Preachers, Publicans and Performers                                             

The Chidlaw, Goff and James Families                              

Paternal ancestors of Marie Frances Hellwig formerly Hurley

Welsh dissenters

Dorothy Chidlaw was born in 1777 at Bala, Meirionethshire in Wales, the seventh of nine children of Benjamin Chidlaw and Anne Jones. Dorothy’s grandparents were Jane (c1690-1777) and John Chidlaw (1700-1780). John was originally a currier  (processes leather) from Llanfyllin and a trustee of the Pendref Chapel there. He later moved to Bala where he continued working as a currier. He is buried in the Presbyterian Church, Chester Street, Wrexham. Jane is buried in the parish church of St Mor and St Deiniol, Llanfor, Meirionethshire, where Dorothy’s parents, Benjamin and Anne, are also buried.

Parish church of St Mor and St Deiniol, Llanfor, Meirionethshire, Wales. Burial place of Dorothy Goff’s parents Benjamin and Anne Chidlaw, and her grandmother Jane Chidlaw. Photo: Euan McGillivray 2014                                                                                  

The Chidlaws were adherents to the dissenting church. John and Jane’s eldest son John (Dorothy’s uncle) trained for the Presbyterian ministry at David Jennings' Academy in Wellclose Square, London, and from 1752 until his death in 1800, he was the pastor at Crooks Street Presbyterian Church, Chester. Dorothy’s brother Benjamin, wanting to escape the obligation of paying tithes to the Anglican Church, emigrated to America with his wife and children where he died in 1821 in Ohio not long after their arrival. His son Benjamin Williams Chidlaw became a pastor of the Congregational church in Ohio, a chaplain during the American Civil War, and gave many years’ service to the American Sunday Schools’ Union. He returned to Wales where he died in 1892.

Dorothy’s eldest brother John (d. 1804 Llanfor) married Catherine Richards c1793 in Wales. He inherited their uncle John’s lease holdings at Bala. Dorothy had six sisters: Jane (1766-1834) married Thomas Harrison at St. James Piccadilly on December 27th 1807; Sarah (d. 1820 London) did not marry and inherited an annuity from their uncle John; Mary married Joseph Woods February 16th 1803 at St Georges Hanover Square, London; Ann married Samuel Cooper May 1st 1803, also at St Georges Hanover Square; Bridget (b. c1781) married James Green on September 1st at St Martin in the Fields, London. Dorothy’s youngest sister Martha, a milliner, stayed in Meirionethshire and married John Roberts. Their son Robert Chidlaw Roberts, went to Australia but was killed in a mining accident in 1852.

Of Dorothy’s childhood, or why she and most of her sisters went to London, nothing is known except that she was orphaned at about 6 years of age and that Welsh would have been her first language. The girls may have gone to London to work as domestic servants. The earliest record of Dorothy in London is of her marriage to James Goff on June 9th 1802 at St. Martin in the Fields.

 Interior of St. Martin in the Fields, by Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson for Ackermann's Microcosm of London (1808-11). Dorothy and James married here in 1802. Source:                                                                                                                   

Robbery at the Crown and Anchor

James Goff was born in Middlesex in 1776 and earned a living as a licensed victualler (publican) in London. Nothing else is known about his early life or who his parents were.

Tax and directory records, and children’s baptism records show him up to the early 1820s living and working at Britannia Row Islington and also in the St. Marylebone parish. By the mid 1820s he was the publican at the Crown and Anchor Ebury Street, Pimlico. Here in 1827 James had a pewter pot stolen from him by a Mary Brown. She was sentenced to 7 years transportation for her crime (which also included the theft of other people’s items).

IMG 6788

Jacob's Well Mews, off George Street Westminster. James Goff had a pub here in the 1820s. In the 1850s the street was described as 'having fairly comfortable households with good, ordinary earnings.’ Photo: Euan McGillivray 2014                                                                                                  

Undertakers and upholsterers

James and Dorothy had four children: Eliza Chidlaw Goff was born on March 23rd 1804 and baptised May 30th 1804 at St. Mary’s, St. Marylebone, London; a second daughter Maria Walker Goff was born on January 13th 1806 and baptised on March 23rd 1806 also at St. Mary’s; and two sons: James Copeland Goff born in 1811 and baptised at St. Marylebone and Charles Phillips Goff baptised on March 17th 1817 at Islington, when his father was a publican in Britannia Row.

Site of St. Mary’s, St. Marylebone on High Street Marylebone, where Eliza Chidlaw Goff was baptised in 1804. The church was demolished in 1949 and the site turned into a 'Garden of Rest'. Source:                                                                                                              

Of these children Maria did not marry and died at 70 years of age having lived some of her life as housekeeper to her brother Charles and his family. Charles, an undertaker of Elizabeth Street South, Pimlico, married Elspeth Ann James. They produced four children: George C. Goff, James Speight Goff, Herbert Chidlaw Goff, and Elspeth W. Goff. James and Herbert became barristers’ clerks. Charles died in 1886 at 69 years of age and lived all his married life at Elizabeth Street South. His brother James was an upholsterer and lived in nearby Ebury Street, Pimlico, until he died in 1887 at 76 years of age. He married Catherine (maiden name unknown) and they had five children: Maria Catherine Goff, James Goff, Walter Goff, Emma Goff and Albert Joseph Goff.

James Goff died at the age of 74 on November 27th 1850 from 'gout in the stomach'. Dorothy died on October 17th 1844 at 67 years of age from 'dropsy and diseased liver' at 25 Lower Ranelagh Street, in the parish of St. Georges Hanover Square. This is where they were living in 1841 according to the census. Only eight months earlier she attended the death of her daughter Eliza. Dorothy’s death certificate states that Ann Speight was present at her death. Ann was a relative by marriage, and the name Speight appears in some of the Goff family’s names.

Extract of James Goff’s Will of 1849. Source: London National Archives                                                                              

Eliza Chidlaw Goff and William James

 James and Dorothy’s eldest daughter Eliza married William James (born at Donhead St. Mary in Wiltshire c1810 and no relation to Elspeth James mentioned above) on November 27th 1834 at St. Georges Hanover Square. The witnesses were Eliza’s brother James Copeland Goff and her sister Maria Walker Goff. Eliza and William had two children: Eliza Chidlaw James in 1836 and Sarah Maria James in 1839. Around this time William earned a living as butler to the Earl of Rosebery, Lord Archibald Primrose, a Scottish nobleman who had a residence in London.

 By 1844 Eliza became ill and died at 39 years of age on March 4th 1844. The cause of death was 'dropsy of chest and heart disease'. Her mother Dorothy was at her deathbed at 13 Grosvenor Street West, in the parish of St. Georges Hanover Square. Eliza was buried at All Souls’ Cemetery on March 17th. 

 Mogg’s Strangers’ Guide to London map of 1834 showing Grosvenor Street West and Ranelagh Street just below Green Park. Source:

Insolvent debtor

William was still a servant at this time, and according to the Will of his father-in-law James Goff, made in 1849, William had also been a shopkeeper in Ranelagh Street near where the Goffs lived. However, William had soon fallen on hard times and ended up in the Debtors’ Court. On Thursday February 28th 1850 at 10am, William appeared before the Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors at the Court-House, in Portugal-Street, Lincoln's Inn Fields. In 1858 the journal, The Leisure Hour, describes the court: 

‘All sorts of jocular legends and sarcasms are current concerning this central spot—the barristers who plead here, the attorneys who crowd here, and the luckless tribe who are brought up for exhibition here, in pursuance of their own request, yet against their wills. The court itself….. is said to be the refuge of destitute ‘swells.’ What we note on entering the court while business is doing, is a lack of every thing agreeing with one's ideas of the dignity and majesty of justice, and a general aspect of wear and tear, not to say shabbiness, about the denizens of the place, and also of the place itself. The court room is small and inconveniently crowded….'

On February 12th 1850, The London Gazette, in giving notice of the pending court hearing, printed details of William’s employment and residential history, presumably for the benefit of any of his creditors:

'William James, formerly of Ranelagh-street, Pimlico, Bookseller and Stationer,

next of Montague-street, Montague-square, next of Buckingham-place, Pimlico,

next of Charlotte-street, Pimlico, not in any business or employment,

next of Charlotte-street aforesaid,

next of Grosvenor-street West, Pimlico aforesaid,

Butler to a Nobleman in Belgrave-square,

next of No. 101, Blandford-street, Portman-square, not in any business or employ,

next of No. 139, Piccadilly, Middlesex, House Steward to a Nobleman, also giving musical entertainments at the Egyptian-hall, Piccadilly, for the exhibition of the performance on the piano of his daughter, known as 'The Infant Marie,'

next of Albany-street, Regent's Park, Middlesex, not in any business or employment,

next of Tunbridge Wells,

next of Canterbury,

next of Southampton,

next of No. 150, Albany-street aforesaid,

next and late of No. 3, Blenheim-street, Bond-street, Middlesex, giving Musical Entertainments as aforesaid,

and late out of business or employ'

Humiliation complete, William did secure a release. However, this does not mean his debts were necessarily cleared. According to Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844: 'The principle upon which it (the insolvents’ court) is established is this: - The person is for ever released, but the property never, as long as any claims remain unsatisfied.'

Daughters on the stage

As noted in William’s employment history, one method by which he could earn a living and perhaps pay off his debts, was to put his daughter Sarah Maria, known as The Infant Marie, on the stage. According to newspaper records, she had been performing on the piano, and in song and dance from at least early 1849, and at many venues across England. A news item from the Cheltenham Looker-On of October 26th 1850 states:

'Since Marie’s appearance in Cheltenham a succession of concerts have been given by her parent and preceptor in several of our cities and large provincial towns, at all of which we observe from the newspapers of their respective localities, our young pianiste, vocalist and danseuse, has been eminently successful….'

From 1850, in the news items and advertisements for Sarah Maria’s concerts, William’s elder daughter Eliza, appears as Marie’s supporting performer. Between this time and into the summer of 1852, the two girls continuously performed all over England, as well as at Edinburgh. Was William on the run from his creditors? Were William’s daughters his sole means of income, or did he earn his own money? Perhaps William was also on the stage - a Liverpool concert review of 1850 mentions Mr. James performing:

Review in The Liverpool Mercury 13th December 1850


On the 1851 census, he and his daughters are living at 68 Charlotte Street, Marylebone, but he gives no occupation. In 1861 and 1871 he is a boarder at The Colosseum Hotel in Great Portland Street (near Carburton Street) with his occupation given as ‘private' and ‘annuitant' respectively. On his daughters’ marriage certificates he is described as a freeholder in 1859 and as a stationer in 1865. The 1871 census is the last record we have of William.

In 1858 William’s daughters migrated on the ship Aloe to begin new lives in Australia.

Click here to continue to Eliza Chidlaw James and John Skinner Boxs story