In May of that year The People’s Charter, calling for universal suffrage for men, had been launched by the London Working Men’s Association. In June the coronation of Queen Victoria had taken place at Westminster Abbey. In September the first railway line between London and Birmingham was opened and the Anti-Corn-Law League was founded. In the month that Joseph and Georgiana were married, the twentieth instalment of Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the tenth instalment of Nicholas Nickelby were published.
Tombs in the grounds of St Pancras old church (via britainunlimited.com)
Their marriage certificate notes that Joseph and Georgiana were married at the ‘parish chapel’ of St Pancras, while other records confirm that this was the old church in Somers Town, rather than the newer neo-classical building on Euston Road. The old church, which would be restored in the following decade and still stands behind St Pancras and King’s Cross stations, was one of the earliest sites of Christian worship in Britain. A number of notable individuals were buried in the churchyard, including Mary Wollstonecraft, over whose grave her daughter Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley planned their elopement in 1814.
Joseph Boden and Georgiana Westbrook were married here because, at the time, the parish of St Pancras stretched westwards as far as Oxford Street, the area where both bride and groom seem to have been living (see below). Their wedding was one of four celebrated at the same church on that day in December 1838. The officiating priest at all four events was one ‘Jos. Arrowsmith’, whereas on other days in that month, almost without exception, the officiating minister had been Rev William Wilson, the curate of St Pancras. Wilson had celebrated the marriage of Georgiana’s sister to Charles Hobbs at the same church almost two years earlier.
The marriage certificate of Joseph Boden and Georgiana Westbrook in the St Pancras parish register (via Ancestry.co.uk)
The only ‘Jos. Arrowsmith’ I can find in the clergy archives is the Rev Joseph Arrowsmith who served as vicar of Fishlake in Yorkshire from 1822 until his death in 1846 at the age of 51. It’s possible he was simply visiting London in December 1838 and was asked to substitute for an absent minister. His presence at St Pancras on 13th December may or may not have significance for our story.
As we’ve noted before, their marriage certificate describes both Joseph Boden and Georgiana Westbrook as of ‘full age’. In fact Joseph was two months away from his twenty-fifth birthday, while Georgiana was almost twenty-three. Neither would have needed their father’s permission to marry. Georgiana’s father Thomas Westbrook had died three years earlier at the age of 50, while it’s unlikely that Joseph’s family would have been able to leave his farm in Derbyshire to travel south for the wedding.
Both Joseph and Georgiana signed their own names on the marriage certificate, and it looks as though the copy in the parish register includes their original signatures, which isn’t always the case. There were two official witnesses. The second signature is poorly executed and difficult to read: could it be Ann Corby? If so, it’s perhaps interesting that a woman of that name, born in Manchester, had married Robert Woodhouse Smith at the same church three months earlier. The signature is slightly different, but it might be the same person. But then, why would she sign in her maiden name?
The signature of the first witness is much clearer, and his distinctive name makes it easier to be sure of his identity. Edwin Kelk is almost certainly the person who would be described as a dentist in Pigot’s London Directory in the following year. Interestingly, neither Joseph Boden nor his brother-in-law Charles Hobbs, though giving their occupation as dentists on their marriage certificates, would feature in that list.
Edwin Kelk was said to be resident at 11 Wellington Street, just off the Strand, which is where he could be found living with his wife and daughter at the time of the 1841 census, which describes him as a ‘surgeon dentist’. The census record states that Kelk was born in about 1806, making him at least ten years older that Joseph Boden. Was he Joseph’s employer, or perhaps had Joseph been apprenticed to him?
Section of Greenwood’s 1827 map of London, showing location of Gresse Street (via http://users.bathspa.ac.uk)
Even if Joseph Boden had worked for Kelk at some stage, the address that the former gave at the time of his marriage suggests that he had now struck out on his own. Both he and Georgiana were said to be living at 27 Gresse Street. I don’t know how usual it was for bride and groom to give the same address: did this indicate some kind of un-Victorian impropriety, or was it simply a statement of where they would be residing after the wedding?
As noted in previous posts, Gresse Street is a short road leading off Rathbone Place, on the north side of Oxford Street and to the west of Tottenham Court Road. Two other roads, Stephen Street and Stephen Mews, run off it. I’ve also mentioned before that it was just a few streets away from the John Street home Georgiana’s sister Cordelia Harriet and her husband Charles Hobbs, also a dentist. At the time of the 1841 census Gresse Street would be a diverse neighbourhood that included carpenters, tailors, publicans, jewellers, lawyers, coachmen and even comedians. But of course, by that time, Georgiana would be living there on her own, her husband Joseph having taken a second wife in the meantime.