Monday, 3 July 2017

The Steedman's of Woolwich a family remembered

I have featured those new books on the history of Eltham and Woolwich by Kristina Bedford already so I was pleased when Ms Bedford agreed to write a story for the blog.*

Powis Street, early 20th century
It is the way that when you sit down to write a history of a place there is much that has to be left out.

So here is the  story of the Steedman family by Kristina.

When planning the running-order for the illustrations in Woolwich Through Time, I was delighted to be able to close the book on a personal note, with a rare Carte-de-Visite memorialising the grave of the Steedman family, 19th century Woolwich residents whose local migrations mirror the spider’s web of connections between Woolwich and its neighbour villages of Charlton and Plumstead.

The Steadman  family grave
Although near- indecipherable on the small CDV, digital scanning brought up the full text of the headstone, which reads

The Family Grave of
James Steedman
Edward Street Woolwich
Affectionate Remembrance of
Wife of James Steedman
Died January 10th 1869
Aged 49 Years

Born in Scotland in 1812, engineer James Steedman married Fanny Joyce on 14 December 1840 at Deptford St Paul, by banns.

The following year’s census, taken in June, records the couple living on Dock Street in Poplar, Tower Hamlets, a district dominated by shipwrights and watermen.

They had moved to Blackheath by the time the birth of their first son James Thomas was registered under the September quarter, migrating again within two years to Charlton, where son John was born in 1843, and son Henry in 1848.

Powis Street,early 20th century
The 1851 census lists the family at 12 Paradise Row, Charlton, revealing that Fanny was herself born in Woolwich, where they had re-located by the time daughter Fanny was born on the 2nd of July, christened on the 24th of that month at the Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, their address recorded as No 8 Edward Street.

Despite commemorating Fanny with the Rolls Royce of Headstone Monuments in the most expensive row at Woolwich Cemetery in Plumstead, widower James, now working as a money scrivener, re-married only six months later, on 22 July at Southwark St Saviour, the home parish of his bride, spinster Eliza Brumage.

The site of the family grave today
The 1871 census records the couple as living at No 8 Edward Street with Fanny Jr, who was attending school, Eliza’s widowed mother, and one domestic servant.

Edward Street had been re-christened Powis Street by the time of the 1881 census, when James, Eliza, Fanny, and one servant were living at No 158.

James had retired to a house named “Thames View” on Humber Road in Greenwich by the time of the 1891 census, where he lived on his own means with wife Eliza, daughter Fanny, and ‘scholar’ grandson Henry.

The National Probate Calendar reveals those means to have been considerable: “STEEDMAN James of “Thames-view” Humber-road Westcombe-park East Greenwich Kent died 15 July [1899] Probate London 16 September to Eliza Steedman widow James Thomas Steedman scrivener’s-clerk and Anthony Michael Brumage retired engineer from the Royal Navy Effects £17182 15s. 6d.” 

James Steedman, aged 87, was buried with his first wife Fanny in Woolwich Cemetery on 19 July 1899, joined on 11 July 1908 by second wife Eliza, three days after her death.

Despite the considerable financial investment James made in the family grave he took such pride in, the memorial was demolished and the plot planted over with grass during a general clearance at Woolwich Cemetery during the 1960s, to make the grounds easier and cheaper to maintain.

I hope that he would find some compensation in his family being re-commemorated in Woolwich Through Time and here in Andrew Simpson’s Blog.

© Kristina Bedford

Pictures; from the collection of Kristina Bedford

*Woolwich Through Time, Kristina Bedford, 2014, Amberley Publishing,

Eltham Through Time, 2013, Amberley Publishing,

Ms Bedford also has an interesting web site, Ancestral Deeds,

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