In July 2015 Cheryl and I visited England for two weeks on holiday from the USA and we explored places where my ancestors once lived such as Rotherhithe, London and Canterbury. We also visited cousins currently living in Broadstairs, Faversham, and Sittingbourne. I had visited London in the past but I had never been to Rotherhithe so we set out on the Thames Path on Thursday 2nd July to see first hand some places that I had scouted online via web sites such as www.stmaryrotherhithe.org
We stopped by St. Mary’s Rotherhithe and were just in time for the Thursday 6pm Eucharist after which we fortunate to meet Rector Mark Nicholls who introduced us to the history of the church and he invited us to return the following day to attend the special service and reception to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of St. Mary’s. Outside we viewed the ‘Blue Plaque’ on St. Mary’s church tower that marks the historical connection the ship Mayflower and its Captain Christopher Jones a parishioner here and who died in 1622 and was buried in the church yard just two years after delivering the Pilgrims to America. The exact location of Jones’ grave is no longer known in the passage of almost 400 years. But a fine sculpture by Jamie Sargeant was made in 1995 and placed in the yard that imagines Christopher Jones looking back to the Old World while the forward looking child in his arms looks to a future in the New World.
The neighborhood around the church included the Mayflower Pub with view of The Thames from a deck overlooking the river (good fish and chips and Scurvy Beer), The Sands Films Studio (with Rotherhithe Picture Library) and the St Mary Rotherhithe Free School (founded by Peter Hill and Robert Bell Esqrs. 1613 and instituted as a Charity School in 1742, removed here 1797) just across the street from the church. We continued our Rotherhithe neighborhood walk to corner of Neptune Street and Albion Street where the now closed The Albion Pub is located. It was a destination in my search for the places where my Mockford ancestors once lived because of an old letter that Joseph Mockford wrote while aboard a ship at Portsmouth in 1835 that was sent to his wife Mary Ann and was addressed on the envelope for the postmaster as “No.4 Albion Street, near The Albion.”
The location of The Albion Pub was a known point for over 180 years although the current building was reconstructed in the last century. The sign Courage on the building is a familiar name in local history that began in 1787 when John Courage started brewing beer as Courage & Co. Ltd at the Anchor Brewhouse in neighboring Bermondsey. Having found The Albion Pub closed and facing potential redevelopment I was happy just to take a few photographs and make my way back to The Ship Pub on St. Marychurch Street and Elephant Lane where we enjoyed a sampler plate snack and a pint on the patio while we sat next to a dozen women from a knitting club that managed to knit while drinking beer and wine and having a lively and creative time.
To begin a story of the Mockford family connection to the neighborhood I will start with Joseph Mockford who was born in 1800 and lived a life in Rotherhithe as a ship builder and ships carpenter. He married in 1824 across the River Thames at St. Anne Limehouse and returned to Rotherhithe with his new wife to have two children John Benjamin “Jack” (born 1826) and Ann Elizabeth (born 1829). The Mockfords witnessed the building of a new London Bridge as they raised their small children and then crossed it after it opened in 1831 (this bridge was disassembled in 1967 and moved to reopen in 1971 at Lake Havasu City, Arizona). The Mockford children grew up in Rotherhithe while the construction of Brunel’s Thames Tunnel was underway for years and finally completed in 1843 and they saw advancements in industry and steam engine shipbuilding that became John Benjamin’s profession as Rotherhithe became a place for shipbreaking at the end of the age of sail and ship fitting at the beginning of the steamship era. The Mockfords gathered at St. Mary’s Church for the burial of Joseph’s sister Elizabeth in 1829 and grandfather Samuel Mockford’s burial in 1845. Samuel Mockford (b. 1766 Southwark) also lived with the family in Rotherhithe at the time of the 1841 census when the Mockfords lived at Coburg Street. Samuel’s residence at the time of his death in 1845 was Elephant Lane as indicated in the entry in the parish record of St. Mary’s Rotherhithe.
I visited the John Harvard Public Library and Southwark Local History Library and I am grateful to Lisa for helping me look through old maps to find the location of Number 4 Albion Street and the online access to Parish Records. John Benjamin Mockford married Lucy Ann Clayson at St. Mary’s Church in 1851. Ann Elizabeth Mockford married Ebenezer Bradshaw at St. Mary’s Church in 1853. Eb Bradshaw served as Parish Clerk at St. Mary’s in the 1860s and resident at Eden-terrace, Paradise-row, and Princes Street. He was well known as a mast maker and block maker at Rotherhithe. (See Memorials to Serve for a History of the Parish of St. Mary Rotherhithe by E.J. Beck, 1907) The Bradshaw’s daughter Alice married James Jones, a Welshman living in London and their son David Jones became known as an artist and one of the Great War Poets for his publication of In Parenthesis (1937) and other works . The Mockfords, Bradshaws, and Jones families were a close extended family that often got together after church in the late 19th century and early 20th century before John Benjamin Mockford I died in 1914 at the start of difficult years of The Great War followed by the heartbreaking news to my great grandfather John Benjamin II and his wife Elizabeth Agnes Cram of the loss of their son Herbert Mockford of the Middlesex Regiment in the advance on the Somme near Leuze Woods in September 1916. http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/comblescomext.htm
My great grandfather John Benjamin Mockford II was born in 1860 in Rotherhithe as perhaps the last of our line of Mockfords to live here and the fourth generation of Mockfords to reside in Rotherhithe in the 19th century (Samuel 1766-1845, Joseph 1800-1875, John Benjamin “Jack” 1824-1914, and John Benjamin Mockford II 1860-1945).
On 3 July 2015 Cheryl and I returned at 7 pm to The Parish Church of St. Mary The Virgin Rotherhithe for the 300th Anniversary of the Reconstruction and Consecration of the Church. The church service was a Solemn Pontifical Mass with Principal Celebrant The Rt. Reverend Jonathan Baker, Bishop of Fulham, and Preacher Bishop Rowan Williams (Archbishop of Canterbury 2002-2012) who gave an insightful Homily. The organist Sam Draper played on the church organ built in 1764 by John Byfield and the Choir sang the Introit Cantate Domino by Claudio Monteverdi and Mass for Four Voices and Anthem Laudibus in sanctis by William Byrd.
Following the service we enjoyed the reception in the church yard and met other visitors, parishioners and clergy. We were grateful to be able to be present for this significant moment of history that further deepened my understanding of the cultural heritage of my ancestors and the world they lived in this place called Rotherhithe.