One of the first facts I discovered about Joseph Hanshew was that he had married Maria Emily Bird at St George’s Church Hanover Square in 1847.
St George’s is the parish church of Mayfair and sits between Oxford Street and Regent Street. Built between 1721-1724 to designs by John James (one of Sir Christopher Wren’s assistants) it was regularly attended by George Frederick Handel. To my eye it is surprising plain inside and outside is so closed in by other buildings that it is hard to stand back to get a proper view. Now St George’s isn’t an ordinary church. According to Cassandra Jardine writing in the Telegraph property page in June 2011 it “is possibly the most desirable place to get married in Britain, apart from Westminster Abbey”. Imagine my excitement; Joseph must have made it as an artist to get married at such a fashionable venue. After all amongst those marrying here were Disraeli (1839) and Teddy Roosevelt (1886); Lola Montez (1849) and Joseph Grimaldi (1798 and 1802); Sir William Hamilton to Emma Harte(1791); Shelley (1814), George Meredith (1849), George Eliot (1880,) Lord Alfred Douglas (1902) and John Buchan (1907).
But there is another side to St George’s; the church also specialized in cheap marriages at a guinea a time, without the requirements of banns or licences[i]. Joseph and Maria were not the only ones to take advantage of this; Joseph’s father and mother, Thomas and Ann, married here in 1810, one of 8 couples married that day. Of their children that I can trace a marriage for only Mary Ann married in Watford, Sarah my great-great grandmother married the widowed John Brittain here in 1837 and Elisha, Joseph’s younger brother married Lavinia here in 1846. Why not marry at St Mary’s in Watford, this would have been the brides’ parish church? Perhaps the clue is in the children’s baptisms. All the Hanshew children apart the eldest, Thomas Ambrose were baptised in the Gilead (or Ebenezer) Chapel, which I hope to write about in my next post.
[i] The London Compendium – Ed Gilbert