London in 1861

London in 1861 was the growing capital of an expanding British Empire. It was the largest and richest city on the planet and each year the city grew by the population of a small town. The population had seen massive growth and the streets thronged with wealth and squalor side by side. With no adequate sanitation many streets ran with the waste from houses and businesses. The Thames could not cope with the sewage from the millions of Londoners and the tides simply pushed the waste upstream forming a massive cess pool. In the summer of 1858 the houses of parliament had to close because the smell had become overpowering. There were 13,000 street traders in London, many of which were children. The police estimated 20,000 children were being trained as pick-pockets and criminals. This was the London that Dickens detested and helped slowly change through his novels ‘Oliver Twist’, ‘Pickwick Papers’ and ‘Bleak House’. In 1861 London saw a revolution in sanitation brought about by a major sewer project. This meant that the sewage finally ran below the streets and under the Thames embankment and was completed in 1866.

Transport in the capital was noisy, slow and dirty. In 1855 an Act of Parliament had been passed approving the construction of the Metropolitan Railway between Paddington Station and Farringdon Street via King's Cross. The Great Western Railway gave financial backing to the project when it was agreed that a junction would be built linking the underground railway with its mainline terminus at Paddington. The GWR also agreed to design special broad gauge trains for the new subterranean railway. However, a shortage of funds delayed construction for several years and only commenced due to the lobbying of Charles Pearson, the Solicitor to the City of London Corporation. In 1859 he persuaded the Corporation to help fund the scheme. Work finally began in February 1860 although Pearson unfortunately died before the Metropolitan Railway finally opened on 10 January 1863.

Famous People in London 1861 Census

Charles Dickens who lived at 3 Hanover Terrace with his daughter Mary and sons Francis and Edward. He was aged 49 with an occupation as Author, Novelist, Essayist & Editor.
Florence Nightingale unmarried, whose occupation was a former nurse and was living at the Burlington Hotel at 30 Old Burlington Street.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel who was living at 17 & 18 Duke Street, above his company offices. He was aged 44 and with him were wife Mary, mother Lady Sophia, and children Isambard, Henry Mark and Florence Mary.

North London Branches

Henry Hatch Reffell, had died the previous year and his wife Rebecca Burchatt would follow him three years later, although in 1861 she was living at 13 Langham Street in Marylebone running a lodging house. With her was five of her nine children, Henry, Mary Ann, John William, Susan Matilda & Edward. Eldest and only other surviving daughter Elizabeth Rebecca was married to jeweller Etienne Ernest Magloire Masset and living at 30 Clipstone Street. The other surviving son Charles was at the Diocesan School in the High Street at Great Dunmow in Essex. Henry Hatch's parents Joseph Reffell and Elizabeth Hatch were living in the Union Workhouse in Fulham.
Also living in a workhouse, this time at Paddington, was Thomas Reffell aged 65 and a painter by trade, but he was to die later that year. His wife Joanna had died fifteen years before and of their six children it looks like only the youngest Annie born in 1841 was alive by then and was somewhat strangely baptised as late as 1864.
The lovely Madame Caballero was possibly past her best being aged 50 and living at her London home of 4 Gloucester Street in Marylebone, with two servants; Lizzy Stevens & Sarah Crittal, who was to live with her for the rest of her life. Her relation John Alfred Reffell was living at one of her other properties in Tunbridge Wells.
Samuel Reffell, the eldest surviving son of the Bury St Edmunds pipe makers family was living at 37 Moscow Road in Paddington and working as a jeweller's assistant. With him was his wife Sarah Augusta Garnett, who would have been pregnant with their first child, to be called Samuel Frederick. Next door at number 36 was Sarah's mother Amelia North aged 52 and a governess. The family would eventually return to Suffolk later in life.

South London Branch

In Bermondsey the Waterman branch was becoming less involved with river transportation and would eventually in time leave the area as well. George Bush Reffell had began his waterman apprenticeship in 1846, although it looks like he never completed it. In 1861 he was earning a living as a rope maker and living at 30 Shippers Place in Blue Anchor Road at Rotherhithe. With him was his wife Martha Bartlett from Wiltshire and their two surviving children; William Henry & James John. The eldest child George Caleb had died the previous year aged six. Also living at Shippers Place was George's elder brother James John Reffell and his family. He had married Mary Ann Walls in 1847 and when this James John died later in 1864 she was to marry again, quite late in life. With them were their children; Susannah, Henry, Emanuel, James & Daniel. It was a sad fact of life at that time that of their total of eight children in time, four would die in infancy and another one would be drowned at sea aged 19.
George's brother Henry William Reffell was also a rope maker was living at 12 Elizabeth Terrace in Bermondsey with his in-laws. Again he had started a waterman apprenticeship but never completed it, and was now also a rope maker as were many of his relations. With him was his wife of three years Ann Bull from Somerset and their two eldest children; Annie Isabelle & Sarah. Also at Elizabeth Terrace were Ann's parents Henry & Mary Bull, her brother Henry and sisters Elizabeth, Mary, Alma & Emma.