William Nunn of Romford, 1753-1792, and Joshua Nunn of London, 1785-1850

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The old White Hart Inn, Romford, before being replaced with a new building in 1896.

William Nunn was born in Earl Stonham, Suffolk, on 24 April 1753, the fifth child of Joshua Nunn and Mary Baker. At some point, the family moved to Essex, and William moved to Romford, in the south of the county, where he ran the White Hart Inn.

The first potential appearance of William Nunn in the records in Romford is the baptism there on 13 Feb 1778 of Joshua, the illegitimate son of Mary Graves, “reputed father William Nunn.” When William wrote his will, he mentions his friend Thomas Graves of Romford, gentleman, who might be one of Mary’s relatives.

Presumably Mary Graves fell pregnant in 1777. However, on 22 October 1777, William was in London, where he married someone else. The wedding took place at St Dunstan’s-in-the-East, a church his brother James was married at a year later. William’s abode is given as St Mary’s Whitechapel, so he wasn’t necessarily living in Romford then – or perhaps was only in Whitechapel briefly. His wife was Elizabeth Blyfield. The marriage was witnessed by James Nunn and Sarah Embleton – Sarah would be James’ bride the following year.

William’s bride is likely related to “Mr Blyfield”, who appears in the letter written by Joshua Nunn from Witham, to his son James in London, on 29 Nov 1777, which was about a month after the wedding: “tell your Brother Wm that Mr Blyfield ordred I should not send her any more letters but lave them a the white harte.” “Her” is unclear, but Joshua might’ve meant Mrs Blyfield. It’s intriguing that the White Hart is mentioned, before William takes possession of it. And Joshua is asking James, in London, to pass the information onto his brother William – so William was in London at the time.

If Joshua, living in Essex, knew a Blyfield, it’s possible that Elizabeth was from Essex. A John Blyfield lived in Tolleshunt D’Arcy, marrying there in 1733. He and his wife Martha had six children baptised there between 1736 and 1745, although none are called Elizabeth.[1]James 1736, Hannah 1738, Rebecca 1739, Martha 1741, Sarah 1744, Mary 1745. However, his will, written on 25 March 1771, names his daughter Rebecca and Elizabeth Blyfield, his married daughter Mary Bunting, and a granddaughter called Hannah Moys. Elizabeth is the last-mentioned daughter in a list, and lists of names are usually in age order, so she would’ve been born after Mary in 1745. His burial seems to be lost – none are in the register for Tolleshunt D’Arcy in 1777, but he did die that year:

Tuesday afternoon the following melancholy accident happened at Tolleshunt Darcy; as one Mr Blyfield, a farmer, was walking in his fields with his grandson, and drawing near home, he was suddenly taken with a violent pain in his stomach, fell down and expired before any assistance could get to him, notwithstanding the lad alarmed the family immediately.

Ipswich Journal, 24 May 1777

One more clue makes it even more likely that this Elizabeth Blyfield is William’s wife. Many years later, a descendant of her sister Mary Bunting would marry Elizabeth’s grandson.

William and Elizabeth appear to have had one child in London: Elizabeth, baptised at St Mary’s Whitechapel on 24th March 1779, the family’s abode being on Gunn Lane. William was running the Blue Gate pub “opposite Whitechapel Mount”, when he bought the lease of the White Hart in 1780.[2]Ipswich Journal, 9 Sep 1780, pg 3. “James Lucas, Auctioneer, of Chiswel-Street, London, respectfully begs leave to acquaint the public, That the LEASE OF THE WHITE HART Inn at Romford in Essex … Continue reading The road that ran past Whitechapel Mount (a manmade hill of unknown construction – thought by some to be a Civil War defensive structure, by others a plague burial mound, or a pile of debris from the Great Fire of London) was the main route to Colchester and Harwich, so it had a large number of travellers, and inns to service them. The image below shows the area where William’s pub was in 1753, with the mound to the right, and the (at the time) newly-constructed London Hospital. The mound was taken down in the early 1800s, and Bluegate Fields in Whitechapel, presumably near to William’s old pub, was a notorious slum in the 1800s, and is mentioned in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. See victorianlondon.org for a discussion about this area, although William’s pub isn’t mentioned.

L0002107 The London Hospital, Whitechapel: seen from the northern side Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk http://wellcomeimages.org The London Hospital, Whitechapel: seen from the northern side of the Whitechapel Road. Wood engraving, after an engraving of c.1753. Engraving Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

By 1781, their daughter Mary was baptised in Romford on 20 Aug 1781. A daughter named Margaret Elizabeth followed, born on 24 Sep 1782. Then a son named Joshua was born, baptised in Romford on 3 Sep 1784, but sadly he died very soon after, as he was buried in Romford on 14 Sep that same year. Another son, also called Joshua, was born 11 July 1785; Margaret Elizabeth and the younger Joshua were baptised several years later, in 24 Sep 1792.

In 1785, William wrote down his parents’ marriage, a list of his siblings’ dates of birth, which his mother Mary witnessed.

William wasn’t the only publican in the family as his brothers Leonard and John were in the same trade. Leonard did up the George Inn in Witham, and in 1786, an advert appeared in the Ipswich Journal advising readers that they could get particulars about the George from William Nunn of the White Hart Inn, Romford, and from John Nunn of the Three Cups Inn, Colchester (William’s brother).[3]Ipswich Journal, 25 Feb 1786.

Also in 1787, any footmen looking for work in Romford were invited to apply to Mr Nunn at the White Hart:

WANTED: in a private family. A footman who can Dress Hair; also a POSTED? LION. They must both have undeniable characters from the last place they lived in, and be useful in their different services. Apply to Mr Nunn, at the White Hart Inn;, or the Newsman, at Romford.

Chelmsford Chronicle, 13 April 1787

In the summer of 1792, William’s health apparently failed, as he wrote his will on 2 July that year.[4]William Nunn of Romford, innholder. Prerogative Court of Canterbury, but it’s not in Ancestry’s collection of PCC wills. It is, however, available from The National Archives. William’s will mentions several members of his family: his wife Elizabeth, children Elizabeth and Joshua, his mother Mary, and siblings Leonard, James and John Nunn, and Mary Gowland. He also named two friends from Romford, John Beckwith, a victualler, and Thomas Grave, a gentleman. He made his brother James Nunn, and his friend Thomas Graves, his executors.

William died not long after writing his will; his brief obituary appeared in the Bury and Norwich Post on 5 Sep 1792: “Mr Nunn, master of the White-Hart-Inn, Romford.” I haven’t found his burial, but he’s not in the register at St Edward the Confessor, where his children Margaret Elizabeth and Joshua were baptised less than a week after his will was probated. There could be several reasons for this – it might be that William had nursed non-conformist viewes, so had held back having the children baptised, and his death meant the children could be baptised at the parish church by his widow. Or it might’ve been an oversight and the process of probate meant the children’s family wanted to make things “official”.

William’s widow valiantly attempted to keep her late husband’s business a going concern. She placed the following advert:

WHITE HART INN, ROMFORD, ESSEX. Elizabeth Nunn’s dutiful Respects to the friends and customers of her late husband, thanks them for the past, and begs their future favours, and of the public in general, as she intends to carry on the business for the benefit of herself and children. Wine and Spiritous Liquors wholesale and retail.

Ipswich Journal, 1 September 1792

This must have been very soon after William’s death, as his obituary was published four days later. But within a year, Elizabeth had given up the business. A Mr Grey from Manningtree, who had been running the Packet Inn there, had “taken the White Hart, Rumford, late in the occupation of Mr Wm. Nunn, deceased.”[5]Ipswich Journal, 19 Oct 1793, pg. 3, column 5. Grey was auctioning off everything, which suggests that he’d been able to buy everything associated with the White Hart Inn. Elizabeth was moving on.

Joshua Nunn of London

I don’t know what happened to William’s wife and daughter, although two burials at Romford might be theirs: Elizabeth Nunn aged 30, buried on 19 April 1816 (although it’s four years out), and Elizabeth Nunn, buried on 21 May 1818, aged 70, of Brentwood. It seems likely that Elizabeth buried in 1818 is Joshua’s widow – if she is the daughter of John Blyfield and Martha of Tolleshunt D’Arcy, mentioned above, she was born after her sister Mary, who was baptised in 1745; a birth year of 1748 wouldn’t be unlikely.

Joshua moved to London, where he lived at No. 9 Tavistock Street on Tottenham Court Road for many years. He was already living there on 30 March 1816 when he got married, as the address is mentioned in the marriage announcement:

Yesterday Mr Joshua Nunn of No 9 Tottenham Court Road, grocer to Mary eldest daughter of Mr Perry of Tollesbury, Essex.

Sun, 30 March 1816

Tollesbury is nextdoor to Tolleshunt Darcy, where Joshua’s mother probably came from. It seems that he knew his wife via a connection on his mother’s side of the family.

Joshua and Mary married at St Giles-in-the-Fields in London, and the witnesses were Henry Perry (the bride’s brother), and Elizabeth Ann Nunn. Joshua’s uncle James Nunn, a bookseller in London, had a daughter Elizabeth Ann, and this is likely to be who this witness is. I wonder if Joshua moved to London quite early on to live with his uncle James and learn a trade? Bearing in mind that James was one of William’s executors, the brothers were evidently close, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if James had chosen to take his nephew Joshua on.

Joshua and Mary had five children baptised at the church they had married at, between 1818 and 1833: Mary Ann 1818, Joshua 1820, James 1821, Francis 1823, William 1833. All the baptisms give varying versions of the same address, and Joshua’s occupation is given as “grocer” in all of them, except for William’s, where he’s described as a tea dealer.

By the time of the 1841 census, the family were living on Chad’s Row in Marylebone. Joshua is a clerk, aged 55, Mary is 48 – neither born in Middlesex. Their children Mary Ann 22, Joshua 21, and Francis 18, were living with at home. Joshua jnr was a warehouseman, and Francis an apprentice.

Joshua senior died in 1850, aged 65; he was buried at St Giles-in-the-Fields on 5 May that year. He didn’t leave a will, unfortunately. His widow Mary crops up on the 1851 census on Trinidad Place, Islington, living with her daughter Mary Ann, who had married Richard Collett, a ribbon warehouseman from Fairford in Gloucestershire.

I’m not sure yet what happened to their other children, however, a lot is known about their son, Joshua jnr. He probably deserves his own page on this site. In an extraordinary change of fortune, he went from being a warehouseman to the position of Vice-Consul General of the United States in London. He was an active mason, and the Joshua Nunn Lodge in Halstead, Essex, is named after him. After the death of his first wife, he married Mary Ann Bunting in Tolleshunt D’Arcy – his second cousin once removed. John Blyfield and Martha May were Joshua’s great-grandparents, and were Mary Ann’s great-great-grandparents. He moved to Bocking Hall in Essex, either by coincidence or design in the same village as his great-uncle Joshua Nunn had lived. Joshua jnr died in 1886, and was buried in Tollesbury; his mother’s home village. You can find out more about Joshua Nunn (1820-1886) at the Caledonian Lodge.

By Helen Barrell

First published 13 January 2024

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1 James 1736, Hannah 1738, Rebecca 1739, Martha 1741, Sarah 1744, Mary 1745.
2 Ipswich Journal, 9 Sep 1780, pg 3. “James Lucas, Auctioneer, of Chiswel-Street, London, respectfully begs leave to acquaint the public, That the LEASE OF THE WHITE HART Inn at Romford in Essex (which was to have been sold by Auction on Wednesday the 13th inst. with the furniture, stock, &c. on that and the three following days) is disposed of by private contract, to Mr. WILLIAM NUNN, at the Blue Gate, opposite Whitechapel Mount, who hopes for the continuance of Mr Atkinson’s late friends and customers.”
3 Ipswich Journal, 25 Feb 1786.
4 William Nunn of Romford, innholder. Prerogative Court of Canterbury, but it’s not in Ancestry’s collection of PCC wills. It is, however, available from The National Archives.
5 Ipswich Journal, 19 Oct 1793, pg. 3, column 5.