The Bumsteads of Ipswich

The surname Bumstead originates in the Essex villages of Steeple Bumpstead and Helions Bumpstead and was rarely found outside Suffolk or London, where it first appears in the thirteenth century.

The furthest we can go back with certainty in our line is the baptism of Stephen Bumstead on 15th September 1751; he was the son of another Stephen and his wife Mary and the ceremony took place at St Clement’s Church, Ipswich.

St Clement Ipswich

St Clement’s Church, Ipswich

Stephen was apprenticed in 1765 to Christopher Skidmore who was a painter/plumber/glazier. The next two generations were to follow in this occupation, although variously describing themselves on documents. The trades were all linked and imply one who works primarily with lead (Latin: plumbum); this would include water supply and sanitation plumbing (not the major part of the job as it is nowadays); glazing, where leaded windows were often the norm as large panes of sheet glass were very expensive; lead work on roofs and guttering, as well as painting, where white paint was lead-based.

SB apprenticed to Skidmore 23 Aug 1765 copy

Christoper Skidmore belonged to a family that had been established in Ipswich since the early seventeenth century and he was a Freeman of the town. This was an important privilege – it gave the right to be self-employed in the town, exemption from tolls, business protection and a share in the borough administration influencing the price and quality of goods. It also gave the right to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections. The latter was especially valuable at election time as bribery was rife in “free” boroughs, where the open ballot ensured electors voted for whom they had committed to.

Before the Municipal Reform Act of 1835, there were four methods by which Freemen could be admitted:

By Patrimony – male claimants had to be at least 21 years of age, born in wedlock and with their father a Freeman
By Servitude – claimants (male or female) had to be indentured to a Freeman for seven years, born in wedlock and at least 21 years of age
By Purchase
By Presentation

In 1772 Stephen (b1751) was admitted as a Freeman by servitude. It seems he took his responsibilities seriously as in 1784 he was elected a Chamberlain of the borough. This position (two Chamberlains were elected each year) involved the collection of income (mostly rents from properties owned by the borough and market stalls) and the payment of outgoings. At the end of the year the Chamberlains had to present a summary of their accounts which were then audited and passed by the senior members of the town administration.

On 10th June 1777, just three months after his father’s death, Stephen had married Elizabeth Naunton at St Margarets Church in Ipswich. Elizabeth was probably the daughter of John and Mary Naunton (one of the witnesses at the wedding was a John Naunton); she had been baptised at St Margarets on 3rd December 1745 and so she was six years older than her husband.

St Margaret Ipswich

St Margarets, Ipswich in the 19th century

The marriage produced two children, Stephen born in March 1778 and Elizabeth, who was born in 1779 but only lived a few weeks. Their mother herself died the following year, her burial at St Clements being recorded in June 1780.

Widowers with small children did not normally stay long unmarried in those days and Stephen wedded Sarah Daniels at St Clements on 4th February 1781. They had a further three children, Sarah (born & died 1782) Charlotte (born 1783) and James (born 1785).
We can assume that the eldest surviving child, Stephen was apprenticed to his father in the early 1790s if not before. He was certainly admitted as a Freeman of Ipswich in 1799 (by patrimony), his occupation given as a painter. In 1801 he married Betsy Wase at St Clements Church – among the witnesses are Stephen’s father and a C. Bumstead – possibly sister Charlotte who was 18 and may have been a bridesmaid. Another witness and possible bridesmaid was a B. Wase, almost certainly Betsy’s elder sister Barbara, who, unlike Betsy was able to sign her name.

Later that year Stephen (b1778) applied to the Lending Cash Charity that had been established as far back as 1566 to help poorer tradesmen with an interest-free loan of £25 for ten years. The person requesting the loan (the Obligor) had to find two sureties to guarantee the repayment – the three individuals were liable for double the amount lent (£50) if the loan was not repaid. Stephen had as his sureties John Gray, draper and John Gostling, whitesmith. One of the conditions of the loan was that the obligor did not leave the town and continued in his trade (here Stephen is described as Plumber and Glazier). He is also described as “Stephen Bumpstead the younger” but signs himself “Stephen Bumstead Junor”

Loan Document Stephen Bumstead 1801

At some time during the next year Stephen (b1778) moved to the Parish of St Matthews on the north west edge of the town, for his three eldest children were baptised there: Stephen (baptised 10th July 1802), Matilda (26th January 1804) and William Wase, named for his maternal grandfather (9th March 1806).

Two more sons were baptised at St Margarets; George in 1808 and John in 1809 but by 1814 Stephen and Betsy had returned to St Clements where their last three children were baptised: Samuel in 1814, Mary Ann in 1817 and finally Robert in 1823. The family were living in Rope Walk at this time; baby Samuel’s death is recorded there in 1816 and an advertisement in the Suffolk Chronicle records Stephen as a tenant of a property.

Rope Walk, Ipswich about 1934

Rope Walk, Ipswich

It is sometimes difficult to identify which Stephen Bumstead is being referred to in the records although “senior” and “junior” are occasionally used. In the Quarter Sessions records for the borough there are often lists of bills authorised to be paid – in 1800 for instance we find:
Stephen Bumstead: for work at the Old Gaol £3.11.10
Stephen Bumstead: for work at the Bridewell £2.17.1
This is almost certainly the Stephen born 1751, who was a well connected figure in the town, rather than his son who would have been only 29, although it is possible that they worked together. The Poll Books for the municipal elections regularly list both Stephens in the early 1800s, sometimes using senior or junior to differentiate them.

The four eldest sons of Stephen (b1778) were all duly admitted as Freemen of the borough on reaching their twenty-first birthday: Stephen in 1823, William Wase in 1826, George in 1828 and John in 1831. At the time of their admissions the address of Stephen, William and John was given as London; Stephen’s occupation was given as painter. Although not listed in the admissions book, we know from elsewhere that William was a baker – the occupations of the other two I have not yet discovered.

The document registering the admission of Stephen (b1802) is shown below. He is described as “Stephen Bumpstead son of Stephen the younger”. There were now three Stephen Bumsteads all Freemen of Ipswich and all practising the trade of plumber/glazier/painter.

Stephen Bumstead Admission as Freeman 1823

 

We are lucky to find them all listed together in the Parliamentary Poll Books for the general election held in June 1826. Although voting on different days (polling continued for four days altogether), all four members of the family eligible to vote were recorded as follows:
Stephen Bumpstead Ipswich Plumber
William Wase Bumpstead London Baker
Stephen Bumpstead London Glazier
Stephen Bumpstead snr Ipswich Painter

The printed copy (below) gives a summary:

1826 Electoral Poll Book Ipswich copy
Ballots were not secret in pre-Reform Act days and we can see that all four voted for Robert Dundas and Charles Mackinnon, who were, in fact, both elected as Members of Parliament for Ipswich (the borough elected two members and there were four candidates in all). Both of the new MPs were Tories and it is perhaps not surprising that the family voted thus as a newspaper advertisement shows the allegiance of one Stephen :

Tory ad 1823
Suffolk  Journal 1823

No record has been found of the death of Sarah Bumstead, the second wife of Stephen senior, but he married for the third time on 7th November 1818 at the age of 67. The wedding took place at St Clements and his bride was Sarah Wright. Stephen senior died in March 1831 at the age of 80 and was buried at St Clements, the last of the family to be so. He had lived in Fore Street and in July of 1832 the house was put up for sale. There are no signs of a will for Stephen, but one must suppose the third Mrs Bumstead inherited the quite grand freehold property – “five rooms on the ground floor, a cellar, three chambers and two attics with two staircases from top to bottom” with entrances from a passage from Fore Street or from the St Clements churchyard at the rear. In 1834 his son was still in the parish at New Street:

I take this to read that Stephen was himself a tenant and sub-let part of the property, rather than being himself a freeholder. New Street has now been swept away, but Fore Street remains much as it was with many seventeenth and eighteenth buildings still standing.

Houses in Fore Street, Ipswich

Fore Street, Ipswich

The map below shows the St Clements area and was published in 1778 – the year of one of our Stephen’s birth. You can see quite clearly the church in the centre and its proximity to the docks (roughly above the words “THE RIVER”). Fore Street sweeps around the church from the north-west to the south-east (shown as St Clements Fore Street). New Street is due east of the church. The main part of the town is to the west and north-west of St Clements. The Bumstead house in Fore Street would have been immediately to the south of the church.

Map of St Clements Parish 1778
Within a few years the family were dispersing: Three sons at least had moved to London, the fifth one Samuel had died in 1816 aged two, so only Matilda and youngest son, Robert remained at home (the youngest daughter, Mary Ann married John Sheppard at St Matthews in 1840). By 1841 they had returned to St Matthews. The family lived in Globe Lane at the time of Stephen’s death, which occurred on the 18th April 1841, just a few weeks before the Census was taken. In the Census return, which is too illegible to be reproduced, Betsy is shown as a Laundress and a widow. With her are Matilda and Robert, both of whom were to die in the following year. I have never been able to trace Betsy’s death.

Stephen (b1802), as we have seen, was in London by 1823. On the 7th April 1828 he married Elizabeth Kennedy, a widow, at St Clement Danes church in the Strand. By 1837 they were living at Vine Place in Hoxton. There was a great deal of building taking place in this area of east London and Stephen may have moved to be close to opportunities for work. The couple do not seem to have had any children and Elizabeth died at Vine Place and was buried at St John Hoxton on 5th March 1837. Stephen was to marry again in 1843 and we will return to his family in a future article.
William Wase Bumstead married Mary Ann Fairburn in London around 1835/6. He continued in his occupation as a baker, appearing on the 1851 Census in Tower Hamlets. His descendants stayed in the London area for several generations., but I have not yet found any certain trace of John Bumstead, his brother.

St Clements Ipswich font
The font in St Clements Church, Ipswich where generations of Bumsteads were baptized.

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