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Barnaby Bartlett Lane (1801-1853)                                                       

2 x great grandfather of Henry Austin Lane - Generation 5.                                

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Barnaby was the first of two children born to his parents in Colyton, east Devon, a rural village located 161 miles (259 kilometers) south west of London. His father was an agricultural labourer, described in parish records as a 'sojourner' (a person who did not stay in one place for very long). As mechanisation and new farming methods in agriculture replaced the work of many men and women, agricultural labourers were forced to live a nomadic existence as they moved from farm-to-farm in search of work.

There is little doubt that Barnaby had an unsettled and impoverished childhood, and did not have the chance to know his sister, since he was only 2 years old when she died. Contrary to the custom of the time, he did not follow in his father's footsteps, and became a cordwainer (boot and shoe maker) rather than an agricultural labourer.

During his late teens, Barnaby journeyed from Devon to London, a significant undertaking in the days before end-to-end canal and rail travel was possible. It is probable that he made this journey on foot (perhaps hitching the occasional ride on a passing horse and cart). This would have taken him around a week, compared to the 4 hours it takes to drive the same distance today.

At the time of his arrival in London, Barnaby would have been greeted by narrow unpaved, filthy streets clogged with waste (both animal and human) and lined with squalid, cramped houses. This city had no effective sewerage system, a high rate of crime, poor healthcare facilities, few well-paid employment opportunities and an ever-growing population (from 740,000 in 1750 to 3.2 million in 1850). It must have seemed uncivilised after living in rural Devon.

Barnaby married Ann Oldridge, who also heralded from Devon, in 1825 at the St. Pancras Old Church, Camden, London. For much of his married life, Barnaby worked as a cordwainer (boot and shoe maker) in Ward 17, Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, United States of America (U.S.A.). During Barnaby's 8 year absence, Ann continued living in London with their children. Despite her abject poverty, she miraculously kept herself and her children out of the parish workhouse on what she earned from dressmaking.

Barnaby and Ann’s life together, was one of mixed fortunes:

  • 1825-1833: POOR: Lived in Aldgate, East End of London. Ann lost two children.

  • 1834-1835: VERY POOR: Lived in Hackney, East End of London. Barnaby worked as a beerseller.

  • 1836-1836: VERY POOR: Lived in Tower Hamlets, East End of London. Barnaby voyaged to New York, U.S.A. where he worked as a cordwainer.

  • 1836-1839: POOR: Lived in Westminster, West End of London. Ann lost her youngest child.

  • 1840-1843: DESTITUTE: Lived in Tower Hamlets, East End of London, in a run-down docklands district.

  • 1844-1850: POOR: Lived in Hackney, East End of London. Barnaby returned from the U.S.A. and worked as a warehouseman.

  • 1851-1853: COMFORTABLE: Lived in Camden, West End of London. Barnaby worked as a cordwainer.


As a result of this, their children did not fare well:


  • His daughter, Mary Ann Lane, died in the Whitechapel Union Workhouse Infirmary when she was 61 years old.

  • His daughter, Jane Elizabeth Lane, died at home when she was 1 year, 3 months and 15 days old.

  • His son, William Henry Oldridge Lane, died at home when he was 11 months and 6 days old.

  • His son, Henry James Barnaby Lane, died at his place of work when he was 38 years old.

  • His daughter, Caroline Lane, died at home when she was 1 year, 3 months and 24 days old (Caroline was born and died while her father Barnaby was in the U.S.A., so he never knew her).

At the age of 52 years, Barnaby died in Charing Cross Hospital, from the rupture of an extremely painful and disfiguring malignant, bleeding tumour of the skin (fungus haematodes), which he had been living with for 11 months.

Bold Bootmaker

Barnaby did not dwell

upon his childhood living hell

and off to London he did go

a new furrow to hoe.

As a cordwainer he survived

but never truly thrived

and voyaged overseas

his poverty to appease.

With a small profit in his hand

he came home later than planned

to see his daughter married

and his wife extremely harried.

© Mel Hamson, 2012

Note: If you would like to know more, or have information that improves this history, we would love to hear from you.

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