The first of my maternal Beckman family to migrate to London was my great-great grandfather, Friedrick Wilhelm BECKMANN, who is possibly listed in Len Metzner's Ships Lists as "BECKMANN, Friedrich, sugarbaker of Hannover, Bremen to London, 4 Oct 1852". He was married on 3 Dec 1865 to Johanna Christine Bertha SCHWARZ, a 23 year-old spinster, the daughter of Johann, a deceased labourer. Her address was 44 Watney Street, St. George in the East. Friedrick's occupation was given as sugar baker and he was a 28 year-old bachelor, the son of Adolph, another deceased labourer. His address was given as 22 Charles Street, St. George in the East. They were married at the German Protestant Reformed Church, Hooper Square, Whitechapel, both signing with an 'x'. The witnesses were Heinrich RENGSTORF 'x' and Margaretta AUSTOFF 'x'.
Watney Street, famous for its street market, ran south off of Commercial Street. Charles Street was almost an extension of it, running south almost towards the rear of St. George in the East cemetery.
The marriage book from the church showed that Friedrick was born in Knetterheide in the locality of Schedmer, in the Principality of Lippe-Detmold, Germany. Knetterheide is now a suburb of Bad Salzuflen, which lies south west of Hannover, just to the east of Herford, on the autobahn. Although the marriage certificate gives his father as Adolph, labourer, deceased, the marriage book gives him as Otto, labourer, deceased. His age at marriage would give his date of birth as 1837. A German researcher checked the "Church Book" for a baptism record in Schotmar and I became even more confused. With two names already for Friedrick's father, the researcher came up with two more possibilities!:
"12 Dec 1835, Friedrick Wilhelm BECKMANN: Eltern: Philipp BECKMAN, Einlieger in Nienhagen und Anne Cath. KLEMME aus Bruninghausen." and
"16 Dec 1838, Friedrick Wilhelm Leopold BECKMANN: Eltern: Friedrick BECKMANN und Friederike HOPPE v.d. Wulferheide."
I had already written to the Tower Hamlets Records Office in East London who kindly copied the marriage entry, and then wrote again this time enquiring as to the meaning of some of the words. Otto BECKMANN had the word "Arbeitsmann" after his name that translated as labourer. For Johanna SCHWARZ there was an entry "Uneheliche Tochter des Johann Wilhelm SCHWARZ, Knecht," which translated as illegitimate daughter of Johann Wilhelm SCHWARZ, farm labourer. Good German farming stock ... and illegitimate, as well! Wonderful stuff! The marriage book gave Johanna's place of birth as of Meschkenhagen, in Pomerania, Germany, although now it is part of Poland.
Friedrick and Johanna had eight children:
Charles, 1866, at 44 Watney Street; bpt Carl,
Bertha, 1869, at 43 Walburgh Street, St Geo East,
Frederick William, 1871, 5 Agate Street, Plaistow; bpt Freidrick Wilhelm,
... for these three Friedrick is recorded as a sugar baker, and the baptisms took place at the German Reformed Church in Hooper Square.
Walter, 1873, at 47 Victoria Street, Fulham; bpt Wolther,
Louise, 1876, at 28 Wellington Place, Canning Town; bpt Louisa,
... though these two were baptised at Hooper Square, by now Friedrick has become a gas fitter.
Mary, 1879, 28 Wellington Place, Canning Town,
... baptised in West Ham, and Friedrick a gas stoker.
Sophia, 1880-1, 28 Wellington Place, Canning Town,
By the 1891 census, the family had moved to 31 Rivett Street, Canning Town, though there was no sign of Friedrick Wilhelm, Sr. My grandfather told me that he was told his grandfather was said to have committed suicide in New York after jumping ship or jumped overboard. As Bertha (Johanna) was still married in the 1891 Census, he could have been away at sea. I have found no death registered for him so the story could be true. This census also shows that both sons Friedrick, 19, and Walter, 17, were working in the local sugar refineries.
In the meantime, eldest son Charles had married on Christmas Day 1888. He and his wife Elizabeth had 11 children in all, with Charles listed as a labourer throughout, although he did work as a foreman at Lyle's just after WWI. He died on 21 Apr 1942, at the Central Home, Leytonstone, aged 76, from cerebral thrombosis. Given as former labourer, of 99 Fords Park Road.
Of his children, Frederick William, born c.1902, and Alexander, born 1904, both eventually worked in the local sugar refineries.
Alexander was my grandfather, and, like his father, worked at Lyle's for a short time. I interviewed him in 1988 and that added more facts about names and dates, etc., some of which my grandfather was not too sure about. Alexander died on 9 Jan 2000, around 7.30pm, aged 95.
Within Kevin's 5 hour interview with my grandfather there are a few sugar stories/workers ...
"My brother Bill (Frederick William) was married and had one son, William. He lived in Stokes Road, East Ham, and was the posh one in the family. He was a sugar boiler at TATE's then went on to management."
"Bill worked at TATE's. He was a pansman/sugar boiler. They offered him a job out in Africa but he wouldn't go. I always said that sugar gave Bill cancer. He didn't half suffer."
"My mother (Elizabeth Beckman, nee Fry) liked a pint or two but the Old Man drove her to it! She used to wear a man's flat cap and coarse apron and worked in a firm called LYLE's."
"Where did I go after that? Oh! Me and a fellah named Johnny MacDonald. We walked down Silvertown and instead of standing outside the gates of - LYLE's then - not TATE and LYLE's - Abraham LYLE and Son - we walked in the factory. We was walking round and went right up what they used to call the 'char end', where they put this charcoal on a hopper. So this little old boy come up to me. He only had this wonky eye and he's got this short brown coat on. He was a German - his name was Lenns. At that time, my father (Charles Beckman) worked there as a foreman.
So he says, "Where do you think you two are going?"
So we says, "We're looking for a job".
Charlie MacDonald's a bit taller than me.
So he says, "How old are you?"
"Got a school character?"
Charlie had one - I never. I says, "No, I lost mine".
He says, "When you find it, bring it in".
So he says, "What's your name?"
I says, "BECKMAN".
"Oh!" he says, "What's your father's name?"
"Charles", I said.
He knew him! So he took us up this char end filling these hoppers up and it was a boring bleeding job! It was dark. We'd work six in the morning to six at night. Six Saturday, until one. But the money was a guinea a week and that was bloody good money! So we were shovelling this charcoal. They used to mix it with the sugar when it was being refined. They reckoned it purified the sugar or something like that there. The cane used to come up on barges. We never had no what they call it - beet sugar - then. They used to make Golden Syrup. They was the first ones to make Golden Syrup. Anyway, I stood that for about three months. I went home one night and he says to my mother, "Where's he working?"
She told him. He says to me, "When you get paid Friday don't go there no more!"
Of course, he knew what it was. It was a sentence ... really boring."
( I am grateful to Kevin HERRIDGE for this case study. He is currently working on a website for his family history, and may even produce a short book for publication in England. He writes, "The Beckman side is very colourful! Lots of good stories, mostly about boozing, jobs, unemployment, boozing, fighting, lorry driving, horse dealing, more booze, etc., in East London. It runs to about 50 pages of interview plus the family history. My grandfather drank, fought and worked, in that order!" He also has the Herridge, Gent and Sheldrake family histories already written.
He has requested I print his details ... Kevin Herridge, House of the Rising Sun, 335 Pelican Avenue, New Orleans, La.70114, USA (504)368-1123 ... email@example.com ... www.algiershistoricalsociety.org )