Tag Archives: Bellinger

Occupation: fellmonger

It was with great delight that I came across an ancestor who was a fellmonger as many of mine are either labourers or worked on the land. However, I did think with the first record I found that it said fishmonger; finding further records for Thomas Bellinger (1841-1938) though convinced me that his occupation was fellmonger and that he lived in Bermondsey, South London. The Tanners of Bermondsey website[1] explains that ‘fell’ is a skin and that a fellmonger was someone who either provided or sold skins to tanners. They might also have prepared the skins by removing the hair or wool from them which wasn’t a pleasant task.

Thomas Bellinger, my second cousin four times removed, was born and baptised in Enborne, Berkshire in 1841 to parents John (1799-1883) and Sarah (1816-1852). John was an agricultural labourer who married twice and had probably at least seven children, most of whom stayed in Berkshire.  Thomas had moved to Bermondsey by the 1861 census when he was recorded as a boarder and fellmonger living at 5 Laxon Street; this was in the Leather Market area of Bermondsey. The leather trade was prominent in Bermondsey in the 19th century and part of the Leather Market building, which was erected by prominent tanners of Bermondsey,[2] still exists in Weston Street[3]. The City of London had banned tanning “because the stench was so foul” and it had moved to Bermondsey where the running water it needed was provided by the Neckinger and other tidal courses.[4] Bermondsey’s growth through to modern times has largely been attributed to the leather trade.[5]

Thomas married Sarah Withey in St James’ Church, Bermondsey on 29 March 1863 and together they had at least nine children, two of whom died in infancy, as shown in the following chart:

Descendant Chart for Thomas Bellingercropjpg

The family continued to live in Bermondsey as follows:

Census Address Notes
1871 5 Paulin Street Children: Robert, Henry and John
1881 36 Earnest Street Seven children at home

Robert and Henry were railway porters – possibly at the nearby London Bridge station

1891 1 Earnest Street Six children at home

Robert was married and had left home.

Henry was a leather dresser, John a dairyman and Thomas a van guard.

Sarah, Annie and Alfred were scholars.

1901 28 Fendall Street Three children at home

Henry was a hide cutter, John a fellmongers labourer and Alfred also worked with leather

1911 42 Macks Road Thomas was still a fellmonger despite being 69 and a widower.

He was living with his son Robert and family. Robert was a carman with Bermondsey Borough Council.

During the time the family lived in Bermondsey the population increased significantly from just under 30000 in 1831 to over 81000 in 1901.[6] Much of the housing were tenements in multiple occupation and disease and unsanitary conditions were rife. A report by the Medical Officer for Health for the year 1895 recorded a death rate of 22.1 deaths per thousand of the population in Bermondsey; this was more than the 19.8 per thousand of population recorded for London as a whole. Infant mortality was 162 deaths per thousand. The report particularly noted that deaths from violent causes had increased and that three people were found dead in the Thames and one in the Surrey canal.[7] By 1901 smallpox had also become a specific concern when an epidemic broke out in Bermondsey.[8] Interestingly, one of Thomas’s sons Henry died in 1902.

After Thomas’s wife Sarah died in 1909, Thomas and members of his family continued to live in Bermondsey until his death in 1938 aged 96.

I too came to know Bermondsey when I started work in Bermondsey Street in 2006. I didn’t know about my family’s collection to the area though and although I’ve walked down Weston Street many times, I wasn’t aware of its importance in the leather trade. I’d certainly like to see more of the Leather Market building; something I can rectify on my next visit to the London Bridge area.


Stephen Richards / Former Leather Market, Weston Street / CC BY-SA 2.0

[1] Tanners of Bermondsey. http://www.tannersofbermondsey.org/fellmongers.html : accessed 28 July 2019.

[2] Malden, E. H. ed. (1912) ‘Parishes Bermondsey.’ In: A History of the County of Surrey. Vol. 4. pp. 17-24. London: Victoria County History. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol4/pp17-24 : accessed 28 July 2019.

[3] Exploring Southwark. The Leather Market. http://www.exploringsouthwark.co.uk/the-leather-market/4591038643 : accessed 28 July 2019.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Malden, E. H. ed. (1912) ‘Parishes Bermondsey.’ In: A History of the County of Surrey. Vol. 4. pp. 17-24. London: Victoria County History. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol4/pp17-24 : accessed 28 July 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Dixon, John. (1896) Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Parish of Bermondsey for the Year 1895. London: Fredk Tarrant & Son. https://wellcomelibrary.org/moh/browse/?place=Bermondsey&startYear=1848&endYear=1972: accessed 28 July 2019.

[8] Brown, R. K. (1902) Special Report on Smallpox in Bermondsey from October 12th, 1901 to September 6th, 1902. London: Frederic Shaw. https://wellcomelibrary.org/moh/browse/?place=Bermondsey&startYear=1848&endYear=1972: accessed 28 July 2019.

Genetic genealogy

It is quite some time since I last wrote about my genealogical investigations into my family. The last year has been taken up with the diploma year of my course. I decided that over the summer I would see what genetic genealogy could contribute to my own research. I took an autosomal test sometime ago and haven’t been able to establish how some of my matches are related to me. Many of them are based in the USA and share very little DNA with me. At best they are 2nd cousins and at worst 5th cousins and beyond.

I have recently taken an autosomal test with another provider who has a much larger database of testers. In preparation for finding more distant cousins I’ve been working on parts of my family tree which have been somewhat neglected. The person I chose to follow up was my great grandfather Digweed whose family originally came from Berkshire. This has proved to be a bonus as I have found ancestors in both Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. Both counties are close to where I now live in Oxfordshire.


Market Hall, Old Amersham

The first person of interest in Berkshire is Ashley Bellinger (born 1849) who, was the game keeper to Mr W W T Drake of Shardeloes, Amersham. He is my third cousin three times removed. The Drake family held the title of ‘Lord of the Manor’ of Amersham from about 1637; previously Shardeloes had been owned by the Tothill family. William Drake (1650-90) built the Market Hall in Old Amersham in 1682 and another William (1723-96) remodelled Shardeloes from 1758-1766.

Ashley continued to be game keeper to the Drake family until at least the 1901, census although he disappears from the records some time after his son George died in 1902. George (1876-1902), my fourth cousin twice removed, was a police constable with the London Metropolitan Police when he died of influenza and pneumonia in 1902. He was buried in Amersham on 28 June 1902.


St Mary’s Church, Old Amersham

Ashley’s father George (1806-1890) was a publican who in 1881 ran the Fury Bush Inn in Kingsclere, Hampshire. In 1871 he had recorded his occupation as a game keeper. George and his siblings had been born and baptised in the chapelry in Greenham, Berkshire.


St Mary’s Chapelry, Greenham

One of George’s sisters, Ann (born about 1804), seems to have married the same man, Ashley Cowper Croft, twice. The first marriage took place at Gretna Green on 20 July 1819 and they married again in Arundel, Sussex on 26 June 1820. Her husband Ashley became an articled clerk in Arundel on 30 May 1820 and was admitted to Gray’s Inn on 5 May 1823 when he was described as the fourth son of James Croft of Greenham Lodge, Berkshire. Ashley was living at Priestwood Lodge, Greenham when he died in 1833 and left a straightforward will leaving everything to his wife Ann.

These are just a few members of the Bellinger family who I’ve discovered as part of my research into more distant cousins, in preparation for the results of my autosomal DNA test. Of course the results from that came in earlier today and it seems that it’s the Ellis side of my family I now need to do some more work on!