Wesley’s Chapel and Leysian Mission (Kwanglim Room)
49 City Road

See Wesley’s Chapel for more information about the venue.

The Chapel is just a short walk from Old Street Underground Station.

Underground stations: Old Street (due to building works at Old Street, please use subway 3) (Northern Line City Branch)
Moorgate (Northern, Circle and Metropolitan Lines).
Buses: 21, 43, 55, 76, 141, 205, 214, 243, 271
Railway Stations: Old Street, Moorgate, Liverpool Street, City Thames Link, Farringdon

Contact: Moira Shaw
Email: londonbranch@ndfhs.org.uk

Meetings three times per year (usually March, July and November). Room opens at 1pm for informal chat with talk beginning at 1:20pm until 3:45pm

New members are always welcome.

If you would like to join us, please get in touch and let us know using the Branch’s e mail address above.


Branch Meetings

Date Subject of Talk Speaker
9th March 2024 Fat Cows and Railway Lines: The links between agricultural development and industrialisation in North-East England Dr Winifred Stokes
6th July 2024 The Building of Durham Viaduct David Butler


Reports of Meetings

November 2023

On the 4 November, 7 members and a guest gathered together to enjoy a lively, absorbing and extremely informative presentation by Kim Bibby Wilson. Kim’s theme was ‘Aspects of Northumbrian Life and Heritage’. Commencing with the concept of Northumbrian identity, Kim went on to explain the ancient roots of the Northumbrian language and dialect and she introduced us to a range of Northumbrian poetry, prose and song by local poets, writers and musicians. We learned about musical, dance and other traditions which have been kept alive by individuals, families and communities across the region, from the countryside to the coast. Having demonstrated the intricate working of the Northumbrian pipes, Kim played beautifully for us and her daughter Meg impressed us with her clog dancing. It was a rare privilege to be able to enjoy their performances at such close quarters and we were all keen to learn more.

Kim’s visit stimulated an interesting discussion about identity and belonging which felt very relevant to our enthusiasm for family history.

Our next meeting will be held on 9 March 2024 when Dr Winifred Stokes will make a return visit to speak about the links between agriculture and industrial development in the North-East.

July 2023

Our summer meeting held on 8th July was attended by fifteen people. Six of our own Branch members were pleased to be joined by nine guests, the majority of whom were members of the London Group of Midland Ancestors who had also met in the venue during the morning. Our speaker was David Butler who was making a very welcome return visit to present his talk, “Trouble at the Gates: The Trials and Tribulations of Tollgate Keepers“.

This was a very enjoyable and detailed presentation which illustrated admirably a multitude of situations in which the collectors of road users’ tolls found themselves. David made excellent use of maps, particularly tithe maps, and he drew on accounts from name-rich sources such as Court records and newspaper articles. Most of the records came from Co. Durham but we knew that similar situations would have played out across the country.

Branch members held a brief AGM after the talk, thereby re-establishing our pre-pandemic routines. We now look forward to gathering together at our next meeting (on 4 November) and to Kim Bibby-Wilson’s presentation on “Northumbrian Life”, which will feature Northumbrian pipes and clog dancing.

March 2023

This was our second meeting at our new venue and we were delighted to welcome Dr Winifred Stokes as our speaker. Six members and one guest greatly enjoyed Dr Stokes’s talk about ‘The Great Ejectment’ of dissenting clergy which followed the restoration of Charles II in 1662. Dr Stokes described the religious and historical background to this event and its importance in the re-establishment of the Church of England after the Cromwellian period. She illustrated its impact on the ejected clergy themselves and described their various responses which, especially after the Toleration Act of 1688, led to important developments in the spheres of education, religion, politics, industry and commerce, both nationally and locally. We learned of Scottish influences in these developments and we were introduced to several north-eastern non-conformist places of worship which were founded by dissenting ministers. Dr Stokes created a relaxed atmosphere which stimulated lively discussion about her theme and other interesting topics.

November 2022

Report of London Branch Meeting on Saturday 12 November 2022.

We enjoyed the opportunity to hold our first in-person meeting since March 2020 and we gathered in a new venue at the historic Wesley’s Chapel.

A member gave a talk about his grandparents, Jack and Bella, both born during the early 1880s. Bella grew up in Southwick in Sunderland and worked in domestic service in Roker. Her mother was Irish and a Protestant. Jack’s parents were born in Whitehaven. His grandmother’s family had Irish roots and may have migrated from Ireland to escape the 1798 rebellion. Although they were Roman Catholic, they had given all their children English names to demonstrate their loyalty to the Crown. Jack’s family migrated from Whitehaven to Flimby and then to Boldon, drawn by the prospect of work at the Colliery.

Drawing on various records and his grandfather’s writings, our speaker described Jack’s and Bella’s early experiences and he created a vivid portrait of the era and area in which they lived.

Another member described finding the solution to a long-standing puzzle and then we held our Annual General Meeting.

July 2022

Report of Online Meeting on Saturday 9 July, 2022

Four members enjoyed Paul Richardson’s fascinating and comprehensive talk: “Number 20,103: Finding my Foundling”.

Foundlings were renamed and told nothing of their origins, so Paul’s search had been challenging. In the 1841 census, he located his ancestor as a child, aged seven months, with no apparent connection to others in a Chertsey household. He could find neither her birth registration nor a marriage record for her potential parents. However, a chance reading of an article in a genealogy magazine led him to the records of the Foundling Hospital, held by the London Metropolitan Archives: he learned that the Foundling Hospital often put babies out to wet nurses in the Chertsey area.

We were able to appreciate researchers’ excitement as they explore the original records which hold the key to their searches. Paul found the original petition for admission, made by the child’s great uncle. The document named her mother and the surname of the putative father, and gave some information about the mother’s origins. He also found the baby’s renaming and baptism record, her birth certificate (for “a female child”), the name of her wet nurse (mentioned in the 1841 census), the date she returned from wet nurse to the Hospital, aged four, and details of her apprenticeship.

We learned about the history of the Foundling Hospital which was founded in 1741 by Thomas Coram, himself an interesting figure who worked indefatigably over seventeen years to secure its establishment. When Paul’s ancestor was admitted, a century after the Hospital’s foundation, it had already admitted over twenty thousand “exposed and deserted young children”. Many prominent individuals have been its governors, patrons and physicians. The organisation’s approach, location and name have evolved and changed over time and today, as Coram, it continues to support children and families. Its history is celebrated at London’s Foundling Museum.

The Foundling Hospital’s records are being digitised and will be made available on its website “Coram Story”. These records remain closed for one hundred and ten years, rather than the usual one hundred.

Last updated 5th December 2023