Master Mariners in the Family

County Durham and neighbouring Northumberland face the North Sea and have a long history of shipping and shipbuilding, especially around Newcastle, at the mouth of the Tyne River, so it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that several of my ancestors had close links to the sea.

Jane Mitcheson (1793-1825) was one of four daughters and two sons of farmer Joseph Mitcheson (1746-1821) and his wife Margaret Philipson, my four-times great-grandparents in County Durham. Jane’s brother William Mitcheson (1783-1857) became an anchor maker and lived in the Limehouse area of London, near the docks. Perhaps Jane met her future husband through her brother William.

In 1812, she married David Mainland, bachelor and master mariner, of Tynemouth, Northumberland,saying her vows at the parish church in Whickham, County Durham.1 I do not know when or where David was born, or even when he died, but he appears to have had a successful career. There was a reference to him as early as 1808 in the London Gazette, noting he was captain of an English merchant ship that had sailed from Stockholm to Hull, Yorkshire.

Jane gave birth to the first of their children, Margaret, who was baptized just before Christmas, 1813 at Christ Church, Tynemouth. The couple may have had a daughter Jane, born around 1818, but I have not found her birth record. More about her later.

David Mainland junior was born around 1819 in North Shields, Northumberland. More about him later also.

Etching by Charles William Sherborn, View along the Thames River with Limehouse in the distance and a builder’s yard on the right. 1876. Source: the British Musem.

In October, 1825, Jane gave birth to Joseph Mitcheson Mainland, named after his grandfather who had died four years earlier. By this time, the Mainland family was living in London, a major center of the shipping industry. Jane died about a month after Joseph’s birth and was buried on Nov. 2, 1825.2 Joseph died at age seven and was buried in 1833 in the same cemetery as his mother, St. Anne’s, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets. This left David as a single father, however, Jane’s brother William and his family lived nearby and may have helped with the children. In fact, although Jane was dead, the ties between the Mainland family and William Mitcheson’s family were close for decades.

In 1849, David Mainland junior, a master mariner like his father, married one of William Mitcheson’s daughters. Mary Ann Mitcheson was born in 1814 in Poplar, London, married school teacher Manasseh Phillips Eady in 1833, and had a daughter, Mary (1834-1905). Manasseh died in 1839, and Mary Ann Eady married her cousin David Mainland at All Saints Church, Poplar, ten years later.3 David and Mary Ann spent many years together, despite his long absences at sea. They had no children.

I have not done much research on David’s career as a mariner – this could be another rabbit hole to explore some day – but I did find that a David Mainland (father or son?) was commander of Sons of Commerce, a new copper-bottom ship sailing from London to India in 1841. In 1850, 1851 and 1852, David (this must have been the son) was captain of the barque Sultana, owned by Mitcheson, carrying immigrants to South Australia.4 Toward the end of his life, David became a ship owner himself.

David and Mary Ann were living on Garford Street, Poplar, near the Mitchesons, in 1851, but by 1861 they were in West Ham, an unfashionable suburb of east-end London. Many industries were located there at the end of the 19th century, making soaps, dyes, gunpowder and other products. West Ham was said to be one of the busiest and dirtiest parts of the city.

The Thames River and the port of London, east of the city center in 1900. Limehouse and Poplar are near Stepney. These docks were the gateway to the British Empire. Detail of a map in the 10th edition of Encyclopædia Britannica.

Mary Ann died in 1887. When David died in 1906, at age 87, he was buried with her in Tower Hamlets Cemetery, London.5 By then he was a rich man, and he split his estate between three people: Ernest Frederick Walford, stockbroker; William Mitcheson Dodd, gentleman (William, 1853-1933, was a mariner and the grandson of Jane Mitcheson’s sister Margaret); and Mary Ann Mainland Lewis, spinster.6

Mary Ann Mainland Lewis was the daughter of Jane Mainland (who was probably David junior’s sister),and her husband, David Lewis. According to Jane’s and David’s 1839 marriage record,7 Jane’s father was David Mainland and, according to the 1861 census, she was born in Whickham, Newcastle around 1817. David Lewis was also a master mariner. That 1861 census entry for Jane shows the couple had four daughters. Mary Ann Mainland Lewis, the youngest of their daughters, born about 1852 in Poplar, Middlesex, was therefor probably David Mainland’s niece and the third beneficiary of his estate.

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “The Mitcheson Family of Limehouse”, Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2015,


Mary Eady Mainland, daughter of Manasseh Phillip Eady and Mary Ann (Mitcheson) Eady, married Alexander Fleming and the couple had a large family.

As an adult, Jane and David Mainland’s daughter Margaret lived in the London area and was married twice, first to Magnus Smith in 1832. The widowed Margaret Smith married Daniel Cooks in 1851.

Mariners worked at an extremely hazardous occupation, at risk of injury or death from big storms and submerged rocks. Accidents were so common that, in 1879, a British charity called the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society assisted 11,863 shipwrecked mariners, their widows and orphans with financial support. David Mainland attended a meeting of this organization in 1879.


1. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973, (, database on-line, entry for David Mainland, accessed April 16, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

2. London England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003, (, database online, entry for Jane Mainland, Tower Hamlets, St. Anne, Limehouse, accessed April 17, 2022) citing London Metropolitan Archives, London, England, London Church of England Parish Registers.

3.London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936, (, database online, entry for David Mainland, accessed April 18, 2022), citing Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.

4. Barque Sultana, SA Passenger Lists 1847-1886, transcribed and submitted by Robert Janmatt, (database online,, accessed April 16, 2022)

5. London, England, City of London and Tower Hamlets Registry of Graves, 1841-1966, Registry of Private Graves, 1883-1920, (, entry for David Mainland, accessed April 16, 2022), citing City of London and Tower Hamlets cemetery registers held by the London Metropolitan Archives, London, England.

6. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995, (, database on-line, entry for David Mainland, accessed April 16, 2022), citing Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England 7. London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936, [, database on-line, entry for Jane Mainland, accessed April 17, 2022), citing Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.