Georgiana Westbrook, the young woman whom Joseph Boden married in December 1838, was born twenty-two years earlier, on 18th March 1816, and christened on 8th April at the parish church of St Mary, Marylebone. The church, which in the previous century had witnessed the baptism of Lord Byron and the marriage of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was in the process of being rebuilt in the fashionable neo-classical style. Georgiana’s birth took place nine months after the Battle of Waterloo and in a year of economic depression and rising wheat prices.
Georgiana Westbrook was the third of the three daughters of Thomas Westbrook and Elizabeth Molloy, who had been married at the same church in July 1808. Georgiana’s baptismal record describes her father’s occupation simply (and rather unhelpfully) as ‘trade’. Their first child, Mary Ann Isabella Westbrook, had been born in June 1810 and died in November of the same year. The fact that Mary died at Cow Cross Street in Holborn and was buried at the nearby church of St Sepulchre suggests that the Westbrooks (rather like the Robbs) moved house frequently. Another sister, Cordelia Harriet Isabella Westbrook, was born on 23rd July 1812 and baptised on 13th August of that year at St Mary, Marylebone.
Two dentists and two weddings
At this stage, we have no records for the Westbrooks between Cordelia’s christening and her marriage almost twenty-five years later. Cordelia Harriet Westbrook married Charles Hobbs at the parish church of St Pancras on 28th March 1837, the same church where her sister Georgiana would marry Joseph Boden in the following year. Of greater significance is the fact that later records describe Hobbs as (like Joseph Boden) a dentist.
According to census records Elizabeth, the first child of Charles and Cordelia (or Harriet, the name she would increasingly use) Hobbs was born some time later in 1837, but I haven’t yet found a record of her birth. A second child, Charles George Hobbs, was born on 5th May 1839 and baptised eleven months later at the church of St Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate, though the family’s address was given as Marylebone. The record of Charles junior’s baptism confirms his father’s occupation as a dentist, as does that of their next child, Maria Georgiana, who was born on 25th January 1841 and baptised at the old church of St Pancras on 11thApril. By this time the family was living in John Street, which is where they could be found at the time of the 1841 census a few months later.
St Pancras old church in 1820
It so happens that John Street crosses Great Castle Street, the road just north of Oxford Street that Joseph Boden gave as his address in February 1841 when he married Elizabeth Robb. In the census record Charles Hobbs is described as an ‘assistant dentist’. Was he, perhaps, an assistant to his neighbour Joseph Boden, and were Charles and Joseph two young medical colleagues who charmed and married two young sisters?
Three other children of Charles and Harriet Hobbs are mentioned in later census records: Henry R. Hobbs, born in Dalston in 1844; Susan, born in Soho in 1848; and Emily, born in 1850, possibly in Covent Garden. We have three further census records for Harriet Hobbs, but curiously none of these mention her husband Charles. At the time of the 1851 census, Harriet, 33, described as the head of the household but still married, was living at 2 Tavistock Court, Covent Garden, with all of her children, but no husband. Ten years later, Harriet was at 46 Devonshire Street in the parish of St George-the-Martyr with son Charles, 20, a solicitors’ general clerk; Maria, 18, described as a ‘theatrical’; Henry, 17, a shirt cutter; and Susan, 13, a scholar. The last record we have for Harriet is from 1871, by which time she is living with son Henry, now a woollen warehouseman’s assistant, and his wife Amelia and two young children, in Clifton Grove, Camberwell. I’m not sure when Harriet Hobbs née Westbrook died, but she was no longer with Henry in 1881, when he and his family were living in West Ham, or in 1891, when they were back in Camberwell.
I’ve found no trace of Harriet’s husband Charles Hobbs after 1841. The fact that he was absent on the occasions of both the 1851 and 1861 census seems unlikely to be coincidental. But if he had died by this date, who was the father of Harriet’s younger children?
As we know, Cordelia Harriet Westbrook’s younger sister Georgiana married a dentist of her own, Joseph Boden, in December 1938. The address given on the marriage certificate, 27 Gresse Street, was just a few streets away from the house in John Street where the Hobbs family would be living at the time of the 1841 census.
That same census finds Georgina (sic) Boden, a young woman of independent means, living alone in Gresse Street. The absence of her husband Joseph may be explained by the fact that, four months previously, he had contracted a second marriage – to Elizabeth Robb.