The Redknapp Family History Part 3: The Dockers’ Tribe of London


The White Death, and the beginning of the end of the Watermen and Lightermen’s Tribe.

Joseph Reuben was the couple’s only son to survive into adulthood.  With his Father gone, and his Mother remarried to Levi Hill, he was apprenticed as a Butcher’s Boy by his Redknap relations in Hampton Wick back at the west end of the Thames.  But it would not be long before he was in the Tribe of Lightermen working with his Redknap and Pressman relatives up at the docks around East London, where he met and married Harriet Patterson, a Mariner’s daughter, in 1863.

Conditions in the cramped living conditions of East London were very different from the leafy lanes and terraced cottages of the watermen in Twickenham.  Diseases stalked the east London tenements and courts, especially “The White Death” colloquially called Consumption; because it consumed it’s victims, withering them away to pale thin wrecks.  This was Tuberculosis, TB, or Phthisis as it was called at the time, and in the spring of 1876 Joseph Reuben became a victim, weakening, losing weight, coughing up blood, losing the ability to work effectively, until hi death in the cold winter month of February 1877 after a nine month illness.  His mother Sarah (now Sarah Hill) reported his death.

As TB could incubate in families, sometimes with no obvious outward symptoms for decades, parents would infect children and children their siblings and their own children over generations, in this germ ridden environment it is quite possible that Joseph Reuben’s father, Joseph Edward Redknap may have disappeared from the records if he was suffering from the disease and died in the workhouse or on the river without properly being entered in the records.  The White Plague may have been haunting the family.

The Dockers Tribe

Joseph Reuben was the couple’s only son to survive into adulthood.  With his Father gone, and his mother remarried to Levi Hill, he was apprenticed as a Butcher’s Boy by his Redknap relations in Hampton Wick back at the west end of the Thames.  But it would not be long before he was in the Tribe of waterman working with his Redknap and Pressman relatives up at the docks around East London, where he met and married Harriet Patterson, a Mariner’s daughter, in 1863.

After Joseph’s early demise, Harriett keeps body and soul together for the family by moving in with a Norwegian Mariner, Arent Anderson.  It wasn’t that unusual for a attractive Cockney Widows to marry Scandinavian sailors plying their trade between the Frozen North and the Port of London.  Arent agreed to Marry Harriett in 1880 once she fell pregnant by him, but managed, by being away at sea for much of the following 15 years to put off actually marrying her.  Despite this she bore him two daughters in 1881 and 1891, eventually marrying him in 1895, and dieing a year later, perhaps the marriage was a concession by Arent to Harriett before her health finally failed her.  Her demise would cause her husband to settle for a while in Poplar working as a Dock Labourer, bringing us into contact with the Docker’s Tribe.  But fate would be cruel to the family and Arent would die in 1907 while away at sea in Norway, leaving £15 2s to his eldest daughter Harriett to administer.

Levi George William Redknap (Harry Redknapp’s Great Grandfather) worked as an errand boy after his father Joseph Reuben’s  death, to help bring some money into the household prior to his mother taking up with Arent Anderson.  Levi graduated from that to the obvious employment in the Docklands of a Dock labourer; the opportunities for Watermen and Lightermen had dwindled thanks to the more efficient transport of steamships, that had forced the muscle power of the Watermen and Lightermen off the Thames and into the Docks, using their muscles to unload sacks of goods instead of boats.

The Tribe of Watermen and Lightermen had had its day, and was entering the twilight of its existence, to dwindle to a shadow of its former numbers into the Twentieth Century.

The transition from Boatmen to Dock Labourers was a desperate one.  This was not an upward move brought about by new technologies, this was a trade and its associated Tribe collapsing, leaving the descendants of the Tribe to scramble as best they could for whatever other work they could get, which, around the Docks, was Dock Labouring; this would turn into the London Tribe of Dock Labourers.  Levi did have an advantage, in as much as being a Lighterman from a long line of Watermen and Lightermen on both sides of his parents’ families, he would have stood higher in the dockside pecking order.  Well connected through friends and family, Levi would have found it that much easier to get into work in the dockyards, and by the time of his late teens or early adulthood Levi was working on the Dockside, albeit at the bottom of the pile as a Labourer.  Despite the hardness of the times, in 1888 Levi married Ann Garner a girl from Peckham.

The Trade in the London Docks had been growing since the Napoleonic Wars. Although subject to the occasional downturn due to government legislation restricting imports and exports over the years, as a whole the tendency was upwards.   With the coming of the Railways from the 1840s, allowing  goods to be shipped out of the growing dockyards of London, and onto the home counties and beyond by goods train, rather than just serving the river borne and horse borne cartage area that had restricted the onsale of goods before the railways.

Although trade to the London Docks had been on the up, the same cannot be said for the wages of the Dockers.  The owners of the Docks squeezed them hard, and there was widespread petty corruption on the part of the Foremen and their cronies, the “Royals”; friends and family of the Foremen, deciding who would get work on which day.

Wages were starvation level for a common Dockside Labourer,  at 5 pence an hour.  The Dockers were demanding “The Dockers’ Tanner” six pence an hour, plus a small bonus for unloading a ship ahead of schedule, and 8 pence an hour for overtime; trivial amounts by today’s standards, but in an age when Labouring Dockers had to literally fight each other at the Dock gate for the jobs on offer whilst the Foremen and Royals looked on and laughed, the Dock owners felt that their Labour force was ripe for exploitation.

The scene had been set over the previous two years when the Match Girls had gone on strike and won, followed by the Gas workers at Becton.  Unions for the more skilled workers on the Docks were already in existence, and a power struggle ensued to control a Union for the common Dockside Labourers.  This struggle was ultimately won in 1889 by Ben Tillet.  In the same year Dockers down tools and walked off the job, Tillet pounced, declared a strike, and garnered support from not only the other dockside unions and other workers, but also from the Catholic Church, whose Priests saw first-hand the hardships and deprivations of their mainly Irish Catholic Parishoners in the London Docks, as well as being in the spirirt of an edict from the Pope who had spoken out against both exploitative Capitalism, and Revolutionary atheistic Socialism, both of which were rife in Europe.

Levi would have been in the thick of this situation, times would have been hard to say the least, no work meant no money, breaking the strike would mean fist fights day in and day out with the rest of the community while the strike lasted, solidarity and holding their nerve was the only option, and the support was massive, 100,000 people marching from the east End to Hyde Park for a rally showing support for the striking Dockers, the Government was jittery, there was the whiff of Revolution from the unwashed masses of the East End a nightmare in the making.  However, the strikers had to tread a careful line, as working class protests had been physically broken up by Police and the Army with great violence by both protestors and the authorities a few years before.

The strikers walked a careful line, undoubtedly there was a degree of violence and intimidation, but overall the protests were treated as “Cockney Knees-ups” boisterous and physical but overlaid with a degree of hard working class humour and banter.  This approach, along with the obvious reasonableness of the strikers’ demands, plus the backing of the greater working class community, the Unions, and the overt backing of a number of authority figures including the Catholic Church, swayed the balance in the Dockers favour.  The popular rising of the Unions worked, and within a month, the Dock owners capitulated and the Dockers got their Tanner.

Life got a bit better in the Docks after this, and Levi and Ann’s family grew with five sons born between 1889 and 1909.  But times were still hard, with the last two boys born in 1900 and 1909 both died young at four and two respectively, followed by Levi himself in 1910.

With the death of Levi, his eldest son William (Harry Redknapp’s Grandfather who started spelling Redknapp with two “P”s at this time) followed his father into the Docks, and his younger brother George started work as a Milkman.  The First World War interrupted the precarious existence of the family, and William enrolled in the 3rd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade.

Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Comments (1)  
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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

The Redknapp Family History Part 1; Origins, Redheaded Merchants on the Thames


Origins of the Redknapp Name

lightermenelipsered

The name Redknapp, (also spelled Redknap, Rednap and Rednup) is derived from the colour Red and the old English “cnaep” or “knap” meaning a hillock or brow of a hill, but also a 15th century slang word for “head” as in “the knap of the case” for the head of the house. So “Red Knap” could either mean someone who lived on the “red hill” or much more likely, the person with the “red head”, and given the colouring of a number of bearers of this name the likely derivation is fairly obvious.

Although there had been one instance of the name being spelled with two “p”s in the late 1700s, and various spellings with one and two “p”s and an “e” on the end in mediaeval  times, this Redknapp family’s original name was spelled Redknap with one “p” for the whole of the 19th century, and only acquired the extra “p” as a standard spelling at the beginning of the 20th century when many names in working class families became fixed in their spellings.  This was because from 1870 an act of parliament brought in compulsory schooling for children, and so all children (who actually went to school) were taught to read and write in Great Britain from that point on, and so would spell their name the way they first saw it written by an adult, their school teacher, that school teacher would spell the name however they felt like spelling it unless they were aware of how the local vicar would spell it in the Parish Registers, and that particular way of spelling the name would stick going forward, more of less unchanged to the present day.

Origins of the Family

Harry Redknapp’s branch of the family are most likely descended from Redknaps who were Mercers in late Mediaeval London.  Mercers were high status traders, the word being derived in English from the Old French Mercier (ultimately derived from the Latin Merx – trade goods, the same root as Merchandise).  There were a number law disputes naming London Redknaps in various court cases over trading and trade goods, a long tradition that would carry on down through the generations, this and indeed the origins of the nickname Red-Head (Red-Cnaep) was undoubtedly a notable identifier of the Red Headed English RedKnaps  amongst the dark headed French Mercers they competed with.

It’s not hard to see where a link with trade in London turned into a link with the transportation of trade along London’s River, and Harry’s branch of the family were part of an extended family of Thames Watermen and Lightermen (Watermen rowed boats to carry people on the Thames, and Lightermen specifically rowed “Lighters” which were large flat bottomed barges) living on both banks of the Thames both on its western reaches of the “Surrey Side” and London, and on the central and Eastern regions of the “Middlesex Side” depending on the availability of work.  their work was essential to the maintenance of the passage of goods and people through London before bridges and roads of the Victorian era started to devalue them.

King’s Watermen

wapping_oldstairs2_1812

The Redknaps were not just any Rivermen, they were The King’s Watermen, chosen to row the Kings barge to transport him and the Royal Family along the River on State and more mundane occasions.  It is likely that this connection runs back to their days as Mercers, perhaps they were tradesmen to the nobility, and the Riverbourne line of the family that formed Harry’s line profited from the association.  They received uniforms every two years, and, as members of the Royal Household, were exempt from tax (that would surely strike a chord with Harry Redknap?).  Despite this the Thames watermen were known for the foul language and irreverence, even to the Royal Family, so much so that it was said that one of the reasons that Handel was commissioned to compose his “Water Music” for the coronation and procession on the Thames of George I was to drown out the abuse and foul language heaped on the Royals by the Watermen.  To the extent that comments that would have been treated as treasonous on land, were treated with humour on the Thames, as the watermen were incorrigible and beyond redemption.  Their language was labelled “Water Language” and was infamous in London.

The Redknaps rightly used this prestige to run a good business building boats on the Thames, transporting people as Watermen, and goods as Lightermen.  They fought hard for their rights, some times more than metaphorically, and ended up in court on one occasion for having a brawl with some land owners who took exception to them taking up passengers from their land, the cockney boatmen rolling on the bank and falling into some of the boats whilst grappling with their wealthy opponents.

Their appointment to King’s Watermen was no doubt to some extent due to them being very active professional scullers as well as professional river workers.  They raced for purses of sovereigns and silver trophies, in front of Royalty, the gentry and the common mob, and were successful,  In 1831 winning a race held by Sir Wathen Waller the King’s Surgeon, and Baroness Howe at Pope House on the Thames receiving a silver cup in the presence of the whole of the Royal Family, including King William IV.  The family raced for money from at least the 1820s till the 1860s,  several generations of Redknaps representing the watermen on Twickenham at the Thames regattas.  this would have made them local celebrities and they would have hobnobbed much as top sportsmen would in the modern age with Royalty and the well to do.  Fortunes would have ben won and lost on the strength of their backs, and the speed and length of the pull of their oars.  This was in the days before the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, when the heroes of the Thames were men who sported Cockney accents and plied the river for a living,

Watermen were a litigious lot, given the opportunities for theft of cargoes, and cheating in boat races, and for scores to be settled.  The Redknaps were variously called as witnesses for disputed boat races, attacks on them in pubs (as in one Waterman saying to a Redknap “I here you are saying that you are going to give me a good hiding?” before punching him in the face), as character witnesses against false allegations of theft from non-licensed watermen settling scores with the Redknaps licensed men.  But the Redknaps also had their more serious run-ins with the law, Enos (aka Enoch) Redknap was indicted for employing men who were not licensed Lightermen to transport Coals on The River, although he was not found guilty, but in 1815 he and an associate, along with a another Lighterman were prosecuted for stealing coal from a delivery on The Thames, The Lighterman was found not guilty, Isaac Moore, Enos’s Associate was found guilty and transported for 7 years, whilst Enos absconded and was never captured, although it looks like he continued to live in London and the environs.

Published in: on October 13, 2013 at 8:48 pm  Comments (4)  
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