The Basstoe Family in London’s East End

The Nineteenth Century

What’s in a name?

There is very little variation of spelling amongst family tree members. The standard spelling used within the family is BASSTOE, and occasional variants are: BASTOE and BASTO. Now and again the spelling BARSTOW crops up in the Census enumerations, but this is almost certainly a mis-spelling - it has not been used within the family.  The Oxford Dictionary of English Surnames refers the reader from Barstow to Bairstow (and variants Baistow, Bastow). This name form arises in mediaeval Yorkshire, and has nothing to do with us I think!

The family legend that I grew up with was that “a sea-captain married a Spanish lady”. Ignoring the nineteenth century connotations of the expression “Spanish Lady” and the well-known folk song of that name, the name Basstoe could possibly be of Spanish or Italian origin - perhaps with the spelling as Basto.  Certainly some (but not all) of that third generation of Warden / Basstoes (whom I knew as my great-aunts, great uncles and grandmother) were very short of stature, with brown eyes and dark hair.

William Warden married Ann Elizabeth Basstoe in 1842 at Christchurch, Spitalfields, in London’s East End.  It was not uncommon in the second half of the nineteenth century for families to perpetuate the memory of the maternal side of a family by using the mother’s maiden name as a second name for a child. The name Basstoe seems to have had a particular fascination for the Warden family, over and beyond this purely practical explanation for the usage. Another possible explanation could be that Ann Elizabeth Basstoe was a strong personality - someone to be remembered down the generations! Over the next three generations of Wardens, Basstoe appears eight times, either as a first or second name.

Here they all are:-

George Basstoe Warden (1846-1852) - to William Warden and Ann Elizabeth

Basstoe Warden (1851-1898) - William Warden and Ann Elizabeth

Charles Basstoe Warden b.1882 to William Smith Warden and Hannah

James Basstoe Mellett (1879-1881) to Thomas Mellett and Sarah (née Warden)

Mary Bastoe Warden (1877-1966) to James Henry Warden and Elizabeth

George Basstoe Warden (1883-1887) to Robert Warden and Caroline

Basstoe George Warden (1888-1894) to Robert Warden and Caroline

Basstoe George Lewis Warden (1912-1982) to Robert Edward Warden and Isabella

To return to the family of Ann Elizabeth Basstoe:- Ann was born about 1821 in Limehouse (1871 Census). I have been unable to find a record of her birth or baptism, but perhaps this is not surprising, since registration was not obligatory then.  Her parents were Samuel Basstoe and Kitty Holloway. 

Samuel and Kitty were married on September 26 1814 in the church of St Mary Newington, Surrey. From this an estimate of Samuel’s birthdate can be made - if he married at age 21, then 1793 is a reasonable estimate for his date of birth. I have been unable to establish when Samuel died, but Kitty remarried in 1835 ( to George Smith, a cork cutter) and so at best his death can be placed sometime between the birth of his last child in 1824 and Kitty’s remarriage in 1835.

There has always been an element of mystery, if you like, about Samuel Basstoe. His daughter’s marriage lines give his occupation as “mariner” but this is not so simple a definition as it appears at first sight. “Mariner” hides a lot of possibilities - Did he join the Royal Navy? My researches so far in the Public Record Office at Kew, London, indicate not. Did Samuel work locally on the River Thames, or was he a merchant seaman travelling to distant and exotic lands? If a master mariner, did he have his own boat? 

Other children of Samuel Basstoe and Kitty

Ann Elizabeth had two brothers and a sister. The eldest brother, Samuel George, was born in 1816 (PR Bermondsey St Mary Magdalene). He didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps, but became a master hatter. He spent all his life in the East End, and died in 1862 aged 48. Samuel George married Ellen Prevost in 1835 (Prevost is a Huguenot surname.)

The Huguenots were protestant refugees from France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In England, they settled in a number of places, and one of these was Spitalfields in the East End of London. Here they established a strong centre for the weaving industry.

Samuel George and Ellen raised nine children, three of whom did not survive beyond infancy.

Samuel George and Ellen were the only married couple to found a small dynasty of Basstoes. Their first son Samuel George ( b.1839) and Elizabeth had six children. SGB was a pork butcher (1881 Census).

The second son Charles (b.1846) and his wife Caroline also had six children.  Charles was a master hatter like his father (1881 Census). George, the third son, died in infancy (1852). Finally James Joseph the fourth son (b.1854) and his wife Mary Alma provided his parents with another six grandchildren! James tried another trade - fishmongery - if we are to believe the 1881 Census. But this could possibly have been a mistake, as earlier and later censuses (1871, 1891) give his occupation as a hatter, and it really seems most unlikely that a person would hop from one highly specialised trade to another, and back again.

The second brother, Charles Frederick Holloway (this last for his mother’s maiden name) was born in 1818. He did follow his father’s footsteps, and became a mariner boatswain (his marriage certificate). Charles married Sarah Mason in 1844, and they had three children. He first went to sea as an apprentice (aged 14) in 1832. There is not much else to relate, except that in 1856 the ship he served on, “Brightman”, was reported lost in a storm off Halifax, Nova Scotia. I can find no other record of Charles after this, and so he must be presumed dead. His widow Sarah had to resort to the workhouse (1861 Census ref 281 f.198 Stepney Workhouse) which would confirm this theory, and this is where his only son, Charles Frederick Basstoe was born and died within a year.

There is a bit of a problem with the birth of this first and only son. If his father died in December 1856, presumably having been away from home for a period of weeks, if not months, it becomes difficult to explain the legitimacy of a baby boy born to his wife Sarah in July 1858.  There were two daughters of this marriage also, Mary Ann (1846) and Harriet (1848).  With time, one hopes that life improved for Sarah - ten years on she remarried. Her new spouse was Thomas Ashness.

The ‘little sister’ of this family was  Susannah (b.1824) who died in 1844 aged 20.  In the 1841 Census her occupation was recorded as ‘sempstress’.

Looking for more details? Try the Family Groups page, where you will find Census references, birth, marriage and death records.