In 1851 my possibly-bigamous great-great-aunt Elizabeth Robb and her almost-certainly -bigamous husband Joseph Boden were living in Lawrence Lane, off Cheapside in the City of London. Something must have happened in the next four years to drive the couple apart, since at the time of his death in 1855, Joseph was living elsewhere, and it appears that Elizabeth was not living with him.

According to his death certificate, Joseph Boden died on 10th April 1855. He was 41 years old and his occupation is given as ‘dentist’. The cause of death was ‘phthisis pulmonalis’ or consumption of the lungs: in other words, tuberculosis. In Victorian London, it was mostly the poor who suffered from this disease, though consumption was still seen as the ‘romantic disease’ by the upper classes.

fetter-lane-1853

Joseph’s address at the time of his death was 100 Fetter Lane, between Fleet Street and Holborn. The informant, who was present at the death, was one Henry Lloyd, of the same address, and the death was registered on 13th April. This fact alone leads me to believe that his wife Elizabeth was not with Joseph at the time of his death.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Henry Lloyd. He certainly wasn’t living at 100 Fetter Lane at the time of the 1851 census. Then, the inhabitants were printer William B. Harris and his wife, together with three lodgers and a house servant. Nor would Lloyd be at that address in 1861, by which time it was the home (and presumably business premises) of coffee-house keeper William Chitty and his family, as well as four lodgers. The next-door neighbours were the same on both occasions, though: licensed victualler Thomas Adams and his wife and employees were at 101 Fetter Lane in both 1851 and 1861. By the latter date, the premises were described explicitly as the Vintner’s Arms (later renamed the Printer’s Devil, the pub finally closed in 2008).

printersdevil1957

‘The Printer’s Devil’, Fetter Lane, in 1957 (via pubshistory.com)

In other words, it looks as though Joseph Boden ended his life as a lodger in a stranger’s house, rather like his father-in-law, my great-great-great-grandfather Charles Robb (see this post). Since we know his wife Elizabeth was still alive at the time, the only explanation can be that the couple had separated.

As for Elizabeth, we have no way of knowing if she was still at the Bodens’ former home in Lawrence Lane, or whether she had already moved into her sister Matilda’s house in Gillingham Street, Pimlico. All we can know for sure is that Elizabeth Boden would be there at the time of her own death, five years after that of her husband.

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