Tag: William Mitcheson

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, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/01/the-mitcheson-family-of-limehouse.html


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, Ancestry.com. (ancestry.ca, 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, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, 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, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, 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, TheShipsList.com (database online, www.theshipslist.com/ships/australia/sultana1851.shtml, accessed April 16, 2022)

5. London, England, City of London and Tower Hamlets Registry of Graves, 1841-1966, Registry of Private Graves, 1883-1920, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, 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, Ancestry.com. (www.ancestry.ca, 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, Ancestry.com [www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Jane Mainland, accessed April 17, 2022), citing Church of England Parish Registers. London Metropolitan Archives, London.

The Mitcheson Family of Limehouse

William Mitcheson (1783-1857) is one of my sidebars, but he was the brother of two of my great-great-greats (there was a subsequent marriage between cousins), he built up a thriving business as an anchor smith on the docks of London, and he had a large family, so every once in a while I do a search for his name.

In 2014 I got a hit on a message board: someone had a copy of the family bible of William Mitcheson of Limehouse and was looking for descendants. I responded and learned that this gentleman had inherited the bible from a distant relative.

We agreed this 200-year-old bible would be better off in England than in Canada, so he photocopied the births and deaths recorded in it and sent them to me. That information partly resolved my confusion about William’s eleven children.  

The Museum of London Docklands is steps from Limehouse, where William Mitcheson lived and worked, and from the office towers of Canary Wharf.

Born in Durham

Mitcheson is not a common name, except in the north-east of England where County Durham is located. My ancestors’ name, initially spelled Mitchinson, can be traced to 1727 in Lanchester Parish, northwest of the city of Durham. 

William Mitcheson, baptized at Lanchester, 31 Aug. 1783, was the son of Joseph Mitcheson (1746-1821), a small-scale landowner, and Margaret Phillipson (1755-1804), who was from Swalwell in Whickham Parish, Durham.

Joseph and Margaret had six children. The eldest was Mary (1776-1856), who married John Clark and settled in Montreal, Canada. Robert (1779-1859) also left England and settled in Philadelphia, where he married Mary Frances McGregor. The others remained in England. Margaret (1781-1864) married Thomas Dodd. Next came William. Elizabeth (1785- ) married John Maugham, and Jane (1793- ) married David Mainland.

With a good supply of coal in County Durham, there had been an iron manufacturing industry in the area for a century and there was a shipbuilding industry. Perhaps the experience and contacts William developed there allowed him to leave Durham for greater opportunities in London.

William married Mary Moncaster, also a native of County Durham, on 9 Sept. 1809 at St. Anne Parish Church, Limehouse, in east-end London. The couple’s first child, Margaret, was born at nearby Ratcliffe in 1810. Soon after, the family moved to Limehouse, and most of their baptisms and marriages took place at St. Anne’s church in Limehouse.

Limehouse Faced the Thames

Limehouse, on the north bank of the Thames River, has had dockyards for centuries. In the early 1800s, the West India Docks were built nearby, and London’s port was booming. An article about Limehouse Hole on British History Online says, “In the late 1820s William Mitcheson, an anchor-smith, took premises near the Emmett Street corner [of Garford Street]. By 1835 he had built an anchor-works along the western 150 ft of Garford Street with, from west to east, a corner shop, a forge about 50 ft square, a house, an office and warehouses. Mitcheson’s sons remained at what became Nos 1–7 (odd) Garford Street until the early 1860s.” 

William Mitcheson’s business, initially focused on anchor making, expanded to include ship chandlery and chain making. Eventually, the family owned a fleet of ships that sailed to North America and beyond. After William and several of his sons died in the late 1850s and early 1860s, the company died too.

entries in William Mitcheson’s family bible

The Family Bible

Here are William and Mary’s children according to the Mitcheson family bible, which is now in the hands of the East of London FHS. I have added whatever marriage and death information I could find on Ancestry.

Margaret Mitcheson, b. 20 Aug. 1810; m. Richard Edmund Wicker, 1827; d. 14 May 1870, Middlesex, widow. Joseph John Mitcheson, b. 4 June 1812; d. 1854, Sussex.
Mary Ann Mitcheson, born 16 Feb. 1816; m. Manassah Philip Eady, 5 Oct. 1833; widowed; m. David Mainland, 6 Jan. 1849, master mariner; d. 1887, West Ham, Essex.
Robert William Mitcheson, b. 29 June 1816; m. Sarah Smith, 9 Jan. 1841; d. 11 May, 1859, Middlesex, anchor smith.
William Mitcheson, b. 25 March, 1818; m. Arabella Smith, 9 Jan. 1841; d. 5 Feb. 1863; widower; anchor smith and ship chandler.
James Henry Mitcheson, b. 31 Jan. 1820; m. Sophia Ann Hopkins, 22 Oct. 1847; d. 24 Jan. 1894, Edmonton, Middlesex.
Edward Phillipson Riddoch Mitcheson, b. 26 April 1821; d. 13 June 1823.
Frances Elizabeth Mitcheson, b. 6 Feb. 1823; d. 21 Feb. 1823.
Frances Jane Mitcheson, b. 8 Dec. 1824; m. Thomas Anthony Humble Dodd, surgeon, 1848; d. 19 Aug. 1898, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
John Moncaster Mitcheson, b. 24 Feb. 1825; d. 22 April 1894, West Ham, Essex.
Richard Edmund Mitcheson, b. 11 June 1828; m. Mary Woods, 1858, West Ham, Essex; d. 22 Nov. 1904.

Research remarks There are several other articles on this blog about Mary Mitcheson Clark and Robert Mitcheson, including https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html,  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2013/11/philadelphia-and-mitcheson-family.html and https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2013/10/help-from-grave.html.

Ancestry incorrectly says William senior married Mary Worchester; her last name was Moncaster.

I did not find a record of William Mitcheson senior’s death, but I obtained a copy of his will from the National Archives. It was proved 12 March 1857.

Brothers Robert William and William Mitcheson married two sisters, Sarah and Arabella Smith, at a double ceremony in Chippenham, Wiltshire in 1841.

The 1841 census return on William Mitcheson’s family is confusing because the information does not quite fit what I now know about them. It shows five people in the household besides William and Mary Mitcheson. John and Frances, ages rounded off to 15, are clearly their children. There is another 15-year-old listed, Eliza, but I don’t know who she was, nor do I know the identity of George Mitcheson, 25, anchor smith. Richard Edmund, the youngest of the family, was missing. The last person enumerated was Mary Dodd, 25.

I’d like to learn more about the Mitcheson family business and the ships they owned. If any readers can suggest resources, I’d love to hear about them. And if this is a topic that interests you, be sure to visit the Museum of London Docklands, right next to Canary Wharf. Garford Street is just a few streets away from the museum.

Updated clarifications 10/09/2016.