Monday, 4 November 2019

Hoskins, Greenwich Boat Builder


- Karen Day discovered that her family were Greenwich boat builders - here she describes her search for them ....

First, I tried the Kent County Archive at Maidstone. They said that, as they hold the wills of Greenwich inhabitants within the time

I was interested in (1700s- 1800s), if I could find the death of Workman Hoskins then they could search for a will for me. This might reveal some important details about his business.  Unfortunately this was easier said than done! After painstaking searches through burial registers and indexes, Workman appears to have slipped away.

However, I did find out that he had attempted to do a waterman’s apprenticeship first, in his late teens, and had lied about his age by seven years.  Needless to say he didn’t finish his apprenticeship - perhaps because his master found out. This information came from the indexed watermans' records by Rob Cottrell. Workman next appears on record in 1799, baptising three sons at St. Alphege - and stating his occupation as a boat builder.

I have since found out through baptism and marriage registers at the same church, that Workman’s elder brother, Samuel Hoskins (born 1746) was a qualified shipwright. Samuel had done his apprenticeship with a man called Tarry, at Greenwich from 1760- to 1786 - an extremely long apprenticeship. He paid quarterage fees from 1789 until 1798 and during this time he apprenticed his own two sons, Samuel David and Workman (a popular Christian name in my family).

The shipwrights’ apprenticeship information was given to me over the phone by a librarian at the Docklands Museum. It was taken from a book called ‘Records of the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights and their Apprentices’ by C.H.Ridge and A.C.Knight in two volumes. These books are obviously out of print now but the Guildhall Library also holds copies of them - and also the actual shipwrights’ records.  The Docklands Librarian was extremely knowledgeable and interested in early boat building. He thought that my family would have worked from the foreshore and possibly made waterman's skiffs and barges - however he did reprimand me for not taking more information from the rate books that I had looked at!

From the burial registers at St.Alphege I was surprised to see that Samuel had died in the workhouse in 1813. Although I went through the Poor House Minutes I couldn't find out why he had been admitted. I can only presume that he had a long term disability or was in debt.

Also from the burial registers I noted that all the descendants of Samuel, Samuel David and Workman died at Wood Wharf, while all the descendants from ‘my’ Workman died at Ballast Quay and Marlborough Street, ‘My’ Workman's youngest son, George James Hoskins appears to have run the business from Ballast Quay from the 1820s until 1852.

I looked through the rate books for Ballast Quay to try and pin point the dates when either George or his father started there. I could not believe how elusive they were!  George only appeared once in the rate books - in 1825 when he paid ‘£10.00 a quarter for house and shop’. A librarian at Greenwich Local History Library thought that George probably had an ‘arrangement; with someone - which is a disadvantage for me - and of course I didn’t take a note of who he paid the money to on that rare occasion. However, in the Census returns, George is down as a boat builder at Ballast Quay until 1851 and is also in Pigot's Directories until 1852 at Union Wharf.

Another little interesting thing I noticed was that whilst looking through the marriage resisters, I saw a John Hoskins (Waterman) who married an Ann Corbett in 1765. I noted that the Corbetts were also boat builders, so I wondered whether boat builders and watermen did indeed have many advantageous ‘arrangements’.

I am descended from Workman's eldest son, Thomas, who was a waterman in Marlborough street. The last person to work on the river in my family was my grandfather, who was a lighterman at Erith.

Karen Day

This article appeared in the September 2000 Newsletter

                .......  and then of course there's Hoskins Street.

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