Robert Whiting c.1834-1911

Parents: Robert Whiting and Mary Elizabeth Clamtree
Born: c.1834 in Clerkenwell(1,2)
Baptised: 16th November 1834 at Clerkenwell St James(5)
Married: None
Children: None
Died: 3rd January 1911 of Chronic Bronchitis and Cardiac failure at the Risbridge Union Workhouse, Kedington. Buried on 7th January 1911 at Haverhill Cemetery.(1,2)

Bio: Initially, Robert's identity proved to be a complete mystery. He was buried at Haverhill Cemetery on 7th January in 1911 and is listed as a 'pauper'. His age was given as 76 which means he was born around 1835.

The problem was that no record of a Robert Whiting living in Haverhill existed on any of the censuses, and there was no record of a birth in Haverhill for a Robert Whiting around 1835. Inconveniently for us too, Robert died just prior to the 1911 census which might have given us some clues as to his origins.

My suspicion was that he had not always had a Haverhill connection, and at the time of his death Haverhill Cemetery was the closest and most convenient place for his interment.

I'd hit a brick-wall with this chap, until the Death Certificate revealed more about his identity.

He died on 3rd January 1911 of chronic Bronchitis and cardiac failure at the Risbridge Union Workhouse in Kedington, and under the section labelled 'occupation' was some information that confirmed my suspicions.

Robert was listed as a 'Brush Maker of Willesden, London'. He was not a local inhabitant originally, then.

He could now be traced on previous censuses using the references to his occupation and the mention of an area in London.

There is a Robert Whiting of the right age and the right trade living in Marylebone on three censuses from 1861.

On the 1861 census Robert Whiting is a lodger at the house of Joseph Beck, a printer, and his family at 7 Suffolk Place, Marylebone. He works as a brush maker. Clerkenwell is given as his place of birth, and at 26 his age is correct with what we know.

He is here again at the time of the 1871 census, an Ivory brush maker, birthplace: Clerkenwell.

On the 1881 census, Robert is still a lodger at 7 Suffolk Place, Marylebone. He is unmarried, and a brush maker, and his age is correct to within a year. His birthplace is referred to as Middlesex.

The 1891 census reveals him yet again at 7 Suffolk Place, working as an Ivory brush turner. His age at 56 is almost spot-on, and the place of birth given is Clerkenwell.

Given that 7 Suffolk Place seems to have been his home for over 30 years, what was the area like? The Charles Booth Online Archives, which contains scanned notes made in a survey of the area (which no longer exists), gives a valuable insight into its character during 1886-1903 which is when Robert would have been there.

Here's what they say about Suffolk Place and the adjacent Manning Place:

'East to Manning Place.. ..paved thoroughfare: broken windows: open doors: drink sodden women at doors: groups of dirty children at each end cooking fish on a brazier over an improvised fire: Very poor, mostly one roomed(?) people: dark to light blue in character. (the areas were colour-coded according to status)

North to Suffolk Place: similar in build and character to Manning Place, but a shade worse: a lot of dirty women at the doors watching an altercation between 'a lady' and the School Board Officer who alleged that "our Eliza" had not been at school for a fortnight: A good many drunken rows in.... this street mostly due to the women. Suffolk Place remains dark blue.'(3)

Charles Booth published his findings in 'Life and Labour of the People in London' in 1903 in 17 volumes including a colour-coded map. Black was the poorest, standing for 'Lowest class. Vicious semi-criminal' , with dark blue being 'Very poor. Casual, chronic want.'(4)

It is clear from the description that Robert lived in a noisy, poor and deprived area of London. On the 1861 census there are 17 people living at 7 Suffolk Place.

At the time of the 1901 census, Robert is no longer to be found at 7 Suffolk Place. His whereabouts is not clear, but given that the death certificate mentions he was from Willesden (itself not that far from Marylebone) it is almost certain he ended up there at some point around this decade.

Where had Robert been prior to 1861? Although not found on any of the previous censuses, we can be pretty sure from those he is on that Robert was born in Clerkenwell, and in baptism records we find a Robert Whiting baptised on 16th November 1834 at Clerkenwell St James son of Robert Whiting, labourer, and Mary Elizabeth Whiting of Pear tree Court. The date tallies with his age, as do the area with his birthplace on censuses.

It looks like Robert Whiting senior had married Mary Elizabeth, whose surname was Clamtree at St Andrew, Holborn on 25th December 1823.(6)

They had a child, Mary Ann, baptised on 27th December 1829 at Clerkenwell St James. They are living at Pear tree Court at the time.

The Electoral registers show a Robert Whiting at 35 Pear tree Court in 1832.(7)

A Robert Whiting is buried on 17th August 1834 in the Parish of Clerkenwell St James. His age is given as 34, and his abode.. Pear tree Court.

If this was Robert's father, then he died around the time Robert was born. He is not mentioned as being deceased in the baptism register, although there were no particular rules about this occurring.

Although not all of the details are totally clear, it is possible to get some idea of the life of Robert Whiting. He was a single man, working as a brush maker for most of his life and living in a very poor area of London. He had grown up without a father and seems to have lost connection with his family. He seemed averse to change, remaining in the same dwelling place for around 30 years. Why he eventually left London for Suffolk is a mystery, but there is no evidence that he had a connection with Haverhill before being finally laid to rest there in 1911.

Death Certificate courtesy of the GRO. © Crown Copyright. click to enlarge.


(1) Haverhill Cemetery, Compartment E, Space No.335, Burial Ref. 3487
(2) Death Register. 1st Quarter 1911, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 513
(3) London School of Economics and Political Science 2001, Booth B358,
(4) British Library, Learning Map History,
(5) London Metropolitan Archives, Clerkenwell St James, Register of Baptism, P76/JS1, Item 016.
(6) Guildhall, St Andrew Holborn, Register of marriages, 1822 - 1827, P69/AND2/A/01/Ms 6672/5.
(7) London, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1965