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Newbon Family History
Since John Newbon’s first eldest child Ellen was born in 1836, we must assume that he married a year or so previously, when he would have been in his early-20s; no record of the ceremony has yet been found, however. His bride, Ellen Dodds, came from Bath, so it is not impossible that the marriage took place there, although there is no evidence to suggest that John ever left London. At about the time of John’s marriage, Charles and Henrietta moved back across Fleet Street to 94 Dorset Street, Salisbury Square, where they lived probably until the mid-1840s, at which point they retired to Southwark.

Professional life: a debtor’s story
John Newbon chose the same profession as his father Charles, that of a tailor. Charles had had a very successful business in the City of London, advertisements for which can be found in various trade directories. Indeed, Charles’s business was so successful that on his death in 1859 he left an estate valued at £1500 and was described in his will as a ‘gentleman’. The same document reveals that Charles left his business and all his estate, after the death of his wife Henrietta, to his second son, John’s younger brother Walter Henry (also a tailor); indeed, Charles left nothing at all to John in his will, although a legacy was left to John’s wife Ellen. The reason for Charles overlooking his son is one of the less happy episodes in the Newbons’ history, which was reported in the London and even in the national press. The London Gazette of 1845 contains the following:

The full story can be pieced together from a number of documents found in The National Archives. It reads roughly as follows:

John Newbon and Ellen Dodds most likely met some time in the early- to mid-1830s. They settled in the Waterloo area of London,  starting a family in 1836. John worked as a tailor, possibly with his father in Fleet Street, but probably soon setting up independently in Lambeth. He lacked his father’s flair for business, however, and with a growing family must have found it hard to make ends meet.

At some point in the early-1840s John started to overstretch himself financially, possibly in a rather desperate gamble for greater security, but luck was not with him. By 1844 he owed money to several men (mainly suppliers of material) and was less than honest with them. Finally his creditors caught up with him and he was put into the Queen’s Prison (a debtors’ prison just off Borough High Street in Southwark) on December 19th 1844. His principal creditors were Frederick Stebbings (to whom he owed in the region of £38) and John Whistler (to whom he owed £30 plus costs). There is also the rather ambiguous mention of a John O. Buck in the records of the Queen’s Prison to whom it seems he may have owed £32 19s – his debts thus totalled almost exactly £100 (the equivalent of at least several thousand pounds of today’s money).

John Newbon was brought to trial on February 11th 1845, the account of which found in The London Gazette is printed above. John’s sentences ran concurrently from December 21st 1844 (2 days after his imprisonment), and he was released on August 20th 1845.

The day after his release, John’s wife Ellen gave birth to the couple’s 5th child, Charles Henry Newbon.
John’s trial also reached the national press – the following was reported in no less than The Times on Wednesday February 12th 1845:

This must have been an emotional time in the Newbon household, but any notion that John might have been allowed home early for the birth of his son is merely a romantic fiction, since John served his 8-month sentence to the day. It is not inconceivable on the other hand that the relief of finally having her husband home brought on Ellen’s labour, but the child was not significantly premature if that were the case. Ellen must have become pregnant either at the end of November or the beginning of December 1844, which would have been within a month of John’s arrest and so must have seen more or less her full term through. The Queen’s Prison was little more than a mile from the Newbons’ Waterloo home and one wonders how often Ellen was able to visit John, and whether she took her 4 young children (Ellen, Jessie, Henrietta Ann and John Joseph) with her. Fortunately, they must have been too young to have clear memories, if any, of their father’s plight and one assumes that the family kept quiet about it thereafter.

John’s father Charles Newbon must have been shocked, if not appalled, at his son’s predicament. He by no means cut his ties with John’s family as a result, however, but it is interesting that neither did he bale his son out of trouble financially. Charles was certainly a man of means and at some point during the mid-1840s he retired to Southwark, but his capital may well thus have been tied up in property at just the time John needed his help. Naming his new-born son Charles Henry may well have been a peace offering on the part of John to his father, and also possibly to his younger brother Walter (whose middle name was Henry), who must have been emerging as heir-apparent to Charles’s business at this time. It is clear that Charles’s faith in John’s business sense evaporated with the incident of 1844-5, judging by the bequest in Charles’s will of 1859 of 19 guineas ‘to the wife of my son John Newbon’ while John himself received nothing. Charles was clearly fond of his long-suffering daughter-in-law Ellen and this bequest seems almost in recognition of what she had to put up with in keeping the family together at its most difficult time – Charles and his wife Henrietta may well have helped to look after Ellen and her four children during her pregnancy while John was in prison, although if they had indeed moved to Southwark by this point they were actually a little further away from Ellen and her children than when they had lived in the City of London. Unfortunately, John’s recklessness was sufficient to ensure that none of the wealth the Newbon family had been accumulating since the 1770s passed to any of his descendants.

The Newbon family in Lambeth and Southwark
The addresses for John given in the newspaper reports of 1845 (‘late of no.34 Commercial Road, Lambeth, Surrey[,] previously of no.12 Basing Lane, Bread Street, London and formerly of no.41 Sutton Street, York Road, Lambeth’) give an interesting glimpse of the family’s mobility in the early-1840s. The implication is that John’s address at the time of his arrest in 1844 was 34 Commercial Road, Lambeth, a street which ran parallel to the river, backing on to the wharves and yards immediately past Waterloo Bridge downstream. On the 1841 census John and Ellen are indeed to be found with their 3 eldest children, Ellen, Jessie and [Henrietta] Ann at Sutton Street, where John Joseph was born in 1842. But the newspapers seem to indicate that at some time between 1842 and 1844 the family had moved back to the other side of the river to Bread Street in the City of London, only to move back to Lambeth the following year. Possibly it implies that John owned a shop in the City at this time, but more likely it suggests a desperate flight from creditors.

Charles Henry Newbon, whose birth as already mentioned coincided with John’s release in 1845, was born at 23 Vine Terrace, south of the Waterloo area in the parish of St Mary, Lambeth. The family is to found there again on the census of 1851, the year of the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace, by which time the scandal would hopefully have blown over. The Newbons are listed at this address along with 2 other families. It is certainly worthy of note that they stayed at the same address for at least 6 years after John’s imprisonment, suggesting a period of much greater stability. John is described in 1851 as a ‘tailor master’, possibly indicating that by this time he was the head of a sizeable business with at least one apprentice. It may well be that he was being economical with the truth, however, or at least thinking what might have been! The fact that his living conditions must have been cramped suggests that he was certainly not well off, but his business may have settled down somewhat by this stage. In 1861, the year that saw the start of the American Civil War, the family were living on their own at 2a Ewhurst Street, Newington, again further south and also further east, and so the family finances may well have been more comfortable by this point.
Weston (near Bath), the birthplace of
John Newbon's first wife, Ellen Dodds
John Newbon’s baptism record also tells us that in 1813 Charles Newbon’s home was in St Bride’s Passage, immediately next to the church, in whose shadow John would have spent much of his infancy. Prior to the baptism of their 5th child, Charles and Henrietta moved to no. 5 Racquet Court on the other side of Fleet Street, and it would have been there that John spent the rest of his childhood.
The grave of John Newbon’s
parents-in-law, William and Mary Dodds,
at Weston, Somerset
49 Merrow Street, Walworth,
where John Newbon died in 1882

By 1871 only John (then in his late 50s) and his 19-year-old son Thomas Car(e)y Newbon were living at Ewhurst Street. Ellen Newbon died in 1869 of a disease of the liver, at the age of 55 (it is not hard to imagine the worries of a hard life finally taking their toll on Ellen – one wonders if she perhaps even turned to drink in desperation). John’s other children had presumably moved away from home by this time – 5 of his 7 children were married by this date. Two years after the death of his wife, John Newbon re-married. His second wife’s Christian name was also Ellen – prior to their marriage on July 3rd 1871 (which took place at St John’s, Walworth) she had been Ellen Thorn, a widow (whose maiden name had been Ellen Arlett), and she was some 15 years younger than her new husband. She and John both gave their address as 19 Gurney Street, which was very close to the church. The two witnesses at the wedding were George and Sohpia Hammond, who can be found on the census earlier that year living at 18 King’s Row, Newington. George is listed as a ‘builder, employing 3 men’.

Unfortunately John and Ellen no.2 only enjoyed 3 years of married life together, before Ellen’s death in 1874 (at the age of only 44) left John Newbon a widower for a second time. John himself died on May 4th 1882, at what was presumably his home at the time, 49 Merrow Street, Walworth. The cause of his death was given as ‘apoplexia [of] 6 days’, which probably means a stroke; he was aged 69. His death was registered by his daughter-in-law Mary Ann Newbon, the wife of his son Walter Augustus. Again, John was listed as a ‘master tailor’. A year before his death, John can be found on the 1881 census at this same address with his stepdaughter Fanny Thorn(e), who was then aged 15. This is the only clue that when he married for the second time in 1871 at the age of 59, John Newbon was also taking on at least one young child. It is surely to his credit that when his new wife died 3 years later, he clearly continued to look after her daughter.

John and Ellen Newbon’s children
It is well worth examining the Christian names John and Ellen Newbon chose for their children, since they shed interesting light on the relations between various members of the Newbon family:

Ellen, the eldest daughter, was clearly named after her mother.

Jessie is the only one of John and Ellen’s children whose name seems to have no connection with any other member of the family.

Henrietta Ann, the 3rd daughter, took as her forename the name of both John's mother and one of his sisters, with Ann being the name of John's grandmother, who had made various legacies to him when she died in 1829.

John Joseph clearly took his first name from his father. Although Charles and Henrietta had a son Joseph, he had died young; the only other Joseph in the family was the son of John’s wealthy cousin James Shelton Newbon, who had been born two years previously; it is not impossible that the two families remained in contact at this time, before John’s imprisonment, but unlikely they did so afterwards.

Charles Henry was born the day after John’s scheduled release from prison and the two Christian names he was given were quite possibly an attempt to build bridges and to bring the family back closer together. Most importantly, Charles was, of course, John's wealthy father, while Henry was the middle name of John's younger brother Walter, who would be the major beneficiary of Charles's will several years later.

Diana Nancy was named after John's younger sister, perhaps a favourite sibling?

Walter Augustus was given the most common of all Christian names in the Newbon family, that of John’s grandfather, as his forename, although Augustus has no obvious family connection.

Thomas Car(e)y Newbon’s forename is not a common name in the Newbon family. Although it was the Christian name of another of James Shelton Newbon’s sons, it seems highly unlikely that these two families would have been at all close at this point in time. Ellen Newbon did have a brother Thomas, however, although it is not known whether or not they remained in contact. Thomas Cary Newbon’s unusual middle name was the maiden surname of his maternal grandmother, Ellen’s mother Mary; it is interesting that Thomas was named not Thomas William after Ellen's father but, more intriguingly, Thomas Cary. Little is known of Ellen’s parents and so it is merely conjecture that there may have been a specific reason for a tribute being appropriate at this time, and indeed, it is not known how close the Newbon family was to William and Mary Dodds, since the latter are only known to have lived in Somerset. Is it possible, though, that John and Ellen were hoping to strengthen relations with Ellen’s parents as the latter entered their 70s? If so, it proved unsuccessful - although William and Mary Dodds both left a will when they died several years after Thomas Cary Newbon’s birth in 1852, no mention is made in either document of Ellen or her family!

The above goes to prove that John and Ellen maintained strong links with their family both before John’s imprisonment and afterwards, reinforcing the view that they did remain on good terms with John’s father Charles Newbon until the end of his life, despite the terms of Charles’s will.

It is also likely that John and Ellen’s children remained close to each other throughout their lives. Most of them lived within close proximity and it is interesting to note the regular recurrence of various Christian names among their children. The lives of John and Ellen Newbon’s children are dealt with in detail on a separate page.

On the census
John Newbon (1813-1882)


April 1st 1813 (St Bride’s, Fleet Street)


May 2nd 1882 (Walworth)


Charles Newbon (1784-1859)


Henrietta Newbon, formerly Blyde (c.1790-1860)


1. Ellen Dodds (1813-1869);

2. Ellen Thorn, formerly Arlett (c.1830-1874)




Ellen Newbon (b.1836), Jessie Newbon (b.1838), Henrietta Ann Newbon (b.1840), John Joseph Newbon (1842-1915),

Charles Henry Newbon (1845-1919), Diana Nancy Newbon (1847-49), Walter Augustus Newbon (1850-1919),

Thomas Cary Newbon (1852-1909)

Insolvent Debtors Court February 11th

In re[spect of] John Newbon

This insolvent was opposed by Mr Woodruffe, on behalf of Messrs Stebbings, and by a creditor in person.

The complaints of both creditors were of a similar description, viz. – contracting their debts without any reasonable expectation of payment. This insolvent (a tailor) had dealt with the opposing creditors (woolendrapers) and to one of them had represented himself as only indebted to one person, whereas, in point of fact, he was considerably involved.

The CHIEF COMMISSIONER remanded the insolvent for eight calendar months at the suit of Messrs Stebbings and for six months at the suit of Mr Whistler, for contracting debts without the slightest chance of payment.

The Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors

The following prisoners, whose estates and effects have been vested in the Provisional Assignee by order of the Court, having filed their schedules, are ordered to be brought up before the court at the Court House in Portugal Street, Lincoln’s-Inn-Fields on Tuesday the 11th day of February 1845 at nine o’clock in the forenoon to be dealt with according to the statute:

John Newbon, late of no.34 Commercial Road, Lambeth, Surrey previously of no.12 Basing Lane, Bread Street, London and formerly of no.41 Sutton Street, York Road, Lambeth, Surrey, tailor.

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at home at Sutton Street, Lambeth with his wife Ellen, their 3 eldest daughters and also what looks like a domestic servant. John’s profession is given as ‘tailor & draper’. The probable presence of a servant would suggest that John is trying to live the lifestyle his father and grandfather had been used to, which was clearly unrealistic.



at home at 23 Vine Terrace, Lambeth with Ellen and their children. Two other families were living at same address. His profession is given as ‘tailor master’, which may be accurate or it may hark back to the scale of John’s business before his financial difficulties.



at home at 2a Ewhurst Street, Newington with Ellen, his daughter Jessie and his 4 sons. This remained the family home for a number of years.


at 2 Ewhurst Street, Newington with his son Thomas Cary Newbon and the family of his daughter Jessie Shilling. Ellen had died two years previously; John was to marry his 2nd wife just 3 months after the date of this census.



at his final home, 49 Merrow Street, Walworth, with his 15-year-old step-daughter Fanny Thorn(e).

All contents of this website © 2008 Stephen Willis