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John Humphrey was born in St Olave’s, Southwark in 1825. On the 1851 census, aged 24, he is living at 5, Cavendish Terrace, Clapham, Wandsworth, London and Surrey, England with his wife Emma. His occupation is given as Wharfinger (the term means keeper or owner of a wharf and is pronounced wor-fin-jer). Ten years later on the 1861, John and Emma can be found at the same address, now with eight children (Edmund, Mary, Henry, Ernest, Francis, Herbert, Stanley and Constance) and five servants, including William Thompson, born in Dallington, Northamptonshire, (who I believe is the father of my great grandfathers first wife), employed as a footman.
Although John Humphery is not an ancestor, in trying to learn about William, I have learned much about John too. Baptised on 6 January 1826, in Bermondsey, St Olave, Southwark, John was the son of John and Mary Humphery who were living at Dean Street. On the baptism certificate the occupation of John’s father is given as Wharfinger too.
On 5 October 1847 John Junior married Emma Cubitt at St Leonard, Streatham, Lambeth, England. John’s profession is given as Squire, John’s father is named as John Humphrey, Alderman of London and Emma’s father is named as William Cubitt, Sheriff of London.
British History Online
Both men are detailed on the British History Online website in an entry for 1851 which reads:
‘William Cubitt. An eminent builder and contractor, younger brother of Thomas Cubitt, the builder of South Belgravia. He was re-elected to the Mayoralty at the close of his first year of office, partly as a consolation for his defeat in the contest for the parliamentary representation of the City on the retirement of Lord John Russell. He started the Mansion House Lancashire Relief Fund while Lord Mayor. His son-in-law, Sir William Humphery (son of John Humphery, Lord Mayor 1842-3) succeeded him as M.P. for Andover. His re-election to the Presidency of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital after his resignation of his Aldermanry gave rise to litigation, which was not judicially decided till after his death, the office having hitherto been regarded as tenable only by an Alderman of London.’
Port of London Study Group
An article about Hay’s Wharf by Gillian Barton on the Port of London Study Group website writes about the the Humphery and Cubitt families too, stating:
‘In 1840 the wharf came under the control of John Humphrey Junior, an Alderman for the City of London, Master of the Tallow Chandler’s Company, Lord Mayor of London in 1842, MP for Southwark 1832-52 and proprietor of Hay’s wharf from 1838 – 1862. In 1856 he commissioned William Cubitt to design and build new warehouse accommodation. He created a small inland dock so barges could gain access from the river, with a five storey warehouse on each side of the new dock. Business was good, until the Great Fire of Tooley Street in 1861. Described as ‘the greatest spectacle since the Great Fire of 1666’, it destroyed the “best warehouses in the kingdom”. The fire started at Cotton’s Wharf, destroying 11 acres of land. London Bridge railway station also caught fire in the blaze. Most of the wharves were rebuilt in the late 1800s as a result of Humphrey’s partnership with Smith and Magniac (whose company later became Jardine Matheson).’
On 17 July 1846 John Humphery Junior was awarded The Freedom of the City.
Freedom of the City Admission document for John Humphery.
John Clark from the group Historic Southwark: Camberwell, Southwark and Bermondsey explained ‘Originally you couldn’t carry on a trade or business in the City of London unless you were a ‘freeman’ of the City – that is, a ‘citizen’. Three main ways of becoming a freeman – apprenticeship (through one of the livery companies/trade guilds) (not very common these days); ‘redemption’ (paying a fee); or ‘patrimony’ (if your father was already a freeman when you were born).’
‘John’s freedom certificate shows it was by patrimony. His father the MP was ‘citizen and tallow chandler’ and the witnesses confirm that John Junior was his legitimate son. A few hundred years earlier this would have meant that John Senior was a tallow chandler by trade, making candles out of tallow – but by the 19th century many of the livery companies had lost their links with the actual crafts and trades. But to become a freeman/citizen of London you had first to be a member (freeman) of one of the companies – so no obvious reason why John Senior opted for the tallow chandlers when making his first step to power and influence’.
John Humphery Junior died on 27 December 1868 aged 42. The graves of both John Humphery Junior and John Humphery Senior who died on 28 September 1863 can be found in Battersea Rise Cemetery and photos of these can be found on the Find a Grave website below.
The will of John Humphery Junior was proved on 11 December 1868.
Life after John
After John’s death, it is possible to continue tracing Emma’s life via census returns. The 1871 census shows her aged 41, now the head of the family, living in Kensington with eight children. The 1881 census shows her living in the Borough of Westminster at 63 Princes Gate with six children and nine servants and her living arrangements with a large number of servants remain similar in 1891 and 1901 too.