William was born about 1757 ..... we only know this because he was 76 when he died in 1833. He lived at the time of his marriage in the Parish of St Andrew, Holborn.
Disappointingly, nothing is known about his parents or any siblings.
She was over twenty years younger than him and had been born in Newnham, Sittingbourne, Kent in 1778. She must have been a remarkable lady as she was only just 21 when they had their first child, nine months before their marriage, and she would go on to have a total of 10 over the next 20 years. Their names and dates of birth were all transcribed by Henry Ross in 1874 from the family Bible which even gave the time of each birth.
The children together with a brief resume were:
- William Henry Elliott Bird born in June 1798. He died at the age of 72 in 1870 when living in one of his fathers properties, 8 Elizabeth Place, Brixton Road, Lambeth.
- Mary Ann Bird was born on New Years Eve 1799 but died seven months later.
- Sarah Elizabeth Bird, named after her mother, was born less than a year after her sister's death but sadly died before her third birthday.
- Ann Bird was born in 1803. She married Francis Ross who died before the birth of their son, Henry Ross, and it was believed Ann probably also died shortly afterwards as their son was brought up by her sister, Harriott ...... but it appears she didn't ! (UPDATE see Week 58 : Anne Styles nee Ross nee Bird)
- George Bird, my 2 x great grandfather, who was a farmer at Chessington Court Farm and who married Margaret Sparkes, was born in 1806 and died aged 75 in 1881.
- Charles Bird - born in 1808, all I know so far is that he had been widowed before he married Margaret's younger sister, Mary Ann Sparkes, nine months before his death in 1869 aged 60.
- Henry Bird was born in 1811 and then he disappears ....... I will find him eventually !
- Harriott Bird was born in 1814 and married John Coveney of Swanscombe Manor. She died in 1874 aged 60. Their story which includes that of Henry Ross was featured in week 41.
- Elizabeth Bird was born in 1816 and married Thomas Ross, five times mayor of Hastings, who I wrote about in week 29. She died aged 58 in 1875.
- Susannah Sophia Bird was born in 1819 and died at another of her father's properties in Clapham Road Place before her 20th birthday.
Under the covenants of these leases, "brick houses were to be erected of at least the third rate and were to be kept in good repair; the outside wood and ironwork were to be painted every fourth year and offensive trades were prohibited. For developing each plot £1,000 was to be expended on building in the first five years of the term and another £1,000 by the end of the following fifteen years."
Current value is difficult to determine as you aren't comparing like with like but using the retail prices index £1,000 in 1820 is now worth around £70,000.
I don’t yet know where he got the capital from but the answer may lie in his parentage which is still a mystery or William must have previously been a very successful builder. The later is probably the case as, by the time he drew up his Will, William owned properties and held leases for many others in the area of South London marked on the map. He had a valuable portfolio of properties generating rents which he and his heirs were entitled to live off for the next generation and perhaps beyond.
His address at the date of death was 8 Clapham Road Place which he owned. Sarah continued to live there up to and including the 1861 census, always with a live in servant. She died of “old age” in 1866, aged 88.
William left behind a tantalisingly unsolvable mystery. It takes the form of a silver teapot which has the following inscription (and spellings) :
As a token of Gratitude
for the great favors conferred
in the year 1811
when prejudices where much against
The only clue which my inquisitive mind suggests might have something to do with this is a beneficiary in William's Will to a non family member: “I give and bequeath unto the Reverand ROBERT TAYLOR HUNT of Camberwell Road, Kennington in the County of Surrey the sum of £150 in token of my esteem.” In addition, although I have only transcribed part of his Will, he also received a share of future rents – quite a substantial amount. It seems Reverend Taylor was a well known "dissenting minister" at nearby Kennington Chapel which means he was a non conformist who didn't belong to the established church. Could it have been him who might have had prejudices against him ?
We will almost certainly never know !
Just a note that William's daughter Ann (Week 58 : Anne Styles nee Ross nee Bird) was married to John Styles who appears in an article which mentions Revd Robert Taylor Hunt. They were both dissenting ministers.
Updated 18th February 2015