James Barham (1785 – 1846)

Painter, Plumber and Glazier

James was the second surviving son of James Barham, Painter-Stainer..  This is a summary of what we know about his life and is described in more detail on the following pages:

James, the second surviving son of James Barham, Painter-Stainer, was born on 21st September 1785 in Woolwich and was baptised on 23rd October. Soon after James' birth the family moved to Darenth in Kent where his grandfather had taken on the post of Master of the Workhouse. Both James and his elder brother Robert followed their father's trade of plumber and glazier.

On 16th June 1807, at the age of 21,  James married Mary Peskett at St Martin in the Fields. Mary was 5 years older than James and her family may also have been plumbers and glaziers. One of the witnesses was Susanna Barham, who could have been his mother or sister.

James and Mary settled in Greenhithe and had eight children. The first, yet another James, was born in January 1808, only 6 months after they married. James was followed by Mary Ann (1809), William (1810), Alfred (1812) and Susannah (1814). All these children survived childhood, but there then followed twins Edward and Henry (1818) and their last child Frances (1819) who all died within days of birth.

family connector

Mary died at the age of 40 in 1821 and was buried on 12th August. James was thus left a widower at the age of 35 with five children aged 6 to 13.

In 1824 a daughter, Elizabeth, was born to James and Elizabeth Hazelton. She was the first of a further eight children.

Elizabeth Hazelton was born in 1799 in Luddesdown, Kent, and was baptised on 16th June. She was therefore 24 years old when her daughter was born and James was 38.  We must assume that Elizabeth Hazelton was engaged as housekeeper/nanny and the relationship developed much further. However it is clear that James and Elizabeth never married.

The birth of Elizabeth was followed the next year by a boy, George. Sadly he died at the age of 10 when he drowned in the Thames. The remaining children, Charles (1828), Richard (1830), Emma (1832), Louisa (1835), Frederick (1838) and Thomas (1840) all survived to adult life.

James' trade must have been flourishing. By 1840 he was supporting Elizabeth Hazelton and their children and at some point he was appointed as "borsholder" or village constable. The first detailed census was published in 1841 and listed James (aged 55) and Elizabeth (46) plus children Elizabeth (17), Charles (12), Richard (11), Emma (8), Louisa (6), Frederick (3) and Thomas (1) living in Greenhithe. James was described as a painter and Elizabeth's surname was implied as "Barham".

James died on 10th October 1846 at the age of 61 of “Dis’d Kidneys Dis’d Liver, Asites, Anasarca” which is compatible with lead poisoning.. His occupation was described a “Plumber Glazier” and the informant on the death certificate was his son Alfred,. Elizabeth was thus left a widow at the age of 47, with seven children ranging from 6 to 22.

James left a will, the major part of which is concerned with ensuring that the needs of Elizabeth her children were catered for until the youngest attained the age of seventeen. It confirms the suspicion hinted at earlier that James Elizabeth never married as she is referred to as Elizabeth Hazelton and her children as "reputed" (a euphemism for "illegitimate"). Alfred and Susannah were named as Executor and Executrix and Alfred was directed to carry on the business until the youngest reputed child attained the age of seventeen. Despite this Alfred disappeared completely from the records whilst Susannah remains something of an enigma as described in the section on her life.

In 1851 the three girls, Elizabeth (27), Emma (19) and Louisa (16), had left home and were working in service, but the boys were still living in Greenhithe with their mother. Charles was described in the census as "Plumber, Painter and Glazier" and the Head of the Household. We must assume that he had taken over the running of the business and providing for Elizabeth and his younger siblings.

Elizabeth remained in Greenhithe for the rest of her life.  By 1861 only Thomas, then aged 20 and described as "painter", was left living with her and she was now described as "Laundress". so was having to provide for herself.  All Elizabeth's other children were now married apart from daughter Elizabeth who returned after Thomas' departure.  She appears with her on the 1871 census – Thomas had by then left home and her eldest child, Elizabeth, was now living with her, as well as a grandchild – Emily Edwards (Louisa's daughter).

Elizabeth died of “cardiac debility” on 23rd March 1881 aged 81 years, having outlived her husband by 35 years.  Her death certificate shows the informant was her eldest daughter, Elizabeth. She left 7 children (although we do not know whether Louisa was still alive), 32 grandchildren and at least one great-grandchild. 

For the detailed history of James Barham follow this link