The Redknapp Family History Part 2; Blackwall Taverns, Smugglers, and Jewish Ancestry?


Joseph Edward Redknap  1816 – 1850? –  Sarah Pressman 1813 to 1882

270px-Harry_Redknapp_2011_(cropped)Given That Harry Redknapp has been a very popular Manager of London football team Tottenham Hotspur, who have a high London Jewish following, so much so that they are affectionately know to the fan base (both Jewish and Gentile) as “The Yids” (an epithet that has caused much controversy, given its anti-Semitic roots outside of the club), it is interesting that Harry may have some direct Jewish ancestry.  So let’s delve into those roots.

At the outset it is necessary to say that there is no unequivocal written evidence that Harry Redknapp had Jewish ancestry, but there is quite a lot of circumstantial evidence in support of the theory, and I have had some correspondence on this subject with Professor David Newman of Ben Gurion University Israel (and a Tottenham season ticket holder) who wrote an article referring to Time Detectives research on the subject for the Jerusalem Post.

So, here we go; This part of the story starts with Harry Redknapp’s Great Great Great Grandmother Sarah Pressman, it seems quite likely that the Pressman’s were descended from Jewish Ancestry.  If  this is correct then her ancestors would have been one of the  Jewish Families from Germany and the Netherlands who came to England from the time of Cromwell’s Republic and through the Georgian Period (1700s), there being perhaps a quarter of a million Jewish people in England by 1800, of whom maybe one hundred to one hundred and fifty thousand lived in and around London.  The Pressman name is extremely rare in England before the late 19th Century when there was a large influx of people with German/Russian Jewish descent from Europe.   Before that the rareness of the name does tend to point towards a foreign origin rather than a corruption of an English name, such as “Priestman” or similar.

Sarah Pressman’s Father Reuben Pressman was  a Thames Lighterman from Poplar, he also was the Landlord of The Gun Pub at Blackwall.  The Pressman’s had been Thames Watermen and Lightermen since at least 1707 around Rotherhithe on the Southbank of the Thames, just six years after the Beavis Marks Synagogue was built in London, still standing, and indeed the oldest Synagogue in England.  It is possible that the Pressmans belonged to a group of working class Jewish families that had integrated with other Jewish Families and local gentiles in similar trades, many had lapsed from practicing their original religion, and found it easier to get baptisms and burials performed at the local Church of England Churches, than risk the opprobrium of the more orthodox middleclass Jewish community at the local synagogue, much in the same way that most working class Christians would not bother with the church other than for baptisms, weddings, and burials.

The other factor was that in the 1700s no Jew could become a Freeman of the City of London, which meant that it would be hard for them to work as Watermen, perhaps it was worth a not too religious family paying lip service to Christian ceremony in order to stay inside of the world of river borne commerce.  And the example had been set by Benjamin D’Israeli, elected to Parliament in 1837, who had converted to Christianity to support his parliamentary career.  Why not follow the example?

Indeed the level of integration into British Society amongst the working class Jewish community at this time was widespread.  During the Napoleonic Wars Jewish Londoners joined up en masse for the East London Volunteer Regiments, to the point where they were such an important resource that the Royal Family visited Beavis Marks Synagogue to give thanks and to be entertained by the chief Rabbi, who had given dispensation to the volunteers, in order to be able to fight in the army, to swear the Protestant oath of allegiance and on the Bible, but cleverly on the Book of Leviticus rather than the New Testament.  Unfortunately some prejudice still existed, and the visit was lampooned by caricaturists.synagogue

The Pressmans married with the Argent and the Carvallo Families (originally Carvalho, probably from Portugal) and kept their Biblically Jewish first names, with Reubens and Hannahs, Josephs and Marys, along with Levis and Solomans.  If the Pressmans had arrived in the 19th century, then we could say that they were most likely from Russia, but at the early date that they were plying the Thames it seems much more likely that they were from the Hanoverian holdings in Germany, or possibly The Netherlands, this may well explain why we find them on the River, if they had arrived from the main cities that provided Jewish immigration into Britain in the restoration and Hanoverian periods, then that would have meant Hamburg and Amsterdam, both famous for their canals and port traffic, which would have meant that the Pressmans could have arrived already skilled as Watermen and Lightermen.  Their early date of arrival would also explain their intermarriage with the early arriving Sephardic Jewish Families from Spain and Portugal.

Interestingly it was these typically Sephardic Jewish Families like the Carvalhos that gave Cockney Culture its trademark Fish and Chips developed from Iberian Salt Cod, and the Catholic habit of eating fish on Fridays, which would increase the habit for Fish and Chips when the Catholic Irish started arriving in numbers to London and living alongside the Jewish community there.

The Gun Tavern, Smugglers, and Lord Nelson

But the Pressmans come into the Redknap story before Harry’s Great Great Great Grandfather Joseph married Sarah Pressman.  A young girl named Hannah Argent had married Reuben Pressman in 1804 in St Mary’s Church Stratford in the East End.  They had five children between 1806 and 1817,

blackwall2The interesting thing about Reuben Pressman was that he was the Landlord of The Gun Tavern at Blackwall, right by the Naval gun foundries.  The Tavern was just down the road from “Nelson’s House” at the docks, the Tavern is still there, and it is said by the owners that Lord Nelson had assignations with his mistress Lady Hamilton in the River Room of The Gun.  This may also explain why it was rumoured that the Tavern was a centre of the smuggling trade on the River, perhaps the association with their beloved Lord Nelson ensured that the local naval crews helped turn “Nelson’s Eye” (a blind eye) to the activities of Reuben Pressman, and helped keep the revenue men at bay?  The secret passageway under the Pub would have helped as well.

There would obviously have been a good living from both the Tavern in a crowded Naval and Dockside area, by the tax avoidance measures of the Landlord as a Thames Lighterman. and as a potential dropping off point for contraband.  But it would seem that all good things would end, and by 1819 Reuben had died, leaving The Tavern to his wife, Hannah (Argent) with future income going to his children after his wife’s death.

Running such an establishment, and the side operations, was not something to be undertaken lightly in a violent war torn age, and within a year Hannah had married Enos Redknap, a Lighterman and no doubt an associate of the Pressmans on the River.  Bear in mind that the Redknaps were champion scullers, some of the fastest men on the river without a sail, and had the royal warrant so had friends in high places.  Enos was fourteen years her junior, but no doubt could see the appeal of a Pub owning widow with both a legitimate business and possibly a lucrative side line (albeit with five children in tow, the eldest being only eleven years younger than Enos).  But Reuben Pressman had been clever and even in death looked out for his wife, as his will specifically stated that should she remarry, no future husband would have any claim over the property and income he had left her.  So Enos could enjoy the benefits of The Gun Tavern, without enjoying its ownership.

Whatever the love interest was between Enos and Hannah, it was strong enough that almost exactly nine months later Arabella Amelia was born to the couple. Unfortunately Hannah’s luck with men was not great and eight years after their marriage Enos had also died at just 33 years of age.  Undaunted Hannah married for a third time, Thomas Melvin, down river at Greenwich in 1834, although by now she was in her fifties, but within six years he had died and left her living under the protection of Thomas Argent one of her relations,  Now Joseph Edward Redknap was the second cousin of Enos, and would have been a contemporary with Reuben Pressman, being related by marriage, of a similar age and both Thames Lightermen, perhaps the Redknaps also rallied round to support Hannah and her children after Enos’s untimely death.

Joseph Edward Redknap, the Great Great Great Grandfather of Harry Redknapp was Sarah Pressman’s husband.  He was born as the Napoleonic Wars ended, a time of celebration.  He was a Lighterman, so transported goods rather than people on the Thames.  He was following in the profession of his family working on the mighty Thames.  Although born in Twickenham, he moved down river to Hammersmith and Poplar, this was a wise move, as with the growth of Empire a legacy of the gains made from the French and Spanish during the Napoleonic Wars, meant that imports flooded into London, and manufactured goods started to flood out.  The new wealth caused London to grow massively, bringing a demand for building material, food from the Thames side market gardens, and coal for fires. The need now, was for goods transport and this had started to overtake passenger transport on the Thames as a means of earning a living.

Joseph a strapping lad of 17 built up by years of rowing and racing on the Thames, would have cut a strong figure, and the attention of a slightly older girl of 21 was no doubt quite flattering to the young man, both had lost their Father, and the loss of Enos was shared by both, as Joseph’s second cousin, and Sarah’s stepfather.  In any case the attraction was strong enough that their first child, Sarah Elizabeth Hannah Redknap (named after her mother and both paternal and maternal grandmothers) was born just 8 months after their marriage.  No doubt the wedding hadn’t been exactly planned, but Joseph’s eldest sister Georgiana and her husband supported the young couple and acted as witnesses at the wedding.

The couple were blessed with seven children, but it would seem that they both had to work to make ends meet, and this is evidenced by the fact that Sarah, their eldest daughter spends some time staying with her Grandmother, now Hannah Melvin, and the Argents.  Unfortunately Cholera and other waterborne diseases were ravaging the people of London, especially along the Thames, and the family lost two children; Joseph and Reuben in 1839.

Joseph Edward turns out to be another disappearing Redknap, there is no obvious death record for him, but he is out of Sarah’s life sometime between 1851 and 1857.  By 1851 Sarah is living with her surviving children and some of the Argent Family in Poplar, she is shown as Married rather than widowed, but there is no Joseph present, and she is living in the same household as her mother Hannah Melvin.  No doubt encouraged by her three times married mother, she remarries in 1857 to Levi Hill, and sets up home with him and her surviving children.  Levi was a Railway Labourer, and the couple lived together and occasionally with Georgiana the daughter of Sarah and Joseph Redknap, Georgiana had married William Hudson, who eventually became a Publican and had his in-laws living with him and the family.   Sarah died in 1882, in her sixties.  Descendants of Hills and Argents would live in the same road as the local Synagogue, be treated in The London Jewish Hospital, and buried in Jewish cemeteries, more compelling evidence for good strong Cockney Jewish Fish and Chip eating roots in the family.

These snippets of evidence; likely foreign origin of the Pressman name, the fact that the vast majority of Pressman’s in later years were German/Russian Jews, and the fact that the Pressmans in the Redknap family intermarried with Jewish Families and carried Jewish first names, all point towards the likely Jewish origin of this part of the Redknap Family.  Personally I think the case is too strong to be ignored.

The marriages of Enos and Joseph Redknap into the tight knit Cockney-Jewish community of the Argents, Pressmans, Carvallos, and indeed Hills, supported the family through Cholera child deaths, and multiple dead breadwinners, all held together by the strength of Hannah Argent and her daughter Sarah Pressman through thick and thin and mutual family support.  By the middle of the 19th century Jewish emancipation was well under way, and indeed by 1868 Benjamin D’Israeli, a Jew converted to Christianity for career reasons, was Prime Minister.

The most striking effect of the joining of the Redknap and Pressman families was that it moved he centre of gravity of the family from the West of London, where it had been for two hundred years, to the East of London. where it would be for another two hundred years.

And if you’re interested in sitting in the Gun Tavern at Blackwall, where Hannah and Enos plied their trade, the sailors turning Nelson’s eye to the barrels rolling by, and perhaps Nelson himself drinking a Claret or taking other pleasures in the upstairs room, then you can visit it for a pint or two at: DDTheGun-c71_medium

http://www.thegundocklands.com/index.php

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