East Street, Crediton in 1904- (copyright the Francis Frith
John Boddy, who was born in 1796 in Crediton, a
market town in Devon, is the first of the Boddy ancestors for whom we
have some detailed records - before that, we are reliant on Parish
Registers of Crediton, which give very little detail, often only
parents' names, and so we're not always sure we have linked up with
the right people, "John" being a very common Christian name of the
Our John was born in what was an extremely bitter winter in southern
England. December, the month he was probably born, was among the
five coldest Decembers since records were kept in 1659, and included a
bitterly cold spell around Christmas. The temperature in London on
Christmas Eve was noted as -21degC, and Christmas Day was intensely
cold, with the Thames frozen (ref)
John was baptised in early 1797 in the local
church at Crediton, the Church of the Holy Cross (right).
The Boddy/Body name was common in the area, with many recorded in the
registers of the Crediton Parish Church. Today, that church features two
such names in its Roll of Honour, of those who served/died in the 20th
century World wars.
In the early years of the 19th century, young John finished school,
left home, and headed for London. Train services hadn’t yet reached
Devon, so transport to the capital would have been by horse and coach,
or possibly by sea through the nearby port of Exeter.
By 1821, aged 25 he was established enough to marry. His bride,
Charlotte Pearse, was three years older than him, and also from
Devon. Charlotte’s home town was the village of Sidbury, a
considerable 50km away from Crediton, so it’s likely the couple met in
London, rather than Devon. The wedding
ceremony may have been carried out in haste - the couple were
married in March of 1821, and their first son, Henry, was baptised less
than a month later in Charlotte's home village of Sidbury.
A point of historical interest - The church,
where John and Charlotte married St Leonard's in Shoreditch, is,
according to Wikipedia, the church mentioned in the line "When
I grow rich, say the bells of Shoreditch" from the nursery
rhyme Oranges and Lemons.
The church is at the intersection of Shoreditch High Street with Hackney
Road, within the London Borough of Hackney.
Back in Sidbury, John found work as a servant. By 1830, the
couple had three sons in Sidbury, Henry, George (1824) and
finally Joses (1829).
in the 1830s, the family moved again, to return to London.
It appears that John’s earlier schooling, while probably not extensive,
was enough for him to get work there this time as a
servant/messenger/clerk in the UK Treasury.
The position may well have included basic accommodation - in the first
official census of Britain, in 1841, John, Charlotte and the youngest
son, 12 year old Joses are listed as living, along with a dozen
other people, at "6 Manchester Buildings" in Westminster, a
combined commercial and residential building adjacent to the offices of
right: a 1828
engraving of the Treasury Buildings at Whitehall, where John was a
By the time of that census, both of the older boys had almost
certainly left home. Neither Henry, then aged 20, or George 17
years, appear in that document.
England conducted another census in 1851, in which John and
Charlotte are registered still in the Westminster precinct, with John's
occupation listed as "messenger". The next official record for
John is his will, which he made in 1857. This document gives
his address at that time at Bloomfield Terrace, Pimlico, while a later
codicil (1860) gives Pulford Street, still in Pimlico.
It seems once John left Government service, the couple moved a few
times, probably always in rented accommodation around London's inner
suburbs. Neither John nor Charlotte's whereabouts are found in the next
(1861) census. John's health deteriorated after this time, and his death
certificate gives 'diabetes' as the cause of his death in May 1866. .He
died at 1 Sampson Terrace, Hackney with his son George at his side.
His will, with its legalese and elaborate legal script, is
difficult to read. Basically, John appears to have left everything,
except the actual shares and cash, to his wife - but Charlotte was to be
the beneficiary of any income or dividends from the shares, which were
originally to be managed by his younger sons George and Joses as
executors (with Henry added almost as an afterthought in a later
codicil). On Charlotte's death, the estate was to be cashed in and
divided between his three sons.
This doesn't mean that there was any significant estate to be shared
-after all, it's unlikely that a simple messenger would have been
able to accrue any degree of savings.
It was John's second son, George, who more than 20 years after his
father's death, emigrated with his own son and his family, to the
distant shores of Australia.