Francis Cable


The Cable Family in London – 1815 to 1841

We family historians, enjoy stories of the ‘Black Sheep of the family’ and unquestionably, within the Shellaker family, Frank Brown is well deserving of that title. One of the aims of writing this story is an attempt to make contact with those who may be researching the ancestry of the Cable family, with whom some of us may share a common ancestry and who could well be speculating upon the whereabouts of FRANCIS JAMES CABLE after c.1892. This narrative attempts to chronologically detail the information we, from the ‘Shellaker side’ of Frank’s life, have unearthed concerning Frank’s forebears on ‘the Cable side’.

Francis Cable’s father, as identified on the second wedding certificate from 1934, was HENRY ISAAC CABLE a builder, so I will commence this part of the story with him. He was born at the beginning of 1815, a few months before The Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.

1815 - Henry Cable Baptism - 26th February

1815 – The Baptism of Henry Cable – 27th February

Henry Isaac Cable was baptized on Sunday 26th February of the same year, 1815, St. Saviour’s in Southwark, an area on the south bank of the River Thames close to London Bridge.

stleonardsHenry’s father, and Frank Brown/Cable’s grandfather, was JOHN CABLE, his mother – ANN MARIA CABLE; we believe her maiden name to be ANN MARIA BARWOOD, born in 1796 to Henry and Ann Barwood and baptized at St Clements Danes, Westminster.

JOHN CABLE & ANN MARIA BARWOOD married on Sunday 20th Dec 1812 at St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, London. An engraving of the church, which was opened in 1740, can be seen on the right. This church is still standing, although the inside of the church no longer appeared as it was in 1812, because in 1870, the galleries were stripped out and the ground floor windows bricked up – an example of Victorian church ‘vandalism’.

Witnesses at the wedding of John and Ann were Henry Barwood (presumably the bride’s father) and a man named George Imming.

Henry was born around three years after this wedding and he had at least one sibling, a sister MARY ELIZABETH CABLE, born three years later and baptized on Friday 20th Feb 1818.

There are other names in the records who are likely to also be the children of John and Ann Maria Cable are JOHN RICHARD born in 1820, a JOHN CABLE baptised Sunday 20th August 1826 at Saint Saviour, Southwark, a daughter, FANNY who was born in 1830 in Bermondsey, THOMAS born the following year of 1831 in Southwark and a girl, MARTHA born in 1834 also in Southwark.

In 1835, at around twenty one years of age, Henry Isaac Cable married CHARLOTTE RICHARDSON in Bermondsey. Charlotte was originally from Barkham in Surrey

[*Bermondsey is an area in London on the south bank of the river Thames, and is part of the London Borough of Southwark. To the west lies Southwark, to the east Rotherhithe, and to the south, Walworth and Peckham.]

 THE CABLE FAMILY – Henry Isaac Cable, his parents and siblings


Around six years pass and Henry and his wife Charlotte are recorded on the 1841 Census, taken on the night of 6th June 1841. With them are their three children; CLARA, born in 1835 who was six, a son EDWIN, born around 1837/38 aged 2 and a half years and baby daughter born in February 1841 – the year of the Census and therefore only four months old. She was named CHARLOTTE after her mother. A copy of that Census is below – the entry for Henry and his family is at the bottom of the section although I cannot clearly identify Henry’s occupation on this Census.

In the 1841 the details on Census returns were relatively sparse; Place of residence – the street name, house number or house name, the Age and sex of each person. In regards to the persons age it should be noted that Ages up to 15 are listed exactly as reported/recorded but ages over 15 were rounded to the nearest 5 years (i.e. a person aged 53 would be listed on the census as age 50 years). The Census also included the occupation of the residents and their birthplace, but only if the person was born in the county where the census was taken (usually recorded as a ‘yes’ or ‘no’).

1841 Census - Henry Cable & Family

1841 Census – Henry Cable & Family

Name Age Occupation WhetherBorn in same County
Henry Cable 26 Not Sure No
Charlotte Cable 6 No
Clara Cable 12 Yes
Edwin Cable 2 1/2 Yes
CharlotteCable 4 months Yes

The birthplace of the children is recorded only as Surrey, e.g. ‘Yes’ – born in the same county. In this Census Henry’s age is recorded as 26, his wife Charlotte 25 years of age. One significant part of this document is the address of the Cable family – they were living in St Olave Union, Fashion Street, St John, Southwark and it appears ‘St Olave Union’ was a Workhouse!

The St Olave Union Workhouse was located at the corner of Fair Street and Parish Street with the main part of the site arranged around three sides of a square. The main entrance was located on Parish Street but all the buildings have since been demolished. A picture of the building is shown below right.

St Olaves Union WorkhouseAn amendment to the Poor Law was introduced in 1834; seven years prior to the time Henry Cable, his wife Charlotte and their three children were living in this Workhouse. Under this new Poor Law, smaller parishes were grouped into unions and each union had to build a Workhouse to accommodate the poor of the area. Within Southwalk the St Olave Poor Law Union was formed on 25th March, 1836 utilizing the existing buildings.

Under this new law poor people could only get help and support if they were prepared to leave their homes and go into a Workhouse; previously they are received support from the parish in which they lived.

We do not know the cause of Henry’s destitution but entering the Workhouse was not uncommon. However families would need to be very wretched before doing so as conditions inside the Workhouse were made deliberately harsh to ensure only those who desperately needed help would be forced to enter.

Undoubtedly Henry would have separated from Charlotte and his three children during their time there as families were split up and housed in different parts of the workhouse. At St Olave Union the men were housed in the southern wing, and females in the northern wing behind which the workhouse laundry was located.

Within the Workhouse the inmate were forced to wear a uniform and the diet was monotonous, barely sufficient for most paupers and some starved. For babies and young children, such as Clara, Edwin and Charlotte Cable, the dietary was at best, very poor. Charles Dickens based his harrowing ‘Oliver Twist’ on the reality of workhouse conditions in the 1830s – particularly contemporary to the time Henry and Charlotte Cable were there with their own three children.

The food provided in Workhouses was based around bread (which was coarse, deep brown in colour and often extremely stale), meat (the cheapest and toughest cuts and served once a week), cheese, potatoes, soup (made up of water, onions and grease), suet pudding and of course the infamous gruel. In 1840 one Workhouse inmate describes gruel as being…. “Mustiness and fustiness! Most revolting to any healthy taste. It might have been boiled in old clothes, which had been worn upon sweating bodies for three-score years and ten.”

Workhouse inmates picking OakumCharlotte Cable possibly picked Oakum while in the St Olave Union Workhouse. The Workhouse has a strict regime of rules and regulations. Inmates, both male and female and the young and old were made to work hard, often doing unpleasant jobs such as breaking stones or picking oakum.*

*Oakum was a tarred fibre used in shipbuilding, for packing the joints of timbers in wooden ships.It was recycled from old tarry ropes which were painstakingly unraveled by the inmates and taken apart into fibre”.

The picture on the right depicts women, in an East London Workhouse, picking Oakum around the end of the Victorian Era.

The Children could also find themselves hired out to work in factories or mines; it is possible Clara Cable, although only six years old in 1841, could have been sent out to work in local factories.

Around this time Workhouses around the country were scandalized in the press. At one Workhouse in Hampshire it was reported that half-starved inmates were found eating the rotting flesh from bones. Strict rules were introduced shortly afterwards for those running the workhouses and a system of regular inspections was introduced. Although inmates were still treated with contempt by ruthless masters and matrons who continued to abuse the rules.

This was the life experienced by Henry & Charlotte Cable and their three children during their time in the St Olave Union.

Henry’s mother and siblings are also recorded within the 1841 Census Records. I have not included a copy of the actual record but below are the details as recorded. Ann Cable (née Barwood) is now on her own and living at St John Street, St Mary Newington, Lambeth. Her husband John is not recorded – he could have died or living elsewhere on the night of this Census. With Ann are three of her children Fanny who was born in 1830 and is now 11 years old, Thomas, born in 1830, aged 10 and Martha born in 1834, now 7 years old.

Not recorded on this Census are Mary Elizabeth Cable who, as she was born in 1818, would have been around 23 years old at time and could be married and so no longer living with the family. Also ‘missing are John Richard born in 1820 and John born in 1826 who would have reached 21 and 15 years respectively – three possibilities; alive and living elsewhere, dead and a third option is that these children are not the offspring of  John and Ann Cable.

Name Age Occupation WhetherBorn in same County
AnnCable 46 -
Fanny Cable 11 Yes
ThomasCable 10 Yes
MarthaCable 7 Yes



Next Page: Life after the workhouse  – a woman dies