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Henry James Barnaby Lane (1834-1873)                                                       

Great grandfather of Henry Austin Lane - Generation 4. 

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Henry was the fourth of five children born to his parents. He and his siblings were raised for the most part in Stepney within the London borough of Tower Hamlets in London's East End. Henry had the distinction of being born a ‘cockney’, the term applied to Londoners born ‘within earshot of Bow Bells’. These are the bells of the church of St. Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside in the City of London, and not of a church within the ward of Bow in Tower Hamlets, Middlesex, as is often incorrectly assumed.


A study undertaken in 2000 estimated that the Bow Bells could be heard 6 miles to the east (Newham, Essex); 5 miles to the north (Haringey, Islington and Hackney, Middlesex); 3 miles to the south (Lambeth and Southwark, Surrey); and 4 miles to the west (Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Middlesex). There were two periods during which the Bow Bells were unable to be rung, and in the literal sense of the 'within earshot' definition no cockneys were born during these periods:


  • In 1666 the church of St. Mary-le-Bow burned down during the Great Fire of London and its bells were destroyed. The church was rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren between 1671 and 1673. A 7 year 'cockney birth-free' period.


  • On 30 June 1940 the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow were silenced as part of the British anti-invasion preparations for World War II (1939-1945). In 1941 the bells were destroyed during the ‘London Blitz’ and were not replaced until 1961. A 21 year 'cockney birth-free period'.


Henry’s father worked as a cordwainer (boot and shoe maker) and his mother worked from home as a dressmaker. Despite the combined earnings of his parents, his family was living on the breadline and had endured the infant deaths of his sister Jane Elizabeth Lane and his brother William Henry Oldridge Lane before he was born.


Having been reduced to working as a beer seller (barman) to make ends meet, Henry’s father embarked on a passage to New York, United States of America (U.S.A.) on 20 June 1836, and left his mother on her own to support their young family in impoverished circumstances. The fact that his mother kept herself and her children out of the parish workhouse with what she earned from dressmaking, was remarkable. Despite her abject poverty, his mother made sure that he and his surviving siblings had an education, and were able to read and write at a time when only 40% of the English working class was literate.


8 years passed before his father returned from the U.S.A. to learn that his youngest daughter had been born and died during his absence, and his eldest daughter had married a man, 11 years her senior. What remained of Henry’s family was reunited for 10 short years, before his parents passed away within 2 months of one another.


There is little doubt that Henry endured much hardship during his youth, and may well have been hungry more often than he was well fed. Given that he suffered from asthma and bronchitis in later life, it is possible that these conditions first developed during his childhood as a result of sub-standard and insanitary living conditions, poor nourishment and inadequate healthcare.

The 'Booth Poverty Map' (1898-1899) provided an invaluable insight in the living and working conditions of our London-based ancestors during the Victorian period (1837-1901). This map of London is coloured street by street to indicate the levels of poverty and wealth, based on observations made by Charles Booth and his team of social investigators who accompanied policemen on their beats around London. Charles Booth was an English philanthropist and social researcher, who documented working class life in London. His work, along with that of Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree, influenced government intervention against poverty in the early twentieth century and led to the founding of old age pensions.


Married life saw Henry partnered with Elizabeth Martha Worrall, a lady who came from a family of somewhat successful entrepreneurs. Although not well-off, as a couple they were not impoverished. Even so, early in their marriage they lost their infant sons William John Lane and James Thomas Lane. Their six other children went on to live long lives through which they married and had families of their own.


Henry's occupation of vellum binding, was a highly skilled profession for which an apprenticeship was usually required. Henry would have served his apprenticeship under the supervision of a master vellum binder, to whom he was contracted (indentured) for 5 years. The process of book binding involved the assembly of a number of folded or unfolded sheets of paper or other material, and the attachment of a cover to the resulting text-block. Vellum was used to provide a flexible cover for accounts and stationery books, and required a high degree of skill to stretch, form and stitch to the text-block.


After 20 years of marriage, Henry died at his place of work with his brother-in-law James Scotter Kingston (the husband of his sister Mary Ann Lane) in attendance. Henry had helped James to secure a job when he was unemployed during the 'Long Depression' (1873-1879), so it seems fitting that James was with Henry during his final hours. Working in a dusty environment, probably aggravated Henry's lungs and contributed to his untimely death from asthma and bronchitis at the age of 38 years. It is sad to reflect on the fact that Henry died in the prime of his relatively short life, after enduring much hardship and heartache.


Following Henry’s death, Elizabeth worked as a home-based waistcoat maker for a local clothing manufacturer, and with support from her eldest son Henry Barnaby Bartlett Lane provided her children aged between 4 and 19 years with a reasonable standard of living until she married again 2 years later.


Kindly Cockney


Henry shared his life

with his 'trouble and strife' (wife)

seven 'bin lids' (kids)

and very few 'quids' (money).

Book Binding was his trade

and quality books he made

but he was never healthy

and neither was he wealthy.

Whilst in his prime

he died before his time

as the London dust and smoke

caused his sickly lungs to choke.


© 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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