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In a Bible passed down in the Smith family there's an entry for Thomas Jackson, turner, Mutton Lane, Clerkenwell, born 20 October 1720 and the birth dates of his sons Thomas and John. This is the only record of Thomas Jackson, Sr.'s, birth. Available indexes of parish records in England don't have a likely Thomas baptized near this date. That's the beginning of generations worth of either lacking or possible church records that may help identify other people in the family, but also add confusion.
     Thanks to that Bible, a court record and his will, a very basic group can be formed for certain. He married at least two women. The first was Sarah, who is named as the mother of Thomas, Jr., and John in their baptism records - which include birth dates that match the Bible birth dates. Nothing else with proof has been found for Sarah. He definitely married a woman named Mary. She testified with Thomas in an Old Bailey court case in 17591 and he names her in his will. No further proof of her identity has been found. There is a Thomas buried in St. James Clerkenwell parish just after the death date given in the Bible and he was from Holloway, the same town Thomas lived in when he wrote his will - no doubt the same person. In the will he mentions a daughter Mary who married John Blunt, a grandson named Robert Morrison and a half brother named William Edwards. No other likely records have been found for any of them. The Bible doesn't mention Mary, only Thomas, Jr., and John.
     Also helpful are apprentice and some church records. No other London turners named Thomas Jackson have been found other than Thomas, Sr., and Jr. of Clerkenwell in the mid to late 1700s, and only two apprentice records for men of that name and occupation. One is undoubtedly for Thomas, Jr., who had a bond to serve with his father, as did his brother John, both when they were normal apprentice age. The other record is for Thomas, son of John, turner of St. Andrew's Holborn parish, bonded to Mathew Lowe, turner, on 12 September 1738. Lowe's location isn't given.



London Metropolitan Archive; Reference Number: COL/CHD/FR/02/0778-0-785


It's certain that John, the father of Lowe's apprentice Thomas, was the one bonded to turner Francis Morris in 1713. He was the son of Christopher, a wine cooper of St. James, Clerkenwell. Francis was also bonded as master to Mathew Lowe, and both John and Mathew were "turned over" to Thomas Lowe, a shipwright. What relation Mathew was to Thomas isn't said, but it's likely Francis Morris had died. A 1755 court case includes testimony from Thomas Jackson, turner, and three Lowes - Edward and William, sons and employees of an unnmamed turner, and William, the turner's brother.2 Given this, it must be that Matthew, Edward and William Lowe, baptized at St. Andrew's Holborn between 1699 and 1708 to Thomas Lowe, turner, and his wife Mary, are this family, and explains why Jackson would be testifying with the Lowes. No other people with these names and relationships were found in church records. The unnamed father in the 1755 case could have been Matthew rather than his father Thomas, but no record has been found for baptisms of boys named Edward or William Lowe, sons of Matthew. That would mean Thomas Lowe, master of both Thomas Jackson and Matthew Lowe, was the employer, and he and his brother William were, for the time, quite elderly. No likely baptism records have been found for Thomas Lowe or the elder William Lowe. Thomas' sons Edward and William, if still alive in 1755, were beyond middle age.
     Evidence is good that the lineage of Thomas Jackson, apprentice of Mathew Lowe and in trade for himself by 1755, goes back through John and Christopher. If this wasn't Thomas of Mutton Lane, Clerkenwell, no other has been found as an alternative. Going on the assumption that they are the same man, he either became an apprentice when he was 17, nearly 18, or he was transferred to Mathew Lowe from another master as his presumed father had been. That usually happened when a master died. In this case, he may have been an apprentice to his father, who was described as deceased in 1738, but no bond for this is in online indexes of apprentice records or duty taxes paid on apprenticeship bonds.
     There were numerous John Jacksons buried in this part of London between 1730 and 1738 (Jackson was a very common name in itself), but not enough information is given to identify them. The most interesting of these is one buried in April 1738 in St. James Clerkenwell, living at the workhouse, age 42. It isn't always obvious what compensation masters were given when apprentices were bonded to them. Sometimes money is specified. For Thomas, Jr., and his brother John, it was "the premises," probably alluding to their already living with the master - their father. Other times it was "for considerations whereof." That was the case in the Lowe/Jackson bond. If John Jackson, turner, had failed in business and ended up in the workhouse while his son was still an apprentice with him, what considerations would lead to Lowe taking Thomas on transfer? He may have had enough skills, at nearly 18, and independence to not require the food and board necessary for a thirteen-year-old boy.
     As for Thomas, Sr., of Mutton Lane, no definite record of his marriage to Sarah has been found, but it was before the Thomas who was bonded to Mathew Lowe was declared "free" to conduct business in London, which happened on 7 November 1753. Thomas, Jr., had already been born in 1751. Apprentices were forbidden in their bond to marry before the term was over. The contract specifies the usual seven year term, but this was often extended for whatever reason. Thomas, Jr., and John, bonded in 1765 and 1769 respectively, didn't become free until 1777, and there were 15 years between bond and release for Lowe's apprentice Thomas. This wasn't uncommon. Without another Thomas as a candidate found for Lowe's apprentice, it's likely Thomas of Clerkenwell married Sarah out of the norms of the Church of England. It would have been a "common law" union - legal, provided it was done by a minister, but not recognized officially by the Church of England. It was called, contemporarily, a "clandestine marriage."
     There is only one marriage record found that fits these circumstances - Thomas Jackson and Sarah (whose last name is given as "Twats" and "Waitt" in different recordings of the union) in early May 1748. Many clandestine marriages were performed in or in a specific area around Fleet Prison, which had its own laws ("Rules of the Fleet"). Marriages here became a lucrative business and were usually performed by ministers who had nothing to lose with the Church of England, many having been defrocked. There were also those pretending to be ministers. Houses and pubs within the area hosted the marriages, for a fee, while conveniently providing accomodation and libation for the celebrants.





Thomas and Sarah were married by Thomas Crawford at the King's Arms, corner of Fleet Street and Ludgate Hill. Nothing is found about Crawford other than this, in a letter sent to a newspaper: after witnessing a minister paying a fine for "profane cursing and swearing," and being appalled by the degraded atmosphere around Fleet Prison, the writer "saw a person exceeding well-dress'd in a flower'd morning gown, a band, hat and wig, who appeared so clean that I took him for some worthy divine, who might have accidentally come out of the country by coach, and as accidentally be making the same remarks as myself; but upon inquiry was surpriz'd at being assured that he was one T---- C---- (the paper was avoiding slander), a watchmaker, who goes in a Minister's dress, personating a Clergyman, and taking upon him the name of Doctor, to the scandal of the sacred function. He may be seen at any time at the Bull and Garter, or the Great Hand and Pen and Star, with these words under written -'The old and true Register' near the Rainbow Coffee-House." This was in 1736. The King's Arms register shows that he was likely a "Fleet parson" for hire at that tavern in the late 1740s. Marriage houses and taverns paid to have an "in-house" minister as part of their wedding business, which likely explains the references to the other taverns. The ease of getting married this way was very popular and reportedly accounted for half the marriages in the city while it was allowed. But if the above report is true, he had no legal business marrying people.
     Rev. Alexander Keith was a maverick minister who, at one time, performed common law marriages as described above at St. George's Chapel in London's Mayfair neighborhood. He was removed from that position, but he wasn't deterred. He opened a private "chapel" in a house across the street and continued. He was soon sent to prison, but other ministers performed marriages there on his behalf. One of them, John Grierson, noted Thomas and Sarah's marriage on the May 4th (the Kings Arms marriage). Another record says they married on the 22nd, entered into the register not by a minister, but probably a clerk. It's possible that the couple discovered Crawford was a fraud (which presumably would nullify their marriage if it were ever challenged) and had Grierson do it at Keith's private chapel on the 22nd. There is no apparent reason why the "Fleet" marriage would appear in Keith's register if this wasn't the case. There were distinctly two different events. The Keith Chapel and Fleet records say that Thomas was a "gentleman's servant" of St. George's, Bloomsbury, and Sarah was of St. Magnus the Martyr parish. They aren't close to each other or near the cluster of parishes otherwise assoctiated with the Jacksons or Mathew Lowe, so may have been fictitious. If this was Lowe's apprentice, Thomas was a servant, but he may have added the "gentleman's" to obscure who he was. Impossible to say how much of the information is accurate. If this was Mutton Lane Thomas he was well into adulthood and obviously not on a fast track to be free to open his own business, so it's a little difficult to imagine he would be concerned about the legality of this marriage as they concerned his apprenticeship. Then again, it was very common and very easy. Sometimes premarital pregnancy induced these kind of marriages, as apparently was the case with Thomas, Jr.'s, Protheroe in-laws, but Thomas, Jr., is the first child of record for Thomas and Sarah, and was not an early enough birth.
     No likely origin for Sarah has been found, but given that the name "Twats" is practically unheard of in England, it was likely a garbling of the other surname given, "Waitt" (Waite, Waites, Watt, Watts). Who knows how literate the person was registering people at the Kings Arms Tavern. Sarah, mother of Thomas and John, whether or not she was a "Waitt," must have died between 4 January 1755, when John was born, and by the time Thomas and wife Mary testified in a court case in 1759. No burial record has been found for Sarah, but it's possible it was on 27 January 1755 at St. Sepulchre. The date and place are very plausible, but her age is given as one year. The previous burial was for another one-year old, suggesting it might be a clerical error. She was living on Long Lane, which is in St. Bartholomew the Great parish next to St. Sepulchre and near Clerkenwell. No other Sarah Jackson was found in this vicinity who could have been the one-year-old, and it isn't known when the Jackson family settled in Clerkenwell. It could have been after her death.
     Having considered the supporting evidence for putting generations of this family together, here begins the material that contradicts. The only likely second marriage for Thomas found in parish records was to Mary Allcock on 2 September 1756 at St. James, Clerkenwell, but both, according to the document, were single. They were married by license, but that hasn't been seen to verify or contradict the parish record. Thomas was of Christ Church Greyfriars parish, Mary was of St. James. Christ Church was very close to St. Sepulchre and to Clerkenwell. It may have been after this marriage that Thomas opened his business in Clerkenwell.
     Thomas' daughter Mary, her husband John Blunt and the grandson Robert Morrison are a complete mystery. To further complicate things, there was, in the pertinent area of London, a Mary Jackson who married a Robert Morrison in 1767 and had a son Robert in 1769. But she was the daughter of Thomas and Jane, according to these records, and there was a Mary, daughter of Thomas and Jane, who was baptized in this area who very plausibly could be the right person. She and her siblings were baptized in 1745, 1747 and 1750, suggesing there wasn't a long delay between their births and baptisms and negates that this Thomas married someone else (Sarah) in 1748. A bigamous marriage isn't impossible, but very unlikely. But it does allow for Jane to have died and Thomas to have remarried before Thomas, Jr., was born in 1751. No burial or marriage records support this idea. Another complication is that a Robert Morrison, age 18, was buried in St. James Clerkenwell parish in 1788 (after Thomas mentions his grandson Robert in his will). His residence was in Holloway near Islington, where Thomas Jackson died several months earlier. Robert, son of Robert and Mary, would have been 18 at the time of this burial. There were, relatively, very few Robert Morrisons in London at this time, so the evidence that supports and contradicts the alligning of these people is frustrating. Nothing at all likely was found for John Blunt or the fate of Mary (Jackson) Blunt. Thomas, Sr.'s, step-brother William Edwards would presumably have been the son of Thomas' mother by a marriage before or after that to Thomas' father, unless he was actually Thomas' stepbrother. Again, no likely records connecting a Jackson to an Edwards that would fit the circumstances was found, nor for a likely baptism for William.
     Thomas opened a shop, or shops, making and selling turned ebony and cut glass pieces with silver adornment. This was certainly going on by 1759, as mentioned above. Given the likelihood he was the apprentice to Matthew Lowe, he probably started after he became free in 1753. He was very successful, and the value of trade supposedly made his the most financially successful "small carpentry" business in London in 1775.3 Turners traded at the highest value within small carpentry (vs the building trade). Turners didn't necessarily make and trade the same type of goods. Some might might make canes and whips. Jackson's company made high end ornate items such as, apparently, coffee mills. Reference to an unsourced advertisement says his shop was at "the sign of the Golden Coffee Mill."





© 2009 Fairfax House, a house museum in York, England


This high income figure may have been skewed by the fact that the Jacksons produced more than just turned goods, with glass-cutting and silvering added to it. Another source referring to advertisements says "Thomas Jackson of Clerkenwell, London, succeeded by Jackson & Sons (1768-1800), had a factory for making wickered bottles and cut smelling bottles."4 No specific source for this ad is given, which apparently included illustrations. The beginning date of 1768 is likely an error and refers to a poll made of the livery companies in that year. Thomas is included in his name only, on Mutton Lane.1 The end date of 1800 is probably also unreliable. It would mean the name "Jackson & Sons" extended beyond Thomas, Sr.'s, death. Possible, but not likely.
     On 4 December 1765 Thomas, Jr., signed a turner's apprenticeship contract to serve under his father for seven years. His brother John did the same in 1769. For whatever reason, sa mentioned earlier, both boys went over the seven-year term before they were declared "free" to practice on their own in May 1777. They apparently took over the business when Thomas, Sr., died in 1788. A advertisement in the 18 January 1788 issue of The World refers to "Jackson & Sons at their Cut Glass, Case Wickered and Cut Smelling Bottle Manufactory, bottom of Clerkenwell Green."6 This was several months before Thomas, Sr., died, so it begs the question whether or not he was still active, as suggested by reference to "Jackson & Sons." If not, then his sons were still using that name for the company even though, technically, it was the brothers only. If the latter is true, then the date of 1800 above may be accurate. Thomas, Jr., seems to have retired from the business about that time, and John Jackson's sons had just been made free to work as guild members. John and his sons had definitely continued on their own by about 1810, but not obviously within the same business.
     An Old Bailey case, the same as the one mentioned above in 1759, shows that Thomas, Sr.'s, employees worked with ebony. A woman was accused of stealing a sheet, a blanket and a rug from the Jacksons. They were recovered and brought to court. When asked if she could identify the sheets, she said "these are my property, the sheet is coloured by the Ebony wood that our men turn, it makes their linnen and sheets in which they lie, of a yellow colour."
     The latter is confirmed by his location being referred to not only on Mutton Lane but also Silver and Turnmill Streets. Turnmill forms the southwest border of the Green and runs southeast toward Cowcross Street. The portion of Turnmill at the Green used to be called Silver Street. Off Mutton Lane is Glass Court, the seven little buildings on which were leased by Thomas. When Turnmill, Glass Court and Silver Street were developed and named hasn't been found, but corelation between the street names and the Jackson business can't be coincidence.
     At some point Thomas and Mary moved to a house in Upper Holloway, northwest of Islington. It was there that he wrote his will in 1782 and died in 1788. Earlier in the century, Upper Holloway was a hamlet on what is now Highgate Hill (the road). It and "Lower Holloway" gradually moved down the street toward Islington. This was a country house of some sort. Mary may have stayed there for a while, since Robert Morrison, perhaps her grandson, was buried at St. James Clerkenwell from Holloway. Her residence given in her burial record is Lower Street, Islington.






The arms for London's turner's guild - columns, hatchet and St. Catherine's wheel. This appears on the apprentice papers of turners by at least 1765 (see above), but not as early as 1738 (see further above), when a more generic arms for London were used.

It must have been Thomas Jackson, Sr., who registered his gold and silver mark, "T J" in an oval, on 30 September 1769, residence on Mutton Lane.1 Thomas, Jr., was still a minor at 18. He was listed among the "large plate workers" in gold, the meaning of which hasn't specifically been found, but seems to generally be tableware. No other reference has been found to him working in gold.1 The "J" in these marks appear as an "I," which was a common, alternative way to render that letter.

children of Thomas Jackson and Sarah (Watts/Waite?):

Mary b. abt 1749?, m. (2.?) John Blunt by 1782
daughter (maybe Mary) m. (1.?) Mr. Morrison, son Robert
Thomas b. 7 November, bap. 18 November 1751
John b. 4 January, bap. 20 January 1755, m. Phoebe Thompson?





vital records sources: His birth is recorded in a family Bible. His marriages come from London parish registers abstracted at familysearch.org. Both marriages are based on circumstantial evidence.

1. http://www.oldbaileyonline.org.uk/, Reference Number: t17590228-6, 28 Feb 1759.
2. Lowe court case
3. Barnett, David Colin (1996) The structure of industry in London: 1775-1825. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.
Sir Ambrose Heal, The London Goldsmiths, 1200-1800, etc.
4. Journal of the Society of Glass Technology vol. 17 (1933), p. 123.
5. The poll of the livery of London, etc. (London:1768), p. 59.
6. Francis Buckley, A History of Old English Glass (1925), p. 130.
Montague Howard, Old London silver, its History, its Makers and its Marks (London:1903), p. 314.

all text and photographs © 1998-2020 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted


(fn A fire insurance record from 1779 says that Thomas, Sr., was a "silver worker, turner & glass cutter." )