William & Joanna Solomon of Black Horse Alley

Fleet Street home of fabled stories like Sweeney Todd, and notorious dark Highwayman, ghost stories aplenty like the story of Tom Cox – murdered one dark night in 1650 “and as The coach rattled down Fleet Street to its destination, the stranger turned to face Tom, his eyes ablaze. There in the churchyard the man transformed: growing over twice the height of any person.

Matted fur burst from his skin and his teeth elongated into jagged fangs. Finally a bear-like demon bore down on him”.

Dark times to be living in Fleet Street.

William & Joanna Solomon of Black Horse Alley, Fleet Street, St Bride’s, London are my 8x great grandparents. Over the last few days I have been concentrating on in-depth research of their ancestors and family connections, and uncovering a lot of information along the way. Connections to some very dark times.

The couple lived during the 1700’s and resided in Black Horse Alley, I know little about this area of London although there seems to have been a printing company here at one stage. The properties in Black Horse Alley would have been newly built-in the 1680’s as most of this area was destroyed during the great fire.

The book: A survey of the cities of London and Westminster, borough of Southwark – By John Stow, John Mottley leave a little clue as to the streets location “Black Horse Alley, Ordinary, out of this alley is a passage to Fleet-Ditch.”

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Black Horse Alley c. 1850

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Fleet River and Fleet Ditch. THE OLD “RED LION,” FROM THE FRONT. BACK OF THE “RED LION,” FROM THE FLEET. THE FLEET DITCH, FROM THE “RED LION.” (From Sketches taken shortly before the Demolition)

 

Fleet Street is home to London’s fabled story “Sweeney Todd”, and William and Joanna would have lived in this area during the years the story is set. Todd may only have been a story, but the Solomons had connections to some of London’s most notorious criminals, and although they don’t seems to appear in any court documents their family certainly did.

 I have long suspected that William Solomon was an immigrant, he was born c.1680, and research of the Parish Records hasn’t uncovered a possible English baptism. If he wasn’t an immigrant himself, then it’s very likely that his father or even grandfather were.

He is recorded as marrying on the 7th December 1699 in Saint James Church, Clerkenwell to a Joanna Bennet resident of Fleet Street. She was baptised on the 29 June 1684 in Saint Bride’s Church to a John And Alice Bennet. 

Her father would go down in history known as “The Golden Farmer”, a notorious highwayman who resided in Bagshot Heath, Surrey and with close ties to Fleet. The title “The Golden Farmer”, is also associated with Bennet’s father-in-law. William Davis, which ever gentleman was the true Highwayman one thing is true. The Solomon’s certainly held close to a very dark, mysterious and criminal way of life.

Legend has it that John Bennet was possibly of mixed race, his father being white and his mother black.

Misfortune followed William and Joanna for many years, out of five live births only one child lived longer than a year. Daniel Solomon (1702 – 1766). He is my 7x great-grandfather and he was found guilty of manslaughter in 1754.

William and Joanna Solomon lived in Black Horse Alley for most of their adult life, William died in January 1734/5 aged approximately 54 years and Joanna was aged just 36, she died in February 1721. They were both buried in Saint Bride’s Church.

Beneath the Church and adjoining Charnel House lie the bones of St Brides – where ancient parishioners are interred as piles of skulls and long-bones. This is where the “skull and crossbone” originates: In London, cramped churchyards were overflowing with the dead by the medieval period. To create space, skeletons were routinely “consolidated”, leaving only the skull and two long-bones.

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The Bones of Saint Bride’s Church

 

 

 

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