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Sarah's twisted skein

by Alan D Craxford and Liz Osborne

The orphaned branch

The Craxford family is getting bigger by the week as new branches of the tree are discovered and new ancestors are uncovered and placed into their proper position. There are now just two main trunks that need to be united and the researchers feel that this will just be a matter of time.

And yet, there still remain a few obstinate twigs that just will not fit tidily into the great scheme of things; that will not yield up their hidden relationships. In this article we present one such family, living in London for nearly one hundred years. Our interest in this branch was triggered by the discovery of a marriage certificate that could not be easily fitted to a date of birth or to previous generations. What information that has come our way has been in the form of haphazzard fragments and from a number of unexpected sites.

Any further information that would clarify this mystery will be gratefully received.

Dramatis personnae

This branch of the family tree spreads over five known generations. There is documentary evidence from the Proceedings of the Old Bailey(1,2) that William Craxford was the licencee of the public house "The Carpenter's Arms" in Kensington in 1812 (Craxfords And The Old Bailey). There are no records that suggest this establishment (or a descendent of it) still exists. These two trial notes which are reproduced below, confirm that he was married and that his wife was called Anne. He is also described as having children and that one daughter was named Martha. The International Geneaological Index (IGI) records a Martha Craxford born in 1798 (3) and this entry also confirms that her parents were William and Ann. By implication this would indicate that William was born around 1775 to 1780.

William and Ann had three children that we know of. There were two sons - John, born on October 7th 1793 in Finsbury and William Easthope for whom no date of birth have been discovered. Martha was born on March 23rd 1798 and was christened on April 15th 1798 at St Leonards Church, Shoreditch. No further details of her life have so far been discovered but it appears that she did not marry and died in St Pancras in March 1865.(4)

What happened next gets very confused. As mentioned above, the starting point for these investigations was the marriage certificate dated 1857 of a Sarah A.A. Craxford whose father was given as William Easthope Craxford and whose occupation was that of a builder.

We have discovered the marriage certificate of a William Craxford to Mary Dockerill. The ceremony took place on June 12th 1838 at the parish church of St George, Bloomsbury, London. William was described as a sawyer and his father, also William was a builder. Further research has confirmed that William E Craxford lived in the St Pancras district of London and later in life worked as a builder. His wife, Mary, died of cancer in May 1857. Her death was registered by Sarah A.A. Craxford.

The Chapel Row connection

Her marriage certificate indicates that Sarah A Craxford was born around 1840. We have found the birth certificate for a Sarah Ann Craxford, born on December 11th 1838 in the London suburb of Somers Town. Unfortunately the other details are as confusing as they are unexpected. The registered father is Thomas Craxford (whose occupation is declared as carpenter) and this Sarah's mother is also called Sarah Ann - with the maiden name of Dockerill. When the consecutive census returns for 1861 to 1891 are scrutinised, the plot thickens further.

In 1861(5), a Thomas and Sarah Croxford were living at 11, Chapel Row in Clerkenwell with their three children (Thomas,10; Charles, 9 and Matilda about 12 months). Sarah is not recorded. Thomas by this time was working as a iron plate worker.

At No.3 lived Joseph Croxford (born 1834) with his wife Caroline with their three children Caroline (5), Joseph (3) and Susanna (1). Also living with the family was Joseph's brother, William (born 1842). Both men were iron plate workers.

St James Church, Clerkenwell

St James' Chuch, Clerkenwell [A]

In the same census, down the street at No.16 lived Charles L. Croxford and his wife Susan. They were sharing lodgings with her father, John Morton and her three brothers. Charles was also recorded to be an iron plate worker.

The Ladd family lived at No.9. Chapel Row. The head of this family was Thomas (born 1804). The other members were Ann, his wife, two children: Thomas (born 1844) and John (1846), and their granddaughter, Sarah M Craxford born in 1854. We have found no record of her birth or other mention of Sarah's mother.

Another daughter, Ann, was born to Sarah Croxford in 1863. By 1881 (6, 7) she was registered as a widow and was to be found living in Islington with her three younger children. Ten years later only Matilda remained at home with her mother.

One further piece of information must then take this out of the realms of coincidence. In May 1858 Thomas Craxford (who was born in Gretton, Northamptonshire) married Elizabeth Knott at St James Church, Clerkenwell. He was working as a millwright and the couple were living at 15, Chapel Row. Their married bliss was short lived as the following year Thomas was dead. In the 1861 census Elizabeth had moved back with her family, although her surname was spelled Crawford. Thomas' brother, William, had also moved to London to work as a millwright and was living in the vicinity.

A collection of certificates

These links will bring up higher resolution images of the certificates mentioned above.

What else is known of Sarah A.A. Craxford?

St George's church Bloomsbury

St George's Chuch, Bloomsbury [B]

With all this (dis)information what exactly do we know about Sarah Ann Augusta Craxford. She was married to James Mash on October 18th 1857 at St George Church, Bloomsbury in London. Her father is listed as William Easthop(e) Craxford, a builder. By implication she was born around 1840. The marriage was witnessed by Francis Joseph Jardine and Martha Craxford (who made her mark).

At the time of the wedding they were both living at 39 Museum Street, London. It has been straightforward to follow their travels in the subsequent ten year censuses. Their first daughter, Amy, was born in 1858 and Within four years the young family had moved to 4 Queen Street, Oxford. James was working as a railway clerk. (8)

By 1881 (9) two more children had arrived (Alfred, born in 1868 and Leonard born in 1879) and James was employed as a commercial traveller. They were back in London having set up home at 86 Brandon St, Newington. Ten years later (10) , Amy, now aged 32 years, and Leonard were still at home at 4 Camden Street, Islington. James was a clerk. In the final return of 1901 (11) James had retired and in yet a further move to 112 Campbell Road in Bromley they were living with Leonard and his wife Lilian and one month old grandson, Leonard.

Continued in column 2...

The present state of play

St Pancras Old Church, London

St Pancras Old Church, London [C]

What do we make of all this? There are two further snippets of information to add to the picture. On April 7th 1853 at the Old Church, St Pancras, Francis Joseph Jardine married Sarah Ann Craxford (in some transcriptions of the indexes the surname is spelled Crayford). In the following census (13) Sarah's date of birth is given as 1823!. It should also be recalled that William Easthope Craxford had a sister called Martha.

Were there really two Dockerill sisters (Sarah Ann and Mary) that married William Easthope and Thomas Craxford? Or, given the age recorded on the death certificate (Mary was 71 years old when she died) was Mary Sarah's aunt? Dockerill and its variants is a very common name in Cambridgeshire and in the eighteenth century, Francis, Mary and Sarah Ann were very common christian names.

How many Thomas Craxfords were there - and were they in fact related. Are we looking at two distinct family names here - we have encountered four different spellings of the family name (Craxford, Croxford, Crayford, Crawford). Clearly they would have known one another, living so close and working in the same industry.

What became of Sarah Ann (born 1839)? Was she an infant mortality statistic, or did she marry and move away from the family home before the 1861 census? Was she the Sarah Ann that married Francis Jardine?

This story looks set to run and run.

Final thought

Before we go, let's finish with one additional nagging thought! Why was Sarah Ann given the christian name Augusta? It is not a traditional Craxford family name and we have only come across it once before. In 1849, William Craxford and his wife Jane Jennings (we have made no connection yet to the family in this story) named their daughter Augusta Louisa .....

Update: April 2011

A number of new sources of material have allowed us to revisit Sarah's story. A revised listing of the early English census returns (1841, 1851) and the parish records from the London Metropolitan Archives have clarified many of the areas of confusion recounted above. We have been able to establish the lineage for the majority of the London Craxfords back to the family's roots in Northamptonshire - and more particularly we can confirm Sarah's heritage. We have also been able to trace the history of two significant addresses (8, Suffolk Street and 48 Pulteney Street, Islington) through the 19th century. This forms the basis of the article Craxford & Sons, Fruiterers of Pentonville.

Both the above mentioned census returns confirm the family of William Easthop Craxford and Mary Dockerill living in the St Pancras district of Marylebone. The 1851 census declares William to be a master sawyer originating from Rutland and his wife from Bartow in Cambridgeshire. They have two daughters, Martha and Sarah, and son William living with them. Also present is granddaughter Sarah. Martha was not present in 1841, but the two Sarahs (aged 20 and 2) were. This indicates that Sarah Ann Augusta was Sarah's illegitimate child and that she was brought up as William and Mary's own - hence the statement on the marriage certificate.

A closer inspection of all the available documentation now provides an interesting family timeline. William and Mary's children were all born within a couple of years of one another in the 1820s but they were not, themselves, married until 1838. Technically, this means that all three children were illegitimate and could have been registered as Dockerill. We now believe the birth certificate for Sarah Ann Craxford, shown above, is in fact the one for the Sarah of this story. Her mother may have used the device "Craxford formerly Dockerill" to mask the illegitimacy (we have seen similar subterfuges before"). There is no clue to the identity of the father. His given name may well have been Thomas and declaring him to be a Craxford cements the concoction.

The 1911 census shows that the Mash family had stayed together and were living in London Road, Barking, Essex. Head of the household was Leonard with his wife Lilian and four children. Both Sarah and James were retired and had moved in with their son as well as their unmarried daughter Amy. James died in 1915; Sarah in 1918 aged 80 years.

Web sites of interest

[A] St James' Church, Clerkenwell.

[B] St George's Church, Bloomsbury.

[C] St Pancras Old Church and Gardens.


1. Leighton Hall: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.
2. Mary Manton: The Proceedings of the Old Bailey.
3. Martha Craxford: Daughter of William and Ann: Record of Baptism. International Genealogy Index IGI File C040801 1784 - 1785 0396230 Film 6905909
4. Martha Craxford : England and Wales Civil Registration Index (1837-1984): Deaths March 1865 Pancras 1b 81
5. 1861 England Census: Clerkenwell RG9/193 13 133 34
6. 1881 England Census: St. Mary's, Islington East. RG11 0272 746 74 21
7. 1891 England Census: Islington RG12/151 1 18 30
8. 1861 England Census: Oxford RG9/893 1 7 11
9. 1881 England Census: St Mary Newington RG11/0554 17a 117 36
10. 1891 England Census: Islington South RG12/167 17a 164 62
11. 1901 England Census: Poplar RG13/350 40 66 17
12. Francis Joseph Jardine to Sarah Ann Craxford: England and Wales Civil Registration Index (1837-1984): Marriages June 1853 Pancras 1b 15
13. 1861 England Census: Pancras Greys Inn Lane 2 69 32

Page added: June 20th 2005
Last update: April 1st 2012

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emailIf you have any questions or comments about the information on this site in general, or you have further information regarding this article, please contact us at Alan. We look forward to hearing from you.
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