Springate family in Victorian London.

My mother's great grandparents, Elizabeth Burton and James Springate were both born around 1810, less then 7 miles apart but in settings that were worlds apart. Elizabeth was born in Southgate, in those days a quiet rural village about 8 miles north of London. James in contrast was born in the parish of St. Lukes just outside the London Wall, in an area that was already caught up in the squalor of the overcrowded city.

To get a sense of London prior to the
industrial revolution I’ve marked Southgate and St. Lukes on this wonderful 1540 illustration of London. The River Thames in the foreground, then St Paul’s Cathedral dominating the City of London. The London Wall, a defence built in Roman times, can be seen arcing around the back of the cathedral. Beyond the wall you can see church spires in villages that supplied fresh food for London’s growing population. The tracks and roads leading to the city would be crowded with horse-drawn wagons bringing crops to the London markets. One day a week livestock would be herded to Smithfield Market just outside the city wall for slaughter and sale. 

I chose this illustration because the vista north of the city wall remained rural until about 1800 - close to the birth dates of Elizabeth and James. The area between St. Lukes and Southgate is where they spent most of their married life and witnessed the dramatic change from rural to city suburbs.   

The 1666 Fire of London destroyed most of the wooden buildings and the cathedral, but the stone city wall survived. By 1700 most of the city buildings and the cathedral had been rebuilt of stone or brick, and from 1700 to 1800 expansion was predominately to the east and west along the River Thames. To the north most development was just outside the city wall, to accommodate working families who overflowed the old city. The parish of St Lukes was established in 1733 for just that purpose. 

Elizabeth’s family lived in the quiet village of Southgate. I imagine her parents would take young Elizabeth on the occasional Sunday walk to a nearby hilltop to look at the distant spires and buildings of London. A sight to see, but it is unlikely that Elizabeth visited the city in her childhood - leisure travel was not a part of life for working rural folk. James, on the other hand, probably had no concept of countryside. The streets and back alleys of the crowded city were his experiences, probably closer to the squalid overcrowded conditions of ‘Dickensian London’.

The frantic growth in London that James, Elizabeth and their children experienced was driven in part by changes in transportation. First the building of a canal network in the late-1700s to 1830 era, then the invention of the steam engine and the building of railways from 1830 onwards. With the railways came the concept of “commuting” to work, and from that came urban sprawl in all directions. This in turn required more goods and workers to build the expanding city. James Springate was a coachman for most of his working life, and he made a living from moving people and goods. 

So how did James and Elizabeth meet? I wish
I knew, but in my searching for clues I have uncovered their house moves throughout their married life, and this alone will make for several stories.

I have plotted their moves in and around London on this 1819 map, and the summary below gives the date and event for each location plotted on the map.

1   c.1811     James Springate born in parish of St.Luke’s       

2   c.1812     Elizabeth Burton born in Southgate

3   c.1835     James Springate marries Elizabeth Burton

4     1836/7   1st child James born in Holloway

5     1838      2nd child Mary born: Windsor St., Paddington

6     1841      Census: Fortess Mews, Kentish Town

7     1847      3rd child Albert born in Holloway

8     1851      4th child Emily born in Norwood, Surrey

9     1851      Census: Gipsy House Road, Norwood

10   1854      5th child Elizabeth born in Islington

11   1861      Census: 6 Cottenham Rd, St. Mary's, Islington

12   1871      Census: 46 Brougham Rd, Upper Holloway

13   1878      Death of Elizabeth age 66: Hornsey Rise

14   1879      Marriage of daughter Emily: Hornsey Rise

15   1879      Death of James age 68: Hornsey Rise   

The dark shaded area on the map represents the built-up centre of London, and my marker-1 indicates that St.Lukes has already been absorbed into crowded London. During James Springate’s lifetime all the markers in the rural areas north of the city progressively changed from rural to built-up suburbs of London. The same applies to the south of the city (and likewise to the east-west, which I’ve not included on this map).

Over time their moves oscillated from semi-rural to the edge of the old city. Was there something from their differing childhood backgrounds that pulled Elizabeth towards the quiet rural lifestyle of her childhood, and James to the bustle and energy of life in the city?


Locating these addresses on a map has been a real  learning experience. Although I have lived and worked in   London and visited the city many times as a tourist I had never heard of Kentish Town or Norwood, and certainly couldn’t locate Holloway or Islington on a map. Now this is from someone who is fascinated by maps!

The lives of the Springate family at Fortess Mews in Kentish Town [6] and Gipsy Hill in Norwood [8] show the struggles and whimsical contrasts of life in Victorian London. Each is a stand-alone story .... so follow the trail.

James SPRINGATE (1810 - 1879)  m.  Elizabeth BURTON (1811 - 1878)

at  Southgate, Middlesex ??  in c. 1835

                                                        Children: James SPRINGATE (1837 - ?)

                                                                        Mary SPRINGATE (1838 - 1916)

                                                                        Albert SPRINGATE (1847 - ?)

                                                                        Emily Springate (1851 - 1911)  - my great-grandmother

                                                                        Elizabeth SPRINGATE (1854 - 1899)



St Lukes