Danny Dyer, King of Canning Town


Given all the fuss about The Dyer’s Royal heritage, it’s surprising that there seems to be not a lot of meat on the actual tree, so, I’ve researched it independently, and below you can see the first cut of Danny’s actual tree going back to Royalty (Edward III) via Gregory Cromwell, son of Thomas Cromwell.

dyerroyalline

Now given that I’ve already had to successfully put two large Genealogy companies “under the cosh” for passing off my research as their own, I’d like to say that if anyone intends to use the above they’d better make sure they credit it back to Time Detectives ™ with a link to this blog site (www.timedetectives.wordpress.com) otherwise I’ll be forced to “send the boys ’round”, you have been warned.

 

 

 

Danny Dyer’s Family Story part 4;


Jacoba was interesting, born in Holland to Belgian parents, she came over to England with her family when she was a child around 1860.

Still following in their Father’s Footsteps…

Four of the five remaining sons of Edward William and Jane Maria followed their father’s footsteps into the shipyards of the London Docks working as Boiler Makers, Riveters, and Iron Ship Builders, being younger than their Father they mainly stayed in employment, but had their ups and downs none-the-less.

Esther Maria Dyer, the second daughter of that name,  her name had been unlucky for her younger sister of that name, she had died as a child during the family’s stay in Lowestoft, and the name would not be lucky for the older Esther Maria.  She married Edward Robert Auty in 1882 and had a number of children with him, and for nearly 20 years they lived as a happy family, but Esther was troubled.  Her husband work as a labourer in the Lead Works on the Docks, working with lead and grinding chemicals into paint pigment.  Doing this it would be no surprise if the contact with lead and many toxic chemicals had caused Edward Auty to suffer mentally, but, infact, it was Esther Maria who suffered.  It seems likely that having to come into contact with the chemicals and lead laden dust from her husband’s clothes when she boiled and washed them may have contributed to what happened to her later in middle age.  clayburyFrom the age of 40 in 1899 she was incarcerated in the London Lunatic Asylum, and stayed there until her death in 1940, so she spent half of her life locked away from her family.  Ironically, she outlived her husband by nearly 30 years, the long exposure to lead and other chemicals took their toll on his health in a different way.

Of the boys, the only one who didn’t follow in his father’s footsteps was Alfred Samuel Dyer, born in Limehouse, London in 1864, he shared his Father’s wanderlust, but took it much farther; he went into the merchant marine service in his teens, and travelled as an Able Bodied Seaman. By his early twenties Alfred Samuel had travelled to Sydney Australia at least twice, and married Emma Bacon there in 1892.  cootamundraHe continued travelling shipboard between Australia and Britain, and in 1903 he headed there on a ship that was stopping off via Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. He eventually settled in Cootamundra, New South Wales, Australia as a painter and decorator, but made a number of trips back to England where he stayed with his youngest sister Isabella, now married to William James Learey an Electrician, and now living variously in the suburbs of East Ham, Plaistow, and Ilford. He died in Cootamundra on 19th May 1947, and left about £800 (equivalent to more than £20,000 in today’s money) to his younger sister Isabella.

Danny Dyer’s Dutch and Belgian Ancestors

Danny Dyer’s Great Great Grandfather, Edward Thomas James Dyer, did follow his father even to the point of being unemployed alongside him in the 1870s.  But things picked up in terms of employment, although at the lowest level, as a shipyard labourer on boilers and Iron Ships, right through the 19th century and well into the 20th.  In 1875 he married Jacoba Ann Heester (Danny Dyer’s Great Great Grandmother) in All Saints Church Poplar.

Jacoba was interesting, born in Holland to Belgian parents, she came over to England with her family when she was a child around 1860.  This period coincides with the social and economic downturn in Europe after the Potato Famine in the 1840s.  Most people think of this as an Irish problem, and indeed Ireland was hit harder than any other country in Europe by the Potato blight that killed off crops in the 1840s.  However, the next worst hit countries (with the exception of the West of Scotland) were Belgium and Holland.  Many of the peasants in rural areas were highly dependant on the potato as a staple crop, and the failure of that crop sent death rates soaring in some regions, which in turn forced people to flee the land, and just as in Ireland, this flight and subsequent crowding of economic refugees in cities and docksides lead to out breaks of cholera. Typhus, and Tuberculosis.  It seems that George Heester being a middle class shoemaker, managed to get enough money together to move first from Belgium to Holland  with his wife Mary Ann, which is where they settled for a few years and had three children, two sons, Peter and John, and a daughter Jacoba Ann.  as the economy went downhill George moved the family again, this time to London.  Here he set up shop employing two men to work for him.  Undoubtedly he was not rich by any measure, but he had some means and a trade, so could live much better in prosperous London, than he could in struggling Holland.

How Edward Dyer managed to meet Jacoba isn’t clear, but meet they did, and married.  In the 22 years between 1876 and 1898 they had sixteen children, but lost nine of them in childhood.  These figures are quite hard to get your head around; Jacoba gave birth approximately every 16 months for 22 years, and she would lose children on a regular basis through the 1880s, how a mother could have dealt with the stress of birth and death on such a cycle was astonishing.

This round of births and deaths of Edward and Jacoba’s children added to the Family’s struggle with poverty, work started to become less skilled in many areas in the Dockyard Iron Works, thanks to industrialisation and use of heavy presses and machine tools to replace skilled manual labour, many of the men in the Iron Works either learned to operate the new machines, or tried to carry on the craft of their forefathers with skill and strength, only to find that the work became deskilled and the money sunk to follow it, Edward tried to cling to the skills he had learned at his father’s side, passed down through 150 years of skilled shipbuilding Dyers, and this choice gradually turned him from an Iron Ship Builder, to a Boiler Maker, to a Boiler Maker’s Labourer, to a Labourer; the fall in living standards was inexorable along with the trade, but the work was still abundant as long as a man would accept the low wages. With so many children and so many funerals to pay for, Edward had to take whatever money a strong pair of arms to wield a long hammer could bring him.

The Family’s decline was severe in the 1880s, echoed in the places they lived; Tapley Street in Bromley-By-Bow, was cheek by jowl with no less than five pubs in the immediate area.  These were known as “Cowsheds” on a Monday night, and Monday became known simply as “Cowshed day” the reason being that that was the night that the local women called “Cows” by their husbands, went drinking, using up the last of any money they had scraped together after the weekend was over, to binge drink on neat Gin in the warm weather, and Gin with warm water in cold weather.  So binge drinking by women in inner city areas of the UK is by no means a new phenomenum, and as today, without the sober influence of one half of a couple men and women from hard violent backgrounds have a greater tendency to get into fights when drunk, leading to the Docklands formidable reputation for violence by both men and women.  The use of the word Cow (pronounced “Kaah” in Cockney, as in “Aah naah braahn kaah?” – “How now brown cow?”) as a pejorative term for women, usually, older, and married women, came out in a pejorative for men as well as in “You Kaah-Son!” (You Cow Son!) that was considerd on the verge of swearing and is still in use to day, from there it turned into a general term for anything bad as in: “I’ve ‘ad a Kaah-Son of a day at work!”

By the 1890s after the deaths of their children had stopped, life picked up a little for the Family, and they lived in Leven Rd in Bromley-by-Bow, still a poor working class area, but at least the houses had some “Oil Cloth” (an early form of artificial flooring that was easy to clean) in their front halls, and some pots of flowers around the window sills, so the women of the area were trying to lift standards. Interestingly, the area adhered to the old working class stereotype of being able to leave your doors open without fear of anyone stealing anything, this was noted by the Booth commissioners during their rounds and was therefore undoubtedly true, but not because of the intrinsic honesty of the working class poor, rather for two other reasons; firstly that nobody had anything worth stealing, and secondly because everybody knew everybody else by sight and because there was always a neighbour around to see what was going on, so opportunities for petty theft were highly limited.

The family had lived through so much struggle and survived through the First World War, so it’s not hard to imagine when in 1915 on their 40th wedding anniversary, Edward singing the words of the musichall song of the “Singing Cockney Costermonger” Albert Chevalier:

We’ve been together now for forty years,myolddutch
An’ it don’t seem a day too much,
There ain’t a lady livin’ in the land
As I’d swop for my dear old Dutch.

“Dutch” to a Cockney just meant Duchess, but the irony of Jacoba’s roots wouldn’t have been lost on the Dyers.  Eventually “Dutch” would get transformed into Rhyming slang as “Duchess of Fife” = Wife, and therefore shortened to “Dutch”.

The Family moved out of Poplar to West Ham in Essex as it was then, Edward would continue working in the Docks into old age, before  he eventually died in West Ham in 1925.  Jacoba would live through to 1940, dieing at the ripe old age of 86.

Interestingly the children who actually survived childhood went on to live long lives, like their parents.

Still in the Docks

Edward and Jacoba’s youngest son George (Danny Dyer’s Great grandfather) went into the Navy, but was lucky in as much as his three years of service between 1916 and 1919 didn’t take him much further than Chatham, meaning he could actually make it home every time he was on leave, and probably some evenings.  He was a stoker in home waters, probably didn’t see any action at sea, he was lucky.  What we do know from his Navy Records was that he was 5ft 7ins tall, had brown hair and brown eyes, and had a fresh complexion.

Once out of the Navy George went straight back into the Docks as a labourer, a basic living, and hard work through the 1920s and 1930s.  He marries Ethel May Aldridge in 1920 in St Paul’s Church, Old Ford, Poplar, but they move across the River Lee to Custom House, West Ham, in Essex, where their four children are born in the ten years between 1921 and 1931.  They would see out their years in the Docklands, and their youngest son John Dyer born in 1931 would be Danny Dyer’s Grandfather.

(If you would like your Family tree uncovered, it costs from £300 to £600 for a full surname line, and makes for a great present, you can contact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk )

Danny Dyer’s Family Tree Part 3: An Age of Steam


Following me Father’s footsteps, I’m following me dear old Dad…

millwalldocksOf the nine children born to Edward and Mary Dyer over twenty years between 1812 and 1832 only two were boys, both called Edward, and only Edward William, the second boy survived childhood.  Edward William (Danny Dyers’s Great Great Great Grandfather) was born in 1823, when old London Bridge was still standing, and a Waterman could still make a decent living ferry people through the tidal race of its narrow arches.  Unsurprisingly, to paraphrase the song by the cross dressing Victorian music hall songstress Vesta Tilley,  “…he was following in his Father’s foot steps, he followed his dear old Dad”, and indeed he did, he was apprenticed as a Waterman to his Father as a boy, but by early adulthood Edward William had realised that the pickings from this trade would be slim, London Bridge was now easily passable for the smaller steam boats coming up the Thames, and quays were being built out into the stream to allow people to be easily put ashore without the need for Watermen to get them there.Lancashire_boiler-Marsden copy

So Edward William decided that if you can’t beat ’em, you have to join ’em, and moved into an up and coming industry in the ship yards of Poplar as a Boiler Maker.  Boiler making was basic riveting and metal bashing to make the boilers that powered every steam ship on the river, and that carried Great Britain’s trade across the world.  The work was in high demand and ranged from unskilled metal bashing, to semi-skilled riveting.  No strangers to muscular work, Watermen with broad backs and strong arms, and contacts in the Docks found it easy to move from their whereas to take up the hammers in the ship yards to turn metal into works of steam combustion, and the wages were steady, men knew what they would take home, when they would clock on and when they would clock off, they had turned from self employed water taxis to wage earning, industrial artisans.  Boilermakers were skilled, and compared to many of the trades in the Docks, could be creative, and offered an element of autonomy in their work outside of simple muscle power.  The other interesting point is that Edward William moved into this trade immediately after the aptly named, Commercial, or London and Blackwell Railway, was built linking Blackwell and Limehouse to Fenchurch St station.  As we shall see, this pattern of docks and new railways would be a pattern of employment criteria for Edward William for many years.

London was booming, there was work for any able bodied man or woman, or child, who wanted it, provided they would work for fairly low wages.  To this magnet for the poorly off flocked labourers and servants from all over the country, and in the late 1840s whilst labouring in the Docks Edward William met Jane Maria Sparks, a Labourer’s daughter from Cosham near Portsmouth.  Jane Maria had left home to find work in London, and had instead found Edward William, strong, self assured and muscular, a man who’s family had lived in Poplar for more than a hundred years, well known in the area, he was not getting any younger at twenty seven, and liked the look of the fresh faced country girl, of seventeen, so much so that by 1850 she was pregnant, with his first son Edward Thomas James Dyer, but the Boiler maker did the right thing, and married Jane Maria at Christ Church on a sunny day 30th June 1850.

Life was hard in the Docks, but skilled men could still make a good living if they were prepared to travel to the bigger opportunities taking their in demand skills with them, and Edward William with his small family of Jane Maria and their son Edward Thomas James in tow would do just that.  Opportunity first called in Folkestone Kent in the early 1850s, wfolkestone swingbridge1851_edited-1hich had
grown on the back of railways and cross channel travel in steamships, followed by Portsea in 1852 at the burgeoning
Royal Dockyards of Portsmouth, where Jane Maria’s Father worked, and here the couple would have their second son Alfred William.

After Portsea, the Family travelled to Lowestoft in Suffolk in the mid-1850s (pictured below), where ship building and engineering works were booming, once again due to the coming of the railways which had boosted fishing and steamship shipbuilding, very similar to the activity at Folkestone, and given that the railways at both Folkestone and Lowestoft were developed by Sir Samuel Morton Peto, it could be that Edward William was contracted to one of Sir Samuel’s companies, travelling to where need was greatest for boilermakers to work on steam trains and steam ships.

The Family’s stay in Lowestoft was mixed, work was good, and Edward William was in a good place career wise, but in 1856 and 18reid_lowestoft_80058 they would lose two of their children; Esther Maria, who was less than a year old, and Alfred William at six years old.  After the deaths of the children, the Dyers were no doubt happy to put Lowestoft behind them, but reluctant to have to leave their two children in the graveyard at Mutford, but life must go on, and they were back in Poplar in 1859, but within a year, Edward William takes the family to Minster next to Sheerness, a Royal Naval Dockyard on the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames Estuary.  This was the same year that the Railway arrived in Sheppey, so Edward William was once again specialising in working at ports that were being connected to the Railway System.  Leaving Lowestoft obviously helped the family, as from then on no more children died in childhood.Sheerness1850

By 1864 Edward William has moved the family back to London, to Limehouse, where he was working in the docks as plater and Iron Worker building iron Ships.  This was a step down in status from a boiler maker, and more likely related to riveting on large ship builds, rather than the more skilled work he had done previously.  But the family thrived, they would have another seven children in Poplar in the 1860s and 1870s.  Edward William at 48 and his eldest son Edward Thomas became unemployed Iron Shipbuilders in 1871, and would need to work through hard times outside of the family’s control,  The world economy started to go into a long depression caused by speculation in Germany and Austria on the back of massive over ambitious speculation sparked by Germany’s convincing win over France in the Franco-Prussian War, investment poured in and was lost through over-ambition, greed, and fraud, having a knock on effect to economies across the world.  At the same time that this was happening shipbuilding had started to move from Iron to Steel ships, making it harder for skilled muscle power to compete with machine tools, and there had also been a swing in the concentration of shipbuilding from the Thames to Scotland and the North East of England, where there was easier access to coal fields and iron mines to produce steel nearer to shipyards.ThamesIronworks

But life is strange, and when Edward William does find work again it is back in his old skilled trade as a boiler maker, and for the next twenty years Edward William would variously work as a boiler maker, a plater, labourer, and iron ship builder, always in the Docks of Poplar, and turning his hand to whatever paid for the burgeoning family.  edward would continue working in the Docks well into his 60s, and would die in 1896 at the age of 73, his wife Jane Maria would outlive him by 9 years, also dining at 73 years of age in 1905.  Both died in Poplar, surrounded by their extended family.

(If you would like your Family tree uncovered, it costs from £300 to £600 for a full surname line, and makes for a great present, you can contact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk )

Danny Dyer’s Family Tree Part 2: Watermen and Lightermen


“Redknap’s men would wend their way through the Poplar marshes, and would need more than a pint of Ale when they arrived at the Inn on Dolphin Lane, they would be looking out for a meeting with Edward Dyer a fellow Waterman from the lane, to row their packages across to the Wealthy residents of Greenwich and upriver to the City of London.”

Father Thames

The Thames was tfather thameshe main thoroughfare of London, its name goes back to pre-Celtic Indo-European languages as Temisios, to the Romanised version as Tamesis, the name just meant dark or muddy river.  The river kept its name as Tameis  until the 16th century, when an “H” was added in order to try to reinforce the false idea that the name was derived from Greek and Celtic.  The many foreign sailors who plied the river called it “The London River”, but to Cockneys, to this day, it is just “The River”, everyone in London knows which one you mean.

The River has two different physical parts; the tidal part reaching from the North Sea and English Channel to Staines, which meant that the level rose and fell up to 28ft at some points, and indeed The River could be seen to flow in both directions, both upstream and downstream depending on the direction of the tide, lending the river a strange and mystical air to the natives who settled on its banks; a river that flows backwards at certain times of the day was indeed a strange thing.  On this tidal stretch the river rarely flooded more than the marshes on its banks, but could summon up a terrible flood when influenced by tidal surges from the North sea.  The tidal river brought the wealth of the world’s nations to London in commercial trade, plus more domestically, the Coal and Timber of the North of England, the Limestone of Southwest England, as well as the fruit and veg of the market gardens of Kent and Essex.  The other half of The River, the non-tidal part, flowed from its source in Gloucestershire down to Staines; faster flowing, fed by the rain off the fields and hills, and tending to break its banks to feed the fields that grew the corn and cattle to help feed London.

In these ways The Thames extended London’s reach from Gloucestershire to the North Sea along its navigable length of over 230 miles.  However, as well as the division between Tidal and non-tidal Thames, there was a much more local division to London.  As already mentioned in Part 1 of Danny Dyer’s Family History, London Bridge, built on a shallower part of The River, stopped the travel of larger vessels upstream.  This meant that to get upstream through the dangerous arches under London Bridge took great skill and experience, unskilled boats were frequently capsized trying to shoot the arches of London Bridge, and many passengers were drowned and goods lost.  In an age of poor roads, in a crowded City, where the easiest and fastest transport was by boat, the need for skilled and trusted boatmen was high.

Watermen and Lightermen

It is into this environment in the boom time of the British Empire, that Edward Dyer (Danny Dyer’s Great Great Great Great Grandfather) enters the story and takes his apprenticeship as a Waterman in 1803 at the age of 14. This meant seven years of boatmanindentured labour.  In return for being clothed, housed, feed while he learned his trade, Edward would agree to work six days per week for his Master, wouldn’t swear, gamble, or take strong liquor, and absolutely could not marry during that time, he may have received no wages at all, or perhaps the odd piece of pocket money, a hard life for a boy, but at the end of it he would be a man with a profession, licensed to carry passengers and goods safely on the Thames.  He would also have developed a physique to match his work’s demands, pulling on big oars in a Thames Wherry up, down, and across the river, six days per week, several hours per day, would build a magnificent physique, a strong back, big arms and shoulders, and calloused hands with a vice like grip, plus the stamina of a cart horse.

Romantic Deptford

During his time plying passengers between the North and South Banks of the Thames, Edward met Mary Robertson from Deptford on the Kent (South) side of the River, he was no doubt courting her between trips to and fro from the old East India shipyards at Deptford, to the new East India Shipyards at Blackwall, and, immediately after he finished his apprenticeship and was free to do so, he wasted no time in marrying Mary on 28th June 1810 in St Alphege Church at Greenwich.

Ironically St Alfege was the Archbishop of Canterbury who was unlucky enough to St_Alfegehave been captured by the same Danish Vikings who had captured London, and been seen off from by the Norwegian Viking Olaf (St Olave in Part 1 of Danny Dyer’s story) when London Bridge was pulled down. Alfege really was unlucky, his monks were unable to raise the ransom asked by the Danes for his release, so the Danes took him down near The River and executed him, on that spot was built St Alphege’s Church, and rebuilt in 1712-1714, this is where Edward Dyer and Mary Robertson married.

The couple set up home in Butcher Lane Deptford, where their first child Elenor Dyer was born in 1812.  The sojourn South of The River was short lived, and by 1814 when their second child, named Edward after his father , is born in Limehouse.The couple would have six more children up to 1832 all born in Poplar.

London Bridge Really was falling down

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“London Bridge 1830”. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:London_Bridge_1830.jpg#mediaviewer/File:London_Bridge_1830.jpg

 

Times were changing, in 1810 Locks were put in up River at Teddington, bringing the tidal reach of the Thames back 16 miles down river from its former reach at Staines, taming and controlling the River’s ebb and flow upstream.  A more important change for Edward Dyer the Waterman was when London Bridge finally did fall down, this happened when the “new” London Bridge was built between 1825 and 1831, the old bridge was torn down once the new bridge was completed, and the new bridge had a major impact on the Thames Watermen. Much wider spans meant  that progress for boats was much safer than it had been, so people could be transported with much less risk, and this was taken advantage of by unlicensed watermen, swarming like unlicensed mini-cabs to transport travellers up and down the river.  Worse still, steamboats came onto the river scene in large numbers from the 1830s and by 1835 it was estimated that around 3.5 million passengers travelled per year between The City and Blackwall, virtually all by steamboat.

Watermen would need to pick up adhoc passengers wanting private transport and any given time that it was required.  This was reflected in the impact it had on Edward’s living, he temporarily went into transporting goods rather than people as a Lighterman in 1828, and the building of an Iron Bridge over the River Lea into Essex, and the roads linking Poplar from Blackwall to North Millwall, and on into the City meant that foot and horse travel was greatly improved all the way from South Essex into the City of London, with an associated decline in the need for the transport of travellers by Watermen on the river.  This period also coincides with outbreaks of Cholera among dockside communities, and Edward and Mary lost three of their children in infancy between 1814 and 1831, Edward, Caroline, and Emma.

But the early 1800s weren’t all bad news for the Dyers, despite the declines in certain routes for Watermen and the tragic loss of their children, work was always there as the Docks boomed, so there was always a background demand for transport, and Mary’s family connections across the Thames in Greenwich and Deptford opened options for transporting workers across to Blackwall as the new and expanding docks drew in many workers from south as well as north of the river.  And big families meant at least some children would survive.

Just as the Dyer’s Family had risen in three generations from 4 and then 6 Dyers, to Edward and Mary’s Family of 11 children and adults, albeit reduced by the Cholera Father Thames brought to their door, Poplar had also grown from 1,000 people in the 1600s to over 4,000 in 1801, and tripled again to more than 12,000 by 1821.

An echo of Smugglers

The Dyers lived in Alpha Street.  Alpha Street had an interesting history, as it developed from the old Poplar marshland path which ended in the local Beer House and a few cottages, a welcome sight for any lost travellers that had wandered through the marshes of pre-industrial Poplar.  This sounds innocuous, but the sight of the tavern and the Watermen’s cottages appearing out of the mists of the Poplar marshes would also have been a welcome sight to men travelling with carts and pack horses filled with luxury goods, which may have avoided Customs Tax on its way over from France and the Netherlands.

Goods were brought to landing places at Blackwall and the River Lea by the (alleged) smuggling Foreman family (ancestors of Jamie and Freddie Foreman of acting and Kray Twins fame) bringing goods upriver from their Boat Yards at Faversham, a handy route avoiding the Royal Naval Cutters on the Isle of Sheppey.  Enos Redknap (ancestor of Harry and Jamie Redknapp of footballing fame) Landlord of The Gunn Inn at Cold Harbour would be a man to deal with, under the patronage of the Royal naval Boatyard close by, the sailors turning smugglersred“Nelson’s Eye” to the unofficial business ventures of this man from a long line of King’s watermen.  Redknap’s men would wend their way through the Poplar marshes, and would need more than a pint of Ale when they arrived at the Inn on Dolphin Lane, they would be looking out for a meeting with Edward Dyer a fellow Waterman from the lane, to row their packages across to the Wealthy residents of Greenwich and upriver to the City of London.

The Taming of the Marshesmillwall

As the marshes in North Millwall were dug out to build the docks for the East India Company, Alpha road developed a position as a route between the Millwall and West India Docks.  The days of smugglers were coming to an end, to be replaced by the Dockers and shipwrights.  The older cottages from the 1700s penetrated by the cold and damp miasmas of the marshes, a harsh environment to try to raise nine children in, both the floors of houses and the marshland paths were dirt based, but by the early 1800s these were starting to be replaced by houses thrown up by speculators which were still rough and slum like, but set out in straight lines with wooden floors along cobbled streets.eastindiadocksentrance

Times were changing, some things for the better some for the worse, Edward and Mary’s surviving daughters would marry local Smiths, Boiler Makers, and Shipwrights, and their one remaining son Edward William Dyer (Danny Dyer’s Great Great Great Grandfather) would serve as an apprentice to his father as a Waterman,  and his Father Edward would persist in his trade as a Waterman, but the takings were ever diminishing, and in Edward’s case would lead to poverty and eventual death In Poplar workhouse in 1864, Mary outlived him by a few years to 1867, moving one of her daughters and her family in and working as a Housekeeper.  Both Edward and Mary Dyer had lived into their seventies, a good age for working class people in early Victorian London.  But now the steamers on the Thames easily passing London Bridge and offloading their passengers onto purpose built jetties had stolen the Waterman’s Trade, the removal of trade barriers and a numerous Customs and Police Force spelled the death of smuggling, and the metal ships in the dockyards heralded a new age.  We shall see in Part 3 how the Dyers adapted.

(If you would like your Family tree uncovered, it costs from £300 to £600 for a full surname line, and makes for a great present.  Ccntact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk if interested.)

Danny Dyer’s Family History Part 1: Proper Poplar Cockneys born and bred


A Proper Cockney

Danny_DyerDanny Dyer landlord of the Queen Victoria Pub in BBC’s Eastenders, isn’t just a professional Cockney, he’s a proper Cockney, and his line is documented back into the 1700s in Poplar, and there is reasonable evidence to take it that his ancestors were plying the Thames at least as early as the 1600s at the time of Cromwell and Charles I, and before that most likely living in the City of London or again Poplar as Dyers.  So he’s London born and bred, and so were his ancestors as far back as it is possible to trace.  Circumstantial evidence would seem to indicate that Danny’s Family were the original Dyer Family in Poplar.

The Dyers as dyers

The Dyer Family name came from the trade in the Middle Ages, dyeing cloth, silk and leather.  A good trade, but a dirty one, both from the Dyers’ staining of their skin and clothes during their work, and their need to use large amounts of urine as part of the process, for both extracting dye from natural materials, and for fixing colours in cloth (old pee, and new pee being used in each process respectively!).  This tended to make the dyers congregate together somewhere between the weavers and tanners.  Ua46acd4bce4264ddac19f6d45737bf36sually near the Thames for access to a constant water supply for the washing process.  Their natural materials to produce the dyes came up the Thames from Kent, where a plant called Weld was produced and shipped by boat to provide all shades of yellow for dyers, in addition to other home grown plants such as Woad and Madder.  The dyers as a trade grouped around Thames Street near the North side of London Bridge, and got their own Royal Livery Company in the 1400s.  Unfortunately they were dyers, not builders, and it wasn’t the most prestigious Trade Company, as reflected in their bad luck with their Company Hall; the first two attempts of which were burned down, and the second two buildings fell down due to jerry building.

However Danny’s Dyer Family had moved from their ancient art, and went over to working on the Thames in other capacities, by the time of the English Civil War in the 1600s, we find Dyers on the Thames acting as Watermen and Lightermen, transporting people and goods, and indeed they would carry on living on the river right up to the present, and the River would in return provide them with a living for generations.

London Bridge is falling down

When Peter Dyer the Shipwright (Danny Dyer’s Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather) listened to his wife Eleanor singing to their sons, Peter, a toddler, and Edward a baby, in the summer of 1768, he most likely smiled and got on with hammering at the wooden ship of trade that he worked on in the East India dockyard at Poplar.  Eleanor sang to the boys, held their hands to make an arch that they would run through;

“London Bridge is falling down,

falling down,

falling down,

London Bridge is falling down,

My fair Lady!”

The tune and words had been adapted and formalised a hundred years before, but the song and the playing at arches had roots going back into mediaeval times, and beyond to the Viking period.  For in 1014 Ethelred The Un-Read (un-read = badly advised, rather than “Unready”) hired a mercenary Norwegian Viking force to sail up the Thames and attack London, held at that time by King Cnut’s father Sweyn and his Danish Vikings.  The Norwegians tied ropes around the stanchions of the fortified wooden London Bridge, hurled grappling hooks onto its fortifications, turned their longships around, hoisted sail to catch a westerly breeze, and rowed hard with the downstream tide to wreck the fortified bridge, allowing them to bring their own and Ethelred’s English ships and troops up the Thames and outflank the Danes, forcing and force the Danish garrison to give up control of London and Southwark back to Ethelred and the English.

This was celebrated in a Viking Saga in a poem that went;vikinglondonbridge

“Yet you broke the Bridge of London,

Stout hearted warrior,

You conquered the land

Iron swords made headway

Strongly urged to fight;

ancient shields were broken,

Battle’s fury mounted”

The Rhyme obviously would have scanned better in Old Norse, but it tells the tale, and Grappling hooks and Viking axes and swords have been found in the Thames at the site to reinforce the romance of the story with archaeology.  Now it was this folk memory that gave rise to the nursery rhyme that Eleanor sang to her sons.  The Viking who pulled London Bridge down,  Olaf Haraldsson, later became ruler of Norway, and on his death was hailed as a very popular Saint in England becoming St Olaf, with a Church in Southwark by the side of the rebuilt London Bridge, which you can visit today, now known as St Olave’s.  This was typical of robust British paganism lightly dressed as Christianity, a Norwegian Viking General hailed as a saint by the people of London, for helping to recapture their City.

But 750 years later in 1768, up around the big bend in the river from Poplar, London Bridge wasn’t falling down, and wouldn’t for another 70 years, this was despite the stone bridge already being 600 years old.  It once stood full of brick and stone buildings along its length, some several stories high, a spectacular site in mediaeval times, but these had been demolished in Peter and Eleanor Dyer’s lifetime, in 1762, to improve the flow of foot and horse traffic across the bridge.  London Bridge still presented a hazard to navigation, and even with a widened mid-span was unnavigable for large ships.  This blockage to large ships meant that the building of bigger ships could only be carried on down stream in and around the Poplar area, and this was where the Dyers lived.  So London Bridge inadvertently gave Peter Dyer his trade as a shipwright, as with many aspects of London, the River Thames and its history would decide the trade and future of the lives of its working class inhabitants, including the Dyers.

Claude_de_Jongh_-_View_of_London_Bridge_-_Google_Art_Project_bridge

East Indiamen, Popular in Poplar

Shipwrights in Poplar, made their living in the 1700s at Blackwall, North of the big bend in the Thames, and just upstream on the Thames from the River Lea, making a convenient place for large vessels to moor, with a road to take goods from the shore direct to the City of London, cutting out the navigation of the massive bend in the river around the Isle of Dogs.  it was from here that Captain John Smith and his Virginia Settlers set out to found what would become the first permanent English Settlement in America, perhaps the Dyers as Watermen and shipwrights played their part in transporting the settlers to Blackwall, or making their ships seaworthy.  It was also here that the convenience of Blackwall was hit upon by the ever efficient East India Company, they sponsored the dockyards that grew up in Blackwall between the late 16th century and on into the 1700s just at the time when the records show the Dyers plying their trade there as the painting from the 1780s shows below.BHC1866

Peter Dyer and his son Edward would work as shipwrights in Poplar, a good living, but not a great one, but they would have seen a massive increase in trade with ships pilling into Blackwall from all over the world, numbers growing steadily as the British Empire grew, a result of wars with the Spanish, and French.  By 1789 when Edward Dyer when the next Edward Dyer is born (Danny Dyer’s Great Great Great Great Grandfather) to Edward and wife Mary, the third generation of Dyers in Poplar, the Empire is burgeoning, and in the year of Edward’s birth, the Blackwall Docks are extended and renamed as the Brunswick Docks.  But with the development of docks and the wealth flowing into the City of London, opportunities were opening up to less skilled trades, like Watermen and Lightermen, who could make easy pickings from River traffic in both people and goods.  In Part 2 of Danny Dyer’s Family Tree we will see how his ancestors took advantage of this.

 

Published in: on February 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  
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