top of page

The Bliss Family

The Bliss family are fascinating. They were an old and established Harrow family that our Dixons married into which started a long and fruitful partnership between the family. And the common thread amongst these families was alcohol. That is, they sold it - by the shipload. Most of the selling was through the management of scores of pubs, but one branch of the family explored the developing of the off license trade and did very well, thus raising the family’s standing and enabling them to live very well thank you.

The coming together of ways started, of course, in Harrow-on-the-Hill. This is where old Isaac moved after the collapse of his business empire in Bexley (he managed the lease of the Guy,, Earl of Warwick pub – see Isaac Dixon. The Dixons moved to Harrow about 1817. The Bliss family had been there since before records were started.

Bliss Name Meaning

English: nickname for a cheerful person, from Middle English blisse ‘joy’. Compare Blythe 1. English (of Norman origin): habitational name from the village of Blay in Calvados, France, recorded in 1077 in the form Bleis and of unknown origin. The village of Stoke Bliss in Worcestershire was named after a Norman family de Blez, recorded several times in the county from the 13th century. German: nickname for a cheerful person, from Middle High German blide ‘happy’, ‘friendly’. Compare 1. Americanized spelling of French Blois.

Generation 1 Richard Bliss 1636-1688

Generation 2 Richard Bliss 1675-

Generation 3 Stephen Bliss 1702-1756 & Mary

Generation 4 James Bliss 1738- & Elizabeth Field

Generation 5 John Munk Bliss 1764-1833 & Elizabeth Dyson 1772-1834

Generation 6 James Bliss 1796-1864 & Ann Foster 1802- ; John Monk Bliss 1794-1862 & Esther Hodsdon 1806-1856

                      and Frederick M Bliss 1815-1888 & Jane Clayton

Generation 7 John William Bliss 1831=1886 & Matilda Dixon 1842-1899; George Bliss 1837- & Esther Standen 1853

Generation 8 has not been researched

So our earliest ancestor is:

Gen 1: Richard Bliss 1636-1668

Richard Bliss 1636 – 1668. Rich died 9 Apr 1668 in Harrow.  No marriage details but he was the father of:

  • John Bliss

  • Thomas Bliss

  • James Bliss 1667

  • Frances Bliss 1673 -

  • Richard Blisse b 1675-he continues the line

  • John Blisse bap 9 Dec 1638 and died young

  • John Blise bap 23 Jun 1641.


England at this time was undergoing a huge change because as these generations were growing up, Puritanism was sweeping the country. The English Civil War occurred between 1642-1651. It’s possible that Richard fought in that war and probably on the side of Parliament as the chief landowner in Harrow was Sir Gerard Gilbert who was a staunch supporter of Oliver Cromwell. During the fighting, Sir Gerard reportedly raised a regiment on parliament’s behalf, largely comprised of Harrow men.

Gen 2 Richard Bliss 1675-

Richard Blisse b 1675 was born in Harrow, Middlesex. He married (wife’s name not recorded). His occupation was a bricklayer and we know of at least three children:

  • Richard Bliss b 1700

  • Stephen Bliss 1702 – 1756.Stephen continues the line of descent

  • ?

Gen 3 Stephen Bliss 1702-1756

Stephen was born in December 1794 and baptized at St Mary’s church, Harrow on the Hill.   Like his father he became a bricklayer. He did quite well for himself so perhaps he not only was a bricklayer but a builder as well.

He married Mary (last name unknown). Stephen died in June 1756 and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard 19 June. The will was proved 3 Sep 1756. He left a shilling to his son John (value in 2022 = £11.50). To his wife (while she remained a widow), he gave all his wearing apparel, plate, household, two messuages (houses) in Sudbury (John is living in one of them)  and we have details of their children:

  • John Bliss bap 19 Jul 1726; married Sarah Slaughter 3 Sep 1750 in a clandestine marriage ceremony. Clandestine marriages were also called Fleet Marriages and usually took place in the Fleet prison. During the 1740s, up to 6,000 marriages a year were taking place in the Fleet area, compared with 47,000 in England as a whole. One estimate suggests that there were between 70 and 100 clergymen working in the Fleet area between 1700 and 1753. It was not merely a marriage centre for criminals and the poor because both rich and poor availed themselves of the opportunity to marry quickly or in secret.  Interesting that the records also show a Sarah Slaughter and a John Bliss married 3 Feb 1750 at St George, Mayfair, Westminster. Then again there could be an error of judgement by this author

              I have no information of the future line of this branch but these were the children of John and Sarah:

John Bliss bap 1752;

James Bliss bap 25 Jan 1755 St Mary Harrow

Stephen Bliss bap 26 Jan 1757 St Mary Harrow

Richard Bliss bap 1757 St Mary Harrow

Mary Bliss bap 15 Dec 1758 St Mary Harrow

Sarah Bliss bap 3 Oct 1760  St Mary Harrow


Sarah died and John remarried Anne Reddaway.

Eliza Bliss 1727 -

Richard Bliss 1729-30

Mary Bliss 1730-31

Richard Bliss 1731-31

William Bliss 1732-33

Mary Bliss 1734- married Clark

Susan Bliss 1783-52

James Bliss 1738 = Elizabeth Field - James continues the tree

Gen 4: John Munk Bliss 1764-1833

John Munk Bliss was baptised 19 Oct 1764 in St Marys church, Harrow-on-the-Hill and married Elizabeth Dyson by license 31 Dec 1793 at St Mary’s. Witnesses W Walker and George Brownrigg. (the Walkers and the Brownriggs are also long term Harrovian families and publicans). Elizabeth was baptised at St Mary’s  and was the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Dyson of Sudbury.

John was a man of property more so than his forebears because we find that he was a land tax assessor in 1795 and 1798 together with other Harrow worthies William Winkley, William Withers, Charles Marcham, Robert Garters, John Foster, John Smith, John Winter and John Ward.

In 1807 - 1808 he was a tenant of Samuel Hoare paying £7. Sadly no place name.

1825 & 1827: Land Tax assessment shows John is a tax collector and is renting a house from Thomas Clutterbuck and paying 15 shillings and ten pence. We see John’s name on a number of tax assessment documents at this time.

The 1831 Land Tax assessment shows that he rented property from Dr Butler, headmaster of Harrow School. It states that he is renting land and is seven shillings and eight pence in arrears. This must have the public house – the Crown and Anchor pub. Before John Munk we have no record of the Bliss family being publicans.

John died in 1833 and Elizabeth in1834.  They had quite a small family for this time. I have tracked down:

  • John Monk Bliss b 1794 md Esther Hodson. See Gen 5a

  • James Bliss b 1796 See below Gen 5b

  • William Bliss 1798 – 1870. baptised 25 May 1798 St Mary' church, Harrow. Could be the William Bliss working with Joseph Gray, grocer in Shoe Lane, St Bride Precinct, London in 1841. H died at 11 Cathcart (?) Street, Kentish Town 11 Nov 1870 and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

  • Joseph Bliss b 1799

  • Charles Monk Bliss b 1808

  • Frederick M Bliss b 1815 md Jane Clayton, almost 20 years younger than him. In 1861 he is listed as a retired licensed victualler. The 1871 is intriguing. His occupation is "shares in Lon??? Westminster". There is also a niece staying with them - Esther M Handon aged 18.   By 1881 he was a warehouseman in Finsbury. I have found one son - William Bliss b 1878.

Gen 5a John Monk Bliss 1794-1862 (Bliss the Elder)

John, the son of John Munk Bliss,  was born in 1794 and baptized 7 Nov at St Marys’ church in Harrow. He married Esther Hodson 20 Aug 1838 at St James in Paddington. Esther was born about 1806 in Hertfordshire, the daughter of John Hodsdon, a farmer.

John and his father ran the Crown and Anchor pub, situated where the Vaughan library in Harrow is now located. It was called the "abode of Bliss".

We see the lively household in 1841 with a full house.  John aged 40 and Esther aged 35 have John aged 2 and a young 6 month old Henry and they have six servants!!!!  They are Ann Woodbridge, Mary Keen, William Warner, Charles and Sophia  Hoare and William Crocker

John died 14 February 1862 in Harrow and was buried in St Mary’s churchyard on 29 Feb 1862. His will was proved by son Henry – effects £450. The probate calls him John Bliss the Elder.


Esther died 3 Dec 1856 aged 51 and was buried on the 6 Dec at St Mary’s churchyard.

John Monk and Esther only had three children and that was very unusual. Their kids were:

John Dyson Bliss 1841 – 11 Oct 1863. John was an innkeeper with his dad at the Crown and Anchor till it closed down.  He was delighted that Harrow School took over the very dilapidated pub the Crown and Anchor. The pub had been owned by the Clutterbuck family.   JD died in 1863 and was buried 16 Oct 1863.  His estate was proved by James Bliss of 55 Upper Seymour Street (his uncle) wine merchant. He was only 23 years old. There were no children.

Henry Bliss 22 Apr 1840. Henry was an innkeeper with his dad at the Crown and Anchor till it closed down. He died 2 Sep 1863 and his will was proved. He never married. The probate record is interesting:  “Letters of Administration of the personal estate and effects of Henry Bliss late of Harrow-on-the Hill in the county of Middlesex Innkeeper a bachelor deceased who died 2 September 1863 at Harrow-on-the-Hill aforesaid were granted at Principal Registry to George Bliss of 55A Upper Seymour Street, Portman Square, merchant – one of the executors of the will of James Bliss, the sole executor of the will of John Dyson Bliss the brother and only next of kin of the said deceased he the said George Bliss having first sworn.”

George Bliss.  I think there was a George Bliss.


And so this is the end of the line for this branch.    For the story of the Crown and Anchor see here


Gen 5b James Bliss 1796 - 1875

James Bliss son of John Munk Bliss and Elizabeth Dyson was baptised 19 Feb 1796 at St Mary’s Harrow.  He married Ann Foster b 1802 Harrow. We see in the 1851 census that he is living at 18 Grove Place, Marylebone and he is a retired victualler. Grove Place no longer exists but the road is now called Sisson Street in North London, close to Lord’s cricket ground.

Ten years on in 1861 and he is at 55 Seymour Street Upper St Marys Marylebone in business as a wine and ale merchant, but is a widower. His shop was situated on this corner of Seymour Street.

And he has a house full of servants: Ann Tomkins (house servant); Esther Pelham (nurse); James Bache (butler); Phobe Edwards (servant); Emma Mortley (servant); Amelia Barton (servant); Kezia Moore (servant) and Samuel Huons (coachman).


James was dead by 1875. However his children built upon his entrepreneurial skills and continued to build the wine and beer business.

Children of James Bliss and Ann Foster:


John William Bliss  was baptized 27 Jun 1830 St Mary’s Harrow.

Elizabeth Bliss b Harrow c 1833. In 1881 at 21 Seymour St, Marylebone


James Bartlett Bliss baptised 14 Dec 1834 at St Mary's church, Harrow. In 1881 he was the head of the household and ran a wine and beer business in the West End (21 Seymour St, Marylebone) with all his brothers and sisters. He built the business up and by 1871 was employing 6 men. He lived at 21 Seymour Street until his retirement and never married. We find him aged 76 living as a lodger at 15 Westbourne Park Road, South Paddington. This was a 12 roomed house. He died in 1917.

George Bliss 1837 Harrow -  d 26 Sep1885 Sussex. He had a job as a print seller while living at home with his family in Marylebone. Later he joined his brother James in running the ale and wine shop, which, by 1871, had moved down the street to number 21.. He Married Esther Maria Standen and by 1881 he had retired and he and Maria were living at Tower house, Priory Road, Hastings. George died aged 49 in Dec 1885. They had two children:

  • Estine Jenny Bliss bc 1861 Paddington died 1950 Worthing. 

  • George Harold Bliss b 1876 Hastings. In 1901 he as an architect's assistant and surveyor. He joined the army 20 Nov 1915 (service no 388381) starting as a sapper. Posted 7 Apr 1916 Appointed Acting Lance Corporal 20 Sep 2016 and Corporal in 4 Dec 1917. Promoted to sergeant 28 Mar 1918.  He served in France. Discharged 18 Mar 1919. He returned to civilian life and worked as an architect but he never married. The 1911 census shows his mum Esther Maria as well as Estine.  There is a George married to Finnetta Mabel Coles in 1905 in Edmonton and another who died in Devon in 1968.


Frederick Bliss b Paddington. In 1881, with his brother, he ran the and beer business in the West End at 21 Seymour St, Marylebone. He lived at 21 Seymour Street all his life and never married.


Mary Ann Bliss b 1841 Harrow. In 1881 at 21 Seymour St, Marylebone, looking after the family. She never married

George Bliss b 1837 had a job as a Harrow print seller in 1861. He and Esther had interesting lives.


Gen 6 John William Bliss 1830 - 1886   click on the name to go to his history. He married into the Dixon line.



Miscellaneous Notes on Bliss

Publican, Brewery and Licensed Victuallers Records (Occupations)

Records of those who applied for an annual victualler’s licence, issued to an individual who intended to serve food and alcoholic beverages in a public house. From 1522, a person wanting to sell alcoholic drinks had to apply for a licence from the Quarter or Petty Sessions and it is from the records of these courts that the majority of publican records originate. Most records and documents held at County Record Offices are arranged by the name of the pub and not the name of the publican. Trade and street directories as well as electoral registers can help track down the name and location of a pub and the name of the landlord, but note that some publicans pursued other professions or trades at the same time. It is also worth noting that a public house or the publican may have featured in a newspaper story or in auctioneer records and census returns.

From 1617 licences were required for those running inns and in 1828 a new Alehouses Act followed by the Beerhouse Act of 1830 overhauled the system creating looser regulations for those applying for a licence which resulted in a significant rise in the numbers of licensed premises selling alcohol. As a result, drinking in pubs became increasingly popular in the 19th century.

Landlords had to declare that they would not operate a disorderly pub and enter into certain obligations before the court could issue a license. This form of legal pledge or obligation is known as a Recognizance or Bond. The relevant information may appear under the heading of 'Register of recognizances of licensed victuallers'. Landlords that failed to adhere to these requirements would appear before the Quarter or Petty Sessions on charges of 'keeping a disorderly house'.

Originally beerhouses and alehouses only sold ale or beer whilst taverns sold additional beverages such as wine and spirits. Inns and especially coaching inns were bigger establishments offering larger more comfortable rooms and accommodation.

If the pub had land attached to the premises, even a small piece of land, a description of this land should appear in tithe and enclosure maps. The records generated by the Valuation Office could assist the research into a publican ancestor as could ordnance survey maps, rate books and fire insurance maps.

From the 17th century breweries often bought pubs and tied them into only selling their beer. Eventually around 90 per cent of pubs were tied to one brewery. The brewery might hold records relating to the pub and its publicans or owners. If the brewery owner is not known, look for photos which might show the name. Also look for the archived minutes and lists of members of the Licensed Victuallers League.

John Munk
bottom of page