or checked to make sure prohibited products were not included in commodities (ie. corn was not allowed to be used by distillers). Excise officers generally had to be healthy, be good at arithmetic, free from debt and sometimes were obliged to be single or have no more than two children! London had always been heavily involved in trade and by the 18th century, the River Thames was lined with miles of jetties and wharves with hundreds of ships coming and going. By the turn of the 19th century, docks were being built to deal practically with the increased size of ships and the large number of thefts in and around the ships. John's work was mostly based around the docks and streets of the East End and his children very likely met their spouses as a by-product of his occupation! [1]

John was a Division Officer for Bromley, Hertfordshire Collection, in the early 1830s, earning about £100 p.a. (about £4,400 in today's money). As he was in a densely populated area, he apparently did not need a horse! He surveyed manufacturers and traders within his division but after four or five years would have been required to move (so as not to develop too friendly a relationship with locals probably!). It was noted in the Excise Board minute books 19 January 1835 that John was promoted to 'an Examiner, on the Head of the Board...' He would have need at least seven years' service, three of those as a Division Officer. He would now be examining the books of other officers and be sent to other parts of the country to cover illnesses, as happened only a few weeks later when he had to go to Hexham District, Durham Collection, to 'officiate' for an ill supervisor. John would now be earning £150 (about £6,600) plus extra for time spent in the country. [2] 


Marriage to Hannah

John married Hannah (surname unknown) who had been born c1761, birthplace unknown but apparently not in Middlesex! It is not known when or where they married. They had four known children and almost certainly a fifth (though there is no baptism record to prove the connection). After John's death, Hannah lived at some point with daughter Sarah, likely with a form of pension. She died 16 December 1849 at 56 Jubilee Place after a short bout of bronchitis. Her burial took place six days later in Poplar All Saint's Parish. A note on her burial record mentions the East India Company Chapel so it is possible John Pearson had a connection to the East India Company.


 Children of John and Hannah

Susannah (c1797 - ?) was born in St Mary's Parish Whitechapel and baptised 05 February 1797. She married grocer Thomas Pugh (c1791 - ?) at Poplar All Saint's Church 14 October 1823. Thomas had been born in Guildsfield, Montgomeryshire, Wales. They had four children: Richard (1824 - 1870) who married his cousin Emily Sophia Bryant, Catherine (1828 - ?), Elizabeth (1831 - ?) and Edward (1835 - ?). Thomas retired by 1851 and was living in Queen Street but nothing else is known of him or Susannah.


John (c1798 - ?) was baptised 12 August 1798. Nothing else is known of him.


More information about Elizabeth (c1800 - 1889) appears in Part 2.


Sarah (c1801 - 1874) was baptised 20 December 1801 in St Mary's Parish Whitechapel. She married grocer George Pearson 0 (c1791 - 1880) 01 November 1820 in St Mary's Parish Church. George might not have been any relation at all. He had been born in Tudeley, Kent, c1791 and was a greengrocer for most of his life, though in his 70s he was listed as being a dock labourer. They had ten children: Sarah Ann (1821 - ?), Martha (1823 - ?), John (1825 - ?), George Edward (1827 - 1837), Mary (1828 - ?), William (1830 - ?), Elizabeth (1834 - 1837), Susannah (1837 - 1910), Edward (1839 - ?) and Elizabeth Ruth (1843 - 1928). John and Sarah went to live in Bristol with their aunt Elizabeth Bryant in the 1840s. John was an apprentice grocer, most probably apprenticed to his uncle Edward, though he later became an accountant or clerk. He married Georgiana Susan Flint and they had four children. It is not known what became of Sarah. Martha probably died in infancy. Mary married Edward James Hill in 1852. Elizabeth Ruth married Charles Button. Susannah never married. It is not certain who William and Edward married or what became of them. Sarah died in 1874 and George died 01 August 1880 of senile decay.


Martha was born sometimes between 1795 and 1805. [3] She married Joseph Middleton 04 August 1828 at All Saints Poplar Church. In the 1841 census she was recorded as aged 70 and living in College Street, Bristol, with her sister Elizabeth Bryant. Martha was listed as being of independent means and it is fairly certain Joseph had died. No other information is known. [4]


Next: Elizabeth Pearson


[1] Information about Excise Officers from Brentford High Street Project website (

[2] Board of Excise and Secretariat Minute Books (1695-1874), The National Archives (

[3] No baptism record has been found to confirm Martha was the daughter of John and Hannah Pearson. However, she appeared as a witness to the marriage of Susannah Pearson and Elizabeth Bryant née Pearson's youngest daughter was named Martha Middleton.

England and Wales Census 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 ( and; General Registry Office (GRO) certificates; Bristol Mercury newspaper archive (; London Parish Registers (